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?

This ‘good form’ was alluded to frequently in the build up to the quarter-final clash with Man United and went almost unchallenged to shape a fragile consensus that Boro were on a roll. Before the Riverside rumble with Fergie’s boys there was much optimistic buzzing about a run of nine games in which the only defeat was to champions Chelsea. Even Bernie bought into it. There were isolated voices of dissent but they were drowned out by hysterical fate-tempting chatter about Wembley ticket allocations and pie prices and talk of whether Chelsea would rest players in the final, what with the Champions League final four days later and everything.
But spin the statistical coin and read the results from a vantage point on the Chicken Run and suddenly it didn’t look so convincing. Of those nine games the only victory was the 2-1 over Reading. One win in nine sounds far more perjorative.
Since that high-water mark for unaccustomed optimism, Boro have slumped to a distracted 2-0 defeat at home to a woeful Manchester City side then battled bravely but gone down in the replay against United to a well crafted penalty amid angry recriminations. Those two results cast a bleak shadow over what was supposed to be a good run. Good run? You decide.
Bristol C (a) D 2-2
Portsmouth (a) D 0-0
Arsenal (h) D 1-1
Chelsea (a) L 0-3
Bristol C (h) D 2-2 (W 5-4 on pens)
West Brom (h) D 2-2
Reading (h) W 2-1
West Brom (a) D 1-1 (W 5-4 on pens)
Newcastle (a) D 0-0
Man Utd (h) D 2-2
Man City (h) L 0-2
Man Utd (a) L 0-1
Not great is it. Now Boro’s terrace temperature has turned decidely chilly in the space of just 180 minutes and now the numbers stack up differently. Since the sizzling 5-1 thrashing of Bolton – the climax of a run of three wins in four that had banished relegation fears and set supporters sights on the upper reaches of the table – Boro have played 12 games. They have won ONE of them. There have been three defeats and eight draws – and four of the seven draws were against lower league sides and in in two of them Boro needed penalties to progress.
And worst (oh yes, with the FA Cup prop kicked away things are easily jaundiced) Boro go to West Ham having failed to score in the last four Premiership away games. In fact, they travel with still only one awayday win in all competitions all season, and that at a then demoralised and rock bottom Charlton side poor beyond belief back in January.
And (I’m scaring myself here ) with a mounting selection crisis – key players Woodgate and Arca out injured, headstrong Cattermole and rash Morrison out suspended – the matches at relegation strugglers West Ham and then at home to fellow basement battles Watford suddenly look daunting. Lose those and it is hard to see where the next win is coming from. Villa at home is always a tricky game and they have a habit of bringing a crisis to a head. Then it is Liverpool (a), Manchester United (a) and UEFA Cup chasing Spurs (h) before a trip to Wigan and last day home game with Fulham.
I still believe it would take NASA number-crunchers to build a statistical model that would see Boro relegated: Charlton are nine points behind with five of the top ten to play and if they take the points they really need to take from Sheffield United, Wigan and Man City then that strengthens Boro’s hand. And even if inept West Ham do beat Boro on Saturday they will remain ten points behind and facing a similar scenario – Man U, Liverpool and Spurs to play plus five teams below Boro who look far more vulnerable to a late surge.
So Boro can probably forget relegation – but they can equally forget about the Intertoto. The key now is playing with enough purpose and style to finish with a real ‘good run’ and build a decent momentum that will carry us into next season and persuade the likes of Jonathan Woodgate and Mark Viduka – and other prospective employees – that next year will be the one.
TO return to the theme of Steve McClaren’s Doggy Market public relations skills, there is an interesting insight into the muddled mechanics of his spin operation on the excellent BBC Sport website where his former press guru Max Clifford explains the problems of media management in the England job and why he left the former Boro boss to it. You can read it here.


22 thoughts on “The Bleak Flip Side To The Statistical Coin.

  1. AV – So that’s six points from the last six PL games.
    How many points did most fans have us down for from those games? Most posts had us losing to all bar Man City.
    Before the Sheff U game the general concensus on this blog was that Boro were doomed.
    Where will the next win come from? was the cry.
    The cycle begins again, but then again it would not be the same if pessimism did not rule in the world of the Boro supporter.
    For the record I think we will lose tomorrow, but we will beat Watford, Spurs and Fulham.
    After what has gone on against Man U this season do not be suprised to see a shock result at Old Trafford (as long as Mike Riley is not the ref).
    C’Mon Boro!

