BEATING Chelsea could prove to be a double-edged sword for Steve McClaren.
Yes it is ‘magnificent’ that Boro battered the champions. Yes it was a superb example of the sum adding up to more than the parts. And yes it was a morale-booster that banished the relegation blues.
But on the downside a new standard has now been set and people will now quite rightly demand Boro do that to lesser teams every week.
And they will be asking why it hasn’t happened every week before now.
And it is a good question. Now the euphoria has faded supporters can be forgiven for scratching their heads and wondering why a team that can play with such power, pace, crisp attacking movement and defensive solidity against a team of supermen can’t sweep aside the mere mortals and makeweights.
If is not something that can be dismissed glibly as ‘typical Boro’ or part of some historical enigma beyond control. Having frustrating inconsistancy as the default setting should not be accepted.
Fans are right to question such wild swings in performance levels and to wonder why it takes the prospect of a glamour game to drag out of Boro the kind of displays we know are possible.
One widely touted explanation is that Boro were highly motivated for the Chelsea game. They were “up for it”. They played above themselves as they rose to the daunting challenge of the champions.
Laudable though that successful mental self-preparation is, it is also deeply worrying. Worrying because it is not routine. If they are up for the visit of the glamour sides then why not for the also-rans?
We are told that this current Boro is more professional, more scientific, more nutritionally, tactically and psychologically tuned and more meticulously prepared than any previous set-up in history.
So how do you explain spineless and shapeless collective capitulations like those against Arsenal or Aston Villa? If Chelsea was the result of intense managerial motivation what must we make of the season’s low points?
And if it was the result of individual self motivation shouldn’t we be pointing the finger at those who are buzzing for the big ones but can’t manage to be “up for it” in a mundane mid-table match? Because there are more of them. And right now they are more important.