Owls Blog: 'Us' And 'Them' - What's In A Name?

posted 3 Feb 2013, 03:07 by Richard Brook   [ updated 27 Feb 2013, 15:11 ]
Originally posted here: bit.ly/SvfPfa

"'What's in a name?' is a question famously borrowed from Shakespeare, in the Brian Friel play 'Translations'. The play focusses on the tribal importance of language, and especially names within social groups, as it sees a couple of British cartographers sent to Ireland to map the local area and anglicise place names. Some of the Irish characters feel more strongly than others regarding the erosion of their heritage. Indeed the character Owen, who utters Juliet's famous question, does so having been wrongly referred to as Roland, for most of the plot, without bothering to correct anyone. To other characters the maintenance of their cultural and individual identities, is far more important. I know what your thinking. Firstly you are wondering if you have clicked on to the Wednesdayite blog. Yes you have. Secondly you are wondering if Wednesdayite have been hacked. No they have not. Thirdly you want to know what on earth I am on about. All I can ask is that you read on and see if I can win you round on that.

In and amongst Wednesday's recent on-field tribulations, a smaller issue seems to have got under the skin of a portion of our support. Namely the issue has been Dave Jones habit of referring to Wednesday as “you”, rather than “we”, when reeling off the excuses for the latest capitulation, during his post-match interviews. I say it is a smaller issue because if Wednesday were winning every game no-one would care what he was calling us post-game, unless he was calling us “United” or anything with porcine connotations. We are not winning every game. In fact we are struggling to see where the next goal, never mind the next win is coming from. We are in a battle and we are being asked to stand behind a leader, who is not universally backed by the fan base at the moment.

Jones is asking us to stand behind him, while he linguistically removes himself from the players and fans. It is a triviality to some fans but to others it demonstrates an important lack of unity. Comments like “You can't get done from three set plays”, “You can't get people with free headers” and “They are better than that” are, rightly or wrongly, being interpreted by certain sections of the fan base as Jones abdicating all responsibility for the mistakes and distancing himself from the players, as a method of self-preservation at a time when his own position is being called in to question in some quarters.

I am not going to get in to the debate about Jones' position as I do not think that is within the remit of blogging for Wednesdayite. It is a supporters' organisation and supporters should support the current Sheffield Wednesday players and management, until such a time as they are no longer current employees of the club. It would seem to me that some people are attaching an over-stated importance to a handful of statements in this regard. I understand the criticism of Jones on this basis, but if you watch the interviews he uses the words “you”, “them” and “we” almost interchangeably by way of describing our predicament. I do not think Dave Jones means anything by the use of one of these words, over the others.

That said, if he does not mean anything by the use of these words it would seem to be a small concession to make to get the fans back onside, to simply say “We are better than that” instead. Jones is arguably a victim of his own pragmatism, as regards such criticism from the fans. He cuts an impassive figure on the touchline, thoughtful and emotionless. The contrast between Jones and predecessor Gary Megson could hardly be more marked. No-one would have questioned Megson's allegiances over a nuance of language.

I am not of the opinion, that I have heard from some other Owls fan's, that bringing Megson back would solve all of Wednesday's problems, and I am not using the comparison for such an agenda. Having a fan for a manager has as many disadvantages as it does advantages. I make the comparison because it is against the backdrop of Megson that we are judging Jones. I honestly could not tell you whether Megson exclusively referred to the club as “we” during interviews, but whether he did or not his love for the club could never be called into question.

As I wrote at the time of his departure, the cliché “If you cut him he would bleed blue and white” might as well have been written for Megson. He understood our club, and our values and related to us as fans in a manner that could not be emulated by a successor who did not have Sheffield Wednesday in his blood. Only a fan would think of methods such as walking all new signings to the back of the Kop to show them the view, to explain to them the size of the club they were joining.

Whoever succeeded him was always bound to seem somewhat removed and distant by comparison. One important question is that if a section of fans are interpreting Jones as distancing himself from the culpability for recent results and performances, do a section of the players feel the same way? If the playing staff feel that they are consistently being hung out to dry, then this cannot be good for morale and the spirit of the squad. The truth is that it should not make any difference whether the players are “you”, “they” or “we” to Dave Jones but it does make a difference.

The difference is more important to some than others but he has an opportunity to send a message of division, or a message of unity in the face of adversity. For the good of the club and for player morale a unified front coming from the players and coaching staff would help them and the fans. The idea that is cultivated by comments with divisive implications affects the relationships behind the scenes and with the supporters, at a time when we all need to stick together. It ultimately does not matter whether the fans who are upset by the perceived finger pointing are being over-sensitive or not. To move forward, from the position we find ourselves in, Sheffield Wednesday need as many people onside as possible.

I am reminded of that massive flag that we surf on the Kop. The wording printed on that is especially inclusive and unifying in sentiment: We Are Wednesday: Forward Together. That is the spirit that as a club we must foster, on the pitch, on the training ground, in the dressing room and on the terraces. We had it last season, under both managers referenced in this piece, but there is no good being the famous 12th man when the team are playing well enough to win with ten men. The supporters need to give the troops a lift when we are struggling. This spirit does not create itself, it needs the good will and understanding of all concerned.