Off the Fence: Concerned Derry and Cliftonville fans vent their angst
This week, Off the Fence is redesignating itself the Concerned Fans Section and there are two fans in particular who deserve a relatively lengthy hearing.
First up, Worried Derry Fan from Limavady was moved to put pen to paper by Cahair O’Kane’s recent story on the expected exodus from the Derry senior panel: “As an Oak Leaf fan for over 30 years, I would like to express my shock and disappointment at the volume of key players opting out,” they opined.
“This is serious and could cripple Derry football for at least a generation. Okay, I can understand that, every year, a handful of, mostly fringe, players opt out for various reasons but, with nine, there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
Worried Derry Fan continued: “I can only guess that the new training schedule to make Derry players ‘bigger, faster and stronger’ is, unfortunately, asking too much of these young amateur players. It is easier for the likes of Dublin, Tyrone and Kerry to implement these professional-like training programmes - they have a much bigger pool of players and are on a different planet than Derry with regards to financial backing and player welfare.”
It’s difficult to argue with the points you raise in relation to the possible motivations of those expected to opt off the Derry panel. Around the country, there seems to be a budding recognition that the balance between playing and living has been lost somewhere along the line in an association which retains an amateur ethos.
Meanwhile in the Big Smoke which, for the purposes of this week’s column, is Belfast, there are also rumblings of discontent.
They pertain to Cliftonville and, specifically, their collapse against Crusaders last weekend: “After Saturday's debacle at Seaview, I have waited a few hours until the anger has subsided before posting a comment,” lamented a Reds Man from the north of city.
“Firstly, to be positive, for the first hour we played the best football I have seen any Cliftonville team play in a long, long time. The fellas passed Crusaders off the pitch, Stephen Baxter said it was the best display of football he has seen at Seaview in years.
“We totally lost momentum and the Crues sniffed the fear setting in. Add into the equation a Reds goalkeeper who has to be the worst one ever at Solitude and the writing was on the cards.
Reds Man concluded: “It's time Gerard Lyttle asked himself if he can take the team any further. He has definitely lost the confidence of the fans after Saturday and maybe many players too... or will Brendan Crossan still defend the indefensible?”
Saturday was, indeed, an ignominious experience for Reds fans but given both the quality of opposition they were facing and the quality of their own football for the first hour, are things really so doom and gloom at Cliftonville?
Success is never a constant and surely Gerard Lyttle deserves at least an entire season in which to prove himself? By the way, I’ll pass on your regards to Brendan.