Signs Of Hope In United Mauling

BORO were steamrollered by a rampant Manchester United at Old Trafford and on paper the scoreline will have confirmed all the dark fears of the growing legion of jittery supporters in a pre-panic state of anxiety. But while Boro leaked four goals to last week’s two against Chelsea they were not twice as bad. Far from it.
Boro looked far more spirited, resolute and efficient as a team. They defended with dogged determination against a team chasing a century old net-busting record and for an hour looked to have their measure; they held their shape and discipline well and looked focused throughout; they got forward with zest and at times ran United ragged; a string of key players put in excellent displays that bode well for the future; and there were spells of impressive fluid interplay, crisp passing and incisive movement . It sounds daft but I came away from a four goal defeat – a fifth reverse in succession – lifted and far more confident that this team can still gel and flourish, and I’m sure I am not the only one.
But of course, they still lost, are still in a precarious position and time is pressing. Troubled Boro now go into a run of four games that will shape the season and will need to apply the best bits of the United game over the full 90 in every one of those and beyond. Some observations:

Audience Hushed In The Theatre Of Dreams: Given a crowd of 75,000 and a display of such awesome non-stop attacking play, athleticism and sublime skills you would expect Old Trafford to be a cauldron of noise and passion, an overwhelming aural attack of appreciation and urging. In fact it was bubbling away in just one small pocket.
The 2,000 or so travelling Teessiders kept up a non-stop stream of noise throughout the game and while no one would suggest that it was enough to drown out the home fans on the few occasions that they did burst into life, the Boro fans were certainly the most constant part of the soundscape in this magnificent arena.
From the off they made their presence known, urged their heroes on and taunted the assembled United glory-hunters, prawn sandwich munchers and awe-struck tourists: “We support our local team”, “shall we sing a song for you” and “4-1 and you still won’t sing” was the sound-track of the day as Boro claimed some kind of moral victory on the supporting front.
Not that Boro are supporting supermen. It would appear to be the norm that away fans out-sing the placid ocean of apathy that is a Premiership crowd, no matter how big it is. Always packed, and always with reason to cheer, Old Trafford was this week named the fourth quietest ground in the top flight, which is as damning an indictment of the ersatz atmosphere that over stewarded seats, high ticket prices skewing demographics and a booming PA as you are likely to find.
It also raises questions about why Boro are so quiet at home. The Riverside is no different. The cultural dynamics are identical – the rowdy working class lads have been priced out and the ones that remain do not sit together in sufficient numbers to out-sing MMP’s ill-judged music or overcome the weight of tut-tutted condemnation from the passive cinema style masses. Bar “the loudest run out in the Premiership”, the now rare goals for the home side and the nasty edge derby matches the Riverside can be as snoozy a stadium as any.
It is time for the club to call a forum of fans from all stands, the fanzine fraternity and The Twe12th Man and try to tackle this by reconfiguring the ground, reorganising the way the PA is used and reinvigourating the crowd to maximise and direct the undoubted passion.
Tuncay Revels In Freedom To Roam: Boro’s main source of attacking enterprise at Old Trafford was the until recently frustrated Fenerbahce free-styler Tuncay. Which was a pleasure to see and a great relief.
His signing raised a string of questions both tactical and strategic: he appeared to be first allocated the right-sided role, a job superceded by the purchase of Gary O’Neil. Then he was penciled in as a frontman alongside either Yakubu or Aliadiere… but that changed too as the Yak left to warm the bench at Everton and instead Mido was brought in as the cutting edge. It appeared to leave the Turk without any definable role, no starting place in the first choice XI and raising a lot of eyebrows and hackles, not least back in Istanbul.
He has been in search of a role in his short spell at Boro. He showed in flashes at West Ham that he could rip through defences and get into dangerous positions but also that clinical finishing was not neccessarily his strong point. He has shown a willingness to work non-stop, to cover every square inch of the pitch, to swap flanks with Downing to keep the opposition on their toes and to drop deep and demand the ball. What he hadn’t showed though was that all his endeavour could be harnessed by Boro to hurt teams.
So it was a relief to see him given licence to roam at Old Trafford rather than shackled in a rigid role that did not allow his obvious talents to shine. He riped into United in a sparkling first half that had their international defence rocking. His movement across the United line from every channel tore holes to be exploited, his link-up with the midfield and with Aliadiere gave Boro a potent punch going forward and his array of tricks more than matched the fancy Dan footwork of Ronaldo, and on the day was more effective.
For Boro’s strike he left hapless John O’Shea dizzy with a series of step-overs then lost his with a neat double-back and turn to leave him free on the edge of the box to pick out Aliadiere and tee up the glancing header that was the first goal scored by an away team at Old Trafford this term. Later in that half he repeated the run to chip to the far post for Stewie Downing to flash a header just outside the post that was inches away from being the second.
