WHATEVER they say, tonight’s Credit Card Cup clash is Liverpool’s least important game this month. It comes on a midweek sandwiched between two Champions League games, hot on the heels of a defeat to West Ham and before a crucial Mersey derby on Saturday where defeat could leave them playing catch-up already.
Without the extra bit up front and with an iconic skipper who suddenly looks ordinary, Liverpool look fallible. It seems a club suffering a crisis of confidence. And they will have early-rounds-of-the-cup specialist Brad Jones in goal for a game that most of the players will not really want. Many will be thinking they should be in the first team. A couple may be saving themselves for Everton. One of two have barely played this season. Boro in contrast are in good form, in high spirits and as underdogs have nothing to lose.
As the cliche goes, it is a “good” time to play them.
So, usual drill, I’ll get a blog up as soon as workload/driving time/sleep allows after the game while you dissect it yourselves. In the meantime You Are The Pundit: give us your score predictions and script how the game will pan out and we can all applaud your prescience/laugh at your naivety later on.
For me: Liverpool 1 Boro 2. We’ll nick one early on then dig in to defend before getting a second in a good spell as they wilt. Late consolation for them in an empty stadium.
OPTIONS all over the place. Not just for Aitor. Where to start reflecting on bubbling Boro’s polished and potent performance against Bee-leagured Brentford?
The goals? Boro don’t do boring routine goals. They don’t scramble home scruffy six yard toe-pokes in a messy penalty area scrum or have average shots take a deflection and skid or spin over the line. No, Boro only do spectacular long range sizzlers or perfectly engineered effort at the end of sweeping moves or deft text book finishes.
Just a quick one before our annual bout of dragon slaying. As usual you can put your money where your mouth is and make your score predictions and script out the drama here so we can come back later and hail your prescient pundit power or point at laugh at such woefully wishful thinking. My daft quid is on a 1-1 draw with Kike netting, But what do I know?
I’ll try and get a blog up as soon as possible after the game but given the time difference and the cross-border cyber customs control I’m not sure when that will be. So you’ll have to talk among yourselves.
We’ve just driven into Cardiff and the shape of the Millenium Stadium appeared through a wispy haze of nostalgic yearning. It’s a long time ago now. But it still raises hackles. I think we will nip into The Gatekeeper for a nostalgic pre-match pint. Every little helps.
Meantime, as we are waiting for kick-off, here’s a bit I did in the steam driven print product today on how, 10 years on, Teesside should start to reclaim the legacy of Ayresome hero Brian Clough, One of our own.
THE game at Huddersfield was supposed to be about the “Football Inevitability Drive” showdown between summer shirt-swappees Clayton and Butterfield. But instead the mooted midfield head-to-head turned into a bad-tempered toe-to-toe tear-up.
BORO were the third biggest net spenders in a busy summer as Aitor Karanka completely rebuilt his first team. That came as a bit of a surprise.
Keeping a mental tally of the ins and outs (Boro shelled out for Kike, Husband, Clayton and Wildschutt but flogged Emnes, Jutkiewicz, Butterfield and Smallwood), it seemed the overall outlay was relatively modest on fees while the perception is always that a host of other ambitious sides are throwing cash about like a sailor on shore leave.
Patience is a virtue: That should be the new club motto. Certainly when the transfer window is open.
Boro’s shopping strategy over the summer has had the stony-faced intensity of World Staring Out Championship final. They have pitched the project to their targets, courted them, flattered them and sold them a vision and a role in it. Then they have made their offer – fair, firm and final – to the other club.
COME ON Boro! Haven’t you signed anyone YET? Get your finger out.
Welcome aboard our multi-platform breakfast to bongs rolling 24 hour news style scrolling ticker tape of destiny. On blog. On twitter. And on the Gazettelive website. I’m wearing my yellow socks. I’ve got the beer and Pringles in. It’s going to be a long one. Maybe. Actually it will probably be weighted more to breakfast than bongs.
Our mooted two new boys – Jelle Vossen and Yanic Wildschut should be getting up round about now and mooching around the Spa or heading towards the Orangery for breakfast after a good night’s sleep at Rockliffe. Soon they will be ready to complete.
THE TWO week break couldn’t have come at a better time for Boro. The certainly need to regroup, reassess and reinforce a team that is still not the finished article.
The 1-0 defeat to Reading was a major blow. Hot on the heels of the home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday it shows that Boro, for all their patient probing and possession, still struggle to break down archetypal Championship sides. Wednesday sat deep, knocked it long to a big man and caused mayhem at the book; Reading snatched an early lead then set out to spoil, frustrate and waste time and did it very effectively.
But for all the natural angst in the crowd that the reshaped squad has yet to live up to the hype after a summer of spending, this new look Boro remains work in progress.
PATIENCE is a virtue. After a will-he, won’t he week long wait, Patrick Bamford has opted to sign for Boro on a year long loan. He is fast, direct, good in the air and comes with a proven goal-scoring record in the Championship. He will be a useful addition to the team, taking some of the burden off Kike and adding tactical options as well as firepower.
But a lot of Boro fans would have given up on him long again. Plenty would have blown him out last week when he asked for time to think about joining our heroes. Some got in a real Paddy on Twitter and made their point forcefully if not diplomatically. How dare he want to mull over a move to mighty Boro at a pivotal point in his career! Who does he think he is? And how soft were the club to let him take the Micky like that? We should tell him to sign on the dotted here and now or leg it! Or words to that effect.
But it doesn’t work like that.
TWO LATE Grant Leadbitter piledriver penalties threw bungling Boro a lifeline but that can’t disguise the fact that for long spells they were thrashing around out of their depth in a shambolic 3-2 defeat at the Riverside