Thursday Fixture Void Is A Real Pain

WE SHOULDN’T be sat on here today scouring the internet and pretending to work. It’s Thursday. It’s a UEFA Cup night. By rights we should be sat in the sunshine at a pavement cafe in Lisbon now, Superbok in hand. Or laughing as the daft lads put dobey in the fountains in a square of a beautful unspoiled medival walled city on the Danube.
I’m gutted. I had got used to the excitement of planning jollies across the continent, looking at the logistics of flying from obscure airports at the dead of night to cities well off the beaten track. I had got used to playing legendary names and being high on expectation.
Look at tonight’s fixtures in the first round, first leg: Newcastle go to Tallin, the cheap beer capital of the Baltic, West Ham host Palermo, Blackburn are in Salzburg and Spurs, the jammy gets, are in Prague to play Slavia. Ow, that should be us!

It is hard to overstate exactly how big, how significant and how exciting the UEFA Cup was for Boro. Two years in succession, those storming last gasp four goal Houdini acts and the place in the final at Eindhoven have raised our profile and our expectations beyond recognition.
It brought its problems: too many games put a strain on the team and a strain on the pocket and at times – the visits of Xanthi and Litex – the apathy was embarrassing.
But for those thousands that really engaged with the UEFA Cup experience, those who travelled away in high spirits determined to enjoy, it was an eye-opening odyessy into a dream world that has helped reshape their concept of fandom.
The pride at just being there for that first trip to Banik, the gathereing of teh clans at Villarreal, the passion on the whistle at Sporting, arriving from all directions to assemble a 100 club in Xanthi, the jubilation at scoring and the defiance under attack in the Olympic Stadium at Rome, the chest-bursting elation and volume at home to Basel and Steaua and the celebratory invasion of Eindhoven – these moments have redrawn the boundaries of our cultural experience.
And now we are back to the mundane bread and butter existance of the Premiership Thursday has become a painful void. I had ignored it as Newcastle battled through the Intertoto but now the competition has started in earnest again and blanking it doesn’t work anymore. Now the absence hurts. And I can’t bear the thought of the likes of Spurs having a good cup run and seeing the national media fawn over them as the UEFA Cup is suddenly transformed into a competition of giants with real credibility again. I’m supporting Sevilla all the way.
Rome update
BORO fans won support from the European Parliament’s powerful Petitions Committee yesterday after the draconian treatment of Boro fans at the hands of Rome’s tooled up Carabinieri was discussed.
The Gazette have driven the campaign that has seen condemnation at ministerial level and Roma charged by UEFA over failing to control their fans – but support from the European Parliament could yield lasting legislative action that is a long term benefit for football fans every where and ordinary citizens of all countries in Europe who travel to Rome.
It is easy to be cynical and say fans have always been brutally treated abroad and nothing will change, or that Roma will get a slap across the wrists at best or that, well, no one died and it is in the past now so why bother.
But for the Eurocrats this is not just a parochial football matter. It is not about Boro fans being made to sit on buses for a few hours or ladies having their lipstick confesticated. It is about serious systematic breaches of the European Charter by a member state and about the political rights of free movement and legal equality across the union being undermined.
One of the most significant facts that have been highlighted is that Italy has not signed the multi-lateral treaties on legal unity. That means in effect that foreign citizens have no right to judicial redress or compensation for any breaches of Italian law. There is no mechanism for civil action against the Rome police for instance, nor for criminal injuries compensation.
It is in this area that the European Parliament are likely to act and if they do then the Boro fans who refused to accept this gross perversion of the European ideal and stood up for their rights will have done the whole of Europe a great service.
* Full story in today’s Gazette.

