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.


Boro fans will be fuming today and feeling cheated. Once again the under-dog gets a raw deal in a game against the big boys. For Boro it is a third time this season that the treble-chasers have needed a contentious penalty decision to deny them a result and that has got to hurt.
Back in December when Ronaldo tumbled in anticipation of a challenge that never arrived, red faced Sir Alex fumed with indignation at the very thought that Boro could complain about the acrobatics. It was a pre-emptive move to avoid the tackle and not a dive he said. The key was that there was “intent” he insisted, falling in mitigation onto an unknowable abstract concept that the Victorians who framed the rules had indeed made central to the notion of foul play. However his noble philosphical position on individual choice and consciousness was undermined when he threw in the line that Gareth Southgate was “naive” to complain about it. The message was simple: “Get with the programme, everyone does it.”
And indeed everyone does. Boro got a helping foot towards the UEFA Cup final last term as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink left his trailing leg there to be clipped and won a vital penalty against Roma. Yakubu goes down very easily for such a big lad too. And don’t even start about John Hendrie and his allergic reaction to the 18 yard line. All professional footballers seek to gain every advantage whenever possible no matter what shirt they wear. Let us not think Boro are squeaky clean. All clubs are complicit in it.
The view of fans is diametrically opposed to that of players on this issue. The supporters’ position was illustrated by the first caller on Century after the game: Ronaldo is a cheat who conned England in the World Cup and shouldn’t be even be playing in this country. It was reinforced on the message boards too: Morrison should have broken the cheating get’s legs… an extreme enraged sentiment that has been echoed at almost every club side this term as dodgy decisions followed in the anti-hero’s wake.
But that is miles away from the view of the former players turned pundits. Bernie Slaven told that first caller that he should admire Ronaldo and that, as a former striker, the ‘Living Legend’ would have done exactly the same. “I would cheat my granny to get a penalty and go down in the box,” he admitted with admirable honesty.
Meanwhile Alan Shearer said more or less the same on BBC’s red button highlights and analysis show. “He’s very clever,” said the son of a sheet metal worker. “He looked for it but you can’t blame him for that.”
And to make it a hat-trick the smarmy Amazing Portuguese Falling Over Man himself popped up soon after to grin his way through an interview in which he pointed out: “Of course it was a penalty. He touched me and I lost my equilibrium and I went down.”
That assumes of course that contact is in itself an offence. It isn’t. Football is a contact sport and legitimate attempts to win the ball are allowed, even if as a result the opponent is sent sprawling, an even if that is in the box. The key, as Sir Alex pointed out, is “intent” and while it is clear that Woodgate did not intend to foul Ronaldo – he appears to pull out specifically to avoid doing so – it certainly seemed to Bernie, Shearer and the rest that Ronaldo did intend to “buy” the decision. So where’s the offence there?
Sadly, the people who are employed to determine intent and prevent the systematic manipulation of the rules are woefully inadequate. Take Jasper Carrot-alike Mike Dean. He was supposedly in charge of the game but appeared totally incapable of making the clearest of decisions. I won’t blame him for the penalty because he has been sold a dummy by a master and it looked clear cut. And I won’t blame him for sending off James Morrison because it was a ludicrous rash challenge born of frustration that, with Lee Cattermole banned for the next two games, will leave the team with a big problem on the right.
But what are we to make of Dean’s failure to take action against Wayne Rooney? Already booked for mouthing off, the spud faced Scouser charged 20 yards to confront George Boateng with his hands up. As we know, the fortune cookie pundit world view is that “if you raise your hands you’re off.” Result: George booked for his part in the handbags and Rooney escapes scot free. Then, after the Morrison lunge, Rooney dived in angrily to grab Mozza by the neck right in front of the referee. Again no booking. That was followed by a four letter tirade at Dean which was again ignored. What does he have to do to get sent off?
How can the game possibly regain any sense of integrity, natural justice or discipline when officials are openly ignoring such flagrant disregard for the laws of the game and their own authority? That Rooney – a serial swearee with borderline Tourettes – was not pedalled sends out a powerful message that some players are beyond the law.
And the media are also culpable. There will be no inquest on Sky about Ronaldo’s systematic deception. The tabliods will not rush to defend the honour of the beautiful game. Instead it will be gushing, sycophantic praise for United, Chelsea and Arsenal and a bandwagon rolling to get the stepover king named as Player of the Year. And the players – even the ones who have been victims of the full range of his talents – will vote for him because they recognise that he is brilliant “at what he does”. And because they aspire to do the same.
******
FABIO Rochemback will have burnt his bridges with a lot of fans as he greeted the whistle with a big smiley cuddle and laugh with arch-villian Ronaldo. They may well be fellow Portuguese speakers with a lot of mutual friends and, who knows, they may be on MSN to each other twice a day but there is a time and place for such a love in – and it is not on the pitch with the supporters angry and hurt and barely two minutes after a big flare-up.
But it is not just the post-match fraternisation that will have annoyed. The midfield heavyweight came on as a substitute looking like he had spent his time away moonlighting as a parmo taster and promtly gave away a dangerous free-kick with a needless handball. It wasn’t the only one he conceded either , and most in dangerous positions because although he was presumably thrown on to try and get a goal he rarely crossed the half-way line.
It is hard to see how he has a future at the club. He has undoubted talent but physically he is not up to the challenge, his fancy flicks cause more problems for Boro than the opposition and his attitude leaves a lot to be desired. We spent January with his father/agent trying to engineer a move back to Sporting and questioning the Boro players attitide after defeats, yet tonight he was the one who looked like he didn’t care.
****
THE PENDULUM has just swung against Boro in their bid to keep Jonathan Woodgate. He has been honest in his assement of the situation all along and has made it clear he still has big ambitions and he wants to win things and play on the biggest stage.
The best thing Boro could do to persuade him he could realise those ambitions at the Riverside was to get to the FA Cup final and even if they lost barge into the UEFA Cup through the back door. A semi-final with Watford and beyond that a dream date at Wembley for the proud local ald beckoned. Not making it through has been a massive set-back.
Now the club must ensure they set about bringing in some good players early in the Summer to show their too have ambitions and to give him reason to believe that staying at Boro would not be another year or two lost from a career that has promised much but as yet delivered little.
And it is not just Woodgate that must be persuaded. Keeping the defensive linchpin could be a factor in making sure Mark Viduka and others stay and attracting new quality players in. We must hope for a good finish to the season to offer hope for the future.
****
I AM sick as a chip. We have missed our chance again. Well, that’s another season over.

