When did personal abuse become acceptable?

When did personal abuse become acceptable?

When did personal abuse become an acceptable way of communicating a football fans displeasure at results, manager, owner players, or anyone else for that matter?

Having broadcast sport on the radio for the last 41 years I fully understand a fans right to have an opinion on anything to do with his club. I have not and will not always agree with their opinion but would defend to the hilt their right to have it.

And very often it can lead to quite a heated debate and I love it. It’s brilliant that fans show great love, passion and enthusiasm for their club and are prepared to argue their point but of course that does not automatically make them right but neither does it make me right- it’s just a difference of opinion. Sadly some cannot come to terms with other having a different opinion to themselves.

Be it a manager, player owner or referee they can choose whether or not they like them, rate them, or if they would like to see them gone from their club. However when they step over the line and become personally abusive and even throw things at them then it just isn’t right.

When results are not living up to expectations then atmospheres at grounds can and often does become toxic.

Also on social media platforms twitter and facebook which are fast becoming the biggest problem the game has in my opinion.

I have seen individual players at two of our clubs on the end of abuse from their own supporters.

To be honest every club has a minority of very vocal supporters who get a buzz out of abusing players and managers from behind the safety of a keyboard. It also comes from the terraces as there are supporters who believe their match ticket gives them the right to be abusive. Ironically if a player or manager has a pop back he is deemed “unprofessional” to be honest you couldn’t make it up.

It is not just football that suffers from social media abuse. On Monday the Coventry Blaze Ice Hockey club had to issue this statement 

“As an organisation we will not tolerate social media communications which are clearly inappropriate and offensive towards any member of the club or which go beyond the realms of an acceptable nature. Personal insults or comments that show little regard for the well-being of any member of the club are simply not acceptable

It’s often easy to post an opinion on social media channels without a second thought given to any possible consequences or the well-being of the person to whom it may be directed.

We would encourage all supporters to please consider that any post on any platform becomes a public record, whether intended as something light-hearted or not, posts which might appear harmless to you, could be construed as offensive by others, or have a severe impact on the well-being of others.

The Blaze reserve the right to, have, and will, deny entrance to our games to any individual who does not show consideration of the above”



The Sheffield Steelers Head Coach Paul Thompson was forced to walk away from the job because of the personal abuse he was receiving. I have also seen it in Boxing and without doubt it needs policing. I have read some of the keyboard cowards post’s pontificating about “freedom of speech”. That freedom allows you the right to an opinion but does not allow you to abuse others either aggressively, or in any other anti-social ways.

However it is vitally important to make it absolutely clear that it would be wrong to tar all tar all fans with that particular brush as the majority of supporters manage to express their displeasure and even anger without being personally abusive to any individual.

They make social media a joy because they engage in honest discussion and debate and realise that people can have different opinions. However the minority are always the most vocal.

I understand that players and managers have to accept the boos and jeers from the terraces as part and parcel of the job-it simply goes with the territory. One day you are the rooster and the next day you are a feather duster. However accepting personal abuse is definitely NOT part of the job.

Those fans who are abusive should remember that managers and players are human beings with families and feelings also however I suspect they don’t care one jot.

Sometimes abuse at games and on social media can be drink inspired although that is no excuse. Being abusive on social media is nothing more than a default mechanism for those who cannot or will not debate or discuss or appreciate opinions other than their own.


Cup success please?

Cup success please?

We are celebrating or should that be commiserating a sad anniversary with the fact that its 50 years since a local West Midlands team won the coveted FA Cup.

Why does the West Midlands have such limited success in senior cup competitions in the modern era? I know owners and some managers and head coaches will say that they have “bigger fish to fry” which means winning promotion to the Premier League or staying in Premier League. In other words money is the “bigger fish to fry”.

You have to go back to 1968 for the last time any local West Midlands team won the FA Cup and that was West Bromwich Albion’s terrific 1-0 win against Everton.

Before that it was Wolves in 1960 when they comfortably beat Blackburn Rovers 3-0 and prior to that was in 1957 Villa beating Manchester United 2-1. Three wins in 61 years doesn’t make great reading.

Villa have reached the final twice in recent times losing to Chelsea in 2000 and then to Arsenal in 2015.