  2. to your injury list you can add viduka who will come back from china with deep vein thrombosis. if he quits the aussie team what will ever motivate him again?
    after the old trafford defeat some of them will get the deckchairs out now we are nailed on for 15th. same old same old. if they put in half the effort again we should all get half our dosh back.

  3. Apart from a good start pre Xmas in the season we finished 7th when have we ever show form better than finishing just below mid table?
    That include all the seasons in the Premier League. We have been a good cup side but under achieveddin the league when you consider how much has been spent over the years

  4. lies, damn lies and statistics! We will win at West Ham tommorrow because:
    we haven’t scored away for ages so we’re due a hatful,
    we have only won away once this season so another win is inevitable,
    we never win at West Ham so we’re bound to this time!
    The three points are in the bag, I’m off to the bookies and on Monday I’ll send a cheque to the Nationwide to pay off
    the mortgage, job done!
    **AV writes: You can’t argue with science.

    Great post AV !
    All I would say is that it is part and parcel of being a fan that you allow yourself to get caught up in the hype and hysteria as getting to the finals is incredibly hard unless the big four field weakend teams.
    This year there was the added bonus of going to the new Wembley and so I think it’s only natural that many of us were thinking ( dreaming ) ahead.
    ” The key now is playing with enough purpose and style to finish with a real ‘good run’ and build a decent momentum that will carry us into next season and persuade the likes of Jonathan Woodgate and Mark Viduka – and other prospective employees – that next year will be the one. ”
    I don’t agree with this at all I’m afraid to say and I personally feel that this sort of approach and mentality is what has kept the Boro back for such a long time – no offence intended AV, just my point of view boss.
    Players are not stupid and they are not going to re sign just because we have put together a final flourish, as they see on a daily basis the internal workings of the club.
    For sure there are going to be players who are only interested in the dollars. But for others there are many other considerations that need to be made.
    I don’t think that people realise what influence players themselves have in attracting other players, as players talk to each other and will no doubt be phoned by agents and put in direct contact with prospective signings.
    The Ravanelli and Maccarone comments have done huge damage to the image of the club outside the North East and the latter statement made by Maccarone will have served only to confirm and cement the view that the training methods and set up at our club are way out of date.
    People here may not agree with any of it, but unfortunately the people who read the quotes who do not live hear will only think that there is no smoke without fire and the ferocity of the Maccarone statement will have had a big, big negative impact.
    Add to that the comments made by Emerson about the quality of life around these parts and you will see that this poses a problem for us.
    So for me there needs to be a BIG change off the field so that we tip the balance in our favour.
    On the minus side we are a small town that cannot compete with the lifestyle that the likes of the big cities can offer, but then we have an airport that can fly you there in no time at all so that is a big bonus PR wise.
    On the plus side we have a fantastic Chairman, a fantastic stadium, and we pay big wages.
    Add to this the following over the coming years and I really, REALLY think that this club can go where people have only ever dreamed of going.
    1. A mini ” Milan Lab ” where we have people who can analyse the players in every single detail and actually understand what the results mean so that they can be in peak physical condition as often as is possible.
    2. Employ world class conditioning coach’s who have won things of importance and have worked at many big clubs around Europe. New people with new ideas that are based on winning.
    3. Improve the physiotherapy department so that they will not only turn around injured players quicker but that will actively seek to understand why these injuries actually take place.
    Actively seek partnerships / tie ups with the top phsyiotherapy clinics in the UK and around Europe so that we stop players swanning off home to get their own injuries sorted out by people they trust.
    4. Have a European style home end full of flags, banners, colour and the like so that we make our stadium fortress Riverside with a hugely intimidating atmosphere instead of the odd speradic flags we have now.
    5. Fill the damn stadium through innovative and aggressive policies and getting rid of the old farts who have been at the club for an eternity and insist that it can’t be done.
    The list is endless and the old excuse of money has long since gone thanks to Mr Gibson and Co.
    All that is needed is the power and then the will to implement change. But change based on a plan for success and not just change for change’s sake.
    Come on guys it isn’t hard and I’m sure if you hade a meeting in the town hall with the fans that you would get endless more quality ideas.
    Here are a couple of questions that I world like answering…
    1. When was the last time our warm up procedures changed pre match ?
    2. Why doesn’t anyone take our players through their pre substitution warm up so as to ensure that they are 100% sharp, 100% focused and 100% ready to perform, instead of them just going through the motions ?
    ” Ensuring that players coming off the bench go through the very best warm up, stretching, and mental preparation procedures before they come on is absolutely essential in terms of their own individual performance output levels whilst ensuring that they remain as injury free as possible, and for this they should have every move they make supervised and controlled by the head of sports science instead of him being sat on the bench doing precious nothing.
    The current trend around clubs in Europe is for an exercise bike to be placed by dugouts and used to warm up players, an idea taken from the world of rugby and one I posted on my old web site years ago for use in football clubs where there are no funds whatsoever. Although this is a step in the right direction it is only a half hearted attempt to do what is required, and it underlines the total apathy that many clubs have regarding, ” True” attention to detail.
    An exercise bike is not the ideal choice because it does not take into account specifity of training, i.e. it does not exactly mimic the actual mechanics of running. As a result, hamstrings, the groin area, calves and the Achilles tendon, where most injuries occur, do not receive as good a warm up as possible, and the body is not prepared for the pounding it is about to receive from hitting the floor as the player runs. Far, far better would be to install treadmills that have been adapted with a length of the very latest rubber five a side turf, as this would allow footballers to directly warm up on it with their studded boots, thus reducing the risk of injury.
    In an era where money rules the sport, results matter more than ever. As a result, keeping players as injury free as possible is an absolute must. If you don’t believe me just ask any Newcastle fan to explain the endless hamstring problems at their club and the effect that this has had on their season. ”
    This is how I see it. But as always this is just my opinion and I could well be wrong.
    We ARE NOT just a small town in Europe as the chant goes. Those dark old days are long gone and so we must all now open our minds and we must all look to the future and embrace a new way.

