Big Mac, Fat Sam and the FA Dug-out Handgrenade

TEESSIDERS know how to nurse a grudge, to feed and water it regularly and to nurture it until it sinks deep roots in a dense jungle of historic animosities.

Barely a day goes by without something rustling in the undergrowth, some seemingly remote movement tugging away at trailing tendrils that quickly connect to still smarting scars of grievance.  A brief mention of Rick Parry on Sky Sports Premier League Years can make the hackles rise for instance.  The dog hides if it hears a passing reference to Christian Ziege.  Or, for some, Peter Beagrie in the studio for a televised Boro game can send them racing through the emotional gears. And that was 30 years ago.

So the news that Sunderland had growled at the FA over the approach to Sam Allardyce had some Teessiders swiftly simmering with retro-anger.

Continue reading Big Mac, Fat Sam and the FA Dug-out Handgrenade

Blazing Squad: Aitor Draws Up Red Hot List

AT some point in the next few weeks Aitor Karanka is going to sit down with a piece of paper and write down the 25 names he will submit to the Premier League as the Boro squad. It won’t  be easy.

We already have 24 senior professionals in the squad with the club looking to bring in more – a keeper, a striker, a right back at least… possibly a left back as cover, maybe another centre-back…  – and everyone that arrives will effectively push one of the existing players out of the magic circle. There some tough decisions to be made.


And his hands are tied by some strict rules: the number of home grown and foreign players is limited. So there may be a lot of crossing out as he tries to jiggle his resources.  Here’s a long read I did on the rules around the squad and some factors to consider. 

If you want o start work on your own list of definites for the 25, feel free…

Borexit: EU Need A Work Permit To Play Here Mate

NO DANI  Ayala. No Emilio Nsue. No Tomas Kalas. No Kike. No Ritchie De Laet. No Diego Fabbrini. No Aitor Karanka. No Leo. Boro may have looked very different last season without the free movement of labour inside the European Union.

Without the social and economic mobility granted by an EU passport, none of those would have qualified for a work permit under current UK employment law.  They would all have had to apply as foreign nationals and be measured against the tough entry criteria set by the Department of Employment. And all would undoubtedly fail under the existing rules.

In fact, last season Boro had 17 players on their books that would have needed to apply for a permit and all but one – Cristhian Stuani – would have been refused automatic permits.

Continue reading Borexit: EU Need A Work Permit To Play Here Mate

The Play-Offs Are Great – From The Outside

LET’S see what you could have won…

As a neutral and eager observer I’m enjoying the Sky Sports trailers for the looming Championship play-offs: four top teams in a tense tussle for the ultimate prize. High-stakes home-and-away encounters leading to a winner-takes-all £170m shoot-out under the iconic Arch.  It looks like a brilliant cut-throat competition full of action, and drama and colour and heightened emotion.

Thank god we are not in it.

Continue reading The Play-Offs Are Great – From The Outside

Boro To Run Over Brum on Drive To The Top

A FIXTURE clash has ruled me out of the not-as-pivotal-as-it-looked-last-week-but-still-MASSIVE crunch away at Birmingham.  Gutted but it can’t be helped. I’ve got a long standing date in London and the small screen scheduler’s randomiser has caught me out. It’s only the second match missed in five seasons. But I’ll be watching on  the telly-box and tweeting. And I’m sure the rest of the Gazette posse will look after you. Follow them on the live blog and all the usual stuff will be on the web-site straight after the game.

To keep you going here’s the Gazette match preview and there is some top chinwaggery here on the latest Tripe Supper podcast here for you to disagree with on the trip down.  And as we head to the climax here is a bit with us all imagining a dream finish to the cut-throat Championship race. Mine features a little lego tear.

So usual drill…  only I won’t be around after the game so you’ll have to talk amongst yourself. No fighting.  Predict away. I’m going for a 3-0 win to put Boro back on top, pile the pressure on the other son Monday and put promotion – and the title – firmly in Boro’s hands next week. Ramirez first scorer. Jonathan Grounds to give away a penalty. Rhodes to score. And Dani Dani Ayala. Clayton to avoid his booking.  And I think my pre-match meal will be venison with a port and redcurrent reduction and juniper foam.  Hmmmm.


Frustrated Boro Fail To Land Suffolk Punch

IT WASN’T for want of trying but a golden chance to turn the screw at the top has been squandered. Boro beavered away, no one could deny that. They ran and chased and pressed and attacked and attacked and attacked some more and a few of the players were running on empty at the end with cream crackered Albert Adomah out on his feet.

In a frustrating 0-0 draw with Ipswich Boro created more than enough golden opportunties to win two games but they couldn’t convert one of them and had to settle for a draw that left a tense Teesside on tenterhooks, empty-handed and frustrated.

Continue reading Frustrated Boro Fail To Land Suffolk Punch

Last Gasp Goal In Tense Tussle At Turf Moor

ALL a bit of  blur and I’ve barely slept so for now I’ll just point you the way of our match digest after a last gasp sucker punch squared it up in a 1-1 draw at Burnley. 

And here’s my colour bit on how agonisingly close we were to seizing control of the Championship title battle. Still, decent point and we’d all have taken it beforehand. As you were: win our home games and we’re up. Win the next two and we could be up before the Brighton game. And if it comes down to a last day shoot-out so be it.


Meanwhile, with the summit squeeze still in flux going into the final three fixtures, I’ve had the calculator and slide rule out looking at how and when Boro can go up and here’s my working out of most of the possible permutations in the promotion push.

Continue reading Last Gasp Goal In Tense Tussle At Turf Moor

Bolton Battle Piles The Promotion Pressure On

I HAVE domestic stuff so just a quick one.  Stoppage time specialists Boro made hard work of what should have been a formality against Championship zombie side Bolton but kept plugging away and got the winner relatively early in Forshaw time (90+1).

In the end it was well deserved. And given the relentless pressure in the closing stage it felt inevitable. Jordan Rhodes had already put a strange slow-motion overhead kick against the post and headed wide and string of other efforts went within a whisker.

Boro showed desire and real spirit to come from behind and first force a leveller then a winner through sheer will power. It spoke of character and hunger and belief. And maybe a bit of good fortune too. And they are all parts of the promotion skill set.

Continue reading Bolton Battle Piles The Promotion Pressure On