Player Criticism 101

Europe: Game 3

Dundalk 2-2 Levadia Tallinn

After conceding two extremely disappointing goals Dundalk twice fought back to leave the two legged tie with Levadia in the balance going into next week’s 2nd leg.

As performances go, it wasn’t the worst and it wasn’t the best. It’s always notable when it comes to picking a man of the match award if there are several decent candidates, David McMillan, Will Patching, Patrick McEleney and Sam Stanton (of course) all deserve special praise for their performances.

There are undeniable issues in the squad and there have been undeniable mistakes made in building the current squad. We all agree on that. I really don’t enjoy singling people out for criticism but sometimes you have to call things as you see them. Sport can be cruel on individuals who have landed in circumstances that are completely out of their control and understanding.

There was a moment on Thursday night where criticism of a particular player reached a crescendo. Criticism from Dundalk fans to a Dundalk player. It’s happened hundreds of times before and it will happen hundreds of times in the future. It’s the nature of football fandom. Think of Arsenal fans cheering Granit Xhaka being substituted or Man Utd fans cheering Marouane Fellaini getting hooked. It happens all the time.

Sometimes for reasons that can be explained or sometimes for reasons that can’t be explained, certain players face the ire of the supporters. Right now at the club, the disconnection between the fans and the club is growing. The current situation at the club, the decline in the playing squad, the uncertainty off the pitch, COVID, all of this has led to a feeling where supporters feel their club is slipping away from them.

Gary Rogers spoke on the LoI Central podcast this week about how the club just wasn’t the same club he signed for so he retired. That is damning. That is shocking.

The fans feel like that too. The chaos and uncertainty that has replaced success and stability has raised alarm bells and angered fans to the point of protests and supporters groups being formed.

The transfer “policy” implemented over the winter left a squad already in need of improvements in need of a complete overhaul. Outraged and angered by this “policy” Dundalk fans saw unknown players come in to replace proven winners in the League of Ireland. There was always going to be extra scrutiny on these players.

People see these players as the embodiment of that policy, of that uncertainty, of the utter madness happening behind the scenes. It’s always going to be tough for them to win the fans over if they don’t perform right away.

And they will face criticism from the fans. Dundalk fans are not slow to let you know if you’re not doing even the bare minimum.

Was the criticism of certain performances last night personal? Of course not

The fans don’t want to be critical of the players. They want the players to give it their all. Hard work and effort is not that much to ask. Mistakes will happen and can be forgiven but when all eyes are on you and those eyes see you as the perfect example of everything that’s gone wrong in the last 18 months? Whether you like it or not, whether you understand it or not, you are going to be criticized.

It’s up to these players now. You have to win the fans over. Forget about criticism on ‘Social Media’.

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