West Ham Wobble Raises Doubts

THERE are as many Boro fans with deep misgivings about the prospects of dramatic progress from Gareth Southgate’s squad as there are those who have bought into the idea of a new age of high energy attacking.
After the euphoria of the Birmingham game the positivists had plenty of evidence of progress but following a two steps forward, one step back performance at Upton Park the doubters will feel their own hand has been strengthened.


It was a strange game full of contradictions and for some it will be hard to understand why others saw much to draw comfort from – and even reasons to be optimistic – when the reality is that Boro were ripped apart three times at one end and failed to hurt the Hammers at the other.
“I told Gareth that in the Premiership you need to take your chances,” said Hammers boss Alan Curbishley after the game, rubbing salt in the wounds with his patronising assessment but also hitting the nail squarely on the head.
Boro had a string of gilt-edged opportunities to score and had they put them away they could have won. Jeremie Aliadiere latched onto a neat threaded pass after a superb show of strength and control on the ball that was the equal of anything Mark Viduka could have done but the Frenchman fired against the post .
And after the break substitute striker Tuncay three times had good chances to claw Boro back into the game but lobbed onto the bar, rolled one an inch wide after a slight deflection and also brought a great save from Rob Green when through on goal.
Depending on your perspective that either shows that Boro are striker light and deep in a cow/banjo scenario or that they are creating plenty of chances with their movement and pace and that the goals will eventually come.
The harsh reality is that the latter perspective is still based on hypotheticals and hope and unless the goals do start to flow from all areas of the pitch – and especially from the newly assembled strikeforce – then the optimism for the new season and the ambitions of a campaign fought out mainly in the top half will be stillborn.
Boro have let go Viduka go and cashed in on Yakubu after totting up the balance sheet and have made a theoretical and philosophical leap in the dark towards a new system that is based on impeccable logic but on unproven personnel.
Aliadiere, Tuncay and Lee Dong Gook have yet to score a Premiership goal between them but will be expected to be the cutting edge should Mido – the one striker with a track record in this league – get injured or spit his dummy (something he has an impressive history of) and when Egypt need him in the African Nations Cup in January.
The trio have missed a string of sitters between them to raise doubts that they possess the deadly clinical finishing that marks out real prolific marksmen and increasingly the doubters are suggesting that the previous duo, proven goal-getters who were good for double figures every season, would have buried them and concluded that for all the attacking intent the new look side are less likely to make enough of the increased volume of chances count when it matters.
The spin for the new style insists that moving away from reliance on just two strikers and a one dimensional approach is progress and that with everyone else chipping in the team are more versatile, more entertaining and more likely to move into the top half – yet teams who play like that and share the burden around are always claiming they are just one of those precious 20 goal-a-season strikers away from success.
It is clear that if Boro are to flourish with the new style and make it work effectively then they still need some extra punch up front and while it was wise not to panic on deadline day they should move quickly when the transfer window opens again.
But it was not just up front that there were problems.
After the wake-up call of a disallowed goal the defence were fantastic in the first half but went missing after the break and very few can be absolved of blame over the goals. Boro were chasing the game after the lightning strike after the break but there can be no excuse for the acres of spaces that Etherington repeatedly found down the right.
For the first goal no-one picked up Lee Bowyer’s run from the centre-circle into the box. For the second Taylor was caught cold in the opposition box as a Boro attack broke down and West Ham pushed a quick ball down his flank then Downing chased 40 yards but failed to either put in the tackle or bring down his man and when Cole put what looked a harmless cross into the box there was a lack of communication between Young and Schwarzer for the own goal .
And for the third Young was AWOL again and Woodgate was pulled out of position then Wheater should really have cut out the routine cross at the near post before Ashton brushed aside Taylor’s challenge at the back stick to score.
Any there was a lot of head scratching and muttering about “square pegs” when Gary O’Neil – mooted as the answer to the right side problem when he signed – came off the bench to make his debut on the left with Downing switching flanks.
So are there any positives to be taken out of a 3-0 defeat. “No, not really,” replied Southgate honestly in abrupt tones when asked that question after the game.
Yet there were positives, plenty of them, which is why so many supporters were if not heartened then certainly not distraught after a result that looks one sided on paper but was far from a hammering.
After a shaky start Boro took control in the first half. Defensively they were well organised, their industry in midfield rendered their West Ham counterparts anonymous and there was some delightful movement and passing that several times threatened to carve through the opposing backline.
Julio Arca was inspirational, dropping deep to either help out the defence with tackles and interceptions on the edge of the box or offer them an outlet, then linking up superbly with engine room partner Rochemback to spark attacks.
And up front Aliadiere was lively and looked to make runs that opened holes in the defence and gave his team-mates an attacking option every time.
Even after being mugged immediately after half-time Boro still showed some crisp passing and adventurous approach play as they tried to play their way back into the game and Tuncay looked sharp and skilful and always likely to make something happen. His control to cushion a high and awkward ball before slotting under Green and fractionally wide was sublime.
The injury to Aliadiere now gives the Turk a chance to show exactly what he can do and the option for Southgate to play him in his natural position, a fluid role behind the main striker. The prospect of allying his movement, work rate and control to Mido’s talents is genuinely exciting.
It is important though that the ingredients of this fledgling attacking zeal start to gel quickly. Results in style – starting with Sunderland – will boost the confidence of both team and crowd and strengthen Southgate’s hand but many more entertaining defeats and that will ebb away and the pressure will be on for a more functional approach
FORTUNE’S always hiding, as a line in the West Ham battle hymn has it – and Mark Schwarzer will feel the sting of that refrain in a deep and personal way with every visit because the Aussie shot-stopper has never had a slightest sniff of good luck at Upton Park.
To be fair it is not a happy hunting ground for Boro full stop. In ten Premiership visits Boro have lost eight, taken only four points and scored just two goals. The only win came late in the 1999-2000 season when Brian Deane got the only goal.
But for Schwarzer the trip is even more of a hoodoo and the sight of Luke Young flying through the air to stab home an own goal must have had an air of inevitability about it.
Schwarzer broke his leg coming out to make a challenge midway through the second half on his first appearance at Upton Park back in April 1997 – an injury that also cost him his place at Wembley and left Ben Roberts forever to be condemned to Boro’s collective memory as the man who leaked the opener in an unwanted record time of 43 seconds.
He has also fractured a collar bone at Upton Park in an aerial collsion (*), been on the wrong end of a 4-0 hammering, seen a screwed clearance drilled straight back into an empty net by Trevor Sinclair and expertly clawed a ball off the line only to be left frustrated when ref Steve Bennett awarded the goal.
And it is not just Upton Park that invites the hex, it is just leaving Teesside. The clash with the Hammers at Villa Park in the FA Cup semi-final two seasons ago ended with Schwarzer stretchered off with a broken cheekbone after catching a flying Dean Ashton elbow and led to his playing at Eindhoven looking like the Phantom of the Opera.
So to Schwarzer having only one real save to make – tipping over from Lee Bowyer’s rocket to the far top corner at the death – and still finishing up as 3-0 losers must seem routine.

