STAND by for another nail-biting Typical Boro D-Day of brinkmanship and trauma. In a blow-by-blow live rolling new service to rival Sky Sports official Yellow Ticker Tape of Authority and Truth I’ll be up-dating this throughout the marathon of Middlesbrough mayhem, at first calmly from the sober office environment and then later on more frantically and cynically as I settle down with a six pack and the lap top for what is the best bit of cliff-hanging television drama of the year.
PHEW! One half heroes Boro made hard work of a game that should have been wrapped up within the first 20 minutes. Blistering pace going forward, incisive movement and some crisp passing along the deck – plus some sublime pin-point long balls over the top of onto team-mates toes – saw Boro scythe through wobbling Wigan at will. It was brilliant.
Downing should have scored. Tuncay should have scored. Aliadiere should have scored. In fact, had the goal been a smidgeon wider it could have been a massacre as a season’s worth of chances threatened to bludgeon Wigan into a pathetic twitching Brambletastic mess of relegation debris. Boro should have been out of sight before “the French forager” bagged his first Riverside goal. Those convinced that one day soon Boro would give someone a right spanking must have thought their time had come.
Yet the the second half was a long drawn out chaotic scrap played mainly in the Boro half, a war of attrition marked by tetchy fouls, some desperate last ditch defending and a top drawer save from much maligned Mark Schwarzer. In the end battling Boro were lucky to hang on to three precious points.
GARETH SOUTHGATE has shone a torch into the murky fog of rumour and speculation engulfing the mooted move of Jonathan Woodgate with an illuminating observation that may shift the focus of the debate away from the undoubted abilities of the player to his commitment and willingness to buy into the exciting vision of a new Boro the boss is building.
After the gritty 2-0 FA Cup win at Mansfield Southgate was asked if Woody was still a Boro player. He looked at his watch and laughed and said: “I think so.” Then he volunteered what may be the most significant piece yet of the jigsaw that is slowly taking shape. “Jonathan has some big decisions to make,” he mused. “He needs to decide whether he wants to be part of what we are doing at this club or whether he wants to move on somewhere else.Ã¢Â?
WOODGATE out for ÃÂ£8m – if it were to happen – will represent shrewd business. If selling a player from an area where the team is now very well endowed is used to secure the striker the team is crying out for then it is not just financially cute but it is also a strategic master-stroke.
Boro are not Chelsea of Manchester United. We can’t spend money we don’t have on the likes of Alves without being ready to make a few timely adjustments elsewhere. And unlike Chelsea we can’t afford our top earner to spend more time on the treatment table than on the pitch.
SUGGESTIONS on Tyneside are that Kevin Keegan is poised to make a bid for Jonathan Woodgate.
Those good old “sources close to the club” up there have let it be known that far from all out attacking football, cavalier Keegan’s priority is to shore up the defence and – no doubt encouraged by Mad Mike Ashley’s five thousand strong away day focus group that is now running the club – Woody is the number one target.
TWO precious points dropped at Blackburn and another striking example of exactly why Boro are looking to splash out big on a ruthless no frills finisher that can just hammer them in.
Tuncay’s inexplicable tangle two yards out ten minutes into the second half was the result of misjudgement and over-elaboration when a good old fashioned welly or Slavenesque side-foot would have done the job far more effectively. Two minutes before Aliadiere raced clear into the box and tried to slot it in at the far post but it rolled wide when if he had squared it to O’Neil arriving unmarked it would surely have been buried. Then goal machine Wheater smacked a powerful header against the bar. Then Downing had a header hoofed off the line. And Aliadiere should have Brad Friedl and the ball in the back of the net. Archie would have.
But Boro paid the price for squandering those chances when Rovers levelled, Matt Derbyshire again coming off the bench to swiftly score just as he had at the Riverside in August. It was a sickening blow. Boro had Rovers reeling but lacked the killer punch, a squeamish streak of genteel vegetarian pacifism when callous blood-spattered butchery was needed.
AFTER a few days of bubbling Barcodetastic optimism at the prospect of a new two pronged Samba strikeforce, reinforcements on the left and any one of four from the White Hart Lane clearout, Boro fans’ hope’s of a January reshuffle have taken a battering today.
Not content with the worrying news that despite his eagerness to join Boro Alves is tied up in red tape in Dutch FA headquarters, Matt Taylor has joined Bolton and Fred has announce he is to stay at Lyon. Even Ross McCormack has pulled out of a mooted move.
STEWIE Downing should be wary of think Spurs is a dream move. It he goes – and we must hope he does not – it could quickly turn into a nightmare for him, especially if he thinks that in leaving the Riverside he will escape the attentions of the boo-boys. There are plenty of those seething with decades of frustration and stung by the success of their rivals at London’s answer to Newcastle and they won’t give him much time to deliver before the cat-calls start.
WITH all the subtlety of a flower-clutching former suitor ringing the doorbell of a recently divorced old flame, Steve McClaren broke his media silence to announce he is ready to return to the cut-and-thrust of top level club management and Newcastle fans choked on their stotties.
Amid the acres of news print weighing up the runners and riders jostling to be next to rule themselves out of the battle for the St James’ hot-seat one name was conspicuously absent. The press fell over themselves to champion an Englishman who has won nothing but got results playing direct football with bargain bucket imports and veterans in a like-for-like swap for Allardyce while Martin O’Neill, Alan Shearer and Mark Hughes all had advocates too.
But the domestic boss who probably ticks the most boxes – Steve McClaren – got barely a mention in the fevered speculation… until he thrust himself into the broadsheet spotlight in a bid to rehabilitate himself and advertise his availability after recharging his batteries.
I TALKED one of my regulars down from the ledge and sent him away upbeat last week, quite a feat as he one of life’s confirmed pessimists. After a Boro defeat the Batphone at Gazette Towers is red hot with angst-ridden readers looking to unload and we scribes are expected to combine our main role of ‘telling it how it is’ with touchy-feely counselling skills and a chipped shoulder to cry on. It is like a cynical Samaritans.
The would-be jumper is exiled in funny speaking Brumshire and gleans his information from wild websites and manic message boards and pieces it together through the jaundiced prism of the Midlands editions of the national press and the relentless black propaganda of Villa, City and Baggies fans. He wanted reassurance after getting the distinct impression Boro were torn apart by Everton, the axe was imminent for Southgate and that the cash-strapped club were on the verge of an implosion that would be sparked by the inevitable defeat at Bristol City. I delivered a positive pro-Gate polemic to calm his fears and give hope for a brighter future.
Then on Saturday I went against the tide of bleak chicken run certainty, the advice of Sky Sports Saturday’s poisonous panel of pundits and the weight of our cultural history and backed Boro to win on the fixed odds. Oh no! I’m turning into a ra-ra!