David Preece: I could take being spat at by Rangers fans but getting abuse from your own support can be hard to stomach

Ordinarily, I’d think offering a stadium full of football fans to “step outside into the car park and sort things out like men” would be a ballsy thing to do. Ballsy, yes.

Friday, 1st November 2019, 11:30 am
Granit Xhaka of Arsenal leaves the pitch after being substituted off during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Crystal Palace.

But at the same time, an incredible stupid thing to do.

Of course, Granit Xhaka didn’t actually incite a riot by requesting the crowds presence outside to go through them, one-on-one, Royal Rumble style, but his reaction was certainly the equivalent of a two fingered salute to everyone inside the stadium and, if we’re lead to believe, also to the likes of Alan Sunderland, Christopher Wreh and the ghosts of Cliff Bastin and Bertie Mee.


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Ah, yes. “The shirt”. Look, this in’t me disrespecting the people who become enraged at players who disrespect the shirt but it does smack a little of Republicans in America who assume you wipe your backside with the The Star-Spangled Banner and then set fire to it, dishonouring those who have laid down their lives for their country if you don’t stand to its attention.

Removing his shirt and throwing it away is just an act of his frustration.

If you’re a goalkeeper who’s been sent off, you rip off your gloves and chuck them on the floor. If you’re a chef who has just had a perfectly good meal return to the kitchen, you tear off your apron before marching out front of shop to confront the uneducated heathen who doesn’t know their flambe from their fricassee.

It’s a reaction caused by an action towards him and whilst it really isn’t something you should do as a professional footballer, it’s a wholly understandable response.

Criticism is part and parcel of being a footballer and for the most, you just take it on the chin or absorb it in the thick skin you have grown over the years

I’ve been there and there aren’t many worse things you can experience than being harangued by your own fans.

I could take being spat at by Rangers fans at Ibrox whenever I went to retrieve the ball before a goal kick. It’s almost expected. But to get it in the neck from your own fans? Now that’s a sore one to take.

I’ve been chased down the street by someone trying to kick my car, booed by my own fans as I walked on to the pitch at half-time to give out Christmas gifts to the club’s cheerleaders and I’ve been in no uncertain terms to take myself back to England. And yes, there are times when I have reacted to it too.

For me, it isn’t just a one way street and if a player really cares he will respond. Not always in the manner Xhaka did, but it’s a sign that he cares, that it hurts.

The wounds are cut deep and if you aren’t of the right character, the lacerations may never heal. The chance may never be given to that player, for them to even scab over, such is the patience of fans.

Maybe I’m giving Granit Xhaka a longer leash than he deserves because his first name reminds me of Aberdeen and for his surname lending the Chaka Khan puns, but imagine being in his position at that very moment.

A few quid in the bank and the title of Professional Footballer doesn’t totally remove your sensitivity to that level of criticism, despite the general consensus being you should take whatever is thrown at you because someone paid for a ticket to watch you.

I know the Xhaka saga has more depth to it than reacting to the fans so this might just be the final straw of an already strained relationship and questions over his wearing of the armband are probably more than justified but the reaction to things like this are way over the top.

Of course, something as notable as his actions were last week are difficult to fully recover from but road to redemption might just be too long and arduous to even bother with.

Looking from the outside in, I’d say the decree nisi is in the post.