The problem for Boro will be to utilise this ability while eliminating confusion and risk. At one point as he cut up the left flank he found himself within yards of both Downing and Andrew Taylor and all three looking at each other to see who would overlap while at others his marauding runs left gaps. They will need plugging if Boro are not to be punished. On balance though Tuncay can be a potent force if Boro can square that circle and could yet be the key player if the much trumpeted attacking play is to be delivered effectively.
“A Turbo Charged Robbie Mustoe:” What a fantastic player Gary O’Neil is! He ticks all the boxes for me: he has energy, pace, passion, an instinct to get forward, a willingness to defend, excellent close control, superb distribution and great vision.
In recent weeks he has been by far the most effective and consistent performer week-in, week-out and is the only new signing that has banished the question-marks and moved into a position where his position in the team, his fitness and his contribution is beyond doubt.
At Old Trafford he was brilliant. He played with real zest and bite but he is far more than just a turbo-charged Robbie Mustoe. At times he looked like a genuine flanker, getting behind defenders with pace and trickery to slot dangerous balls into the box. At others he looked like a central midfielder, either closing and squeezing in a holding role or surging through gaps to get into offensive roles in support. He powered through tackles and deployed some neat little jinks and drag-backs to ghost past some of the best players in the country.
Although brought in to solve the ‘right sided problem’ I can see him as the mainstay in the heart of a new look midfield unit, effective in either a solid four or an attacking five alongside Arca and with Cattermole plugging the gap when either go forward. That would pace, power and creativity and the possibility of width on both flanks or giving a firm foundation for Tuncay to roam free.
O’Neil is the future. He is the signing that really offers the possibility of excitement because you need to get the building blocks in place before the entertainers can really shine.
Young Lions Take Pride Of Place: It was day that could mark a revolution in the Riverside pecking order. Lee Cattermole took his place in the starting line up ahead of stuttering skipper George Boateng putting down a marker for the future, David Wheater returned with his back-to-basics approach after a nervous and disappointing display by Chris Riggott against Chelsea and for the second week running Lee Dong Gook was behind a striker that started the season as little more than a bit part player.
Boateng has long been the mainstay of the Boro midfield through a golden era of unprecedented achievement but over the past year his powers have faded markedly. This season he has lost his automatic right for a central berth. He has been pushed out wide right and slotted in at right back for spells in games and has started to become one of the those who regularly see the fourth official holding up his number. Now, with the belief that he is the weakest link now widespread, he has finally been dropped in favour of the heir presumptive Cattermole.
It was always going to happen. The new expansive style has shown the Boat’s restrictions: he doesn’t have the pace to get forward or the pin-point distribution to take advantage when others do. And perhaps more importantly, the new style has seen Boro push forward in numbers and when attacks break down there are big gaps left open and the Dutch destroyer no longer has the legs to close them. A number of Boro’s goals against this season can be left at his doorstep as he has failed to close down runners from midfield, been forced into conceding dangerous free-kicks because he can’t catch his man or surrendering possession with a poor pass.
Cattermole is far from the finished product – he can misplace a pass every bit as expensively as Boateng and he is sometimes rash in the tackle – but his weaknesses will be gradually ironed out with experience and on the plus side he offers incredible energy and commitment and a willingness to bust a gut for the shirt, and as we have seen, he has a hell of a shot on him too. He also offers an intangible link with the crowd that you can only get with local lads who really understand how important the club his to the town and the supporters.
Wheater’s swift return and the impending return to fitness of Emanuel Pogatetz (plus let us not forget the brooding perma-crocked presence somewhere of Boro’s million pound a game man Robert Huth) has probably hastened Chris Riggott’s departure. Over the past year whenever he has had his chance he has frozen. It is time to cash in.
And what to say about Lee Dong Gook? That Tom Craddock went on before him last week against Chelsea spoke volumes. That Ben Hutchinson went on before him at Old Trafford underlined that to the point where the PA may as well have announced: “Taxi for Lee”. It is great shame but the ill-fated move has not worked out. He makes good runs and has a nice touch but whatever it is, he hasn’t got it. He has no physical presence, no clinical edge and does not scare defenders. Hutchinson has scored more Premiership goals in his 45 minutes than the Korean in his ten months and countless chances and against United the youngster ran at players, linked up well and looked more likely to make something happen than LDG. And at least Craddock and Hutchinson offer the prospect of improvement.


