Villa Own Goal As Club Plan New Future

WELL, THERE goes another one thousand season ticket renewals chuntering away early through the underpass. Boro could have gone tenth – and above Newcastle – and set up a morale boosting last month of the season by beating Average Villa and Martin O’Neill, the man who could so easily have been the Riverside supremo last summer.
Instead the glaring weaknesses of the squad were exposed and ineffective tactical changes exploited in a second half slump that cost Boro more than just the points. The feel good factor from last week’s demolition of Watford has gone, the Southgate honeymoon is over and the best we can hope for now is lurching towards safety aided by the ineptitude of the teams below. It is hardly the Great Leap Forward envisaged when the Dark Age of McClarenism ended.

The Villa defeat was a disaster. The terrace cognescenti will argue long and hard in the pubs and clubs of Teesside and on the message boards about the lasting political significance of Southgate defeat by O’Neill and their relative stock on the unofficial BossDaq index will be adjusted acordingly. The Boro boss gained ground with a shrewd second half change in the 1-1 draw at Villa Park and going into the game it was easy for loyalists to dismiss O’Neill as having failed to transform a far bigger club, but the way the Irishman took advantage of Southgate’s flawed substititions saw the pendulum swing back and our man’s shares taking a hit.
But that is just navel gazing for the soccerati. What is far more damaging is that thousands stomped away from the game angry, despondent and frustrated because it was a contest that appeared to have been thrown away. It was a golden opportunity squandered by a team who did not have the cutting edge to kill off a poor side, the quality on the bench to make significant positive changes nor, crucially, the desire or ambition to match that of the supporters.
Poor substitutions, some individuals simply not up to the job and a collapse in a game that Boro were dominating will have an impact on season ticket sales. After the Manchester City own goal plenty of waverers decided that if the team would not bother to turn up then neither would they next season and the Villa game would have nudged new layers towards their own big decision.
The renewal forms are in the pipeline and the new price structure are being discussed now – and it will take a mould-breaking move to stem to flow of deserters from the Red Book Army.
Boro have a respectable record at home this season. Of 17 games they have won nine, drawn three and lost five which gives a decent Riverside return of 30 points from a total tally of 39. From that we can see where the problem lies and it would be fair to assume that Boro’s home crowd should be happy but in football, as the cliche goes, you are only as good as your last game. Supporters generally have a short term memory and many of the nine wins will have long ago blurred into other shapeless seasons and the more recent vivid, shocking, half-hearted displays against Manchester City and Villa will outweight them.
And if the truth is told many of those nine wins were not great games. The 2-1 win over Chelsea was a fantastic early fillip but Boro were torn apart in the first half and only a late flurry as the champions sat back swung the game. The 1-0 win over Newcastle was an insipid derby that could easily have gone the other way. The 1-0 win over West Ham was dull and tense, the 2-0 over a poor Charlton side laboured and flat.
Only the 5-1 demolition of Bolton has been an outstanding and entertaining display although the wins over Everton, Sheffield United and Reading were good, solid shows that only the most creative moaners could really complain about.
The problem the club have is they are in the midst of a post-Einhoven stagnation of the Boro spirit at a time when widespread opinion is that the game does not represent value for money. That feeling became endemic under McClaren’s era of functional caution and while there have been encouraging signs this season under Southgate, results and performances have not been good enough to turn the tide of pessimism and resignation.
Now under pressure from other clubs slashing prices – and a tabloid campaign to drive down ticket costs – Boro must think very carefully about a structure that will retain Red Books yet leave them room to manoevere with on the day discounts to lure back those who walk away on a pick and choose basis.
The club have long had a policy against match-by-match discounts because they have invested so much in the Red Book sell out ideal. The chairman has gone on record as saying he is against slashing casual prices as it it “devalues the product” and so big incentives have been given to get the up front commitment of season tickets. The price structure has been weighted towards the eason ticket and that made perfect sense in the days of sell outs and waiting lists.
But charging higher prices for unsold stock makes no sense at all when the buzz has gone, season ticket sales are ebbing away every week and there is next to no no walk-up market. Asking those less committed to pay a tenner more is a massive disincentive to casual fans, helps push away permanently those who break the Red Book habit but who intended to ‘pick and choose’ , and moves the masses towards the orbit of pubs showing al-jazeera. The prices have reinforced the idea that football is moving beyond the reach of ordinary Teessiders.
The club need to bring down matchday prices without shattering the appeal of the Red Book. As on day prices have been so high they have some leeway on this but they are terrified that major cuts will undermine the appeal of the season ticket.
To counter that they must look at ways of making the Red Book more than just a financial relationship. They status of the book was tainted by the sour taste of the Eindhoven ticketing scramble too so the club need to repair the damage done there and push on the develop a whole new strategy to bolster the reasons fans buy into the idea of the club.
Boro must offer fans something more than just a match ticket or many will judge it on Man City and Villa. They need to go beyond that and completely renegotiate their relationship with the supporters. The Red Book should be tied into a vibrant membership scheme with real benefits and a structure that gives fans the chance to have an imput into how the club works.
Ideally that should include non-voting representation on the board and a real consultative role at every level of the clubs’s community and commercial activities. Ideally that would be tied to a “Red Share” issue in which fans could take a symbolic stake in the club. Ideally it would mean wider co-operation with the Twe12th Man and other supporters’ initiatives to help foster a new culture of fandom and an acknowledgement that some aspects of the new all seater environment are counter-productive and could be changed for the better.
There are whispers abroad of a new badge and a major ‘rebranding’ of the club. We must hope that rather than superficial tweaks and lip service to the role of the fans that the exercise can produce a new dynamic that can stem the slow ebbing away of support.
What do you think can do that? What must the club do to prevent crowds sliding and recharge the emotional batteries? Is it just down to price? Or is there a way to make the relationship warmer, closer and more dynamic?


