Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Fan/Supporter/Follower Of Leinster Rugby

Do we need to distinguish between the terms "fan", "supporter" and "follower"? asks Big Joe Shep...


From comments about Leinster's win against Castres on Saturday, previous rude and even at times abusive comments on varying blogs throughout this season to date etc, I found myself frustrated by some individuals who slated others for their views and one even opined there was a difference between FANS and SUPPORTERS asserting that a FAN will say everything is great all the time whilst a SUPPORTER questions things when they aren’t right? Really?? Now I’m not having a go at that individual, more the generics of what goes on.

Would a true FAN or a SUPPORTER or even a FOLLOWER of Leinster Rugby conduct the abuse that Michael Bent received earlier this season as he ran out onto the pitch? Even last week I saw comments regarding him as the weak link in an otherwise strong team selection etc. An extremely professional and versatile prop is ACTUALLY what our Michael is I’d opine! Buy hey, that’s just an opinion!

That said everyone IS entitled to their own opinion and frustrations need to be offloaded at times but at times this season, it’s becoming more like “Kiss Ball” (Football for those who don’t understand the expression). We cannot expect to see or experience “Champagne Rugby” week in / week out. There will be injuries, new players, new coaching staff, transitional periods, championship windows of opportunity etc etc. All of these issues and more besides do and indeed have affected the teams performance throughout the year.

I have been very public in my support of Matt O'Connor as a coach and Jimmy Gopperth as a player and it’s good to now see some fans are accepting that Goppers hasn’t played his best (at times) owing to MO’Cs defensive "Hybrid" style, however I have also been very strong in my opinion that the very same defensive style that MOC advocates, hasn’t worked and that actually he should be a good No 2 to someone like Joe Schmidt or likewise because his style, albeit adapted by either himself OR the players OR a combination of both last Saturday to great effect hasn’t ordinarily worked as I suspect he wished it to.

I have also disliked when skipper Jamie Heaslip publicly says he'll accept a win by any means....ugly, scraping by etc. That's a negative message to send out to me from a true world class player, leader and LION. Perhaps though it was borne out of the difficult period our beloved team were / are going through overall and he just wanted a win, ANY WIN to see us through? Those thoughts on MO’C and Jamie aren’t negative or abusive, they are merely what I genuinely of our leaders. Even if they feel that inside themselves, they shouldn’t be saying it publicly. 

Also, I have questioned the capability of Darragh Fanning at times because of his lack of situational awareness, shying off tackles etc but he DOES add value to the squad and when injuries have mounted and Autumn / 6 Nations come round we’ll need his “poaching” style of play, being in the right place at the right time at speed to grab tries that ultimately see us through…...just like last season. Oh, I could also question why Rob Kearney as world class as he is, fails to pass lol but I suspect even raising an eyebrow at the “Golden Boy” would see me hunted down and burned at the stake. I suppose if I was a fast moving, good looking, tanned and as gifted an athlete as Rob, I’d be doing it all for me lol. 

So after the Castres game, a number of people were opining that after only 1 great game against a poor team etc etc etc, they shouldn’t be talking about “Champagne Rugby”, let alone the Pro 12 Final in May and the European Champions Cup chances and and and and...

So should FANS, SUPPORTERS or FOLLOWERS not be allowed to enjoy the resurgence albeit still transitional and one game against a team who aren’t the same team who won the French Top 14 3 years ago? You could say we played against that same standard versus Treviso or Cardiff and look what happened there so ACTUALLY, I suspect we did a lot better than some believe. There’s no good getting to the destination without some trials ah?  It's part of the journey. Personally, I'd rather see OUR team win/transition/develop/win again with some edge of seat and heart in mouth moments than support a team like Toulon and Sarries etc who are trying buying their way to success. Saturday gave people a lot of pleasure. .....7 tries,  50 points, 8 - 10 great individual performances, belief in the players, a BP Win.....I'd take that. 

Is it right for fans to become abusive towards a player, the coach, the coaching staff? Is it a FAN, a SUPPORTER or a mere FOLLOWER who says “We” when Leinster are winning but refer to “Them” in difficult times? Is is the FAN, the SUPPORTER or the FOLLOWER who leaves the ground early if / when Leinster are losing? Being a 'true' FAN is just one who sticks by a team through highs and lows, wins and losses, and good and bad decisions. Perhaps you need to be just as passionate when your team is losing as to if your team is winning. You need to name more than just the popular players on a team and you need to know the difference between a Prop and a Full Back? I’ve oft times found that those who are the first to debunk the teams or players in difficult periods are also those that are at the forefront of revelling in the winning times!

FANS, SUPPORTERS and FOLLOWERS are the same thing, it’s just an individual's interpretation of the word.......I'm a huge Leinster FAN and I SUPPORT them as best I can. Hell I even FOLLOW them to away games. I took my 10 year old to Cardiff last season for his first ever rugby game. Now I don't get to every game, I moved back to Ireland last April so I'm not even a current season ticket holder. It’s a matter of finances, time, availability for many just like me!  Does that lesson me as a FAN, a SUPPORTER or even a FOLLOWER? I don’t believe so for one minute. I have my shirt, my hat, my hoodie, my training top. I record and re-watch EVERY game whether I get to a match or not lol. I take the time to research and write for this great blog. Oh trust me, I am nothing if not passionate about Leinster Rugby. All these things make me no better or no lesser than someone who hasn’t a shirt nor can make it to a game. If you’re Leinster Rugby….you just are!!

I have pretty objective opinions. They are based on experience of playing, watching games aplenty across 3 countries weekly and research (a lot) on a varied set of topics I write on for and following reading articles here HoR and other akin sites. I have though been swayed by that research and on occasions some strong and well thought out opinions and comments from fellow FANS, SUPPORTERS and FOLLOWERS and as such, I look at things more objectively than perhaps I did so previously and am more than happy to say so. 

In the excellent article by Róisín Connick entitled Rugby & Respect written for HoR back in Nov 14, she added a paragraph which I feel sums this matter up, 
A wise man once said ‘If you can’t support us when we lose or draw, don’t support us when we win' 
and 
If you cannot be there for your team in times of darkness and loss you don’t deserve to be there when sun starts shining again. The people who will leave a game when their team is being defeated, bash their team and boo the players are the first to try revel in their success. Real fans are there week in, week out supporting their players no matter the circumstance. It is respect; it is showing your team that you support them..............,Players should not face the daunting aspect of booing fans each time they grace the field. They deserve nothing more that our utmost support and respect.
Onwards and upwards with OUR team is what matters. whether you are in a position to purchase a season ticket, whether you can afford to purchase a shirt whether you “merely” watch from the armchair or you are lucky enough to be able to travel both home and away and however you class yourself....FAN, SUPPORTER or mere FOLLOWER......remember #WEAREALLLEINSTERRUGBY 

@bigjoeshep is the Owner and Head of Information & Knowledge Management atDigital Knowledge Zone.   An avid Leinster & Ireland Rugby fan, he came to rugby at the late age of 24, was a tight head prop, had at least 2 good runs in every game and retired at only 36 after 3 operations on his legs and now forms the 4th "virtual" person in a front row each time his beloved teams are playing (much to the annoyance of his suffering girlfriend who has to put up with being "embraced" by the Big Fella at each scrum!!!)

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