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!
You could easily believe he really hates Boro. Almost every week he confidently outlines the reasons Boro will get battered. And he usually calls the outcome wrong. A league table based on his mooted results would have Boro third bottom and deep, deep in relegation trouble.
Fair enough, that may be an echo of the habitual defeatism of many cynical half-empty Boro fans but he hasn’t got the excuse of having stood on the Chickenrun for 30 years. And besides, some of his predictions would make the average Legends caller look like a full on foam hander.
But a look at the more detailed stats in a full league table shows how wildly inaccurate his guesses have been, especially for away games. Of Boro’s 18 away games he has predicted NOT ONE victory, not even at Derby. Surely football’s tendency to the unpredictable and perverse should have led him to have the odd punt on a coupon-buster.
Of 18 away games he has forecast 16 defeats and only TWO DRAWS. Yes, he has tipped Boro to take just two points from 54 on the road. He has also forecast Boro to score just eight goals and leak a hefty 36 in those 18 games. In fact Boro’s stats are disappointing but represent a perfectly normal lower mid-table return: three wins, seven draws, 16 points and 14 goals.
To be fair (as the Beeb are obliged to be by their charter it should be noted) his predictions for Boro at the Riverside are pretty good. He has tipped six wins, four draws and seven defeats – making 22 points – with just 17 goals scored and 19 against whereas in real life the stats show one win less and one draw more, yielding 22 points and 17 goals with 22 conceded. The points haven’t come where he thought they would but hey, this is Boro we are talking about.
And it must be said, his table isn’t a millions miles away from the real thing. Few teams are more than a couple of positions away in this speculated table from the real one except Spurs who he has bizarrely backed into a UEFA Cup challenge in defiance of all the evidence of their leaky mediocrity. But the devil is in the detail and his detail has Boro as clearly the biggest losers, 12 points and four points adrift of the concrete reality
And there is no getting away from it, his paragraph of predictive text each week is relentlessly disparaging. I know it is “only a bit of fun,” falls far short of the kind of statistical or scientific approach employed by bookmakers and is probably rattled off in five minutes flat and we really shouldn’t get rattled by it but the national publicly funded broadcaster should at least take a stab at objectivity. Very little credit is ever given to Boro’s solidity, there is little recognition of current form and his sly digs in the write ups are unneccessary.
I really don’t what we have done to upset him. Maybe he was mercilessly pilloried once by the Holgate or maybe Boro battered his hapless Oxford side in his brief ill-fated spell in club management. Whatever, he is consistent in forecasting Boro will get battered and seldom has a kind word to say about us, not even a patronising one, not on his weekly website predictions page and not on small screen commentaries. He spent most of this season’s FA Cup live broadcasts making inane and disparaging remarks about the club, the crowd and Mido’s waistline or actively urging on the opposition. The only time he came close to thinking about balance was a comment on the Egyptian’s low centre of gravity.
Out of interest, here is the whiny one’s prediction for the derby game:
Sunderland v Middlesbrough:
“I thought Sunderland came back at Newcastle in the second half of their defeat last week – they created a couple of chances and showed spirit. However, it’s clear they will need to bring in players for next season if they avoid the drop. Certainly, they need a proven goal scorer to play alongside Kenwyne Jones, who is very effective but could do with some help.
Middlesbrough got a bit worn down after a fast start at Bolton last time out and I feel they may suffer a similar fate here. Verdict: 2-0”
Meanwhile, knowing that the Cult of Juninho remains a powerful part of the demographic and that part of my remit is pointing your browsers towards things you may have missed, there’s an interesting Q and A with Boro’s favourite Brazilian on the official website in which the diminutive dreamweaver takes a little pop at Mac, admits he should have stayed rather than be edged out and confuses readers by claiming he won “the title” with Boro. If only.