Boro Must Battle Football Gravity

CAN BORO ever make the Great Leap Forward into the top six? Or will the weight of history, the resources at their disposal and the limitations of the potential crowd forever condemn them to bang their heads against the glass ceiling that prevents provincial upstarts from getting to the game’s top table? Worse still, will the force of football gravity pull them back into the abyss?
History – even recent history – is littered with the debris of clubs that got within touching distance only to be whisked away and cast back down into oblivion: Sunderland and Ipswich both broke briefly into the top group only to slip through the trapdoor within two years. Now Boro – UEFA Cup finalists less than 12 months ago – are anxiously looking over their shoulders at the cellar dwellers and hoping results go their way. Is top flight survival the best we can hope for? And does that constitute success?


One thing is certain: Boro are punching above their historical weight. In the all time top flight table Boro rank 20th they are behind Sheffield United, Wolves, Forest, Derby, Bolton, Blackburn, West Brom, Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland. Most supporters who grew up in the pre-Premiership days will know that. And they are just ahead of West Ham, Birmingham, Stoke, Leicester, Southampton and Coventry.
Yet in the all time Premier League table Boro are ranked 13th and are above a lot of those teams that historically have been above them. The modern era has seen Boro make a massive and significant advance of seven places in the pecking order and edge towards the top half.
In a flawed but generally well reasoned “big club” table weighted to give a ranking based on historic trophies and top flight status, Boro are rated 21st. Yet again in the shorter time frame Boro have made a massive improvement. They have won a trophy more recently that 16 of the teams above them. If the weighting system was done over the Premiership lifespan (and as we know football started in 1992) and if it included cup final appearances too then Boro would by in the top eight or possibly even top six.
The Riverside years have constituted a Golden Age without precedent. The wonder team of Wilfie Mannion won nowt. Charlton’s Champions swept to the second division title but stuttered and stagnated in the top flight. But the era driven forward by Steve Gibson has produced a flurry of previously unknown benchmarks: the first major national knockout final appearance, the first FA cup semi, the first final, three Wembley trips in 13 months, the first trophy win, the first campaign in Europe, the first qualification through the league, a UEFA Cup final, nine years out of ten in the top flight and an epoch of expectations raised beyond the wildest dreams of any sane individual that ever frequented Ayresome Park. That is all to be applauded.
But can that be sustained? The growing fear is that it can not. To escape the force of gravity you need momentum greater than the forces holding you back. For years the club undoubtedly had that momentum – the early days of the Riverside Revolution were marked by the wildest optimism imaginable and as the club moved to a plush new home and signed current English internationals, the Brazilian player of the year and a striker straight from scoring in the Champions League final. It seemed anything was possible. The sky was the limit for this Infant Hercules of a club and the success in cups seemed to confirm that.
As time has passed and the cavalier approach was replaced with fear filled scientific professionalism under McClaren the naive zealotry of the crowd has been corroded by reality and replaced by cynicism, defeatism and dreary resignation. And the artificially inflated expectations have become a burden. Now, for many, finishing 13th – Boro’s true historic level – is not good enough. After the peak of a seventh place finish, form in the bread and butter league games has collapsed. In successive season’s Boro have flirted with the relegation battle for long spells and punctuated pedestrian capitulations to the bottom sides with inexplicable successes against the elite to become a byword for inconsistency.
And it is not just down to cash and an inability to compete financially. Boro’s turnover in recent years has been in the top ten. A £50m plus turnover in 2004-05 puts them just outside the kind of figures being posted by Europe’s richest 20 clubs.
It comes down to momentum and there are several signs that that vital force is being lost. The crowd is one indicator, not just its declining size but also the matchday malaise and collapse in atmosphere and evaporation of belief and ambition. Another sign is the signals sent out by the club with ominous warnings that “Teesside will get the club it can afford” and an associated slashing of the wage bill and removal of deadwood (which is not a bad thing) and a failure to solve some glaring weaknesses in the squad in the last two transfer windows (which is).
The failure to invest may be underpinned by prudent financial reasoning – I for one believe clubs should control wages and money spent on transfers and agents’ fees – but it comes with a massive risk attached. Boro are a fragile side as the results when even just two or three first choice players are out illustrate. Without Mark Viduka and Jonathan Woodgate – two player who are no means certain to be here next term – Boro could have been in the bottom three right now and unless that lack of quality is addressed that may be the case next season.
The club have reached a watershed. There needs to be sweeping changes to the squad if it is to compete and that will take investment, and there needs to be a sea-change in the way the club interact with the crowd if they are to galvanise support, reinvigourate the Riverside Revolution and regain that crucial momentum. You need a lot of momentum to escape gravity.

