Everyone is entitled to an opinion, not matter how ridiculous it seems. In this day and age there will always be a platform for people to jump onto the bandwagon. This week has shown just how far some people will go to have their spiteful views known. No, I’m not talking about International Women’s Day yet that always gives an opportunity for misguided, outdated views to come to the fore.
While Tom Cleverley may be enduring a difficult season he is not the only Manchester United player to have served up some mediocre performances. However, it is World Cup year so of course an England fan has taken matters into his own hands, or fingers. Glenn McConnell from Blackpool has begun an online petition demanding Cleverley be excluded from the World Cup squad. The fact that the petition has garnered 18,423 signatures at the time of writing shows how fervent the feeling is. This should not be too surprising, United players have often been made scapegoats during World Cup year. The likes of the Neville brothers, Wayne Rooney and David Beckham have all suffered. Even Danny Welbeck got booed coming off the bench against Denmark.
Roy Hodgson was not impressed by the petition but showed some much needed confidence in Cleverley. He said: “I’m disappointed that Tom, as a sensitive young man, has got to bear that burden, but I know one thing – he will come through it and when he does come through it and Manchester United start winning again, and he’s starting to get praise for his performances, he’ll be stronger for it.”
Simply starting an online petition like that only showcases how pitiful a minority of England fans can be and it benefits precisely no-one. At 23 years of age many believe that Cleverley should already be at his peak which is naïve at best. Some players, especially midfielders, reach their peak closer to their 30’s. At 23 years of age the pressure on Cleverley is immense and during such a transitional period at his club you can expect his performances to dip. Do England fans take that into account? Doubtful. Do they realise what effect such criticism may have on a young footballer? Again, doubtful.
Football fans are fickle to enough to forget that Cleverley played 32 games last season and was at the heart of most of the team’s best performances including Chelsea (a), Arsenal (h) and Manchester City (a). Back then the team was riding high at the top of the league and with confidence now running low scapegoats are being made. There is a suggestion that Cleverley is a ‘confidence player’, one who plays well when team-mates are making it easy for him. A midfielder can only pass the ball forward confidently if team-mates are making effective forward runs which is a facet of play that has been marked by its absence this season.
Reports now suggest that Cleverley is set to be given a new contract which should be welcomed by United and England fans alike. Promising English midfielders need to be nurtured, not booed, heckled or branded as ‘inept’. For the timebeing Cleverly only needs to concentrate on his own performances and listen to comments made by the only two people that should really matter right now, David Moyes and Roy Hodgson.