Kyle Walker: Victim of a Culture of Unrealistic Expectations

After the game on Saturday, Kyle Walker received several abusive tweets and deleted his Twitter account. This sorry episode followed what is fast becoming a depressingly familiar pattern: player joins twitter. Fans welcome this and follow. We can interact with our heroes. This temporarily bucks the trend of increasing separation between Premier League clubs and their supporters. Fan insults player. Player says why do I bother. Player deletes account. Player more reluctant than ever to communicate.

The textspeak insults were pathetic and small-minded, like the people cowering behind the anonymity of cyberspace who posted them. Twitter is in a froth about it all, predictably. The good guys are trying to get Kyle to come back, although if he’s not on twitter, he won’t see it….

So what’s to be made of this? Reading some of the coverage, it feels like there’s been a cataclysmic rending of the Spurs firmament. Fans at each others’ throats. Players alienated from fans. Let’s have a go at the team while we’re about it. High up the league, fast improving, fine players but lose to a team racing clear at the top who spent more on three midfielders than the value of our team plus the bench and it’s AVB out, Walker out, Levy out. 606 is as unreliable a guide to opinion as Twitter, but a Spurs fan rang on Saturday to say precisely that, describing our performance as the worst he’d seen in 30 years. Couldn’t have been a real Spurs fan, then.

Twitter is a lot of fun but sometimes it suffers from delusions of grandeur. Designed as a method of conversation, it becomes reified into a self-contained universe. Not one conversation but the only conversation. The delusion is fed by a media hungry for opinions. It’s referenced with increasing frequency. Who needs a contact book compiled painstakingly over many years of scoop-seeking when you have a ready-made source of quotes at your fingertips, conveniently packaged into 140 character soundbites.

I trust those weasel misbegotten nogoodniks will crawl back under the stone from whence they came. It should be easy, they have no backbone. Back in the real world, after his dire error, the Shelf groaned then gave Kyle Walker a warm round of sympathetic applause from the Shelf. A few stood to emphasise the point that there’s a difference between a bad player and a player having a bad game. Loyal fans who put that mistake into context. The young full-back heard that and will remember long after Twitter becomes the MySpace of the next decade.

That context recognised instinctively by the Shelf is sadly lacking from the appreciation of many football fans these days, not just Spurs supporters. Devouring the game through television provides valuable insights but fundamentally distorts the nature and equilibrium of this finest of all sports. It’s safe to sit back and judge from the armchair gantry where everything is spread out before you. Slow it all down, watch a key incident 37 times from 6 different angles, only then decide a player’s ability. It fosters a culture of blame where perfection is the sole acceptable option and condemnation follows swiftly for anyone who dares to fall short.

This culture of unrealistic expectations distorts our entire perception of the game, of what clubs, players and referees for that matter are capable of. Nothing exists but the here and now. Spurs have a new manager and new players so why aren’t we top of the table? We’ve had several matches already. Just buy lots of players. It’s what other teams do. Refs are rubbish, even though we’ve seen an incident repeatedly and still can’t decide whether it’s a surefire penalty. Players are not all they are cracked up to be. Look, they make mistakes. Let’s get some stats to back it up.

Back in the real world, players’ form goes up and down. Hardly a staggering insight but in the universe of the unreal, it is forgotten far too frequently. The two finest midfielders I’ve seen at the Lane, Hoddle and Gascoigne, had more games when they were largely ineffective than glory games. It doesn’t diminish their stellar achievements one jot because that’s merely the nature of football. The way Ginola was lauded at half-time, you’d think he was Hod and Gazza rolled into one. I enjoyed watching him play, but just so you know, they show those goals against Barnsley and Leeds over and over partly because they are superb but mainly because there aren’t many others to choose from. For every moment where he turned a game there were twenty others where he slowed everything down intolerably or ran, however elegantly, into a blind alley.

In the real world, I’m fortunate enough to sit in row 14 of the Shelf, almost opposite the benches. The players are close, real-life flesh and blood, stained and steaming. When they hug the touchline, I can count the beads of sweat on their brow.