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33 thoughts on “Boro Must Battle Football Gravity

  1. Absolutely correct AV.
    I would be fascinated to know yours (and others) thoughts on why it is Boro do so badly away from home, which will be one of the abiding memories of the season (if relegation is avoided). One away win, six draws – four of which have been goalless – and generally palsied attempts to make impressions despite continual strong away support.
    I mean, was there a white flag flying from the team coach as it drove to Anfield last night? ‘Cos there might as well have been.
    Why does GS perpetuate the ghastly traits of SM by giving clear signals to the opposition that our usual away tactics – one up front, try and nick a goal and then boot it anywhere – are being faithfully held to?
    Our away form in four of the five SM seasons was equally squalid and almost cost us each time – remember 10 consecutive away games without even scoring? Maybe GS is trying to top that one! Cheers.

  2. ” CAN BORO ever make the Great Leap Forward into the top six? Or will the weight of history, the resources at their disposal and the limitations of the potential crowd forever condemn them to bang their heads against the glass ceiling that prevents provincial upstarts from getting to the game’s top table? ”
    Ok AV, you’re obviously trying to get me in trouble with everyone here but I won’t fall into your trap !
    The weight of history ? This is just an excuse and so is any talk of resources.
    Of course our squad is always going to be limited in the quality of who it can bring on from the bench as we are not an endless pot of gold here.
    But the there can still be some good quality there and there can still be players who can make a difference.
    We do have quality on the pitch now, of that there can be no argument, perhaps not yet enough, but there is much quality there now. We must add to it and I’m sure that we will over the coming months.
    I am not going to bang on about the things that I believe are wrong at this club as my views on this are well known by now. But please just let me say this.
    To move forwards this club needs to develop a new mentality and it must change. The mentality must change but so too must this culture of defeatism and of mediocrity which people here always justify because we went bust and we are just a ” small town in Europe “.
    You refer to the weight of history. What about the weight of change AV ?
    But change must not just be for change’s sake. It must be driven by a true passion for excellence that comes by an understanding of how things should be done properly and this must translate itself throughout the entire club. Not only by the way we train players or look after players through our physiotherpay department, but also by the way we lead them, by the way we motivate them and by the way we treat them as people.
    You don’t need money for these things.
    You don’t need money to demand that players turn up on time in the morning dressed in their Boro suits ready for serious work. Players are the foremost representative face of the club and so they are always on show and so they must always act accordingly. This is a small price to pay for earning 40 odd grand a week.
    You don’t need money to ensure that players always have a responsibilty to interact for a few moments with the fans waiting at the training gorund with their sons or at the ground for their autographs, instead of them just driving straight through or walking straight past. This is a small price to pay for earning 40 odd grand a week.
    You do need money to have one of the coach’s to do spot checks on players by calling them at home, especially the younger ones, to see where they are and what they are doing so as to ensure that they are home either getting rested for training or playing instead of being out late and drinking a few too many beers – just as they do at Arsenal. This is a small price to pay for earning 40 odd grand a week.
    You don’t need money to ensure that the players actually eat straight after a game with what you have put out for them in the players lounge, instead of them opting for two or three bottles of lager and then just leaving on an empty stomach.
    You don’t need money to stop the players lounge serving alcohol to players straight after a game.
    This is a small price to pay for earning 40 odd grand a week.
    You don’t need money to stop players going into Yarm on a Saturday night and drinking such vast quantaties that they spend all day Sunday on the sofa in a comatose state. This is a small price to pay for earning 40 odd grand a week.
    What exactly has happened to Elvis, I mean Rochemback ? Just how much weight has he piled on ?
    AV, excellence is the result of a team of people who live, breathe and sleep the job that they do because of the passion that they have for that job and because they want to be successful above all else. For these people their work isn’t just a job, it’s their life and these are the people we need at this club as we just don’t have them.
    This philosophy, this mentality, this neverending search and need for excellence will then be passed on into the dressing room and it will eventually find its way into the players who will respond and react accordingly.
    In any walk of life, in every job, the firms that have this mentality and this approach are always the firms that make the most money and have the most motivated and loyal work forces.
    To cut a VERY long story short the backroom staff go. they MUST be replaced with new blood who will bring these standards of excellence and this winning mentality with them.
    Money is ALWAYS going to be a big factor in achieving the long term success we all want. But money isn’t the be all and end all in football.
    I don’t judge managers on just one season. But there IS a manger who HAS done ALL OF THESE THINGS in HIS FIRST SEASON and as a result his team are now sitting at the summit of the Championship.
    Roy Keane at Sunderland has done all of these things. His first actions were to bring in a new head of sports science, to rid the club of the ghosts of defeatism and mediocrity and instill his own winning mentality, and he has adopted a fair but firm Fergusonesque approach which he was able to do because of WHO HE IS AND THE THE WAY HE WAS IN FOOTBALL, and this is the result.
    Over the weekend there were rumours that a certain senior player turned up late for training yet still found himself in the squad and he still started.
    At Sunderland when two players missed the bus to game to a game Keane told them not to bother catching the team up as they would not be playing.
    This is the difference and this is what we lack.
    TB