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49 thoughts on “West Ham Wobble Raises Doubts

  1. I only saw the MOTD highlights but I wasn’t too downhearted by the performance. If we’d scored first, things could have been very different.
    I will start to panic though if we go behind on Saturday. Few teams seem to be coming from behind to win this season and I don’t wan’t my first trip to the Riverside for some time to be marred by a defeat!

  2. This was always going to be the case of not putting away our chances when you lose the quality of yakubu (when bothered) and viduka. These are the sort of strikers who only need that one chance. They do nothing all match apart from take 1 or 2 chances that come their way.
    Mido is a decent replacement for viduka but no one really has come in and replaced yakubu. If you go back further no one has replaced JFH either. It is a big hole to fill replacing them 3.
    Like AV says Alidiere and Lee have no track record at the top level. At the moment they are equal to Massimo and Graham/Christie at best.
    Our defending has been poor this season. They are pushing up forward far too much and getting caught out.
    Southgate needs to think again about this exciting attacking football and concentrate more on getting results soon. start by getting more clean sheets. Between them Cooper and Southgate have the knowledge to sort out the defence.

  3. I have to say I agree with Mr B, I listened to the match and caught the game on MOTD, and there were a LOT of positives to take from the game.
    The most positive was that the Boro (yes that team we like to cry about) gave us another statement of intent, we played with heart and attacked the game until the death.
    I want to be entertained and feel like the millionaires are playing for the team, for my money they did this (would like to hear from someone who traveled down there).
    I’m already looking forward to a derby clash that is end-to-end entertainment, something we haven’t seen since the Juninho’s first stint.