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41 thoughts on “Penalties, Professionalism and Two Fingers To Fans

  1. Like many my instinct was penalty and watching sky replay several times it looked as if Woodie had made clear contact with Ronaldos knee. If it had happened at the other end and the ref didnt give it we would have whinged about big club bias.
    But that is the problem with TV replays, the ref gives what he sees, we see the same tackle half a dozen times and still disagree about interpretation.
    Fact is if you make a decision in the box and catch somebody you give the ref little choice.
    But the truth is we didnt do enough to win, our one clear chance came to Downing and as the pundits said there wasnt much chance of it going in as he was closed down so quickly before it got to him.
    Sadly this is going to be a limp end to the season, Our limp performance on Saturday hasnt endeared us to some managers. Many will keep their counsel but both Warnock and beetroot face have criticisd us.
    The prospects of Woodie staying look as bright as our Uefa Cup hopes, coming up a couple of matches against the bottom two, Catt and Morrison suspended. Morrison’s actions were disgraceful and pointless, the only problem is 20 million were cheering and you dont know whether to lock him up or give him freedom of the city.
    Like many I am sick as a parrot this morning with little to look forward to. You also start looking at the table and start wondering where the next point will come from.
    We are unlikely to go down but it promises to be uncomfortable for a few weeks yet.

  2. The semi finals need not be played, the FA has to get some cash back from the Wembley fiasco and so a dream final of Chelsea and Man U will be the plan.
    Ronaldho or as I have called him in the past Chris Snode is a serial cheat, the only thing missing when he lands is the splash.
    However as you said no team is blameless and as long as diving is condoned by the authorities it will continue as part and parcel of the game.
    The FA charge players when the referee has made a mistake and missed an act of voilent conduct, why cann’t they do as they once promised and charge the cheats as well?
    Dean is a weak referee and as Rooney is a Man U and England player, he is in the one rule for him and one rule for the rest select group of players.
    Hopefully GS will not allow the team to go through the motions as they did on Saturday for the rest of the season.
    There is still plenty to play for, points means cash and a strong finish may convince Viduka and Woodgate that it can only get better next season.

  3. Vic
    So that’s what we threw 3 points away on Saturday for. Still think it was worth it?
    Our intent and the extent of out ‘ambition’ was never more than ET and penalties – very difficult to pull off.
    OK, the defence was sound-ish but still got done 2 or 3 times by a ManUre classic – the slid ball down the channels – which is obvious to anyone who watches MOTD or Sky regularly, let alone to the devotees of pro-zone and coaching videos. Doubtless harder to stop than identify.
    Schwarz was in good form, however, which prevented us getting a tanking, for which we must be grateful, I suppose.
    More kamekazi defending from the Peroxide Portugueezer, including letting Ronaldo run free in the move that lead to the pen. (What happened to Parns, by the way?)
    Despite all the post-hoc ire and bile I have to say that when I saw the incident in real time my first reaction was ‘penalty’ and you can see why it was given.
    I know Ronaldo’s a **** but Woody should know better because he’s an experienced pro in the Prem and in Spain. He also knows Ronaldo’s a **** and he’d already steered him into a postion where he was little threat.
    I think you’re dead right about Rocky – I didn’t think he had a future with us anyway and should have gone in January. He shouldn’t play for us again.
    But, as you also point out, what are we going to do for a right side in the next 2 games? Not Euell, for goodness sake. If Huth is back – one of the only bright spots from last night – do we go 3-5-2 again with PP or Parns at right wing back? Or do we bring Johnno in and play 2 left wingers again? Neither is palatable, but it’s needs must.
    You say our season is over. I don’t think it is. Look at our fixtures left – I think we’ll struggle to pick up anything on the road.
    And our home games aren’t that easy either – particularly if Gate can’t dig them out of the current malaise – maybe fuelled by the thought that our season is over and they’d rather be on the beach.
    We’ll struggle for a crowd too, given that many I’ve talked to felt cheated by paying full price for a game against Citeh where 26,000 of them turned up and the team, by deliberate decision, didn’t.
    With the Hammers and the Addicks beginning what could be a charge and with Sheff Utd also angry that we fielded a weakened side against Citeh, I think we’re going to spend the rest of this season sweating on our survival.
    Sorry if that causes an outburst from you and Never Happy – perhaps you could tell me why I’m wrong. Maybe time for the NASA scientists to get their calculators out again.
    That, and last night’s result, also damages our prospects for retaining Vids and Woody as you say. This will feed into who we can attract into our squad in the close season – Juventus rejects, if the recent rumours (put about by Juve on their recent car boot sale tour of small/medium clubs, as they genteelly put it) are true.
    But as a wise sage called Ian often reminds us, how you end a season often drives how you start the next.
    so all of this doesn’t bode well for next season as well as this.
    When I talked about a profound mistake this is what I meant. Pulling us through this will be a real test of how far Gate has come.

  4. AV – I am sure that Mr Ferguson and the others that you have mentioned in your article, will gracefully accept defeat in the Champions League, if it comes by the way of a dodgy penalty.

  5. Very disappointing night but well done to the Boro fans in Uniteds East. They brought some life to the corporate shell that is Old Trafford. Not proud of myself but couldnt help but enjoy Morrisons tackle on our Portugese pal. As the bloke next to me said. That was worth the £35 ticket price alone.

