The culture of entitlement

While watching the Chelsea v Man U game on TV (and twitter) last night, I was thinking a lot last night about football and my feelings on it and I think I finally worked out why I dislike certain clubs more than others: why I dislike Barcelona more than Real Madrid and Man U more than Liverpool or Chelsea or even Arsenal. Previously, I had thought it was the arrogance of these teams, but when one looks again, there is arrogance everywhere amongst the big clubs: Real Madrid has one of the ultimate primadonnas in their ranks with Cristiano Ronaldo, Arsenal has Robin van Persie and yes, I do harbour a strong dislike for him, but I can tolerate the rest of the team.

I was born and dragged brought up in Sheffield. It’s a Yorkshire city with two “big” football clubs and plenty of history. Having been a Blades fan since I can remember and attended many hundreds of matches, I can safely say that there is no place on the red side of Sheffield for the culture of diving and play-acting that has plagued the modern game. We’re known for our hard, physical approach and it’s something that the fans expect from the players. Simulation (the ridiculously posh name for diving) is not tolerated by the faithful fans and that’s something that the managers and players are well aware of, so it doesn’t happen.
Perhaps this attitude towards simulation is why Sheffield’s teams are struggling at the moment. While the big names like those mentioned above have moved on and evolved their tactics to include throwing themselves to the floor at the slightest touch (or even without the slightest touch in some cases), the prehistoric Blades have failed to adapt to the modern era, at the apparent cost of success on the pitch.

But I’m glad to be able to stand up and say that we’re still playing an honest game, the way it was meant to be played, while those at Man U tolerate (even encourage) Nani’s petulance and Chelsea and Arsenal fans conveniently ignore Drogba’s and van Persie’s springboard antics. That said, I do think that Drogba has cleaned up his game considerably and for that, he deserves some praise.

So why, if all the big names at the big clubs are throwing themselves to the floor and ruining what was the beautiful game, why do I find myself singling out Man U and Barca for particular vitriol? It’s a question that had puzzled even me until recently.
But then I watched as minnows Sporting Gijon held Barca to a draw a couple of weeks ago and it started to dawn on me. And then the Wayne Rooney incident on the weekend and Fergie’s (justified) rant last night about the referee sealed it for me.

It isn’t arrogance or success or diving – relying on those traits would encompass many clubs.

It’s the Culture of Entitlement: because these teams have “always” done well, they seem to think that they “always” deserve to do well.

But that’s not how it works. And that’s why when they don’t do well – Barca at Sporting and Man U last night at Chelsea – there always has to be a scapegoat. But having watched both those games, the reason they lost (or drew in Barca’s case) was that the opposition simply played better. Something that seems too hard for Barca and Man U to take.

Man U fans will be shouting furiously about Martin Atkinson and David Luiz right now and sure, Luiz was rather lucky to not get a second yellow card. But then again, Mark Clattenburg was very close to that nasty elbow from Wayne Rooney on Saturday and everyone knows that Rooney should have got a red then – even *gasp* Alex Ferguson.
But then compare and contrast Fergie then:

Wayne is a bit fortunate. It was a clash but nothing serious that hurt the player. Nonetheless, it was a silly thing to do.

and Fergie now:

The Luiz foul was six yards in front of the referee, maybe eight if we give him the benefit of the doubt, no obstructions whatsoever. I don’t know how he stayed on the pitch.

These things go both ways – any footy fan will tell you that – except that the Culture of Entitlement apparently means that they shouldn’t go against Man U.

And Alex Ferguson is at the heart of it. An amazing manager for many, many years, he has now grown too big for his boots – he’s getting old and cantankerous – he thinks he’s above the game and he has instilled that same attitude into his players. Compare and contrast Ancelotti or Mancini – when they get beaten there are none of the histrionics that you see after a Man U defeat. Even Jose Mourinho has introduced some humility to the Real Madrid team. Incredible, but true:

One team played to the maximum of its potential and the other very badly. It’s a well-deserved win and well-deserved loss.

Whereas when Man U lose because they played badly, Fergie sends his assistant out to to the press conference. It’s almost as if the Culture of Entitlement refuses to let him admit that his team can lose simply because they were outplayed.

There’s no conclusion to this post and I don’t expect Man U fans to agree with me, of course (borrowing Fergie’s “Wayne Rooney trial by media” tactic). It was more about documenting my epiphany.
Now I can get on with watching football without the nagging doubt that I need to justify the reasons my hatred of Manchester United and Barcelona.

‘Tis done.

11 thoughts on “The culture of entitlement

  1. I have also had this sort of epiphany as you call it. Watching the game last night I saw that Luiz was pushing the ref to see how far he could go, and obviously knew that Rooney had a short fuse, and fair play to the lad. He pushed the boundaries of what the ref would let him get away with and it has riled Fergie. Their fans at work Monday morning were giving it all the “The ref saw it and the Wigan player ran into him” But when I used the argument that Rooney cleverly “ran into” Luiz to get him booked/sent off it’s a different story.

    I agree with the Drogba point too. He appears in the last season or two to have seriously cleaned up his act regarding the “simulation” in and around the box.