  6. TB – Interesting stuff on the warm up and subs.
    As for Ravenelli and Maccarone slagging the club off, I think most people will put this down to whinging Italians and sour grapes.
    What did Ravenelli achieve after he left the Boro?
    What did Maccarone do at the Boro?
    He does not appear to be doing to well back in Italy.
    Emerson was universally condemned for the action he took against Boro.
    Players talk to players, but the bottom line for 99% of them is wages.

  7. TB – I started reading your post and knew straight away it was you, your view point is interesting but if you keep repeating the same old mantra every time you post we will all go to sleep.
    I think you over estimate Maccarone’s influence among his peers. If he were Alan Shearer then maybe fellow professionals would listen.
    What I do know is that Robert Huth and his agent were both very impressed with the Boro training facilities and coaching, that is why he joined. Woodgate and Viduka likewise are on record as saying how much they enjoy the club its set up and ‘coming to work’.
    All the evidence suggests your view that coaching methods and the general approach at Boro are out dated are wrong. What is your real agenda?
    Never Happy just one point, Rav and Maccarone did whinge but I’m not sure their nationality is relevant. Merson whinged after he left and I think his nationality is different to those you mention. You’re treading a fine line when you imply a persons nationality has a bearing on thier attitude.

  8. tb, its all getting a bit tedious now son. you make some good poinst and i agree with a lot of them but the constant missimo worship is just a turn off. he was your mate fair enough you will stick up for him but he was rubbish and your on a loser with that.
    and the quotes from parettis website as well. why? havent you got any ideas of your own? he comes over as a bit of a sad anorak tbh.

  9. Nigel – I was just replying to TB’s post and the players that he mentioned.
    I am not just slagging off one nationality.
    Festa was a fantastic player for the Boro.

  10. tonyblack,
    What qualifications and work experience do you have to question Boro’s expertise in how to look after their players?
    I dont think a gym instructor with no relevant experience can question a multi million pound club like Boro on how to look after their players. Boro will have some of the best facilities and qualified people to work with.