It’s a perspective that means I’m particularly close to wingers and full-backs. For that reason, I’m particularly fond of them. They can’t hide. I’m not seeing them through a prism of slowmos or tactics graphics. Right there. I see their faces and under pressure, I can see into their minds. I see elation, indifference and fear. Lots of fear, you’d be surprised. They cover it up but not from me.

So I see Kyle Walker as the most focussed and committed of Tottenham players. I am convinced of it. Towards the end of last season, he was knackered. Sure, I know they play once or twice a week, should be fit enough blah blah. But pounding up and down that wing, forward and back, being nudged and pulled and kicked, he was tired. His legs were plastered with support tape as if stuck together with sellotape. In a quiet moment, he would bend double to catch his breath.

And he did not stop. Over and over, his determination to overcome the pain in his legs and his guts kept him going. His determination to be a good professional. His dedication to the shirt. Our shirt.

Walker is not playing so well this season. His poor positional play is being found out. Late on Saturday I looked for his runs to support Lennon as we sought an equaliser but there was nothing. I don’t know what caused it but he was shot through. The England trip, a virus maybe but he was off-colour. During a lull, he went to the bench, ostensibly for a drink but taking on liquid that late will have no effect whatsoever on his body. He needed a boost, words of soothing reassurance to quell his anxiety.

Exhaustion seeps from muscle to mind and when called into action next he made two horrendous mistakes in as many seconds and they scored their fourth. He made one final dash upfield in desperate atonement, stiff-legged and too late. Instinct propelled him forward.

Kyle Walker is not a bad player, he’s a fine footballer who is not playing well. He’s young and will learn. His pace gets him out of trouble most of the time but not always. Defenders need games to add positional nouse to their talents. He will succeed and but he has nothing to prove to me. I know he plays for the shirt.

Thanks to my cyberpal the @Lustdoctor. Blog in the blogroll to your right. Essential. Our conversation on twitter generated some ideas for this piece. Oh the irony.

32 thoughts on “Kyle Walker: Victim of a Culture of Unrealistic Expectations

  1. ‘There’s a difference between a bad player and a player having a bad game.’ – couldn’t agree more. Bale’s destruction of Maicon doesn’t make Maicon a bad player. Mata was awesome on Saturday and Walker was below par. Imagine though what would have happened if Alan Hutton had been playing?

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    • Alan Hutton would still be eating Mata’s legs with neeps and tatties if he had played.

      Considering the fairly drastic change to the system only shortly before kick off I felt we handled Chelsea well enough. Individual mistakes gave them the chances which they took, to their credit. Granted it exposed a lack of squad depth with Dembele and Bale out but it’s the equivalent of taking Mata and erm… Mikel? Ramires? A.N. Other? out of the Chelsea starting 11. They would have had similar problems to us if that had happened.

      Good post, sir.

      @TSNFootballer

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      • Thank you.

        Thinking about it, Chels would have suffered more than us without a couple of those midfielders. New blog? Looks good – all the best with it.

        Regards, Al

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  2. Brilliant article! I find it so frustrating how many fans are so desperate to attack there own team. Kyle Walker had a disappointing game but is a really good footballer who will become great.

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  3. Great article in need of much wider circulation …… remember last season at the end he carried a foot injury for about four games. Thanks a lot and COYS!!!

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  4. EXCELLENT article – well balanced and thank you for it. I have had my say about KW on a couple of occasions this season and I am hopeful that AVB will afford the player the time to regain his composure and strength in the coming weeks. As a telanted professional who has developed through the gruelling demands that the profession makes on its successful players KW knows his own current difficulties better than anyone. Accepting and coming to terms with them should imbue him with the motivation to improve his game, his thinking and future performance. THFC has the recources available to assist the player in every imagineable and necessary developmental area and I have no doubt at all that these resources will be employed to make KW make the most of his potential.

    In the meantime, those so called Spurs supporters whose expectations often force them to lurch into the obscene behaviour we saw after Saturdays game, might take a step back and allow the player some space and time (isnt that what football is all about) to regain his chutzpah!

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    • Thanks Dan. Agree, Kyle needs and deserves time, and AVB will help him.

      As for the fans, sense there is some negativity around and I’m really not sure why. It’s not as if HR was universally loved.

