Respect may an overused word in football.
There is the Respect campaign of course, a widely publicised FA initiative which, their website states, ‘is the collective responsibility of everyone involved in football to create a fair, safe and enjoyable environment in which the game can take place’.
The wikipedia definition of respect is that it gives ‘a positive feeling of esteem or deference for a person or other entity’.
We all, by nature, like to be respected. We feel that it is our right, it makes us feel good about ourselves. But are we equally happy to show respect for others?
In the midst of battle, in a packed stadium, rivalries often take over and all respect for our fellow man or woman often disappears, and this applies to players, managers and supporters. Whilst not excusable, it can be understandable to some degree where the emotion and feeling of a match creates a frenzied and impassioned environment, so that words and actions can be put down to being made in the ‘heat of the moment’.
However, it always feels slightly unedifying if an opposing player is rounded upon as inevitably they will be spurred on to perform to higher levels. By way of example, Luis Suarez was likened to a rat by the R’s supporters on Sunday as soon as Liverpool appeared on the pitch, to general amusement all round. However, beneath the shallow smiles, there was a thought as to whether this was really the wisest of chants. Suarez duly ‘rattled’ in two cracking goals in the first 16 minutes and it was game over. Maybe Suarez’s command of the English language is limited and he may not have understood what the chant meant, suffice to say that he would have known that it was about him and unlikely to have been complimentary. He made the Rangers pay for a simple lack of respect and he was certainly not going to be put off by the boo-boys.
However, sometimes it is events off the pitch that leave an unpleasant taste.
On several occasions recently, for reasons unknown, the stadium announcer at Loftus Road has neglected to announce the opposing team’s player’s names just prior to kick off. This is particularly noticeable when the Ranger’s players are cheered to the rafters. This shows a complete lack of respect to the opposition, their players will be aware of it, and it may make them try just that little bit harder to perform as they collectively respond to the ‘them against us’ feeling of injustice.
At Chelsea last night, three things caught the eye which perhaps go some way to showing how little respect Chelsea had for the Rangers.
Firstly the Chelsea team selection. Already missing Cech and Terry through injury, the team sheet revealed no Cole, no Hazard, no Mata. ‘No matter’ thought Benitez but perhaps his team selection backfired. Had he not shown Rangers enough respect by leaving them out thinking that the lesser players would suffice? Hazard’s and Mata’s delayed second half entrance may have been just too late to alter the course of a match that they would ordinarily have been expected to have won comfortably.
Secondly, the match programme. On the whole, the visitor’s feature usually offers a fair assessment and it is always interesting to see how the opposing programme editors portray the R’s. However, in a small section on page 31 headed “Did you know?”, the writer was clearly given a remit to put the proverbial boot in and he did not disappoint his editor, particularly focussing on the R’s winless run, excessive sendings off and using more players than anyone else. All the statements were true but one wondered as to whether this was all really necessary, other than for some light hearted amusement for the home supporters at the visitor’s expense. Respect?
Thirdly and perhaps worst of all, was the half time entertainment at Stamford Bridge, if you can call it entertainment that is. Whilst the R’s often try to do their bit for the local community by having local schoolchildren on the pitch shooting past the R’s mascots, the entertainmnent at Chelsea seems to involve the club dragging out a former club legend of yesteryear and marching him around the ground and introducing him to every stand, before disappearing back down the tunnel. An interview with the said player would have added something to this procession but sadly no-one seemed to have thought of that. Instead, last night, poor old Marvin Hinton, now aged 72, wandered around the pitch waving at the stands, where the majority of the new age Chelsea fans had never even heard of him. However, what was particularly galling, was that as ‘suave Marve’, as we were told he was affectionately known, left the arena, the man on the microphone announced that Marvin had won more medals in his time at the club than QPR had won in their entire history. It was probably intended as a throw away comment to amuse the home supporters, but it was not lost on the majority of the visiting section. It showed a lack of respect and was completely unnecessary. It would certainly stirred Harry and his boys if they had heard such a comment as they were having their half time debrief in the dressing room. One wonders whether he might now regret making such a comment in view of the final outcome.
Finally, some respect for Harry. Rangers have not won on the road since 2011, have not won a London derby away from home in the Premier League since 1995 and have not won at Stamford Bridge since 1979. All that changed last night and following Sunday’s humiliation at home to Liverpool, this was some turnaround.
As Aretha Franklin put it “All I’m askin is for a little respect”. In life, in football, it can go a long way.