It’s quite a tricky subject this one. I best choose my words carefully.
We all know by now that Tim Fisher (seen above in a hilariously dramatic image from one of the early protest videos) had some trouble in a pub on Saturday. I won’t try to describe what happened as I didn’t witness it, but the most useful and worth-reading assessment I’ve seen came in the Coventry Telegraph from man on the scene Juggy. Cast your eyes over this again:
There must have been about 25 or 20 City fans in there, some we see quite often and a few that we had never seen before. Everyone is having a drink and then suddenly Tim Fisher walks in and went the toilet. Where the toilets were you had to go right through the pub to get to the toilets.
At first when he went in sort of a buzz went up ‘that’s Tim Fisher’. Obviously people have had a drink. Where he came out of the toilets there was a bit of singing going on ‘we want Sisu out’ and all that.
The guy had actually given somebody some money to say get everybody a drink. There was a split, some people were singing and some people were fine saying ‘the guy has just come in to use the toilet, just let him get on with it’.
As he was leaving the chants went up and there were one or two trying to stop him from leaving the pub and then one or two were trying to push them out the way, just saying ‘let the guy go’.
There was no actual glasses or bottles thrown, but somebody threw some beer on him. And then there was a bit of a surge from two or three people and some stools went flying. He was jostled and he was manhandled, there’s no two ways about that.
When he got outside, Steve Waggott was waiting and the two of them made a sharp exit because, obviously, they don’t know how the situation is going to pan out – because everybody started to come out. People were saying ‘go’ because there had been a lot of beer drunk. This situation could have ended with someone getting a smack and then that’s really going to take it to another level.
The general consensus was that this is what happens when fans aren’t given their voice. I’m not condoning it, but people will start taking the law into their own hands.
Let’s be clear, no matter how much I think the guy holds a high level of responsibility for the current predicament, or how much he may deserve some form of retribution given his general manner towards us – the situation we’re in right now is not going to get any better with violence. So in that regard I’m glad things didn’t escalate into something unthinkable.
But when I heard what had happened my honest reaction was one of confusion. Hostility in the pub (however you view it from afar), felt a fairly predictable reaction. What I couldn’t help questioning was Fisher’s presence in the pub in the first place. It was a very bad idea.
Yes, it’s a free country. But you’ve got to show some sense; some sensitivity about the situation. The sane amongst us would all steer clear of an opposition’s pub during match day, especially if you were recognisable as being a Coventry fan. And certainly if you’re the only one. It’s set at the heart of football culture more than anything – you keep away because there have been enough incidents over the course of time to suggest that groups of drunk people aren’t going to show a normal level of rational thought or restraint when it comes to territory. There are no inhibitions when you’re plastered.
Fisher probably feels like he’s on neutral and mostly accepting territory at Sixfields – but at away games, the only games many are attending this season – these strike me as the time for all Coventry City fans to get together again. An away pub can’t really be considered neutral for him – not when 90% of fans want him and the company that he represents out. For all intents and purposes he is the enemy.
He was only going to the toilet. So it’s a passive action, but in many respects this feels like passive provocation. It’s the “stop hitting yourself” scenario, in the eyes of the law and everything else, you’re not doing anything wrong by just nipping to the loo. But in the eyes of passionate and angry fans, this was a daft and potentially reckless decision.
There will be many people out there who couldn’t give a monkeys about him and are glad that he got some grief. There are others who are vehemently against him even being accosted, as it goes far beyond the line of acceptable human behaviour.
Then there are people like me who maybe sit somewhere in the middle.
Do I want to see any man hurt or beaten up? Absolutely not. He’s a bloke with a family, and this is all about football for fuck’s sake. But was I glad to hear that fans had alerted him during his brazen breach of ‘territory’? I won’t lie, him seeing first-hand the anger that he avoids at Sixfields isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Fortunately nothing more than a bit of argy-bargy and drink spilling happened, which we all have to be relieved at. As a group of fans the last thing we want to do is for us to become the bad guys. We’re not the bad guys in this, not by a long chalk. We need to voice our anger and dismay, but we can’t get drawn into doing things which damage the integrity of our stance or morals, and obviously Saturday could have gone too far.
Juggy’s point about not having a voice is an extremely valid one, and it’s that impotent rage which I imagine (alongside the booze) fuelled much of the anger. If there was a forum for reasoned debate, where the views and opinions of the majority were recognised and actually influenced decisions, the situation would feel very different. If your voice is heard, you feel a bit more control.
But to come face-to-face with the man who has shown a perceived wanton disregard to the feelings and desperation of such a large number of fans, in such an enclosed space, after a defeat, where passion and anger would have been rife; it’s an ill-considered decision by Fisher to even contemplate going in, even if he was bursting. If any lessons are to come from what he experienced in there, it’s that maybe this will have provided a real sense of just how much this has angered people. You’d hope to God he already knew that, but just in case, he’s now had the experience in 3D.
The moral of the story? Well, for Coventry City fans – it feels like a warning. Don’t give the people making the decisions any more ammunition to paint you as irrational, donkeys, a hindrance to progress, stupid, an obstacle, or anything other than passionate and desperate for the club to return to the Ricoh. For me, that is our defiant message – and it should remain unchanged throughout all of this. This incident was a let off for all concerned – we should now learn from it.
And Tim – just hold it in next time. Show some awareness of how your actions may be interpreted by others for a change. It’ll be better, and safer, for everyone.
(To think this used to be a blog about football…)