  4. Good article, Vic.
    What I will say, and it’s been said by others who I agree with, is that we might well be missing Viduka and Yakubu for their goals over the season, but we have to wonder if we would have had the same number of chances with them playing.
    It’s a long time since we’ve created this many chances, especially away from home. I remember too many games where we’ve failed to even muster one shot on target.
    It really was “one of those days” when we couldn’t hit a barn door and when we were caught cold at the back.
    For me, things are moving in the right direction. Tuncay will come good. We will give someone a good hiding. Let’s hope it starts on Saturday against the Mackems.

  5. As I said in my reply to my other post….
    ” Given the missed chances on Saturday I think it’s clear that we shot ourselves in both feet by getting rid of both Viduka and Yakubu.
    “Ok, Viduka wanted too much cash but I wouldn’t have let Yakubu go given that we never then replaced him either with like for like. He may have sulked for a while like he did in his last game but he would have come round eventually after it sank in that he was going nowhere and so the choice would have been to play and to perform or to sit and rot on the bench.
    “I don’t know what GS and Coops are thinking about or what exactly they see in training, but none of the people they brought in are able to replace one of the two strikers we sold, leaving us only with Mido, in my opinion, and this for me is a serious error of judgement.
    That’s how I see it anyway. ”
    TB

  6. Could say “Typical Boro” except that they actually didn’t play badly. Kinda reminded me of the Emerson, TLF and Rav days when everyone enthused over the style of play back then when we got beat.
    But deja vu occured once more when I seen the O’Neil left side decision and wondered “what on earth”? well it certainly confused the Hammers but it obviously confused Boro even more! Surely Robbo wasn’t orchestrating things?
    The signs of optimism against Brum were all well and good but what worried me was that we should have scored at least 4 and probably 6 but couldn’t that day, not didn’t but couldn’t! That trait unfortunately continued at Upton Park but this time against mediocre opposition rather than one of the poorest teams in the Premiership.
    The half time stupidity of coming out early and walking onto the pitch as though they were up for a stroll in the park rather than competing to do battle in a major sporting event certainly answers why we were caught cold!
    One semi-proven Premiership striker in Mido allied to a trio of virgins “can’t score, won’t score and might score” has me looking towards Tom Craddock in hope to deliver at least a dozen goals this season.
    It won’t happen though because he won’t be given the opportunity and only “might score” (Tuncay) can save us from being one of the most entertaining sides to go down since the days of the white feather.
    I hope “won’t score” gets over his Hamstring quickly to prove me wrong and as for “can’t score” well I doubt that label will ever come unstuck!
    If we don’t score we won’t pick up points (and at the minute we hardly look prolific in the scoring dept), statistics will not win us trophies. The major point for me is the all too apparent tactical naivity needs to be addressed very quickly by the Management team.

  7. Spot on little Jimmy, I too think we are playing better than we ever did under Mclaren.Yes we have lost a couple,but dont we keep on playing these days?
    OK Tuncay could have had a couple of goals, but realy It was one of those days when nothing was going to go right for us. If the Aliadiere effort had gone in we could have had a hatfull because the Hammers were anything but safe at the back.
    O’Neil looks good to me and I’m sure Tuncay will fit in nicely if they put him in the middle. Gareth is doing a great job and yes, Steve Gibson knows best in this case.

  8. Teams that play well and still get beat, and in terms of boro get beat badly only go in one direction Down.
    West Ham arent a great side, they will finish around 10th-12th and they dominated boro barring a 10 min spell in the first half, and a few half chances in the 2nd.
    The only positive out of the West Ham game for me is that it proved that Rochemback and Arca does NOT work. Get rochemback out of the team and the squad. O’Neill Boateng Arca Downing with Cattermole on the bench. Then we might see some improvement.

  9. I was there and thought Fabio worked extremely hard and the decison to remove him was baffling. We had no luck and on another day Tuncay would’ve had a hatrick. Gareth will get it right so keep the faith.
    I’d like to see Schwarzer gone though. Slow to get down for the first and with Jaaskelainen and Sorensen becoming free agents i’d like to think the Aussie’s days are numbered.
    Credit to the police/stewards too who within ten minutes of kickoff threw out a group of four young “fans” from Teesside who were trying to start fights before they even got into the ground. These scum are an embarassment to our town.

