Monday 8 June ~

Clubs will release a record number of players this summer. Some will find themselves in the same position as Jon Worthington, the former Huddersfield Town skipper who recently joined my team, Oldham Athletic – a club where he is strongly disliked by the home fans. Worthington is a midfield player who oozes competitiveness. In the past two seasons he was booked in each of his matches against Latics. Last season, after Oldham’s dramatic third round FA Cup victory at Everton, it was Worthington, in typically aggressive style, who led Town to a fourth round victory at Boundary Park, further endearing himself to the home fans.

As a captain, his leadership style on the pitch is to set a competitive example and to demand that everybody matches his energy. The paradox is that it is exactly those characteristics, which have led to him being so disliked in the past, that will be required if he is to win over his new support.

Over the years there have been plenty of examples of players making difficult moves and achieving acceptance in a variety of ways. What stands out from those stories is that it is often easier to win over new fans than it is to appease the fans of the club that has been left behind, a point demonstrated to an extreme in Sol Campbell’s move to Arsenal from Spurs. A good demonstration is the career of David Eyres – a serial maker of difficult moves. Eyres joined Blackpool as a 25-year-old from non-League football and enjoyed four good years at Bloomfield Road, including two play-off finals (one victory). He was top-scorer in his final season. He then followed manager Jimmy Mullen to Burnley, ranked only behind Preston North End in Blackpool fan demonology.

Eyres played for seven years at Burnley and established himself as a firm crowd favourite, before compounding his felony, in the eyes of Blackpool fans, by joining PNE. He became such a favourite in his two years at Preston that he was voted into their all-time top team – quite an achievement given the club’s history. But he has never been forgiven by Blackpool fans, a point Eyres noted in a press interview given eight years after leaving the Seasiders and a reflection of the raucous reception he received at each reunion with Blackpool fans.

Perhaps the best illustration is the unavoidable Robbie Savage – almost any of his moves could illustrate the point, but his transfer to Derby County in 2008 stands out. Ten years earlier Savage had been chased from the pitch by Derby players after a blatant dive had won a penalty for his team at the time, Leicester City, resulting in a 3-2 victory for the Foxes. That history, and indifferent form, meant that he never won over his new fans, but manager Paul Jewell summed up the paradox at the heart of the “difficult move”: “I hated Robbie Savage when he played against me. He is one of those characters you despise when he is playing for the opposition, but love when he is playing for you.” With Robbie Savage as a role model, how can Worthington fail?  Either way, he plays for us now. Brian Simpson

Comments (3)
Comment by onedeadbudgie 2009-06-08 13:01:04

In Savage's case it was surely stupid of Jewell to imagine that he would ever be accepted. But in general the problem arises from "the idiots" - particularly prevalent at ex-EPL clubs - who seem to have taken over on the terraces. Yes I am talking about the "fans" who feel that they are entitled to entertainment and success and eg somehow fail to appreciate the danger of a lunging tackle from fan favourite - " he cares" - who then gets redcarded - "there was nothing in it". The idiot is blind and just waiting for the controversial signing - Andy Marshall's move to Ipswich from Norwich for example - to slip up and then of course the next move is destroying his confidence. Is there any solution?

Comment by Cavalry Trouser Tips 2009-06-08 13:49:49

Heh-heh - his tackling is 'robust', but just wait until you see Worthington have a shot...

As Baker & Kelly used to say, a player who moves to his club's rivals and then has a stormer against his old club is a 'Lion Judas'. A player who feigns injury to avoid having to play against them is a 'Chicken Judas'.

Example of a 'Lion Judas':

Can't think of an example of a 'Chicken Judas' right now, I'm sure someone else can...

Comment by delicatemoth 2009-06-08 15:46:04

Never popular when he signed for Leicester, Dennis Wise exacerbated things by lapping up the home crowd's applause when we went to Stamford Bridge, before producing a typically ineffective and rudderless performance as they thumped us.

Robbie Savage was never as popular as he thought he was at Filbert Street - I well remember groaning at his play-acting when he got Justin Edinburgh sent off in the League Cup final. It was obvious that George Graham would order his team to shut the game down and hope to nick one, which they did.

Once he'd signed for Birmingham he wasted no time alienating his former fans, exaggerating a challenge from Matt Elliott to get him sent off, while in the game at St. Andrews he ran over to take a corner in front of the Leicester support, looked up at them and kissed his Brum badge. He is a strange character indeed.

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