It’s the same in the League Cup when the last team to win it from the West Midlands was Blues who beat Arsenal 2-1 in 2011.

Villa have been the most successful of our teams with two wins in the 90’s beating Manchester United 3-1 in 1992 and then Leeds United 3-0 in 1996-but even that is 26 and 22 years ago respectively?

Why is it? Could it be that managers and coaches more often than not field so called weakened teams preferring to save their best players for important league games’?

When did League games become more important than cup games? Amazingly I think you will find that the rot set in from 1993 onwards and we all know what happened then. It has been getting progressively worse as the TV money for getting in or staying in the Premier League has increased to today’s astronomical figures of one hundred and sixty million pounds minimum just for reaching the Premier League.

Even the added incentive of European football for winning the cups has not changed attitudes towards the cup competitions. I am sure that attitude would change overnight if there was 50 million pounds for winning the FA Cup. At the moment winning either the FA Cup or League Cup is all about glory, prestige and history and, as I am sure most owners will say, where do you see glory, prestige or history on a balance sheet!

But what about the supporters? What do they want? I see a growing number of younger fans dismissing the value of the cups especially in the early rounds. However on the whole I think fans would love to see their team win at Wembley in either the FA or the League cup finals. I know Villa fans still talk about the wins against Manchester United and the win against Leeds United in the 90s. Blues fans will never forget the day they beat Arsenal at Wembley and the great times they had in the UEFA Cup just 7/6 years ago.

More of the same from all our local clubs is long overdue but promotion and relegation equates to massive money and until that changes sadly I don’t believe we will see much cup success around these parts.


Feed the Horse and he feeds others!

Feed the Horse and he feeds others!

From my Birmingham Mail column Weds 29th Aug 2018


I and others have often been quite scathing about modern day footballers and how they can accept cheating as part of the game with apparently no conscience and are out of touch with their fans and the local community. Well two things have impressed me this week and I am sure there are many other similar stories from all our local clubs.

Firstly was Blues boss Garry Monk highlighting that his players have asked the club to organise more community visits to hospitals etc. for them to do. This is so refreshing when I have seen in the past some players reluctantly doing these sort of community based things and making it clear that they would rather be at home. Some of the things Garry and the players have done restores your faith in the game. Having said that they have to be selective because they cannot possibly make an appearance at every request.

Secondly I continue to be impressed with the time, money and effort former Baggies and Blues striker Geoff Horsfield puts into helping the homeless people in Birmingham and the West Midlands through his Geoff Horsfield Foundation. Geoff started this because he wanted to put something back into the area that had made him so welcome.

I have been staggered at the amount of energy Geoff puts into helping the vulnerable and homeless from offering them somewhere safe for them to stay - to helping feed them-to providing clothes and other essentials for them that the rest of us take for granted.

If you have anything including, clothes, bedding, toiletries that could help go to his website and find out how to get them to him. And he and his team of helpers organise some fantastic fund-raisers again his website or his social media pages will have all the information you need. The latest event is on October the 5th in West Bromwich and is a Q and A with former Baggies Paul Robinson, Andy Johnson, Jonathan Greening and Geoff and is called “The Great Escape” reunion. The stories will be amazing and hilarious and not to be missed and of course all proceeds go to the Geoff Horsfield Foundation. See you there.





This weeks Birmingham Mail column 29th Aug

Why do the Premier League and consequently the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) appear so reluctant to use Video Assistant Referee (VAR) when it can surely only improve the game?  It would have been in use this season but the Premier League clubs voted against using it this season and instead insisted on a further season of it being trialled.

The cynic in me thinks the longer it is not used the longer clubs have for their players to dive and cheat their way through games under the banner of “professionalism” which in honest language means they will do anything fair or not to win a game.

True VAR will not get every single incident correct as it will still be down to the referee to make the final decision upon viewing the incident on the VAR screen. However I am willing to bet that it would get most of the decisions right. In addition if a referee looks at VAR and still gets it wrong despite VAR proving the incident was a foul then he should be disciplined by the PGMOL. Also if a referee decides not to use VAR on the advice from the VAR team and it was proven to be a major game changing incident then he should be retrospectively punished.

