CHEERING and booing are essential ingredients of any worthwhile sporting occasion.
Polite applause may be acceptable at a piano concerto, and the likes of Pavarotti would never have appreciated you joining in, but sport demands passionate response.
Yet now we have a major debate as to how far fans can go in expressing their feelings without overstepping the mark.
Most decent-minded folk would condemn the treatment dished out to Ashley Cole after his error gifted Kazakhstan a goal at Wembley, yet there is a coherent reasoning to say he got what he deserved.
In the eyes of many people Cole represents the worst aspects of the modern game, and the huge gulf between professional footballers and reality.
Some will resent his wealth, some will be jealous of his status helping to land a stunning wife like Cheryl, but most of all people dislike his attitude.
That was more behind the booing at Wembley than the ill-directed pass which gave Zhambyl Kukeyev the chance to make a name for himself.
Cole lost credibility in the eyes of the public when he said he wouldn’t play football for an extra £55,000 a week, and the shabby way he negotiated a transfer from Arsenal to Chelsea further damaged his image.
Naturally the likes of Fabio Capello and Rio Ferdinand criticised those England supporters who chose to jeer Cole, they had every right to do so, but I doubt they would have reacted in the same way had Ferdinand himself or Steven Gerrard been culpable.
Perhaps the time has come to make players face the music and re-establish some sort of identity with the fans who pay to watch them every week.
I’m not suggesting Cole should have been forced out on the pitch with a microphone to apologise, but if players were made more accessible at fans forums, or even through speaking to the media it would be a step in the right direction.
England – and Premier League club – press conferences are orchestrated so that only a chosen player is offered up – and it certainly wouldn’t have been Cole on Saturday night. It’s time to get back to the sort of relationship the press had with players 20 years ago.
The people who run clubs are paranoid about letting the media get anywhere near footballers, yet in the 70s and 80s we used to go out socialising together and I can’t remember too many problems resulting – indeed the opposite applied as we respected one another’s professions.
Gareth Southgate and Stuart Pearce won the fans over by poking fun at themselves in a pizza advert after crucial penalty misses for their country.
Even Colin Montgomerie, who can reputedly hear a moth cough in the next country, was willing to show the human side of his nature appearing in a commercial that has him snapping a bar of chocolate to distract others.
The only way Ashley Cole is ever going to win back affection is by a charm offensive that shows he isn’t as far removed from reality as we think.
ALL the talk of credit crunches and crisis in the city frankly bores me to tears.
I’m hoping for a massive story – you know the sort of thing, the Pope runs off with Amy Winehouse – to deflect attention.
Yet even I had to listen when those wise old sages of the Premiership, David Whelan and John Madejski, were swapping sob stories.
As millionaires go, they seem like two decent chaps and I suspect they haven't got much time for the Abramovichs and Co moving in from abroad to run our game.
Whelan, who made his fortunes in sportswear after being a professional player with Blackburn Rovers, admits he’s small fry now compared with the Chelsea owner who has written off £20m in the Russian stock market.
He’s an astute businessman who says it’s time for football clubs to learn to live with no more than 25% debt and I couldn’t agree more.
If I go 50p overdrawn I’m likely to get a call from the bank manager so why should football clubs be immune?
Madejski thinks the time has come for a salary cap – again I concur, players in the premiership could take a 50% cut without being made to starve – in fact most would barely notice a difference.
So somebody should make it happen.
As one of them said, it’s ‘Boys with Toys’ who don’t run football clubs like they do their own businesses, because it relies on passion rather then prudence.
FOR some reason we don’t expect fit sportsmen to suffer from critical illness, so it was a shock to hear that Geoff Horsfield is stricken with testicular cancer.
The former Halifax and Sheffield United striker is not the first footballer to have this problem.
Millwall’s Neil Harris has now overcome the same adversity to resume his career.
I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Geoff all the best with his battle.
Also, our condolences go to the family of Adam Watene, the Wakefield Wildcats RL player whose shock death has shaken the whole game.