  6. The biggest diapointment last night was going out to a penalty, made worse by the fact that it was three games in a row with the same man ‘winning’ the penalty and that irritating grin of his makes it all the worse.
    What hurts is we can’t deal with him for a full 90 because he is so good if flawed. That said we didn’t score and if you don’t do that you can’t win.
    JP I fundamentaly believe you are wrong about the way GS played the citeh game, we didn’t loose because he dropped a few players we lost because those that played were pre-occupied. He should have dropped the entire 11 who were to play on Monday. No distraction that way.
    Also to win you have to take risks, this time the risk didn’t come off, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth taking. Are you saying we should have gone for the win on Saturday and written off the FA cup? Whats the point in that, who cares if we finish tenth or 12th? No one will remember but we’d all remember winning the FA cup. If you spend your time worrying about failure you’ll achieve nothing.
    AV getting to Wembley would have been a big step in keeping Woodie but its not all over yet. He has a big dilema on his hands , he clearly loves playing for Boro but wants a successful career. Maybe the plans GS has will persuade him to take a risk and stay.
    The other unknown is who wants to buy him. To be guaranteed more success than he would get at the Boro would mean going to one of the big four. He may not fancy London, I don’t and I live there! The likes of Man Utd , Liverpool may have other priorities this Summer.
    Clutching at straws I know but its not over yet.
    Hopefully Woodie can see the progress that has been made this season and decides to give it a blast……

  7. this is just sour grapes. boro got battered and if it wasnt for schwarz would have been three or four down before the penalty. and it was a penalty, end of, just like the boat handball was at the riverside. woodgate made a daft tackle when he was going nowhere and if it has been at the other end and not given id have put the telly through.
    all teams cheat, we know that. boro do it. and when we are a goal down with five minutes left i want them to do it. jimmy penalty, yak dive, go down after been swatted by solano, punch the ball in the net, roll back on the pitch when you are injured to get the game stopped, whatever.
    if the game was tight they were alway sgonna get a penalty. they always do. there is a penalty in every game now because the refs are moving towards ALL tackling been illegal. it doesnt matter if you win the ball, if theres no contact, if the lad goes down its a foul. we should start doing it too but then we would get sent off for diving.

  8. John – No NASA scientists required, Boro will beat Watford, Spurs and Fulham.
    We are a far better team than Watford and Fulham, and Spurs will have the UEFA cup on their minds.
    If you think our fixtures are tough how many points will West Ham get from homes games against Middlesbrough, Chelsea, Everton, Bolton, and away games at Arsenal, Sheff Utd, Wigan, Man Utd?
    Charlton have home games against Wigan, Reading, Sheff Utd, Tottenham, and away games at Man City, Everton, Blackburn, Liverpool.
    West Ham are 13 points (with GD it may as well be 14 points behind Boro). That means they will need to win 5 of the 8 games above just to get above the Boro (if Boro get nothing)
    Charlton are 9 points (effectively 10 with GD)That means they will need to win 4 of the 8 games above just to get above the Boro (if Boro get nothing). They also have to play 3 of the sides that are just above them in the table and as such will be taking points of each other.
    The season may have gone flat over the weekend but Boro will not be relegated or sucked in to a relegation battle.

  9. “Hopefully Woodie can see the progress that has been made this season and decides to give it a blast……”
    What progress is that then?

  10. Kenny Holgate – We have a team which has an excellent defensive record from October onward, a team which has scored plenty of goals in the same period and which if had started the season in the same form would now be 5th or 6th.
    Also the team is playing far more attractive attacking football than last year. GS has got rid of several under performing and ‘past it’ players, brought in new players such as Arca and Huth who have improved the squad and given the young players such as AT a chance to excel.
    If that isn’t progress I don’t know what is. Also the players are enjoying their football which they weren’t last year.
    Over to you……

  11. Nigel
    I think you’ve got me fundamentally wrong. I don’t think we should have dropped anybody. I think we should have done the professional thing – gone out with a full side under instruction to win the game against Citeh and to put the replay out of their heads.
    If we’d got ahead enough then we could have rested players. If ManUre are professional enough to do that why aren’t we?
    I believe that a win against Citeh would have put us in a much better place than we started last night in.
    Never Happy
    On your prediction for forthcoming games for 2 of the bottom 3 plus the Blades. At this time of the season all bets are off on the usual form – particularly where beach-itis strikes the increasing number of teams with nothing left to play for. And don’t try to tell me that the average Prem player gets as excited as the Chairman about a couple more million for finishing 9th as opposed to 14th.
    What would your prediction have been for West Ham away at Blackburn before Sunday afternoon? What about the Addicks before their last game (or 3 for that matter)?
    And there are a number of them playing one another but it doesn’t need all 3 of them to make a charge – just 1. The number of wins they need is less than Pompey managed last season. So if that 1 takes the 3 points off the others consistently…..
    On our fixtures, I don’t think we’ll get anything away from home, including against The Hammers – we never do. That defeat at Upton Park (which I’m going to inflict on my lad and I) will have us on a run of defeats and them on a run of wins. We may well see the outbreak of knee/hip/back rash from Vids and maybe even Woody too as he dreams of Madrid or somewhere other than Boro.
    Watford at home next. This is a banana skin against a side who will have by then thrown caution to the winds and will be out for a good time in their final few games in the Prem, although they may ‘rest’ a few in advance of their semi the week after.Though I don’t pick Boothroyd as being as soft a touch as Gate on this sort of thing. If you couple this with our tendency to do ‘foot-off-gas’ against teams we think we’re far better than……
    On our other home fixtures. Notice you don’t mention Villa. Perhaps it’s the painful memory of them at our place last season. Weeping Catts and ‘catch the season ticket’. They’re a better side than last season too. Are we?
    Then Spurs. Yes, maybe they’ll have this season’s UEFA on their minds but they’ll also have next season too. They’re not their usual soft touch selves away from home either.
    And much better than Fulham? You can’t have been at Craven Cottage earlier this season like I was. And do we really want to go into the last game of the season needing to beat them to stay up when they may be similarly placed?
    I have noticed that as the weeks have gone on you have scaled down your predictions for our final points total. I think the high water mark was somewhere in the mid-fifties but that has come down of late. Where would you put us now?
    Of course, if we’d done the pro thing and beaten Citeh we wouldn’t be having this exchange.
    **AV writes: Congratulations! This is the 2000th comment posted on this blog. One bottle of cyber champagne coming your way. You can save it until we are finally statistically safe.

