BCFC: Age of Panic

It’s safe to say the honeymoon is over and interesting times have returned to B9. A second successive defeat for Blues to begin Wayne Rooney’s reign led to fans booing the team off the pitch and more wailing and gnashing of teeth online. Is this the next big dip on the football rollercoaster that is being a fan of Birmingham City?

St Andrew's packed

Before I start this piece, I have to confess that I’m a bad fan.

Thanks to various prior commitments I’ve not actually been to any of the last three home games. I can’t even say I have caught the highlights on the internet either.

For those reasons I can’t possibly comment on how Blues have played or any difference in style between Wayne Rooney and John Eustace as coaches. There are many out there who’d do it better than me anyway, so I’m not going to try.

All I can talk about is the reaction that has followed these games.

Or to put it more accurately, the over reaction.

The Social Media Cesspit

One of the reasons I know I’m becoming a grumpy old man is that I’m increasingly becoming disillusioned with social media.

While there are still some great pieces that have been written by Blues fans like Ryan Deeney and Colin Tattum posted on Twitter, the number of hot takes I have seen from fans searching for online clout has risen dramatically.

Facebook is no better; if anything some of the comments I have seen have genuinely made me cringe in second-hand shame at the thought that someone could think something so dumb.

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like we live in an age of panic driven by entitlement and hyperbole.

Patience is a thing of the past. Since the takeover has happened we’ve been promised a bright future and many people want that bright futurre right now.

Most of all, there seems to be an incessant need from so many people to be proven right in their assertions.

The change in management was blunt and wound many people up, and in consequence some of these people seem almost shamefully happy that things have gone tits up from the off.

I have to be honest, as someone who grew up flaming people on sites like 4chan, I’m no stranger to being a prick on the internet.

Some might say that I’m still that prick and they probably wouldn’t be wrong,

However, I like to convince myself that I’ve grown up a little. I have come to realise that there are more things to life than “pwning” some unknown stranger online.

So often I see a ridiculous comment online that I feel I need to respond to with a correction, only to lose interest halfway through typing out a reply because I know it will drag me into yet another argument online I can’t be arsed with.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this.

What scares me right now is that some people have such a need to be right that it was a mistake to appoint Rooney, that they’ve lost all sense and are abusing him at the ground after only his second game in charge.

If that wasn’t bad enough, I’ve even heard that there are some fans who have been so offended by the situation that they’ve emailed the club to return their season tickets for a refund.

This kinda shocks me, because I always thought that no matter what the situation was, as supporters we were meant to stick through it.

What were these people doing during the dark days of Lee Clark? Were they this mad when Steve Cotterill was stinking up the place? Did Aitor Karanka’s shrugging put them into a metaphorical coma?

As fans we’ve gone through a lot in the last few years and we’ve had to put up with some real bullshit. I can’t understand how now is so much worse.

I’ll be honest, I’ve always admired the fans who went week in, week out despite the absolute dumpster fire the club was over the last few years.

These fans and especially the hardcore away support were and are the bedrock of the club.

It just feels like an incredible shame that in this new period of hope, that some people are finding new reasons to be miserable and toxic.

I have the impression that if it was just fans moaning online, that it would fizzle out soon enough as people got bored of making the same point over and over.

However, a boosted profile for the club means there are more outside eyes watching us – and as I opined in my previous piece, that also means more hunger to rip into us when we’re struggling.

The Press

Back in the days of yore when no one cared about Blues cos it was all so complicated and boring, things were a bit easier.

News about the club was pretty much restricted to the Birmingham Mail in the main, and due to their limited budgets and managerial need for clickbait bullshit it didn’t feel that was as much focus from football reporters in general what a shitshow the club was at times.

While that infuriated those who wanted various people at the club exposed for being incompetent, it also meant that there wasn’t an outside desire to build us up and knock us down.

As I said in my last piece on this website, the additional eyes on the club caused by the raised profile has meant there are more people out there bearing witness to what is going on.

More importantly that means right now that there are more column inches devoted to the various failings the club might have.

It feels to me like almost every Tom, Dick and Harry out there has had their two cents on the change of management at the club now.

I can’t help but think give it a couple more defeats and I’m sure we’ll see the same rent-a-mouths giving their opinions on how far the club is going to fall.

