The Twenty-First Century. Modernity. An era where all of a sudden everything has become accessible, essentially instantly. Whether it be viewing world breaking news as it unfolds or buying an item at the mere tap of a finger, it seems unfathomable that we should have to wait any period of time to acquire something we so dearly need in our lives. Sport churns in the tidal wave of modernity. Advancement in technology means society is ever-evolving. Football fans have increasingly fallen victim to the allure of immediate success.
With results, trophies, and performances being nonnegotiable 24/7, the sport we love may be in danger of falling victim to a toxic world of unhappiness, purely because we did not get what we wanted, straight away.
Football Fans in The Roman Empire
Let’s take it back to 2003, and more specifically, the beginning of the Roman Abramovich era. At the time, former Sports Minister Tony Banks claimed that “a sale has been made to an individual we know nothing about.” There was naturally an element of fear that lingered.
Club debts exceeded £80 million, and the underlying question was whether the Russian Oligarch would invest into an exciting Chelsea Football Club project. This question was answered in the most emphatic fashion.
The marquee signings of Claude Makelele, Juan Sebastian Veron, Damien Duff, and Hernan Crespo (albeit he was loaned back to AC Milan) to name a few, were a statement of intent and marked the start of a new level of expenditure in the transfer market.
This was the start of a Blue dynasty. More crucially, it was a a moment where the entirety of English football stopped. The Summer of 2004 bared witness to the boundaries of spending being utterly obliterated.
The success that soon followed under Jose Mourinho was spectacular. Abramovich’s bullish approach to transfers and ruthless demand to see his club as the helm of world football was working.
Chelsea were the catalysts of a new brand of club. A rotating door of world-class managerial prowess at their disposal, just in case one coach failed to reach the highest of heights expected of them.
The context of Roman’s millions is important. It meant that a generation of Chelsea fans (myself included) grew up with the glamour of success on the big stage always just around the corner. This was a privilege but attached to this was an expectation level of the highest order. Trophies were a given; a trophy-less season was unthinkable for a club like the mighty Blues. As football fans, we have every right to dream big and believe in our team. However, when the belief merges with viewing success as a formality, it becomes dangerous.
The Impact of Social Media for Football Fans
The emergence of financial power in football coincided with the rise of social media. The growth of Twitter and Facebook had a massive impact on football too. Social media produced a different dimension to technology. It was the ability to interact with the world through the medium of a single Tweet.
All of a sudden there was no need for patience, everything became available all the time overnight to us. Here formed the modern online football fan, a product of their generation as well as their football team. With this, let’s fast forward to 2019.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea. A phrase many of us didn’t even consider as reality too long ago, yet here we are. Last season was significant. Chelsea’s Greatest ever goalscorer returned home, but it acted as a throwback of sorts.
Yes, the additions of Christian Pulisic and Mateo Kovacic still blew any pre-Roman spending out of the water, but the loss of the imperious Eden Hazard, combined with the influx of youth players to the side drastically wiped out any imminent expectation of success that we had become too accustomed to. The focus switched to Lampard’s project, with the emphasis on time and patience (something alien to part of a generation of football fans) rather than viewing anything other than gaining a trophy instantly a failure.
The Price of Success: The Future
Undoubtedly, the team exceeded the predictions of many. A plucky young team finished 4th, coming heartbreakingly close to acquiring the FA Cup as Frank’s first trophy.
Unfortunately, though, despite an encouraging first season, toxicity still clouded social media, with player abuse prominent as well as managerial. With Twitter especially, the reactionary aspect of modern-day fandom began to show its true colours. The impatience combined with viewing every game as life or death with no room for error has led to the creation of what can be an extremely toxic environment that bases itself on abuse and negativity.
This isn’t a Chelsea or football problem, it’s a modern day one. It’s a problem in any aspect of social media where people focus on the immediate disappointment of not getting what they want, as opposed to the bigger picture of the situation. In relation to football, social media amplifies highs, but it lowers lows to new extreme depths, which isn’t healthy.
Present day. Frank Lampard has asked for “time and patience” to embed his new signings after a wonder window in the summer of 2021. At the time of writing this, Chelsea are nine games unbeaten winning five in a row, and all is well in the modern-day fandom of social media. But it feels like the perfect time to send a reminder that constant success in football is not a given all the time, but something to strive for and work towards, which is exactly the project that Frank and his side are building.
We are starting to see the results of the squad’s hard work and the impact that time spent together has on a group of players, but it is vitally important to not throw in the towel as soon as one disappointing result comes our way.
Written by Matthew Ferris (@MattFerris21)
Edited by Jai Mcintosh @jjmcintosh5