Fond Farewell To A Stuttering Season?

SO, TO THE last home game of the season at the relieved Riverside and the now traditional lap of cynical indifference. The fans get to express their begrudged appreciation for their heroes or berate the boss (as when beleaguered Robbo was roundly booed) while the players get to salute the supporters they have variously entertained, let down or slated over the season. As a demonstration of the contradictions inherent in the relationship between the players and the fans it is hard to top.

It is also a chance to bid a poignant farewell to various players who right now are still busy pledging loyalty to the club, are happy to see out their contracts and just need to sit down with the gaffer to see if the club can match their own ambitions because, hey, they owe it to their family to listen to what other clubs have to say and besides at this stage of their career they need first team football and a new challenge.
The signs to look for are veteran Aussies bringing their kids onto the pitch with them for what seems an overly enthusiastic waving session to each and every stand. After last season’s finale against Fulham Mark Viduka brought his brood along to see him do more contractual obligation waving than the queen before clearing his locker and handing in his car park pass.
This time round it could be Mark Schwarzer in the Viduka role at the head of a queue of players saluting with a cheery smile as they shuffle slowly towards the exit door for the last time. Much maligned Schwarzer is out of contract but the serial transfer requester says he is willing to talk to the club about a new deal (stop me if you have heard this one before) while his agent suggests Bayern Munich are keen to swoop for the Boro youngster as they look to finally replace stroppy septugenarian shot-stopper Oliver Kahn.
Schwarzer has his critics, there is no getting away from it. In fact he has never really won the hearts of the crowd and has been accused of poor kicking, a lack of presence in the box and, ironically, a lack of loyalty throughout his ten years at the Riverside. True, he is not the Premiership’s top keeper but he is certainly in there in the gaggle of second string goalies who are pretty much interchangeable and who are all equally under fire from their own short-sighted fans who see the mistakes close up on a weekly basis while advocating their replacement by identikit individuals whose clangers go almost unnoticed.
Time may be up – even his biggest fans will admit his powers have been waning and for a spell earlier this season almost every shot on target from outside the box seemed to fly in – but Schwarzer’s is arguably the best keeper Boro have ever had, and that includes Pearsy and Jim Platt. His dramatic decade between the sticks has coincided with a golden age of Wembley trips, the club as a star-studded top flight fixture, the glory of Cardiff and the great European adventure that culminated in Eindhoven. He has put in some brilliant displays of shot-stopping with UEFA Cup performaces away in Rome and Bucharest that were simply awesome.
Of course, in cultural shorthand he will forever be “the greatest Australian hero since Ned Kelly”.

But there could be a few others waving farewell for a final time too. Almost certainly Fabio Rochemback, possibly George Boateng and, who knows, maybe Gary O’Neil, homesick for the South Coat and Julio Arca, homesick for Washington, and even Lee Cattermole too as ‘no more Mr Nice Guy boss Gareth Southgate looks to strip, completely rebuild and fine-tune his mis-firing engine room. Watch out for anyone bringing their kids onto the pitch.


21 thoughts on “Fond Farewell To A Stuttering Season?

  1. AV
    I know this is a little off topic but I had planned to post it before this latest blog and its ironic considering your comments.
    I was reflecting on the Steve Gibson era and thought how do you think this team would do today playing at their peak:
    reiziger,woodgate pally,zeige.
    emerson, mendi, juninho
    merson, jfh, ravanelli
    Apart from the top four which other clubs have bought world reknowned world cup players like that? And i think thats why most of us are wondering, its amazing clubs who have recently (last five years) gained ground and in some cases passed us.
    I think thats the reason weve lost 10.000 fans. I’m hoping for a new era under GF,but and hes admitted hes maybe not at times done it his way.
    I would give him 12 games next season
    **AV writes: Luke Young is far and away the best right back in the Riverside era. And at their peaks Boksic and Viduka were better than JFH.