50 thoughts on “Signs Of Hope In United Mauling

  1. I only saw the highlights on TV but I was left with the same impression as you AV. A performance that gave us hope -Tuncay looked dangerous and barring injury could provide the threat up front we’re desperate for.
    It was also good to see Aliadiere get off the mark but I was left doubting him as a 20 goal a season replacement when it was said that was his first premiership goal for 5 years.
    I also agree that our central midfield should be Oneil and Cattemole – the Catt will get better with more games – Boateng will only get worse and Rocky is just not convincing.
    As for Downing – we’ve always known that he can’t tackle or defend – let’s just keep him as an upfield outlet so that his team-mates are under no illusion that he’ll be covering them at the back.
    Having looked at Schwarzer this season I think he’s turning into a 40-year-old David Seamen and has lost the ability to jump – except when given the choice of jumping in the wrong direction.
    The Spurs match is now a must win game – though given their players, I still think Spurs and Bolton will move away from the bottom – also Reading are now 5 points above us and capable of picking up more points.
    Birmingham are also lining up a big kitty to spend in January – and if we calculate that Derby are dead men walking – that only leaves 2 from Fulham, Wigan, Sunderland and Boro to join them.

  2. Hi AV i have gotta say that i agree with you in many ways, spot on!!
    Yes we got beat again, but at least it was a vast improvement on Chelsea. That match really worried me last week, yes i fully expected to lose to Chelsea and Utd but it was the way that we lost last week…very little heart or passion and the way we responded to going 1-0 down was dreadful, almost like “here we go again!!”. At least against Utd we had a go.
    Positives on performances?? well as you said Gary O’neil was and has been magnificent since day one i really feel he could be a England player one day, i actually live in Pompey due to work and the Pompey fans are really gutted that he left.
    As for Tuncey i really feel that he is gonna work out, i have seen enough in flashes to suggest he could be a real Riverside entertainer skill,workrate..he just needs a goal. As for his best position?? why doesn’t the Gate just ask him…”were do you wanna play? I’ll give you 5 matches in your favourite position, go out and show me what you can do” its not hard is it?.
    Also why has it taken 10 matches to realise that Boateng just doesn’t have it anymore? Poor old George has not been at his best for 18 Months and it is now time for Cats to step up to the mantle..a real rough Diamond that just needs polishing, in my opinion a future Boro skipper…play him or he could move!!
    Next up for Boro is 4 cup matches!! The Boro’s next 4 matches will make or break ourseason. We need at least 10/12 points from these matches, all are against teams that are near or below us and matches that we should be looking to win.
    To many times we fail to beat these “lesser teams” (sunderland,wigan..Fulham (just)), unfortunately if we were to get little or no points from these games we are going to be in real trouble!! and i will really worry for the Gates future…Who next f he goes Jol?? Jewell??.
    Just look at Bolton with Megson “talk about scraping the barrel”, those who want the Gate out its clear to see that there’s not many good managers out there. I don’t really think that Jol would come to Boro would he?? at least would finally get Downing ha.
    One last thing before I go I would just like to say well done to Jinky down at Watford. I am looking forward to watching him on Sky tonight, by all accounts he is ripping up full backs down in the Championship and getting lumps kicked out of him every week..a real crowd favourite!!.
    He can only come back a better player for it, look at Downing when he went to Sunderland!! Playing in a winning side every week will do him the world of good and to be honest he’s probably better off with them at the moment.
    My one slight concern is that we may cash in on him. The local rag in Pompey says that Watford are lining up a 4-5 Mil bid and that several Premiership clubs are keeping tabs on him, I have always thought that for some reason or another the Gate doesn’t really fancy him…maybe not.
    Next up Spurs a must 3 points…come on Boro give us some positives to write about next week!!

  3. After the weekends matches we must have played our get out of jail card to stay out of the bottom three. It is now up to the team to get at Spurs and take advantage. Like us there are many weaknesses so we have to exploit their uncertainty in centre midfield and defence.
    Saw extended highlights yesterday and was quite impressed. I can just about cope with Downings dawdle in the box, it was an individual mistake that is unlikely to to be repeated – his demeanour at half time suggested he was gutted. That is what we want, people to take responsibility.
    Tbe Boat is getting to be history after great service to the club, as rightly stated the Cat is inexperienced but his time has come.
    O’Neill should play in the Rocky role, he has more industry, with Cat holding. Aliadiere, Tuncay and Downing be the creative element, Mido the target man.
    There were good cameos, Tuncays workrate and chance creation. He laid on the header for Downing – the good thing about this was Tuncays willingness to have a go and Downing getting behind his full back.
    Many good points but the main thing was the attitude and workrate. Very few teams can match Manu (or Arsenal) for workrate.
    Let us hope Aliadiere does recover and that Mido is back for Spurs. Bring back Jinky. Dong Goal Less is unlikely to score in the premiership, lets make that a fact rather than a probability.
    I must admit one thing, I wish I had a ticket for Arsenal ManU this Saturday. I criticise both clubs for many things but they do play some lovely stuff.

  4. In the Echo Dong Goal Less is complaing he has not had a chance to make a lasting impression. I beg to differ, he most certainly has made a lasting impression on me.
    I am not going to critices his efforts and willingness, he cant be what he isnt, a premiership striker.

  5. Excellent article AV and spot on on all counts. I was at Old Trafford as part of ‘the prawn sandwich brigade’. It was a one off special day for my family and my son got to present O’Neil with his MoM champagne which more than made up for the result!
    I thought Old Trafford was as quiet as the Riverside which was disapointing given the size of the crowd. I did look for our mate Diablo Derek but he was no where to be seen.
    Boro’s performance was good, and the scoreline may have been a lot tighter if Stewie and scored with his header and not given away a daft goal, but we would still have lost I think. United’s forwards are an impressive bunch.
    Aliadiere and Tuncay look good to me and should be given a run together, our midfield looke good too I thought Catts had a good game and O’Neil is definitley an excellent buy.
    Moving forward the key to the team starting to thrive is maintaining the level of commitment, which they haven’t always done in the past.
    It was great to see five Boro lads in the team and on merit, I don’t think we should under estimate what the club has achieved in producing so many prem. quality players.
    Finally i sat in a crowd with Norwegians and Koreans behind me, an Irish contingent in front and a couple of lads from Cornwall to my side. There wasn’t anyone from Manchester near me, so not only do Utd. have no local boys in the team there are none in the crowd either!

  6. Like most, I agree with what you say. I only watched the highlights on MoTD, when even Lawro said something positive about us “having a go”.
    I wondered at the time if it was the right thing to do given ManU’s recent form, but if we’d have sat back we could have ended up on the wrong end of a good doing as did Citeh at Chelsea.
    As this season progresses I am still trying to remain optimistic that the team will turn things around. The next 4 games are critical in terms of getting points, and the seasonal watershed of Villa at home could be the making or breaking of MFC as a Premier League club, not to mention Southgate’s tenure at MFC.
    I am a lttle perturbed to read that Southgate says he’s not under pressure, well he damn well should be. Sure he might have all the support he needs from inside the club, but it remains to be seen whether Gibbo will allow another rooky manager to take us to the edge of the cliff.
    I do not wish to consider the absolute devastation that relegation would bring, because one thing is for sure we do not have the mettle on the pitch or support from the fans to do a Robbo and turn it around in one season.

