The Fictional Table Doesn’t Lie

BORO are a stuttering side that look demoralised by a run of just one win in 13 and appear demotivated after their bitter FA Cup Old Trafford exit. They are in freefall and hampered by a troublesome injury and suspension list – but they won’t go down.
They may have have taken their foot off the pedal, got the deckchairs out and are flicking through the brochures for flights departing DVT on Monday 14th May much to the frustration of the paying public but they will still be reporting back for Premiership duty next term – or most of them will anyway. But survival won’t be entirely through their own efforts. Boro seem to be on track to scrape just enough points to stay up but the bloody carnage below them as the teams in the basement go at it tooth and claw in a debilitating series of cut-throat fixtures should ensure that no one will take advantage of their slump.
Don’t take my word for it, Christ no. Have you seen my bookie’s car? No, use your own skill and judgement plus a cocktail of unscientific skills like hunches, prejudice and irrational dislikes of particular teams and individuals (yes that’s you Warnock and Curbishley) to weigh up the likely fates of the various Dead Men Walking in their remaining fixtures then write them down in this handy computer generated BBC Premiership predictograph and hey presto – Boro stay up.

I’ve tried it half-a-dozen times and only once got Boro relegated – and that took some serious manipulation. Twice I took it very seriously and weighed up the form of every fixture, historical nuances and local rivalries, the financial imperative of staying up or pushing for Europe against mid-table complacency then factored in the effect of other previous predicted results on morale and urgency, media and crowd pressure and even went all mystic meg and tried to take account of players being rested for bigger games coming up (the so-called Southgate Variable). On both occasions Boro stayed up.
Once I took an optimistic outlook and started from the notion that the boss, who “didn’t see that coming” against West Ham swiftly becomes more prescient and has the team fired up against Watford to claim a nerve-calming victory in double-quick time. Add to that a win at Wigan and draws against Villa and Fulham and it gives Boro eight points from the final seven games, a final tally and enough for 14th place in a tight table. On that model Wigan went down.
Then I put my Chicken Run head on and did itagain, with mainly just the Boro results changing. A catestrophic defeat to Watford combined with a Charlton win at Manchester City the night before edged the Addicks within three points and made it squeaky bum time on Teesside but a ‘typical Boro draw’ at Old Trafford was the only logical counterbalance to that along with other points against Villa, Wigan and Fulham. That gave a stingy four points from the last seven and a tally of 40 which just scrapes into the safety zone prescribed by Lennie Lawrence’s Iron law of Survival (points = games played +2). The extra point gained by Wigan in the second scenario was enough to keep them up on goal difference at Charlton’s expense.
I tried to get Sheffield United down just to prompt football’s nutter on the bus into an emotional meltdown but they have too many games that put their fate firmly in their own hands and in straight scraps at home to West Ham and Watford and away at Charlton and Villa you have got to fancy them to get two wins and pick up a draw elsewhere to just stay up.
Go on, give it a go and let me know how you get on. As Doctor Who has just restarted I expect some colourful pseudo-scientific explanations of rips in the space-time continuum that lead the quarter-fulls to get Boro to finish bottom and the ra-ra tendency to edge Boro into the Intertoto.
The bookies, rarely wrong, agree that Boro will not go down. It is easy for we in the hot house of on Planet Boro to become inflamed with anger at the obvious picture of impending doom our short-sighted subjectivity paints so sometimes it is useful to take a glimpse from the unflustered clinical perspective of the professionally objective.
Here are the latest Oddschecker collated prices on Premiership relegation. Boro vary between 25-1 and 50-1 to go down. If you think that it is likely get a tenner on now at Totalbet. It’ll more than pay for your Championship season ticket next year. If you prefer to stick with favourites then get your cash on the current bottom three but don’t expect a big return because the bookies have even revived Charlton as odds on to go down. My money is on them being right again.


