January 8, 2013 by Made In Brum
Nineteen-year-old academy graduate Will Packwood will now be out for at least the rest of the season, after he picked up a very serious injury in the FA Cup game against Leeds. Before I offer my, possibly controversial, opinion on the incident and what the reaction to it has been, I want to make it clear that I was sorry to hear of the injury for a number of reasons.
Purely from a footballing perspective, it was the last thing we needed. We’ve had a lot of injuries to defenders this season, and I felt that given a bit more time and experience being part of the squad, Packwood had, and indeed may yet still have the potential to make that right-back position his own. He has been industrious and energetic, providing another option for us going forward on the flanks, and though his positional sense and timing of tackles hasn’t always been perfect, he’s been a player who will play his heart out for the team, which is exactly what Blues fans love to see.
Furthermore with him at right-back, that would mean that his fellow-American, Jonathon Spector would be able to play as a ball-winner in midfield, by a long way Spector’s best position in my view. When he has to fill in at right-back though, we have to settle for arguably less quality in the middle of the park.
So it’s a blow from a footballing point of view, but also you have to feel for Packwood, his friends and family as well. It was a horrible injury that must have been painful to pick up, and not being able to play for a whole year will be incredibly frustrating for him. In fact, I decided to send him a tweet and write a comment on the BCFC official Facebook page to offer my support. I was heart warmed to see some concerned Leeds fans writing similar messages and the occasional Villa fan even, to perhaps return our support for Petrov- see, they are not arseholes all the time!
However, I feel that collectively, we’ve now done enough to make Packwood feel appreciated by us, and think we should simply move on from it. To offer him much more support, in my opinion, would be excessive of what the situation requires of us. On the Blues Facebook page, I saw a suggestion that because Will is number 24, we should give a round of applause in the 24th minute of the game against Huddersfield.
Now, I first discovered the minute applauding tradition through Club Brugge. In May 2008, their striker Francois Sterchele died in a tragic car accident. His shirt number was 23, so the fans decided to show their respects by giving him a minutes’ applauds on 23 minutes in every match. What a lovely gesture. I was so glad the Blues fans joined in with that both times we played them, to commemorate Sterchele.
I vaguely remember that for one game back in October 2011, just after Gary Speed had inexplicably taken his own life, Leeds fans applauded for the first 11 minutes of their match against Nottingham Forest. Again, it’s a touching sentiment and it was the right thing to do.
However, I’m of the opinion that because that’s how the tradition started (i.e. applauding for the minute that’s the shirt number of the player who died) we shouldn’t change that. If we started to applaud every player who had picked up a long-term injury, it would mean that when someone died, the action wouldn’t be as respectful and special. It would become more of a mundane duty – the opposite of what a minute’s applause is meant to be – and defeat the whole purpose of doing something like that.
There was another suggestion of Huddersfield fans singing: “there’s only one Will Packwood”. That would be a kind thing for them to do, but I’m not sure it would be entirely necessary. The “there’s only one …” chant is one of appreciation of an individual. Let’s be honest- the majority of Huddersfield fans probably haven’t heard of Packwood until the injury. Why should they sing a song like that about him? It’s fair enough to be sorry a player is injured, but dedicating a song to him isn’t really required of them I don’t think.
Apparently, Clark was quite emotional about Packwood’s injury, which I did admire in him to some extent. It does show the human side to Clark, but what I don’t understand is that he said: “Let’s try and win the game for Will.” Indeed, if it and served as such motivation every time we had a player who picked up a big injury this season, we’d be 10 points clear at the top of the league. But of course it doesn’t work like that.
I suppose it’s understandable that Clark was trying to find a way to motivate his team, but to me dedicating a win to an injured player seems a little extreme. If they had lost the game would they be letting Packwood down? My point here, is that people seem to be acting almost as if Packwood has died, or passed out on the football field. I could even understand these marks of respect slightly more if the injury finished his career. But he’s only out for a season!
Certainly it will be hard for him but the reality is that injuries are part and parcel of football. Nobody likes them, but they happen all the time. What worries me is that if these gestures – i.e. a minutes applauds, opposition fans singing about him or the team dedicating a win in their next match to him – do go ahead, then it’ll be like not respecting players who have died as much, because when someone dies the respect will be equal to the respect we give someone when they pick up an injury.
If we go through this process for Packwood, then the slippery slope leads us to doing the same thing for every seriously injured player and that would be a real shame. It would become a regular occurrence and what makes a minutes’ applauds so powerful is that it’s because of choice, rather than principle, that the fans do it. It’s something special and beautiful to watch- I would hate to see that change.
My opinion is, let’s keep things in perspective: Packwood isn’t dead, he wasn’t even actually a key player for us, though I appreciate that that’s irrelevant from a humanitarian viewpoint, but hopefully he’ll be back playing football the next season. In the meantime, let’s get behind the team and create an atmosphere of confidence and self-assuredness, rather than one of worry and pity that’s more concerned about Packwood than the game itself.
By Gabriel Sutton