  10. i wasnt at the game and never saw the highlights but it sounded like we made chances an played some good football .
    i think the goals will come the players need a bit of time to settle in no one seems to have ant patience these days an by the way has anyone noticed we never get a result after an international break

  11. I truely agree that southgate can’t stick with mido (semi-proven striker) with a trio of virgins. AND we need to get a natural right winger. I was really confused when O’neill and downing switched flanks!! What da HEK!!! Same dejavu as always!!
    I’m sorry im pessimistic but i don’t think we will ever improve this right hand flank and the striking options with southgate’s stupid theories.
    I strongly hope that we cash in for a profilic striker such as afonso alves in January before we lose mido in the african cup of nations and get a natural right midfielder
    PS.. Stupid he let Morrisson go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. O’neill and downing swapped because we were getting hammered on our left and the full back was struggling. O’neill added a bit of protection and bit to the left hand side. Taylor had a poor game

  13. Over here in Oz we got the game live at midnight, as we do most weeks and so far this year Boro have been on live every game except for the Wigan disaster.
    I think Southgate has it right but a real goalscorer would make all the difference. It’s only September and already on Mondays at work I am been greeted with “How did your lot not win?”
    On Saturday night there were times (After an unsure first 15mins) when we ripped West Ham apart but as usual a hatful of missed chances cost us dearly.
    Even at 1-0 and 2-0 we looked the most likely to score so let’s give Tuncay and Alliadiere the time they need then spend on Jan 1st if they can’t do the business.
    A major problem no one seems to have noticed is how exposed Young was for their goals – The Boat had another good game, but if he’s playing wide right he has to stay there. Him pushing infield leaves us exposed and no matter how well/badly Young is playing he can’t do everything on his own.
    As for Schwarzer – is is just me or does he look totally disinterested? I am used to Aussies having a very laid back appearance, but Schwarz looks even more so, think about Cruz goal V blackburn, Viduka v Barcodes, and the own goal on Saturday (amongst other things on Saturday)but is Jones any better?.. any thoughts from you AV?
    **AV writes: No Jones isn’t any better. The contract situation may make it a good time to address that position and have a complete revamp.

  14. I watched the game live, and after the first 10 to 15 mins we finally settled in to the game and played some fantastic football.
    It was a shame about Alaidiere, he seemed to be going from strength to strength and it would of been just a matter of time before he got his first goal for the Boro. Now, with the injury, this could be a long time coming.
    For the Boro fans who watched Motd highlights, this was not a true reflection on the game. We were, at times totally dominating. We created a hatful of chances. Arca was superb, Rochemback and George both played well.
    I feel Woodgate struggled with Ashton. He has a point to prove and was West Hams best player.
    If we carry on playing like this, we will win more than we lose. Cut out the sloppy defending. Start from the whistle and not 15 mins into the game, and we will have a great season.
    The Premiership teams this season are all grinding out results. We need to have patience with the team Gareth is building, and with a bit of luck, who knows what will happen.

  15. Our “strikers” are firmly in the cow/banjo category, and that sums up exactly what’s going on at the front end of the team.
    I still remain mildly optimistic that we will turn over the Mackems this weekend, in fact I told one of their fans at the weekend that we are due to give someone a good doing (more bravado than truth unless our strikers can get hold of bigger banjo’s)
    We need to get O’Neill bedded in on the right, but the left looks very fragile due mainly to Downings lack of ability in covering for Taylor.
    Both Taylor and Downing had awful games and I still struggle with Downing’s “winger” category when he spends most of his time passing backwards or sideways and seems reluctant, particularly away from home, to take on a full back.
    He can’t tackle, and has a habit of going missing for long spells in a game. I recall one of Blackburn’s goals at the Riverside this season which was almost identical to West Ham’s 2nd, Taylor stuck up field and Downing unable to get back or put in a covering tackle to stop the cross.
    We can all bleat on about how we had the lions share of possession, and 13 shots on goal, but the stark fact is we scored none, nil, nothing, nada!!
    With that sort of form up front and our inabilty to stop other teams scoring against us, I feel a little deja vu-ish re: the comment above about the “white feather season” when we played some great stuff but went down. But it’s far too early to start thinking like that,… isn’t it?,
    I hope so.

  16. Dave
    Truth is we were getting hammered on our right too.
    And – according to Gate – the decision to swap O’Neil to the left was made by Stewie who felt he could do more damage cutting in from the left.
    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry that decisions on the team shape are being made by Stewie.