  3. AV – Boro have punched above their weight since moving to the Riverside.
    The rollercoaster excitement of the Robson era, and winning the cup under MaClaren.
    However despite his success MaClaren left the club in a state of turmoil with an average squad (poor considering the amount of cash he spent on it).
    The longer this season has gone on and with the info that is coming out of the Riverside, I am more and more convinced that GS was made manager as he was the only candidate who agreed to be a ‘yes man’ to Lamb and Steve Gibson.
    What other manager would have come to the Boro with a minimal transfer budget and an obviously paper thin squad.
    We all hope that our academy will churn out future stars, but as potential managers knew there is no guarantee of this happening.
    As I have previously posted, SG’s revolution is dying on its feet.
    If he has not got the funds to ensure that the players required to take Boro to the next level can be bought, he needs to bite the bullet and attract other investors into the club.
    Without this crowds will continue to dwindle and the slippery slope to the championship will get greasier by the game next season.

  4. Excellent article AV, clearly the size of support the Boro enjoy is not a reason for not being able to make the top six, Bolton prove that.
    You report the clubs turnover is in the top ten for the Prem, so money isn’t the reason (or lack of).
    We have a squad of mixed ability (outside of the top four which club hasn’t?). It’s my belief that Maclaren couldn’t get Boro into the top 6/8 regularly because he was too negative and that negativity eroded the players self belief.
    GS has been in charge for less than 12 months with no previous experience and inevitably has made mistakes, but has also done some good work as well. It is not reasonable to expect him to progress from an average of finishing 13th/14th to top ten and beyond in one year.
    The Boro squad is as good as any outside the top four isn’t it? What it isn’t doing is performing to potential, in other words loosing away to Watford, loosing a two goal lead at Reading, loosing to West Ham, Man City, Villa, only winning once away all season.
    GS needs to instill a culture of self belief in the squad (no easy task), if he can do that then the top six is well within our grasp. A couple of quality players in the Summer will help and most importantly keeping Woody and Duke.
    There is a very thin line between being a Bolton and a Blade, if we don’t progress then at some point we will be relegated, consistently finishing 14th ish means at some point a below average season gets you relegated.
    Maybe we are suffering from the blow of losing the UEFA cup final especially after the rush of the quarters and semis, thats very difficult to quantify.
    With out any doubt Boro have the potential to become top six material, but so do several other clubs.
    It is useful to reflect on th huge progress the club has made in the last 10-12 years, maybe we have plateued and need to find a new gear to move forward.
    That is what GS/Gibbo and Keith Lamb have to achieve now, its down to them nobody else.
    Part of that ‘push’ must be re-engaging the fans by sensible ticket pricing and policy to increase attendances and by listening to the supporters which is a big weakness for the club at present.
    Steve Gibson is a succesful business man he should know the importance of giving customers what they want and we want to be listened to.

  5. Aside from the myriad Boro-specific issues affecting our future, the clubs position in the pecking order and potential for upward mobility need to be seen within the context of wider changes taking place at other clubs.
    The 4 Sky clubs are getting fatter and more dominant in terms of trophies and taking more of our potential support while prospective investment at peer clubs, esp. the big city outfits – citeh, villa & jawdees – which could leave us trailing in their wake.
    What applies to Boro also of course applies to the rest of the unfashionable prem outfits and prem wannabees but we are clearly more vulnerable as things stand.

  6. The premiership is like working at a big company. you get promoted easily in the first year or two and make a lot of progress.
    Then you get stuck with no where else to go as the manager above you is never going to leave the company and about 10 other workers are like you waiting for him to retire.then above him is the senior managers. There are 4 of them and they are on a different pay scale than everyone else and get massive bonuses.There is no way that you will ever reach their level.
    You cant compare the Premiership now to top flight 20 years ago. Its now all abpout money and the crowd size you get has less relevance on your income now.
    Most income comes from finishing higher oup the league with more prize money and being on tv a lot more.
    Compared to last season our revenue will drop a lot because we have hardly been on tv this season. but boro made about 2M from the manutd games.
    We have to aspire to where bolton are in the league. you can t build a solid club off the back of cup finals..you have to do it in the league.