  12. three games against man u and three pens. can you ever imagine us getting three pens against man u. not a chance.

  13. AV, please let this article go through as I really would like to know if people agree with me on this or if I’m just way off the mark in what I see as some of the main problems here at the club.
    ” we didn’t loose because he dropped a few players we lost because those that played were pre-occupied. ”
    And who’s fault is this ? What do GS, Coops and Co exactly get paid to do ?
    When will people learn that it is ultimately the management team and coaching staff who must change people’s mind set ?
    GS said that the team had one eye on the Man UTD game on Saturday and that he could fully understand that, as he was a player and also found it hard.
    Sorry but to me that tells much a lot about GS and what he lacks. If he couldn’t focus one game at a time when he played doesn’t mean that it can’t be done? If he couldn’t do it when he played and accepts that it does happen and uses this as justification for the game against Man City then what chance does he have of getting his players NOT to do the same ?
    I’m sorry, but it is the CULTURE here that must change. It is the MINDSET here that must change.
    Everyone in here knows me well by now and they know that I am a member of Slim’s football coaching web site ( he coached a few Boro players in the past ) and some accuse me of being him.
    But let’s put that aside for one moment and just read a few lines of what he has to say on this subject which for me shows how we need a CULTURAL change here, starting with a mass clear out of the backroom staff who I think have been here way too long and are no longer up to the job.
    I want to start a serious debate in here. I’m not looking to point fingers or cause trouble or say that it’s all bad at the Boro because it isn’t. Not at all. GS has done well for a new manager but I really want to dig a bit deeper as I too have a passion for coaching. If I am wrong then so be it and please tell me so. This is how I see it and I would be grateful to hear what you all think. Thanks.
    With reference to the UEFA Cup final:
    ” Middlesbrough Football Club came back to beat Basle 4 – 1 at the Riverside to take them through to the semi finals of the UEFA Cup for the very first time, 4 – 3 on aggregate.
    At the time one of the ITV presenters, an ex professional footballer who should know better, said that if there was ever a time for Middlesbrough’s big players to stand up and be counted, then this was it.
    Unfortunately, this is absolutely the wrong mentality. A mentality that’s very sadly rife amongst modern day footballers, and is the main reason why so, so many players have such dramatic highs and lows in the way they perform.
    Any idiot can be motivated to be the very best they can be, and to give absolutely everything they’ve to give when the’re playing in the clubs biggest ever European game. It’s not hard, is it ?
    This is absolutely not the time to stand up and be counted and to believe that it is, is wherein lies the problem. No. The time to stand up and be counted is today, tomorrow, ALWAYS. Heart. Hunger. Desire. Passion. But not just for some of the game. No. For all of it. Not just for two or three games in a row, or just against the, ” big clubs “. No. Heart. Hunger. Desire. Passion – Today. Tomorrow. ALWAYS.
    This is not sports psychology. This is a mentality. This is a philosophy. This is a way of life. It defines who we are as people in any walk of life. It’s what separates the true winners from everyone else.
    So, the time to stand up and be counted is when you’re playing every single game that you’re ever involved in. Why? Simple. This was game that took you to your own personal place in footballing history with this club. Were it not for the fact that some Boro players stood up to be counted when they were playing one of the glamour free clubs at the bottom of the league, in the sub zero, Antarctic type conditions of an English winter, Boro wouldn’t have sneaked into that last UEFA Cup spot the year before this, their biggest ever European game, and so they wouldn’t have been able to live that history making night against Basle and what followed. It’s that simple.
    With reference to Franck Queudrue and why his performances were so up and down:
    ” The answer to the following question is one that never ceases to amaze me, as all too often the answer is always the same, and this is one of the reasons why so, so many footballers under perform, far, far too often.
    So, I’m sat on Franck’s sofa at this house, and I ask him this question.
    “ Franck. Which are the most important games of the season ? Think carefully. I want to know which are the really big games for you. “
    Franck pauses. He then gives me the same old answer that I always get
,
    “ Chelsea. Man Utd. Liverpool. Arsenal. “
    Now Franck’s no idiot. As soon as I came back at him he instantly corrected himself, but by then, it’s too late and it clearly demonstrates an entrenched mindset that can only be changed over a period of time on a one to one basis.
    In fairness to the Boro, a person that individually analysis players and then works with them on a one to one basis through extra training sessions is something that few clubs the world over have, if any. But I am sure that the world of football coaching will slowly move to a stage where coaching is geared more and more to the needs of the individual, or to the few, rather than the needs of the many in big, old classroom style groups.
    So, Franck goes on to say, “ Of course Slim, all games are important, it’s normal and that goes without saying. “
    Well, actually, no it doesn’t go without saying. I asked him a specific question, in a specific way, and he fell into the trap. The first thing that came into his mind wasn’t that all games are equally important. No. the first thing that came into his mind was that the most important games were Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool andArsenal, and this is one of the reasons why he performs better at these games.
    But let me put it another way so I can be crystal clear. The first thing that came into his mind wasn’t that all games are equally important. No. the first thing that came into his mind was that the most important games were Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, and this is one of the reasons why he can under perform when he plays other games.
    This isn’t to say that Franck under performs at every other game. No. But it does mean that at the games that Franck personally attaches an importance to, that he will perform better there than at the games where he doesn’t apply any of his own personal motivations. Put simply, this means that if Franck was playing against Scunthorpe and the game was live on French national television for the French national coach to see, then Franck would play better in this game than if it wasn’t.
    Personally, I view this as under performing, because if Franck was able to apply and to connect this way of thinking to every other game that he plays, then his performance over the entire season would go up. This is the main thing we worked on in Franck’s spare time.
    Still not convinced ? Then what exactly is the magic of the, ” Famous ” FA Cup then ? ”
    He goes on to say…,
    ” It doesn’t matter who you play, or where you play. All that matters is that you give absolutely everything that you have to give in that one single game, and then continue to use this same approach, just one game at a time. One game will become two, two will become four, and so on.
    Cast your mind back to when you were a young boy playing in the garden with you brother, sister, mum, dad or friend, after having watched your cherished national team play in the World Cup finals. Weren’t you playing as your footballing hero, scoring a goal, and dreaming of one day doing the very same thing ?
    Where has that dream gone now that you’ve finally made it ?
    I’ll tell you exactly where its gone. Its gone as the money, the women, the autograph signing, and the VIP lifestyle started to come rolling in. You once trained like Rocky did in the second part of the Rocky III film, but now, sadly, you’re just going through the same old motions, just like Rocky in the first part of that film.
    The all out hunger you once had to make it has gone, now that you’ve actually made it. Yes, you’re still hungry, but it’s just not the same kind of intense, all out hunger that you once had. You’re to blame, and so too are the endless rows of dead beat coach’s who surround you, for they too who’ve also forgotten their own dreams.
    They walk around the training ground with their letters initialled onto their club uniforms, with a mug of coffee in one hand a banana in the other in a state of relax.
    Here too the all out hunger has gone and you can clearly see that it has gone, long gone. The warm up procedure, the training session, the stretching, the cool down, and the slop they parade as nutrition that they provide for you in the canteen is the very same as it was last week, last month, last year, and the year before. ”
    For me this is what is now needed at the Boro. NOT from this guy Slim but from someone with THIS kind of vision but who has coached and won at the very highest level many times over. Barnes and co did a great job for us but it is now time that we and they moved on so that we can take the next step in our evolution.
    Your opinions please…….
    TB