  17. i dont think we should get too excited about creating a load of chances if we dont put them away.
    for me it wasnt a great display and there was a lot to be worried about, especially in defence. for me all three goals were preventable. young was poor, woodgate and taylor was patchy.
    the first bowyer ran 40 yards past three players to get in the box and no-one went with him. the second boro lost the ball in whams box when they were all drifted forward and let cole run 50 yards to put in a cross. same again for the third, all too far forward, young nipped home to see his mam dragging everyone else out of position and even then wheater should have cut it out.
    you can afford to miss chances and still get a point but you cant go walkabout in defence. attacking football is all very well but if you leave the back door open you will get robbed.

  18. And there lies a clue John to how naive we were in terms of tactics, and getting the best out of our players on the day.
    Was this an indication that Stewie thought his manager/ coach didn’t know what he was doing, or is it a sign that some players can do what they like because the “boss” used to be one of us.
    Either is wrong, the manager should take all responsibilty for the team selection, tactics, who plays where. Southgate should have told Stewie to get back on the left wing and take their full back on, end of!!
    Imagine a Man Utd player telling Fergie “naw boss, I’m better on the right” !!

  19. I’m with you Brisbane Phil. Schwarzer is fast reaching the end of his tenure, and Jones just is not up to it in the PL.
    Personally I would like to think that as professional player Schwarz will still give his all, but you only need to look at the damage the Yak was doing to the team in general that it doesn’t always ring true.
    I do though believe the big man has integrity and won’t let us down, hell I hope not because seeing Jones in goal even for a Carling Cup game scares me to death.
    The message is clear though, he isn’t going to re-sign in the summer, and to be honest we’ve had his best years. So I can see a free transfer coming with a pat on the back from MFC.
    We need to be looking for a replacement for the January window.

  20. Neil
    You’re spot on.
    I well remember the Clough-ism when one of his players had the temerity to have a view of his own – “I take him on one side and we talk it over for a couple of minutes then we decide I was right all along.”
    You, Brisbane Phil and AV are right on the goalie situation too.
    I must admit to some bemusement at all the ‘foam-handing’ around a 3-0 defeat.
    Missing all those chances is unprofessional not unlucky, defending like amateurs is unforgivable and square-peggism, particularly when driven at the whim of one player is abdication.
    The record books still a show 3-0 whipping and all a string of big defeats, however entertaining, gets you is the ‘everyone’s second favourite’ (whipping boys) tag and a place in the bottom 3.
    **AV writes: “Square-peggism” is a lovely phrase for it.

  21. Have had the (mis)fortune to be at both this game and the West Ham game last season. Yes we were beaten twice. but last year we were well beaten. Not the case this year.
    Let’s not over react here we got caught cold in the 2nd half – a mistake that should never be repeated again. We played good football, created, there was movement and the majority of players wanted the ball – and looked as if they could do something with it.
    Downing however was noted with his abscence. His corners were all cut out and he just did not look interested. On this form leave him out and bring Johnson back from loan – no future debate will be needed on is he/isnt he good enough for England on this display he wasn’t good enough for us.
    Why oh why did we buy a right sised player then play him on the left? Speechless!!!!

  22. I’ve said to many people that we should have signed a consistant goalscorer during the transfer window. I wanted us to sign Alfonso Alves, whose record speaks for itself (34 goals in 31 games for Heerenveen).
    People have mentioned how we went down playing attractive football when we had Ravanelli, but at least then we had a consistant goalscorer in Ravanelli.
    Over the last 10 – 20 years, how many “right place, right time” strikers have we had (Slaven excepted)? The last true finisher we have had was probably Marco Branca!
    We never seem to have anybody at the club who sees the value in buying a player like this. The amount of times we’ve missed on players of this type is infuriating. Players like this are worth every penny. They can do nothing all game, but will regularly change the game in your favour with clinical finishing.
    Look at the difference Bernie Slaven, Uwe Fuchs, Marco Branca and Alun Armstrong made to our promotion campaigns of the past. Without them, we would not have been promoted.
    Players like this make a huge difference. A player like any of the ones I’ve just mentioned would make a huge difference to our team right now. We should have bought one in the transfer window.

  23. The debate about veruka and Yak is history, we cant bemoan the fact they are not here because it will do no good. There are no columns in the league tables for what if’s.
    In an email to John Powls I remarked on the fact there were similarities between the 1986 teams’ year in the top flight and the match on Saturday. Typically fans would say ‘great football, really entertaining, best team this season, thanks for the three points’.
    There are potential positives, I know it is an odd comment but if we dont turn the football into goals then the positives are worth nothing. I dont think Gate should abandon the approach. From what I have heard and seen it was when we were 2-0 down that we went for it and were cut to shreds. Their first goal was well taken, the second a fluke.
    Still doesnt stop 3-0 being a thumping and of being a concern. Lets see what Saturday brings. A ‘typical Boro’ performance will tell us we are still in nedd of progress, a good win will lift the spirits.

