Gazza: Boro, Booze and Bus Driving

THERE IS a sad air of inevitability about Paul Gascoigne’s haunted descent into a bleak life of broken dreams and self-destruction. His recent public meltdown has led to the troubled clown prince of football being sectioned for up to three months to get the treatment he so urgently needs but the seeds of his current painful and very public predicament were sown years ago and only his incredible talents and the chance to express them kept the encroaching darkness at arms length for so long.
Many – the hard-hearted, the unforgiving and those ignorant of the corrosive powers on those not emotionally or socially equipped to handle the pernicious and debilitating drug alcohol – will feel his disintegration is largely self inflicted and have little sympathy for his current crisis.
But putting the sanctimonious moralising aside, you can’t help but have real fears for the future of a sad man who was briefly the best footballer in the world.

Gascoigne was a shimmering talent for a short spell. He was a Boro player for a short spell too. Unfortunately the two periods didn’t overlap but nevertheless he made a colourful and controversial contribution to one of the most dramatic chapters in the club’s history.
He played at Wembley for Boro. He won a promotion to the top flight for Boro. In the old money that should make him a hero – but he was never quite accepted as one of us. It was a muted and reluctant welcome. He arrived as damaged goods, a deeply flawed individual who was capable of moments of genius on the pitch and moments of madness off it; a self confessed wife-beating boozer beloved as “a joker” and just “daft as a brush” by the game. The dual nature of his dysfunctional personality and his inability to reconcile that conflict was to be the theme of his troubled time at the Riverside.
By his own admission Gazza’s private life was in turmoil for most of the time he was at Boro.
Bryan Robson signed his ex-England team-mate for £4.5m from Rangers just days before the 1998 Coca-Cola Cup final in a bid to beef-up the stuttering push for promotion back to the Premiership. Robbo made the mistake of thinking Gazza’s refuelling issues were somehow similar to his own thirsty social life as a player, that he could sweat it out in training and that his professionalism and will to win would overcome the debilitating effects of the booze.
But Gazza had gone beyond just liking a pint with the lads. His life had been unravelling at Ibrox. He had won trophies, lapped up the plaudits after his Euro 96 wondergoal and picked up the Scottish player of the year gong in the previous season but his domestic life was in a mess. He was on a binge that started in London and ended in the Bigg Market when his son Regan was born as his marriage crumbled, then struggled to deal with the barrage of deserved tabloid condemnation over an unsavoury incident in which he beat wife Sheryl in a drunken rage. Meanwhile he had stumbled into the heated Old Firm sectarian crossfire after what to hime probably seemed harmless fun, miming a loyalist piper in a bitter Glasgow derby clash.
Leaving Scotland took him out of the heat for a while but it could only delay the inevitable meltdown. It must be said that sharing a house with serial addict Paul Merson and playing for a club that was fast acquiring a reputation as having a “drink culture” was probably not the ideal move yet Gazza initially responded to the new challenge in a positive manner.
He made his Boro debut at Wembley, coming on as a second half sub for Hamilton Ricard in the Carling Cup final against Chelsea. Boro lost – he handed his losers medal to Craig Hignett, whose place in the squad he had taken – but back in Division One, he played a leading role in galvanising the promotion campaign, making seven starts in eight games and showing flashes of brilliance, excellent vision and some effective trickery. Off the field he was trying hard to control his life, spending his time fishing in the Tees rather than drinking in Yarm and putting in extra training, often working with the kids in the afternoon, relaxed and laughing.
But before Gazza could build on that hint of stability, and before Boro could harness that potential, his world caved in. In the build-up to Euro 96 he had been pilloried in the press for the infamous ‘dentist’s chair’ extreme drinking activities, this time round it was ‘Kebabgate’ as he was spotted swanning around London with celebrity hangers on Chris “I’m a Boro fan now me” Evans and Daz salesman and pet quiz show host Danny Baker (and where are his friends now when he really needs them you may well ask?).
The front-page pictures of the tipsy trio and subsequent lacklustre displays in the warm-up games led Glenn Hoddle to axe talismanic Gazza from the 1998 World Cup squad, a move that saw his fragile self-confidence implode and led to an ugly late night incident in the manager’s La Manga hotel room. When the bad news was broken Gazza went ballistic, smashing up furniture and unleashing a semi-coherent four letter blast at the boss, an incident that was quickly made public as Hoddle published a controversial diary of the tournament that betrayed the dressing room secrets and dished the dirt as well as sowing the seeds of his own dismissal shortly after.
Volatile Gazza was by now was an erratic figure barely in control of his emotions, a giggling schoolboy clown one day at training and a morose and unapproachable figure the next. At a pre-season friendly he skipped the half-time team-talk and went up to the players lounge in his full kit for a swift half and a quick fag. A close friend died suddenly just before the start of the 1998/99 season, his marriage was in tatters, his international career was over and he was being ridiculed by the press. It was a combination of event she was not equipped to handle and he started drinking heavily and taking a variety of tablets to, in his own words, “numb the pain”.
Despite that, Gazza’s first full season with Boro was a success. On the pitch was the only time he had any control over his life and he made it count. He struggled for pace but his control and passing was at times sublime, his Opta figures were astounding and he was always available for the ball giving the team time and space. Boro finished the season a creditable ninth and Gazza topped the Gazette star man ratings.
But off the field things were getting worse. He caused £14,000 of damage after taking the team coach for a joy ride, astounding the elderly public-transport using population of sleepy Hurworth as he halted at bus-stops to offer them a lift before crashing to a half just outside the training ground, a jape that caused internal ructions high up in a club now increasing worried about his conduct. It even angered the usually supportive Bryan Robson.
Gazza hit rock bottom in October when he made a rambling drunken phone call from a deserted railway platform to Robbo in which he said he was contemplating suicide. He admitted his problems had spiralled completely out of control and, for the first time, that he was an alcoholic. Robson dropped everything to drive to the rescue and whisked his distraught friend off to the Priory clinic (he was to become a regular there) where he agreed to counselling and long spells of treatment, yet incredibly he never missed a match during this turbulent spell as he attempted to use the pitch as a theraputic tool for rehabilitation and redemption.
The following season however he was denied even that release as the lack of fitness told, niggling injuries mounted and he played only sporadically. His final game in a Boro shirt came in the infamous 4-0 St Valentine’s Day massacre at the hands of Aston Villa live on Sky in February 2000 when he huffed and puffed and became increasingly frustrated during an ineffective 44 minutes before being stretchered off in tears after his attempt to land a forearm smash on George Boateng left him with a broken wrist.
That was his swansong. Former Rangers boss Walter Smith took him to Everton for a patchy spell but it was a fruitless attempt to ressurect his talent then he wound his way down via Burnley and Boston, then a disastrous trip to China, and then on to an abortive spell in management at non-league Kettering where he was accused of turning up to games and training under the influence. Sad. Drinking to get laughs as a freak show in clubs, bumming fags off strangers and funding benders with people who claim to be mates but encourage him to go to the bar. Shameful. Rehab, sectioned under the Mental Health Act. His life is a car crash.
You can’t help but think we have not reached the end game yet.


