Where Are Those Happy Days, They Seem So Hard to Find…
There is an Italian saying, which I think is quite apt for Fiorentina fans, and not just in the current situation. ‘Dalle stelle alle stalle’ which means ‘From the stars to the stables’. It’s nothing new for us, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been a Viola supporter for decades, or for just a few months. It goes with the territory, and many of us have become so accustomed to the feeling that we’re almost afraid to dream big, to get our hopes up. Then, for a while, things start to change, an optimism creeps in, and it can even be enjoyable, and the suffering and disappointments are temporarily forgotten.
Once I Never Could Hope to Win…
After the last few seasons when it had become painful to watch a team without identity, without passion, without ambition, this season, things have changed. Vincenzo Italiano wasn’t the first choice of the club, and after the whole Gattuso disaster, it was hard to have much optimism. Apart from Nicolás González and Lucas Torreira, the summer transfer window hadn’t brought much change to a squad that had struggled against relegation. Álvaro Odriozola came in on loan but was hardly expected to set the world alight. Returning from loan periods were Riccardo Saponara, Marco Benassi, Alfred Duncan, and Riccardo Sottil, not exactly cause for much excitement among the fans, but we would finally get to see Youssef Maleh in action.
Once the new season got going, we realised that we had a manager who had been able to turn this group of players into a squad. We had a team who were capable of playing attractive football, and although there were disappointments along the way, the defeats at Venezia and Empoli especially, we were in a much better place than we had anticipated or become accustomed to. After 17 games, where it was a case of the winner takes it all, we already had more victories than we had managed in the entire previous season. We were in fifth place, dreaming of a return to European football. Inevitably, a couple of draws eventually came, followed by a heavy defeat to Torino, but this was a team capable of bouncing back. They did it in style, with a 6-0 thrashing of Genoa, and there was an enthusiasm around the club.
Vlahović had scored 17 league goals by January, plus three in the Coppa Italia, and selling Serie A’s top scorer in January seemed like it could bring an end to those glory days. We returned to the days of division among the fans, you were either with Rocco or against him, you either agreed with the decision to sell now, or you couldn’t understand how it could happen. The talk was more about balancing the club’s finances than what was needed on the pitch.
Whatever Happened To Our Love, I Wish I Understood, It Used To Be So Nice, It Used To Be So Good…
Once we all got over that dramatic period, life on the field got back to normal. While it’s true that we have struggled for goals since losing our Serbian striker, our points average per game has remained pretty much as it was. While the results were still coming, many of us had made our peace with what had happened in January’s transfer window. Now that the team is struggling to keep pace, now that the defeats are coming just when we thought glory was within reach, suddenly the sale of Vlahović is to blame again.
Did anybody really expect Arthur Cabral to replace our top scorer? We may have hoped so, and that together with Krzysztof Piątek, we could have enough firepower to get us to the end of the season. Unfortunately, this club has a habit in recent times, of bringing in players in January that are either not quite what we need or are not ready to contribute just when we need them the most. This can definitely also be said of Jonathan Ikoné, but let’s remember, these are the people who tried to convince us that Kokorin was the man for the job a year previously.
The Threats You Made Were Meant To Cut Me Down, And If Our Love Was Just A Circus You’d Be A Clown By Now
Now, while I am as disappointed as anyone with our recent results and performances, it seems like there are many who were just waiting for this to happen. The usual people who love to say they told us so. I’m glad to see that the fans who matter, those at the stadium, were fully behind the team yesterday, even after a 4-0 loss, they still cheered and sang in support of our players.
It’s a very different world online, where people think it’s perfectly normal to abuse the team, abuse individual players. We have the pathetic spectacle of people demanding that the players apologise, some even asking that the club refund the money the fans paid for their match ticket. Luckily, these are not people who actually go to the games, because nobody who was there would look for their money back. This is football, someone wins, someone loses, you play well, you play badly, if you can’t accept that, then maybe it’s time to find some other way of passing your time.
Taking your frustrations out in this way is just embarrassing. True, the team haven’t lived up to expectations in recent games, but these expectations have been raised so high, because of these players and our manager. While everyone has the right to criticize and it’s perfectly normal to analyse and be disappointed, after the season that we have had I personally find it sickening to see so-called fans turning on their team so quickly. Vincenzo Italiano wasn’t Pep Guardiola before but he’s not Beppe Iachini now.
It may simply be that this team has run out of gas a little too soon. We’ve also had our injury problems of late, especially in the middle of the field. Italiano decided to bring back players who had been missing for a while, players who a lot of fans were demanding should be in the team. As we saw, not all of these players are match fit, Giacomo Bonaventura was well off the pace yesterday evening, and these are decisions and mistakes that cost us. Daniele Pradè has a habit of telling us after every transfer window that the squad is complete, nothing more could have been done. Unfortunately, he has been proved wrong time and time again. If this is a squad which has run out of steam, which lacks energy, it’s because a lot of players don’t have a viable alternative.
And Did You Think This Fool Could Never Win? Well Look At Me, I’m Coming Back Again
Since this season started, all I have asked or wanted from this team, is to be able to enjoy watching Fiorentina again. I never expected trophies, and European qualification was not something that I saw as an objective. We ended up reaching the Coppa Italia semi-final, and did I dare to dream that I could maybe, just maybe, finally see my team lift a trophy? Well, maybe just a little, and that’s something I haven’t been able to do for a while, and we now have a team that has given us back the right to dream, to hope, something which all football fans need at some point.