24 thoughts on “The Fictional Table Doesn’t Lie

  1. Now the AV, talk to me again after the next two games and i’ll let you know !
    The problem with being at the wrong end of the table is that anything can happen and it usually does.
    A victory in the next two home games and I think we can all breath a collective sigh of relief but if by chance we don’t get one then I think that we could be up sh**s creek !
    Normally I wouldn’t be in the least bit worried as there is way enough talent in the side to get a result elsewhere but as you say the problem is an age old one for us, namely, the guys are already sunning themselves up in their minds and this could prove very costly indeed.
    So I think that GS needs to calm and steady the ship and really focus on the next two games and bring peoples heads back from holiday mode and right back into focusing on the job in hand.
    We simply cannot afford to be complacent and think that we are bound to get the 3 or 4 points needed and that we are safe already as the rest are a fair bit behind us.
    Bookies have been wrong before !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    It was good to hear Xavier talk the way he did after the game when Bernie gave him MOTM. He was obviously angry about the manner of the defeat and so this bodes well for Saturday. If he can be vocal in that dressing room along with a few other senior players then I think that our quality will see us beat Watford.
    We need to be really up for it though as they seem to be up for a final fight in the Premiership.
    If GS plays an attacking formation, and if we have our heads right then I think that we will beat Watford with ease.

  2. Vic
    This all reads like ‘whistling in the dark’.
    Look at the evidence of your eyes if you were there on Saturday.
    Or, if you weren’t, read what that nice Mr. Paylor said about it – let alone what those of us on this blog and the Gazette MB who paid to go said.
    Read the total bo***cks spouted by Gate and players before and since.
    As I said in the aftermath of Saturday this isn’t about NASA maths or about the bookies odds. It’s about all the things that differentiate a team (let alone a successful team – success for us meaning staying up) from just a shower of individuals, more or less skilled and motivated that we have degenerated to – again.
    Contrast that against what we are seeing from West Ham (who will still go down), Charton (who won’t), Villa (who won’t – and responded to their manager at half time last evening to get a point that must have felt like 3 – like we didn’t on Saturday and many other times), The Blades (whipped on by Warnock and their home crowd) and even Watford (already down but still scrapping away). Etc, etc.
    Who wants it and who doesn’t? That’s what it’s about.
    If we lose against Watford on Saturday – a distinct possibility now, uprated after Saturday from just a ‘potential banana skin’ – I can see us not winning and drawing precious few (and then too late and certainly NOT at ManUre) for the rest of the season.
    Try putting that in the calculator and see what you get.
    **AV writes: I’ve tried with a Watford defeat but I still can’t see a scenario where Boro take NO more points – that would mean a new club record losing run and I don’t for a second think this team is THAT bad.
    Given the fixtures below us that involve Charlton/West Ham and the teams immediately above them only one of those two can realistically survive and to do that they will need to win three games – and those wins will come gainst the teams below us – they both play Sheffield United, West Ham play Wigan, Charlton play Man City.
    Sheffield United play the bottom three plus Villa and while you can see them escaping they can only do it by taking points off the strugglers. Wigan play Villa, West Ham and Watford so they have the same situation.
    So that insulates Boro. It is deeply worrying that the worst case scenario is survival by default and needing other teams to do the dirty work but three points will probably be enough. Not losing to Villa and Wigan could be enough.
    It is far from ideal and given the incredible widespread optimism a month ago (not from you admittedly) it feels like a sour end. But most pre-season estimates had Boro limping through a season of transition to finish 12th – 16th. Despite the recent slide Boro are on course for that.
    I tend to think that Boro are not as good as some people think, nor as bad as others think. They are just a very average middling Premiership side who with a motivated full first XI out can be very good but with even a few players missing on a flat day can be bloody awful.
    It is the nature of “the product”.

  3. I posted last week that after careful scientific analysis I had reached the conclusion that Boro were certs to beat West Ham and on that basis I was off to the bookies with the aim of paying off the mortgage.
    Fortunatley for me when I got there they were shut! So even though I still have my London mega-mortgage my overdraught hasn’t got any bigger. My point being that I’m not the man to make any reliable predictions as to where Boro will finish this season.
    What I would dearly love to see is Boro get stuck into Watford, get the three points and have a positive end of season.
    I read recently that Boro’s average position in the prem. is 12th. My frustration is that we have never managed to improve on that consistently, whats more an average position of 12th doesn’t give much of a safety net from the bottom three.
    My guess is we’ll finish 12th again, which I suppose given the trepidation with which we began the season in August is not too bad, but in the context of the poor performances we have put in against poor teams this year is disapointing.
    There is also the danger that we implode completely and go down……not a nice thought.