  2. Vic,
    My first thought on seeing the header to this week’s blog was, “Thank God for That !!”.
    We have had other seasons of under achievement I know, but for some reason this one seems, to me at least, to be the worst I have endured for a long time.
    So much so that for the first time in many, many years I gave up. The Cardiff defeat was only partly to blame, but was certainly the match that put the flame to the blue touch paper for me.
    I have lost faith in the club, as it would appear have so many others, through a succession of blunders both on and of the pitch that have tested the will of even the most die-hard of Boro fans world wide. Hearing our erstwhile manager, chairman or anyone else from within the club admit to these mistakes does not help to appease.
    I have lost heart in the perennial battle to finish a season as only one of a host of second stringers to the mighty four, our only hope of “Sporting Gloryâ€? being the odd top notch scalp and a decent cup run, of which even that we now seem incapable after witnessing highly paid professional Premier League players freeze on the day against the Cardiff, destroying the dreams of thousands.
    However, I have renewed my season card for the coming season after much cajoling from my son, who by the way also gave up after Cardiff.
    I have to ask though, were MFC taking the Michael offering a cut price three year season card? Are they that worried that in three years time we will be in deeper straits than we are now?? I wonder.
    So I have given MFC, Gibbo, Southgate and the players one more year. One more year to make me feel proud again, to make me want to go to The Riverside, to make want to spend hard earned money and get on the road to away games, to let Boro back in my life.
    I really do not care who comes in or who leaves Boro at the end of this season and in the summer.
    What I want to see is evidence that this club is moving forward, that Gibson and Southgate’s actions speak louder than their words, which up to now have been so hollow the echoes are still being heard in a rapidly emptying Riverside Stadium.

  3. I remember being embarrassed at the Robbo booing. Everyone knew he was going and that he had to really but at the end of the day he was the fella what kick started the Riverside revolution, signed all the heroes, took us to Wembley three times, all things we couldn’t even dream of back on the Holgate in 1986 … if anyone deserved a fond farewell it was him. But he got booed.
    Then last year the way people were fawning over Viduka and all that warm applause and pleading with him to stay was sick.
    Here was a fella who had spent half of his three years injured and another third in hibernation and who only burst into life when Australia had a big competition coming up and who was holding the club to ransome for £70k a week and the idiots were cheering him.
    That’s how much football has changed.
    The last time I cheered a team and really though they deserved it, appreciated it and would be still here the next year whether or not they got a big pay rise because they actually felt something for the club was back when Bruce Rioch was the boss.

  4. Players shouldnt be allowed to bring their kids onto the pitch, It was that ‘orrible little man Dennis Wise who started it at the cup final. It was wrong then and it is wrong now.
    Alright they have kids so what? I dont want to know. I support the team. I am not interested in domestic arrangements. It is football not Hello magazine.
    We already support their families financially, I shouldnt have to clap their kids as well.
    **AV writes: Maybe they think if the cute little kids are there you won’t boo the Dads? Or that if the kids are wearing Boro tops it will prove their loyalty?

  5. AV have u heard any insider rumours about who will be going and more importantly heard of anybody boro are going to make a move for?
    **AV writes: Loads of rumours, nothing of substance..

  6. Lap of honour? Every last one of them should be on their knees groveling in gratitude for the unbelieveable wealth and lifestyle they have got from our support.

  7. The problem with MFC is SG.
    Unfortuately if you want to be a top club in the premiership, clubs need mega money.Sell the club to some rich American or Russian. This loyalty to SG by the fans is pathetic.
    Time to move on, certainly get rid of the insipid GS, as I can see the attendances at the Riverside dipping below 20,000 next season,which will be tragic for the club.
    The club needs a huge cash injection with 2 or 3 to world class players to boost the squad and flagging attendances. Lets go back to the days when we had the likes of Ravanelli, Juninho and Emerson,they were exiting times,and brought in full houses at the Riverside!!!!.

  8. I know you can’t print this but I’ll say it anyway- I was one of those who booed Robson …
    Another good read, by the way Vic.
    **AV writes: Yes, you are right, we can’t write that.

