By now most people, Glory fans in particular, will be familiar with Perth coach Ian Ferguson's little outburst during an SBS interview with Phillip Micallef recently;

 

”The savage criticism never surprised me or bothered me, mainly because I don’t read blogs,” he said. "People just attacked me without knowing what we were trying to do at the club. This was the work of faceless bigots who stood in front of their computers venting their vitriol in writing in blogs.”

It's fairly safe then to assume that Ferguson is probably sick of people talking down his chances of a) taking Perth back to the Glory days, and b) keeping his job by the end of the season. Fair enough too - it can be a bit tiring to hear how terrible you are all the time.

 

Thing is though, it kind of comes with the territory for a person like Fergie. When you're a footballer, manager, or any other kind of professional with a job that involves a public profile, you're going to get both supporters and detractors talking about you - and the things they say aren't always going to be nice. For example, have a look at the treatment our politicians, AFL players, and cricketers can get both in the 'proper' media and the realm of newsgroups, comment pages, forums, and of course blogs. It's not hard to see why; when you have the privilege of representing a group of people, be it Perth's footballing community or the Federal seat of Moore, you will receive their adulation when you give them what they want, and be booed when you don't.

 

The one thing you should never do mind, is attack those people who you represent. Defend yourself and your record, by all means. Say that you don't pay attention to criticism, that's fine. But to go out and attack your own fans, least of all call them faceless bigots, is like taking a .44 magnum and blasting a hole right through your own metatarsal.

 

Now I can hear the protests already;

  • He was only defending himself!
  • Personal attacks have no place in football!
  • But Glory fans ARE faceless bigots!

In response, I would say this. If Ferguson wanted to defend himself, he could have repeated what he said earlier in the piece about being given time to do his job. He could have explained what he was trying to do with the club, and what he sees his side doing in three years time. He could, as I said earlier, have just left it at "I try not to listen to the critics". Sadly, he didn't - he decided in a moment of madness to poke the hornet's nest. Let's think about what that's going to accomplish for a moment:

  • If you are a hardcore supporter of Ian Ferguson, it might make you think "Yeah! Go Ian! Get those bigots!"
  • If you are fine with him being in the job, it'll make you think "Aww jeez Ian, that's not the smartest thing to do…"
  • If you aren't fine with him being in the job, it will just give you more ammunition as to why he's the wrong guy.
  • Finally, if you're one the 'faceless bigots' - or think that you might be - you're just going to get really pissed off.

Whichever way you look at it, it's not a smart move. What's more, it creates a headache for Glory's PR people just a week after I was praising them for the good job they've done so far this year. The presence of the Celtic game is a handy way to let it fall by the wayside and hope that it goes unnoticed - and since this blog isn't syndicated across national broadsheets (yet - I'm in talks with publishers just like Glory are in talks with Liverpool and Barcelona) the chances are they could get away with it.

 

But just imagine if this had happened in the middle of the season, after a loss, with plenty of journalists from Murdoch and Packer papers present? What then? There's not really anything to hide behind then, is there? Soon you find yourself with a negative media profile and there's more than a whiff of Steve McMahon and Terry Butcher in the air. Mmm. Smell the self-destruction! Glory's staff aren't stupid - they will know this, and I would hope someone has a quick word about 'colour' content of interviews in future. Don't get me wrong - I'm all for personality or quotable quotes - but there's a reason you don't see Miron calling GCU fans "a bunch of clueless fags" or Rini Coolen his Reds supporters "idiotic losers". That's because of Golden Rule Number One: You Don't Attack Your Support… even if they attack you!

For proof of that, look no further than the last UK Parliamentary elections, and Gordon Brown's beauty of an off-air quote about one of his constituents who had made some comments about immigrants in her neighbourhood - "Ugh… everything! She's just a sort of bigoted woman that said she used to be Labour." Now he may well be right for all we know, but you just don't say it, especially if there's a chance of it hitting the public realm! Of course, Brown's Labour lost the election.

 

Now people are correct in saying there's no room for personal attacks - comments about race, religion, wives, children, phrases like "faceless bigot" - they're all a bit over the top really, aren't they? There's no place for them. However, two things that fans have on their side are humour and custom. Glory fans are a self-deprecating lot - they need to be with our recent history. As a result, there's a certain kind of black humour that is par for the course. There's a new signing?"Two weeks till he's injured". A new Scottish coach joins? "Great, another member of the Tartan Mafia". We're playing Celtic in a friendly? "Why can't we play a GOOD team?".

