COMRADES, forward to glory with the renewed Riverside Revolution!
After denouncing Trotskyist wrecker Mark Viduka for holding back the revolution during the course of the last five year plan, Comrade Keith Lamb has announced another Great Leap Forward: a bright new age of pace, work-rate, a high- energy entertaining ethic, young players who want to wear the shirt and a new wind of economic realism on wages.
But amid the chest-beating PR spin about an imagined future of blistering pace and goals aplenty there was the dull thud of a giant penny dropping.
Ã¢ÂÂWe want a team that is attractive to watch, that has high energy in all areas of the field,Ã¢Â? said the chief executive. Look at the energy many clubs put into games – Reading are a good example – and it just shows what you can achieve with a great team effort. We need to bring in new players with energy all over the pitch and a different approach than weÃ¢ÂÂve had in the past.Ã¢Â?
About time too. The new policy now being elaborated is of course what the Red Book waving masses have been demanding for years: tempo, attacking in numbers and an injection of passion and desire into a team that often looked one-dimensional, sluggish and demotivated.
For years the vanguard pointed out the obvious: cut-price teams supposedly ponderous BoroÃ¢ÂÂs inferiors were ripping us apart with frightening pace and power, fitness and physicality,bottle and a gushing self belief, and that the club have failed to build on the big breakthrough into Europe because the team was wedded to a slow and cautious style.
It should be no surprise that Boro have struggled in the league in recent years when the likes of Ray Parlour and Gaizka Mendieta have spluttered in the wake of sprinters and when in George Boateng and Fabio Rochemback they now have the slowest running engine in the Premiership.
That the club have acknowledged the problem is a step forward. The trick of course is rectifying it – and quickly. The new campaign will soon be upon us and for the new flag-bearers of the revolution to be at their best they must do a full pre-season so the new football philosophy can be given expression collectively by the new team. New shapes, new tactics, new patterns, new responses under pressure, new relationships within the team to be forged.
Of course, no one wants a team full of Linford ChristieÃ¢ÂÂs. They have to be able to play a bit too. Physicality and pace are assets but they must be allied to touch, control, heart and intelligence if they are to be made to count. We don’t want a new Wimbledon playing long balls forward to giants and with Lamb’s stress on the need for entertainment we must presume that neither do the club’s top brass.
The departure of Viduka has been a blow and leaves a big hole to fill – but it also represents an opportunity to speed up the rate of change. Southgate’s initial intention was to slowly replace the old guard and he had hoped to keep Viduka and address the problem up front later. Now that crucial department needs addressing urgently and with the other problems – principally on the right – still requiring drastic surgery the rebuilding programme must be accellerated. Replacing the right flank but starting the season with Yakubu, Lee and Yuell as the strike force would be a recipe for disaster.
Ã¢ÂÂGareth has long stated that he wants to make changes,Ã¢Â? explained Lamb. Ã¢ÂÂHe said he wanted to have evolution at this football club – maybe thatÃ¢ÂÂs now revolution.Ã¢Â?
The first move was to make a bid for Jeremie Aliadiere who it has been stressed is not a replacement for Viduka – nor, as wags have suggested after looking at his goals stats, for Malcolm Christie – but who represents a shift towards the new profile: he has the pace to break forward onto perceptive balls from the midfield and get behind defences and so offers an option that has been lacking in recent years. He will yet need to be joined by the Viduka replacement with Romeo Castelen the latest name in the frame.
The team are still crying out for a whole new right flank and pace in the centre too so a revolutionary turmoil may be needed to sweep away some of the slower and maybe more complacent figures and replace them with younger, faster and hungrier players. That could place big question marks over slower players like Boateng and Andrew Davies.
Ã¢ÂÂThere will be players coming in and players going out,Ã¢Â? confirmed Lamb. A host have left already with the departure of not just Viduka but also fringe players like Danny Graham and Christie and those unwilling to resign themselves to life as a squad player like Stuart Parnaby. The key to making a success of the new turn will be to replace those quickly with young, hungry, fast and skilful players who will buy into the new philosophy of attacking, entertaining football played with spirit.
Importantly the club say they wonÃ¢ÂÂt be repeating the mistakes of the past and paying over the odds for over the hill players with little resale value. Some will read that as a retreat from ambition and a failure to compete but it is in tune with the drive to make the club Ã¢ÂÂcut its clothÃ¢ÂÂ as gates drift down and Teesside starts to Ã¢ÂÂget the team it can afford” but realistically you canÃ¢ÂÂt moan about high ticket prices on the one hand and urge the club to break the bank for a big star the wrong side of 30 on the other.
Ã¢ÂÂWe want players that come to Boro for the right reasons. To further their careers not their bank balances,Ã¢Â? said Lamb. You canÃ¢ÂÂt argue with that. But such recruitment will mean a radical reshaping of the scouting network in the wake of Don Mackay’s departure and will take another change in policy in the way the club is sold, not just to the local fanbase but to the media and via them to potential employees.
That means making the ‘rebranding’ of the club something more than just a new badge unveiled on a bit of MDF in the centre-circle but an opportunity to re-engage with the supporters to boost flagging morale and harness the passion that will be needed to fuel the Great Leap Forward.
**This is an extended download only club mix of this week’s Big Picture column in Tuesday’s steam driven paper format Evening Gazette.