  14. Funny isn’t it? When we should have an absolute stonewall penalty, i.e. the UEFA cup final we don’t get it, when everyone knowns it was a penalty. When the opposition don’t deserve a penalty, they get one.
    That Ronaldo is an out and out cheat. I wish Morrison had broke both his legs.
    After the UEFA cup final, pundits discussed whether or not we should have had a penalty. Some said we shouldn’t!!! But, Man Utd can blatently cheat and in their case it is a definite penalty.
    We are hated by pundits on all the tv channels. We never get a fair hearing. Imagine if Ronaldo had done that against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal or any of the other London clubs? I think things would have definitely been different.

  15. Everyone where I work has been convinced for the last couple of weeks that there has been a conspiracy in the FA to make sure that Man U and Chelsea avoided each other in the draws and that they both get to the final. They wouldn’t want Boro in the final for their grand opening of their new Wembley now would they?
    All it would take is for there to be two lighter (or heavier) balls in the pot for the person who draws them to distinguish between the two. They can then make sure they aren’t pulled out for the same tie.
    Looking at the refereeing we got for those two Man U cup ties, I can well believe it!!!!!!!!!!
    **AV writes: We were all laughing about some balls being in the freezer overnight. All tongue in cheek of course.

  16. I can not understand why all the fuss. It was a clear cut penalty, end of story. Why not ask, should the score have been at least 2-0 by then? Yes Rooney should and normally would have scored both the one-on-ones with Shwarzer.
    As for Ronaldo why all this hate. He is a brilliant player and a team player not just a soloist. have you ever counted the amount of times he is fouled in a game? Most of which are not given.
    Penalties, he might have won a couple of iffy penalties but have you ever counted how many penalties he is not given?? One comes vividly to mind as it is very recent, Vs Lille at Old Trafford. Not only was it one of those certain penalties but he was booked instead for simulation.
    What all this boils down to is that there is always be decisions that we, whoever we support, feel agrieved by.
    One last thing- can any one explain to me how the Boro coaching staff could tell if it was a penalty or not from half a football pitch away?? They couldn’t really could they?
    But if your boss singles one player out as being a cheat for an entire season then not even if it was the Morrison disgusting & yob culture foul at the end of the game would have persuaded anyone of you lot that it was a penalty.
    GS get real, get your badge and in the meantime look & learn from those who have done it all a hundred times over.

  17. John – My prediction before Sheff U at home was 46 points. After our good run I posted that we could get 50+ points.
    I still think that we will get at least 46 points.
    Its OK saying that Boothroyd will not play a weakened team, however the 11 on the pitch will be looking after themselves as they will not want to miss the semi final.
    Tony Black – When Maccarone left his failure was blamed on the Boro coaching staff, well he is back home in Italy and still not scoring goals, whats his excuse now?

  18. Vic, you are spot on about how the “beautiful game” has been allowed to mutate into it’s present ugly characterture of cynicism, conning, coniving and contriving.
    I have been bangiing on about this sorry state of affairs for a long time now, in various forums.
    The very worst aspects of last nights farce was not the inevitable outcome of a superstar “fall guy”, roared on by 70,000 assistants duping another hapless official. It was the disgraceful, disingenuous, and dangerous (to the future of the game) condoning/supporting of cheating antics that was opined by the “pundits” in the broadcast media – the very worst example of which, was, yes, our very own Mr Bernie Slaven.
    This man is a disgrace to the game, the broadcast media, his mate Steve Gibson, and especially the punters like us, increasingly made to look decidedly of the “mug” variety by people like him.
    Bernie Slaven as someone who derives a living out of the game should hold his head in shame when he applauds the cheats, who effectively defraud the paying public out of their hard earned cash, not to mention their emotional investment in a game that is increasingly about win at any cost, and by any means.
    Attitudes of influential people in the sport media like him should be made more accountable. Can you imagine commentators in sports like athletics, rowing, weightlifting, horse racing, cycling et. al. not just apologising for cheats but actively admiring, applauding and lauding such disgraceful deceit?

  19. JP I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one! Man Utd didn’t do the ‘professional’ thing on Saturday, they prioritised the prem above the FA cup just as Boro would have done if we had been sat in first place.
    GS did the reverse he prioritised the FA cup before the prem. because we had a chance of winning the cup and no chance of winning the league.
    Last season when Boro played Fulham before the UEFA cup final we fielded a reserve side did you complain……no.
    TB – passionate post. My thought is footballers are human they want to pit themselves against the best so of course they look forward to playing Man Utd more than Sheff. Utd for example.
    I think you are expecting the impossible in your vision of getting a player to approach every match in the same frame of mind. There may be a few who can but we all know them because they are so rare.