  7. Good article AV.
    All I ask is that we play with the same determination every week.
    If the strikers can finally stsrt putting away the chances we create, then the number one priority in January will be a new keeper.
    Hopefully GS has finally realised that the Boat is past his sell buy date.
    A midfield of Downing, Cattermole, O’Neill and Johnson could be the way to go until Arca is fit.
    I have read that Watford are trying to sign Johnson for the rest of the season. This must not be allowed to happen.
    Even if he is on the bench it is a reminder to Downing that his place is not secure.
    C’Mon Boro!

  8. OK Neil, it’s a valid point that maybe it was a bit naive to go for it against a Man U team who we were never likely to outplay.
    I think Southgate used this game to give his short-of-games strikers a chance to play without pressure in preparation for the next few games.
    But Southgate should not make the mistake of believing he’s not under pressure – He may only have these next 2 games to turn promise into points.
    With games against Spurs and Bolton we have every chance of giving ourselves a 6 point cushion from the drop zone and confidence to push on – But if we end up with a point or less then we could be going into the international break a demoralised team in the drop zone looking up at a 4 point gap.
    Gibson would then have no choice but to swallow his pride and make a tough decision in the best interests of the club.
    You have to take your chances in football and Southgate is about to face the biggest test of his career – He knows this and I’m backing him to succeed!

  9. I can’t beleive the Rocky doubters. This season he has finally showed what I’ve always thought he was capable of. He has been by far our best player this season.
    He is industrious and creative and without him we’ll suffer. He’s made more blocks and tackles in and around our area this season than anyone else and when he’s actually got someone decent up front he’s also our best creative outlet, certainly from the centre.
    At the start of the season he linked up brilliantly with Aliadiere because finally he had some movement up front and a willing runner so he could play the ball early.
    With the three Fat Boys up front in previous seasons he had all the pace in front and alongside him as Stephen Hawking with a puncture.
    He’s also the only midfielder I’ve seen win a header in midfield since Emo. Now if only we could work out how to do these new fangled throw in things!

  10. All this positive spin on how well our players are performing i then got the shock of my life when i looked at the table anbd we were 4th from bottom with 8 points form 11 games.
    Carry on like this and we will end up on 27 points. I had to speak to my son to check he hadn’t turned the table upside down.
    Less talk and more action with SPurs and Bolton coming up. Excuses now have to stop and we have to beat them

  11. I agree with Simon, Rocky is a very good player who has been stuck with a ‘flop’ label because he was slow to adapt to the prem. but that is behind him now.
    I’m sure O’Neil would be great in the centre but we need him on the right as there is no one else good enough to play there.
    We need Tuncay and Aliadiere up front where their talents are best suited.

  12. There is certainly a debate needed over our front six if everyone is fit – I will leave the Arca debate until he is back.
    As Downing is the only left footed player and the alternative is Jinky that is one position sorted.
    Mido is our true target man so that leaves 4 places to fill.
    We need a disciplined holding player, a bit of a dog of war, that is Cat at the moment.
    We are left with four players Rocky, O’Neill, Aliadiere and Tuncay for the remaining three places.
    Aliadiere gets in due to his pace, movement and tha ability to support Mido plus he has actually scored, often players can suddenly get a clutch of goals.
    O’Neill provides great energy and is a decent player on the right or central midfield, where depends on the choice between Tuncay or Rocky.
    Tuncay created several chances on Saturday, gives additional pace to the team and high workrate. If you play him on the right it comes dowm to a choice between Rocky and O’Neill.
    In my eyes, even though Rocky has done much better this season (I thought he was our best player against the Mackems) O’Neill shades it.
    The debate about sitting back or not is a bit of a red herring with the players we have. We are now getting some real pace in the team to get at teams. Three or four can break and create real problems whilst keeping a sensible shape and structure to the team behind them.
    We didnt have seven in the box when Aliadiere scored, Downing headed and Tuncay shot wide.
    What we have to do is continue showing great attitude to go at teams and not headless chicken attacks. If you sit back and allow ball after ball to be played into the box you will conceed goals galore.

  13. Has Schwarzer had an eye test recently? Any long range shot has good chance of beating him. Maybe he has a blind spot ? (yeah ! anywhere in front of him).

  14. Our best player at the moment is wearing a bleeding Watford shirt! Southgate owes it to the fans to bring back Adam Johnson from Watford before he gets injured.
    Johnson is on fire and should come on way before Boateng or Dong Gook who came on at Old Trafford. If he is sold to Watford I’m afraid its a giant step backwards.
    Is Downing able to play every match for us on the left all season or would it be an idea to have some competition for that position?
    Southgate is starting to select the correct starting 11 out of the fit players but has taking too long to do so!

    It’s me that needs the eye test mate…I keep reading all these posts about how great our lads are playing…there’s something faulty somewhere…?
    Robin Mitton

  16. I know we haven’t seen Arca play for a while but don’t knock him as he was our best player before one of his ex team mates took him out in the derby! Arca over Rochenback any day of the week.
    I think Swartz has already gone by the way and left in place a papier mashe head and some pillows like
    Clint Eastwood in ‘Escape from Alcatraz.’ Trouble is warden Southgate has not spotted yet.
    Up the BORO!
    Boateng no more !

  17. I was at OT on Saturday – agree with most of what’s been said – especially with regard to O’Neill.
    Cattermole was excellent(as he was at OT last season), Rocky also played well (he can control a ball, pass it and has 2 feet; also tackles back this year) and Wheater looked like a seasoned pro, one tackle with what appeared to be an extendable leg on Ronaldo was immense.
    However Taylor was totally out of his depth – very one footed and uncomfortable on the ball – we need an experienced left back soon!
    Downing should learn how to hit row Z with a clearance – save the Cruyff turns for the other end of the pitch – odd but he never does them there!
    Adam Johnson should be brought back ASAP to provide a bit of competition for Stewie – might stimulate a more aggressive approach to opposition full backs.
    Unfortunately we were never going to get anything from this game – Utd will thrash better teams than Boro this season – but the score does not accurately reflect how well we played for most of the game.

