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Jakob Henrikksen and the obligation to opine…

January 5, 2017

I was young once.  I mean, I still like to think that I’m relatively young – I’m an 80s child, and that’s not old, is it?  But when I say that I was young once, I probably mean more that I was carefree – no wife, no kids, no mortgage, no proper job.  I’ve got all those now, and it eats into my time A LOT.  When you add in watching football, drinking, WhatsApp Group Chats and gambling, I really do have limited time to spend on the internet.  Certainly not like I used to.

It’s not that long ago that I regularly used SHA – I was the self-proclaimed “lifeblood of the site”.  As other things ate into my time though, like the kids and the job, I realised that I was only the lifeblood of the site because I was always bloody on there, with an opinion on everything.  It forced me into having opinions on matters that were, in fact, a complete irrelevance to me.  I’d get into arguments with strangers on the internet as to whether Jakob Henrikksen’s 12 goals in 53 games in the Danish Second Division was a good record or not, and whether he was a ‘classic number 9’ or whether he was better suited ‘in the hole’.  And I’d have this argument because Wigan Athletic, who Blues may or may not have been competing for a play-off place with, had supposedly offered £1.2m for him.  And, in truth, in the grand scheme of things, I didn’t give a shit about who Wigan Athletic might sign.  I didn’t know anything about the Danish Second Division.  Until that morning I hadn’t even heard of bloody Jakob Henirkksen.  But I felt obliged to have an opinion, because that’s what people on the internet do, isn’t it?  They have opinions on everything?  I had time on my hands to sit on an internet football message board all day, read everything on there, and form an opinion on EVERYTHING.  I was compelled to have an opinion on EVERYTHING.  Sometimes, I’d form an opinion first and then spend time on Google searching for facts to back up the opinion I’d already formed.  It’s what you do on the internet.

But what you also do on the internet, when you’ve got time on your hands and once you’ve formed your opinion, is you fight to the death to defend it.  You form an extreme opinion that won’t waver.  You refuse to look at things objectively.  You’re incapable of seeing the other side.  You can’t be balanced about it.  There’s no ‘in between’ – you take one side or the other, and whoever opposes you is then your sworn internet enemy.

Then, one day, I simply didn’t have time for SHA any more.  It took up too much of my time.  I preferred the immediacy and brevity of Twitter, not to mention the fact that you could filter out those whose opinions/thoughts/etc were utter bollocks.  I enjoyed that.  And, suddenly, I found that I didn’t have to have an opinion on everything.  I would skim things.  I would gloss over things.  I would ignore things.  Then, occasionally, something would catch my interest and I’d share an opinion on it.  I share a lot of opinions on there – many of which are about Blues – but I no longer feel obliged to have an opinion on everything.  Some things, to me, are just ‘meh’ as the ‘Rowett Youth’ might say.  Of course I have an interest in Donald Trump and Syria and Brexit, but I don’t necessarily force myself into having a strong opinion on those subjects for the purposes of relentlessly posting on the internet about them.  I can remove myself from certain things.

What’s my point?  Well, I’ll come to that in a minute…

Firstly though, let me address something I do have an opinion on – Blues sacking Gary Rowett. 

My initial reaction was one of shock – I couldn’t believe the news.  It wasn’t ‘bad’ shock or ‘good’ shock; it was just ‘unexpected’ shock.  No one saw it coming.  But then, four days earlier, I’d been at St James’ Park to witness Rowett’s Blues side capitulate against a Newcastle side that didn’t get out of second gear, but had previously lost at home to Wolves, Huddersfield and Blackburn, and subsequently lost at home to Sheffield Wednesday.  I’d expressed anger about that display on Twitter – I certainly did have an opinion on that performance, one that was shared by the majority of Blues fans who made the trip.  Another Twitter user* tweeted that he was “seething” after Newcastle’s fourth goal.  The week before that, I was at St Andrews when Barnsley beat Rowett’s embarrassing Blues 3-0 (we’ve since drawn 2-2 with them at their place).  Until his sacking, Blues’ last half-decent performance under Rowett had been a 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa.

What frustrated me (and plenty of others) about Rowett was a lot of his negative football, even against teams you’d hope we’d be on the front foot against.  The same Twitter user*, the day after Blues had lost 2-0 at Burton Albion (Rowett’s former club whom he’d taken to play-off failure twice before his successor earned automatic promotion), tweeted “How Rowett views away games at mid-table Championship teams [picture of a serene park] v the reality [hell]”.  Following a 3-1 home defeat to Wolves, the same Twitter user*, in response to a tweet questioning Rowett’s tenure at the club and the likelihood of a defeat at home to Villa, said “We won’t get mullered, it’ll be a boring 0-0 draw as Rowett kills off the spectacle”.

I was also frustrated by Rowett’s selection in key games, as was the same Twitter user* who, at the back end of last season, tweeted “This [blog] is just a whinge about… Rowett’s selections in key games” – presumably reference to how Blues, under Rowett, whimpered to the end of last season having been in a promising position around February.  People then questioned Rowett’s team selection for the first game of the season, at home to Cardiff City, feeling it was a bizarre line up from Rowett, with the same Twitter user * tweeting “Bizarre line up from Rowett”.

