Little Cheer as Boro Are Put To The Sword By Blades

GUTTED. A stoppage time sucker punch. A sickeningly late sizzling strike fit to win any game denied gritty Boro a deserved point in a game where they beavered away, created some golden opportunities and, on the whole, defended well.
In the aftermath downbeat Gareth Southgate and the sullen players tried to take some positives out of the game: Boro set out with a 4-4-2 and two strikers and that given the chance for a Boro Idol phone-in facility the Teesside public would have picked; they set out to attack and created chances and showed embryonic signs of the offensive instinct the boss is seeking to make first nature; the off-colour Yakubu scored; and the attitude and endeavour was a vast improvement on the insipid display against Blackburn.
But hold on a minute.Trying to take positives out of nearly getting a point from Sheffield United? Sheffield bloody United? We should take heart because we could have had a draw at the relegation bound whipping boys who had yet to win? Oh dear.

It is hard to salvage much succour from a deeply worrying start to the season that has left
Boro now fast facing up to a long hard winter of basement battling.
The reality is this: Boro have five points and just one win from seven games and that is
relegation form. They have now lost twice against promoted sides who have by most criteria inferior squads. Boro have put in some spirited defensive displays but unless they start scoring and winning games fast they are deep in trouble.
In many respects Boro were not terrible at Bramall Lane. Woodgate, Pogatetz, Taylor and Cattermole played very well while both Yakubu and Woodgate had gilt-edged chances to score early goals that could have changed the complexion of the game.
But they were not great and only denied by a wonder goal either. A ruthless Premiership team would have had that game in the bag before Sheffield United scored their first and a good one would have not been hustled out of the points by the guiless workrate of a team of journeymen. Being the first team to lose to the one dimensional Warnock approach is not a good sign.*
There were some alarming issues raised. For instance, time after time the Blades were streaming at will through midfield almost unchallenged then pushing the ball out wide to both
flanks to put unopposed crosses in. Defence starts at up front and it wasn’t happening.
Failing to stem this tide left Boro under constant pressure and they struggled to clear the danger, balls out of the box coming straight back in – most tellingly when Jagielka fired one into the net for the winner.
Also, for all the talk of attacking football and two up front, there was little cutting edge. Yakubu drifted out wide left for long spells leaving only one to aim at when Boro were pressing and Mark Viduka had a lack-lustre game and resoundingly failed to impose himself, hold the ball up or cause problems in the box.
Mendieta came on and in his first five minutes had more shots than the Aussie had in the entire game. And he was livelier around the box. Yes, Viduka has been short of pitch-time this term and may have had his nose put out of joint being left on the bench but all the more reason to take his chance and make it impossible for Southgate to leave him out.
The problems must be resolved quickly. Everton and Newcastle are next up. Defeats in those games are unthinkable. If there are players who are not up to the challenge – either physically or mentally – then they must be barged aside. If there are weaknesses in the preparation they must be rectified now. There is too much at stake to let it drift.
*Apologies to any Blades fans who have taken umbrage at my description of the team. The piece was done on Saturday night when I was still emotionally raw and in truth it says more about Boro than it does about Sheffield United.
I am sure most objective Blades fans would accept that their squad while honest and hard working is limited technically and tactically and lacks star quality. It has been but together to do a particular job and play a particular style. That may have worked in the Championship but it will not in the Premiership. That is why before Boro it had not won a game. That is why it will struggle all season. Honest endeavour is not enough.
That said, it was enough to beat Boro. Congratulation and good luck for the rest of the season.
A few random observations…
THERE was a great atmosphere, maybe partly because the Blades fans know they are only popping in to the Premiership party for a while and are determined to enjoy it as Barnsley, Watford and West Brom fans have done before.
As the teams came out to the Star Wars theme blasted out then that led straight into a passionately parochial full-blooded rendition of their version of Annie’s Song about chip butties and pints of Tetley’s that get’s the whole home crowd buzzing.
Boro fans had just done a fairly loud and spirited Pigbag but the now frequently replicated mono-syllabic grunting does not have the same impact. We need something with lyrics that underlines our pride and our identity.
SHOULD Boro be more cynical? The first Sheffield goal came when a Boro corner was cleared and when Rocky’s flagkick came in Andrew Davies went up for it and got a meaty whack on the back of his head that sent him crashin to the ground. Untited pumped the loose ball forward and Rob Hulse raced clear and into the box to lift the ball deftly over the advancing Schwarzer.
Bravely and honestly Davies had hit the deck, picked himself up gingerly then started to run back even thoug hhe was 50 yards behind he action. But what if he had stayed down clutching his head. Jesus wept, it must have hurt. I’d have stayed down. But its a head injury. The referee would surely have had to stop the game. Instead of racing in Hulse wake Boro players woudl have been pointing and screaming at the ref and standing ashen faced over prostrated Davies.
No goal. Physio on. Everyone gets to throw water bottles around for a while. Davies walks slowly to touchline shaking and rubbing his head but winking at the dug-out. Play restarted with dropball on edge of Boro box. Woody hoofs it downfield. Would you feel ethically challenged if that happened? Isn’t that the essence of ruthless professionalism?
MAD Dog is mellowing. Within a minute of the second half starting Hulse brought Pogatetz down heavily out on the touchline and Boro got the foul then Mad Dog stood eyeball to eyeball with Hulse and was pulled away by team-mates but he followed him for a couple of minutes simmering and snarling at him.
But he wasn’t distracted. He didn’t boil over. He walked away and remained focused. At times last season that would have sent him loco and the next 50/50 ball would have seen Hulse hit the advertising hoardings. Back then of course Pogo was frustrated as he was being regularly skinned at left back where no he has grown in stature as a composed centre-back alongside super-cool Jonathan Woodgate.
That said, with a couple of minutes to go there was a high ball forward and Pogo came charging in from behind and wiped Hulse out.