  18. Robin
    You complain about your eyesight, Im not surprised because I cant read in any of the posts how great we are playing.
    I can read relief we are actually competiting, I can read ways to fit the players into the team, I can read debate about who to pick, I can read relief about staying out of the bottom three.

  19. I dont know what game you watched vickers?
    There was one positive in that game: Lee Cattermole. He had passion and wanted to win the game.
    The rest of the team were pathetic, if Southgate continues to play Rochemback I hope we go down.

  20. funny old game…we get hammered 4-1 and all the positives come out of it. I don’t mean to be crass but we should only start lauding the team when they give us a win or at least a point.
    Mistakes are part and parcel of any football match but we make too many.we were doing ok till downing messed it up and the marking and closing down for the other goals was non existant.
    And as for mr southgates comments about playing good football instead of closing and clogging up midfield, it hasnt worked or got us any points in the last 4 games has it?
    We need to have a balance and play each team on its merits.i.e if you let man u.chelsea and arsenal play they will murder you as they did at the weekend.
    Lets not gloss over another heavy defeat with rhetoric about how good we looked on saturday. We are shipping goals for fun,the only consolation is,so are spurs, could be 6-6 on saturday.the next 3 games hold the key as to whether southgate stays or goes…6 points is a must.

  21. Excellent synopsis AV, and for the first time this season I managed to watch the match via the internet.
    It was as stated, a spirited display, and Cat for Boat was a welcome choice.
    Other players up for debate, yes Stewy, he is not under pressure to perform to what we know he is capable of, but bringing back Johnson too early might be counter produtive to his learning, and confidence. Hopefully he will become the player to replace Stewy, as he has said he is not staying here for ever, could this be his last season???
    Young was disappointing, Oneill looks a good player.
    Schwartz is past it in my opinion, with again no pressure from another goalkeeper in the squad. As somebody else stated, Taylor looks very vulnerable, but what other choices do we have. I really like Tuncay, but we need to find his best position and stick with it.
    My conclusion is what everbody else has being saying, the squad does not have enough alternatives.
    The next few matches wil say it all.

  22. I felt Adam Johnson was badly treated last year by G.S. and for me, was the obvious answer to the problem right hand side. The reason he is at Watford is because he was brilliant against them last season making 3 of the 4 goals, from the right hand side, in a sparkiling 4-1 win.
    In the next game against Villa he did well in first half and was key in keeping Villa on the back foot. He lasted only 5 mins of the 2nd half when G.S. inexplicably took him off and by doing so took the pressure off Villa, left a huge hole on their left hand side, which was immediately filled by the following Villa sub., Luke Moore, who scored their second within 90 seconds of coming on.
    That substitution cost us dear and the game was lost from there. It was then I realised that Gareth Southgate had a lot to learn and is unlikely to be a success as a manager.
    Boothroyd at Watford has predicted great things for Adam Johnson but it would appear our manager has not been such a big fan. Maybe Boothroyd should come to the Boro along with JInky Johnno when he eventually returns.

  23. The injury to Arca would have been the ideal time to pop O’Neil inside next to Cattermole and play Downing and ADAM JOHNSON on left and right wings – interchangeable.
    With so many injuries before and after the Sunderland game any quality players should return to the squad to give us some strength as our bench is not even championship I’m afraid !
    Southgate seems blind to Johnson’s clear ability and it would take us to play them and let him rip us apart before SG would spot it.Thats not gonna happen it seems as they are going up and we are going down.
    Okay Downing has a few England caps but he needs bringing back down to earth. Nobody should be a natural first team player unless his play merits such and playing someone for every match of the season and expecting them to be on top form for every game is a joke.
    Our squad is so weak that when the first choice 11 are not at their best there are no quality replacements. Things need to be done in advance to make sure this does not happen and not at the 11th hour on transfer deadline day.
    Getting whooped every week may be doing something for team spirit and we do look bleeding good as well as let all those goals in from fully 35 yards. Bring in Bad Brad Jones as Schwartzer is looking confused.

  24. I agree with the Vic. I think it needs to be said that Tuncay is best placed up front – I hear calls for him to play wide right – but really he hasn’t looked comfortable in that role.
    O’Neill needs to be wide right. Downing needs to have more confidence to take a few players on. Taylor needs a confidence boost too – I still think he is a better player and more skillful than he looks. I’d like to see both he and Young overlapping a little more.
    Catt has to be in the middle – at this stage probably with Rocky. But I do wish someone at the club would have a quiet word with him – he doesn’t NEED to go for a killer pass EVERYTIME he gets the ball.
    Look at Man Utd – they move the ball around so nicely but much of it is simple passes done quickly and lots of movement off the ball. They have killer passes but they don’t try it all the time.
    I lost count of the number of times the ball would come to Rocky on Saturday and he’d immediately look to thread a ball to the front men through a throng of Utd players – result they got the ball back. There were so many occassions when he could have given a simple pass out to the wing.
    It’s no wonder that both Young and Taylor aren’t really getting forward – they don’t have the time or the confidence given Rocky’s insistence on threading the eye of the needle. Simple football, done quickly with plenty of movement would be much preferred – plus we have the players who are capable of pulling it off.
    Wheater has to remain in the team!!