45 thoughts on “Gazza: Boro, Booze and Bus Driving

  1. Flashes of brilliance for us, but could never maintain it. When you consider what was going on off the pitch, amazing he had those flashes really.
    I’m sure what everyone is thinking – without actually saying it – is that unless someone (maybe only himself) can rescue him from this destructive path – he’s going to end up dead sooner rather than later.

  2. I know what you mean. My sick mate has him in the dead pool at work after dropping Bruce Forsyth. Twisted but hard to argue with the logic.
    We all know that Gazza is dangerously unstable. At least Amy Whinehouse has gigs and records to focus on and can still function in her music. Gazza has nothing and fills the void with booze.
    What I want know is where are all the friends that used to hang around him? Not just his old Geordie mates but the ones in football too.
    He is a thick working class lad who has always been obvious needed help and never got it. The clubs prefered to laugh it off as ‘daft as a brush’ so long as he was producing on the pitch.
    I don’t think anyone every really tried to solve the problem. Fair play to Robbo for getting him in the Priory.
    I see Alex Ferguson has been mouthing off saying Gazza would have been OK if he had gone to Man U instead of Spurs. A cheap shot really. I’m not sure that is true. Gazza has an illness and Robbo, McGrath and all them were there then so I’m not sure Dr Fergie would’ve helped.

  3. His time at Boro was short lived but I remember when he signed just before the cup final and the buzz he gave the town. I for one thought he could win us the cup but the sublime days of Euro 96 were gone.
    He’s in a dark place at the moment and i hope he gets the help he needs. Good luck son.

  4. Gazza… one of the best ever at one stage but sadly he left practically no legacy at Boro.
    The coach crash, the stripper streakers, debut at Wembley, broke arm when he took a swing at industructable George’s chin. Apart from that what? A few rumours but hardly any memories on the pitch. Most of the press reports don’t even mention Boro and I am kind of glad.
    I have a lot of sympathy for the guy because he is sick and needs help but I always found him to be an embarrassment at Boro. The wife beating baggage, the media circus, Five Bellies at training, the cringing display in that Gaddafi documentary… it was a freak show and I for one was glad to see him moved on.

