Belford, boos and angry fans

Alex Cooke reflects on a night when the ’12th man’ turned on the youngest, most inexperienced of the 11 boys.

A 19-year-old ‘keeper miss-hits a clearance. BOOOOO! A 19-year-old ’keeper, making his second ever League start, hits the ball straight into touch. BOOOOO! An increasingly nervous 19-year-old-‘keeper, making his second ever League start and 10-minutes into his home debut, kicks the ball from his hands to the far end of the pitch. CHEERS! (Sarcastic).

Football is all about opinions. It is a phrase trotted out regularly by Shaun Hodgetts – the human equivalent of those feeble bottles of 2% supermarket lager, but there is a kernel of truth in there. There is very little in football that isn’t subjective in some way: Ronaldo versus Messi or elegant passing versus dogged efficiency. So far there are no metrics sophisticated enough to encapsulate such a simple game in a stat – even trophies won; Brazil ’82 didn’t take the World Cup and the 1994 team did, but their low-scoring, defensive football seemed to come from a different continent to Zico and Socrates.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions too. You almost certainly don’t enjoy the same football I do, with intricate passing, patience in possession and yes, even a short corner or two. But to single out a barely pubic player, making his home debut, in a position as exposed as goalkeeper – that is cruel and self-destructive.

How is Tyrell Belford meant to respond? By making better decisions and better contact with the ball? Clearly that would help, but few psychologists would claim that intense pressure improves decision-making. Fortunately it seems that Belford is a better man than those who booed – he proved that by not folding under their pressure, and in his sadly deleted post-game tweet.

Of course you can criticise – it wasn’t a good performance by Town or a good game. Go ahead, you carp and gripe your little head off, you’ve paid your money. If it gets you through the 90 minutes and even the online conversation after, go for it. This isn’t some happy-clappy call for the kind of unflinching support demanded by Kim Jong-un when he asks if that haircut suits him.

Feel free to shout in frustration at underperforming players too, I did. I missed most of the build up to the Crawley equaliser as I was too busy laughing at Dany N’Guessan as he lay on the floor wallowing in his own private realm. Just don’t join a mass booing of a very young player who plays in a position which is hugely exposed and prone to introspection, when, minutes into his first home game, he has done nothing wrong.

The Town End Forum has of late engaged itself in a destructive debate about what constitutes a ‘proper’ fan and this rant isn’t about that. It isn’t about the intolerance of Swindon crowds or even those dogmatic demands for hoofball, they can wait for another day. We can, and we will, disagree about those later on.

This is about Tyrell Belford and saying that, yes, there were moments in which his performance on the pitch could have been better – but remembering the context. And so give the increasingly nervous 19-year-old-‘keeper, making his second ever League start and 10-minutes into his home debut, a chance.

Right, I’ve had my say. Time for you get your opinionholes gaping with the comment section, or this poll. I’ve kept it simple.

11 comments

  • A comment on the Facebook page from Paul Farwell:

    It’s not his fault we’re doing so badly. It’s the inability of management and hierarchy to bring in the right players. We have no leaders and very little experience in the team at present and until that changes you can expect the same old same old.

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  • Excellent article, sadly I missed the game due to work commitments, but I think I heard the boo’s directed at Belford from my hotel room in Barrow-in-Furness….

    I’ve never known such an angry season (we’re 8th everyone)

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  • I can’t believe that any true Swindon fan would think this is the best way to encourage a young Town player.
    I bet the Crawley fans were made up that we were booing our own 19 year goalie in only his second League start.
    Thank for the article Alex.

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  • Agree with the comments above, it’s not the first time they’ve got on the players back for playing a passing game, but last night was terrible the way they were having a go, especially on Belford. Young goalkeeper who is going to be rusty (especially given the nature of the position isn’t going to have many games under his belt), and getting on his case just made it worse and edgy for all the players.

    Even if you don’t agree with the way they play (don’t get why), how is getting on their back going to make them play better? Play-offs are unlikely this season, but midtable was always going to be a good season realistically, building for the future, but some fans are impatient and still haven’t got over PdC going. Cooper has done a great job in my eyes, but you are always going to get an idiot minority at every club.

    On different note, never seen both sets of fans singing together at the referee, quite funny never seen that before!

