Beat around the Bush

THE crowds are starting to flock back to Loftus Road, with the feel-good factor tempting many to return to their spiritual home.

In recent seasons the widespread fickle nature of support has been highlighted by the media, building up players and management before turning the situation on its head in a matter of moments.

Whether it’s long-term management who have ‘taken the club as far as they can’ – and now must go, or the recently appointed man who doesn’t seem ‘up to the task’ – supporters in the modern day are quick to vent their frustrations.

A larger crowd therefore brings its own expectations. Rangers saw first-hand last season how the expectancy of a home crowd can in fact crush a campaign or contribute to its implosion.

From Gavin Mahon getting heckled merely for his existence against Ipswich live on Sky, to the Jim Magilton era turning sour, large crowds have played their role by turning on players they formerly idolised.

With greater numbers attending games, particularly at Loftus Road, the burden of responsibility suffers, the genuine supporters are somewhat diluted, and the noise levels only rise when prompted by the play on the field.

The noise levels against Norwich City in the last home fixture clearly suffered where they should have thrived – over 15,000 home supporters relatively mute when their side needed them most.

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Should the crowd be the driving force in the club’s bid for promotion, or should the players dictate the momentum of the crowd? Some would say it’s a two-way street and both have their role to play.

There are few better places in football than Loftus Road when the noise levels rise and, with Neil Warnock doing his best to temper expectations, the crowd have been responsive to the effort of their side on the whole.

As expectations rise, so do the crowds and henceforth the conundrum continues. Warnock can continue to pour scorn on Rangers’ position, but there comes a point where supporters will start to believe the hype.

The vast spectrum of support will see things in different ways, but it is the vocal minority that ultimately speak for fans on the day – if they remain silent or, worse still, vent their frustration at under-performing players, it can cause issues as seen in previous years.

The hope is that the roller-coaster ride, which inevitably contributed to the delirium and anxiety of the crowd in previous years, has now stopped.

Despite the relatively muted crowd last time out, fans can certainly look forward to having plenty to cheer about should Rangers’ current form be maintained.