Monthly Archives: March 2007

The Bleak Flip Side To The Statistical Coin.

BORO go to West Ham looking to bounce back from their bitter FA Cup exit and step up the push for Euro glory through the tradesman entrance of the Intertoto Cup, or so the upbeat spin would have it. Bolton, Everton and Spurs have applied for the safety net but could all yet squeeze into the UEFA Cup if the big boys carve up the trophies again.
Blackburn, just four points ahead of Boro and also still bidding for a lucky losers spot in the FA Cup, and reigning plaque holders Newcastle, one point better off, have also applied and both can easily be overhauled if only our heroes can continue their recent good form.
Hold on. Come again. Good form?

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John Bull Takes A Tumble

PATRIOTS: if thine own eye offend you…. amid the spluttering of indignation at England only winning, the forensic fury from the poison pens aimed at the boss and a flurry of doughnut and root vegetable based cartoon character assassinations there seemed little room to point out the latest penalty box am-dram acrobatics for the benefit of the referee.
We hear much about Johnny Foreigner being particular being adept at the art of the tumble and how this alien virus is damaging the game and the standards we true English hearts alone fight to defend. Hold on – that dive by Steven Gerrard was pathetic!

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Support Super Synners Wembley Dream

A WORD of thoroughly deserved praise for bubbling Billingham Synthonia, the pyramid part-timers who are within sight of a fairytale trip to the spectacular new Wembley Stadium that could pour second hand consolation glory into the vaccuum left by Boro’s bitter FA Cup exit.
Super Synners face on Southampton-based side AFC Totton on Saturday taking a 2-1 advantage into the second leg of their FA Vase semi-final. They have the upper hand and a pyschological edge after a dogged tin hats defence and a late winner in a sparkling show against the cloud-scraping Southampton outfit’s Land of the Giants aerial attack.
Victory – or even a draw – on Saturday will set up a thrilling climax to the season with a silverware showdown in the shadow of the iconic arch. I am so excited I could explode. The people of Teesside show be proud of their mighty minnows and football fans should get themselves to Central Avenue on Saturday.

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Unpopular Mac On Borrowed Time… Again.

JUST AS the Queen must believe the whole world beyond the Buck House gates smells of fresh paint so must Steve McClaren have mounting empirical evidence that the background noise to everyday life is jeering, booing and unprovoked vitriolic comments.
The hapless England boss has got off to the worst ever start of any England manager, has seen his public image crash and burn, has alienated the supporters and has been comprehensively savaged by the entire spectrum of the press. Even mild mannered but extremely influential Henry Winter of the Telegraph has put the boot in. Mac must yearn for his cosy golden age of relative popularity, tangible success and only sporadically dodging flying Red Books and brickbats from an adoring Boro public.
Steve McClaren has been found out with England. His weaknesses have been exposed in the unforgiving spotlight that comes with the job, his uncomfortable media presence and naive attempts at self-defensive spin ruthlessly ripped apart, his tactics put under intense scrutiny and found wanting and his clumbsy man-management skills found wanting. In an unforgiving arena where every mistake can be fatal Steve McClaren has already made far too many.

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England Woody Blow Is Good News For Boro

GET IN! Result. That was my reaction to the news that Jonathan Woodgate was pulling out of the England squad for the weekend qualifier in Israel. It’s not so much that I am a warped individual who wishes to see pain and international frustration descend on our iconic stopper, more that seeing him limp out of the big match was undoubtedly a big boost for Boro.
He has picked up a minor knee injury and dropped out of McClaren’s set-up in the full glare of the sensationalist media circus that follows the national side. My first instinct was that it will have been caused by the knock he got as the gravitationally challenged Ronaldo cut inside and clipped him on it as he looked for an excuse to go sprawling.
My second was that this was fantastic news for Boro. The more short-sighted managers, cheque-book wielding chief executives and rat pack journalists who think Woody is a serial crock the better because it strengthens the club’s hand when it comes to battling for his signature in the Summer.