31 thoughts on “Little Cheer as Boro Are Put To The Sword By Blades

  1. A disappointing afternoon at the end.
    Some signs of a more adventurous approach but we were undone by an ultra hard working team. The worry for us is that we are next up against a team that is equally hard working unit but in people like Cahill, Johnson, Arteta are a class up from the Blades.
    Let us look at some positives to build on. The formation and people manning it were as good as we could put out so that is a step in the right direction.
    Could argue that at Blades play an exra midfield player but no silly selections or ‘clever’ tactics. We did create three excellant chances and took one. We didnt create much else and when you analyse top strikers they score at best one in four.
    We have been outwitted by Reading, Portsmouth, Notts County, Blackburn and Sheff Utd. That is a concern because we have got our points from bonus situations, not many would have predicted a home win at against Chelsea and draws at Arsenal and Bolton. That is not healthy because no matter how you slice it we have 5 points from 7 matches.
    So where now?
    1. As I keep stressing our bad run goes back some time and is now 70 points from 63 matches. The solution cannot be found in the football section at WH Smith.
    2. A couple of injuries clearing up and a little tinkering apart that is as good as we have.
    3. We will just have to keep continuity and allow players to build up understanding and confidence in the formation and what they are trying to do.
    4. Support the manager and the players. Gate appears to be an honest professional and decent bloke (I use the word appears because I dont know but that is what I think). Gibson has chosen him so we have to let him get on with it. If he needs help I hope he will ask for it but it may all be taken out of our hands if the licence issue isnt sorted in the coming weeks.

  2. Never mind eh, at least the jawdees had 25,000+ empty seats for their match against Tallin.
    Thats more important like, innit!

  3. It was a game we would have won with a little bit more luck ie two goals instead of hitting the post twice.
    The worrying aspect was as AV pointed out the midfield went AWOL when the Blades attacked. This emphasises our reliance on Boateng. Overall the problem is an abject lack of confidence, so over to GS for some motivation!

