Do we need to talk about Grot? Yes? Okay. Let’s talk about Grot.
Christiansen not happy with the crowd jeering Grot after he came on. Said it's a "problem" and said he wants people to stick together. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) December 16, 2017
Leeds United head coach Thomas Christiansen was disappointed to hear Leeds fans jeer and boo Jay-Roy Grot when the young Dutch forward was subbed into the match on the weekend against Norwich City. Grot got a lot of abuse from the fans when he came on the pitch and he got even more when he lost the ball in the midfield and later went down injured.
It appears that the fans have turned on the young forward, and honestly, it’s disappointing to see. Grot has all of the physical tools to be a dominant player. To borrow a phrase from the NBA, you can’t coach height. He’s big and quick, and when he plays, physically, he looks like a man amongst boys. The problem is, of course, is that he is only 19 years old, and probably shouldn’t be playing in the first team right now.
Following in the footsteps of players including Eddie Gray and Gary Speed, Jay-Roy Grot will wear the number 11 shirt pic.twitter.com/gBubRAzEvX— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 24, 2017
When he was signed, I questioned the wisdom of tweeting out things like “following in the footsteps of players including Eddie Gray and Gary Speed” because it was adding needless pressure to the player. The club even had a contest to win a signed shirt to go along with his signing. Gjanni Alioski and Samu Saiz, established stars who had already proven themselves, did not get such a welcome from the club. And while it could have been the club trying to celebrate a signing right after Chris Wood was transferred to Burnley, it was still not helpful to hype up Grot as much as they did.
In fact, the hyping up of Grot by the club added to an unnatural amount of expectations for him. Pawel Cibicki, who is two years older, didn’t get nearly the amount of hype from the club when he joined from Malmo, and he hasn’t gotten the abuse that Grot has, despite appearing less and seeming to have even less of an impact until the past two games. The only other player that came with as much fanfare as Grot was Pierre-Michel Lasogga, and he was an established Bundesliga goal-scorer brought in on loan, not a teenager, and he’s received his share of abuse from fans.
Christiansen also does Grot no favours as well. I’m not sure what Grot is supposed to learn playing 10 minutes a week, coming on in the dying embers of a match when the club either needs to lock down defensively or when the club is chasing a goal. His play looks disjointed, as if he isn’t on the same page as his teammates, which, to be fair, he probably isn’t. It’s a big leap from the Eredivisie to the Championship, and Grot only scored seven goals last year for NEC. He’s gotten two starts in the Carabao Cup so far this season, and while he didn’t look great in those matches, he at least looked like he’s in the game, unlike what’s been going on when he’s brought on the pitch late in a match now.
Fans have every right to boo anyone they want. Everyone paid good money to sit in those seats and they don’t need the club telling them not to be mean to players. And while it’s not useful, it is a bit cathartic to express your disappointment with decisions that the referee, the managers, or the players have made. It may not be the “right” thing to do, but you can understand the frustration of fans. Football matches tend to stir the emotions, and if you want the fans to sing their hearts out for the team, you’re going to have to tolerate a little dissent now and again. That being said, abusing Grot while he’s sitting on the ground with a head injury isn’t going to help him, no matter how annoyed the fans are at his appearance in the match.
However, if Christiansen wants Leeds fans to lay off Grot, then he needs to put him in a position to succeed. Bringing him on late in matches for a brief appearance doesn’t seem to be working. Grot needs playing time to adjust to England and to the club. He’d benefit greatly from a loan, but since he played one match for NEC in the second division in The Netherlands before his transfer to Leeds, it doesn’t appear that he can go on loan to another club in January.
Christiansen and the club may not like that fans are disappointed with Grot, but they really only have themselves to blame. The fans saw the hype, got excited about the new “star” from overseas, and were naturally disappointed when he hasn’t worked out as well as the club touted that he would. You can’t tweet out things comparing the poor kid to Eddie Gray or Gary Speed and then turn around and wonder why fans are upset with him. The club hasn’t make many PR mistakes since Andrea Radrizzani took over the club, but this one has got to be the biggest one. Fans should lay off jeering and booing Grot, not because it’s mean or the “wrong” thing to do, but because none of this is his fault.