13 thoughts on “Thursday Fixture Void Is A Real Pain

  1. Yes and no on that one Vic.
    Yes, the QF and SF will remain some of the most memorable moments in my life and the whole UEFA Cup experience has helped carry the Riverside revoloution through some turbulent times under McClaren.
    However (pause for big breath) … here goes …. I will do without a season in the UEFA to have Saturday 3pm kick offs back. I will do without a season in UEFA to help bring our young talent through and bed them into the first team. I will do without a season in the UEFA to see us achieve a strong finish in the Premeirship again.
    Thats is. I’ve said. Sorry its not popular, but it’s what I really, deep down, feel. Europe can wait. We will fly to Bruges again soon …

  2. Andrew
    I guess many of us would agree with you – so long as it is only one season. So long as we have a strong Prem finish and/or cup runs which secure us a UEFA place for next season.
    I have to say that I’m with Vic on how it feels, though, as I have to admit to a twinge or two of regret this morning on reading the newspapers previewing the UEFA ties this evening (and not just because of The Barcodes).
    Had it not been for the no shows at Villa Park and/or Eindhoven we’d have been there again. I sincerely hope everyone at the club from Mr. Gibson downwards is thinking the same and that that redoubles our efforts to get back there as quickly as possible.
    But, as you say, the interregnum gives us a chance to bring on the youngsters a bit more. Also to get Gate’s situation sorted – the weeks are ticking by until his temporary stay has to end. Then to make the team Gate’s team, playing his way. It would be good to secure Woodie but the irony is that the better he plays the less likely it may be we can hold on – but UEFA football and a successful season would surely help.
    We can also secure a creative right sided midfielder – Stephen Appiah who wants away from Fenerbahce would be terrific. Maybe we can also experiment with Arca inside Stewie in the old Zenden role (it would keep him from making a mess at left back too!) or even Stewie inside Johno until Arca’s fit.
    We might also be able to remember how to create an atmosphere inside the Riverside for Prem games like we enjoyed in those UEFA QF and SF.
    Yup, give me all that and maybe a year without UEFA won’t be so bad.

  3. I can’t make my mind up on this one. We certainly need a good league season and if not bring in the UEFA cup helps us achieve that then so be it. As for occupying Thursday evenings I guess I’ll be watching The Bill………….
    PS: One thing is certain no matter how well the English teams do in the UEFA cup none of them will be involved in games like those against Basel and Steau.

  4. Nige
    Yes, the Bill taunt was bound to come back and haunt us just as at Reading when the fans started singing about the Premiership and are you Sunderland in disguise.
    Like for many the Uefa and FA Cup runs were great but they came at a cost – our Premiership form suffered. We are no different to many clubs in that respect, what we must do is make sure we dont slip further. We must take the opportunity to improve our league form and get a settled team.
    John highlighted the Southgate issue, it needs to be resolved soon, we dont want an embarassing climbdown at the last minute.

  5. if only the fans and club took the West Ham FA Cup game seriously and we would have been back in the Uefa cup. Hopefully that complacency has left the club with Beswick and McClaren.
    So will you all be watching the Bill tonight then?

  6. “if only the fans and club took the West Ham FA Cup game seriously and we would have been back in the Uefa cup. ”
    Idiotic comment. Are you a mackem?

  7. Yes, the messiah returns. The man virtually walked on water and performed miracles in the eighteen yard box. It brought back memories of the praise Bobby Robson gave after a similar biblical performance against Henry. Halleljah for Woodgate!
    On another note, Anthony, do you agree with Bernie’s evaluation of Davies? I never like to knock Boro players (as Viduka says if fans moan it lowers player’s moral. Why do fans think it’s OK to have a go at their own players? What do they think they are going to achieve. I think they are clueless morons.)
    ….Anyway I’m not so convinced about Davies. I’m always willing to re-evaluate my opinions. In fact I’d love to believe he’s class. But I can’t. Not yet, anyhow.
    What do you think Anthony?
    *AV writes:
    I like him and have done since his debut when he took control and started ordering Tony Vidmar around however
    that cockiness did not go down well with the then manager. I also noticed in his early outings he seemed to play very well in a heavy defeat or spoil it with one major blunder. For I while I thought he had swerved to avoid running over a black cat but crashed into a mirror shop.
    But he seems to have improved with regular football at QPR and Derby and has taken his chance this year. I think he has been one of the most consistent performers so far this term and I hope he continues to improvement.
    For me right back remains a problem and weaknesses in his rivals mean he has a chance to stake a claim.

