ZDS 25: You Never Forget Your First Time

INCREDIBLY it was 25 years ago today that 34,000 emotional Teessiders made the long-awaited first ever pilgrimage to Wembley. And it was fantastic.

Boro were second Division relegation strugglers with the boss booted out just a fortnight before, and we were about to take the football world by storm.

March 25, 1990 was the delirious day a collective schoolboy dream came true.

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Cherry Bombed: Bum Note Boro Implode

I WAS going to write tonight but I’m knackered, I’ve got a cold and I’ve just spent six hours in a car, much of it listening to overgrown infant Matt Dawson screeching like a buffoon about egg-chasing in full Question of Sport “banter”  mode. Then I got home and opened twitter to find a swathe of kneejerk comments from combustible fans who clearly believe that you are only as good as your last game and the world is ending.

It seems  that the previous games in the Week of Destiny, the points tally and the position going into the last seven games count for nothing and that the spirited sweat soaked team who were heroes of Tuesday are now suddenly a feckless, spineless bunch of talentless wasters who chose deliberately to lose because they “didn’t fancy it.”

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A Pivotal Point In The Promotion Push

THE WIN over Derby felt like a pivotal point in the promotion battle. It felt like a seismic shift in the balance of forces. It felt like the landscape has been reshaped in the in the psychology and the maths and the momentum at the top. It felt fantastic.

This “Week of Destiny” has been looming large for months and lets be honest here, some people have been wetting themselves over it. If you are that way inclined and spend most of your time viewing events through a jaundiced flaw-magnifying telescope of scorn predicting that the next match is a looming disaster then you would have seen this Titanic trio of tussles as the point where the wheels would come off, where the inherent obvious weaknesses in the team were exposed and “typical Boro” collapsed.

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Back On Tractor The Top

BORO blasted clear of the four way share of the summit with an emphatic 4-1 win over Ipswich - briefly – then were reeled back in again during the afternoon games to squeeze onto the summit alongside Bournemouth and Watford as the crazy, cut-throat division continued to confound and constrict . It is going to be like that all the way in from here now.  Just staying focussed and banking points by hook or by crook will be key.

It was a good day’s work. A win was vital to start the “Week of Destiny” with some serious momentum. Three points in the bank going to stuttering Derby is useful. And it was important too that Boro took the opportunity that the early kick-off presented them.

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A Promotion Wobble With Historical Echoes

With Boro wobbling going into their final 10 games, let’s look back at the previous promotion season, a campaign with some historical echoes…

“BUNGLING ungling Boro threw away a golden opportunity to virtually secure a Premier League future at the City Ground.

“A pitiful performance in no way reflected the high importance of this promotion showdown at Forest which had Boro won they would have been clear at the top and sailing towards the top flight.  Could any team have wanted a bigger incentive? Yet instead we got a disjointed debacle.”

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Blunt Boro Fail To Fell Forest

JOINT top and still well placed? Or fourth and fading fast.  It’s all in the eye of the beholder of course but Boro currently exist in both situations simultaneously after another crazy day in the Championship.

After losing to Leeds in a one-sided game Boro have squandered another golden chance to seize control of the promotion race after failing to make the possession and shots stats count in a disappointing defeat at Forest. Instead they have become enmeshed in a four-way summit split that makes the post-match debate all about perspective.

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Jelle Helps Tasty Boro “Wobble” To The Top

JELLE helped tasty Boro “wobble” back to the top of the Championship table as he delivered the knock-out blow in a 3-0 mauling of mediocre Millwall.

For a team that ‘can’t score’, ‘have forgotten how to defend’, ‘always struggle at home to basement battlers’ and were supposedly in wheel-nut loosening terminal free-fall a few days ago it wasn’t a bad night’s work:  all three strikers got morale-boosting goals as Boro took their aggregate tally over Millwall this term to 8-1;  Vossen has now banged in four against them in 88 minutes which is not a bad strike rate; Kike scored his first goal at home for four months;  the team banked three precious points;  they  played well and leap-frogged Derby to reclaim the summit. That’s some wobble.

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Historic Hillsborough Hoodoo Axed By Aitor?

NOW would be a good time for Aitor to smash another hoodoo: Hillsborough. It’s not a great place to go. We’ve got a woeful record and been relegated twice there. But that is all ancient history and  Karanka has already shown he has no time for our time honoured club traditions on this kind of thing.

It is crazy to talk about urgency and necessity when Boro are in second spot but it feels like they *need* to win today. The pack is so tightly bunched and in such relentless form that even a draw could be punished. And a draw would feed into the current crowd sense of jittters and DLWD would surely be branded “a wobble” and seen as the beginning of the end in certain quarters. Victory would settle nerves and strengthen Boro in the table.

Aitor isn’t happy about recent displays. He’s given them a rocket. Everyone knows what the stakes are. The team have been rebooted. They are going to Hillsborough to win.

Shock news: I won’t be there. I’m committed to the climax of a long-running charity event that organisers have outrageously planned to climax on a Saturday. Apparently the whole world *doesn’t* revolve around football.  I’ll be sat there with an eye-piece in and sneaking quick looks at twitter all day.

It’s the first league game I’ve missed since the rearranged Ipswich match after the freeze off in February 2012. That was a midweek away and an overnight and we decided just one should go and we tossed for it.  I lost. See also Millwall away and Swansea in the League Cup quarter-final. So, three games missed in about seven years. I think the previous one before that was Wolves in the FA Cup when Emnes scored. It feels very strange.

Anyway, I  digress;  usual routine. Post your pre-match scorecasts and script how the game will pan out here then straight back after the game for debriefings, recriminations and dishing out plaudits later. I’ll join you when I can. My role as a charity champion will last into the evening but I’ll get here when I can. COME ON BORO!

A Pox-Scarred Medieval Toothless Hag Of A Game

AITOR Karanka has a ‘next day’ routine of an in-depth Pro-Zone plus computer analysis, player-by-player, phase-by-phase, mistake-by-mistake, isolating errors, not to berate individuals but to highlight areas where they can improve.

Today could be an extended festival length director’s cut  as the simmering Spaniard works through a a catastrophic clip-reel of individual and collective mistakes after the kind of display we haven’t seen under him.

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Early Bird Prices: The Long Freeze Is Over

IT WOULD be nice to think a club – any club – would make a grand Utopian gesture and slash ticket prices .  But its’s not going to happen. The peoples’  game long ago sacrificed its 2/6d soul on the multi-zillion mink-lined alter of TV cash and so long as the machine is fuelled by ever more cash poured in at the top that is not going to change.

It is easy to be pristine principled and denounce Boro for putting up their prices and branding it profiteering at the prospect of the Premier League but football is a fiercely competitive high-stakes business and  success doesn’t happen by accident. It needs to be well resourced.  And up to now Boro have managed to stay in the Championship despite dwindling gates and a post-relegation collapse in revenues – and now, this season, genuinely compete – almost entirely because Steve Gibson has stumped up.

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