These two most recent league defeats hurt exactly because we had allowed ourselves to dream, our expectations were raised, and that’s when we’re at our most vulnerable. Other team’s results had gone our way, glory was there for the taking, only to let it slip away just as it came within reach.
Inside We Both Know What’s Been Going On, We Know The Game And We’re Gonna Play It
It really doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it happen, how many times you’ve let yourself be disappointed, it still hurts. Losing on penalties to Glasgow Rangers, when a European final was there for the taking, qualifying for the Champions League only for Calciopoli to take it away, losing both a European and a Coppa Italia semi-final in one season, in the fight for the league title only to see us attempt to strengthen our squad with the likes of Tino Costa, Yohan Benalouane, and Kone (yes this was another Pradè transfer window). These are just some of the disappointments since I’ve been a fan and having started supporting a team that had just won a Coppa Italia and then got relegated and went bust, I probably should have known what the future would hold.
Don’t Lose Your Grip On The Dreams Of The Past, You Must Fight Just To Keep Them Alive
Those who have been fans for even longer will have even more of these stories to tell, but who can ever forget the 1934/35 season?! This was only the fourth season that Fiorentina had competed in the top division, and for a long time it looked like they could actually win their first ever Serie A title.
While Fiorentina now had their first Italian manager, Guido Ara, two of their top players were foreigners, Carlos Gringa of Uruguay, and János Nehadoma from Hungary. There was plenty of other quality players in the squad, top scorer Vinicio Viani, keeper Ugo Amoretti who would later be snapped by Juventus, the two Marios, Pizziolo and Perazzolo, Renzo Magli who had been at the club since the Serie B days along with Bruno Neri, and Cinzio Scagliotti, a forward who would go on to play for Juventus and Milan.
They opened the campaign with a 4-1 win over Roma, with Gringa scoring twice, which was followed by a 1-1 draw with Milan at the San Siro. On matchday six, after a 3-2 win over Napoli, they were top of the table on their own, having previously shared the top spot with first Juventus and then Lazio. After another three wins, including a 5-3 win away to Lazio, Fiorentina now had a three point lead over Roma in second place. After 12 games, they had extended their lead to four points, with reigning champions Juventus now in second place. The Viola suffered their first defeat in January at Bologna but closed the first half of the season with a scoreless draw away to Juventus, which kept them two points ahead of their closest rivals.
In March, another defeat, at Pro Vercelli, was followed by a draw at Palermo, allowing Juventus to join them level at the top. Fiorentina were now struggling to win, and another two consecutive draws allowed Juve to take a one point lead. A defeat away to Torino was softened by the fact that Juventus had also lost to Triestina, but Ambrosiana Inter were now on top after winning the Milan derby. With just two games left to play, Fiorentina were one point behind both Juventus and Ambrosiana. Winning both of those would have given the Viola the league title, but defeat at Alessandria left them three points behind the leaders, and out of the race before the final game.
That final game came in Florence, against Juventus. Ambrosiana’s 4-2 defeat at Lazio on the last day, meant that a draw would be enough for Juventus, but a goal in the last ten minutes by Giovanni Ferrari gave the visitors a 1-0 win. Juventus won the title in Florence, and Fiorentina had to settle for a third-place finish. It’s remarkable to think, that even before the Second World War, Fiorentina fans were already getting used to this type of delusion, in fact just three seasons later they would suffer relegation.
It’s A Game of Give and Take, You Can’t Hurry Love
Stories like this show that what we’re going through now is nothing new. Football fans are often made to suffer for their loyalty, but there is still no need to stoop to insulting your own players. The problem at Fiorentina is that after some great performances, players are treated as if they are world beaters, but at the first mistake, they suddenly become worthless.
Other players get treated as scapegoats, easy targets for when things go wrong. It doesn’t matter what they do, or how badly others perform, they will still get the blame. It’s happened to Amrabat, Castrovilli, Biraghi, and the latest is Venuti. Then there are others, such as Callejón, who as soon as they enter the field, people online are straight away making their sarcastic comments, even though he may do better than others on the pitch.
Hey Now, Hey Now, Don’t Dream It’s Over
I find all of this frustrating in a season where this team has entertained us, given us many memorable performances, and while the mood right now is one of pessimism and failure, we are still in with a chance of qualifying for Europe. With just four games left to play, I think the majority of us would have grabbed that prospect with both hands at the start of the season. Many will look at the calendar, the remaining games, and say that it’s all over. True, three of the teams that we still have to face are ahead of us in the league. Milan are top of the table, and looking to win the Scudetto, Roma are one of our main rivals for a European place, and Juventus could now overtake Napoli.
Don’t Stop Believin’, Hold On To That Feelin’
What people tend to forget, is that this team is capable of pulling off surprises, of lifting their game for these big matches. Our worst defeats have come against the likes of Udinese, Venezia, Torino, and Empoli, while we have beaten Milan, Napoli, Atalanta, and drawn with Inter. So why should we already give up? True, we look a tired team right now, but maybe there is still one last push to come from this squad. The fans at the stadium will certainly give their all and get right behind the team as they have always done. Maybe it’s time for those online to do the same, or to at least refrain from the personal insults and abuse of a team they claim to support.