  5. It’s a thin line between love and hate and unfortunately it appears that Gazza has walked that line all his life.
    Both in the eyes of the public and more importantly in his own eyes where he lurches from incredible highs to terrible lows.
    Yes he has become a figure to pity and ridicule and yes he has brought most of the this on himself BUT for a while there he was quite brilliant with a natural ability and a genius with a ball at his feet.
    His family now need to take over and quite simply do what only families can do. Close ranks, love the man and help him to beat his demons. Sad.

  6. Pat Mc. raises some insightful points relating to Gazzas problems, although I’m sure the incident with his childhood friend being killed by a car has left a trauma which has never been succesfully resolved its almost certainly not the root cause of his psycological problems.
    Now that he has been sectioned maybe there is a chance he can recover and live a fulfilled life but I suspect life is always going to be difficult for him.
    While he was a footballer at the height of his powers his troubles were hidden in the background although clearly they were always there.
    Once the limelight faded Gazza had nothing in his life to fill the void and as he approaches ‘mid life’ the troubles have become a crisis as they do for so many men but usually in not such an extreme form.
    I for one hope the treatment he receives gives him a chance for the future, there has to be a place in football for a man of his talent and charisma which may give him some satisfaction and a ‘raison d’etre’.
    The outstanding memory I have of Gazza at Boro was watching Boro play away at Leicester in a mid-week match. I placed a £10 bet at 66-1 that we would win 1-0 with Gazza scoring the goal. He duely scored from a free kick and I spent the rest of the match petrified that either team would score, it was the most bizarre match I ever watched.

  7. Nigel
    I too was at that Leicester match in the infamous away side that would have been poor at Whitby Town. My memory of the match was that the goal he scored was the second free kick.
    The first free kick was rolled to Gazza but a player broke early and blocked it (Sinclair I think) and the danger cleared.
    When second free kick was awarded everybody lined up the same but when the ball was rolled to Gazza he dipped his shoulder and went to the right avoiding the player breaking and curled the ball around the wall into the net.
    It was some consolation after Magic Merson suffered a spelling change and became Emerson or wantaway man.
    The clever football brain that was capable of learning from situations doesnt seem able to do the same in his private life.
    I am not one to condemn people lightly, his problems are high profile and you just hope he comes through them.
    The same goes for other people with similar difficulties, you just wonder if he has any true friends.

  8. Just very sad. Once he had the world at his feet and was an idol, now he has the biggest fight of his life.
    I remember watching Italia 90 and thinking we’ve the best player in the world and it’s only a matter of time before we win something when the self destruct started. As already posted the seeds had already been sown.
    Just hope he gets through it and gets himself healthy and happy.

  9. True his best days were behind him when he signed for us but my one abiding memory of Gazza is watching him with young Boro supporters before and after games. He would spend an age signing anything and everything for them and making sure noone was left out.
    Hope he can sort himself out before it truly is too late

  10. Is this a pre death epitaph? You lot are bringing me down!
    I was buzzin after seeing my sons face when I presented him with the new Boro shirt with DOWNING on the back, now this. Some of you are talking like he is already dead , I guess the enigma that played wonder football is.
    Anti Depressants and Sedatives will turn the man[ mind and body] into even more of a shadow.
    AV , a lot of our fans glass is already half empty , all this Gazza stuff is not gonna help.
    Up the Boro [ in a tired voice]

  11. A personal memory of Gazza’s brilliance:
    Boro took a corner at South Stand end – headed out by a defender – Gazza waiting in mid ‘mid-field’ – he hit the ball out to the right wing (near where I was sat which may have added to the sublime experience/view) with the outside of his right foot on the volley inch perfect to a boro player.
    In the scheme of things not big – but certainly clever!!!!!!!!!!

  12. My son’s first game was a pre-season friendly away at Huddersfield. Gazza was getting loads of stick fron the home fans but never hid, always asking for the ball etc.
    He wasn’t having the best of games but stuck at it and scored with a diving header to make the final score 5-2 to Boro. He just stood with his arms raised to the Huddersfield fans as if to say “up yours!”
    Flashes of genius, a character, great with kids/fans when sober but sadly mentally unstable. I hope he gets the treatment that any human being deserves reagrdless of past misdemeanours.