  7. I dread to think of the number of times I have posted about the dreadful slither that has afflicted many clubs who got within touching distance of the promised land only to slip away. Some managed to regroup – Blackburn, Everton. Some disappeared down the plug hole – Leeds, Leicester.
    The difficulty for Gate is changing what we have and the way we do things. I do not know what goes on but can only comment on the symptons. TB has talked about professionaism within the club, living in Derby I am not privvy to sightings and gossip.
    What I do know, and sadly this is about Cats but this is not aimed at him, is that there is plenty of money floating about for the players. Cat answered a question from a fan about his car – a BMW 650 convertible! At 19! Now Cat can never be criticised about his work ethic on the pitch, in fact some times he needs to calm down. But what about some of the older, worldy wise pros?
    Keane didnt play two players who missed the bus. The problem we have is some catch the bus and then dont bother getting off for the match or retreat to it at half time. Where does that attitude come from?
    We have state of the art facilities but it appears we fans can diagnose injuries without seeing them as well as the witch doctors at Rockcliffe. Where is the sports science so beloved in the modern game? Where is the evidence that someone has analysed the problems we get in rehab? If it has happened it is a well kept secret.
    Engaging the fans – or not. Has there been a debate about the white band? Have the fans been consulted? I may have missed it but if I have the club have not used my database info to ask me. They can certainly offer me ways of parting with my money whenever I log on. Petty, but little things build up loyalty.
    The deafening silence over ticket prices, allocation for future cup success, loyalty schemes etc etc etc
    We have been in a succesful era for the club but they have managed to alienate the fan base. Odd thing is all of us want to is the club to move forward.
    Many will know of John Harvey-Jones of troubleshooter and of course ICI fame. His view is that when you change things you dont know if it is right or wrong, the certainty is that if you dont change you have got it wrong.
    From afar I see little evidence of change other than Gate trying to be more a little more postive on the pitch and a gradual cull of the squad. I can see no sign of change within the club, we fans need to see something to rebuild the links.

  8. Its an endless circle: the top 4 qualify for the champions league, get the most premiership prize money buy more players and progress far in the champions league – then get more money and then be even stronger in the premier league. They are then on tv more so get more tv income, they then get national exposure and get a bigger fan base..
    Wonder if the chairmen at clubs like middlesbrough anticipated that it would be like this now? or were they just looking short temr and wanted the cash asap

  9. Hi Ian,
    it’s a sad reflection on the club and those it employs that we can all see these things from the stands and they can’t.
    We all see and hear of players regularly drinking in Yarm or at Retro and yet those at the club seem oblivious to it. Everybody wants time to relax after work and footballers are no different, but there comes a point where they should be able to say I’ve had enough, time to go home.
    Things are way too lax at this club. There are no controls over what players do and there is no attempt made to put a stop to it either.
    To see players who should be athletes puffing away endlessly on cigars and cigarettes is just not acceptable. Yes of course people smoke but the club should be procative in putting a stop to it.
    Work places actively and vigorously prmote and run stop smoking clubs so why can’t they do it the Boro?
    Of course there is always the argument of personal responsibility but that is not an excuse for the club to absolve itself from its own responsibilty and not to have people and policies in place to safeguard against those players who are unable / unwilling to help themselves.
    Education, education, education – as Tony Blair would say. Failing that, heavy fines, then the bench and then goodbye.
    Players should be made to attend regular post training classes in which they ” LEARN ” about nutrition and all the other things that go into keeping them in tip top condition. These things shouldn’t be handed to them on bits of paper they should be explained so that people understand the importance of them.
    I agree with you that the fans need to be engaged much, much more and made to feel part and parcel of the club. They need to feel that they belong and that they are apprciated. Award schemes such as allocating a few guest entries into the players lounge and private boxes every week should also be a regular feature. The list is endless and all it requires is just a little bit of thought from people who actually do give a ****.
    The club needs a good clean sweep where we get rid of those who have been there for years and put in some fresh, dynamic faces who will force these changes through.
    TB

  10. So much good commentary on this site, I agree with vast majority. Ian Gill has it spot on when he refers to the “deafening silence” enimating from the club’s supremo.
    I only hope they read these pages and act on all the constructive criticism but so much of it has been recited in various mediums over the last few years.
    To be fair there has been some positive actions by the club in response, sadly though of a fairly limited nature. They need to be much bolder and grasp the nettle re prices, and especially restructuring thereof.
    The dependence on hefty season ticket sales to fill the ground, has meant that the gradual but serial downward spiral of the season ticket fan base, leaves the club with approx 10,000 matchday tickets to sell, at premium prices for most fixtures, an almost impossible task for various and well aired reasons.
    A.V. sums up or current plight extermely well but obviously can not point the finger at individuals. The point is that we have came from a situation of 35,000 sellout crowds, and therefore that should be the base that should be considered to have have been built on.
    In fact that this golden age position of potential has been frittered away, by a failure to learn from past mistakes, which is a sad tale of misjudgement, mismanagement, arrogance and complacency.
    Over to you Mr. Chairman and Mr Chief Executive.
    P.S How much financial resources are being put aside for the five star hotel and state of the art golf course at Hurworth?

  11. Its only the post juninho crowd that got there hopes up that believed all that rubbish about boro being top six.
    We have always been a second ranked club. Gibbos money has pushed us above out station for now and weve enjoyed it but all us crusty old cynical sods all know the truth – one bad year and we’re back down with the Stokes, Leicesters and Burnleys
    My only aim this season (and every season) was to stay up. job done. for us that is success. we’ve been spoiled. people who talk about dire football cant have been going long. ive seen far worst.

