Fringe Players Fall Short

TWENTY four hours later and there is some sensation returning. The numb outrage at being dumped out by one of the better teams in the lowest division is fading now to be replaced by a creeping fear that the fringe players – and especiall the big names – are just not good enough.
The Notts County game was illuminated by the flames from burning bridges as Massimo Maccarone showed he was not up to providing any sort of threat when he starts a game while Gaizka Mendieta floundered against journeymen to underline the yawning gap between the stratospheric level he once graced and the one that is now woefully beyond him.
And some of the wonder kids we have been raving about over the past year or so scattered questionmarks in their wake as they struggled to impose themselves on a game perfect for them to stake a claim for a first team place.


Maccarone was given an especially loud cheer when the teams were read out as recognition for services rendered in the spellbinding Riverside revivals against Basel and Steaua – that was the last time I made a note of his name all night. The £8.15m record buy – a phrase that still stings with every reading – failed to trouble a fourth division defence. In fact he did next to nothing, even in the second half when Boro were streaming forward. Massimo is clearly marking time until he is released in the summer at a huge loss, a monument to the ‘reckless signings’ that Keith Lamb publicly savaged earlier this month.
Mendieta: I really don’t know where to start. Except to confess that on a purely subjective level I have become increasingly frustrated by his slip-shod displays to the point where I groan when he gets the ball. We are regularly told he is the best footballer at the club in defiance off all the matchday evidence. In his appearances this season has looked incapable of controlling a ball and almost every pass goes astray, especially the audacious 40 yard chips over the defence to the opposing keeper. He always struggled with the pace and physicality of the Premiership but if he no longer has the touch and distribution to justify his inclusion in the first team. His half-hearted slo-mo outings on the right have been an unmitigated disaster but his workrate and tackling is short of what is needed in the middle, even now on most occasions in a five. Yet he has two years left on a bumper contract and it is hard to see him being unloaded.
It is hard to believe that either can ever be first choice starters in their natural position or even change a game dramatically from the bench. Both represent massive investments by the club, either in fee or wages, and returns on that are now so small as to be negligible.
The kids are more problematic. Undoubtedly they have huge potential and can play a big part in the future of the club if it is successfully harnessed but they can not be exempt from criticism just because they are local lads and speak passionately with a familiar accent.
Super Lee Cattermole is a terrace icon. His early displays of epic Tasmanian Devil energetic tackling, closing down and fearless surges forward prompted whispers that he could be Teesside’s Gerrard and we must all pray that comes to pass. But he will no doubt admit he had a poor game and must now raise the bar if he is to continue to demand a first team place on merit even if his short-sighted admirers in the crowd won’t.
And likewise Tony McMahon, Teesside’s top tip for future England full-back status just a year ago was also below par. Yes, he has had an injury blighted year that has seen him slip down the pecking order and left him short of match practice, but against County he was unrecognisable from the player who justifiably sparked the hype. He now has a lot of ground to make up if he is to regain his momentum and his first team place.
But it was not all bad news of course. Andrew Taylor looked lively and had pace and vision and looked to get forward on the occasions he saw the ball while Matthew Bates was solid if unspectacular. The big plus though was obviously Robert Huth proving his fitness and despite his slow start growing in stature as the game went on, finishing as Boro’s main attacking threat.
But that is scant reward for the most likely door to Europe slamming in our faces on a night when the team let themselves and the paying public down.

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19 thoughts on “Fringe Players Fall Short

  1. I have pressed the wrong button so hope my posting arrived.
    In summary if it didnt, As far back as last summer when the clamour arose for Mendi in central midfield I posed view that he was still coming back from injury, he didnt have the pace or physicality for central midfield, better in a five but there was every chance that he was past his sell by date. Same goes for Ugo and Parlour.
    Sadly Maccarone still struggles too and that means we have four highly paid players on our books who cannot contribute.
    The kids are coming through but are they capable of driving the club forward? I think they are but it will take time. This season will be one of hard work but I believe we will survive.
    Sadly the match on Wednesday did nothing for our season unless we accept that we will learn from the negatives. Crucially we do not appear to have taken on board that you need to stamp control early on, start with pace, passion, balance, tempo. By sending out the midfield we did we just surrendered the initiative and for all the huffing and puffing that was it.
    But Saturday is another match, Blackburn will be a stiff test. With Sparky in charge there is no chance of them rolling over and if we start with such an inappropriate midfield again we will be playing catch up again by half time. The difference will be that the extra quality will pick us off at leisure.

