This glorious football club won last night. Therefore this article, whilst attempting to perpetuate some balance, will be perceived as ill-timed – and… it probably is, to be fair.
It is about a delicate topic and, as many of you think or many people will tell you, football is not delicate. It is a “man’s game”. However, Bolton Wanderers made national news for the wrong reasons last weekend – like it or not, that is a fact.
The national criticism of Evatt has bordered on an arrogant dismissal of lower league culture, knowledge and intelligence. It gives off the sense that ‘general football’ needs to cut off these “backward lower league imbeciles”. The Guardian, Daily Mirror, Twitterati hot-takes of “I’m appalled and saddened and despaired and disgusted and offended…” have left many, myself included, bewildered and in complete disagreement. Having said that, there is a genuine issue that must be discussed.
I do not want to persistently deride our manager for a comment that was not thought through nor intended to cause harm or offence. I also despise the way in which society allows personal offence to be something that is worthy of actually meaning anything. As the great Australian comic Steve Hughes once said:
“So what. Be offended. Nothing happens.”
So, because I don’t want to deride, I will begin with the positives of this form of management.
Criticism can work for man-management purposes. For example, if the mentality of the player dictates, they can “switch on” and realise their errors so they can adjust or provoke themselves. They could also feel a pressure that makes them not lapse in their concentration.
I do not know the inner-workings of a professional football team’s dressing-room. I am not like my good friend, @Bwfc12341, stacked with insider information. I have never experienced nor desire to experience the mentality of an elite athlete.
If this works then there will be lots of high-profile, successful people that must take up this new secret unearthed by our manager.
If he is bad then what will publicly criticising him do? It didn’t make him save a penalty. Don’t be naive and daft. The confidence that Crellin will gain from saving a penalty will come from saving a penalty – not from being told to “man up”. If it made him save a penalty, did it also make him flap at 3 crosses in the 2nd half? It isn’t good for one thing but not bad for another.
The key issue, as we all know, was the terminology that was used
By basic definition “man-up” suggests you aren’t manning up. You’re not a man. You need to be stronger and you need to be ‘harder’ – so, by definition, you are weaker.
Let’s ignore the problematic nature of the phrase, for now, and focus on its practicalities:
You are a struggling goalkeeper. You’ve never played consistent league football. You’ve not made many league clean sheets because (see last sentence). You have made a few errors. You’re extremely worried about your place in the team. You’re part of a team who is struggling and is so, so desperate for wins.
I tell you to “man up”. Are you now a better goalkeeper?
It doesn’t even make sense. “Nice one Ian, I reckon I’d have caught that if only I believed I was more manly”. I’m ignoring the obvious sexism of this nonsensical viewpoint to focus on the mental health aspects of it.
If Evatt believes it could help him in private then fine. It shouldn’t be said in public. Public criticism is already something that is rarely used (because it rarely works). It’s just something the “fans want to hear”. The fans aren’t the manager – for a reason. I have seen this likened to Dean Henderson being criticised by Chris Wilder. That’ll be Henderson who had 2 seasons of professional football and several man-of-the-match performances under his belt; if anything, his confidence was too high. Quite the opposite for Crellin.
This isn’t even about Billy Crellin. This isn’t about what Mr Evatt thinks makes the players’ “tick”. This isn’t about some men. This isn’t about other men. This isn’t about one group against a different group. This is about the male suicide rate being at 16.9 per 100,000 as of September 2020.
Crellin, hopefully, doesn’t suffer any mental health issues. Therefore, this will be brushed aside as a “he knows what I mean” incident. Well, I don’t care if Billy knows what you mean.
I do not care if you think it’s a “man’s game” or that you think people are “snowflakes” for taking things “out of context”. If a phrase has been proven, via psychological studies, to affect the mental wellbeing of the most mentally vulnerable group in our society – try not to use it.
This isn’t the time for lecturing; this is the time for learning. Evatt has taken the time to apologise and acknowledge the terminology was wrong. However, it almost seems too much to ask that those who defended him also do the same.
It is a personal opinion that very few Wanderers’ fans share but… if you want to adopt a progressive philosophy whilst playing a progressive style; it wouldn’t go amiss to use more progressive language.