  12. I agree with Tony Black, some excellent comments here which sum up the malaise very well.
    Is not another part of the difficulty with the ‘back-room’ staff that there are simply too many of them? I’ve long thought that we have more coaches than Wallace Arnold, for all the good they’ve done.

  13. Holgate Ender I agree with you apart from two things, we were once a third ranked club and now we are in the second rank. That said maintaining prem. status is success but we can achieve more.
    I don’t think we can join the champions league teams but the fact we made a UEFA cup final demonstrates out potential is beyond finishing 12th-15th every year. We must aspire to higher things surely, otherwise whats the point?
    TB – Your evidence re how much players drink and eat is anecdotal is it not? Otherwise tell us who and how much. Accusing players of under performing because they booze too much is a cheap shot unless you quantify it. I’m not sure a night out on the pop has ever harmed Wayne Rooneys abilities has it? Everyone deserves the right to a night out even if they do earn £30k a week.

  14. Holgate Ender
    I can remember some shocking performances stood at Ayresome Park, in the rain. Not the good old days in my eyes.
    Like many my concern is in not slipping back, in the club recognising the problems and SHOWING that they understand. They cannot air all the dirty washing in public. They cant tell us of all the transfer targets. No one expects them too. But the wall of silence apart from the odd PR utterance is alienating the fans.
    Show the fans something that they can link into, some evidence that they care or even consider us.
    My experience this season has been of 2-3 hour car journeys to matches followed by a fume in the car on the way back home. Two quotes on the radio phone ins from opposition supporters on radio 5.
    1. Reading – fan phoned in and said they were being given a lesson for 25 minutes then the Boro team got on the team bus and went home.
    2. Watford – great result, the boro fans were brilliant and didnt deserve that from their team.
    That has been a theme on and off for a couple of years. And it applies to the way the club conducts its business as well as on the pitch. At least we occasionally show some competence on the pitch

  15. AV…….Your comment that “Sunderland and Ipswich both qualified for Europe only to slip through the trapdoor within two years.”
    I’ve got news for you mate, Sunderland only ever qualified for Europe when they were playing second division football.
    Tsk, tsk tsk, you journos dont know half as much as you think you do!
    **AV writes: Good spot. Thanks. It doesn’t alter the central point though – that one good season does not establish a team in the top group and that unless some concrete steps are taken it is easy to slip back . And when you start slipping….

  16. Since we’re on the topic of mistakes, Ravanelli didn’t score the winner in the 1996 Champions League final either – he put Juve in front but Litmanen equalised for Ajax and the match went to penalties. He was substituted late in normal time I think and didn’t take a penalty.
    Great article though – I fear for next season, I really do.
    **AV writes: Oh dear. It’s starting to look like a shoddy piece of work now. Still, that’s what you get when you sit down to write after you come back from the pub.

  17. ” TB – Your evidence re how much players drink and eat is anecdotal is it not? Otherwise tell us who and how much. Accusing players of under performing because they booze too much is a cheap shot unless you quantify it. I’m not sure a night out on the pop has ever harmed Wayne Rooneys abilities has it? Everyone deserves the right to a night out even if they do earn £30k a week. ”
    Hi Nigel,
    I did say that I had absolutely no problem with people having a few drinks after a game, no problem at all. They are only human after all and so want to relax after work as we all do. But knowing when to stop is their problem.
    I don’t have to give you names as you can go and look for yourself every single week on a Saturday night in the night club on Yarm high street and every 4 weeks at Retro.
    How else do you explain the weight that some of these players pile on ? You just have to look at some of our guys to see how much extra baggage they are carrying.
    When Ferguson banged on Giggs’s door many years ago and stormed in on what was supposedly a tip off of a mid week party he found Giggs and Sharpe with two bottles each on the table. Sharpe was then given the Spanish fiddle and booted out of the club.
    If Gazza had been under the guidance of Ferguson he wouldn’t have had half the problems he had and he would have been a much better player as a result.
    Alcohol isn’t the issue. It’s about lifestlye, professionalism, and an understanding that with 40 odd grand a week comes a responsibilty that is above and beyond that which is expected from the likes of me and you that won’t earn that in year.
    Forget the quality of the man utd squad and just take a close look at their fitness levels and then compare it with some of our team who can’t last 90 minutes.
    Man UTD are at their PEAK at the TAIL END of the season and WE ARE NOT and they are in the FA Cup Final and still in the Champions League.
    Take a minute to think back to their 7 – 1 mauling of Roma and just FORGET for a minute the difference in the quality of their squad and that of ours and just tell me how often you see us run and run and run and be as sharp and as focused and as concentrated as that for 90 minutes ? They do this week in, week out.
    We are not sharp and we cannot keep up the pace or the concentration levels for the full 90 minutes.
    Mark my words that the day a top new back room team are put in place here with a top head of sports science you will soon see the difference.
    Man UTD’s second in charge is Carlos Queiroz, we have Coops. A tremendous pro and a temendous servant to the club and an absolute gentlemen to boot which is rare to find nowadays in football, but his contribution ends there. The same goes for Southgate and virtually everyone in the back room team that come from places like Grimbsy, Ipswich of York.
    Carlos Queiroz – This is what the internet says of him.
    ” Queiroz has won several awards as a coach in junior levels, and he has been fairly successful at senior and club levels. He is considered the discoverer of the Portuguese “Golden Generation” in the early 1990s, which most prominently include Luís Figo and Rui Costa who were both selected for the FIFA 100 celebrations. In 1998, he authored the “Q-Report” which detailed plans to enhance football player development in the United States.
    Teams Managed:
    Portugal
    Sporting Clube de Portugal
    MetroStars
    Nagoya Grampus Eight
    United Arab Emirates
    South Africa
    Manchester United (Assistant Manager)
    Real Madrid
    Manchester United ”
    TB
    **AV writes: “How else do you explain the weight that some of these players pile on?”. I was started to think that Southgate’s confession tha they occasionally have parmos at the training ground may be something to do with it.