  4. After Saturdays abject performance on the back of the City debacle, the obvious conclusion is that GS has not being able to overcome the biggest problem within MFC.
    He is unable to get 100% out of the team when they play the so called lesser teams in the division.
    Home defeats to Pompey, Blackburn and Man City
    Away defeats to Reading, Sheff U, Man C, Watford, Fulham, Blackburn and West Ham.
    10 games zero points, when with the right attitude and commitment a minimum of 15 points could have been expected.
    This return would have put us in 5th place in the table.
    The poor return of points from the so called lesser teams has been a season on season problem.
    Motivating the team to produce their best in every game should not be needed, but obviously is a problem.
    If basic contracts were for minimal wages and mega wages needed to be earned by winning games I am sure the players attitudes would be different.
    Sadly this will never happen, so GS needs to address the complacency within the club.
    Boro will stay up by beating Watford, Spurs and Fulham.

  5. “Colourful pseudo-science” is about all this is.
    The predictor is all good clean fun but it would be foolish to invest it with any scientific merit. It is just adding a mask of computer powered to our own subjectivity.
    In inviting people to guess and speculate and project that which is still unknowable it is just making concrete our own hopes and fears. It is wishful thinking validated.
    AV thinks Boro will just stay up so his predictions (about Boro and matches elsewhere) reflect that. John Powls thinks Boro can go down and selects matches to suit with all the teams at the bottom suddemly hitting title form. No doubt Briggsy could come up with a string of defeats for Everton and Spurs that would see Boro sneak a UEFA Cup spot. It is all completely subjective.
    For ny part I can see every game for the rest of the season being a draw – not just Boro but EVERY game so if I do the predictor there’ll be no change in the table. That is just the way I am.
    **AV writes: I think you are right. About the predictor as validation, not about the season finishing with 72 draws.

  6. Boro are the new coventry, on the road to nowhere. just floating around mid table for years to come. its like a slow death. its makes the fans become bored.
    to go down you need a dodgy defence, lose woodgate and not get a right back in and their is an outside chance we could be like west ham next season

  7. i think were going down now like. i think easing up against man city then losing at man u knocked our end out and by the time we get it back together we will be right in it. we wont have our dogfight head on but the others will because theyve been there menatlly all season.
    watford and villa we could lose (injuries, bans, not up for it) we could get battered at liverpol and man u (ronaldo hat-trcick of pens) then dig in for a draw with spurs leaving wigan and fulham as massive last two games. im worried sick.

  8. “City slip up on last day as accusations fly at Boro and Fulham who play out a dull goalless draw that ensures mutual safety”.
    Following a hard fought shoulda-won 2-2 draw with Watford Boro lose 1-3 to Villa as the fans begin to agitate. No season tickets are thrown this time as most fans keep faith with the rookie manager.
    Boro are swept away at Anfield by Reds in full momentum. A narrow loss away to Man U is particularly frustrating as Utd score in final few minutes and the Gazette award the full starting XI man-of-the-match award for a heroic fight.
    The manner of this defeat suprisingly lifts the fans on Teesside and the Boro outplay Spurs at home and should have beat them by more: 1-0. A huge sigh of relief as the smog begins to lift from Teesside and summer arrives.
    Still, deckchairs remain in the garage as Boro lose in a crunching ill-tempered game at the jjb staduim: 2-1.
    Elsewhere, despite Chelsea’s late push it seems goal difference has denied them a late tilt at the title on the last day. Boro and Fulham both in the stuuk play out an eye-browse raising draw that suits both and City follow already relegated Watford and West Ham.
    Pearce refuses to cast aspirtions on “fellow professionals”. Before the game Warnock alerts FA.
    Now I was really pessimistic in my Nostrodamusing and we still stayed up despite it going to the wire. We can still go down but we will have to be really awful and lose nearly all the games.

  9. where do people feel the club is heading in the long term?
    We need to beat watford as we are close to ending up about 15th. We wont get relegated but will limp through to the end of the season. Bit like how were hung onto 7th place for so long a couple of years ago.
    Season has been a big disappointment after a uefa cup final. Only chelsea and bolton springs to mind as good wins, but then we only got two late goals against chelsea.
    Its been a season to forget
    With the current squad were have under achieved.
    Its moving from defcon 1 to defcon2 for Southgate next season. The pressure will start to build on him.

  10. It was only a couple of weeks ago that people were looking at Europe. You people need to chill, we’ll be OK. Not saying we’ll be good mind, the performance at West Ham shows that.

  11. Japes – we can always rely on French Franq to pop up with an own goal if we get really desperate.
    When Boro stay up, next seasons challenge will be determined by the transfer kitty that GS is allocated.
    If Steve Gibson and Lamb refuse to provide GS with most of the 30+ million pounds of the Sky money the club will receive, then another season of mediocrity will follow.
    As John has stated on many posts, Boro have a lack of in depth strength in the squad. Until this is rectified Boro will be unable to challenge for a top seven finish.

