OPINION: The famous devotion of English fans looks brittle in the face of failure

OPINION: The famous devotion of English fans looks brittle in the face of failure
The Everton fans were pumped before the Newcastle game
The Everton fans were pumped before the Newcastle game
Imagine your team is fighting for safety in football's top league and needs every fan in the stadium to help pump the players up in their battle for vital points. But things aren't going to plan, patience in the stands is wearing thin and supporters are starting to leave. Well, that's what can be seen at some of England's most storied clubs.

It's the start of the game and excitement is at an all-time high, on the verge of fanaticism, maybe even beyond it. Chant after chant rings out and the home fans are starting to believe that, finally, that breakthrough moment will come to steer their beloved club towards mid-table, where existential problems are no longer such a threat.

But then, things don't go quite to plan.

60 minutes and out

Over 60,000 West Ham supporters at the London Stadium repeatedly sing the club anthem in chorus - a song which the film Green Street (starring Elijah Wood) helped to promote around the globe - but when the score is 2-0 to the visitors in the 13th minute, virtually only the away fans can be heard. Hope is alive again after the Hammers pull one back only to be snatched away by another goal conceded just after the break.

It is impossible not to hear the barrage of abuse of the strongest form raining down from the stands. What is more surprising, however, are the mass departures. By the 60th minute, perhaps a third of the previously full stadium is empty as many disgruntled West Ham fans are already on the tube on their way home. They just can't bear to see another goal scored against them - better for their health to leave, perhaps.

Whistles, boos and words of hate are hurled at the players and the coach after full-time by only the most loyal fans, those who didn't pack it in even after further goals were added by their opponents.

Smoke bombs and jerseys on the pitch

The atmosphere is electric. Smoke bombs fill the sky with clouds of tension as the home team arrives at the stadium. The sense of anticipation around Goodison Park, the home of Everton, can be felt on every corner. The blue frenzy moves into the stands, where the fans are far more creative than those in London - simply put, they have more songs and chants.

The Toffees' enthusiastic performance lasts less than half an hour, however, and then dips significantly. Jordan Pickford's defence is breached, silencing nearly 40,000 fans until half-time.

Hopes of a turnaround hold until the 72nd minute when the England international has to pick the ball out of his net once again. And then again. Negativity spills out in all directions and the first wave of supporters disappear off into the streets of Liverpool.

Those who remain eventually rejoice after Everton score from a corner but this is immediately dampened by a lightning-quick counter-strike from their opponents. You can't squeeze a good word in for the fans swearing and threatening.

The final whistle triggers collective anger from the home support, about half of whom are left in the stadium. Some just sit silently with their faces in their hands, others cry. And then there are those who have stripped off their club jerseys and thrown them onto the pitch where they lie crumbled and disregarded.

"We'll never come here again. And I'm going to take a picture of that jersey lying on the field," says an angry father to his young son, who can't even open his eyes.

To the victor go the spoils

The common denominator in both these football stories? Newcastle United. A year and a half ago, they were a club with a similar fate to the aforementioned sides this season - that is, battling relegation. However, with the help of wealthy new owners and thanks to the work of coach Eddie Howe, they are now fighting for a Champions League berth.

They won 5-1 at West Ham and then 4-1 at Everton last Thursday. In doing so, they caused considerable harm to both clubs' hopes of survival (especially the latter) and seemingly made their fans question their loyalty, if not cause outright cardiac arrest.

Newcastle have been unstoppable of late, with one notable exception.

And that's not to mention the Magpie's clash with Tottenham who, while not battling the drop, were recently down 5-0 in the 21st minute. Moments later, many of the London club's fans were already out of the stadium.

That famous English devotion is there and then, suddenly, it vanishes. The underlying factor? Success, or rather, a lack thereof.

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