  4. I agree entirely with what has been said by Vic, Ian and Anthony.
    Couple of additional points. I have been saying for some time that we lack pace throughout the side. Except for transfers in January there is little that we can do about this. But we are also evidently less physically fit and strong than other sides.
    When is the last time anyone can remember us winning the right to play in a Prem game by matching a side who was prepared to battle us? No, I can’t remember either. Physical fitness and strength can be addressed and we need to start do it now.
    The other part of that is the pride and passion that gives commitment and drive that shows through on the field. Again, when in the Prem can you remember us winning a game because we wanted it more than our opponents? No, me neither.
    This can be addressed and it’s Gate’s job to lead it with the Captain, the coaches and the senior pro’s as he is supposed to have done last season. If he can’t do this it will see Gate off, so he has no choice. We need to see Churchill – not Ian Duncan Smith to quote someone famous. Decent is good, Ian, but on its own, does it get the troops up at dawn to kill?
    I am also disturbed by the ‘partnership’ of The Yak and Veruka. Leaving aside that both had pretty poor games yesterday – Veruka had a mare – and have done all this season, I see no sign that either actually wants to play in that partnership.
    There is evidently no feeling between them, not that there has to be, but equally evidently little wish to work together on a professional level. The Yak probably didn’t help by echoing what many of us have been saying about the mistake in letting JFH go. This must be sorted or we have to drop one of the two and play someone else – not that we’ve got a rich seam to mine.
    Another thing that can be addressed in coaching is our passing game, or more precisely how those off the ball work to provide an angle, a run or move for a pass. In all the great sides ‘pass and move’ is the simple but effective nostrum. If you watch us – especially in midfield we rarely do. So, often, there’s not a pass on.
    Also, when we receive we’re almost always standing square on rather than sideways so that the ‘natural’ pass is sideways or back and tight to feet rather than forward and into a run. This inevitably stifles momentum and means that every ball has to be inch perfect or you lose it. We gave a ‘fine’ display of this again at The Blades yesterday.
    Also, because the midfield are square on and not on the move they are static and slow to react when the opposition pass or run through them so we are easily turned and our back 4 exposed. Our lack of pace means recovery is slow.
    None of the above is rocket science and can and must be addressed, starting now.
    But we are where we are and, playing wise, we’re stuck with what we’ve got with The Boat and Huth to come in and Riggs to return for back up at some point. I can’t disagree with what Gate did with team selection and formation yesterday – it’s what we would all have done. So all we have left is to stick with it and get behind Gate and the team.
    That includes Gibbo and Lamb. They put Gate where he is and have to back him to the hilt. I’m not asking for the dreaded vote of confidence but unless they’re going to sack him, or let us all think they are, they should sort out his situation with the FA, Prem and UEFA now.
    And they should allow him his choice of first team coaches and either dispense with Round or demote him further. This is the only way to bring some freshness and quality in before the window.
    Doing these two things would be a tangible display of the support needed. If they’re not going to then they have to be kind and wield the knife now before we’re in the sort of nose dive you don’t pull out of.

  5. Having watched a recording of the game yesterday, along with Chelsea-Villa, Spurs-Pompey and Bolton-L’pool games, there is one clear message to Southgate and his team of trainers and coaches, get our players fitter!!
    I see it week in and week out, every other team in the PL appears to be fitter and more able to contest a game at the physical level better than we do.
    When was the last time you witnessed us coming out the blocks at the whistle, and getting stuck into a team from the offset?? Not since Robbo. That’s because I do not think the players are fit enough to do that for 95 minutes.
    We have a mentality from the previous regime (that is still evident because of the staff he left behind) that sees us fully drilled into marking space, containing the oppostion and an over cautious approach to games, even at home, such that we wait until we go one down before we react.
    To yesterdays game; Gate did everything we asked of him, 4-4-2, 2 strikers, he picked what he could from a squad full of over ripe money grabbers, injury crocks and kids, the team I would have picked (less Boateng), but they let us and him down. It is patently obvious that Viduka just doesn’t want to be there.
    However I think there is room for optimism, but I have said for long enough, we must stop tinkering with the side. Let a settled team have a go at turning it around, at least until the January window opens. After all we are stuck with the players we have, so there is nothing Gate can do until then anyway.
    In the meantime Gate has to be his own man, get rid of the dead wood in terms of players AND coaches as soon as he can. He needs to look at which positions he needs to strengthen and target the players now, not after Xmas when the window opens.
    And to Gibbo I would say, that I personally think you made a massive error in shoving Gate into this job without someone he could turn to for proper guidance, so put that right and help our manager get the guy in that he really wants instead of a bunch 2nd rate wannabee’s.

