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‘We’re in this together’
FANS can play a huge role in changing a team’s fortunes – that’s the message that has come out of Huntington Stadium in the last week or two as the club, to all intents and purposes, crave a renewed togetherness.
One additional message – and one that all at York City Knights are hoping will be the case – is that things can change pretty quickly.
Assistant-coach Mick Ramsden hailed the noise made by the faithful during the Knights’ much-improved performance in their last match, the televised 25-18 defeat by Championship title hopefuls Sheffield Eagles. “It was great to see them chanting and banging the drum again and I want to thank them for that,” he said.
This all came after a call by fellow assistant-boss Mick Cook for supporters to get behind the team and help them through their losing period.
However, while those in attendance certainly did that, many fans, once again, simply didn’t show up, as another worrying crowd figure greeted the game. Remember folks – togetherness. It was rife in the Knights’ honeymoon period of 2003/6, but where is it now?
Some say it’s a chicken and egg scenario. Fans argue they need to be given something to shout about, and some effort and performances that deserve their hard-earned cash.
Clubs say they need the fans to turn up and provide the backing, both financially and emotionally, that bolsters squad strength and lifts the team, which in turns brings about better performances.
To me, though, you can eat the chicken and boil the egg. It’s a two-way thing. It’s a team thing. Everyone in it together.
Forgive me, as a Manchester City fan born and bred, for a bit of self-gratification here, but that “together” motto has been one expounded by the Eastlands club, the ultimate soap opera club, in recent times, not least when they fell eight points behind neighbours United in the Premier League title race a few weeks ago. It was again to the fore in the dying moments of the season when all seemed lost – and only those who have been on Mars this past week will not know how that all ended.
The point here is that everyone, at the end of the day, needs each other.
Clubs obviously need fans, teams need supporters, and fans – although we don’t always like to think so given the mill they often put us through – need our clubs.
Without the Knights, for example, something would be missing in a lot of people’s lives, whether they’re celebrating a win or bemoaning a loss. So at the end of the day we’re all in it together.
In fact, from a club perspective, it’s a motto that is probably even more resonant at rugby league set-ups like the Knights, who work on small budgets, where every individual fan coming through the turnstiles is not just a dot on the landscape but an important figure, than it is at oil-rich Premier League powers.
To his credit, Cook, in his plea to fans, was pretty pragmatic and stressed the players and coaching staff needed to play their part.
“It’s always tough when you’re not winning games or not playing as well as you can,” he said. “You’ve just got to keep working hard, which we are doing, to improve that ten per cent or 20 per cent, and then things can happen.”
He also accepted that anyone involved in sport had to take the rough with the smooth.
“When I was head coach at the Knights, I got a fair bit of stick. It just comes with the job,” recalled Cook, who as the then chief took the Knights up to domestic rugby league’s second tier in 2005 but could not prevent an immediate relegation.
“If you’re not winning games, they blame the coach. If they don’t think players are playing well, they blame the player and then they blame the coach. Fans don’t always see the full picture or some of the reasons why. It’s just how it is. It’s sport.”
That full picture, as suggested by Cook, also comprises a few unlucky calls at crucial times of some matches, as well as the team’s injury situation – including losing the likes of Waine Pryce, James Haynes and, previously, Paul King for lengthy periods – and the basic fact the Knights have a smaller budget than many Championship rivals.
Staying pragmatic, he went on: “We’ve been a bit unlucky at times but we can’t look at that – we can only look at the ways we concede points or the ways we’re not scoring points. Our aim is to get better at both.”
Fans, likewise, could also look at ways they could improve their ~ support, on the assumption the club does indeed matter to them.
Would it take much to effect a turnaound at the Knights level? A glance at the results of the Knights’ opponents tonight, champions Featherstone, suggests not.
Says Cook: “It’s a strange competition. Featherstone beat Castleford and nearly beat Wigan in the Challenge Cup, but Sheffield put 60 points past them and then the other week Halifax put 60 past them.
“Featherstone have been arguably the best team in this competition for the last three or four years, but that’s the way of the league”.
• Knights hooker Jack Lee has been charged by RFL disciplinary chiefs with the grade ‘A’ offence of punching in the 77th minute of the Championship fixture against Sheffield at Huntington Stadium on May 10.
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