79 thoughts on “Villa Own Goal As Club Plan New Future

  1. Thats the problem with loan signings, you get them for free for a year then just to keep them and keep the squad the same you have to spend a few million.
    That few millions disapears to the other club and the fans feel like we havent bought anyone in transfer market. fans will be expecting a couple of big signing on top of if we pay the money for woodgate or not.

  2. “If GS is not given sufficient funds, then as others have posted, next season will be another spent fighting relegation. ”
    Can’t remember the last season where we have been in a relegation scrap, well not for seven years or so. Usually we are in a mid table scrap.

  3. AV – fair enough.
    Comment by Richard Scudamore about next seasons PL
    “This deal really does take us on to another level. It means that the team at the top who got £30 million last year will get around £50 million while even those at the bottom will receive about £30 million.”
    Surely SG needs to look at the bigger picture and ensure that GS has enogh funds to ensure that Boro do not get relegated next season.
    If he has not got the money to take Boro to the next step, then surely it is the right time to attempt to entice new inveastors into the club.

  4. The son is shining and I’m feeling optimistic, my prediction for tonight is: Liverpool 0 Boro 1.
    Just off to the bookies again to get the bet on before reality sets in!

  5. Dave
    Do you not think we have been in a relegation battle this season? I have always posted that we will stay up, but we have at times being very close to the bottom 3.

  6. The manager isn’t up to the job he is just a wet towel…..
    I heard some guy called slim a while back on the legends,why dont the club give people like him a go at least he talks sense and not bo-ll-x like southgates crew.
    Suffering but not in silence!

  7. “Do you not think we have been in a relegation battle this season? I have always posted that we will stay up, but we have at times being very close to the bottom 3.”
    Not that close really. Always a few teams below us and its only recently that the bottom teams have been 7 points behind us with us having a game in hand. Take into account the goal difference and the gap is 8 points which is 3 wins for 9 points or 2 wins and 2 draws. plus sheff utd have to play charlton coming up.
    now if you add on the 8/9 points to boro’s total then we would be up there near to 7th. 2 wins and we are 10th.
    we havent been in a relegation battle for years!

