‘Boring Boro’ Batter Blades

IF YOU believed the habitual moaners in the underpass, Boro had just spawned their way through a turgid slug-fest and the result could be overturned on appeal by the massed ranks of the national media on the grounds that it was dull, dull, dull. Get real. It was a fantastic cup tie. Boro stood up to a team of spirited underdogs that came to the Riverside to spoil the game – and, in fairness it must be said, almost snatched it – and they created a flurry of excellent chances playing some delightful attacking football.
Sometimes I wonder what people – fans and journalists – want from a game. Boro had 27 shots on goal and nine on target, had 12 corners and brought some excellent saves from Paddy Kenny; Afonso Alves made his first start and showed some sublime skills, some brilliant touches and excellent movement plus a stinging free-kick to show a delicious potential that should excite all but the kind of stony hearted killjoys that populate FA committees; two young lads played in a makeshift back four and were outstanding against a robust, experienced and direct Blades side in a demanding, high-risk atmosphere; the always amusing sight of a keeper coming up for a last gasp corner and then having to peg it all the way back when it is cleared; Stewart Downing was simply brilliant; a bizarre winner from “one Paddy Kenny”; and – most importantly – Boro are through to FA Cup quarter-final (again) at home to a lower league side with Wembley beckoning and the season poised to explode into orgasmic joy. Who cares if the nationwide armchair army of big club groupies didn’t enjoy it?


At root is the obsession that the media have with the big clubs. There is an unspoken under-lying assumption that only a match featured the G-14 sides and football’s pin-up boys can be interesting and entertaining to a small screen audience. And that despite the inescapable reality that most games between Arsenal/ManU/Chelsea/Liverpool are tetchy, ultra-cautious snoozeathons. They are only made to sound exciting because of the sycophantic idiocy of the star-struck commentators, obsequious cheerleaders for the elite. Anyone else need not apply.
The truth is this: had Man United played out a one-sided game like that against, let’s say Boro, the purist pundits would have been gushing at the chance after chance created, the silky skills of this boy Alves and of Downing’s trickery and they would have slated the upstarts for their determination to stop the entertainers playing with rough-house tactics and the killjoy perspective of coming in the hope of getting penalties.
It all makes me puke to be honest. Most of the hacks had their ‘boring Boro’ story written before kick-off and the BBC can hardly complain about the nature of the game as they have picked Boro consistently throughout this campaign hoping for a giant-killing and knowing full well that the minnows would dig in, keep it tight and try to stop any sign of open, free-flowing football.
Meanwhile there will be eyebrows raised at the size of the crowd and that will be dumped on Boro’s doorstep too, not least by the confederacy of dunces on the Three Legends. But hold on a minute. Fingers should be pointed at Sheffiled United here surely? The BBC and the tabloids have been building the Blades up – big club, proud tradition, sleeping giant, passionate fans, blah, blah, blah – yet they did not turn up. Sheffield United were unbeaten under their new boss, it was just down the road, it was cheap, it was there chance for glory and to keep their season alive, they will feel they did in the first leg…. yet only 1,400 or so travelled. When Boro went there for the televised first game 6,000 went with them. Yet Boro’s “low” crowds still get stick. I am bored stupid with the lazy willful ignorance that goes with this story now.
Man of the match: Steve Gibson – pre-match dynamite on Sky followed by a half-time hand-grenade on Match of the Day. The Boro chairman combined a chord-striking principled populism with a shrewd political sense of exactly where the FA’s weak spot lies and a ruthless streak when it comes to delivering a killer blow. Even if Boro lose this battle he will have gained ground, allies and respect in the wider scheme of things. Not a man to be messed with.

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61 thoughts on “‘Boring Boro’ Batter Blades

  1. Ian – I’m sure your daughters Veruka would disapear sharpish once you’d driven past the angel of the north, the downside being that I understand you will be charged £80k for the ‘Toon Magic’ to work!
    JP – You’re right, Reading is a must win, three points will give the remainder of the season a different complexion.