      Regards, Al

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  5. Really nice article – thought provoking and fair. I was at the game and was really disappointed by how Walker led himself into a blind alley and lost the ball for the 4th goal but let’s face it we had lost the game by then

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  6. The article is excellent and Kyle Walker is not the only player to suffer a less than ideal run of form. Not so long back Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon were being slated, now they are doing well and being touted as the most terrifying, from a full backs perspective, wingers in town. I suspect most of those who spout off on twitter and pages like this are barely out of nappies and base their expectations on championship manager rather than the real world.

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  7. It’s a sad indictment on the game when the closest you can get to communicating with the players is through a forum called Twitter.
    What was said to him, and do we know it was from Tottenham fans?
    It’s not much of an excuse, but a lot of fans are just frustrated at seeing the likes of scumski buying titles at the same time as paying more for their tickets than ever before while players are earning more and more. Football is has become too expensive for many, and a lot who still go are quickly realising they’re being turned over.

    As in life, people often take their frustrations out on the ones they love.

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    • TMWNN, I honestly can’t remember what was said and I didn’t read it all. textspeak from people who can’t spell anyway. Hope the article made clear that the twitter thing shouldn’t be exaggerated – I reckon it was only a few people and someone ends his twitter account is hardly earthshattering.

      Think you’re right – I’ve written about this before, the money, ticket prices etc all create an undercurrent of discontent that sometimes bubbles to the surface.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  8. Even if Walker wasn’t a good player (which he obviously is) or didn’t put everything in to it for Spurs (which he obviously does) there’s no excuse for some of the things I’ve read were tweeted. It’s grim and sad on a much bigger scale than football. Indeed the football angle is the least of it. I”m not on twitter, so can only go on hearsay, admittedly. At least it seems to be only a handful of people? Though the level of media attention and the lazy equation of such negligible number of twits with the so-called “Spurs fan base” is potentially worrying for club-supporter harmony.

    It’s good the Shelf were supportive of him on Saturday. It may be that the later tweeters were at the Lane too, rather than simply watching on TV. The culture of blame and instant gratification at football isn’t confined to TV watchers. As shown by the unseemly booing at the Lane in the earlier games of the season. Some/many go to some games and watch some on TV too, no doubt. Hard to separate the two?

    Though I agree about the different perspective and levels of appreciation offered by being there, as I’m only too painfully aware these days, and the sea change towards consumers and away from fans in general in the top level of the game. But much of this isn’t new, more filtered through new mediums and processed/regurgitated differently by media, fans etc.

    Walker looks like a man in dire need of a rest. Perhaps Smith or Naughton could play in Slovenia, to give him a break. Though that’ll be taken by the media and many fans as him being dropped. You gotta be tough mentally and thick skinned to make a career in professional football no doubt.

    The twitter medium may add a post match, more personal or socially direct level to it, but abusing players shamefully and without justification (imo) is not new to Spurs or any other club or defined by TV. Though I’ll bet bet the likes of Pratt and Falco and early Waddle are glad there wasn’t twitter in their day.

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  9. Trite, verbose article – the players had contempt for the fans even 40 years ago (see ‘The Glory Game’ for confirmation) when most of them lived in suburban semis and drove Cortinas. Now they’re totally removed from the lives of ordinary people, and see themselves as part (a big part!) of the junky showbiz ‘culture’ which dominates the media, and all they’re interested in is money. Love the club? Love the shirt? Do me a favour – grow up!

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  10. what a really well thought out article, yes he did have a poor game, his problem is its becoming a habit,
    he has all the makings to become a top class player but seems to be making sunday morning mistakes,
    he needs to go back to basics and learn how to defend again or he will keep going backwards, but nobody
    can say he does not put his all into every game he plays.

    bob

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  11. Thst is one of the most intelligent articles I have ever read about Spurs, the plight of players, reality and indeed football in general. It really saddens me when pub-talk is carried into what should be sensible post-match discussion and conversation is blighted by idiots claiming ‘he’s f***ing rubbish’ or ‘not fit to wear the shirt’ when they blatantly don’t know what they are talking about. I personally love the close ups, slo-mos and different angles available these days – but not so I can decide how terrible some player has been: rather that it gives me a better understanding of the game and indeed what is demanded of these amazing athletes. Well done for showing a better understanding of the game than most – and for putting it across so eloquently.

