EFFECTIVE marking at dead-balls isn’t as simple as telling Pogatetz to pick up the big lad and stick with him no matter what when the ball comes in and Tayls, stick on the near post. What if the big fella doesn’t make the run and your best and most physical header is left redundent? What if the run to the far post is a decoy and someone else steams through the gap?
SUNDERLAND are a glorified Championship side. They have added a big fat lad who has the turning circle of a monster truck but who can cross a mean ball with his left, and a battering ram up front, a Primark Drogba, who is a real physical handful.
At their core they remain a limited team of spirited battlers – but they have taken four points off Boro and are higher in the Premier League table. That as much as anything is a searing indictment of Gareth Southgate’s soft centred side.
THERE was a massive audible sigh of relief from Saltburn to Sedgefield as Boro were handed a fantastic massive boost going into the derby trip back to the seventies at the Stadium of Light after ace pundit and would-be Mystic Meg Mark Lawrenson tipped Sunderland to win.
Thank God for that! You don’t need to be infected by the bubbling under-current of traditional Teesside paranoia and conspiracism that surrounds all matters media to have noticed a certain jaundiced theme to the weekly pre-match predictions made by the Beeb’s stand-up summariser. Almost every week he forecasts defeat for our heroes. And when he doesn’t it is the kiss of death. After persistently predicting real hammerings against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United he switched tack last week to back Boro against Bolton…. d’oh!
GROUNDHOG Day. Bubbling Boro play some sparkling football in a one sided spell of total domination, carve out half-a-dozen clear cut chances, fail to take a single one and then slowly, inevitably, fatally hand over the the initiative then the game in a frustrating cycle of self-inflicted defeats. How many times have we seen that one played out now?
WE’VE done our bit – now you do yours! That’s the message from Steve Gibson as Boro unveiled an attractive new season ticket price structure that has slashed the cost of going to the game for the crucial next generation of young supporters.
In a radical – and much needed – development the club have chopped back matchday costs in these crucial areas to pocket money prices: for under 18s it will tumble by up to 75% to a juicy ÃÂ£5 a game, competing favourably with an afternoon mooching around MacDonalds, while ST cards for 18-21 year-olds have been reduced to just ÃÂ£195 in the North West and South West corners – down from ÃÂ£300 this year – making that an affordable tenner a game.
GUSHING praise from the pundits for Gareth SouthgateÃ¢ÂÂs Boro is a bit disconcerting. We are more used to barbs, sneering and ill-informed smears from an all-to-often jaundiced media machine that leaves us prickling with righteous indignation and keeps our jealously guarded fuel of paranoia bubbling nicely. But can we deal with praise?
TEN DODGY decisions – Jeff the Ref’s Verdict! And the hard-hitting verdict on the string of controversial match-turning moments that have infuriated Boro fans and left the players, management and bean-counters frustrated but national media pundits completely unmoved? Well, these things all even themselves out over the season, don’t they? Hmmmm.
GARETH Southgate is halfway to understanding the zen of Boro. Asked on Match of the Day 2 after the stirring 2-2 monstering of Manchester United “can you sum up the enigma that is Middlesbrough in less than 20 words?” he gave just one: “no – and that is 19 less than you offered.” That shows honesty, self awareness and humilty and a certain level of insight into the inpenetrable nature of the riddle and reveals that he is coming to terms with the question.
JOB-SEEKING former football boss Steve McClaren has launched another charm offensive to keep himself in the public eye as the all important summer cattle market looms. After six months out to let the dust settle he appears ready to start polishing up his CV ready for the annual coach cull and hiring fair. He hasn’t actually gone as far as stuffing A4 leaflet’s through the letterboxes of chairmans’ mansions offering “teams managed, football directed, no job too small, reasonable rates” but you feel it can’t be far off.
SHOULD Boro’s first big summer swoop be for a shrink? The club have spent heavily on quality players but we need to maximise their potential and squeeze out that little bit extra out to get the kind of coherent and consistent displays that the outlay demands.
We need to toughen the mentality and instill a shared will to win that can bridge the quality gap between Boro and the big boys and open one between our heroes and the dead wood. We all know that.
So is it time for a new Bill Beswick?