  6. Vic,
    On one of your additional observations, about atmosphere in the ground on Saturday.
    I have long prayed for a Boro Anthem since my time as an Ayresome Angel back in the 60’s, something that we could identify with.
    Fly Me to The Moon (the song not the fanzine) always seemed a good choice to me when we were “playing among the stars” in the PL with Robbo, we had a new stadium, a new revolution was starting.
    But no we stuck with Mark what’s-his-name on the tannoy as official cheerleader, until Pig Bag came along.
    It served it’s purpose back then, got us all on our feet before a game, and it’s still good now when we’ve turned someone over like Chelski or Man U.
    But it’s about time it was put to bed, it’s used more now by visiting supporters to take the mickey than by us.
    I am still hopeful that the Twe12th Man group might take this on along with the singing section, the card displays etc, even down to producing song sheets if they need to, but we need to get some new stuff out there and lose some the tired old chants of yesteryear.
    Mind you, none of this will happen unless we see something better on the pitch.

  7. John, agree with all you say. Some further thoughts.
    But before that something amusing, during the warm up the linesman was practising putting his flag up!
    From behind the goal, especially in the second half, everything seemed to place miles away from us. There were very few balls for Downing and Morrison to run onto. Very few balls into the channels for Yak and Veruka to chase, in Verukas case maybe chase is the wrong word. The swapping of Mendi for Morrison did nothing to lift our penetration. Everything came from a standing start. This goes back to the idea of playing further up the pitch. As we saw several times over the weekend players only need to get a couple of yards on the defender to get the ball in to the area. But that needs to be near their box.
    As for Gate being a decent chap I made my point poorly. My comments were about does he mean what he says not how tough he is. I think he probably needs some help and I hope he asks for it or some kindly soul suggests it. We are only seven games in but Taylors magic ten game rule draws closer.

  8. Gate has two weeks to work with his charges. John is right that he may need support – we dont know what goes on behind closed doors. as for Gate himself, my comments about him were not about his toughness but that I believe what he says. The putting it into action is the tricky bit.
    To follow on from Johns comments about midfield, it appeared we werent playing far enough up the pitch. When Downing or Morrison received the ball it was on the half way line. They were never played in near the opposition box. There were several examples over the weekend in other matches where players got a yard on the defender and the ball played in across the box. From my position behind the goal I needed binoculars to see Boro’s midfield in the second half.

  9. Interesting comment about Sheffield United being a team of journeymen. Given that the oldest player in their starting line up was 27 year old Rob Hulse, it would be good to know how you came about that description.

  10. What an absolute load of tosh. How can you say we were unlucky to get a draw or a win? We were TERRIBLE. The Blades, despite missing quality throughout the park, pressured our back line constantly in the second half and our midfield was terrible, Viduka is a waste of space and the full backs had a nightmare.

  11. A thought….GS was appointed in the Summer because Steve Gibson wanted continuity, fair enough, a good plan.
    However given GS is inexperienced and the fact that Steve Round clearly is not going to hang around was this year a bit early to adopt this strategy.
    Surely a deal could have been done where by Martin O’Neil arrives with his boys, GS becomes a player coach, etc. That way we would now be where Villa are and when Mr. O’Neil got the call from Man Utd we would have GS ready to take over.
    I know hindsight is a wonderful thing but surely Steve Gibson knew Round was ambitious to move on at some point so no continuity there. The line between success and failure is so thin, we could have won at Reading, Arsenal, and drawn at Sheffield, and we would all be saying what a great season we are having. But now we are all wondering whether GS is to inexperienced.
    Steve Gibson took a big risk and it may still pay off but confidence in a team is everything and at the moment it is draining away fast. What I find frustrating is Steve Gibson and Keith Lamb have said they believe Boro can achieve Champions League football, surely to do that you appoint the best you can?
    A top four finish seems a million miles away, but then not so long ago so did a UEFA cup final!