  12. …and what about next season then ?
    My Prediction For A Mass Exodus Is As Follows:
    1. Mendieta
    2. Rochemback
    3. Downing
    4. Viduka
    5. Xavier
    6. Yakubu
    7. Woodgate
    8. Huwell – or however you spell it.
    Yes, I’m going to stick my neck out here and put this to the public’s view and wait to be ridiculed once more!!!!!!!!
    Why Yakubu ? I just think that clubs really rate him and that there will be just too big an offer for the all powerful Lamb to turn down. ( RUMOURS BUT A DISTINCT POSSIBILTY IN MY OPINION. WILL HE GO RATING 5.5 /10 )
    Why Downing ? For much the same reason and because by all the local gossip I hear he is really fed up of the all powerful Lamb who has stalled and stalled on a new deal. ( RUMOURS, HAS ANYONE ELSE HEARD THIS ? WILL HE GO RATING 8 /10 )
    That leaves the others who were all going anyway, including Woody who has unfinished business with Madrid or still wants to prove he can cut it at the highest level without getting overly injured ( WILL HE GO RATING 9.5 /10 ).
    Who knows ? Only time will tell but at least it livens up debate and gives us all something to ponder in the closed season when we all get withdrawl symptoms !
    …and I didn’t even mention Maccarone once – oops !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    **AV writes: Yakubu will stay because his agents doesn’t get all the £3m unless the contract is completed.
    Mendieta and Rocky will be out the door on a free as soon as the club can find a mug punter, Xavier is out of contract and was only ever a stop gap.
    Woody and Viduka remain unknowns. Woody wants to stay and willl unless a signficantly bigger club (Champions League) comes in with an offer he can’t refuse.
    Viduka will only stay on Boro’s terms.
    And Downing? He has recently signed a new deal so I wouldn’t see that as a factor. If Boro get off to a bad start come the August deadline day he will certainly attract attention. And if Southgate is short of transfer funds he is probably the only immediately realisable asset… but I still don’y think he would want to leave.

  13. Never Happy ,you’re spot on GS needs to change the club culture, so that we regularly beat the teams in the bottom third, doing that is the difference between finishing 12th and qualifying for Europe.
    If Sam alladyce can inspire Bolton to fifth then surely Boro can achieve the same in the future? Even given AV’s view that the team is average. The fact is if the team performs to its ability we’ll finish 10th/11th.

  14. A transfer fund of about £10m wont even make any difference as every clubs has atleast that amount to spend. Then you have to take off the £6m for woodgate or is replacement just to stand still.
    Why don’t all the premiership clubs just agree to knock £10m off everyones transfer budget and pass that onto the fans with ticket price reductions.
    Plus there wil be more agents fees to pay with new signings
    In 4 years time clubs will be spending £20m every season but the reality wil be that the players are no better than 5 years ago.

  15. ” AV writes: Yakubu will stay because his agents doesn’t get all the £3m unless the contract is completed. ”
    Haha ! You’re better informed than I am AV, which sounds about right as I only listen to idle pub gossip from a few half drunk fans !
    Interesting stuff though – thanks.

  16. Vic
    I agree that it’s the nature of the current product.
    My beef is that there is no need for it to be.
    There was an opportunity to take a different direction – a positive transition, not a negative one – before this season but we didn’t.
    We had an opportunity to alter the course of this season in the transfer window and didn’t take it.
    From that point on we’ve been consigned to limp through to whatever our end will be – survival or relegation.
    I know this is next to heresy – at least in part – but my first priorities for people to leave would not be players (though there are a good few who need to be out of the door). First would be Mr. Lamb whose version of our business model constrains our development.
    We need a replacement who will work with Gate (if that is the Chairman’s continued choice) to transform the club – not someone who is intent on and content to keep us in the rut he is in good part responsible for wearing down.
    Here comes the heresy – I don’t believe that Gibbo continuing to be an unchecked and usually benevolent despot is healthy.
    No-one will ever forget what he’s done and we’ll always recognise that with gratitude and affection but maybe 20 years of the same business model when, to say the least of it, we’ve plateaued as a club is more than enough.
    I won’t rehearse again my oft-expounded views on a Supporters Trust as shareholder. But even with that, I think we need new and different investment (but not a plc), new blood and a challenge to Gibbo’s thinking which shows signs of repeating old patterns of behaviour and old mistakes – and some new ones – and also begins to feel insular, xenophobic and resistant to challenge.
    Word has it that Gibbo is not the easiest person to work with or for – not all ‘Captain’s of Industry’ are, of course. But the best know that a good and regular leavening of light and air into their strategy is essential. Not sure Gibbo does.
    Thereby hangs the difficulty – no-one else can get involved unless Gibbo wants them to and who is there that he listens to that will persuade him that he needs to?
    **AV writes: I agree with a lot of what you say. A major problem at Boro is that the club is intrinsically linked to the wider Bulkhaul/GibsonO’Neill empire and can not be easily detached in a way that makes outside investment viable or attractive, or even desirable to Gibson.
    And I find it very hard to believe that in ten years of rapid growth in turnover and activities at the club there has been no reason to bring in fresh blood with ideas and experience in some key areas.