The sheer amount of coverage has meant that pundits have to become more iconoclastic and bombastic to be picked up by the various social media algorithms out there.

In my eyes it’s one of the great failings of the press these days.

As fans and supporters we’ve become so immune to the humdrum normal stories that we need to be shocked if we’re going to engage with an online piece of content.

Because engagement is now the most important metric to drive search algorithms and social media feeds, it’s become almost essential to websites and newspapers to say shocking things to drive more clicks.

This makes life tricky for those writers writing about football clubs of which they are also fans and supporters.

I can say from experience that it’s a tough line to walk between wanting to be interesting and insightful to read, and being overly aggressive in my commentary.

Take Neil Moxley as an example. Moxley is very much a Blues fan, but has attracted a lot of ire online over the last year or more because of the way he has written pieces for his newspaper.

I feel for Moxley. I know he wears his heart on his sleeve and he doesn’t sugar coat his opinions – and sometimes I think it’s unfair people confuse that with a need to disparage the club.

Yet as much as I feel for him, I also knew I was going to end up tangling with him on Twitter on Thursday following the above tweet.

Moxley is a fairly clever guy and in the linked piece he makes some salient points which are valid and are constructive.

However, that need for his piece to have a little bit of spice to drive engagement meant the inclusion of what I thought were cheap shots at the ownership that demeaned and devalued the overall message Moxley was trying to convey.

The result is a piece which appeals to the lowest common denominator, and which skated over some of the good stuff that is going on, to instead be a part of the pile-on against Garry Cook.

I don’t think this helps the situation at all if I’m honest. While I think Moxley does believe much of what he’s written and has done so out of sense of duty rather than malice, I also believe that his impression of the aims of the owners is very much mistaken.

This is compounded due to the lack of time and space Moxley can dedicate to properly talking about how the new ownership is going to work, and the result is another mess online with fans arguing between themselves.

We really need to be better than this.

The Silent Majority

One of the sayings I remember from my childhood is that “empty pots rattle loudest”. It seems mean, but having read through social media on a wide range of subjects I can’t help but think that those with the least to say seem to say the most and loudest.

I’d like to think it’s true when it comes to Blues too. I want to believe that all of the hyperbole I see online is just the vocal minority saying the same shit over and over again, and that there is a silent majority of people who understand that football like life isn’t just black and white.

One of the things that has helped me to believe this is the truth was a post made on smallheathalliance.com. The post made by “Tarquin” – a Blues fan I know and respect IRL – asked the same question I’ve been asking and offered seven points of nuanced opinion to see if most people would agree with this middle ground.

As much as I know social media doesn’t really work for testing this sort of thing out, I posted the above picture on the almajir Facebook page to see if people would click “like” to agree.

Within nine hours the post had picked up 725 likes, which I’m hoping is proof that most people out there really do see the middle ground.

What I am also hoping is that the powers that be at the club also see that there is a middle road that can be taken which might help the current situation.

For example, I was pleased to read that Wayne Rooney had spoken to players in the aftermath of the Hull City game to ask honestly if they were uncomfortable with the way they were being asked to play.

More importantly, if we take at face value what Rooney said then it appears he’s taken the criticism from the players on board and he’s now working to adapt his ideas a little to make it more comfortable and natural for our players to follow.

We have to accept that change and evolution are inevitable if Birmingham City are to progress from being in the Championship.

However, that being said I think it’s also important that change is careful and iterative.

Nobody can expect radical changes to work immediately, and it’s important that the squad quickly works on honing those radical changes down to something a little bit easier to execute and improve upon.

As fans we also have to recognise that the club is changing from the way it has been for the last decade to something a bit more business-like and professional.

This means that there are going to be some decisions we might not like but if we accept that they are made in good faith to improve things, is this such a bad thing?

The most important thing to remember in all of this is that there is a bigger picture in this ownership; potentially a bigger picture than we can initially perceive.

For so long we’ve been around short-termism it’s hard for us to think that anyone would be doing stuff now with the aim of it working out in a decade or longer.

As big a decision as employing Wayne Rooney as manager might appear to us, the reality is it’s just one decision made out of many that need to be made in the coming months.

Blues’ future under Knighthead won’t be decided by the results of the next five games; the signs are that they are in it very much for the long haul.

Without wishing to be corny, it’s time for us to follow the words of our anthem.

Keep Right On.