Ashley Westwood-fans-Scapegoating
We take a look at the reasons football fans need to scapegoat after, or even during games that end in defeat – by looking at our club Aston Villa.
Words by Regan Foy (@FindFoy)

In the last decade at Aston Villa, there have been a number of players who have bore the blame of the boo-boys when things haven’t been going the way they “should be”. At least one point in every season, there’s a player who is not seen to be doing enough to warrant a place in the team week-in, week-out, but the manager continues to pick them, much to the dissatisfaction of the supporters.

Some names that come to mind from more recent years include Ashley Westwood and Leandro Bacuna – both of whom are plying their trade in the Premier League. Westwood has been in the Premier League for a number of seasons with Burnley, and even experienced European football earlier in the season, whereas Bacuna recently transferred to Cardiff City from Reading.

In regards to Ashley Westwood, he was consistently berated for his inability to pass forward and how often he slowed the game down. With Bacuna, it was how little he brought to a game. But, alas, both players are playing in a league above Aston Villa.

This season, shockingly, it’s Conor Hourihane who’s apparently the weak link amongst the squad. In the last few games, fans have taken to social media to voice their discontent at how Hourihane has been performing. Whilst he has made mistakes and hasn’t quite hit the heights expected of him, it’s easy to forget that he’s the second most important Villa player this season, with only Tammy Abraham involved in more goals.

It’s also easy to forget that he’s got the most appearances for the club this season, at 34 games – with only John McGinn and Alan Hutton playing more minutes than the Irishman. The midfielder clearly needs a rest, but because of a lack of quality in depth in the Aston Villa midfield, he’s started or been involved in too many games.





The fact that a player who has had such a positive impact on the side this season was visibly upset as he was jeered off the pitch against West Bromwich Albion is concerning – and it wouldn’t surprise some if he were to move on this summer. It wouldn’t be surprising if it was a club in the Premier League either.

Scapegoating, to put it into context, is about picking a member of the defeated team (in this case, Aston Villa), and then using said player, or even coach to project your anger upon. In some instances, this goes as far as to make comments about the “offender” regarding their race, ethnicity or religion.

A lot of the time, comments include the player having a “lack of talent”, which more often than not is far from the truth. After all, this player is a professional footballer – and those making the comments, well, aren’t.

Scapegoating is often something that happens after a defeat, because the fans are frustrated, and they need to deal with it – one way or another. I think most people would prefer a player to be the brunt of the frustrations rather than an opposition, or worse, Villa fan.

The target of the abuse is usually a player who failed in an inexcusable manner, be that a poor pass, a shy tackle or a penalty miss in the dying minutes of the game, and someone is going to have to take the burden of the fans disappointment – which sometimes can weigh heavy, as seen by Hourihane’s upsetting exit against the Baggies.

If Villa, or any team you support  lose, you’re going to be frustrated, even angry at times. And you have every right to feel those emotions, even though in hindsight, it’s just a game of football. Whilst fans are disappointed, so are the players, although living a far more cushy life may take just some of the hurt away. There’s emotion in the game for the players too.




But here’s why fans scapegoat. Because much of the time, fans can’t have a true effect on a game and this disappointment can only come out, whether that’s on the walk home or on social media – (yes, players read the comments) – but more often than not, it starts coming out before the game is even over. 

A player can take this disappointment and use it as fuel for the second half, or the next game, or the next season. Psychologically, the fans are the “12th man” on the pitch, or the wind in the sails of the players. If one player’s mistake has torn this metaphorical sail, the only thing the fans can do is to either repair the sail and “perform” louder, or harder – or start a mutiny against the person who started to make the ship sink.

There’s also a time and a place for the moaning. Not on a player’s Instagram when he’s mourning the death of someone close to him. How insensitive can you get?

Paying fans have every right to be annoyed, or upset about a result. We were all heartbroken last May against Fulham, but look how many of the players were too. But, at some point, you have to stop being bitter because your team lost, or because Conor Hourihane skewed a pass, or because Jonathan Kodjia didn’t pass at all. They’re human beings, and yes, they’re paid a lot for what they do, but nobody is going to perform with thousands of fans on their back. You wouldn’t. 

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