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The Darke Side: Football Phone-Ins

Ian Darke discusses the sport's 'hire and fire' culture

6 May 2020

Arsene Wenger

Drive home from any game and you will hear it – football fans bombarding phone-ins because their team has ‘let them down’.

Such calls are usually accompanied by a plea to sack the manager and a claim that he has ‘lost the dressing room’ (whatever that cliché may mean).

In these angry outbursts, the players are often ‘not fit to wear the shirt’ or are ‘not trying’.

The truth usually is that nobody is more upset than a boss and his players if a whole week’s work goes down the drain.

Some callers seem like prime candidates for a course in anger management.

“And on the line now we have Steve. And what have you got to say?”

“Well, Dave, he’s gotta go hasn’t he? It’s rubbish. I’m sick of it. That’s me done with this lot.”

Supporters of the big clubs can get drunk on success. They become blasé. Memories are short when their greedy demands for trophies and sexy football are not met.

Voices of reason are drowned out. Look at what happened to Arsène Wenger at Arsenal. Three titles, seven FA Cups and the ‘Invincibles’ season. All forgotten in a campaign to drive him out.

"Voices of reason are drowned out. Look at what happened to Arsène Wenger at Arsenal."

Ian Darke

Brighton supporters got fed up with Chris Hughton, without whom they would never have got into the Premier League.

Alan Curbishley was performing wonders keeping Charlton in the top-flight, but it apparently wasn’t good enough. Without him, they soon went down.

Stoke fans got fed up with Tony Pulis, who had taken them to promotion. The atmosphere there was incredible. Then it turned toxic.

People are quick to demand change. But a change to who or what?

We have created a crazy ‘hire and fire’ environment, where – driven by social media and twitchy owners – heads are likely to roll at the first sign of trouble.

Time perhaps for everyone to calm down and roll with the punches.

My favourite recent call was from a Manchester United fan, upset at the way fellow devotees of the club had pilloried the team and manager.

“Look,” he said, “it’s a rough ride at the moment. But I’m a supporter and that’s what I am going to do – support the team. Not moan about it.”

It is one reason I love Pompey – the fans are at their best in adversity. Let’s keep it that way.

This column first appeared in this season's Pompey v Lincoln matchday magazine.

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