  24. I watched the game from the West Ham end with a season ticket holder as I have done for a few years now. The opinion of the West Ham faithful was that we looked a decent side.
    I thought ARCA was immense and in the middle of the park we were very strong. Again away from home we struggle to get DOWNING involved in the game – maybe this was the idea of switching flanks.
    The first half WOODGATE and WHEATER looked a really good partnership until the former visably tired.
    Honestly TUNCAY has more energy than a duracell battery and got into some great positions. To compare him to MACCARONE is harsh to say the least. He is quicker and has a better footballing brain. I for believe this guy is the future.
    I stand corrected on the ALLDIERRE front who I thought would be a disaster but was clearly getting better and better each game until the hamstring injury.
    The result was poor but WEST HAM at home are traditionally strong. According to the stats we created 20 attempts at goal away from home (can anyone remember a BORO team doing that in recent years).
    The test of our season is at home, winning and filling the ground once again. The improvement is weekly and noticable, don’t start dwelling on the negatives six games in. Grab the positives and judge 10 games in. I for one think SOUTHGATE is doing a grand job. KEEP THE FAITH.

  25. Agree with previous comments about the Birmingham game. Although it was a win, I came away from the Riverside concerned at our inability to have scored more goals. This weakness was even more evident this week.
    Playing well, but failing to score and giving away goals has been the recipe for many teams relegated from the Premier League in recent years. Unless things change soon, this season will be a struggle.

  26. I’m glad GS isn’t as reactive as some posting on this blog. Downing often switches flanks and clearly it is a tactic sanctioned by the manager.
    There is nothing wrong with a player taking responsibility and trying to change things. If the switch had worked would those moaning that it was an unprofessional thing to do have said ‘well done’? No they wouldn’t even have noticed.
    One defeat and the doom mongers are out in force!

  27. Mick – Is Alves injured, Havereen 9 goals this season and none to him.
    GS needs to start O’Neill on the right, keep Downing on the left and then decide who partners Arca in the middle.
    Not that it matters as both have gone, but Yakubu and Viduka were hardly prolific goalscorers and like most strikers seemed to have good and bad spells in front of goal.
    Hopefully Mido and Tuncay will start good scoring spells soon (Saturday would be a good time to start).
    I think its a bit early to be hitting the panic button, OK we lost badly in the end on Saturday but it was a hell of a better performance that at Wigan.
    I am going for a 3-0 against the Mackems with Tuncay scorinfg 2 goals.
    Come on Boro!

  28. Mick The four players you mention were all Championship players they didn’t make it or flourish in the prem. Alun Armstrong! where did he spend his career? Not in the prem. thats for certain.

  29. Dave W- well said mate.
    Noticed Gate said Rochemback had an injury and that’s why he was replaced.
    Lets get Schwarzer shipped out at Christmas for Sorensen/Jaaskelainen and watch us fight for a top six. We’ll roll the Mackems over no probs just you see.

  30. “I stand corrected on the ALLDIERRE front who I thought would be a disaster but was clearly getting better and better each game until the hamstring injury.”
    But he still struggled to score a goal. Atleast it will give tuncay a chance. Hopefully he gets 5 game run now

  31. Newsflash
    In light of recent difficulties Northern Rock have withdrawn their shirt sponsorship of Newcastle United. The board at Newcastle moved quickly and tied up a deal with Spillers dogfood only for it to fall through when Newcastle Trading Standards Officers refused to sanction ‘Winalot’ on the team shirts.
    No abuse please, it was a text from a Toon fan, I am not trying to start a local war, it is only a bit of fun.
    There again the Toon fans may deserve it after the defeat at Derby, the local fans are full of themselves. It is making my life miserable, Derby got promoted on the back of a series of fairly desperate matches where they won 1-0.
    There again, 1-0 against the Mackems wouldnt be bad. No, Gate should stick to his guns unless it doesnt work!

  32. Come on fellas…there’s no need for the doom and gloom. I missed the first thirty minutes (thanks Fox Sports), but I did catch the rest of the game, and I thought we had the better of it. The difference was that they were clinical and we were wasteful.
    If it continues, it will be a sign for us to start worrying, but I think if we continually create that many chances, then we are going to win more than we lose. Let’s see what we do against Blunderland.