  9. I like Schwarzer. He has been brilliant but he is in decline and we have Turnbull who will do nicely.
    AV, JFH would be my choice over Viduka any day. Goals are a strikers currency and he scored plenty. But I think a fit boksic would be the business. Boksic, Rava and Jimmy in as our great strikers of the last decade.
    Do you agree with Mendi’s treatment???
    **AV writes: I think there are factors that we are not aware of behind the scenes but the situation has been badly handled.

  10. Neil [Yarm]- glad to see that you have hung in there. Please dont blame MFC for the state of the game and that we are an also ran to the big four – that part of it is not the clubs fault.
    However I agree that talk is cheap.All I ask for is a visible improvement in our home performances overall and a feeling in 12 months time that we have made progress.

  11. Paul Bell…yer jokin’ aren’t yer?
    Gibbo deserves our loyalty. I don’t think he is infallible, but he saved the club and he acts in the clubs best interests. Virtually every other set of fans would kill to have a chairman like Gibbo.
    I wait with baited breath for the unfolding of the Man City saga. Sven has done a great job, but he’s probably on his way out.
    Don’t be surprised if Avram Grant isn’t the manager of Chelsea next season, especially if they walk away from this season empty handed (please…please!).
    Look at Liverpool FC. Two foreign owners with nothing more at stake in the club than their own agendas.
    Randy Lerner seems ok at Villa, but how long will he stump up the cash if Villa are not milking the Champions league cash-cow.
    My last point is related to the last thread: The way to make the league fairer is simple. Set a salary cap. To be workable, this would have to be standardized across the EU, but I think it’s the only way we’re going to get a fairer league.
    I remember mocking my dad when i was a kid because he’s Scottish, and I laughed at how the Scottish league was so boring. Who’s laughing now?

  12. A,V.
    First to John Sully, you took me to task for criticising Mendieta in a previous post when actually I was criticising Southgate speak.
    Previously I had posted that Mendieta was unfortunate while with the Boro as he was played out of position by one manager and ignored by another as well as getting a debilitating injury.
    A.V. If as you say there are factors behind the scenes (re. Mendieta) that we are not aware of, this is another case of how badly the club is run.
    Paul Bell I cannot see that a white knight will come in for Boro and SG has stated I think that he will never sell, although never say never. However I agree with your sentiment.
    Why is it season after season we flirt with relegation, why do we buy terminally injured players, why do we have what appears a negative behaviour culture within the club? Why did we lose three points, frivously appeal, appoint rookie managers, why did Middlesbrough FC alienate the supporters, why are the supporters turning away, not from the Boro but from Middlesbrough FC?
    There is only one man at the helm who can answer all that and it is a conundrum because the same man has given us te greatest moments ever as a Boro fan.
    Lastly but not least why do I continually stay up way past my bedtime to see games like Cardiff or get up in the early hours of the morning to watch games like Wigan. Two of the most inept performances ever by a Boro football team.Why will you lads and lasses out there in Boroland renew you season ticket?
    Ah well rant over, certainly no lap of honour for this season.
    Hey but wait Gareth will get a few class players and it will all change. Dream on.
    But who knows – hey perhaps — we’ll get off to a good start ——–

  13. I cannot remember a worse season , perhaps 4 games have been worth watching , the rest Dross.
    I have had a season ticket for over 30 years but the Cardiff defeat & the manner of it has knocked the stuffing out of me . As some of your previous posters have mentioned the club seem to think that it was not a big deal.
    I feel the club is in need of a major overhaul, on & off the pitch. The coaching is stale, we make the same errors week in week out , unable to assert ourselves against the nether reach teams .
    Why do our contract negotiations go to the blood? Why does it seem to take us twice as long to complete a transfer than other teams ?
    I have just about decided that if Southgate is to stay then I will not, I see nothing on the pitch to suggest that we have anything to offer.
    Victory today over a Man City team in turmoil will only paper over the cracks, lets be honest if Portsmouth had had any interest at all or not spurned one of their golden chances we would have lost.
    Southgates player picking is poor, I think that Tuncay is a bench player, Mido is incredibly fat, Aliadiere is a luxury forward who does not score that we cannot afford , Arca = Rubbish .
    One more thing that the club must be applauded for is the cheap season tickets for the youngsters, but what is my incentive for buying for 30 years? If I renew today I save 17 pounds , not even the cost of 1 game .
    I now note that to further enhance the crowd figures that the whole of the south stand goes to visitors, how many times will that be full, 5 or 6 ?
    Sorry but Gibson is NOT right all the time & I for one will vote with my feet.