  8. Vic and Never Happy
    Can’t the Gazette ask Gibbo and Count DracuLamb how much Club cash (if any – it may be entirely independently financed) that could be invested in the playing squad for next season is going instead towards the leisure development (hotel and golf course) at Hurworth?
    Surely this is what Gate referred to recently when he said that he’d been given a figure for transfers by Gibbo and ‘recognised that investment had to be made in facilities and infrastructure.’
    And, as a follow up, what cash benefits and when is the Hurworth development planned to return to the club? Again, the answer may be none, if the development is financed separately.
    If this isn’t part of what Gate was told was ‘cutting his cloth’ perhaps Gibbo or Lamb could tell us what the ‘facilities and infrastructure are’ and how they benefit the paying customers of the football club.
    Aren’t these maters of legitimate interest to the Gazette back page readership?
    **AV writes: It is of great interest. The problem is that the money is not strictly the club’s at all so can’t really be said to have been ear-marked for the squad.
    It is money made available from elsewhere within the Bulkhaul company structure for capital investment and there may be 101 other pressing calls for it to be spent elsewhere before the squad that we don’t know about. There is a new plant being built in Singapore for instance and there is an argument that the health of the wider business is paramount in any plans for Boro’s future.
    That is the down side of a single benefactor and a corporate structure that makes the club just one factor – and a small and loss-making factor – within a bigger picture. It would seem very churlish and ungrateful to most fans to demand Gibbo makes ‘more’ available.

  9. the playuers wage bill is around £28m which is about what it was in 1997 and been constant at that level ever since but revenue has over doubled in that time and will go up more.
    So what the fans need to know is where is all this extra revenue disappearing to? I have heard that most of it is being pumped into things like building a golfcourse and hotel near the training ground.

  10. First of all, Ive just sat here and read from top to bottom, so if my spelling is out a bit, its because my eyes are square!
    I think judging GS in his first season after inheriting a poor, wafer thin squad from a poor manager is a little harsh. This time next year would be the time to judge. Give him the summer, see who he ships out and brings in, and then see how the “his” new side fair next season.
    Much of the squad are, in my opinion, not good enough to play in the PL, never mind my beloved team. I dont normally single players out as I think it is a team game, but i’m going to make this my exception.
    Xavier, Rochemback, Christie, Dong-Gook (maybe to early to tell, who knows), Morrison, Taylor, Euell, Davies.
    Thats 8 players who i dont think should even be in the squad, never mind the team!!
    Ive just read above somewhere that GS may not have the funds to bring in more players if Woody decides to stay and we have to pay Madrid all of the cash up front.
    I may have a solution, although i could get a torrent of abuse here. I think we should cash in on Downing. I know he’s a local hero; a local boy done good, but the reputed £14m that Spurs are willing to offer would be too good to turn down, in my opinion.
    We have a readymade (better) replacement in Johnson to step into his vacant position and we would also have more in the coffers to strengthen other areas of the team.
    Stewy has more bad games than good, goes missing in games too often, has a final delivery which is either on the money or in row z and wouldnt be in the England squad if Mac werent the manager.
    With these aditional funds, we could do well, look at Big Sam at Bolton, he does amazingly well on a shoestring. I just hope GS is as shrewd with his signings….although i doubt it!
    My first post, attack away!
    **AV writes: Attack? It’s not that kind of forum. Welcome aboard.

  11. Surely if johnson was a better player than downign then he would be ahead of downing and probably be in the england squad. lets not get carried until johnson has proved himself and holding down a regular place

  12. After tonights result at liverpool, boro have now only one twice in their last 14 games in all competitions. Frankly I think the villa result is just the tip of the iceberg.
    Boro have been in decline for some months now. The new dawn of entertaining attacking football has not materialised, if anything we have gone backwards.
    The team looks like it is lacking motivation, and I am afraid that has to come from the top. I said right from the out set that Southgate’s appointment was a very poor decision.
    It is painfull to watch the team I love so dearly exposed week in week out by teams with much less technical ability than we have on paper, by simply approaching the games with a high work rate and a never say die attitude.
    Next years season ticket sales will be determined by supporters perception of what the team is likely to achieve and what players we can attract.
    If the club cannot attract season ticket holders to renew, then what would attract any top player to play for a club in decline. If we fails as i suspect, to hold on to Vids and Woody, then we may well be waving goodbye to our premiership status.

