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If there is one man who has caused one hell of a kerfuffle one way or another over the last week or so, then it is Asamoah Gyan. Accusations and vitriol from supporters, and I use that term in its loosest possible sense, have rained down on the Ghanaian like a plague of locusts. Following his performance at Swansea he was labelled lazy, disinterested, unfit, and selfish as a spate of previously unknown yet apparently totally incontrovertible body-language experts laid down their damning judgements, and all seemingly based on nothing but general ignorance and conjecture. As the transfer window drew to a close, we watched as mischief-making journalists almost lined up to slander his character with claims of personal greed and disloyalty only for so-called fans to willingly choose to buy into the character assassination on offer. Frankly it was disgusting.
I'd love to think it was just from an extremely vocal minority. I certainly hope so, although it has proved a sufficiently prevalent opinion to grind my gears to some extent.
The fact that Gyan has had a poor start of the season is not in dispute here. He has looked bereft of confidence and lacking some sharpness, but he is making his runs and taking responsibility on the ball so it is hardly a disaster. If he is a little behind in terms of fitness then so be it. It isn't the end of the world. Cast your minds back to the Wigan game towards the end of last season. A goal down in a crucial game, and it was Gyan who hurled us back into the game with an equalizer before suffering a badly pulled hamstring whilst bearing down on goal looking for a second. Gyan was a beast that day. A real inspiration to his team mates and those of us in attendance. Did that injury set him back a little with his summer fitness schedule? Entirely possible, I suppose.
But the speed at which fans have been so quick to berate Gyan is what is the most unsettling part about the whole thing. There seems to have been no period of grace or no benefit of the doubt. Just a selfish and almost consumer-esq attitude of instant condemnation when the level of service dips below a desired level. There has appeared to be little backing from the fans or camaraderie. Time was when an accepted one of your own, which I genuinely thought was Gyan's standing with the fans, was going through a tough patch on the pitch he would be roared and encouraged through his difficulties. Now it just seems to provoke anger, moaning, and terrace tantrums. When rumours were abound earlier this week that he was demanding a transfer or a pay rise, again the willingness of people to instantly think the worst of the player was the most appalling thing. A plethora of people were all too willing to embrace the claims as validation of their earlier hasty condemnation of the player. Have we really become that fickle?
Perhaps that is just me yearning for an era long gone. Perhaps the situation with Gyan serves merely as a damning indictment of the modern game. Given the huge money fans pay for their football these days, coupled with the ludicrous riches the players take out of the game, perhaps any genuine ability of the two parties to relate to each other has been all but destroyed forever. Perhaps shattered trust between players and fans is just the one true legacy of Darren Bent at Sunderland AFC.
But the underlying fact in all this is that there obviously is an issue with Asamoah Gyan. Whether that issue is something as innocent as a crisis of confidence, a lack of fitness, or something more sinister, then stomping feet and hurling abuse is not going to resolve it. Chances are it will only serve to exacerbate the problem and, ultimately, the club will suffer. Show me just about any top player and the chances are they have gone through a similar patch to the one Gyan is stuck in at the moment. It is not an irretrievable situation by any means. There seems be a tendency to almost dehumanise footballers these days given how fundamentally unrelatable they are to the common fan. But it is now up to Steve Bruce and his staff to manage the person. Refocus, re-motivate, and re-energize the man and the footballer will flourish and then we will all be a lot happier and supporting a stronger club. Condemning the man based on nothing but conjecture, undermining his confidence, and diminishing his motivation is going to help no one but the many clubs around the world who'd love to deprive us of the services of a quality footballer.
Personally, I think Asamoah Gyan has, at the very least, earned the benefit of the doubt of Sunderland fans. He is a fine player who has lit up many a game and is, by all accounts, a fine and proud ambassador for our club around the world on his various international commitments and he has earned considerably better than having his professional and personal integrity come under question based upon little tangible evidence. I hope we never become so arrogant or disconnected with our club that we fall into the trap of taking him for granted.