  2. Wheats signs new contract,just come through now, well done Boro, lets put reading to the sword, get to wembley, and then we have had a flipping good season after all!!!!
    up the Boro

  3. All big games here on in.
    I agree with earlier post Alves to break his duck.
    Just going back a bit on Souhgates achievements. Most promise shown in his dealings ie jury still out on Mido, Alves did is pacy, direct and will score goals for us, Oneil another good buy and Luke Young for me was the bargain of the season. Only the Gook but he didnt cost much.
    Yak and Woody gone for a profit – that’s a new one.
    Dukes has hardly played this season for toon.A far more attack minded team (bar from a few rough edges). And finaly i feel the team is together and playing for the badge.
    AV I know this has nothing to do with the current
    discussion but i feel Gareth deserves a pat on the back he took enough stick early on.
    Oh forgot we are in the quarters of the cup.
    Well done Gareth take a bow you are coming right.

  4. Nigel
    My understanding is that the Veruka disappears AND you get £80,000.
    JP
    Maybe Rocky’s new form is down to his Greggs diet, people are so knackered running round him they havent the energy to dispossess him.

  5. Re replacing Schwarzer
    There are a pair of decent keepers 40 miles north of us who will almost certainly lead the exodus of players out of that shambolic club rather than play Championship football next season. Unlike the rest of them however, the 2 keepers are genuine Premiership quality.
    They are probably already looking at us and thinking how nice it would be to play behind genuine defenders for a change.

  6. Fantastic article AV, absolutely spot on.
    Living out of the area and being being a long standing Season Ticket holder, it is very easy to become blinded by the mass media coverage of the so called “Big Four.”
    However it also can also give a sense of prespective and balance on the sometimes “rose tinted spectacles” view of the Teesside local media.
    An example of the latter was the EG match report on the Everton game on the 1st of Jan 2008. I seem to recall Eric Paylor giving Jonathon Woodgate MOM, when it was quite obvious to me that Robert Huth was head and shoulders above him.
    At the other end of the scale the top four bias pundit overview of the Sheff Utd game was a disgrace to the BBC.
    As regards Sir Steve Gibson, his interview at half time was brilliant, fully backed up by Mr. Shearer’s post interview comment that SG does not clamour for the attention of the national press too often, therefore he must be angry!
    Pity SG did not repeat his precise and entertaining comment, widely published in the written media of the FA being full of “Silly little men”…… a true classic.
    To end with, I would like to say what a fantastic piece of business in regard to the completion of Stuart Downing’s new contract. He now really influences games, particular in the way in which he now he cuts inside on to his right foot and opens the play out, as well as his brilliant crosses when in the danger area.
    He has shown a extremely admirable strength of character to bounce back from the brunt of home supporters jeers to become a local hero (Again!!)

  7. You’re absolutely spot on AV, the big four brownnose-athon is embarrassing.
    Alves showed some lovely touches, I can’t for him to get some more games under his belt. Bring on Jimmy Floyd!

  8. so only 1400 blades fans turned up – wednesday night, live on the beeb, just up the road only approx 100 miles… and the 1400 still outsang our illustrious opponents lol

  9. Regarding this geordie lurker gadgy!
    Its so obviously a Boro fan on the wind up so why do so many of you believe all the rubbish you read on the internet!
    This lurker bloke is obviously trying to convince Boro fans as well as himself that another teams supporters care about Boro and consider us to be rivals.
    They dont, and I quite like it that way!