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Cup KO Caption Contest

AS a diversion from the debris of angst, bitterness and recriminations left in the wake of Boro’s painful FA Cup exit, let’s lighten the mood with a little caption competition.
Here’s a fantastic PA picture of the shocking scenes as a furious Spurs fan invaded the pitch and took a swing at Frank Lampard after their replay on Monday night. Unbelieveable! Outrageous! Disgraceful. Here, isn’t that Stewy Downing?
stewypunch.jpg
Bearing in mind that lawyers and young people read this blog, who is saying what to who?

Penalties, Professionalism and Two Fingers To Fans

FIRST let us make clear that the referee had to give a penalty. In real time and from where he was stood well away from play the decision looked a stonewall one: Ronaldo cut inside and Woodgate stuck out a foot. There was contact and the man with the spring loaded spine went PING! Game over. That he himself scored the spot-kick just rubbed salt in the wound.
In the post-mortem the certainty evaporated. Woodgate clearly stetched to tackle but then pulled out short and planted his studs firmly in the turf, presumably to block any attempted cross. The contact when it came was initiated by Ronaldo as the penalty box artiste sensed the golden opportunity and cut across to tumble over the defender’s knee in dramatic fashion. It was a master class in chance taking and forcing the referee’s hand.
But the reaction to it was maddening, and saddening. There is an unconscious dark alliance of managers, officials and pundits within the game who conspire to justify this creative approach to the exploitation of the rules, who have made institutional cheating an integral part of the game: diving, dissent, feigning injury, pushing, pulling and claiming throws after you have personally put out the ball out. Those who take a living from the game do not realise and do not care about the gravity of the insult to the paying public when they turn a blind eye to this cancerous trend.

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New Boro Injury Shock?

D’OH! Boro left back starlet Andrew Taylor has suffered a toe injury and has pulled out of the England U-21 squad for next week’s Wembley curtain-raiser with Italy, according to reports from PA which we are trying to confirm. Presumably that means he is has also been ruled out of tonight’s match leaving Boro with a massive defensive crisis.
If true then he must be out of tonight’s game or why withdraw him for the U-21s now? They would just announce it tomorrow if they wanted him to rest it after the game. There is no point getting the FA riled by withdrawing him from the squad then playing him tonight. So we must assume then that Boro are without him for the big Old Trafford showdown.

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Rest The Big Guns Ready For United

KEEPING the season buzzing is the most important thing now . The trip to Old Trafford holds out the prospect of glory and victory there will set up a spectacular season finale of the kind we would barely have believed credible back in August.
Beating Manchester City would be a quickly forgotten short term high if Boro then come down with a bang and lose on Monday. To have an almost tangible semi-final showdown with Watford and a chance to first foot at Wembley snatched away would be a cruel crippling blow.
To that end Boro should rest their big hitters to keep them fresh for Old Trafford. We should concentrate all our fire on the replay. It is the doorway to glory and victory is paramount.

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Rave Review For Southgate Show

WHAT A thoroughly nice bloke. Thoughtful, articulate, reasonable but capable of passion, realistic but very ambitious, serious but with humour, honest, modest, polite, engaging, genuine, diplomatic, human, self-deprecating… but enough about me – did you catch Gareth Southgate in his illuminating hour long Q & A session on Radio Cleveland?
The Boro boss ticked all the right boxes and pressed a lot of populist buttons as he eased to a comfortable PR win. As with the team, it was an open and crowd-pleasing display that was totally unthinkable under the old regime. Stony Steve McClaren’s interaction with supporters was frosty at best and he would never consider making himself available to the local media in such an uncontrolled format. It would have been a string of foot in mouth moments that would have inflamed the mob, sparked new divisions and left in its wake accusations of arrogance, duplicity, self-serving spin and disrespect for the supporters.
But Southgate is far more personable, open and, well, intelligent. He realises the importance of the relationship between the fans and the club and is keen to foster it. He has a feeling for the club and its importance to the people and to the town. What a refreshing change.

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