  17. TB- Here’s a rumour for you , Woodie has agreed a £60000/week , three year deal.
    Viduka has also agreed a deal because he knows nobody else is prepared to offer him a better deal and the big clubs don’t want him.
    Come June remember I told you
    **AV writes: That Woodgate has substantially agreed his contract at Boro should he stay is no state secret.
    Viduka is aware of what Boro intend to offer him in a one off, full and final take it or leave it offer in June.
    Whether both accept depends now on other clubs.

  18. I flew over from New York for the West Ham game.It was my first and only live game of the season.
    I expected to lose , but not in that manner.
    Rather like a seeing an ex – when you are far away , you only remember the good parts. It takes an ‘up close’ meeting to remind you of the grimmer aspects of the relationship. Of course, the problem is, unlike an ex’ , we can’t just walk away from this one.

  19. John – I agree that Lamb should be shown the door.
    Gibson needs to appoint someone with fresh ideas, who is not just a yes man to his whim’s.
    The Boro website states that Don MacKay is our European Scout, what has he ever done to jusify his wage packet?
    On the playing front, Christie, Rochemback Mendieta, Graham and Euell should be released.
    I would also release Xavier, he does talk a good game after Saturday though.

  20. Bit concerned if we are prepared to offer woodgate 60k a week. a great player but then other players will want their wages increasing and agents will know we pay 60k per week. will downing walk in demanding to match woodgate as he is an england international too? breaking your wage structure for a 1 player who is just a defencsive player as well is a big risk.
    viduka is a bit more tricky. his best years are behind him and offering him big money is a bigger risk.
    having lots of money to spend isnt always the answer, but it does keep the fans happy for another 6 months or so

  21. Jape,
    I was interested to read your Nostrodamus prediction, particularly our unlucky loss to Man Utd. Will their late goal come from a penalty?

  22. Oh dear, I really do need to get real. Ive thought all season based on watching Boro that we would do well to finish 14/15th.
    However, Ive just gone and predicted all the scores via the BBC trying not to be too biased towards the Boro and we’ve finished 10th on 51 points with Wigan going down rather than Charlton. I know, I’m stupid.
    Seem to say it every year, but if, rather when we are safe, next season is going to be massive for all of us if we are to move forward.
    I just hope GS has the bottle to make some really tough decisions and aknowledge that its not only about players performing more consistently, but accepting that in truth, a number of our players just aint good enough to impact on this league.

  23. Dave, to describe Woodie as ‘just a defensive’ player does him a great injustice.
    He’s the best player in the team and without him this year we would have been struggling to avoid relegation. If anyone is worth £60k a week he is.
    I’m not sure any other player in the team could make a good case for being on the same wages. I’m also not sure its breaking the wage structure. Several seasons ago we paid £60k a week to Boksic, now that was a waste of money.
    Keeping Woodie and playing him alongside Huth next season would give the team a very strong defensive platform, money well spent I think.

  24. Comments from Ian Holloway, are Plymouth the Championship’s Boro?
    Plymouth manager Ian Holloway is unhappy about the attitude of his players in recent matches. Argyle were thumped 4-0 at Burnley on Tuesday and Holloway said: “They think they are on holiday already.
    “There’s no point in ranting at them – they know how I feel. There’s an apathy about the place that I can’t stand.
    “Everyone is saying nice things about Plymouth and the FA Cup run and how we didn’t deserve to lose to Watford, but we’ve been rubbish ever since.”
    Prehaps GS should slate some of the Boro players to try and get a response

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