  10. Up front, let me make clear that I admire Steve Gibson for having the balls and the cool to stand in front of the cameras and sail into the FA and all that’s wrong with it.
    I also think it’s great that Boro’s public officials, SG, KL and GS, have been publicly solid on the matter, supporting Jeremy Aliadiere and putting the spotlight on the FA’s continuing lack of consistency, common sense and professionalism whilst throwing into focus the complete autonomy that the FA enjoys in applying double standards.
    We need to be careful however.
    In pursuing a line of argument, or continuously expressing the sentiment, however valid, that “provincialâ€? clubs (or any club outside the “Top 4â€?) are favoured less by the media, the game’s powers and match officials, begins, after a while, to sound like – in the words of others – “small-town mentalityâ€?, “inferiority-driven paranoiaâ€? and “loser speakâ€?.
    That is, unless it is accompanied by, or followed up by a more positively aggressive approach to the issues that clearly are troubling the sport.
    These are the issues that lie along the fault lines between the tectonic plates that are The Premier League, The FA, The National Team, The Domestic Supporters (no! – not the couch potatoes!), The TV Networks and news media, The Legislature, The Players, The Agents and Uncle Tom Cobbley! One or two of which contributed to at least one of the earthquakes felt on Teesside this week!
    Football’s feathers have been ruffled considerably these last few weeks and I think that most people saw the Premier League’s proposal to introduce Gam£39, as it’s become known, as a thinly-veiled at best and more realistically, transparently clumsy attempt to generate further revenues essentially by providing additional market exposure of the “Top 4â€?, together with their necessary “cannon-fodderâ€?. (Having made the point, I’ll henceforth call the latter, the “Smaller 16â€?, out of genuine respect.)
    And all this at the proposed expense of the sacrifice of a symmetrical league structure which is about the only remaining concession to a level playing field left in the Premier League game.
    As I mentioned in a (much) earlier blog, the new consumers in far flung international markets don’t know and care about the traditions or the heritage in our game. They are the Beckhamesque celebrity worshippers. They are the susceptible, manipulable masses of emerging middle-classes with new disposable income in their own developing countries. Countries whose infrastructures and organised social pursuits have not yet fully developed the football habit and which, if left to the devices of our own Premier League and the TV Networks, may never do so, because of commercial invasion.
    So on the eve of the match against Reading, a match that could take place in Perth, (no, not Scotland, Western Australia – if Richard Scudamore had his way!), in front of crowds paying a fraction of what we’d pay domestically, while we sit glued to our TVs at 2am, having paid Sky for the privilege, I pose the following questions:
    Could it be that the time is right for the “Smaller 16â€? to take control of their own destiny and unite, to eject the “Top 4â€? from our Premier League?
    Is it time that the game was overhauled to restore a greater degree of competitive parity between constituent members of the Premier League and for the majority to count more than the minority?
    Why are 16 member clubs allowing themselves to be dragged along behind the “Top 4â€?, when it’s obvious that when the time is right and a suitable format can be identified, they will cast the remainder adrift as soon as spit, if they can make more money by doing so?
    Perhaps the answer lies in that last question? Maybe the “Smaller 16â€? can make more money themselves by hanging onto the coat-tails of the “Top 4â€? and play the game of being the “pilot fishâ€?, the “cannon-fodderâ€?, their Harlem Globetrotters equivalents – that supporting cast of sweating, inept, pathetic honky’s who abandoned their competitive sport and prostituted themselves by taking the obligatory comedy thrashing all for the sake of selling the main brand and turning over more and more $$$$$s!!
    That last point, I believe, highlights the fundamental difference between the fans and the clubs these days. Genuine traditional football fans want genuine competition, with the same rules for all applied even-handedly and for differences to be settled by sporting prowess. Not by whose pockets are deepest and which clubs can therefore afford to buy and sustain their unassailable position at the top of the league year-in, year-out.
    But hey! Isn’t that just the very point that Steve Gibson was making? So maybe we’re not so far apart philosophically after all?
    So, as football fans, first and foremost, let’s ask the questions:
    Why don’t the “Smaller 16â€? exercise some democratic principles and pre-empt the departure of the “Top 4â€? by proposing a resolution to find a mechanism to eject the “Top 4â€? before they eject us?
    Why not accelerate the move to what appears to be the inevitable schism, top-slicing the 20% minority and in the process, take the opportunity to restore some traditional values and dignity to the game that most people in this country have grown up with and love?
    And while we’re at it, why not “encourageâ€? the national media to take a more even-handed approach to a more equitable league?
    Why not?
    **AV writes: The ‘Smaller 16’ are no doubt terrified of what political developments may come. They can see all the thing we can see, and maybe more behind the scenes that we are not yet privvy to. They are no doubt cowed after 20 years of the bullying big boys throwing their muscle about and getting everything they want. They no doubt feel powerless in the face of the ruthless billionaires who have moved in with aggressive business plans that could crush the also rans at a moments notice.
    So why don’t they act? I think you answered your own question when you said: “Maybe the “Smaller 16â€? can make more money themselves by hanging onto the coat-tails of the “Top 4â€?
    So long as they see financial gain in letting themselves be emasculated and turned into cannon fodder the current corrosive drift will continue.

  11. Well, the Reading game produced another dull game, with Southgate settling for a point after 60+ minutes. Are your Steve Mac in disguise? This time though we didnt get the luck we had against Sheff Utd

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