  18. I said this on a forum –
    “Its time Steve Gibson stood up & explained what his long term plans are. The way I see it we are stumbling along with no real leadership & no idea what our aims are or with any sort of strategy as to how we are going to get there.”
    I stand by that. Gibbo used to be very vocal in the days of his Riverside Revolution. Now he’s conspicuous by his absence & the club are causing a huge gulf between them & the fans to be generated.
    If his ambitions & goals have been lowered then the fans should know what these are. In todays high price football world its totally unfair to keep expecting fans to keep coughing up hard earned cash when they are being strung along under the false impression they are supporting a dream that the club have long since given up on.
    Things are flat at the Riverside & I can’t remember a time when peoples hopes for the coming season are as low as they are now. The club need to act now, another season like this one could destroy the undoubted progress that has been made over the last decade & see the already diminishing attendances start resembling those of Ayresome Park in the bad old days.

  19. AV
    If you have got a couple of facts wrong take a leaf out of the MFC PR manual.
    1. Deafening Silence.
    2. On another day….
    3. It is not acceptable….
    4. Didnt see it coming.
    5. I cant say too much in case I say something I regret.
    6. with the level of journalists we have here….
    Hope that helps
    **AV writes: Of course I’m disappointed but there’s a lot of writing to be done yet and so we move on.

  20. TB –
    You make a strong point. I do agree that a pro. footballer has a responsibility to be moderate in what he eats and drinks. I just think that we have to be careful not to go making accusations just because a player is seen in a night club once a week.
    Steve Gibson clearly didn’t want a foreign coach at the club and maybe thats because there can be a clash of cultures. Guillt at the Skunks was a good example.
    He says he is trying to create a ‘bootroom’ culture which has a lot to be said for it but that takes time.
    I think its also dangerous to assume that a foreign coach is better because he’s ….foreign. Its clearly trendy to have a foreign coach and there is a perception they are better and maybe its true, but who is to say Sam Allardyce would have been less succesful than Morinho at Chelsea given the same resources?

  21. All
    Brilliant thread with great postings from an equally good blog to start.
    There is a really good post by Neil from Baku on the Gazette site to which I’ve responded.
    I have nothing to add except – we’ve said it all before and nothing gets better, and isn’t that sad especially as – like TB says – a lot of this isn’t about money, it’s about leadership and professionalism.
    That starts at the top from where we have….ominous silence.

  22. JP I know its frustraing that we keep saying the same things and get no response, but we have to keep saying it don’t we. If the fans stop caring we’re quite frankly b*gg*r*d

  23. AV & everyone
    Great post, and some good insightful comments. Perhaps as a club we are punching above our weight, but like others on here, including John Prowls, I think a lot of the trouble we’re in now comes down to mental attitude, rather than just money.
    I’ve been in despair over the past couple of years at how little fight a lot of the players show when the going gets tough. Maybe I’m viewing it through rose-tinted specs, but I can’t imagine a Rioch side giving up the ghost like Boro have done so often in the past couple of years.
    The reference point for us at the moment should be Bolton. OK they play some crap football at times, but they are prepared to scrap and fight for the ball and muscle other ‘bigger teams’ out of it.
    I’ve a lot of respect for Fat Sam and the way he’s established his team in the top half of the table on a regular basis. Moyes is doing someting similar at Everton, and Hughes at Blackburn.
    They’re not pretty to watch, but they often get results, and they all have something else in common, an experienced manager who is not in his first job. I like Southgate a lot – and I really really hope he makes it as a manager, but he’s cetainly got his work cut out this summer.
    And next year the pressure locally will be even greater, because he’s bound to be compared a lot with Roy Keane, who seems to be doing everything right up the road.
    Its over to you GS – here’s hoping.