  11. ” tonyblack,
    What qualifications and work experience do you have to question Boro’s expertise in how to look after their players?
    I dont think a gym instructor with no relevant experience can question a multi million pound club like Boro on how to look after their players. Boro will have some of the best facilities and qualified people to work with. ”
    I have absolutely none other than I am well read.
    Personally, I don’t think that you have to be qualified in order to have an opinion or to pass comment.
    ” Boro will have some of the best facilities and qualified people to work with. ”
    Just out of interest, have you been to see our facilities ?
    Liverpool players actually train at altitude as they have a specially designed indoor training facility that lets them play football and run about at altitude.
    Do we have this ?
    Arsenal at their ground have heated seats for their players when they sit on the subs bench so as to minimise the risk of injury and they don’t offer this facility to the opposition teams.
    Do we have this ?
    I think Man Utf have a specially designed changing room for the visiting team that is specially designed to demoralise and demotivate the opposition.
    Do we have this ?
    In Italy some of the teams have specially designed shirts that are made specifically to trick the human eye into thinking that there are MORE than 11 players on their team.
    Do we have this ?
    No our shirts are designed by an X factor style vote.
    I could go on and on but wouldn’t want to bore the guy who fell asleep reading my last post.
    So. Exactly how many years out of date are we at the Boro ?
    Being qualified is no guarantee of anything. How many doctors are qualified and are absolutely rubbish ?
    Look at the ” Who’s Who ” section of the Official Boro site and tell me that these people are the best that we can get.
    As I said before these people were great when we were skint, bankrupt and on our arses. But times have moved on and as the quality of player has gone up then so too should the quality of the coaching, in my opinion.
    One thing I do take on board and I will avoid in the future is any mention of Maccarone, his coach Slim, his web site, and of anyone else. I have gone on about them too much and it has become tedious for some and so I will refrain from this again and say sorry to people for who’m I have hijacked the topic in question.
    But my opinion on this and all that I have said I fully stand by.

  12. To come back to the point, for me the real worry in this recent good/bad run is the failure to score against an average Newcastle side and a very poor Man City one.
    At Newcastle we had what should be our strongest side out with the frontline of Yakubu/Viduka that Bernie insists every team in the Premiership would take, plus the creative force of Arca and Downing and yet still Given barely had to save a shot.
    The problem remains on the right and it will be worst in the next two games when probably Parnaby and possibly Mendieta or Yuell. That will be a big test and we might struggle against highly motiavted teams .
    To be honest we have all known the problems from day one this season and we will have to be patinet. We knew that changing the philosophy to a more attacking one wouldn’t be smooth and that the squad was weak in places and that we would be up and down. that’s Boro.
    And if we are honest most people on here would have said pre-season that we would finish 12-16th so there is no point now claiming that what is happening is a great surprise. Itis only the FA Cup run that caused a sudden unjustified rise in expectation levels.
    The important thing is to keep teh club moving forward in the Summer. There is rebuilding to be done and there is no point panicing over a blip that was completely predictable

  13. The problem with Maccarone and Ravenelli is that they never truly immersed themselves in the culture of Middlesbrough.
    I mean you only have to go in the Clevo on a Sunday or the Band Box in the Normanby on Thurdays and you are gripped. All of this, one must presume, flew over the heads of the Italians.
    Though I do think the removal of Captain Cook’s ship from the Cleveland centre will have a negative impact of the marketing of the area.

  14. TB – I’ll give you one thing, you talk with passion.
    I disagree with your view that the club isn’t progressing, our cup achievements in recent years show progress surely?
    It is frustrating that year after year we finish 12th ot there abouts. But who knows maybe GS will implement the changes to take us up the league a few places.
    I hope that this time next year we are moaning because we have missed out on a champions league place.
    On a lighter note, is the difference between Liverpool and Boro the size of their transfer budget and the fact that they draw support from a big city rather than a small town, rather than the fact they have a gym they can jack up into the sky?
    And I have to say the idea of Arsenal players with warm backsides resultng in better football made me smile.