  20. ” That assumes of course that contact is in itself an offence. It isn’t. Football is a contact sport and legitimate attempts to win the ball are allowed, even if as a result the opponent is sent sprawling, an even if that is in the box.
    “The key, as Sir Alex pointed out, is “intent” and while it is clear that Woodgate did not intend to foul Ronaldo – he appears to pull out specifically to avoid doing so – it certainly seemed to Bernie, Shearer and the rest that Ronaldo did intend to “buy” the decision. So where’s the offence there? ”
    Nice précis of most of the the views flying around last night AV, and the above para echoes perfectly my view on what needs to change if the game is not (in my eyes) going to become unwatchable. As it is, for quite some time I have watched only games involving Boro, but more of this and even that will go by the board.
    People may find it amusing that my ‘other’ favourite sport is cycling, forever associated with drugtaking, the ultimate form of cheating. It says a lot about the current state of football that I’m now watching more cycling and less football. Drugtaking still exists, but at least the cycling authorities are trying to tackle the problem unlike the aptly named FA!

  21. My prediction was steadily rising this year to 46 points but is currently going down standing at 45 points. I wouldn’t be so sure that we will not be sucked into a scrap at the death.

  22. My thoughts entirely AV. The media never has a kind word for the Boro. Remember last year Boro 4 MUFC 1. Not a mention that Boro took them apart.It was them having an off day !
    But,the planning for next season must start now.
    If we are to challenge for a UEFA Cup spot,the quality of passing must improve,we give the ball away far too cheaply.
    We need to play the game at a much higher tempo. sometimes I think we try to “bore” the other team to death.
    The futures of Woodgate and Viduka should be resolved as soon as possible. If Viduka leaves we will need another top class striker,and these dont come cheap.
    Woodgate has resurrected his career at the Boro this season. I would make him Captain. The top clubs play 2 games a week and Woody would be soon in the treatment room thats why I dont think the top clubs would be interested.But I also think Huth & Riggott are excellent players who could fill Woodys position.
    Euell,Rochemback,Mendieta,Christie,Lee Dong simply havent produced the goods and require replacing. Xavier is getting on and blocking the chances of some of the youngsters and even The “Boat” is slowing up and isnt creative enough.
    We also need a forward who can head a ball.
    A lot to do in the summer.But if GS and SG get it right I think next season could be promising.

  23. Eventually, a centre-half in the waning years of his career will do his best to ensure that C. Ron’s career never progresses much further. There’s an unspoken dynamic of respect that he either needs to learn or have taught to him.
    (Morrison’s ‘challenge’ — I’m sure Farmer Al felt nostalgic — reminded me of a Boro-Newcastle derby when Keith Gillespie was put into the stands in similar fashion.)
    On Mike Dean: no 50-50 challenge went Boro’s way last night. Alan Smith spent the first half backing in without being called on it; Yakubu did it twice and got called on it twice. Rooney and Vidic get the benefit of the doubt.
    In the end, though, we didn’t do enough to feel hard done by. Aside from ten strong minutes of pressure early in the second half, it was 25-yard shots and hope for their keeper to muff it.
    But I bet Watford and Blackburn fans are going to travel to the semi-finals suspecting that the fix is in, and that the FA will get its ‘champagne’ Wembley final. (Not least because Chelsea-Man Utd means neither team’s diehard supporters will need to travel more than a few miles.)

  24. i dont think it was a penalty, from one angle it did but from the reverse angle ronaldo was already heading towards the deck before woody touched him.
    i feel sorry for defenders who work so hard for the amount of time when they go up against ronaldo but really u cant go in on him coz he falls to the floor like a fairy.
    really wish danny shittu breaks his leg haha (joke). just like to say well done to james morrison every body in the pub was shouting snap him, obviously he heard us..
    heads up boro u gave it your all.

  25. Checked my paper again, still says penalty. It still says ManU won, time to move on but lets go back a bit to the Citeh match before we do.
    I guess the problem we created for Saturday was the attitude generated at the club by resting players. It appeared clear that the players didnt think Saturday mattered and that in part comes from the club. Gate saying he understands the situation implies the squad and backroom staff were approaching the match in the same way.
    As we cant close the stable door after the horse has bolted that is the end of the matter.
    Or is it? We still have eight matches to go, 24 points to play for, league positions and prize money to compete for. JP has already alluded to my view you start the next season the way you finish the last. Are we just going to bobble along and pick up half a dozen points? Will Woodie and Veruka be up for it? Will the rest of the squad?
    I will be away for the next couple of matches and will be intrigued to see where we are when I get back. Before that we have a further installment of England, good to see Johnson get a start, an honest English pro who knows how to stay on his feet.

  26. “Over to you……”
    Righty ho then.
    How about the fact that we have won ONE game, “YES ONE GAME” over 90 minutes since we beat Bolton 13 games ago.
    I rest my case..

  27. Nigel says “Over to you……”
    Righty ho then.
    How about the fact that we have won ONE game, “YES ONE GAME” over 90 minutes since we beat Bolton 13 games ago.
    I rest my case..

  28. Give Ronaldo some credit. Yes he cheats, in my book every foul is cheating. But when diddy little Morrison upended him (another player might have put Ronaldo and the ball into the crowd) Ronaldo was straight back on his feet, no writhing and screaming in agony, as favoured by other nationalities ( and some Brits like Savage).
    And he is a good player, but not half as good as the genius Rooney. Somebody will catch up with Ronaldo some day, and he’ll suffer, but it’s his choice.

  29. My problem with the City game was not only that we rested key players but also that some of those who played didn’t turn up. I wasted my time and money (both considerable as it involves a 240 mile round trip.)
    What really galls me is that GS (of whom I am a big fan, I must admit) and his squad didn’t seem to take the game seriously. Surely the philosophy should have been – if we lose to Man U we’ll still be in with a shout for a UEFA Cup place via the league? Not now we’re not!! Not after gifting 3 points to a very poor Man City side.
    My other concern is that once you take a couple of key players out, the squad remains paper thin. We must address this for next season.