  24. Dear All,
    Nothing to add except thank you for taking the time to write well crafted & well reasoned missives once again.

  25. Andy C
    Last couple of years?
    Going back to the early years of Macs reign we were in a period of 1-0 away defeats followed by PR drivel even worse than anything we get from Gate and acolytes – Bill Baldrick was involved so it wasnt cunning.
    My lad and I were watching another keep it tight and hope for the best at Fulham and lo and behold we went 1-0 down at Fulham. In comes a Scot called Jimmy – honest this is true. He had a bet which involved a couple of horses and the Appy Ammers beating Arsenal 3-1 and they had all come home. The final leg of this bet was us drawing 1-1 at Fulham.
    Every time the Boro got the ball he was jumping up and down. Being good sports we didnt spoil the illusion but it was far better than watching the dismal efforts from the team in red shirts.
    I hope Gate is given a proper chance to sort the situation, the club know the problems, I just wish they were a little more in tune. The powers that be showed an understanding of the dynamics when Gibbo and Lamb went on the two phone ins.
    Since then there has been a wall of silence punctuated by periods of non communication and a lack of engaging the fans. Apart from that they have kept stum.

  26. I have been absorbed for the last twenty minutes or so reading the above posts. Unlike some other boards, no insults, no outlandish assertions or assumptions or ridiculous grammar; just well reasoned well written and more importantly, heartfelt opinions.
    That said, I feel A.V., that we are looking in the wrong direction, it should not be how did we get to here, but where do we go from here. History is bunk, the Carling Cup or Maccarone’s equalisers will mean nothing if we are relegated (if not when).
    At the moment we are treading water we are not moving in any direction and you cannot do that or as you say A.V. gravity will overcome.
    I feel that what Tosh says it probably one of the things that is wrong with the club and I admit myself to just hoping that we get the required 42 points.
    I agree with the comparison with Bolton, they were promoted around the same time as us, but they have steadily progressed while we have stood still.
    What is the way forward, probably to misquote Hamlet “aye there’s the rub”. many good points made on the above posts.
    For what it is worth I feel the John Harvey Jones remedy is the correct one. Anything, other than making some major changes will be incorrect.
    Should it be the unthinkable, should Gibson stand down or sell out? Why not perhaps his time is over.
    Should we make changes at the top? Yes, as said in other posts, how about a Director of Football? How about changes in the administration, PR and ticketing departments?
    How about a mentor for the player’s especially the younger ones. Ravanelli was appalled several years ago at the way the football side was run and apparently it has not changed since his day. O.K. Rav. come back and sort it out for us.
    Changes at player level will take longer, nobody will want our dead wood and the last thing we ned to do is bring in more. Also younger players should be given a chance over those who have tried and been found not up to the mark. being on 40k a week should not guarantee a first team place. Thre is a nucleus of players around whom a side could be built.
    A change of captain. Is there a Mogga in the squad? A new leadwr to grasp the nettle.
    Finally perhaps not a need for change at managerial level just more help and support as suggested with a thinning out of those coaches, physios, medics etc who have overstayed their welcome.
    Thank you for entertaining my views. In the short term, fingers, legs and anything else crossed for those three points that should make us safe.

  27. All,
    This is the post John was talking about, so I thought I’d share it with you because I believe what I said is how the vast majority of Boro fans are thinking, but it’s only the tip of a very big iceberg.
    ————————————————–
    “”Generally this is without doubt the most enjoyable and sometimes exciting times I’ve ever had in my 50 years as a Boro fan. But is this it?, have we reached the plateau?
    Since Robbo’s arrival, supporting the Boro has been an emotional and passionate roller coaster, which has now most definitely come well and truly up against the bumpers.
    Eindhoven looks like being the pinnacle of our achievements, as all of the signs coming from the club point towards down-sizing and getting the club we can afford, and what that will be only Gibson and his closest confidentes know.
    I said in an earlier post after the last Villa game, that we have gone full circle since the Villa game the year before, the club is in a holding pattern that inevitibly will see is nose dive to the lower divisions.
    Recent performances also seem to mirror the clubs current ambitions, that is to survive and no more, on a shoe string budget with a squad that at best is only suited for the Coca Cola Championship judging by our performance against those that have just arrived from there.
    Couple this with a manager and coaches with little or no experience of the big time except possibly as players, and you have a recipe for mediocrity at best.
    I for one, am seriously wondering whether it is all worth it anymore, but I love my club, and I want to see us expand and become bigger, more respected, but sadly I do not think it will ever happen if those in charge of both the clubs finances and the team, continue to think like a Small Town in Europe.””
    ————————————————–
    Unless Gibson and his team start to listen to the fans he is going to lose them altogether. What he seems not to realise is that in these days of massive TV coverage, that fans young and old, and particularly the young, can pick and choose who they watch and who they support without leaving the comfort of their own front room.
    If our “product” was for sale now, it would be on the shelves in PoundStretcher whilst the majority of let’s say the top 6 already occupy the top shelf in every high street sports shop in the UK, and for the elite top 4, the world beckons. Some of which AV spoke about is his last blog.
    I am not saying we can compete against the big boys on the open market, and I’m sure there are very good financial arguments for keeping shirt sales in house for instance, but isn’t even this creating a closed shop attitude, is this what Mr Lamb meant by the Teesside Nation??
    As long as we think small we will remain small, and I am sick to death of hearing Boro fans, some of them mates, talking about “our little club”.
    Small Town in Europe was a great chant at the time of out first entry into Uefa, but isn’t it time we dropped that now, because it is becoming a reality in the clubs and some of the fans thinking.
    And if we settle for this then the only time we will be in Europe in the future will be on our holidays.