  13. Scott
    Welcome, some will attack you, most wont because we are all Boro fans.
    The point about Downing is well made. More crucially he may leave because many fans, right or wrong, have turned against him.
    The problem we do have is realisable assets and the fact any who come here largely devalue. My son is of the view you may as well sell Downing and raise some money.
    I have a different view in that we do with Downing is almost irrelevant to our future. In his early years with ManU the safest place to be when Giggs had the ball was in the penalty area but row Z was a designated danger zone. we have the problem of lack of pace and aggression in the box and no fizz in midfield.
    Downing gets double marked because that stops Boro playing. If you then keep Viduka and Yak away from the area there is no chance of us scoring.
    Johnson can jink all he likes he will have the same problem.
    If AV is right about the money then we are struggling. If we sell Downing then Woodie and Viduka will leave. If we dont sell him we have little money other than for Veruka and Woodie. The really big money is 12 months away. The other issue is we still have a few players to move on which may mean more money to pay up contracts.
    hard place and rock a – please rearrange.
    Av will give a better view because of his knowledge.

  14. “The point about Downing is well made. More crucially he may leave because many fans, right or wrong, have turned against him.”
    Not really, him leaving would be more to do with playing for a bigger club and getting more money.
    woodgate and viduka are going even if downing stays.
    Makes me laugh that so many fans are bigging it up that we are in a crisis! we are are just in the same position as the last 6 years.only difference is we have n cup final to paper over any cracks

  15. Dave and Never Happy
    You’re right JP does disagree.
    We’re going to get yet another tonking at ManUre on Saturday and then, the way things are going with our general gutlessness at present, lose at home to Spurs and away to Wigan.
    By then it will all depend on how Charlton, Fulham, Wigan and Sheff Utd have done in the meantime.
    We could find ourselves in a final day showdown with Fulham – and I wouldn’t back our team and Gate coming off the back of a run like that to beat Fulham and Sanchez in that sort of scrap.
    Understand the financial picture you paint and this is one reason why the ‘single benefactor’ position has to change.
    I wonder what the investment at Hurworth has to do with the health of Bulkhaul – but that’s Gibbo’s business.

  16. Scott, without Downing we’d be down this season already. Who provides the assists if he isn’t playing? How many times has he been voted man of the match by the fans? A lot more than most of his team mates.
    He’s a class player, Johnson is raw and untried, its impossible to judge him and Downing because Johnson has played very little prem. matches.
    Boro need to invest in at least two players of proven quality this Summer to progress. Prehaps spending £3 million on a windmill while being a laudable idea is not the best way to invest the clubs money?
    The bottom line for me is that as has happened many times before to many clubs, we got knocked out of the FA cup and too many players have lost motivation and so we are loosing to teams we are perfectly capable of beating.
    I did the BBC predictor again yesterday, put Boro down for three draws finishing on 42 points in 14th.
    Its proving to be a miserable end to the season but not that surprising I guess.

  17. Scott – ‘Xavier, Rochemback, Christie, Dong-Gook (maybe to early to tell, who knows), Morrison, Taylor, Euell, Davies’.
    I agree with all of your list bar Taylor.
    We will see if Gook is any good after pre-season. You can also add Graham and Mendieta to those that need to go.
    From your list only Davies and Morrison will have any sell on value.

  18. JP – you may be right, however you did paint a similar scenario before Christmas and Boro managed to overcome Charlton, Sheff U, Bolton and Reading.
    I think we can all agree that Watford and West Ham have bitten the dust.
    We will probably lose to Man U but I still think we can take seven points from Spurs, Wigan and Fulham.
    I do agree with you ref ‘single benefactor’
    SG has been probably the best thing to happen to MFC, but for his dream of a Riverside Revolution to be rekindled, additional backing is required.

  19. AV – I’m curious, you have referd on several occasions to the Gibson O’Neill Group. I did a little research and found some info saying Gibbo owns 75% of the group. Are you saying MFC is a subsidiary within that group and if so who owns the other 25%, and therefore by default the other 25% of Boro?
    **AV writes: The other half of Bulkhaul is Mike O’Neill, the lifelong friend and partner of Gibson in the original Bulkhaul. The parent group has the complex and flexible corporate structure needed to operate successfully globally and across different spheres of commerce.
    The club itself is wholly owned by a holding company that operates tthe football side. That in turn is owned by Gibson O’Neil which is the parent company of Bulkhaul and all its subsibdaries both here and abroad. It is all perfectly normal busines practice and allows a tax efficient structure which has benefited the club greatly.
    It is unfeasibly that Gibbo could or would stump up £20m of his own money for transfers but it is possible and sometimes desirable that the finance is moved from one company to another in the shape of loans.
    I asked our business editor to explain it once and was left with a headache. But it works for the greater good.

