All You Need Is Love(l)

Emerging from the wreckage of the Shitfest in Seattle, the vitriol directed towards Gavin Wilkinson and Merritt Paulson for talking the talk of taking the Cascadia Cup seriously before admitting they had used this crucial match as a try-out for 2013 bestrode the landscape like a colossus, unavoidable to all but those with their heads firmly planted in the sand.

The team selection, as well as tactics, were under the spotlight, with the decision to bring in Rodney Wallace and Lovel Palmer at full back a stand-out WTF moment. While the decision to give Wallace the nod was lent some credibility by Steven Smith’s reportedly “tight hamstring” – which would, if so, lead me to question why he was on the bench at all. What if Wallace had pulled up with an injury in the first 5 minutes? Would Smith have come on? Was he fit for a potential 85 minutes, but not an actual 90? If not, was he taking the space on the bench that could’ve been better given over to a young player to experience the “big game atmosphere”? And so on… – the choice of Lovel Palmer ahead of Kosuke Kimura, Jack Jewsbury, Ryan Kawulok, Steve Purdy, Sal Zizzo, Slabby or some kind of hastily improvised scarecrow left many fans, to borrow the hashtag, #facepalmer-ing themselves into a light coma.

In the event, Palmer surprised no-one by having a typically poor-to-mediocre game, something that has characterised much of his Timbers career since joining the club with Mike Chabala in exchange for Adam “MLS Cup Finalist” Moffat and a chunk of change.

Such is low regard he is held in by Timbers fans, and the criticism of his play that follows as surely as night follows day, that Palmer took to twitter to have a little dig back at those who deign to criticise him.

Now, it’s hardly on the levels of Ashley Cole’s #bunchoftwats or anything tweeted by Joey Barton when he’s not cut-and-pasting from in a futile effort to shed his “what a terrible bellend” image, but nevertheless it’s somewhat unusual to see an active player having a shot at his own team’s fans; fans who have endured the kind of season that would have CIA interrogators taking a sharp intake of breath and muttering something about it being a bit too cruel.

It’s less unusual to see the part-time Old Gregg lookalike completely miss the target.

Now, on one hand, it’s rather unfair to Palmer that he’s not allowed to fire back when he’s on the receiving end of some, admittedly funny, criticism…

… but on the other hand, I find it hard to feel sympathy for someone who has been abject for much of his time in Portland. In a team that has struggled, Palmer has still managed to stand out as being a beacon of shittery.

Yet, he tweets, “Shout out to all the REAL timbers fans that stand by their players through the good and bad times.”

Aside from the fallacy that only “real” fans, whatever that means, stand by their players, the thing is that no fan, real or otherwise, wants to see their own players play terribly. To think otherwise is madness.

But neither will some fans simply stand by and watch someone repeatedly stink up the field and accept it.

Sure, seeing Palmer’s name on the team sheet may cause me to break out in a cold sweat, but the moment the whistle goes, he gets full support. Twitter perhaps skews that perception as it makes it a bit easier to be critical or a smartarse when you’re sat at home in your underpants at 3am on a dark and cold Sunday morning (calm yourself, ladies), but if I’m at the game I shout support, I sing and I cheer as do the overwhelming majority of Timbers fans.

But just as you and I may vanity search now and then (fuck you, the actor Kevin Alexander), so you can be sure players do. I’m not sure whether Palmer has read this blog, or any of the other Timbers fan sites, or if he gets his feedback through facebook or twitter, but fans nowadays have the means to voice their opinions in such a way that players are more exposed to it, as opposed to the post-mortem grumbling about how crappy a player is that would’ve been carried out over a pint or six with your mates down the pub.

It must be hard to read such damning criticism on a weekly basis. Twitter makes it even more direct as you an @ the player into your scathing bon mot, though it’s not something I’d personally do as it seems to me to be the internet equivalent of shouting at someone in the street.

Palmer has sought in the past two deflect criticism, by claiming he doesn’t care what people say…

… but clearly he does or he wouldn’t be whining about “real fans”.

So, while I can understand that Lovel is angry that these keyboard warriors are daring to question the ability of a man who has been capped at international level, and who is still missed by some at his old club, there’s a vocal group out there that don’t feel they’ve been given any reason to expect anything good from him. He either has to HTFU, or go out there and prove them wrong.

People are going to have opinions, and they’re not going to be shy in sharing them, but you can’t write off those that may think you’re not good at kickball as not being “real fans”. Fans are going to bring a wide array of outlooks and perceptions with them, whether that’s thinking that it would be better if Vancouver win next week or that Gavin Wilkinson is doing a not-terrible job. To disagree with someone doesn’t make them in some way less of a fan.

I would love nothing more than to see Palmer go out there and astound us with some top drawer football. Even the middle drawer would be nice, you know, the one where you keep your old t-shirts or socks. And if he wants to come off the field and shove his 30 yard, top corner, screamer of a goal down the throats of his critics, more power to your elbow, good chap. The thing is that, much like my dream that I will wake up one day and find that I piss only the finest champagne (serious question – would you still drink it?), Palmer turning in a string of great performances is, sadly, unlikely.