  2. I suppose every once in a while we suffer a nightmare result and loose to a lower league team. But clearly there are players in the squad who simply aren’t up to the task.
    Surely it would be better to release them even if it costs money. What benefit is there in keeping them at the club? Especially now we only have league games until Jan. Surely the squad is strong enough to cover injuries without the need to keep the dead wood?
    My biggest concern, aside from the disapointment, from loosing to County is the loss of momentum. We need to get stuck into Blackburn with two strikers, a mobile midfield, robust defence and WIN.

  3. Southgate has made his first major mistake by playing an understrength team in the league cup.
    This early in his career he was wrong to risk it so easily. Resting players is rubbish. it was only 2 weeks ago that there was an international break and there is one in 2 weeks time. He is in danger of falling into the trap of what steve mcclaren used to do that southgate complained about. its all or nothing in the league now and absolute no excuses for resting players.
    He needs to find a way to play viduka and yakubu in the same team. our lack of gaoals this season will be a cause of concern. How long will viduka be happy to sit it out on the bench?
    Southgate is stuck between 2 formations. 451 – tight defence but not many goals scored as the full back are not wing back . or go more attacking with 442 but risk conceding more goals. also euell is a striker not a midfielder
    And finally,please stop accommodating mendieta!
    Come end of the season will boro fans be looking up at villa and martin o’neil with envy?

  4. I forgot to mention. our home form has been pretty poor for 12 months now. Just look at how many home games we have lost in 12 months

  5. boroboy
    I keep reminding everyone that we have just over a point a game since Xmas 2004. Dont be suprised if that stays the same tomorrow.

  6. Let’s not run away with the view that this is all news. As Ian and others say above this has been coming on for a long while.
    If you look back on this blog before the window opened after last season, right through the window and as it closed many of us have been pointing to:-
    * the over-the-hillers on big money who were never going to contribute this season – Romford Ray, Ugo and Mendi (but, bless him, why does Gate compound it by playing him wide right!?) who should have been shipped or contract terminated.
    We might have got Gera from Robbo when he was at The Baggies in exchange for a couple of those and rumour has it that ‘Appy ‘Arry might be up for Ray.
    * the never-going to make it (bought) troop like Macca (who now seems to have developed over-the-hill praecox!), Christie and Rocky. These are all, to one extent or another, marketable products. Unbelievably – and possibly that’s the right word – rumours have it that Juve want Rocky! The first two should have gone in the window and we might have looked for Nugent from Preston in a part-ex. If Juve want Rocky let them take him in the window.
    * the folly of letting JFH go without a striker capable of geeing up The Yak and Veruka. They both need the challenge to perform. again, Nugent would fit the bill.
    * the need to add to the excellent defensive signings with a right sided creative midfielder with pace. Stephen Appiah was and is available. What did we do about getting him or Gera or anyone after the Malbranque deal fell through? Waht are we doing now to line up one or both for the January window?
    * the fact that Arca is exactly of the quality of left back that played his full role in the worst defence in prem history last season. We have a very good left back in Tayls and we sold a better one than Arca. It would be rank stupidity to put him in at left back instead of Tayls when he returns. We could, however, use him in the old Bolo role that we’ve never quite replaced and supplement our lack of midfield creativity that way. Another way to address this is to play johno on the left wing and bring Stewie in one. That would give us a strong, if young left side.
    * the need for Gate to be his own man, stop listening to Round (in fact I would encourage Round to pursue his obvious ambition to leave to manage and replace him with a top notch coach) and Harry and settle on how he wants to play, his 2 basic systems and who he wants in what position. He should then coach this in and play a settled way with a settled side, changing only for injuries or bad loss of form until the January window.
    If we’ve got the defence on the way to being sorted then he should give us the attacking football he promised us – especially at home. Everyone can live with dogged defensive shutouts away – away draws with the occasional win is a good return – if we’re storming it at home.
    * the sense within this system to use the opportunities to keep bringing on the youngsters.
    * the need to get Gate’s own position sorted before we’re caught up in a wrangle without a way to deal with it, as usual.
    So, if we could see all of this why do we now have to live with the chickens coming home to roost because others didn’t. But it’s not too late – yet – for Gate to get to it.
    And to add to that lot that we already knew there is the need to try to secure Woodie before others do. All the hometown boy stuff won’t cut more ice than a good deal. And if we’re still struggling come January, playing as badly and Gate still hasn’t learned with Woodie being left to try to hold back the tide single handed, why would he want to stay?