  12. Sorry about posting twice so close together. The first time a warning message came up saying I couldnt post at that time and to try later. This I did but obviously it had stored or accepted the first effort

  13. ‘Sheffield United scored their first and a good one would have not been hustled out of the points by the guiless workrate of a team of journeymen. Being the first team to lose to the one dimensional Warnock approach is not a good sign.’
    Journeyman? Look at the age of our players. Mostly a young side I am afraid that played on Saturday. Average age about 24 I think. I agree you should have scored 2 goals (although you could argue both chances came about in same move)
    One dimensional? I am afraid after the first 25 minutes where you shaded it, apart from your goal second half, it was pretty much all us and if you actually care to watch the replay of the game we played some good football with some one tocuh played and some excellent pieces of skill from Webber, Armstrong, Quinn to name a few.
    Still don;t let the facts get in the way of stereotyped ideas on Warnocks teams. Saturday we played better football, comptered more and deserved to win. The way you sat back after equalising was a major surprise and for continaulaly attacking we deserved to get a winner.

  14. John Powls is exactly right with his comments our passing is dreadful. Having played many years ago at a part time professional level I find it very frustrating watch our team.
    They are not prepared to play the game at any pace, they all carry the ball 10yards or so before passing and allowing the opposition to mark up. Rochembach is always looking to pass inside or outside the fullback but unfortunatly our wingers are always facing their own goal and wanting the ball to feet rather than space.
    When the ball is played into the channels or inside the fullbacks they do not move and he looks stupid.
    I believe the team want to sit down and watch the Chelsea’s Arsenal’s Man United and even little Reading and watch how they play to the wings. Trouble is none of our players move around to create any space for themselves or team mates and until they do we will get nowhere.

  15. I’d like to apologise for my beloved inferior Blades, who are just popping in to the premiership party for one season!
    I’m sorry our one dimensional journeymen had the nerve to beat the Boro!
    some observations
    1. Boro are not fit enough
    2. Viduka and Yakubu doesn’t work
    3. Andy davies is not a RB
    4. Poggy, Taylor, Cattermole and Rochemback had good games
    5. ditch pigbag and me mark page – embarrassing
    6.bring back the power game/bernard gent
    7. our song refers to “a gallon of magnet” not pints of tetleys – lazy journalism
    see you in the championship

  16. Even though I agree we should be aiming for more, Sheffield United whipping boys????
    They drew to Liverpool in a game they should have won, they outplayed Blackburn and should have won if it not for Brad Friedel and they gave us one hell of a second half hammering.

  17. I was a little annoyed at some of what you put!
    Kenny? no
    Bromby? no
    Davis? no
    Armstrong? no
    Gillespie? Man utd, Newcastle,Blackburn, Leicester Sheff Utd I will give u that 1.
    Leigertwood? no
    Jags? no
    Quinn? no
    Hulse? no
    Richards? no
    Nade? no
    Kozluk? no
    Kabba? no
    Webber? no
    Morgan? no
    Oh and congratulations on the 1 trophy you have won in your whole history!
    And for your so called special club that won a major trophy in the last couple of years, UEFA cup runners up, ridiculous finacial backing and guess what you still havent achieved what we have, and we have won nothing for over 75 years.
    P.S Thats 3 defeats in your last 3 games against us!

  18. You’re an idiot….. journeymen? I’d have a guess that your squad was older than ours. I’ll tell you who the biggest, overpaid, useless journeyman was – Mark Viduka !
    Lets see if he’ll hang around for Championship football next season!
    Apart from that, lets face it, you’re not good enough, you can’t live off the back of a ‘glory’ season in Europe forever and its no surprise to see you’ve lost to 2 of the newly promoted sides this season.

  19. Not sure where the issue of age comes into being a Journeyman.
    Doesn’t the term come from 19th Century labour distictions – apprentice, craftsman, journeyman, professional, indentured etc.
    And isn’t the modern football interpretation more along the lines of ‘good, honest pro – tryer; but without the skill to be first rate or a star; may have been around a few clubs because he can do a job for you; always turns in a shift’.
    Being around a few clubs may indicate a few more miles on the clock but not necessarily. And I don’t take it as an insult – particularly as applied to an individual. But if that’s all there is in a team…..
    Anyway, Blades fans, Journeymen or not, they were good enough to beat our lot. Whether they (or for that matter our lot) will be good enough to keep you (or us) in the Prem is another matter. The Mackems beat us on our own ground last season, of course.

