As humans, we all have to have a certain amount of self-belief. Yes, there is also impostor syndrome, but if we don’t believe in ourselves, the old fake it until you make it gets used. It’s also the case that as humans, if we’re having a hard time in our personal lives, things can sometimes fail to go the way we want them to at work. Even if things are perfect, mistakes get made and people have off periods.
It happens to the best of us, and it’s certainly happening to Jesse Lingard right now. His form has fallen off a cliff – and there are plenty of people who will tell you the cliff can’t have been that high because he simply wasn’t that good in the first place. That might be the case, but the level of vitriol and abuse being levelled at the Manchester United player is astounding. It’s also wrong.
Lingard himself has done a lengthy interview talking about his off the field situation, caring for not only his young daughter but his siblings as their parents are going through hard times, and that’s the stuff we know about. Even without that, there is absolutely no reason for what is quite frankly bullying on social media that the player is receiving.
There is a level, of course. Yes, by all means you can say someone isn’t quite good enough for the club or you don’t fancy them as a player. My husband will tell you my head nearly exploded when we gave Juan Cuadrado the number 11 shirt in the post-Drogba era, such was my utter disdain for him. But you know as a human being, with feelings, that abusing someone week in, week out, relentlessly on social media is wrong. Players read these comments, their families read them.
In a recent Taylor Swift documentary, she explained how it feels to have your name trending worldwide because people are abusing you, the sheer number of comments that means the trend happens – and how upsetting that is. Right now, that’s what Lingard is getting every time he takes to the field.
That’s before we even get to the abuse that crosses the line from being mean to being outright racist – and Lingard deals with a huge amount of that as well. If you were being abused all the time – and relentlessly at that - one of two things will happen. You’re either going to crumble and let it impact you so badly you can’t leave the house, let alone do your job well, or you’re going to have to shut the haters out and become even more self-confident. Lingard, it seems has done half of one and half of the other.
Media reports claiming he thinks he’s one of the best number tens in the world are either peak trolling or absolutely wild if that is what Lingard thinks or is being genuinely told, but he’s far from a useless player. He could easily thrive at a different club, under a different manager, and maybe a move to a league abroad like Serie A could suit him down to the ground. I’d wager Antonio Conte could make him look a top-class player in Italy, he managed it with Victor Moses in England after all.
The point of writing this isn’t even to defend him as a player. I wouldn’t take him at Chelsea but tweeting Lingard multiple times a week or a game saying "GET OUT OF MY CLUB" and other less savoury, far less printable things is absolutely not.
Let’s be honest, if someone knocked on your door and offered you the chance to play for your boyhood club for money that will set you up for life, you’re going to say yes, even if you know you’re not good enough. Lingard is a boy who is following his dream, trying his best and dealing with a huge amount personally. It’s time to leave him alone and stop talking about being kind and start practising it.