It’s hard to see where the relationship between player and fans goes when it’s clearly soured on both sides. If, as some suggest, Palmer’s inclusion in the starting XI against the Sounders was his try-out for 2013, then it’s hard to imagine that Palmer will be around for much longer. It may be best if he’s not, for his sake as much as that of the “real fans'” collective sanity.

And like that, Lovel’s “REAL fans” tweet was gone.

19 thoughts on “All You Need Is Love(l)

  1. Standing by a player “through good and bad times” insinuates that there have been good times. The only good times with Palmer has been the chorus of “Shoooooooooot!!” every time he touches the ball during a reserve match.

  2. Apparently, there is a group of Timbers fans who have received frontal lobotomies and are calling themselves “The REAL Fans.”

    At least that’s what I presume as that’s the only way you could possibly stand behind (face)Palmer’s performance last Sunday, or indeed any other time he’s been in our back four. He’s got a lot of chutzpah publicly voicing the rather controversial opinion that he’s got the class to play in MLS, much less that Timbers fans should blindly condone his inclusion in our starting XI. What’s next? Is he going to pretend like the last 1.5 seasons never happened? Does he really want to be the David Irving of his own atrocity? Shameful..

  3. Almost sounds like Palmer took lessons from the George Bush School of Patriotism from 5-10 years ago. “You’re either with us or against us, and if you dare question anything, you’re not a REAL American, so shut up and get in line, sheep.”

    It takes balls. It’s also ludicrous.

  4. There is a large group of fans that believe one should blindly support the players and coach because they wear the badge. These people do exists and will get angry if you criticize a player or coach and they will tell you that you are not a true supporter for doing so. I call those people sheep. They are the worst thing about the club. They do 10X more harm because they convince an owner that they can do whatever they want with no repercussions. If you want to be Toronto West then listen to people that still support Lovel Palmer.

  5. There is also a large group of fans who dislike players on an irrational level and seek to scapegoat them when the team is having problems. Kenny Cooper is the best example of that as far as I am concerned. That being said, if I was a player I would probably just stay off of Twitter.

      1. I will agree, but I guess I am still to upset to let the Kenny Cooper thing go away. It just feels like these things build a momentum and things happen that the team later regrets. Though Palmer should be gone in the off season I would imagine.

      2. I agree with you as far as Boyd is concerned, I just don’t see it with Palmer, who has been absolutely terrible, save for one game that I remember, where he performed quite admirably.

        The moment Cooper lost the TA was the moment he decided that falling down on the ground every time a defender breathed on him was preferable to HTFU. With Boyd, the very fact the FO paid the man so much put a target on his back from day 1, were he not to score boatloads of goals, as MP himself predicted. Problem is of course that GW didn’t build a team to support Boyd’s game and now everyone is losing their shit, calling Boyd lazy and incapable, despite him STILL holding the distinction of most goals scored for PTFC. If Boyd could find a team in MLS with a well organized midfield, featuring someone with a bit of creativity, that is capable of delivering service to the feet and putting shots on goal, he will thrive. I doubt that will be with PTFC.

  6. I visited the Timbers myself this summer and this is what I had to say about it. Written from my European point of view. Keep on going Timbers Army, your team needs you. You are the extra that no other MLS team has!

  7. I also have to say comparing Palmer to Old Gregg is a little mean. Old Gregg is a freak. 🙂 Might Boosh forever!!

  8. Not much to add other than the laugh…

    Still…I think there’s a distinction to be made here and Kevin makes it well. In my opinion – and it’s just that, my opinion, not a guide for “real fans” or anything – once the whistle blows for kickoff you ought to support your club and your players; that’s just a given, since heckling and hating on your team while they’re playing is like beating your kid in public; it’s tacky, and it give other supporters bad ideas.

    But criticizing the players before or afterwards – especially when the criticism is valid, as is most of the stick that faceplamer gets – is a legitimate part of any team’s life, and if the players don’t like it, well, they need to play better or find a day job.

    There’s also another layer here; just exactly who should get the blame for the problems on the pitch.

    Sometimes it’s pretty obvious; when Dave Horst stabs and misses, or Kimura gets spun like a top, well, that’s on them, obviously. When Palmer plays like…well, Palmer, it’s not a team issue. It’s a Palmer issue.

    But I read a lot of fan comments about the players as a team lacking heart, or effort, while what I saw was a bunch of guys who get paid to win, who clearly would LIKE to win, since its in their own economic interests, but who are tossed out on the pitch without any sort of tactical guidance or – worse – with a lineup and a “plan” that is clearly not adequate to deal with their opposition.

    Like the garrison of a Maginot Line fortress, they can see perfectly well that they’re about to get hosed. And they react the same way; with frustration and confusion. They just can’t see a way to win, and since we don’t have any Cristiano Ronaldos out there, there’s no one who can just take over and MAKE that win happen…

    So while the Palmer thing is just silly and almost funny, the bigger problem facing this team as a team isn’t, really, and I wish I had more hope that the club will have the brains and the will to find the solution.

    1. Yes. Often complaints of lack of heart don’t ring true to me. It’s hard to be effective when the approach doesn’t work and the lineup has holes and its really easy to try too hard and choke. That’s what I think I see most.

  9. The only thing to really say is that obviously we are all REAL fans having stuck by our team throughout this season and will continue to do so next year and the year after that.

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