  20. Sheffield deserved to win purely and simply because they played to win the game for 90+ minutes. Boro got nothing because as per usual the coaching staff decided to settle for one point.
    Viduka is a disgrace and if he retires from international football he will (if its possible) become even lazier than he currently is, as he won’t then be playing for his International place.
    Why was Mendi brought on? Surely it would have been better to bring on Maccarone, he can still at least run.
    For the Everton game Boro should play 3 at the back and have wing backs of Morrison or Cattermole and Downing or Taylor.
    Everton will have one up front and flood the midfield. Boro will not need 4 at the back and by playing 3 – 5 – 2 it will at least give us hope of scoring a goal at home

  21. Blimey, I didn’t realsie the Blades fans were so passionate!
    But guys what are you bothering to read a blog which is unashamedly biased, this isn’t the BBC!
    Sheffield deserved to win they scored the most goals, but we know the Boro can play a lot better, nothing to do with the Blades performance. And yes to echo John Powls, using the term journeyman does not have an implication.
    One final ‘dig’ the Blades fan who said see you in the Championship, I assume he believes his team are relegation fodder then!!

  22. Very lazy journalism.
    The problem is that when writing the article you seemed to maintain that Boro should simply have won and United should merely have rolled over and let it happen. Judging the game purely on its own merits, United had more possession and more attempts at goal.
    I really hope clubs stop signing Viduka with the hopes that this time he can lay off the pies long enough to hit the form we know he can. He just isn’t bothered. See Benito Carbone for details.
    The fact is that United were the better side on Saturday and deserved to win. You can now go and analyse your squad and wonder why Boro didn’t out-perform the poor little Blades, but that shouldn’t bias your report as it clearly did.
    Somewhere between the manager and squad, Boro just didn’t meet United’s standards on Saturday.

  23. Andy
    No offence meant but this site is for us to be biased, you can be biased on your own site. If we post on yours, feel free to tell us to go forth and multiply
    And good luck for the rest of the season, I actually like Warnock because he says it as he sees it.

  24. The blades fans give the team the vocal backing at every game, home and away. We realise that for the last 12 years we have been out of the top flight and we do intened to stay there this season, the blades fans will back the team to the last second of EVERY game.
    We havent spent the millions like boro, you are fortunate to have a good chairman, our board has made great progress off the pitch and we finacially sound but dont waste money.
    We desrved the win and boro look poor, your players have no spirt.

  25. Some Blades fans live on Teesside!!
    and yes I believe we are only on a one season visitors visa to the premiership…there are reasons for that.
    The championship is a vibrant league and not to be sniffed at.
    relegated premiership teams with a superiority complex regularly struggle in it…

  26. Hey Vic, top blog mate. That’s the best response you’ve had since you started it up. The Blades fans must’ve sent round robin across the country. I’ve never had so much fun reading since I stopped buying The Hotspur.
    It’s great to see so much passion, something that we used to have when we first hit the PL scene with Robbo. Now the majority of posts on The Gazette MB and on here are quite frankly depressing (some of mine included).
    The difference is that we think we are better than Sheff Utd, Reading and Watford, when in reality right now we aren’t. The table doesn’t lie.
    However I have to say that I believe Reading’s bubble will burst and that both Sheff Utd and Watford will struggle to stay in the league. I just hope that we can find our feet again and start to improve, because if not, and we are faced with playing any of the three noted above in a dogfight come May, I know who will be up for it more.

  27. As much as I love the Boro, I think I’m at a stage where I’d like to see a spirited performance like the Blades on Saturday from the likes of Hulse, Tonge and Jagielka than watch the Laboured efforts of our so called stars (yak and Viduka were awful, Rochembach average)
    You Blades fans seem a good bunch but instead of a greasy chip butty and a gallon of magnet, get yourselves down our way for a Turkey Parmo and some eighty bob before we turn you over at the Riverside on New Years Day.
    Hopefully we will do this with passion filled attacking football and 2007 will be (UEFA cup dreamland apart) be a whole lot better than 06.
    We don’t however at the moment look capable of getting much from Everton or the Geordies. 2 weeks hard work, a bit of 12th man passion, at least four points from 2 good performances and things won’t be so bad but anything less and we are in trouble…………..BIG TROUBLE

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