  25. Lunatics and asylums come to mind!
    We get Tonked by 4 goals and everyone is in Happyville!
    Keith Lamb must be putting something in the water on Teesside. Just imagine Bill Shankly, Brian Clough, Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger or (it sticks in my throat to say it) Sam Allardyce or Roy Keane waxing lyrical about getting stuffed week after week after week but this week we were not stuffed as much as previous weeks.
    8 Points is an absolute disgrace, unforgiveable, completely totally and utterly unacceptable. The entire club should be hanging their heads in shame and utter disgrace and giving close self examination to their part in our downfall.
    Buying into this Lambism/Radio Teesism spin is BULL of the highest order and if we start to see signs of so called hope after losing 5 on the trot then Hartlepool here we come!
    Reality Check!
    Schwarzer is well below par all season and his understudies are well short of Premiership standard.
    Young is no better than Davo (who was being played out of position) no wonder Charlton went down if he was one of their best.
    Woody is woeful for reasons best known to himself.
    Riggot is an accident waiting to happen.
    Tayl’s needs a break before we destroy him.
    The Boat is finished and has been for 18 months.
    Rocky flatters to decieve but isn’t up to Premiership level.
    Downing needs competition for his place in the starting line up and has gone to seed since September.
    Cat is a liability until he matures and learns to control his aggression like an adult.
    Mido or make do! Aliadiere fast, nippy but no end product.
    We have managed to destroy Tuncay’s International reputation in a few months. Don’t even start me on LDG!
    Only O’Neil and Wheater have earned respect and loyalty this year along with Jinky and ironically he isn’t even here!
    Off the pitch we have naivety with GS and CC being mentored by the great Malcolm Crosby!
    Now if there really is something to be hopeful about with all the above then it obviously eludes me. I remember us all getting excited after the Birmingham game but at least we actually recorded 3 points then.
    Seems like the “Lambtroopers” have finally succeded in telling us what we think!
    God help the Boro because its going to take divine intervention to get us out of this one.

  26. One thing about getting back Johnson is the pressure it will put on Downing to really get his game together, especially the set plays which are generally very poor.
    Can anyone think of a time when a Downing corner has done anything other than give the opposition a chance to clear and break away?
    It’s all very well creating chances, pressuring teams and getting corners and free kicks – but it really bothers me that we convert so few corners and free kicks and that is due almost entirely to Downing’s poor delivery. What does he work on in training?
    It’s ironic that Downing had to go on loan to S’land before he started performing, he was hastily brought back to Boro and flourished for a while – Johnson is obviously blossoming in a regular starting role with el Hornets, let’s hope history repeats itself.
    Must just also say that Boro’s performance on Sat was spoiled by that appalling kit. I hope whoever dreamed that one up hung their head in shame!

  27. More rave reviews for Johnson last night following Watford’s 2-0 win at Palace.
    “the game’s most creative performer.â€? (Guardian)
    “Adam Johnson had wreaked havoc with a persistent runâ€? (The Times)
    “the excellent Johnsonâ€? (Telegraph)
    The good news is that it has finally been noticed that our best performing player is on loan. Malcolm Crosby has admitted to Sky Sports that Boro may be forced to recall him.
    He said – “In the near future we may call him back, even before his three months are up. We might need him with us.”
    I now fully expect Johnson to be in the squad for the Spurs’ game, as the management team know that they have only a few weeks to save their jobs.

  28. Dear Ian Gill,
    I’m glad you “can read” Ian. Now read this…”He was subject to gigantic fantasies still”. [Hardy, ‘The Well-Beloved, pt III, ch.2]

  29. JP – I think Rocky is extremely comfortable on the ball, which means he creates time and space in midfield and therefore retains possesion of the ball.
    He reads the game well so intercepts passes thus taking pressure off the defence. His passing is superb thus creating attacking opportunities.
    That’s it in a nut shell. However if you said to me its between Tuncay or Rocky for a place then I’d go for Tuncay. That said they are such different players I don’t think its a case of one or the other.
    For me the problem is fitting Aliadiere, Mido and Tuncay into the team.

  30. Gareth Southgate Said…..
    ” This club is changing. It’s only been 18 months and these things take time. People have to be patient. ”
    Am I wrong ?
    If YES, please will the board members answer the following questions so that I can actually understand why I’m so stupid.
    1. How long does this process take ?
    2. Why does this process take so long given that the backroom team are exactly as they were 18 months ago ?
    3. Shouldn’t we see some positive results by now and the shoots of this building process ?
    4. Has anyone ACTUALLY noticed an ACTUAL difference in the way we play, or even try to play ( apart from Tuncay’s own individual skill or just saying attack attack attack ) i.e. playing the one touch football, playing the triangles, playing the counter attack ? If we aren’t working on these things a la Man UTD, a la Arsenal e.t.c. what exactly have we been trying to build in all this time?
    4. Is it possible that this building process is actually just all about bloody GS and CC learning what the hell to do ?
    Where is this building process and what actually has been produced as a result of it all ?
    Mark my words, we’ll find it very hard to come away with ANY points in the next two games.

  31. deka – You’re spot on about too many errors, I’ve lost count of how many goals we’ve shipped because of defensive mistakes, if we cut those out we have a chancve to improve. If we dont we’re……..stuffed.
    GS sending johnson to Watford was a stroke of genius, he has clearly thrived just as Stewie did at Sunderland. Leave him at Watford until Christmas then get him back so we have some stiff competition on the left.
    Yet another major result for the academy. Dave Parnaby should be given the freedom of Teesside. The way we are going the British Olympic football team will consist of 11 from Teesside, who needs the Scots!