However it has to be 100% clear cut and if not then the referee has to be strong enough to say no despite pressure from players and manage We saw in the World Cup players and managers embarrassingly trying to persuade officials to use VAR for just about every tackle in the penalty area.

It has to be the referee’s decision to decide if he wants to use VAR or not during a game however I am certain that most referees would want help in getting the major game influencing decisions correct and that is where his VAR team can help.  

VAR will only be used in four game-changing incidents: goals, penalties, red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

The referee can ask the VAR team to review an incident or a decision he has made. The VAR team would also be allowed to recommend a review of an incident or decision but only if in the opinion of the VAR team that a clear mistake has been made and then they can notify the referee to review.

The referee then has three options: they can immediately overturn the call based on the VAR's advice, review the incident themselves on a monitor on the touchline or stick with their initial decision.



And I am sure most would agree that is the only way to use VAR to stop the game being interrupted every few minutes. In other words it is used for decisions where a penalty kick would be the outcome or where a goal has been scored from an offside position. Other than that it should be used for violent conduct incidents such as stamping that the referee has missed and of course where the wrong player has been carded.

Why on earth we need to keep trialing it is baffling to say the least. If it gets 95% of decisions correct then use it now and not only in the Premier League but also in the Championship which has the biggest financial reward for promotion than any league in the world.

One suggestion that may have merit is that each team be allowed say a maximum of 3 VAR calls although I am not in favour of that in my opinion leave it to the VAR team and the referee. However before discussing VAR and its benefits you have to start from the point of knowing that players and managers have a different idea to the rest of us about what is cheating and what isn’t.

They scream for a yellow or red card after any sort of tough but fair challenge on their players yet seem quite happy for their players to go to ground at the slightest touch in the penalty area in order to win a penalty kick and possibly get their opponent sent off as a bonus in their eyes.  

There has been some suggestion on social media this week that PGMOL are happy for their referees to ignore the laws of the game regarding handball and whether or not it was intentional. Surely that is a throwback to the days when all laws had the rider “if in the referees opinion” attached to them.

However there has been no official comment from the PGMOL on that suggestion however it is quite simple for me and I suspect every single football fan. If it hits your hand and is directed away from or towards goal then it is a foul end of story. It might be tough but it has to be irrelevant if you meant to handle the ball or not. If you didn’t mean to handle it but it results in a goal or denying the opposition a goal then it is a foul.

Stop messing about and get VAR installed at every single Premier and championship ground now. If they are awaiting for the system to be 100% accurate they will be waiting forever because at the end of the day it will still be the referee who decides even when he is looking at a VAR screen. However if they get the majority of the game influencing decisions correct then the game will be better for it despite the protestations of the managers and players. It will go a long way towards us having a fairer and more honest game. Although to be truly honest the players and coaches will have to play their part but don’t hold your breath.

The Championship

The Championship

Part of my latest Birmingham Mail column

So what have we learned so far about the championship that we didn’t already know? Nothing as far as I am concerned. We already knew that without argument it is the toughest league on the planet, maybe not in terms of quality but certainly in terms of relentlessly tough games week in and week out. The £100’000’000 plus prize money for promotion makes it a dog eat dog league with no quarter asked expected or given.

 It will be a long hard season for all our teams in the Championship yet with just 3/4 games played some supporters are getting angry and judgemental about the whole season when the teams have not settled and in some case have not finished bringing in new players. That is in my opinion like looking at the league table pretty much a waste of time.

Pre-season big spenders like Stoke and fancied teams like Derby are struggling to get going but will more than likely be there or there abouts’ come May.

I believe it’s important to us as fans not to get too carried away with a win and not to get to down with a defeat. Of course enjoy any win and be unhappy with any defeat however, to forecast the season ahead based on the one win or loss will only increase your stress levels and as if they are not high enough anyway.

However the life of a football fans seems to be permanently stressful be they winning and chasing promotion or losing and fighting the drop.

Nobody knows who will win promotion although we all have opinions on who will do it. The only thing certain is that at 20 of the 24 teams have been in the Premier League and will fancy their chances of getting there again. That is why every game is tough and why the league is the toughest.

No one will run away with the league in my opinion. It could just be the closest run season yet with many teams being in the automatic and playoff places and changing frequently right down to the wire.

It is going to be exciting, emotional and yes stressful for us all.