    Listening to the You’re on Sky Sports after the game, all Manc fans were emailing in saying “How can we have the best league and teams in the world, but the worst refs” or “Martin Atkinson is such a blatent Chelsea fan” I’m wondering if there is a pic of him in a Chelsea shirt ala Howard Webb. We all know he supports Man Utd and they would have won at Stamford Bridge had he been the ref 😆

  2. Its called tall poppie syndrome. The reason I was hoping for a Chelsea win over Man U, is because at the moment Man U are doing better than Chelsea (I actually hate Chelsea more than Man U). Doesn’t matter what level of soccer it is, the losers generally will blame someone else for their loss be it the ref, opposition cheating or just pure luck.

    p.s. The reason the Sheffield teams are not doing well is because they are not good enough.

  3. Man United fan here. Evidence suggests that I’m a committed fan, seeing as I’m on a plane Thursday to watch the FA Cup QF against Arsenal. Or that I’m overly impulsive… moving on:

    I have to agree with much of this. There are knobs in all teams, but some teams are inspired to collectively act like knobs sometimes, and so it is with Man United when things aren’t going their way. When things really aren’t going their way, even players who opposition fans like to respect get in on the whining and ref-abuse (Giggs & Scholes). And it’s difficult to like a team when they are constantly reminding you that there’s something wrong in the universe when another team dares to beat them.

    However – one issue is how we define a team, or rather, what we take as representing a team, and second, what is it we value about football. We can differ on either, or both. On the first issue (as your mention of Mourinho hints), the manager can define how we perceive the team – sometimes in an unbalanced way. And as good as Fergie is and has been (renewing Carrick’s contract notwithstanding), he’s also been a first-class obnoxious representative of the culture you describe. The very same players might be less objectionable if they weren’t encouraged to act in these ways by Fergie’s examples (ref rants, freezing the press out when they are critical, etc.). And sure, one could take the stance that while he’s around, it’s impossible to support Man United. But – and we’ve spoken about this before – I doubt that many football watchers would say “I like Man United, and would be willing to support them, if only Fergie wasn’t there”. The point is that a certain reputation, or attitude towards, a team becomes entrenched. In scientific terms, the caricature becomes unfalsifiable. Such are the tribal loyalties of sport, I suppose. But they don’t tend to conduce to debate, and as admirable as your effort above is to think these things through, I wonder whether it’s possible to do so objectively.

    On the second issue (what we value), the problem is that the two issues you separate above aren’t really separable. You say it’s not so much the play-acting that bothers you, but rather the culture of entitlement. But the play-acting and arrogance stem from prior success, and the desire to perpetuate it, don’t they? “Entitled” to a free kick, entitled to a line-call, etc., because we believe we’re better, or somesuch. Furthermore, or more to the point, one could respect that also: The cliche about Man United’s indefatigable spirit is one thing that unites supporters, and that comes from a sense that they should usually win.

    And one might not win as often if these things were absent. That self-belief and desire made a technically average footballer like Gary Neville mostly rock-solid and effective (understatement) for 15 years, and he’s far from the only example. More importantly, it’s helped a very average team (this season) get to a winning position in the league – on paper, we should probably be 6th (on my reckoning, at least Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, City have better squads than us). But in a high-pressure game, we’ll prevail more often than we should, because the players believe they deserve to win.

    Anyhow – before this gets longer than your blog post itself, I’ll shut up. To summarise: you’re just jealous. All of you.

  4. Jacques > First off, enjoy your trip.
    Secondly, because you’ve agreed with a lot of what I’ve said, I don’t find much to reply to. However, that’s never stopped me before, so I’ll take you to task on a couple of things:
    1. Yes, the play-acting and the arrogance come from prior success. But other teams have also been successful previously and not gone down that path. Fergie’s influence again? Perhaps. Does it help you to win? I don’t know.
    The sign of a successful club is their ability to win, even when they play badly. Incidentally, the sign of a club in trouble is the inability to win, even when they play well – and that’s pretty scary for us Blades fans right now.
    2. You think MUFC supporters are united only by the sense that the team should usually win? If/when Man U go back to the doldrums (as they surely will, these things are ever so cyclical), do you think “supporters” will drift away in large numbers, then?

  5. Your point 2 would make sense if I said something other than “The cliche about Man United’s indefatigable spirit is one thing that unites supporters” – like a “the” before the “one”. But the fact that you’re seeing things that aren’t there explains, I suppose, your claim that the Blades are playing well :).

  6. Jacques > Fair point – I misread. Couldn’t actually believe what I was reading, but it’s been a long day with a lot of microscope work. Apologies.
    My boys are playing some amazing football. Even the opposition keep telling us how unlucky we have been (and then keeping the 3 points).

  7. Got my fingers crossed that the Blades can chop down Forest, specially now my facebook friends feed won’t have “37 unbeaten at home” or “Another win at home for the best home league record in europe” Oh do Bore off Forest Fans. I know you won’t let me hold out too much hope of your lads beating Forest but stranger things have happened i.e. Our 4-4 draw with Arsenal

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