  15. ” I disagree with your view that the club isn’t progressing, our cup achievements in recent years show progress surely? ”
    Yes I would in part agree with that, but surely the mark of a progressing club is how they finish every year in the league ?
    ” On a lighter note, is the difference between Liverpool and Boro the size of their transfer budget and the fact that they draw support from a big city rather than a small town, rather than the fact they have a gym they can jack up into the sky? ”
    Yes, of course it is but that doesn’t mean that we can’t try to learn and try to implement with what our budget allows.
    ” And I have to say the idea of Arsenal players with warm backsides resultng in better football made me smile. ”
    You don’t think that warmer muscles = less injuries ?
    Why do we even bother with a warm up then ?
    I have no idea as to the way these seats work and you would have to assume that it warms their legs as well ! But the fact that they do it surely suggests a different approach that is at the very least worth looking at, isn’t it ?

  16. When ravanelli had a pop back in them days we didnt have teh training facilites sorted and were only 2 years since we were mid table in the league below with crowds of 14k.
    I think in the case off massimo having a pop, its more to do with his personal grievances at not gettting a place in the team regularly and struggling when he played. He is kind of hittin gout at his frustrations and human nature means you blame other people and things. ie manager, coach, equipment and facilities.
    I dont see yakubu, woodgate, schwarzer, southgate, ugo, viduka,boateng,downing,jfh..etc having any major problems. is that because they are good players who hold down a place in the team?

  17. ..and in the case of woodgate he has been generally injury free at boro this season compares to his nightmare injury problems at Madrid and Newcastle so that does suggest boro know what they are doing.

  18. i cant really see players who might be thinking of signing for boro remembering anything ravanelli or emerson said tbh. that was ten year ago and it only really caused a fuss on teesside not anywhere else in this country let alone abroad
    and i dont think the missimo stuff will mean much anyway. embittered ex-employee slates boss. and it was mclaren he was slgging. he said he loved the club, the people, gibbo… in the headlines it was only mac he really had a go at and hes gone now so why will that put players off.
    players are more likely to sign because of the carling cup and uefa cup run raising the profile and the dosh on offer plus their chances of winning something in the next two or three years.
    we are not competing with milan or liverpool we are competing with fulham, villa, newcastle spurs and i think what we have done in recent years compares well.
    thats why we need a good finish to stay level with them teams. if we are there or there abouts and can match the dosh then we can sign players.

  19. A very poor performance by all accounts. I listened to Bernie and Ali and just wanted to turn it off.
    I had had an outside hope earlier in the year that we might sneak into a European place and now we are right back in the battle zone.
    Let’s just hope that we bounce back against Watford so that GS and co can focus on rebuilding the team for next season and hopefully secure that European spot.
    Please, PLEASE no relegation battle ! COME ON LADS, LET’S STEP IT UP A GEAR !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Really sorry to hear that Billy Synthonia went out on penalites. Sorry guys, I was really hoping that you would do it and show those southern boys what the North East has to offer.
    A brave attempt though…..

  20. Vic
    Sadly it’s not just about NASA mathematics – it’s about guts and heart and spirit and professionalism – all the things that were missing when those of us who paid for tickets turned up yesterday and those on the staggering wages didn’t bother to.
    I can’t say more because even the following morning, I’m still too angry.
    But we’re now deep in the do-do and deserve to be. Next week’s a banana skin waiting to happen to the shower we’ve become and we’re in free fall with a safety net less than 2 wins deep.
    An utter disgrace.

  21. GS has another challenge on his hands between now and the end of the season. He needs ro remind his players of their responsibilities and to make sure they are motivated to win and push on as high up the table as possible.
    Unacceptable performances against City and West Ham need to be consigned to history sharpish. JP is right Watford ia a bannana skin potentially, however it is also an opportunity to nail another three points. Which one it turns out to be will depend on the players attitude.
    I had the option of going to two matches on Saturday, one was West Ham the other was a football party for my sons friend. I went to the latter and saw a match full of commitment and excitement, final score 4-3. No end of season bad attitude to be seen!

  22. its been a disappointing season but expected when we took on a unexperienced manager.
    League cup knocked out by a lower league team at home, struggled to beat lower league teams in the FA Cup then knocked out by the first Premiership team we came across.
    Apart from Chelsea at home and 3 games we won on the trot in the league the rest of the season has been poor and
    considering the quality of the squad its not good enough.
    Went to West Ham and the players are already in holiday mode. time to give some young players a chance and drop the older players who have become complacent.

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