  8. Jay (and Anthony)
    Whilst Davies was at Derby he was still accident prone. He was sent off several times and was as likely to drop a blunder as play a blinder. But centre backs are a bit like goalies, a mistake can prove very costly, you cant afford to drift out of a game like a striker. If you go missing there is every chance the other team will score.
    The things in his favour is his age and the fact there is no nailed on right back. The danger
    for him is that we have Huth, Riggott and Woodgate along with kids pushing up behind him. The other problem he may have is if McMahon gets a run at right back he may end up playing very few games.

  9. Vic
    You say that right back is a problem but unlike Ian and I you don’t mention McMahon – that puts you firmly alongside Gate, it seems.
    Can you say why – from your point of view and, if you know, it from his?
    AV writes:
    I have no problem with McMahon and rate him as a promising youngster who has never let the club down when he has been given a chance.
    But I would be wary of believing that a lad who made four starts last season is the answer. He remains unproven. Sometimes players get elevated to iconic status through their absence. You never make a mistake in the stands.
    I don’t believe Southgate has a problem with him either. It is just that having been out injured for so long he has slipped down the pecking order against players who have clocked up the experience and have match fitness.
    I am sure his chance will come.

  10. Vic
    But isn’t the logic that, when given his chance the season before last he was excellent. That he didn’t play through injury was not his fault. And, of course, whilst he has been in the stands not making a mistake, others have been on the pitch making them – otherwise you wouldn’t be, justifiably, worried about the position.
    So if right back is a problem, as you say, even with the ones who have been clocking up experience and are match fit do you simple keep playing them or do you give the lad his chance. Then we’ll know where he really is in the pecking order.
    Or do we ignore him and do what seems to be being set up at present and persist with the current set up until another player who isn’t match fit and who has been in the stands not making mistakes and becoming iconic for a far less noble reason than an injury – i.e. a drugs ban he is still serving – is available and then put him straight in.
    What will that do for Tony Mc, let alone for Parns and Dava?
    *AV writes:
    I would give him a chance but I don’t pick the team.
    Managers invariable prefer experience over youth so that counts against him. Davies has taken his chance so that counts against him. Xavier is waiting in the wings so that counts against him. But it is not a conspiracry, he has just been untimely and unfortunate that circumstances have swung against him.
    It may take an injury or suspension to someone else to open the door but he will get another chance I’m sure.

  11. Vic
    Thanks. I don’t believe it’s a conspiracy either. As a wise person once said, “If it’s a choice between believing in conspiracy or cock-up choose cock-up; most organisations lack anything like the competence to manage a decent conspiracy.”
    From my experience, I don’t rate Boro as having that competence. I’d like us to avoid too much cock-up, though.
    Come to think of it, experience is a funny thing too. Some people can have 10 years experience, others 1 years experience repeated 10 times.
    Being inexperienced himself (and presumably he doesn’t consider it a bar to being where he is) maybe Gate would like to break the managerial mould and look at talent not age.
    To his credit, Fergie broke that mould 10 years ago at Utd. Against the ‘experience’ nostrum of the pundits as voiced by Alan Hansen – “You never win anything with kids.” as they went on to win the Prem (and then repeated it 7 times with domestic and European Cups).

  12. I reckon Taylor is doing what McMahon was doing two years ago – playing very well at full back despite his age. I’ve been more than impressed with Taylor – his positioning, covering, tacking and distribution.
    That’s roughly how I felt about McMahon, but he looks to be far from the first team before Xavier comes back. I didn’t rate Xavier and lost no sleep when he had to leave the club.
    Johnson is another quality youngster down the pecking order and that’s before Arca comes back challenging for the left winger and full back positions…..
    I guess they are relying on an injury crisis to stake their claim. That’s not an ideal way for them to get back.

  13. AV you wrote.. Or laughing as the daft lads put dobey in the fountains in a square of a beautful unspoiled medival walled city on the Danube.
    I take it that you condone idiotic wanton deliberate vandalism, by your comments then? Your constant Geordie Bill Watchers jibes from last season have also returned to bite you up the ‘arris” in a big way as well.
    You are fast becoming Teessides own version of Alan Oliver.

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