Social Media has had a few swipes taken at it recently, the most high profile being at Arsenal Fan TV (AFTV) cited as a major player in the eventual sacking of Unai Emery by club legend Ray Parlour, who branded them ‘Arsenal Fail TV’ and accused them of thriving on the club’s on-field problems to boost their online engagement.
If Parlour sticking the boot in to a group of lads with an iPhone as the sole reason Emery’s Arsenal, sat 9th without a win in November, felt like a stretch, imagine my shock to find similar illogical lunges being made in the National League. Neal Ardley’s prematch presser vs Boreham Wood made vague references to people ‘around the club and area’ who didn’t want Notts to be successful – prompting wild speculation about his intended target. A disgruntled player? A high-profile former employee? It took a Leigh Curtis article to clarify that Ardley’s intended victim were fans on social media who refused to see the progress his Notts side were making whilst (eerily) sat 9th in the National League.
His criticisms continued post-match too. As Notts capitulated late on, surrendering a 2:1 lead having recovered from a slow start, Ardley found time to suggest to Charlie Slater that fans unhappy with the result may be suffering a form of ‘unconscious bias’ due to residual anger left over from the club’s relegation the previous season and will ‘find the bad’ (rather than, say, having just witnessed the side clock up their fourth league game without a win).
I’ll happily hold my hands up to not being fully reassured by Ardley or his stewardship at Notts. Though I’m pleased to see the squad settle after serious instability, his unwillingness to back the likes of Bird and Dennis, despite the freshness they could bring to a side that is starting to look stale, is not only frustrating but smacks of a similar bias that Ardley accuses others of.
Of course, there will be many Notts fans who disagree. And that, rather than an written assassination of Ardley’s tenure, is my point. Social Media is meant to be a platform of opinion. It’s very essence is to prompt debate and to offer counter-opinion. To find solidarity with strangers. It’s a virtual bar or bus stop.
To suggest that Notts fans, who by Ardley’s own admission have had things pretty rough for the best part of 25 years or more, are somehow contributing to their own downfall by failing to recognise what Ardley wants us to see is too much. To invalidate their opinions on their own side with reference to ‘unconscious bias’ is almost insulting. Whilst I’m willing to accept that data, such as XG for example, may provide a different narrative to the emotional rollercoaster sat in the fan’s seat, I’ll defend that fan’s right to have an opinion about what they saw and felt forever more. We only have to look at the role VAR is having in disrupting the natural narrative of matches to get a ‘clear’ viewpoint on given incidents whilst simultaneously stripping the average fan from feeling like they can have a valid opinion in the face of such ‘experts’.
So for the record, let’s keep social media social – be it politics, football or the correct combinations on a full English breakfast. I don’t care if you have a blue tick or 6 followers – your opinion is valid. It’s for the moany, not just for the few.