  32. Why does the modern day fickle internet loving loony so called football fan always want the manager sacked after the team lose a game theses days.
    When I was a lad there was none of this namby pamby crying just because your team got beat and certainly none of this “waaah the manger must go, the manger is clueless” nonsense everytime your team got beat.
    Real managers like Bill Nicholson, Brian Clough, Joe Harvey, Bob Paisley, Alf Ramsey Matt Busby Jock Stein etc etc would be turning in their graes if they could read the knee jerk nonsense spouted by the modern day “we mst win every game at all cost” internet brigade.
    Boro are only 2 wins from being in the top half of the table so stop whingeing and get supporting.

  33. I’ve just read the article in The Times that John Powls recommended and it certainly does make a persuasive argument for changing an underperforming manager like Southgate.
    Although I think he has 2 games to save his job there definitely appears to be a something amiss at Boro.
    Does Southgate have a problem with his senior players? Woody, Schwarzer, Boateng, Downing and Young all seem to be under-performing – on top of that Viduka and Yak weren’t exactly convinced to stay either.
    Maybe it’s just the realisation that the club are going nowhere as nobody has leaked anything to the press – but their demeanor and body language is not exactly positive.
    The main problem with Southgate’s style is that he’s been labelled as an intellectual manager who’s not going to rant or rave – but without any CV behind him and in the absence of a fear factor – it wouldn’t take much for senior players to fall into a rut and start doubting his ability.
    OK I’m still giving Southgate a few more games to turn it around – but if we go into the international break in the bottom 3 it would take a chairman of such blind optimism to continue with the current setup – especially with someone like Paul Jewell or Martin Jol currently out of work.

  34. Nigel
    GS sending johnson to Watford was a stroke of genius, he has clearly thrived just as Stewie did at Sunderland. Leave him at Watford until Christmas then get him back so we have some stiff competition on the left.
    It may be to late by Christmas, we need competition for places now.
    Spurs away record reads 0 3 3 7 11. This is worrying as we all know what happens when a team that has not won an away game visits the Riverside.
    Comments from the new Spurs boss Ramos’ remarks about wanting the players to last the full 90 minutes provides the biggest clue into his first target after taking charge as Spurs manager which suggests he was not happy with fitness levels under Jol.
    Spurs keeper Radek Cerny said: “Ramos went around the room and said: ‘Come on guys, heads up, we start training tomorrow, you have to play for not 60 or 70 minutes, but 90 minutes’.
    So that two teams who only play for about an hour or so, so Boro can not afford to give Spurs goal start.

  35. Does anyone else think that the main policy behind the loaning out of young players that have come through the academy, may be to put them in the shop window.
    After Morrison was sold we were told that the academy has to pay for itself.
    I for one will not set foot in the Riverside again if Jinky is sold to another club.
    Then again I may be totally wrong and the reason he is playing at Watford is to prepare him for Championship football with the Boro next season.

  36. Just found a few remarks on the Watford website:
    “Adam Johnson continued to be the shining light on the left flank with his quick feet and sharp mind. Weaving his marker this way and that [Palace]simply couldn’t contend with him.â€?
    “Doyley intercepted the ball
set Johnson free down the channel and his quick feet soon bedazzled the entire Palace back line.â€?
    A.Boothroyd: “I’ve spoken to Gareth Southgate to enquire about extending his loan deal. We’re a few months off of his original deal expiring and of course we’d love to have him here for a little longer. Personally I think he could do with a year of Championship under his beltâ€? he smiled.
    Get it sorted Gareth! Let us see Downing S. on bench against his former £10m suitors and Johnson given a chance to shine.

  37. Good at least one person agrees with me about Rocky, I feel less alone now (I’ll take down the rope from my rafters LOL).
    I perhaps should clarify what I see in him so hopefully more attention shall be paid to him. I think a lot of peoples opinion of him is based on his nationality.
    We have been blessed by the explosive power of Emo and the flamboyant flair of the little fella and Rocky is neither of these he drops off some people radar because of this.
    Look past this lack of Braziliance (poor pun I know) and look to what he offers us. He’s prepared to shoot from anywhere, how frustrating is it when we pass it around nicely and nothing comes of it. I’d rather see the ball hit a fan in the stand than the opponent hit us on the counter as we concede so often from this situation.
    His direct free kicks admittedly are poor but his balls into the box are fantastic, we just don’t have the personnel to take advantage when Wheater, Rocky and Mido don’t play.
    He and Arca interchange so well and do the Ajax thing, when one goes the other drops back so we have one in the box and one further back to pick up the pieces (see both Sunderland goals).
    He is economic with his passing and often plays it simple. He only goes for the ‘killer ball’ when he has a chance of succeeding.
    It was mentioned earlier that he lacks pace, I don’t think that is true at all what he perhaps does lack is that burst of speed that Ali has. Neither did Becks and he has done alright for himself (I’m not saying he’s as good, I’m not that biased).
    He works hard, tackles back, is a willing runner going forward and is always on for a pass, which in our team is a blessing as too many hide when it goes wrong.
    Playing near the Boat doesn’t help as he has too much to do as he’s now a liability with the ball but now more importantly without it. Rocky does have bad hair though, but I’m bald so can’t really comment.

  38. Nigel – You are off your rocker? Leaving Adam Johnson at Watford til xmas is suicide! Why dont we loan them Wheater, Tuncay and Oneil so they too get a chance to play and gain confidence in a winning team.
    I think you will find that the teams in the league with the most consistent in form players are the ones doing well.
    At this level with our skeleton squad of injuries and under performers we cant afford to help Watford .
    Johnson’s jinking runs at the heart of the opposition defence would draw defenders creating space for strikers, hell he might even score.
    The sight of him going for it could ignite the fans and he would fit into the team very well with his pace and skills.
    We don’t even have any options on the bench so these glowing reports from Watford are making Southgate look foolish to say the least. You’d think it must be something personal between Southgate and the lad for it to continue.

