The S J Chandos Column
West Ham played some really wonderful stuff on Saturday, in their 4-2 defeat of Burnley at the London Stadium. Arnautovic starred as per usual and Diangana had arguably his best first team performance to date. Other players that also stood out were Anderson, with his vital brace of goals, and Snodgrass for his industry and invention in midfield. Indeed, both players were crucial in winning a match that could very well have resulted in a frustrating score draw, contrary to the home team’s clear dominance.
Anderson and Snodgrass have something in common, they have both previously been subject to more than their fair share of fan criticism over prior performances. In he case of Snodgrass, he was recruited in the aftermath of Payet’s exit and his Hammers career had a less than brilliant start, resulting in a season long loan to Aston Villa in 2017-18. At that juncture, the ex-Hull City star was widely written off by quite a few supporters and it was strongly suggested that there was only one realistic course of action, to sell him to Villa as soon as possible. Anderson has recently been the target of fan criticism for some less than consistent performances (against the likes of Spurs), conveniently forgetting the outstanding ability that he demonstrated against Arsenal and Man Utd.
Subsequently, Snodgrass has came back to West Ham (under the management of Pellegrini), shed some excess weight and really buckled down to the task of saving his Hammers career. And so far this season Snodgrass has become a fixture in the first team, impressing supporters with his committed and resourceful performances. While Anderson once again underlined his true ability, with a match winning performance against Burnley. And with it the fan jibes about ’ West Ham being the only club to buy a Brazilian who cannot play’ have suddenly melted away. It may be legitimate to question Anderson’s consistency this season, but one cannot help but feel that some of the criticism was not only premature, but way over the top.
Another player that has attracted a lot of unfair fan criticism is Mark Noble, a outstanding contemporary servant to West Ham Utd Football Club. This has tended to write him off as a spent force, ‘too slow, lacking pace and generally past it.’ He silenced much of that criticism recently with his highly influential midfield performances against Everton, Chelsea and Man Utd. Only to become the ‘villain of the piece’ once again with last week’s sending off against Leicester City. I honestly cannot believe some of the things written about Noble and feel that much of it his highly disrespectful to a player that has given (and continues to give) outstanding service to the club. One suspects that Noble will only get full and fair credit for his contribution once his West Ham playing career is concluded!
So, is there an increasing tendency amongst supporters to rush to condemn and write off players? Are we less patient and more likely to criticise than in previous eras? I personally am split on the issue. I find a lot of the criticism certain players receive premature and unfair. There are definitely some fans that love to have a scapegoat(s) to take out their angst/spite on. If results go badly then it seems to be a comfort to them to lay the blame at the door of a specific target or targets. Yet, on the other hand, I also tend to think that players are highly paid and should be accountable for their performance or lack of it! I have always said that fans pay their money and have the right to express their views, no matter how mistaken they may be.
Perhaps for me it is ultimately a matter of degree. Not that fans criticise, but that quite often, these days, much of it is excessive and a minority of it quite frankly irrational. And it is notable that if and when a heavily criticised player redeems himself, that criticism tends to just melt away and all suddenly becomes ‘sweetness and light.’ Maybe this is all just a consequence of the age of social media and the price we pay for everyone having a voice online?