Rowett’s record in the transfer market frustrated me – I felt he had signed a number of duds, as did the same Twitter user* who referred to Rowett signing “more duds” this time last year.  At best, Rowett’s record in the transfer marker was a mixed bag – lots of panic buys/loans that didn’t come off, but then the likes of Shotton (who he originally brought in to play right back, only for that to fail and for him to stumble upon him as a centre half) and Morrison.  This was a view shared by the same Twitter user* who, three days before Rowett was dismissed, said of his transfers “Been a mixed bag so far.  Lots of panic buys/loans that haven’t come off, but then the likes of Shotton/Morrison” and said “I’m not sure” when asked if he had faith in Rowett spending wisely this January.  You can’t blame that Twitter user* for being unsure of Rowett’s transfer record having spent money on the likes of Nicolai Brock-Madsen (gone forever), Che Adams (wouldn’t pick him), Diego Fabbrini (wouldn’t pick him) and Greg Stewart (wouldn’t pick him).  Indeed, Rowett’s final game was a 2-1 victory over Ipswich Town which was ground out after he picked a total of six players (Spector, Grounds, Gleeson, Davis, Cotterill and Donaldson) that he’d inherited, and him leaving a number of his money signings on the bench or not including them at all.

In addition to the negative, uninspiring football, the poor selections in key games, and his record in the transfer market, my final real bugbear with Rowett was his ‘game management’ – particularly his substitutions.  Very rarely was he able to impact a game going against Blues or drifting away from Blues positively during the course of the game (Sheffield Wednesday at home this season being one exception that springs to mind).  I struggled to defend Rowett after his substitutions in the Wolves home game, as did the same Twitter user* who tweeted “I can’t defend Rowett after yesterday.  The Tesche for Adams sub was outrageous.”  That game also seemed to include a bizarre formation change to avoid subbing off Gleeson or Davis, as the same Twitter user* noted, tweeting “Bizarre formation change to avoid subbing off Gleeson or Davis”.

When you add all of the above to the fact that Rowett had seemingly flirted with various other Championship clubs with a view to ditching Blues, allegedly being on the verge of going to Fulham, then allegedly speaking to QPR and Wolves (and maybe others), then it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that people at Blues may have begun to get a little fed up with him.  A decent proportion of rational-thinking fans were beginning to get fed up with him – I know plenty of people who watched virtually every game Blues played under Rowett, if not all of them, and they were becoming increasingly tired of the lack of entertainment, negative football, poor game management, etc.  Attendances at St Andrews seemed to suggest that others shared the same frustrations as those fans, myself and the Twitter user* I’ve referred to.

So, Rowett was sacked.  Was I shocked?  Yes.  Would I have done it at that time?  No.  Did I lose any sleep?  No.  Did I cry about it?  No.

There’s something I don’t have an opinion on yet – that’s the appointment of Gianfranco Zola.  Would he have been my first choice?  No.  In his first four games, have there been signs of a shift of emphasis in playing style?  Yes.  Have they all been positive?  Far from it.  Should he be given more time to be judged, given he’s effectively been brought in to change the shape of the squad over the January transfer window and beyond?  Yes.  It’s very much ‘wait and see’ for me, although I do have some doubts.  However, for years Blues have played things safe with managers, not taking a bold step, and relationships with the likes of Fry, Francis, Bruce and McLeish (as managers) have been allowed to fester for too long, to the point of becoming untenable.  Do I like the fact that, for once, we took a bold step and acted before a relationship with a manager became broken?  Yes, I find that quite refreshing.  I keep reading that we were “only 3 points off 3rd” when we sacked Rowett (which is a funny way of saying “7th”) – we were only 3 points off 11th too, and were showing signs of going backwards (3-0 v Barnsley, 4-0 v Newcastle) rather than progressing.  With Rowett getting itchy feet, it may only have been a few weeks or months before things did turn sour.

Ok, all of that’s fair enough, but what the hell was all the stuff about having opinions on the internet about?

Fair question.  I was, until only a few years ago, guilty of constantly seeking to ram my opinion on matters down the throat of people on the internet.  I was constantly on SHA.  I wrote ‘match reports’.  I had an opinion on everything.  It was a bit of an obsession, and I secretly quite liked the fact that it rubbed a number of people up the wrong way though.

The difficulty on having (and expressing) an opinion on absolutely everything though, is you lose track of what your opinion actually is, end up contradicting yourself and coming across as a hypocrite.  Take the Twitter user* I’ve referred to, for example.  Here’s a chap who evidently shared a great number of frustrations over Rowett with myself and plenty of other fans.  However, he’s now taken the time to write a blog attacking those who are refusing to shed a tear over Rowett’s departure.  There’s balance amongst an awful lot of Blues fans – no one called for Rowett’s head, not one person.  No one had a street party when he left.  No one know how Zola will do.  No one knows if we’ve done the right thing or the wrong thing – we’ll see. 

But imagine feeling the need to take such an extreme stance that you write a blog attacking people for saying things that they’re not even saying in any event.  Imagine coming up with names for different ‘sides’ to an argument that you yourself are trying to generate.  Imagine revelling in Blues defeats because it suits your arguments.  Imagine championing an extreme opinion now that contradicts an awful lot of what you’ve been saying over the past 12 months.

Some of you will need to imagine that, but not me – I used to do it all myself, until not that long ago. 

Some are still keeping up the act.

(Oh, *@VivaBrownie)

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