It goes without saying that no fan likes to lose a game of football, and I’m no exception to the rule. But the biggest disappointment for this observer during the latter stages of the match against Gresley FC last Saturday, was the voracious tirade of criticism and abuse aimed at the players, management team and, on occasion, match officials from a small faction of people seated high in the grandstand. It was totally unjustified and wholly embarrassing for the majority in attendance. It was certainly not the sort of vocal aggression we (the hardworking volunteer club officials) expect at our games and, perhaps more importantly, it's not the kind of behaviour/language likely to encourage families to bring along children to watch a game of non-league football.
After two weeks of uncertainty after manager Chris Rawlinson’s budget was slashed, the players have shown true loyalty to the club. They could, like many have across the non-league landscape in past years, so easily have deserted in numbers; with this in mind, it's interesting to note one such case headlined in last Sunday's Non League Paper: 'Merthyr Town, faced with a major financial crisis, saw a mass exodus of players and were forced to pick a youth team to fulfil a fixture and were thrashed 13-1'. It should be added that the players who did represent Merthyr Town that day recieved a standing ovation from both sets of fans at the end of the game for their valiant endeavours in unbelievably difficult circumstances.
If the critics would consider turning toxic aggression into true support, urging staff/players on instead of castigating them, perhaps that might go a long way to inspiring a turnaround in fortunes on the field of play.
We've enjoyed some amazing times in the past year at this football club. Those with short memories should consider the galvanising job done by manager Chris Rawlinson, his staff and the players (many of whom remain at the club today) when David Frecklington left abruptly to take over the reins at Gainsborough Trinty in early 2017. A potentially calamitous slide to mid-table obscurity was avoided in some style, with a Play-Off Final achieved and only a 2-1 defeat to Witton Albion preventing elevation to Step 3.
The off-season saw two leading lights (Nathan Stainfield & Bradley Wells) leave, perhaps understandably, to pursue higher-level football. The onset of the 2017/18 campaign saw the manager consolidate his squad and quickly get the team into a position where they've hovered around the play-off places until only recently.
The unforeseen but absolutely necessary budget cuts instigated a little over weeks ago were bound to have consequences regards player morale but, to a man, those that remain have played with commitment, passion and pride and deserve far better than what they were subjected to last Saturday by a small minority in attendance. I'm sure the staff/players understand that it was only a small faction last weekend - the vast majority of us support them wholeheartedly and fully believe that the current run of defeats will change sooner rather than later.
True 'support' is measured not just by cheering & backslapping when times are good; encouragement from the stands & sidelines is arguably most important when the chips are down and performances/results aren't going the way we perhaps expect them to.
Here's hoping last Saturday's unsavoury spectacle is a one-off: for their commitment to the Spalding United FC cause the Tulips' staff/players deserve our praise and full-blooded support. Let's hope we get that in abundance for our next home match v Alvechurch FC on Saturday 2nd December. After all, narrow single-goal defeats could so easily have been narrow single-goal victories or draws at the very least - there's still lots of football to be played in 17/18 and an awful lot of points to be fought for: let's all pull in the same, positive direction and ensure the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field remains a place where football is played in a family-friendly, respectful and fair atmosphere...
Updated 11:52 - 21 Nov 2017 by Non-League Webmeister