SMALL MINDED Teessider alert! Look, I have no time for Chelsea whatsoever. That long pre-dates the current preposterous rouble stuffed arrogance that has made them the team of choice for puffed-up playground glory-hunters: the Battle of Stamford Bridge, Bad Santa Ken Bates’s electric fence, three Wembley heartbreaks, Dorigo, Di Matteo and Sinclair… it is all pretty much imprinted in our cultural DNA to hate London’s self important fourth biggest team. But I really, really want them to batter Spurs in the Carling Cup final on Sunday.
I make no pretence that this defection from traditional positions is some objective scientific judgement based on an appreciation of their tactics or technical ability. Neither is any emotional Epiphany that life is too short to harbour grudges and we should let draw a line under petty squabbles and celebrate the Blue Machine’s contribution to the beautiful game. No way.
The switch against all instincts is just short-term tactical support born of parochial self-interest. I just want to protect Boro’s status as last team outside the Big Four to win something.
Right now that winners tag is a precious political asset when it comes to banter across the barricades and it is a fact that gets hammered home with every why-oh-why editorial about the domination of the Champions League quadropoly. Ultimately it doesn’t matter who beat who home or away or by what score, who finished fourth back in 2001, who has the biggest crowds or shirt sales, that is all just so much fish and chip wrapping… but when you look down the all important list of trophy winners there it is screaming proudly from among the tape loop repetition of the usual suspects: Middlesbrough, Carling Cup WINNERS 2004.
I would be gutted if that particular accolade were to be airbrushed out of history and “Tottenham” to be engraved in our place. That Boro have won a trophy in living memory gives us a real kudos and rarity value. In an industry distorted by an urgent Philistine consumerism that demands the next game be considered the biggest match ever and the past as disposable, it is easy to forget the seismic significance for Boro of that day at Cardiff. It was the vindication of the rebirth of the club that came with the Gibson vision and trumpeted the success of the Riverside Revolution. It led to Europe, elevated expectations that we are yet to fulfill and a completely new perspective.
But beyond that it gives us a weight and a grudging recognition and respect outside of Teesside that short-sighted supporters maybe sometimes fail to see. It is a useful tool to sell the club to sponsors and to new players and is valuable political capital when we have to fight our corner against the jaundiced idiots who run the game and would see us as expendable cannon fodder. For all the talk of big brands like Everton, Newcastle, Villa, Spurs and Manchester City and their ability to build fan-bases abroad, it is Boro who can point to the defining reality of success. It is Boro that last broke the grip of the elite to win a trophy and I want it to stay that way.
Also, I can’t bear the thought of Spurs winning and having to cringe as Jonathan Woodgate is wheeled out in the post-match press conference to stab a knife into the heart of club he watched at Hartlepool and say he had to leave Boro to win trophies. So sorry Woody, I want you and London’s Geordies to lose. Preferably badly. Because that would underline that it is not easy to win this competition that the big boys “don’t take seriously”.
And I am willing to add an international dimension to my petty and vindictive Teesside insularity too because I want Spurs to go crashing out of the next round of the UEFA Cup. In fact I am praying for a vicious and bloody cull of all the English clubs in next round, a last 16 ethnic cleansing of Premier League European upstarts Bolton and Everton (especially Everton) – and hey, what the hell, let’s liquidate Rangers while we are at it – for exactly the same reasons.
Boro did not get the praise they deserved for reaching the UEFA Cup final. The pulsating route to Eindhoven was played down by the media and shunted into the digital ghetto . The silverware showdown itself was overshadowed by the FA’s unforgivable and unneccessarily ill-timed announcement that McClaren was to be the new England manager. The actual achievement – one that the critics sneer at and suggest is somehow easy – is one that that four or five Premier League teams a year attempt and fail. And I want it to stay that way. It can only increase the value and impact of our own success.
Plus, it is good for the sanity and sugar levels of the nation because while Boro’s achievement in getting to the final was treated with only minimal media interest and only thinly veiled contempt you can be sure that were Spurs to get there it would unleash a Cockneycentric tsunami of sickly saccharine sycophantic drivel that would make even Jonathon Ross blush. Heaven forbid they won the bloody thing.
So don’t give me all this “all of England will be supporting Spurs/Everton/Bolton tonight” because I am bloody sure I won’t be. I’d support Roma against them. And I sure as hell won’t be supporting Spurs against Chelsea at Wembley either. I’ll support Roman against them. It might go against the grain for Teessiders who have grown up detesting Chelsea and all they stand for – it feels dirty, immoral and treasonous to be frank – but it is in Boro’s political interests that the Evil Ones batter them. And let’s be honest, you’d be cheering them on if they were playing Newcastle and it is not such a great ideological leap from there. So come on you Blues!