  14. Dear Anthony,
    The previous “paul bell” post has been written by an imposter. this is not on!
    **AV writes: It is a fairly common name. Or maybe YOU are the imposter.

  15. stockton red –
    I guess it came down to the fact that I and the club have been through a lot worse in all the years I have supported Boro. Our expectations are higher now than ever before, so consequently the failures feel so much more painful and harder to deal with.
    Or am I just getting older and less tolerant?
    I don’t blame MFC for the way the PL is now, or the fact that we are one of a host of support acts, I’m just peed off with it.
    Was the old 1st Divsion of the 70’s any better? Maybe it’s just my nostalgia for that era but it seemed to be a more level playing field back then (apart from the pitch at the Baseball Ground!)

  16. Another season come to an end but I suspect there will not be a joyous reception for the team. Too many insipid home performances to justify unbridled joy.
    On a personal note there are key issues still to be decided. As a midland based fan living in Derby I have already lost a local match offset by games at the Baggies and Stoke.
    Two out of Reading, Brum and Fulham to go, torn between reading and Brum staying up, Brum give me a localish match, Reading a chance to meet up with Powls senior and junior. Fulham can go for all I am concerned. I will support Reading today.
    So who will be waving fond(ish) farewells.
    Rocky – Tappy seems certain to leave.
    Swarz – same again and I will wish him well if he takes Jones with him.
    Boat – depends on contract offer.
    Orc – talk of Tippy going to the Mackems seems unlikely from afar, doesnt seem a Keano player – probably got that wrong.
    Midough – who would buy an injured striker with no football (but plenty of pies) under his belt, well we wont pay for him again surely, although he will become a manager speak ‘just like a new signing’ as pre season starts.
    O’Neill – dont know enough to comment.
    I have seen fewer matches this season than for some time in part due to the dire, part time performances as well as work and family commitments.
    As my partner in crime – much medical debate over whether Boroitis is a genetic disorder or the result of a parent transmitted virus – is abroad for six months and left yesterday I will not be going up for the final match as usual.
    Who knows what the match will be like, depends on who gets off both team buses. If we atart slowly again I suspect Citeh will be more up for it than Pompey and if they get in front may be difficult to peg back.
    Get stuck in and they may decide to go on holiday looking forward to teh UEFA cup. We also dont know what the Sven effect will be.

  17. Schwarzer best keeper ever? yer jokin arent yer? How long have you been watchin’ us A V? Did’nt see Ugolini eh?
    And what about the Welsh geezer who filled in for about a dozen or more games? He kept more clean sheets in that short time than Skippy has in his whole ten years, his reward was thanks but no thanks, Skippy is fit again.

  18. Mohd alan. take your point.
    AV – if there are factors behind the mendi story, fair enough. but he should be allowed to help with our dire predicament at times. I will be in Boro tomorrow and I asked the clubs help with meeting Mendi before he was ousted and they would not budge. poor form???
    **AV writes: I wouldn’t read anything into that. The club wouldn’t help anyone meet with a player other than pass a letter on. That seems fair enough to me.

  19. Talking of fond farewells, I would like to start by saying a very fond farewell to all the above whingers who have decided to give up and not come back next season.

  20. AV I have just been brought down to Earth after Sunday. The back of the Gazette tonight – we are after Alan Smith! Please tell me this is an end of the season joke, or are you trying to stop people buying season tickets.
    No one can decide if he is a striker or whatever. He has never been a prolific striker. He did nothing at Man utd and nothing at those up the road.
    I thought we want to go forward not backwards. I dont know one person who would want him here, please have a word with GS, even GS up front would be better.

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