Dundee United blog: The curious case of Ryan Dow and Received Wisdom


1556There’s an old 1960s Doctor Who story from the William Hartnell Era called The Gunfighters. In the early 1980s, before VCRs were widely available and certainly before anyone got a chance to watch it for a second time – if indeed they’d seen it at all – a guidebook called “Doctor Who: A Celebration” rated The Gunfighters as the worst Doctor Who story ever.

This was one man’s opinion based on the hazy memory of 100 minutes of TV he watched across four weeks, nearly 20 years earlier.

And yet it became the Received Wisdom. It became the generally accepted belief that The Gunfighters was the worst Doctor Who story ever.

Now obviously the show has been repeated since then and that “wisdom” has turned out to be nonsense; it’s actually one of the better stories. But some people still can’t get past that initial review.

A quick trip to the Customer Reviews of the story on Amazon shows that some people still believe the hype. According to one man… “most fans consider The Gunfighters to be the worst Dr Who Adventure Ever”, and yet while he says he enjoyed it and was “in stitches” watching Episode Four, he felt it would be “unobjective” to give it a higher rating than two stars.

So he enjoyed it, but because he’s always held this belief that it’s rubbish, and because someone else said so, he feels he can’t rate it the way he wants to.

That shows the power of Received Wisdom, and that’s something I actively seek to challenge in my writing (I don’t just write about Scottish Football, you know, I have – cheap plug alert – my own entertainment review site over at http://stuartreviewssstuff.wordpress.com )

Where am I go with this?

Well I believe Received Wisdom plays a major part in the thinking of some Scottish Football fans.

You’ve only got to look at the Top six predictions people give every year. In Scotland, the default setting is to suggest that clubs like Aberdeen, Dundee United, Hearts or Hibs will finish as best of the rest because they are the bigger clubs, and therefore they must be the best equipped to make a challenge.

And that’s in spite of the less fashionable sides like St. Johnstone – with solid yet unfancied players like Frazer Wright, Allan Mannus and Dave Mackay among their line-up – never putting in anything less than solid performances week in and week out.

The same can be said about the way fans rate the players at their own clubs.

Last Friday, Dundee United kicked off their season against Partick Thistle, and eyebrows were instantly raised when the team sheet showed that Gary Mackay Steven was only on the bench.

But it wasn’t just that he was on the bench; he was on the bench while Ryan Dow was in the starting lineup.

I think most people were surprised about that, and rightly so, but the most interesting thing for me was the reaction online afterwards.

At the end of the game, you’d see threads on internet forums, tweets on Twitter and status updates on Facebook criticising the performance and singling out poor Dow as the scapegoat.

“Why the *bleep* was Ryan Dow playing?!”
“He never did anything all game”
“He should be dropped next week”

In the run-up to this Saturday’s game against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, you probably won’t find one single observer listing Dow in their preferred starting line-up.

Did Dow do badly last Friday? No, I don’t think he did. He wasn’t amazing, but he was one of the few players to carve out a chance for himself, to regularly create space and to track back and tackle.

As much as fans are keen to embrace Ryan Gauld, Stuart Armstrong, Nadir Çiftci and GMS, none of them played noticeably more effectively than Dow and yet you’d be hard pushed to find anywhere near the amount of criticism that came Dow’s way. In Armstrong’s case, he was probably our weakest link, failing time and again to help Paul Paton cover and defend in the centre of midfield.

So why has Dow copped a lot of the flak? Because the Received Wisdom – perpetuated by opinionated gits like me on blogs like this – states that Ryan Dow is not good enough.

And so he will always be looked upon in a more negative light, consciously or unconsciously, by a chunk of the fan base.

For GMS to get praise, all he has to do is one little trick that probably won’t amount to anything.

For Dow to get praise? He’d probably have to score a hat trick and save a penalty in place of an injured goalkeeper.

It’s not fair, but it’s the way it seems to be.

This season I’m going to approach each game as it comes and try my best to judge players on that rather than on how good or bad we rate them based on their reputation.

If everyone does that, maybe Ryan Dow can win some fans over. I hope so anyway.


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