  33. I agree with Dave W. I think Tuncay will become a hero with the Boro fans He’s tireless and always in position to score and they will come evetually.
    As for Worried thinking he [Tuncay] is a Lemon, that realy has me worried…. with fans like that they would be better of going to Basketball or ping pong.
    Also Ithink Schwarzer has had his best days with us and a change would lift the whole defence as Schwarzer did when he first arrived.

  34. “Mick The four players you mention were all Championship players they didn’t make it or flourish in the prem. Alun Armstrong! where did he spend his career? Not in the prem. thats for certain.”
    Nigel, Marco Branca WAS prolific in Serie A in Italy. I was a fan of his before he came to Boro. Look at his record for Inter Milan, Parma and Udinese. All Serie A clubs.
    Now, we all know how difficult it is to score in the Italian equivalent of the premier league. The only reason he didn’t get a chance in the premier league is because of his career ending injury, which came just before we were promoted, I believe.
    As for Alun Armstrong, he too had a serious injury not long after we were promoted and after his return he was either not fancied by Bryan Robson or just not the same player any more. If he hadn’t been injured so seriously, who knows? I thought he had the potential to do well.
    We all know what happened to poor Uwe Fuchs. We wouldn’t have been promoted without him and that is a fact. Just before we signed him, our last league game was a dire 1-1 draw against Grimsby at Ayresome Park.
    Our promotion chances were slipping away due to the lack of a consistent goalscorer. Bolton (our main rival at the time) had two regular goalscorers, namely Pat McGinley and Mixu Paatelainen to our none. We needed help and therefore, we signed Fuchs. The rest, we know about.
    Uwe was available for £500k and even if he wasn’t capable of playing in the top division, I believe he’d earned his chance since he had given so much for the Boro cause. His record for Kaiserslautern suggested he was good enough for the top division, though. I was disgusted with the shabby way that Robson treated him.
    Bernie Slaven, after promotion to the premier league (promotion season 91/92) wasn’t given many opportunities by Lennie Lawrence, was he?
    So, I can’t agree with you Nigel. They all played a major part in our promotion campaigns, but for whatever reason, didn’t flourish in the premier league not because of lack of talent, but because of lack of opportunities, injury or just not being given a chance at all.
    What do you think, AV?
    **Branca was pure class and Bernie scored 15 in a relegated team in his only full season in the top flight but I fear Armstrong would have been hopelessly exposed in the Premiership and Uwe, bless him, was in the right place at the right time and not good enough to step up.

  35. Mick, Bernie had one good season in the prem. If he was that good why didn’t a ‘top’ team buy him from Boro?
    Branca was a good player no doubt, but for you to say we should have bought such a player in the Summer is a little premature surely?
    Mido looks good and Tuncay looks like a class act, the fact that he missed three good chances in one game doesn’t make him a duff. He will now get a run in the team and by the New Year we will have an idea of his scoring ability.

  36. What is it with the club and wheeling out one of the players before every home game pleading for fans to turn up. This time it’s Woodgates turn.
    The normal, we are a young team, we are trying to play attacking football, I know its expensive but it needs to be to pay the players wages, we have a young manager. Its getting embarrasing.
    The club messed up by not reducing prices and have no one who has a clue about PR.
    Access to the stadium and parking have not improved since the ground opened (not all the clubs fault I know)
    Winning on the pitch will help, however until the club employs someone who has the ability to address the fans with respect, most who have been lost will not return.

  37. The point about Tuncay is that he was in the right place to miss the chances. His record shows that he will score goals.
    Of one thing we can be certain, neither Yak nor Veruka would have made the runs that Tuncay did against West Ham. For a start sprinting was never a strong point for either of them. The stats tend to show most strikers score 1 in 4, lets hope number four comes along Saturday.
    If he keeps missing them then that is of concern. He will certainly have run in the side unless One Goal Lee has an outbreak of scoring.
    I would favour a front two with Mido as the target man and Tuncay off him, Craddock on the bench. Midfield of Downing, Arca, O’Neill out right with AN other centre mid. The debate boils down to Rocky, Boat or Cat. Likeliest chice is Boat, not certain who I would choose against the Mackems but we do know they will be very hard working, Rocky would probably be a luxury.