  39. Simon: “He only goes for the ‘killer ball’ when he has a chance of succeeding.”
    Your joking right? That is just wrong. I think he tries overly ambitious passes far too often and does not succeed with enough at him – in fact, the vast majority of times it gifts possession to the other side in dangerous positions.
    It is the main reason I end up screaming at him in every game. That and the way he dawdles over the ball and gets robbed time and again when a players runs 10 or 15 yards towards him.
    I am not privy to the Prozone stats on this but I tried to count his misplaced passes and the times he got dispossessed in a game last season but we ran out of fingers, and that is me and two boys.We can’t afford that.
    In terms of “Braziliance” he is not fit to put Emo’s rollers in. In fact, he is nowhere as effective a holding player or passer of the ball as Doriva.
    Ste Mac

  40. The sounds coming out suggest Mido may still be struggling for Saturday. What we musnt do is send him out half fit, dont let him do what Torres and Alonso did and play before they were ready. If Aliadiere and Tuncay are fit then they should play.
    That will leave a place in the side for Rocky.
    No Boat, Cat please.

  41. I’m with Mark J with the Johnson issue – good point about igniting the crowd – it could make the difference if the energy from the crowd feeds back to the players when they need a lift.
    Another big reason to bring him back immediately is that I have just looked at Watford’s fixture (up until his loan spell is due to end in mid-December) -they’re due to play 9 games! almost 2 a week and no international break.
    This means he’ll either be injured or completely knackered just in time for the busy xmas programme.
    AV – is there any chance of getting a statement from somebody at the club over the Johnson recall position?
    **AV writes: I think Adam Steel was raising the question today.

  42. JP – I think the team must be progressing if we are now down to just debating Rocky’s talents (or lack of).
    What has stuck in my mind this season was the Newcastle game where we had Rocky and Arca in the middle and the barcodes had Smith & Butt.
    When I saw the team sheets I shuddered at the prospect but in fact what happened was Arca and Rocky’s skills and possesion meant Smith and Butt were anonymous.
    mark j – Of course I’m off my rocker I’ve been supporting Boro for 43 years!
    My point is that he’s playing in the championship not the prem. its different altogether. Also he’s a young lad, we don’t want to heap pressure on him by recalling him and making him out to be Boro’s saviour do we?

  43. Hopefully GS will not be recalling Boteng because of how well he took to being dropped against Man U
    If he is to stick to his promise of attacking football then he can not select Boateng and expect the fans to believe what he says.
    It will be a backward step to select Boateng.
    My team for Saturday would be:
    Schwarzer – seems to be no other choice
    O’Neill – Jinky if recalled from Watford
    Rocky – O’Neill if Jinky returns
    I have a feeling that GS may play Pogo (played 60 mins for reserves today)
    Whether he replaces Taylor or Wheater I don’t know
    IMO Wheater should not be dropped, I would drop Woodgate before Wheater.
    However I think GS will give us the ‘big game, need for experience speech’
    Hopefully not, as dropping Cattermole and Wheater would be a big mistake
    C’Mon Boro!

  44. Ste Mac
    I didn’t think I was joking. Watch closely, most of the time when he gives the ball it’s because of our lack of movement. You try finding a pass when your team resembles a Subbuteo one.
    And as to Emo I think I made it clear that Rocky was indeed not him or Juninho!

  45. Old Bert. The reason that people are calling for the managers head, is not because of the result in one game, it is because of a string of results and naive performances with no signs of repeated mistakes being put right.
    Also, those two wins that will put us in the top half, where exactly will they come from? If they don’t come in the next 2 games against Spurs and Bolton, then we are not going to be anywhere near the top 15, let alone the top half this season.
    I would find it more likely that the likes of Ramsey, Shankly, Clough etc will be turning in their graves that the management of what is meant to be an established club in ‘the best league in the world’ (copyright of Sky sports) should be so tactically unaware and naive.
    The posts that they themselves only earned after serving their apprenticeship in the lower leagues are now granted with impunity to players that were decent enough in their day, not great, but decent enough.
    It does not follow that any player will make a good manager, and many of them do not. I believe the fans want to see their teams perform to the best of their ability and work their socks off – to do this the players need to have a solid grounding of what to do in the first place.
    Our defence act like strangers, most of our midfielders seem to be unable to kick a ball a few yards in a straight line and our attack is out of ideas.
    This is down to consistent poor coaching over a long period of time, going back to McClarens reign. Southgate and Cooper do not have the experience to handle a premier league club and Crosby has never previously exhibited any real signs of quality.
    We should be building on UEFA cup runs, ensuring another UEFA cup campaign and building for future surges into breaking into the top four. We are no-where near and have missed the opportunity.

  46. It seems to me the side is on a different wavelength to each other,.for instance, Schwarzer, If i’m going down i’m taking you all with me. Young, how did this lot stay up and we [Charlton] went down. Woody, hey it’s nice up here in the stands aint it?. Wheater I’m gonna give 100%as usual. Riggott, I hope I don’t score another own goal. Taylor, just for once Stewie when I give you the ball try and beat a man and go forward. O’Neil Oh Harry what did I do to deserve this???.Cattermole, Don’t worry I’m withyou 100% of these days I’m gonna hit the target or my names not Pele. Downing, now what was the name of that girl who wants my autograph. Tuncay why oh why did I leave Turkey?. Aliadiere Idont know but If you go back can I come with you.

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