 

You might confuse it for pessimism, but it's more comedic than anything - perhaps even a defence mechanism to protect against more possible disappointment. It's also not the first time an employee of the club has attacked supporters, either - on one particularly memorable occasion, a member of the admin staff registered on the Gloryboys.net forum - using their PGFC email, no less - and logged on to abuse all and sundry about being idiots, clueless to goings-on at the club, and losers with no girlfriends. The thread that resulted should surely have been saved in an archive of internet comedy; but eventually some sort of apology was issued and a kind of truce brokered. Despite all this, on game day Glory fans are in full voice for their side just like anyone else - and they sure as hell don't want the team to lose (again).

 

The fans are also the ones that pay the players' wages - granted with a bit of a loss for Tony Sage on the side. That makes them customers, and that damn well gives them the right to review your performance. Slept in a comfy bed at a welcoming hotel? Leave them a good review at TripAdvisor. Watched a heartless performance against Sydney FC from a disorganised and badly drilled rabble in purple? You'll vent your goddamn frustration - and you have every right in the world to. Occasionally, it'll go overboard in the heat of the moment - but for the most part if someone says you look tactically inept or perennially injured, it's because they're telling you exactly what they think. If Ferguson wanted to see the faces of his 'bigots', all he had to do was look to the Shed towards the end of last season. Plenty of faces there, mate - and I don't think they had boxes of chocolates for you.

 

Touching on the personal attacks again though - is this the same Ian Ferguson who took part in Old Firm derbies? “…about 44 times with more wins than losses.” Yeah, I thought so. How did that go Fergie? Did Celtic fans give you fresh flowers and sing you songs of praise? Nobody wants to see anything over-the-top being said about football personalities, but it does happen - the world over. I think Mr Ferguson should have a chat with Neil Lennon at some point and see how he's coping with his own personal attacks - death threats, parcel bombs, and a few attempted assaults later, I think Fergie will feel a bit more at home in Perth with with its nasty faceless bigots, don't you? The most amusing thing is though, as far as I've seen on various forums, social media sites, and comments pages the net over, Ferguson is copping a lot less flak than some of our past coaches did - and definitely less than some of our past players. I never saw Ron Smith or Jamie Coyne get up and insult fans through the media, either!

 

Maybe the pressure of expectation is getting to Ferguson. As an assistant at Central Coast and a manager of the now sadly-extinct North Queensland Fury, he never was expected to get out there and win a championship. At the Glory though, he has the money and the history to build on - and if his team isn't performing by round 10, he might be in a very sticky situation indeed. This simply highlights the stupidity of lashing out, though - do you think these fans who are attacking the club's poor performances want it to be underperforming in such a way? Of course they don't! Want to shut the detractors up? Then stop insulting them and concentrate on giving them a winning team playing good football.

 

So where do we go from here? No doubt there'll be some awkward meetings with the head coach for the media manager, perhaps one or two things will be said at the opening matches of the season by fans with good memories. Or maybe the late season start will work in Ferguson's favour, and he'll be able to pretend it never happened whilst getting back to what he should have been doing in the first place - building a squad and a set of tactics, formations, and strategies that prove all his doubters wrong. Perhaps someone can remind him about Golden Rule Number One, and who knows - if somehow Glory end up with a home final and Ian has impressed with his tactical nous, he'll end up converting his faceless bigots into faceless fanboys? All might be forgiven by Fergie's Faceless Fanboys - I reckon there's a T-shirt in that. Certainly, Faceless Bigots FC is rapidly becoming my new favourite candidate as a name for my futsal team.

 

This is just another example of how Perth Glory are playing catch-up in the public eye. They've simply got to assume that the bottomless lake of goodwill owned by their members has all but dried up - and work hard to build back trust broken by years of false hope, broken promises, and poor efforts on and off the park. So far they've shown that they're capable of putting in some good hard yards towards this end - but Ferguson's little quip shows that not everybody has received that memo.

 

Anyway, I'm sure there was a game on this weekend - yet somehow I've written about another incident of Glory fans being painted as the bad guy. What kind of supporter am I? Huh. I guess Fergie's right after all.