This piece is a guest post by Scroobius Mac, so, obviously, I can take no credit for it (even though I’d like to, it’s a great article).
Kings of Leon and Wayne Rooney. Once they were lauded by fans and press alike. Their vaguely animalistic interpretation offered a wake up call to their respective entertainment genres. They were hailed as the next big thing. They scored that glorious rage-filled volley against Newcastle or made the country-grunge of Four Kicks.
They took their chance and launched themselves upon the largest audiences available. They sold millions of pounds in merchandise. They converted millions of fans to their cause. You couldn’t go to the pub without seeing a bloke ordering Carling in his Rooney shirt, and you couldn’t go to a club without hearing Sex On Fire.
They became slightly lackadaisical but new records still followed. They eclipsed George Best. They continued to make multi-platinum albums. The numbers were great, even the achievements that went with them were great. But something was lacking. There was a certain clumsiness in places, and a lack of effort in others. They were a paint-by-numbers effort of the former glory.
Those who had enjoyed that sumptuous chip over David James or danced like maniacs to The Bucket changed their tune. Rooney and the Followill clan had sold their souls and betrayed their legacy. In the eyes of these former fans, they were now worse than average. They were seen to be placed alongside the mediocre drivel that inhabits our airways and sport channels; to be ranked alongside the likes of The Vaccines and Bobby Zamora.
However, as with most reactions, it is overstated. Wayne Rooney remains a fine footballer and Kings of Leon’s last two records had some decent tracks.
It happens time and again in both genres. NME are champions of the ‘hype you until you make it, slate you once you do’ journalism, and football fans, particularly those who discuss football on twitter, are guilty of this too. Some have become so obsessed with being right about an opinion that they will take a point and hammer it home to extremes without considering both sides of the coin.
Another example of polarisation is Steven Gerrard. His ‘Stevie Hollywood’ reputation was developed as a counter to those who hailed him as the world’s greatest midfielder. Now his critics complain at every failed long pass or his choice to shoot when a pass was available. However, they fail to recognise his continued ability to drive his team forward, that his self-belief to take on those shots results in important goals and that his sometimes overly adventurous passing is one of the most effective routes to creating chances when it comes off.
This process works both ways; those players who are held by some to be excellent but receive undue criticism are subsequently overly-lauded when they do things well. Laurent Koscielny provides one example of this attitude. Arsenal fans often feel that he is criticised unduly and take every sublime moment (see his acrobatic interception against Wigan last season) as an opportunity to hail him as the second-coming of Franz Beckenbauer, yet they go quiet when he makes an error which costs him a red card, and/or Arsenal a goal.
Dogmatic beliefs become particularly entrenched when discussing players who play for your own club. With more football fans finding ways to watch every 90 minutes of their own club play regardless (whether it is televised or not) each minute detail is analysed. To give an example from my own club, Spurs, Mousa Dembele is often seen as divisive. He does some things really well; his strength on the ball is magnificent which, when combined with his sometimes-astonishing dribbling ability, is a sight to behold. On the other side for this ability it often amounts to little, as he’s not much of a visionary when it comes to passing and his goal threat is, quite frankly, pathetic. Yet he’s rarely evaluated in this way – he’s seen as either the heartbeat of the team or as a waste of space.
Dembele is, to return to the Kings of Leon analogy, Because Of The Times. He has moments where he appears to be one of the finest exponents in his field but there are other occasions where he lacks depth and purpose to be truly great. The increased accessibility to view every minute of action leads to dissection of players to the most meticulous details of their game. This seems to serve to amplify opinions about players’ greatness or weaknesses, rather than be used to better augment a debate about the pros and cons of a players’ ability.
Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Laurent Koscielny, Mousa Dembele, Arjen Robben, Theo Walcott, David Luiz, Kyle Walker, Leighton Baines, and Frank Lampard are, to name but a few, players who polarise opinion. They are all footballers who belong in top sides, but have limitations alongside their good attributes. Whilst you may not feel that some of these players deserve the hype they receive, it is probably worth appreciating the reasons they are being praised so highly and weighting the argument rather than painting it black and white. Likewise, when your club’s underrated hero is next getting slated by Hansen and Shearer try to take a step back, and consider whether they do have faults which could be addressed.
Come join me on the fence, it’s more comfortable sitting here than you might think.