  28. We’ll always be a little club as long as we play the likes of Andrew Davies, Nigel Wnterburn is currenltly shreading him on the Fox Soccer Channel and he should know.

  29. Looking at those tables… Manu, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, Villa, Everton, Newcastle and City are always going to be in front of us in the long run.
    We are playing for 10th place. Our top level is 10th to 15th in the top flight with regular cup runs, the odd final and very rare trophy wins.
    We’ve been doing that for the last 10 years. That, for us, is success.
    This season has apparantly been a disapointment for some fans. But, in perspective, an F.A Cup quarter final replay against Manu and our 9th successive season in the top flight probably makes it one of the top twenty seasons in our history.

  30. Steve
    I, like many, see the last ten years as something I thought would never happen to us. A lot of us are concerned at the danger of slippage.
    Whilst it appears our natural place is just below mid table that makes it even more imperative that the club be working strenuously to improve. A slip up and you are in the mire. From afar it looks like the club are treading water.
    A good example is the negotiations between Veruka and ourselves – Lambs statement that we would start negotiations when we knew we were safe (if true) ring alarm bells. The lack of activity to fill the right side and central midfield berths which had been a problem for some time. All this causes concern.
    Link this to the poor PR and silence – deafening or ominous depending on the blog – over anything MFC and fan related just makes us uneasy.
    At least we got a point from ManU. Problem is who do want to win the prem the least out of Chelsea and ManU? Do we cheer Toon or not. No, cant do that, lets just leave the big boys to squabble amongst them selves.

  31. I here some one from mfc has come out and said we will buy 4 or 5 players in the summer. its a sign that its nearly season ticket renewal time

  32. peter collins and AV,
    I think it was norwich who beat bayern munich then got knocked out by inter milan.. or the otherway round..anyway they got relegated soon after.
    I do wonder if boro are lacking in leadership, perhaps someone who can push us on in the right direction. Currently there doesnt seem to be any leadership coming out of the club. keith lamb and steve gibson have been very quiet over the last 6 months

  33. It’s an interesting debate: ambition verses reality. Both are right. Should we be miserable that we’re not in Europe every year or delighted we’re not Leeds Utd? Glass half full etc.
    The Riverside years have been great for fuelling ambition beyond the wildest dreams of the 80’s. The truth is that mid table is a good thing. If we beat the occasional relegation scrap, qualify for Europe or get to a cup final every now and then that’s great – that’s reality & that’s fine. If we finish top of the NE that’s also a great thing.
    BUT
.. What none of us want to see is Boro representing boring nothingness. We want something to latch on to, to keep our interest & make us proud of supporting MFC.
    In the 80’s we kept a sense of humour, crowds were low but vocal, there were characters, never a dull moment. Even the hoolies added flavour (sorry not PC).
    It might be nostalgic but a relegation scrap at least generates some nail biting & passion. I’d say what everyone has hated about the recent few years is the perceived dullness & blandness that has set in. A dull, dour brand looses customers & TV time even if the product is actually OK.
    So whilst I will never be disappointed with mid table & being 13th or whatever we’re supposed to be in the rankings, I will be disappointed if MFC become seen as boring mediocrity – the premiership’s new Coventry City.
    We need to work on character, flair, atmosphere, fun. Let’s not become a bland nothing. Let’s hope Gibbo continues to fire up, Gate keeps his dream of exciting football & doesn’t fall into a rut, the stadium & ticketing is changed to encourage back noisy youth, we recapture some of the spirit of the survival, rebirth and taking on the FA over nicked points & coaching qualifications.
    Let’s be the challengers, the upstarts, the thorn in the big clubs’ side like Man U. That’s fun, that’s football.
    Mid table – fine
    Quiet, dull & boring– no way

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