  30. Clive, you are a wimp cos mine was a 280 mile round trip. Think of the poor sods who travelled from London etc.
    There again North Ormesby was too far to travel, certainly the players never bothered. And that is what is galling, the whole club just didnt think it mattered.
    I am actually getting angrier, I remember at one point in the second half Downing throwing his arms in the air after playing two or three give and goes and finding he had run around, ended up where he started and nobody else had moved or made a run.
    In some ways it was worse than Watford away because there we were clueless, this was disinterested.
    There were people on the pitch getting paid more per week than many spectators get in a year. The clubs view? It was understandable. It isnt unless you are a spoilt employee of the of the club, and I dont mean the hard working people behind the scenes, it is the coaching staff and players who aught to hamg their heads in shame.
    Better go and have something to eat, sadly the humble is past its sell by date.

  31. ” Tony Black – When Maccarone left his failure was blamed on the Boro coaching staff, well he is back home in Italy and still not scoring goals, whats his excuse now? ”
    He has no excuse but all I would say is that he needs time to readjust to a different league just as the korean fella here needs before people write him off.
    I hope he is given that time.
    Having said that he has scored twice, hit the post twice and had 2 goals disallowed that were onside by a country mile. He has also been man of the match the most since his arrival at Siena.
    I have loads of cousins in Italy and so they keep me well informed !
    We’ll see next season when he will have no excuses whatsoever.
    The mistake last night was totally Woodys because everyone knows that Ronaldo is the type of player that goes down at the slightest touch and so he shouldn’t have dived in.
    I don’t think that we should feel too badly as we gave one of the best teams in the world a very good run for their money. I thought we played quite well and were it not for this one error we could well have won it.
    I don’t think you can fault the players for their attitude and commitment. They gave it their all and I think that this is all that anyone can ask of them. They put on a good show and now they must continue to do that until the end of the season and finish as high up as possible in order to give GS the power he needs to make the changes he wants.
    I think GS looks and sounds like someone who learns fast from his mistakes and so hopefully this will see us improving next season and getting back into Europe.
    TB

  32. Boro didn’t do anything to threaten Man Utd last night…how many saves did they force? The fact is Man Utd got the goal they needed after battering Boro for most of the game. Whether it was a penalty or not shouldn’t even be a question asked.
    Boro need some shooting practice(but not from Southgate or you’ll be hitting post after post!) and even if it had gone to extra time could you realy see your boys going through to the semis? No!
    Southgate is not up to the job, you should get rid of him before things get even worse. Woodgate will leave in the summer for sure. He must realise he made a huge mistake going there.
    Ronaldo is pure class, if he was on your team you’d be singing his praises but unfortunately the nearest you’ve got to him is Stuart Downing who will also be off in the summer unless things pick up!
    It’s a shame the aftermath of Boro games usually ends in the blaming of somebody for something but the fact of the matter is, you don’t score enough goals and you let too many in!
    Time for some big changes!

  33. John Stone – I think you’ve hit several nails on the head.
    With regard to Woodie I strongly suspect you are spot on. Even though he has played without serious injury problems to date this season top clubs could well be put off by the fact he can’t play several games close together.
    I also think your point about Boateng is well made, we need to bring his replacement in this Summer so there can be a smooth transition, that position is crucial in any team.
    Boro need to be very positive from now to the end of the season, build some momentum and as others have said set the tone for next season.

  34. Just to show how football managers seem to suffer from memory loss, Neil Warnock come on down.
    “I don’t really want to change too much, but squad rotation may come into it. I will have to be careful who I select against Arsenal and may even play a second XI.”
    So said Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock on 28 December, prior to his side’s double header against the Gunners on 30 December and Middlesbrough two days later.
    Strange then, that the man who fielded a reserve team as the Blades crashed out of the FA Cup 3-0 at home to League One side Swansea City now says he is against teams putting out anything less than their strongest XI.
    Apparently he is now against squad rotation.
    **AV writes: The man lives in a little me-me-me bubble of emotionally incontinent kneejerk inconsistency.

  35. Hi Anthony,
    I saw the Man Utd vs Boro game on Sky and I have just read your comments on the E.G. web. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about several aspects of the match.
    In the first half, Xavier was booked for a late tackle. Just minutes later Rio Ferdniand did the same to a Boro player and no yellow card.
    It was interesting to hear the Sky commentator’s comments when Rooney was involved in the incident with Boateng. Boateng booked, Rooney, already on a yellow card, let off.
    Then with James Morrison already shown the red card and in the process off leaving the pitch, he was assaulted by both Captain Giggs and Rooney. (If I am the referee here in this incident, then I take a great dislike to other players taking action themselves and I would book the both for ungentlemanly conduct.)
    It was interesting to hear again the Sky commetators comment here, “what action will Mike Dean take now against Rooney?” Well, we all saw what action he took.
    Mike Dean weasled out off giving Rooney his well deserved second yellow on the day. Mike Dean only seemed to take action against the Boro and not Man U. Wonder what the Referees Assessor made of it.
    I am reminded here of Lehmann the Arsenal keeper. He has repeatedly “got away with” several nasty incidents which at least warranted a yellow card. Then in the Champions League final last year, he at last got a overdue red for his antics. What goes around comes around.
    As for Ronaldo’s penalty. At first I thought it was a clear cut decision. But then the analysis, which we both know, the Ref doesn’t have. Hindsight is a splendid thing. Ronaldo has a reputation for doing such things and conning officials into giving penalties. Why doesn’t Keith Hackett take matters on board and issue a dictact to all referees saying under no circumstances are you to give a penalty whenever Ronaldo goes down in the box?
    Most fans in football will be in an employment where they have a Quality Assurance system at their workplace, where they have to justify what they have done. I had such a “management assurance system” on a four weekly basis, whereby I was accountable for my work and it could be checked. It is about time that such as system was brought in for all Referees and Referees Assistants.
    One final thought on the matter of referees. Look at the incident with Arsenal vs Wigan. Less then a quarter of an hour to play, Wigan 1-0 up and denied a clear cut penalty, which if it was to have been awarded would of meant a certain red card for the Arsenal defender as it was a goal scoring opportunity. Ref and Refs assistant both bottle it. Arsenal then go on to win the game with a full side, 2-1 and poor Paul Jewell is up in front of the F.A.beaks to explain his comments. Defence rests his case.
    **AV writes: Nigel, I have moved this one back on to the appropriate thread. It saves confusion. No way will people believe Stewy said all that.

