Misery loves company – but it is utterly besotted being in a stand containing 10,000. So it was proven once again at Blackburn on Saturday as the Ewood Park faithful refused to be moved from furious depression despite Yakubu becoming the first to score four goals for them in a Premier League game.
Indeed, Yakubu was like that student at the head of the anti-capitalist march who, just as they were approaching Westminster, whipped out an equation which provided ultimate proof that of all the economic systems the one which features people selling their labouring power to a buyer, not to satisfy the personal needs of the buyer, but to augment the buyer's capital, is in fact the best bet for humanity. The mob weren't listening. They'd come to abuse Steve Kean and abuse Steve Kean they would.
This was completed with a "Strict Observance" of the protest for which a Trappist would have mouthed "bravo". As Yakubu proceeded to mow down Swans like a machine-gunner on a duckshoot, it must have been tempting for the fans to pause their agenda awhile. They could even have covered themselves with a caveat, perhaps by updating "you're getting sacked in the morning" to "you're getting sacked three weeks on Tuesday (if we don't beat Sunderland, Bolton and West Brom and gain at least a point at Anfield)". But no, they pressed on regardless.
Two hundred of them even stayed behind after the final whistle to demonstrate against Venky's Limited, Blackburn's poultry-producing owners. They'd made their banners and it would have been a shame to waste them. Maybe there wasn't the time to work out that with some hasty redistribution of the letters "Kean Must Go" it could have become "Soak Nutmeg" and have been offered as some kindly culinary advice to the Indians on how best to marinate their chickens. Afterwards Kean announced himself baffled by the continuation of protest, which shows he doesn't know the cost of ply-wood and stickie letters nowadays and doesn't understand the psyche of the modern sports fan. No doubt there are plenty in Blackburn who feel Kean is not the right man for the job and no doubt their arguments are as convincing as their belligerence is commendable. But, in the main, the rest would be there for the convincing or, more to the point, for the brain-washing.
It's the herd mentality and in sport the herd is as regimented as the People's Army. They may well be described as fickle in the long term (remember how unconditionally they once worshipped Alan Pardew on Tyneside?) but in the short term they follow the gang's instructions. "It says here Kean should be sacked and until someone higher up in the herd decides his contract should be extended, sacked it shall remain."
Of course, it works two ways. Indeed, ecstasy loves company almost as much as misery. And to be in Cardiff on Saturday night was to experience euphoria which giggled itself silly in the face of demoralising defeat.
During the Rugby World Cup much was said, written and probably reworded into hymns about how this new Wales were professional to the core and were interested in one thing and one thing only – winning. In the aftermath of the semi-final agony to France, they didn't want to be depicted as the gallantly vanquished. "Show me a brave loser and I'll show you a loser," as Dai Lombardi was quoted.
Yet here they all were, dancing around the pitch with the scoreline reading 18-24 to Australia. It was bizarre, but then when you heard the roar of the crowd it was eminently understandable as well. More than 60,000 were in attendance and a good number had turned up to say goodbye to Shane Williams. And when he of the ickle boots and the huge sidestep dived over the line with the last touch of the game, this went way, way beyond consolation.
Later in the evening, I ventured across a head-scratching New Zealander, who couldn't fathom the reaction. "You lot have lost for the 14th time out of 15 to Tri-Nations opposition, to an Aussie team in the middle of their off-season without nine of their first-teamers after a World Cup in which you were supposed to have bridged the gap – and you're all celebrating," he said, before being led away by men in white coats emblazoned with red roses.
The fact was the Welsh were determined to bid farewell to Williams and the timing of his try meant the joy would flow unbounded. The truth is they were always going to come over all misty-eyed by the farewell of their twinkle-toed wizard and it wouldn't have mattered if he had departed the scene courtesy of a red card having flattened James O'Connor with a baseball bat. Tears for Shane was the order of the day.
And why shouldn't the fans troop along with an agenda already prepared? After all, that's what it's all about, isn't it? Knowing exactly what you'll be chanting and who you will be eulogising and who you will be barracking. Thank goodness for some certainty in these most uncertain of times. All hail the great predictability of sport.Reuse content