  7. Yes John, we were talking about it in 2005 when Gibbo was criticising the football after the Pompey match.
    When the more strident were calling for Mac’s head the point was raised that it was unlikely that if he survived he would survive this summer. At that time I raised the point that whoever was in charge they would have a huge task of restructuring. Gate, Parlour, Mendi, Ugo, Doriva, JFH were all reaching the reduced shelf at Tesco.
    Some have moved on but like yourself would have liked JFH to stay.
    The problem area of right side is still a problem, all we are missing is Graham Norton to compere the ‘what do we do with a problem like the right side’. The only viable solution at the moment is just to give Morrison the position, choose a right back to partner him and get on with it. The only caveat is the right back shouldnt be one who enhances things out of bottles.
    Better try and wake the son, transfer his floor into the car and ship him off to Toon. Then off to the Riverside.

  8. My luck ran out, as we drove past Durham it looked like I had left my sons keys in Derby as we drove to Toon, sadly we found them and I managed to get to the Blackburn match.
    After Wednesday we were told Gate had learnt a lot from the match. He must have been unsure and decided that he needed confirmation. So after the notable success of Parnaby centre mid Mendi right side he swapped them. Just to make sure that playing a right footed player on the left was totally pointless he put Morrison there. For all Davies sterling efforts his distribution and support of attack is that of a centre back so play him at right back.
    And that is for starters. To be fair to Rock he worked his socks off, he tried things that didnt come off but he gave it his best shot. Euell looks like an attacking Ugo rather than Wayne Rooney, he missed his chances but he tried. The problem with him is that he doesnt have the pace or the skill for the role he is playing and you need one of those.
    In central midfield we lacked bite until Cattermole came on. He lifted the tempo. zipping into tackles and moving the ball quickly.
    The whole idea idea of 4-5-1 is to get the wide men forward and central midfield running on to link play. We had neither the width or pace to do it.
    The problem is that a poor performance made players look worse than they probably were compoundeed by a poor selection of people.
    Where do we go from here? Nothing new.
    Pick a starting formation that suits the players available and stick to it.
    Pick a team with players in ther normal positions. Mendi back with Parlour and Ugo adding three to the attendance figures.
    John is right about Gate being his own man, there appears to be something going on behind the scenes because this selection was totally at variance with Gates words after Wednesday. I can cope with the fact he is learning but the lessons need to be taken on board. He is a refreshing change from thge spin and hypocrisy of the previous incumbent but he cant make the same mistakes and not expect criticism. Is there someone telling him what to do or some wormtongue whispering in his ear?

  9. Lads, it’s looking bad. the satisfaction of Woody being majestic and us obtaining two gritty draws has been replaced by the sheer horror of two totally inept home performances.
    Our kids are good and Mr Hansen was proved wrong saying you cant win anything with kids. I hope and pray I’m wrong but our crop don’t compare to the Man Utd class of the 90s. The overpaid pension seekers (Ray, Ugo and Mendy), the lads who to be frank have never performed consistently at this level (Christie, Maccarone) and the unproven but admittedly promising kids make up the Majority of the squad.
    For me the Jury is still out on Pogatetz and Rochembach. we are left with a one quality keeper, three class defenders (Woody, Huth and Riggott), two international midfielders (Boateng and Downing) and two strikers of great pedigree but nobody to push them for a place in the side. On top of this we have Arca and Euell, promising signings but themselves, Gareth and the fans don’t know what there best position is.
    Gareth so far is yet to find a formula that delivers. I am sure the fans will be patient with the kids but why put exciting prospects like Morrisson, Johnson and Cattermole in a rigid 4 5 1 at home. Go 4 4 2, get the ball wide and service a strikeforce that will surely score some goals. Hopefully with the new defenders and the return of Boateng to shield them then we must surely have a platform to give teams a right go at home.
    What I cant understand is that the lads on this blog are I assume not qualified to Uefa pro licence levels, they probably haven’t played or managed profeesionaly, they are just knowledgable fans pointing out the obvious. Funny though, that they have similar opinions. Maybe the staff see things us fans dont but sometimes its baffling.

  10. Ian
    Know you suffered the Blackburn game yesterday. Sorry. To our postongs above we can add yesterday’s example of Gate not being his own man or that he is The Ex cloned.
    4-5-1 at home against a team without an away goal this season and less points than us. Mass changes again from the midweek game. A centre back at right back, a right back at right midfield, the right winger on the left wing with a natural left winger on the bench. No Huth even on the bench – something we’re not being told?
    Mendi – oh dear, well at least he wasn’t out on the right. And from what I have seen/heard at least Rocky put in a shift.
    Gate criticises the crowd – despite the fact that they apparently kept behind the team throughout – and the attitude of the team – as if that was nothing to do with them.
    Can’t Gate see what’s in front of him and what we all see? And why does he keep repeating the mistakes – his and other people’s – if you always do what you’ve always done…..

