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Monday, August 24, 2009

Is it ever about performances?

The new football season may only be a few weeks old, but results are every bit as important now as in May. With one Football League manager already out of work, it's imperative to get off to a good start.

So, as we prepare ourselves for bosses up and down the country declaring that, "this afternoon wasn't about the performance, it was about the result," the lads discuss whether, in such a results driven business, it's ever about the performance?

Nobes: Surely it's just about results? Whether it's at the start of the season when new players are trying to gel, or January on a poor pitch when you've half your team out, or when it's Spring and you're in the promotion push or relegation scrap.

It's just about putting points on the board, isn't it?

It's hard to pick, isn't it? I suppose one way of looking at it is: if you get the result then you've put in the performance, regardless of how pretty it looked.

But are football fans really going to be willing to pay £30-40 to watch a diabolical game which you manage to win 1-0? An excellent case in point is the attendances of Birmingham City.

They had a very good year last year and although they averaged over 18,000, they finished behind Nottingham Forest and Derby in the attendance table (who both finished in the bottom half of the league.)

Admittedly, Forest and Derby are well-supported clubs with rich histories, but Birmingham's attendance's this year have also been disappointing.

That's true, with rising ticket prices, a quality performance and "day out" experience becomes more paramount with each passing season.

Does anyone seriously want to pay £26 to watch a no-score draw, or a 3-0 home drubbing? Fans sometimes get angry at wins, because we haven't won by a substantial enough scoreline (although that's more common with clubs like West Brom.)

Turls: And that brings me to my point. I think it all depends on the team you support. As the team becomes more consistent in its success, expectations get higher, this means that your team is expected to not only win, but to win in style.

Compare this with a team who is battling relegation. Teams become "ugly" to try and get the win and the fans don't care how they win, as long as they stay in the league.

A West Brom fan is more concerned with performance than a Blackpool fan. however, this doesn't mean Blackpool fans don't expect a good performance, it just means that the definition of a "good performance" differs. In football, "good" is a sliding scale.

Alex McLeish's Birmingham won promotion last season
despite many unconvincing performances

Nobes: Could you say then, that successful sides are expected to give good performances? If we take your earlier example of Birmingham last season, they played dreadfully in many games, but still got the results, and were promoted.

Did their fans really care at the end of the season how promotion had been achieved? Surely the end justifies the means. All fans really care about is their team doing well - playing well is a bonus.

Lakes: Performances are important for a number of reasons, though. Firstly - if you've got a team that's scraping through games week-in, week-out how do you pick your best players? There's a difference between individual and team performances.

But surely individuals can play well even if, as a whole, the team wasn't very convincing? I hate to use Birmingham again as an example, but they weren't playing well and keeping clean sheets. Therefore, Alex McLeish knew his defenders were playing well.

I suppose the main question is, as Turls says, what actually quantifies a good performance?

For Preston, a win for me is a good performance. But there are fans that differ in that opinion - you only have to log on to the PNE forum to see that. Some fans complain the passing isn't fluid enough, some disagree with the formation, others think individual players could have done better.

Turls: I think fans tend to have differing ideas over what to expect whether you are at home or away.

If you're at home to Scunthorpe on a Saturday afternoon, then you expect Forest to play good football and entertain the fans with an exciting win.

However, if you're away to Scunthorpe on a Tuesday night in December, the fans are looking for a result more than anything. Away from home it is more difficult to play the football the fans want and I think a good fan accepts this.

Yeah, I'd definitely agree with that. I expect to be entertained and the side to give a better performance at home than away. There's nothing worse than a long trip home after an away game without anything to show for your efforts.

Ultimately though, when you come out of the ground at 5pm and your team has won, you feel fantastic. When they've lost, you feel down.

And often, those times when you've won and played poorly feel the sweetest, and the times you've played well and lost feel the worst.

That's true, at the end of the day, football is all about doing well in your league. And doing well in your league is all about getting the three points, regardless of how you manage it.

I've heard empty promises of attractive, fluid, expansive football before. What really matters to me as a North End fan is grinding the results out and getting to the top of the league, against all the odds, season after season.

Turls: For me, as long as the lads give 100%, you can't ask for anymore than that and if they end up losing, then it was always meant to be.

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