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  12. I wouldn’t blame Walker for Saturday’s defeat. We gave the game away (again) due to the strange tactics we employ when leading. After taking Chelsea apart for 20 mins, we then decide to play attack against defence. We stand on the 18 yard line and kick the ball away, straight to an opponent every time. We did the same against West Brom (cost 2 points), Mancheater United (got away with it because Van Persie could not shoot straight) and now Chelsea (cost 3 points). This has to be AVB’s fault and is suicidal.

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  13. I must admit that during the heat of a battle on the pitch i have been known to get frustrated with the performance of some players who have made a bad pass or missed a tackle but this gets forgotten about when the next decent move takes place. We must however remember that ALL players make mistakes at times. The problem being that when it comes from a defender or goalie it can result in a goal given away and can affect the final result. Kyle Walker is not playing as well at the moment as he has in the past but this does not mean he is a bad player. On saturday we had NO opening on the left and as a consequence every meaningful attack had to come down the right hand side. As such Chelsea pretty much doubled up on Lennon and Walker and put them under a lot of pressure so mistakes will eventually follow. Kyle is a good player and i am sure that he will become one of the Tottenham greats in the future so lets get behind him and the rest of the team and not let one result against a very good side disrupt our season

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    • We all get frustrated – cue rumbles and grumbles in block 28. I’m not making excuses for bad players and especially not for those who don’t try but I think the coverage of the game makes it look easier than it is, and that some fans can’t tell the difference between bad players and good players playing badly.

      As you say, Walker’s poor form had a big effect on the result – he and lennon seldon attacked in tandem just when we knew their defence is not the strongest.

      Regards,

      Al

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  14. Great article. Am I the only person who thinks that supporters of other teams troll places like twitter in order to wind up players? No real Spurs fan would have a go at Walker.

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  15. I was in J block and 100% agree, Kyle just having a rough time maybe give him a rest and give smith a game against soton he was superb for u21s

    Also for any manager out there all you need to do to show up Chelsea is keep the ball, for those 20 mins we were on top they didn’t get ball, win it off them and keep it as they have no ball winners in their midfield at all, they let you have it, as athletico and shaktar tonight have just shown you, just expose that weak underbelly of being poor without the ball

    We can’t have them winning any more trophies!!

    COYS

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    • I thought Smith might play against Maribor. Dead right re possession. I think teams will suss this Chelsea side out as time passes but for now, they are playing very well.

      Regards, Al

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  16. Alan, thanks for the effort. well it cannot be denied that we are living in the instant gloryfication age, I am not a jot concerned as to whether Kyle becomes a legend or not, he plays for spurs and anyone, given decent human behaviour, who plays for spurs will attract my support. I agree that AVB needs to use his skill to rest Walker, and hope he can do this effortlessly. As for Bob’s comments above, it looks like he has rarely played the game at any level, ( I may be wrong of course as tv pundits all too often prove!) if he thinks that AVB is authorizing those tactics, never mind, maybe the birthing pool could be used to cool off fans and allow them to think about the points you made about effort fear and tiredness and just the humanity of haveing a bad day. We had lots at the end of last season but I think i’m right in saying that the vast majority of spurs fans are still alive and kicking.

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    • Lots of good Spurs fans out there as you say, but am I alone in detecting an edge this season? The atmosphere at home games is not good unless we are winning, grumples a plenty on the net.

      Regards,

      Al

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  17. Hi Mal

    I played regularly in my youth, have been watching Spurs for 50 years and (not that it matters really) discussed Spurs tactics personally in recent seasons with both DL and HR. If this is not deliberate tactics, how else do you explain the abrupt change in the way we play once we take a lead? You should also read Chicagoyid’s comments above, which are on the button for me. I was thinking much the same as I watched the Shaktar game last night. I’m not against AVB, but I doubt Spurs will ever have that type of defending in their DNA. Keep the ball, pass the ball, thats the way to see out games. One final thought – a statistic from the Manchester game. Brad Freidel passed the ball directly to the opposition on 85% of his clearances. How does that help our team?

    Like

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