  11. I have just had an outer body experience.
    Southgate had been granted his pro licence because of his recent team selections.
    Sorry, I just dozed off and woke up to find the Americans had just been stuffed in the Ryder Cup.
    Made the same mistake as last time, picked the wrong team, played them out of position. Just shows some people never learn.

  12. I think we all knew that with the appointment of Southgate, a man and a player we all admire, that it would be a difficult season unless he was going to be a star manager and coach from the outset.
    I have just posted similar on the Your Say pages, but it may be a blessing in disguise if the PL decide that we cannot be allowed to continue with an unqualified coach/manager.
    Gibson may be relieved, after all he made the shout to put Southgate in, so maybe he will do what he should have done, and bring in someone with experience for Southgate to work alongside, because there is certainly nobody at the club now who will help him and us get out of the mess we are in.
    I cannot help but look at Villa’s metamorphisis under O’Neil, and wonder if the decision not to let him come in and take over lock and stock and barrel is Gibbo’s mistake of the century. But having said that, maybe O’Neill looked at the squad and thought better of it, I would have.
    One thing is for sure, MFC is a very expensive toy to be used as a training ground for a rooky manager, with all the risks involved, it could yet prove to be our undoing. And if the worst is around the corner, I fear we will not get back up for a long time. My son said to me yesterday, “Rome to Southend in one easy move”, I hope he’s wrong!!

  13. Vic
    Does anybody other than us Saddos read these blogs.
    Just looked at the last two paragraphs of the first posting to this blog and if I can predict what will happen if we send out a duff midfield against Blackburn is it beyond the wit of a professional football club to do the same.
    I wasnt being clever, I do not believe I am any different to any other fan, it is not a case of told you so.
    I am baffled.

  14. Ian
    If we read through all the postings to this particular blog we can see a comprehensive analysis of where we are and why.
    It’s not difficult and many people know it. Predicting the results of carrying on the same way is not so much presience of any sort – but more an extension of the logic of our collective analysis.
    So, Sheffield United – no wins, half their first picks out injured, struggling, last game before an international break when you want to sign off with a good win, but not a team against which the players can easly motivate themselves – anyone want to predict anything other than a defeat?
    By the way, did anyone else pick up the assertion ‘from sources close to the club’ that Stewie was fit for Saturday but was given the choice about whther to play or not but declined?
    Interesting….and baffling!

  15. PS
    I note that today’s articles by Eric Paylor and in the Northern Echo echo (sorry – weak alliterative pun!) everything we say above.
    And in today’s Gazette The Yak admits that “we miss JFH but we just have to get on with it ourselves”.
    So who is it doesn’t see it – is it Gate or is he just a cypher for Round? If he’s his own man, let him stand up and show it. And where do Gibbo and Lamb stand?

  16. John
    As you say, the views are fairly consistent as they are on the main message board. Makes you wonder what is happening at Rockcliffe, if anything. It is just galling that all Gate has to do is what he said he would, there would be fewer grumbles because the majority knew the score even before Mac left. I certainly wont be buying any woodstain from the club shop!
    Thanks for cheering me up about Saturday, I had just checked the prices and train times when I checked the web site for any news and you have depressed me again.
    Hadnt heard the Downing story, if he doesnt fancy Blackburn going up against Warnocks warriors wont be good for his well being. There again maybe he thinks if other others can sit on their butts earning a fortune why not. Maybe he is practising to go to Spurs to replace sick note.
    Back to pondering Saturday, my darling wife actually said why dont you go. It is my birthday tomorrow and she is inflicting mental cruelty – of course it is on Prem Plus so she wants me out of the way.

  17. ” By the way, did anyone else pick up the assertion ‘from sources close to the club’ that Stewie was fit for Saturday but was given the choice about whther to play or not but declined? ”
    Ah, the rumour I heard was that Downing said that he was fit and wanted to play, but the physios said no.”
    Sources for courses?

  18. Just to say I agree with all of the above and to add that Southgate has stated the formation isn’t important but attitude is. In that case why don’t we play TWO STRIKERS please.
    Surely playing one up front and five in midfield is a negative attitude, particularly at home. Gareth please play your best players, dump the hasbeens’ and install a ‘we’re here to win’ attitude with a team of dynamic players, and yes there are at least 11 of those in the squad!
    God help us what an incredibly frustrating start to the season……

  19. What was I doing 3 years ago today? I Certainly didn’t think the Boro would be beaten at home by no mark opposition in front of dwindling crowds


.. oh no wait

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