You won't have to travel too far to hear fans booing their team. Every week up and down the country dozens and dozens of players will be verbally abused by their own supporters. It seems to be happening more and more frequently these days. Arsenal were even booed off after drawing a pre-season friendly this year. But what's the point in doing it? Does it ever have a positive effect?
You'd think there would be no trace of negative energy around St Marys following the best start for 90 years. Saints have lost just two league matches this campaign and have played some of the best football ever seen in the club's history. Yet still some fans insist on berating our team. Don't get me wrong, 95% of our supporters have been very good this season. Away attendances have never been better and home crowds are also increasing by the week. There's still a section of fans who can't wait to express their dissatisfaction every time someone misplaces a pass or scuffs a shot wide though.
Some people these days aren't happy if we're not 3-0 up inside the first half. They think that just because we've scored a few big wins this season we should be able to do it all the time. Football doesn't work like that though. Sometimes you just have to accept the opposition were better, and even the best sides have off days. Too many people turn up with the attitude of 'I've paid £30 for a ticket so entertain me'. Constructive criticism is fine, but personal abuse towards your own players in unacceptable in my book. It seems a section of Saints fans always need a scapegoat. For years it was Kelvin Davis, who has been a target of the boo boys since signing for the club in 2006. The former Ipswich keeper had a rocky relationship with fans from the beginning. After one particularly bad performance at Sheffield Wednesday in 2007 the crowd turned on him and began to chant 'Your goal is too big for you'. Davis eventually won over most of the St Marys faithful with a number of superb displays during 2008/09, but even now some are quick to castigate him. At Rochdale last April I had to move seats because the level of abuse directed towards him from those around me was so strong. I couldn't believe the hatred and anger displayed by my fellow Saints fans, who were stemming with rage all because of one slight mistake. Some of the stuff people were coming out with would make you cringe if it was directed to an opposition player, never mind one of our own. This came at a time when Davis was named in the divisional team of the season and was breaking clean sheet records for a Southampton side that was sat 2nd in the table. It just goes to show some fans will never be completely happy unless they have something to complain about. More recently Brazilian maestro Guly Do Prado has come in for unfair criticism from fans, despite being one of our top performers this season. He's perceived as lazy by some, which is completely bizarre because he probably covers more ground than most every match. At Reading a few weeks ago he was subjected to all kinds of horrible abuse by people stood behind me (Including, regrettably some racial comments). Another fan behind me at Coventry last week insisted on blaming Guly for our second half decline (Despite the two first half assists). This particular barrage of abuse came approximately 20 seconds before he headed our third goal, which was most amusing. If Guly keeps up this level of form no doubt fans will find someone else to target.
I've never agreed with booing your own players, but I could understand it slightly a few years ago when things were going really badly for the club. Things couldn't be going much better for us now though, yet some still insist on looking for someone to blame if we're not winning. I understand people need to let off their frustration at times, but I don't see how giving stick to your own team can help in anyway. It's not a major problem at the moment, as the majority of fans are behind the team and drown out the moaners. Things could easily change though if results dip. We've already seen how impatient the St Marys crowd can be at times. It's extremely irritating when fans voice their discontent every time we try and play the ball out from the back. Some of our supporters don't deserve the success we are currently enjoying.
I've always been of the belief that supporters should support their team, even through the bad times. It's all very good cheering when your team is 4-0 up, but the real test comes when things aren't going so well. I will never forget how Leeds fans kept singing at St Marys even when they were 3-0 down back in November 2005. Their loyalty was rewarded with a great second performance and an amazing 4-3 comeback win. A similar thing happened to us on November 1st 2008 when Jan Poortvliet's Southampton side overturned a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 at Preston. The fans in the visiting section at Deepdale never gave up that day and it definitely rubbed off on the players. It's just a shame it's not always like that. No doubt Saints will enter a rough patch of form at some point this season. I really hope that whatever happens we stick with the team. After all, they have done more than enough to earn our support.