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  • Belford deserves every consideration. He is our future. However, as TheMole said town “building for the future”. I don’t see much evidence of that, and mid table “good season realistically”. Town are trying to field teams with loaners and low wages. Everyone else is being shown the door. Ask ManU how successful that will be.

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    • Yes that is a fair point, I think one they have no option given the way the previous regime blew money, but secondly, the hope is that some of them will sign permanently (see Luongo, Byrne), if not they at least contribute a good season/spell. There is a worry that there is no continuity with reliance on loans, but it’s a building process over a season or two. Walsall, Orient and Yeovil have built well on lowish budgets, even if all due respect, we are a slightly bigger club than them.

      Also there is a certain amount of continuity, with an emphasis on a philosophy and style of football and players with director of football/chairman may be successful, only time will tell. So far Cooper is doing a good job managing and bring through an inexperienced but talented side, though we do need some experience next season. I don’t get how Man Utd is relevant in this case, no offence.

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  • I was in the Town End on Tuesday night and my recollection of events are at odds with your article. Cooper, prior to the match, had stated Belford, coming from Liverpool, always looked to play out from the back. Tylooked to do this from the first minute and his first attempts were poorly judged, putting the defence under immense pressure. The Town End thereafter was vociferously advising him to clear long rather than repeat his mistakes. I cannot recall him being booed but I may be wrong. He was, I agree, ridiculed when he did kick long, straight to their keeper! That was with some justification as any professional keeper, regardless of experience, should be able to avoid kicking the ball direct to his opposite number. I have been a Town fan for fifty years and have experienced many ups and downs during that time. I must say our current form, due to the playing style dictated by coaching staff, is hugely frustrating. When opposing teams get all eleven players behind the ball when defending, as most do when at the County Ground, we need a player to get past an opponent to drag another out of position. The opposition then loses shape, we exploit space and create scoring opportunities. At the moment, no one is prepared to take an opponent on and we end up simply passing the ball from left to right, right to left, across the opposing, defending
    bank of ten, making no progress whatsoever. The fans are bored with it and we always look vulnerable on the counter. Cast the memory back to just a short time ago under Di Canio’s tutelage. Fast, attacking football that made the County Ground buzz. It’s not surprising the majority of fans are now making their displeasure heard from the terraces. I for one would never boo a Town side but watching Swindon every week, and I mean every week, I do understand why the fans are so negative at the moment. STID!

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    • I was in the Don Rogers and there were clear boos from around me. Some from quite nearby.

      It is also a very fine distinction to say what a boo or jeer or sarcastic applause was aimed at – the result for the player probably feels very similar – be it for the ball, the tactics or the person.

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    • Don’t get me wrong the Di Canio days were great, but people have short memories – I remember some games like Plymouth, Northampton, Macclesfield were dire despite winning. 442 and inverted wingers became predictable and tiring at times. Sure it was great and at times exciting but it wasn’t perfect, I think we were quite ineffective up front at times. I for one think it’s great to see the ball on the ground and players being able to control and pass, but football is subjective and this isn’t to everyone’s taste.
      However retaining possession is important, I’ve never got the English mentality that this is somehow negative. Besides we don’t have budget to get those players who drag the opposition out, or be brilliant defensively, playing possession football is one way to nullify our defensive weaknesses.

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      • I have to agree with much of what TheMole says, and go a bit further – I found some of the Di Canio football uninspiring and cracks were papered over by spending. His system completely relied on Ritchie to create and score, which as a player far below his level, he did. But when he went (or injured) it simply didn’t work.

        All those who complain about no ‘plan B’ now, Di Canio was the ultimate for that. All he did was force square pegs into round holes – until he could buy a replacement, and then another replacement. How many players did he try at left wingers? Esajas, Gabilondo, De Vita, Holmes, Rooney, Bessone etc. That was his plan B.

        We can’t afford that now, and we couldn’t afford it then. Just imagine if some of the money he wasted on Muarry, Magera, Tehoue, Cox, Rooney (x2) had been spent building a squad, or the youth team system – something that lasted longer than a week. We wouldn’t be in such a position now with a team distorted by the wages of TAH, Navarro, Williams and Roberts, whose average age is just 23 and have less than 100 appearances to their names.

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