  38. Talk about Swartzer being unlucky reminds me of the old soccer adage “you make your own luck”. He is very much more a hinderance than a help to the cause these days, not that I ever rated him more than average at any stage in his Boro career.
    Vic says;” he only had one shot to save” but he came way off his line to cut the cross out for the own goal, but once again did not bother to tell his defenders what his intentions were. He did not dominate the situation which is a weakness that has characterised his career with us.
    Contrast this performance with that of Brad Friedel, who effectively earned Blackburn a point with an all round committed, pro-active high energy display that is a common place experience for Blackburn fans to enjoy.
    Swartzer seems to be not committed to the Boro and it concerns me greatly that Southgate is prepared to pick a player in such a key position with this state of mind.
    There is no real competition for his place and because he is an automatic choice the complacency displayed relating to this is a symetry with the Yakubu situation that is quite alarming.
    The latter’s unacceptable attitude was allowed to drag on to long and that lesson must be learned quickly, or once again the Boro brand will be undermined.
    In other words the Boro must stop allowing certain players being or at least perceived as being ” bigger than the club”.

  39. Tosh I think GS has gone a long way to ensuring players are not in their comfort zones anymore with genuine competition for places, even the club captain is no longer a certainty to play, but as you say that scenario doesn’t apply to the keeper.
    My guess is that it will by the beginning of next season, I also would guess that Schwarzer will move on next summer.

  40. Uwe Fuchs was signed to give us the final boost for promotion.
    Marco Branca (who was class) was signed to get us to a cup final.
    Bernie Slaven was signed because we couldn’t afford anyone else.
    We could go on forever analysing and debating history.
    Lets focus on the here and now and concentrate on beating Blunderland on Saturday.

  41. The own goal wasnt schwarzer’s fault. If Young had been tighter on the player behind him he wouldn’t have had to dive in to intercept the pass.
    The full backs were poor in the 2nd half against West Ham. Obviously at half time Curbishley changed his tactics to target the full backs as our weakness.

  42. Dave
    I think part of the problem is that if you push on to try and get back into a game it is down the flanks you often get stretched as the wide men push forward.
    The centre backs tend to stay ‘at home’ and hope to cover. Doesnt mean the full backs had good games but like Tuncay’s chances their errors are more visible.

  43. AV – an interesting little by-line in some reports today which major on Aliadiere’s absence for several weeks with a hammy.
    The assertion is that Tuncay is ‘unsettled’ at Boro. Are you aware? If so, why?
    Is he homesick? Is it something more fundamental than that? Has he taken badly to the drop from hometown hero, first on the team sheet for club and country to Boro’s bench behind Aliadiere? If the last, he has 4 weeks or more to make the place his own and forge a partnership with Mido.
    He clearly has the start of a following at Boro and does some impressive things in terms of his movement and positioning. But lack of composure and technique in front of goal and with his final ball is a current shortcoming he’s going to have to correct quickly.
    He has shown he can do these things in his career so, hopefully, he will rediscover the knack for himself -(If he waits for our coaches to help him as an attacker he shouldn’t hold his breath!)- it’s a knack Aliadiere has never had.
    I have never rated Aliadiere as more than a second half impact player anyway – though, clearly, Gate rates him more highly than that. So, Tuncay can establish himself in the team and in the hearts of supporters in the next few games in way that would make him hard to shift.
    A goal or two in a win against the Mackems would go a long way.
    **AV writes: I think it is just mischevous stirring and there isn’t a single quote. He is about to get his chance with a six week run of games so why does the story break now? Unless someone wants to upset the applecart.
    Although that said, reality probably hit home when he was watching Fenerbahce in the Champions League.

  44. “I think part of the problem is that if you push on to try and get back into a game it is down the flanks you often get stretched as the wide men push forward. ”
    But they were pushing on just after kick off when it was 0-0. We need a more cautious approach away from home

  45. Dave
    Dont advocate a headless chicken approach but my reading (and I didnt see the match, I relied on J Powls for that) was that we could have gone in 1 up at half time but the score line was fair.
    We held our own at a tricky ground.
    Their first goal looked well worked to me, the second was a shocker. We missed enough chances to win two matches and that is the big issue.
    We cant moan about poor football, us not giving it a go and losing, eg Wigan, then criticise when we lose a match playing some decent football which we should have got something out of. Both resulted in zero points.
    The point I made is still valid, it is still part of the problem, not all but a part.

  46. “Branca was a good player no doubt, but for you to say we should have bought such a player in the Summer is a little premature surely?”
    Still think so now, Nigel?

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