Hatters boss John Still has spoken of his pride in Town captain Ronnie Henry after he hit out against a minority of Town’s fans after the 3-2 win over Lincoln City on Saturday, writes Mike Simmonds.
Henry was involved in a spat with a Luton supporter at the final whistle and then gave an interview afterwards to the club’s official Hatters Player in which he spoke of the abuse he and his team-mates had been receiving recently.
At this afternoon’s press conference, Still said: “I’m quite proud of Ronnie for standing up for his team mates.
“I’m quite proud of him not allowing people to be abusive, using vile, disgusting language in a football stadium, that we hope is for families, I don’t think that’s right.
“There’s nothing wrong with people being unhappy and venting their frustrations sometimes, that’s football.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure that it was the right thing for Ronnie to do, but I understand it 100 per cent.
“In my time here, I would say that 90 odd per cent has been brilliant, home and away.
“But probably Ronnie got upset by a comment made by somebody when the game was half way through.
“When you’re supporting something, I think you support it, give it everything you’ve got 100 per cent.
“It goes beyond support when it becomes racial, discriminative and abusive.
“There’s nothing wrong with saying come on liven up, but when it goes over that, it is a problem and it would hurt me when one per cent, two per cent spoil that for the 98 per cent.
“I think Ronnie Henry stood up for his team-mates, I applaud him for that. I support him because sometimes you have to stand up to at times, to what can be classified as bullying.
“Because when people cannot respond to it and when people can’t respond to something, I class that as a form bullying.
“So to the person who caused that and to people in general that find vile, abusive behaviour acceptable, I don’t.
“I don’t think my players should, I don’t think the football club should and I don’t think our supporters should.
“Because if our supporters want to have people that want to play for Luton, people who want to support Luton, then they have to be the right kind of supporters to encourage people to come along to the games.”
Henry invited the supporter in question along to the club to make his opinion known to him and the rest of the players, a plea that Still echoed.
He said: “As disappointed as I am with the person who made the comment, I’m actually saying to him, if you’re a man, if you have an opinion that you think should be heard, come in and see us.
“Tell us your opinion and we’ll try to say to you, listen, if you’re unhappy we understand, but it shouldn’t get to the point where it becomes abusive.
“If I was that person that criticised at half time, I would have sat down (at full time), pulled my coat over my head and said nothing, because he hasn’t contributed to that.
“I just feel that for all of the people that contributed, fantastic, thanks very much, long may it last.”
Since the interview, Henry has received plenty of support via Twitter, and it’s something Still admitted has taken him aback.
He said: “The response we’ve had from supporters in general has knocked me over, saying they agree with that.
“Since Saturday, there’s an unbelievable amount of people that have emailed in and I couldn’t tell you the amount of emails and things I got.”
Henry also mentioned the negativity from some supporters is starting to affect the younger players within Town’s squad, but Still added: “I don’t know completely, because these players are still developing and I can’t say yet whether their development has been affected or not, they’re not far enough up the line.
“But tell me anyone, anyone, that enjoys abuse. I don’t think anybody is above criticism put constructively, I think it’s a massive part of learning.
“Like your children growing up, it isn’t any different because they’re growing up in football.
“Would you use vile, abusive, insulting language to your kids when they’re growing up, when you’re trying to teach them something.
“Ask yourself the question, these are young men that sometimes don’t play well, well that happens.
“And if you’re disappointed with them, I understand that and if you voice a bit of criticism I understand that as well.
“But not to the extent that Ronnie felt that this supporter was doing.
“Sometimes players don’t play well and sometimes supporters don’t feel well so they many not cheer as loud.
“That’s natural, but what isn’t natural is the sort of abuse. I don’t think that’s right.”
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