Now that Fabricio Coloccini has personally rubbished any rumors of a January trip to Argentina, it is worth reflecting on a stressful situation for the player, club, and supporters. Perhaps it was just a reflection of a soul-sucking 2012-13 season, but the speed with which many fans turned on Coloccini was disappointing. Considering so many of us turn to sports as an escape from whatever else may be going on in our lives, maybe we've forgotten that our favorite athletes do have lives outside of the sport we love to watch them play.
Even while enjoying his role as captain and the environment at the club, the pressure of Coloccini's family situation could easily have placed some nagging doubts in his mind. To me, at least, it's not surprising that he would decide to talk to officials at Newcastle about those feelings in a vulnerable moment, even if he wasn't staying awake every night thinking about returning to Argentina with his family.
Though Coloccini has not been at his best for much of the year, there has been nothing credible to suggest he's acted unprofessionally. His performance against Norwich, as the drama around him swirled to a climax, was perhaps his best of the season. He did write, or at least sign, a curious letter to San Lorenzo fans last week, but the English translation was likely misunderstood by those of us with Newcastle sympathies. Sentiment can be difficult to capture when switching from one language to another.
Fans have also criticized Coloccini for not being a more demonstrative leader on the pitch during poor performances. Kevin Nolan was perfectly willing to shout and point, of course, and most of us still have that image fresh in our minds. But in some ways, urging a captain to be louder is simply a way to say, "show us you care as much as we do, because we don't believe you." Supporters here in Boston are notorious for praising the passion of those who scream and yell, while denigrating those who go about their work quietly. If other players need Coloccini to yell at them in order to respond, they're the ones who should get the criticism.
And being vocal is not always a sign of great leadership, particularly when it comes from a struggling player. No one lauds Danny Simpson for his initiative when yelling at teammates, and West Ham fans' thoughts about Nolan should be reiterated for those still pining after him.
There's no worse time to suffer a crisis of confidence than when captaining a club teetering over the relegation zone. But of all the question marks still hanging over Newcastle United at the moment, Coloccini's performance is not high on the list. Mark my words: the captain will do as much as anyone to keep Newcastle up this season.