Before I crack on with what passes for a column in these parts, here are some words cribbed from Rovers fans on the internet. “This running round like a headless chicken just doesn’t cut it. I’ll drive him to his next club”… “He must’ve become a professional footballer through the Make-A-Wish foundation”… “Take any money offered and run, get someone who wants to play for the Rovers”.
Of whom do these angry men (because of course they’re men) speak? It must be a truly terrible footballer, someone our club could most definitely do without, a player we’ve been carrying for too long. Wait no, no, it’s John Marquis. John actual sodding Marquis. Scorer of 61 league goals in three seasons, our sixth highest league goalscorer of all time. Yes, all bloody time. In 140 years of this football club’s existence only five people have managed more league goals that Marquis, yet there are people out there willing him to bugger off and strut about in celebration for someone else.
If anyone ever asks me what it is like to support Doncaster Rovers then I shall hold this aloft as the absolute peak. To have spent two decades wishing, wanting, demanding a twenty-goal a season striker, and then the moment we get one, complain that he doesn’t score often enough. It’s very much “this crown I wear is too heavy”, “this fountain of youth from which I freely quaff hasn’t got much flavour”.
And yes, from the stands John Marquis can come across as grumpy. Really bloody grumpy. But ask yourself this. Would you rather have him in your team, or lining up against it? If you’re answer is the latter then you’re a masochist. You’re the sort of person who watches Mrs Brown’s Boys when the remote is in reach, or goes to an All Bar One willingly. In short, you reap what you sow.
For the latest issue of the fanzine I was lucky enough to interview James Coppinger, and when I met with him I asked him about Marquis’ approach? “I don’t think it’s grumpy, it’s just John puts a lot of pressure on himself. He’s so determined to be successful, and be a success, that he can come across that way. He’s his own worst enemy to an extent, but when he signed he was exactly what we needed. [The players] hadn’t been demanding of each other enough and when he came he made the difference, he is a massive part of why we’ve been so successful. I think he’s too hard on himself, but you live and learn and he’s still only 26, still trying to work himself out”.
Seems a lot more reasoned put that way doesn’t it? For as long as he has been at this club, Marquis has always been a seething, angry, shithouse on the football pitch. It’s just at some times he’s a more regularly goalscoring angry, seething shithouse than at others. You can try telling him to chill out (no really, go on, I dare you), but why would he change, when the success he has had is born out of his angry, seething shithousedness. This is the third tier; players at this level will always have spells when they are out of form, yet too often such understanding appears lost on a football supporting public that no longer has time for a middle ground.
The spectrum of performance and achievement in football has been so far condensed it is a gable-end of its former-self. Players are brilliant or shit, with no points in between, football teams are either winning or they’re bottling it. But then given we are at a point in history where our nation’s leaders are willing to dissolve issues with complex life-changing socio-political consequences into a black and white, yes or no vote, then I suppose the loss of greyness in football should be of little surprise.
Such is life in the social media generation, where it pays not to be considered, but to be first. Meaning the game is merely squashed into handily labelled pigeon-holes. You see this on football twitter where any gesture that doesn’t make a player or supporter look a complete arsehole is “proper class”. Any piece of footballing skill, even if devoid of end result, is “flames”. Any defeat for a top six Premier League side is “embarrassing”. And that’s just the BBC accounts. Go deeper into football social media and I may as well be trying to read braille. I don’t know why Lionel Messi is a GOAT, I can’t fathom why no-one else thinks Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a prick? Scrolling through it I feel like my grandma trying to connect up a printer, like a Brit retiree on the Costa Del Sol forced to order their first Tapas.
I am willing to concede that I may be in the minority that mine is an archaic view, and I’m effectively holding up a queue as I count out my loose change of reason in a contactless world. And if so fine. I can live with that. But even in a time of snap judgements and no patience, where everything that came before last Saturday is forgotten, if we truly, genuinely start to believe that one of our greatest goalscorers of all-time is shit, then bloody hell are we in for an arduous future following our team. We gave Colin Cramb a bloody great banner, surely we can find some patience and understanding for one of the best we’ve ever had.
Never change John John John, be you John John.
by Glen Wilson
An abridged version of this article first appeared in issue 100 of popular STAND fanzine.