Big Lang Theory: In praise of proper celebrations


Prediction one: this afternoon, Robin Van Persie will make all Sunday newspaper sub-editors happy by scoring against Arsenal. Prediction two: when he does so, he will proceed to celebrate in muted fashion, as a display of respect for his former employers.

We've seen this before, of course. The non-celebration has become a fixture of the game, with barely a week passing without some Tom, Dick or Harry attempting to placate a legion of fans that once cheered his name.

This is, in theory at least, a fairly laudable thing to do. Given the (at best) ephemeral nature of the allegiances between fans, players, clubs, managers, agents and other parties in the game, merely considering the effect of one's actions on other people marks a player out as a veritable football samaritan. The reaction of opposing fans in such instances seems to underline this; a polite applause replaces the normal booing and philistine heckling.

But players need to be aware of one thing. There is a difference between (a) not celebrating and (b) actively attempting to demonstrate to all and sundry that you're not celebrating and thus must be a thoroughly modest young man who is a cut above most of the rabble that populate this game, thank you very much.

Let's take Scott Sinclair as an example. Last season, he scored for Swansea against Chelsea and went on to raise his hands in apparent apology to the Chelsea fans. In fact, the first place he looked was at the stand housing the Blues fans behind the goal. This may have pleased Chelsea fans. To everybody else, it was sickening.

Firstly, it was a kick in the teeth to the Swansea fans who, y'know, actually paid to watch him play and cheered him on every week. They were presumably fairly happy he'd scored, so it may have been nice to acknowledge this in some way. Celebrate in a muted fashion, sure, but don't act out some faux-dignified remorse nonsense to fans of the other team.

Secondly - and this is clearly rather particular to Sinclair - it incorrectly suggested that there had been any kind of meaningful history between the player and his former club. Yes, the word 'Chelsea' is on Scott Sinclair's CV. (He might consider putting it under a pioneering "PREDICTABLE CAREER MIS-STEPS" section, alongside a picture of Roberto Mancini's greed-jaundiced face.) But a record of 13 appearances and six (SIX!) loan spells does not a legacy make. Rather, it serves as evidence that Sinclair only began to truly progress after leaving the club. (It would be different if Chelsea were his boyhood club, but they weren't; they poached him from Bristol Rovers.)

Sinclair may be a particularly extreme example, but his case handily sums up the issues at play. At any moment in time, a footballer is paid by one club and one club alone to perform on the pitch. Only on rare occasions will that player have established a bond with another set of fans that is strong enough to justify a refusal to celebrate. And even then, there remains a difference between not celebrating and self-conscious, praise-seeking indulgance.

When Robin Van Persie scores, he should certainly avoid going down the Emmanuel Adebayor route (as hilarious as that would be). But he should definitely give the Scott Sinclair routine a miss as well.