  36. Two days later, watching the replays I can still see why it seemed like a penalty. But if you listen to Ronaldo’s interview after the game he admits he “went down”. Surely thats an admission of simulation and shouldn’t he be charged with bringing the game into disrepute?
    I admire Ronaldo’s skills, there really are few players in the world anywhere near his level, but his attitude to the game will always irk me.
    Yes other players dive, or feign amazement when they are pinged for handball that they say touched their chest (Rochemback), but with Ronaldo you just know that he’s constantly looking for that opportunity. With that much ability why doesn’t he just play the game and earn the respect he probably deserves for being a great footballer?
    As for Rochemback….time we got rid I’m afraid. He’s had long enough and just doesn’t cut it in England. Give his first team place to one of the kids and save his wages.

  37. Ronaldo – how kind of you to find time in your busy schedule of opening boutiques, advertising cars and modelling clothes to join in our debate!!
    Thank you for your comments on “our” football team. They are absolutely typical of you – arrogant, puffed-up, over-hyped and above all gut-churning.
    I love your little step-overs, wrong footing us with your jibes about Boro not scoring enough goals and Woody leaving. Then you do what you do best, a clear dive into the penalty area with your comments about Southgate being not up to the job.
    Firstly, I would just like to remind you that this team were runners-up in the UEFA Cup last season. We are, outside the so-called big four, the best cup-performing team of the last 10 years.
    And secondly, when you’ve captained a side like Gareth has done for many years and lived through countless hard-fought battles for the club you love, then you might deserve the right to criticise, young man.
    But I doubt you’ll ever get there, because you’ll never be half the man Southgate is. At the moment you are merely the winker who turned diving and cheating into a fine art.
    And as soon as someone waves a couple of million quid in your face you’ll be off to sunnier climes and sod loyalty. So please keep your unpleasant and unwelcome views to yourself.
    Ian Gill – yes mate, I am a wimp. I didn’t even make it to Old Trafford this week!

  38. What can we do? The premiership is becoming increasingly like it’s Scottish counterpart. The top 2 of Chelsea and Man Utd are almost untouchable.
    The refereeing decisions against Boro are becoming a joke. Perhaps what goes around, doesn’t come around in football anymore. I can’t remember many occassions when we have won dubious penalties or an opposing player has been sent off or booked for a cynical challenge. Especially on Sky.
    And that brings me to my next point. When the live cameras come to town, or should i say come to see the opposition, we get absolutely nothing. We rarely get a representitive on the panel. And if we do it’s either Peter Beagrie or Paul Merson, two of our most hated former players in our history! Will anyone get to fight the injustice that has combined both on the pitch and the tv studio?
    Yes, behold Gordon McQueen, the first pudit ever to question a Ronaldo dive, glorify a Viduka back heel, or praise Sir Steve Gibson for his amazing transformation of the club!…. He has subsequently been sacked.
    After watching 11 vs 12 (or maybe 13 if you include Sky/BBC) matches this season against Fulham, Man City, Man Utd x 2, Liverpool, Sheffield Utd, and Bristol City, Portsmouth, we have only won once. And that was on penalties!
    We have scored just 7 goals and conceded 16 of which 3 were dubious penalties. I’m not sad enough to remember bookings and sendings off, but i can assure you the ratio of bookings to ‘what was that for?’ cries, is very high.
    It has come to the point where I have vowed never to watch Middlesbrough on Sky if only to slightly lessen the effect of Richard Keys finding pleasure in making a vindicitive comment about ‘Bora’.
    I recently seen the BBC advertise Match of the Day with ‘Middlesborough v Manchester United’. Please tell me how these people still spell a 10 year Premiership outfit incorrectly and do they fail to spell anyother club names??
    Are they having a laugh?
    The Premiership (and now the FA Cup) has become every bit predicable as either Rangers or Celtic winning everything in Scotland. Now what do we have to play for? The fight for 7th? What pleasure will we gain in watching our team on Sky? No wonder crowds at the smaller town clubs are dwindling.
    Any hope of signing Woodgate and Viduka isn’t made any easier if they aren’t in the media spotlight. What kind of football next season will we be watching if we lose them? They’ll be less than 20,000 at the Riverside.
    It’s time for another amazing backing from Steve Gibson and start the Riverside Rebellion against the top clubs and the media propoganda machine.
    We should seperate ourselves from the others, reducing tickets to a tenner a man and recreate the buzz from the days when a mid table team could push on to challenge for the title through local talent and a passionate crowd.
    This is the only way we will win over our critics and make them stand up and take notice. Boro against the world.
    And finally Fabio ‘Tekhimback’ has finally won me over. He has tried for almost two seasons to convince me that he wasn’t a classy playmaker and is in fact terrible, unprofessional and overweight, and that his constant fouls really do put the entire team under pressure.
    I think his cuddle and chat with Ronaldo at the very moment bulldozers commenced the demolision on my Wembley dream swung it in his favour.
    **AV writes: Powerful and emotive stuff. I share many of your frustrations at the nature of the game.

  39. Warnock complains about a weakend team but everyone who played has over 10 games for us this season. Everone knows woody cant do 2 games straight off and why should’nt we rotate our squad. As G.S said its his team and its up to
    him how he use’s the squad.
    He’s had 38 game’s too get the points for safety. Sorry mr Warnock but stick too having a go at the ref’s you know its what you do best

  40. Clive Hurren
    What can I say. Or should I leave it to the words of Mr Pickersgill, football is rotten through and through, right to the core.
    Sorry folks, those were the words of our woodwork teacher from 40 years ago.

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