Oh my God. I now read in the on-line Bristol Post (I am still far too bitter and twisted to actually buy the wretched rag after they fired me from my unpaid Bristol Rovers column in 2006), that Darrell Clarke’s players were subjected to “a minority of two-fingered salutes” and “chants of ‘what a load of rubbish'” from an unspecified number of Gasheads after their “absolutely woeful” performance at Shrewsbury. Post hack James McNamara concludes that it was the prerogative of supports to heap abuse on the players on the grounds that they spent a lot of money travelling to the game. I am not going to agree with him on that one.

Whilst I do agree that it was always going to be unlikely that fans would be cheering their (former?) heroes off the pitch after a poor performance, I am at a loss to understand what use it is to anyone to see the players booed off the pitch.

Myt firm belief is that the vast majority of players always try of their best and sometimes things just don’t work out. That is not to say that their best is always good enough or, to make things even more complex, not as good as they are capable of. What on earth do I mean by that? I’ll try and explain.

As well as trying hard, possessing skill, being well coached; mental stuff comes into it, positive and negative. If your contract is up and you know it is not going to be renewed, it is possible that you may lose a few percent of your game. The same if you are out on loan and your future is unclear. The latter could, of course, work both ways. With an uncertain future, a player may up his work rate or his work rate could dip. And sometimes, confidence goes. And confidence, aligned with heart and desire, is everything. Lose a game through stupid mistakes and you might be less inclined to take a risk, a loss of adventure, playing safe. Crowd criticism cannot be ignored either. If a volley of abuse greets a mistake, a human being could become fearful of making another one. The football before you might well be a load of rubbish but no one is trying to play badly. If you were an electrician and a householder stood above you, swearing and saying how useless you were, the end product of your work might not be as good, especially if you made a mistake along the way, or dropped something.

The paper also asks if Darrell Clarke “is facing his biggest challenge yet” at Bristol Rovers and concludes he isn’t, but he is because this is the nature of the modern footballing beast. You know and I know that Clarke does not deserve the dreaded vote of confidence – that is to say the sack – because of a wobble after two years of wonderful success at a club where, along with the new owners, he has restored honour and pride. But the more I say how ridiculous it is, the more bad results that come along, the more “two-fingered salutes” the players will endure. Thus we, the supporters, create a downward spiral that often becomes unstoppable until…oh, let’s not go there.

It was inevitable that Bristol Rovers would one day have a bad run. The law of averages suggests it is certain that you don’t win forever. It’s how you deal with setbacks that defines you.

Clarke will know better than any of us what is wrong with his team and where he needs to strengthen. As a passionate football man, he will be hurting as much as any of us with our current blip. So we, as supporters, have a simple choice: do we get behind the manager and team until our fortunes improve or do we get on their backs and pile the pressure on?

We have been here so many times before you would have thought we had learned. It was believed that during Nick Higgs’ disastrous period of ownership that a revolving door had been installed at the manager’s office, such was his propensity to sack managers and then appoint equally crap ones. Darrell Clarke, I think we know, has not been a crap manager. If, as some say, he has been “found out” as a manager, he will be able to disprove that theory by evolving, changing and growing into the job.

The trouble is with football these days is that we demand constant success and when it doesn’t always come – which it can’t – we demand change, confusing it as success. Clarke has been manager at the Rovers for just over two years. That’s a long time for managers these days, but if you want to gamble on a return to hiring and firing a manager every few weeks and hoping for the best you are probably also pining for a boardroom return for Higgs, Barry Bradshaw and Toni Watola, something that would be as helpful for the Rovers as rabies in a home for guide dogs.