  20. My views about the situation at MFC have been well documented here and on the FMTTM website, especially my desire to see big changes behind the scenes with regards coaching and training methodology.
    It hasn’t been a good season at all, a pretty dire one at that, but we just have to hope and have faith that GS sees all that we see and that he has prepared well for this in the off season ready for a fresh start.
    GS, Coops and the all the rest of the crew would never have been my choice but they are here now and we will just have to see what they come up with. It’s very disappointing at the moment but then we all knew that a rookie set up like this would take time so now we must just sit and wait it out.
    We gave bloody McClaren plenty of time and so now that GS and Co are here we will have to extend them the same timespan.
    It isn’t the time to call for their heads and I don’t think it will be until we get about 10 games into the next season.
    We still aren’t safe and so we still must give them 100% support for now at the remaining games so that they get this most important of jobs done as it’s far from over.
    Then we will what changes they make and then see how it all pans out.

  21. Dave
    Here is another big laugh, 104 points from 90 games. That is two and a half seasons of drift and Gate copped the driftwood.
    It is the sort of thing that has done for many a team. Keep having blips and eventually you will get caught up at the wrong time. In autumn 2005 we posted about the pending crisis of rebuilding the squad, we have started but there is much that needs doing and no doubt Gate is doing his best.
    I too think Veruka and Woodie are more likely to move than stay, so dont take one quote about Downing out of context. If he did leave before they had made their decisons it certainly wouldnt be seen as a plus in the decision making process. In the same way if they leave it may prompt movement on players like Downing.
    I dont think we will go down but until we have the points anything is possible. The trip to ManU will be interesting because Fergie is already accusing us of paranoia about Ronaldover again. They will be looking to give us an extra special welcome. Lets hope we go there and are positive because they are more fluid than the scousers.

  22. Its time downing was dropped away from home as he is very poor away from the riverside. Lets give johnson a go. Unless downing is undropable

  23. I would be very surpised if gibson uses his own personal wealth to invest in boro. Most of it wil be loans and money from the parent company. Thats not meant to be a bad word against Gibson.
    Good business men never chuck their own personal money into a investment. Dont forget Gibson bought boro when football was very cheap and his investment has probably gone up 10 fold.
    **AV writes: Has it gone up ten fold? What is Boro worth to a foreign investor? And what has Gibson put in?

  24. Initial investement back in 1996 about 200k, then bought out mr envelopes and then ici..etc lets be generous and round it up to £3m. In total. Ayresome Park sold for £2M, new stadium land bought for £1, EU grant for £6M football trust grant for £4m..£2-4M loan and then rest from sale of ayresome the club is worth about £60m+ if you include the training ground and future development of golfcourse and hotel complex. now with the extra TV money he can start running the club at a profit.

  25. Alf – As downing is recognised by the opposition as Boro’s only link to the forwards he is nearly always double marked.
    A better solution would be to play Downong and Johnson, this would hopefully provide us with two attacking outlets that can supply the strikers.

  26. neverhappy, when a club becomes too reliant on one player for creativity it is never good for a clubs progress. look at everton..rooney left for £30m but once he left it gave other players a chance to shine and they are doing aswell without him.

  27. Never Happy
    I think the problem is deeper, because we lack pace in central midfield, right side and up front the wide men (whoever they are) will be on a hiding to nothing but even there they wont get across the centre backs or head goals.
    Yes, Downing is double marked, but we dont play enough around the oppositions area. We are not in the same class but look at the sheer pace in teams like ManU, Arsenal and Chelsea. For that matter look at Everton, Spurs, Bolton and Blackburn. They all move the ball quickly.
    The matter of tempo has been a problem for several years, the one thing my scouse colleague picked up from the Lpool match was how pedestrian we were.
    Yes, we win matches against many good teams but we dont seem to have the drive to take it on.

  28. Ian – Most on this MB have agreed with what you posted.
    We can all see the problems, even those who view games with their ‘beer googles’ on.
    However it seems that the coaching staff and chairman / chief exe view games through ‘rose tinted spec’s’ and do not see anything wrong with the squad.

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