  13. A couple of personal memories of the two times I was in Paul’s company.
    The first was with a mutual friend in Yarm when Paul (stood on his own in a local pub) joined us. He tried to pay for everything, including the meal later in the evening and had to be told in no uncertain terms that we would each ‘stand our round’.
    Obviously picking up the tab for everything was ‘the norm’ for him in the company he kept. With a nudge from my mate the conversation did not include football, but fishing, growing up etc, and general banter. He got quite emotional (in appreciation) that he was treated as ‘one of the lads’ rather than the clown Prince.
    The second was at the re-opening of a working mens club on Wearside where he was the special guest. He was brilliant and incredibly patient with everyone and couldn’t do enough.
    Our group was then approached by a photographer from a tabloid who wanted a picture of Paul who duly obliged. The photographer set about re-arranging the drinks on the table in front of Paul to convey the appearence of Paul consuming vast quantities (he had been drinking orange juice). Following a thinly veiled threat from myself over his conduct the photograper left without a photograph.
    That’s the last time I saw Paul. No one can condone a lot of his behaviour but I liked him; a very fragile, sensitive, funny guy, totally unable to cope with his fame and surrounded by friends who used him.
    So sad, but somehow inevitable.

  14. Ian – You remember the details of the free kick at Leicester a lot better than I do. I just remember the bizarre experience of not wanting Boro to score a second goal.
    Needless to say it was the last time I bet on a Boro result.
    I agree with your thought on whether Gazza has any genuine friends because for certain supportive friends and family are what he will need, without that emotional support he will struggle no matter how good his treatment.
    One final thought Alex Ferguson clearly has no idea what he is talking about when he says if he’d had Gazza as a player none of this would have happened.
    Would that be in the same way that he brought Norman Whiteside and Paul McGrath under control and stopped them boozing?

  15. What can one do??? It is a very sad story. I would also like to add that the tabloids handling of this is brutal and shameful.

  16. Great article, Anthony Vickers. Not a lot more to be said about Gazza
    Paul played a few games for Boston United….one of which was at Sincil Bank Lincoln (I was at that game. The
    Lincoln fans applauded him.)
    I seem to remember he scored a goal from an impossible angle. And his Lincoln marker was sort of apologsing for tackling him. Good luck Gazza.
    Max Nottingham of Lincoln

  17. Truly the greatest talent that England has ever produced… Gazza has given us so many memorable moments…the wonder goal against Scotland, the free kick against Spurs in the FA Cup, the sublime skills throughout Italy 90..the list is endless.
    Where is the football world that he served so well?
    Good luck Gazza and get healthy!

  18. The world of Football would be a duller place without characters like Best, Greavsie and Gazza. As Football fans we desperately need the likes of Paul to brighten our dreary Monday to Friday 9 to 5 lives and he delivered for over a decade.
    Right now Paul needs our support and inspiration far more than we ever needed his. Let’s hope that our support helps carry him through this difficult time. As Football fans we owe him that “C’mon Gazza”.

  19. We’d better not buy Sean Davis. If he isn’t good enough for Pompey he’s not good enough for us. He’d be an even worse buy than Paul Okon and almost as bad as the aforementioned Gazza.

  20. Malc, concerning your comments about Sean Davis. I’ve checked out the views of Pompey fans and the concensus seems to be they would far rather him play than Diop or Muntari. They also say he’s better than Gary O’Niell.
    He’s fallen out with Harry and can’t get in in front of Diarra which is no humiliation as Diarra in my view is an excellent player. He also has only a year left on his contract.
    So to call him a reject is inaccurate. Perhaps he’s George’s replacement.

  21. It is right what you say about Blackburn being similarly positioned to us JP, although I’d argue that we have slightly more spending power – I can’t see them dishing out £12m for Alves, though who needs to when you snap up Santa Cruz for £2.5m.
    The performance of their manager next season will be a good benchmark for Gareth – it will be very easy for them to get sucked into a proper relegation battle, like Bolton did post-Allardyce – which could have easily happened to us in Gareth’s 1st season – which he ultimately did very well to avoid.
    On the transfer front, everyone is clearly on their hols, so no action until after the Euros now I’m sure. We’ll do well to sign Sidwell now if Villa are after him, simply as they can offer European football.

  22. I emailed JP about Sean Davis and tried to get him to complete the following sequence.
    Sidwell – good midfielder, not given chance at Chelsea
    Gera – similar but out of contract at Baggies
    Davis – workmanlike and can leave if Gera goes to Pompey

    The player we eventually buy.
    His view was if we put another player in the link either of us could be the player we eventually buy. My response, apart from dont undervalue ourselves, was that at least Euelluselss and Dong Goal Less would be below us.
    At least if Huth and Midough get fit it will be ‘just like 2 new signings’.

  23. The papers are full of Ince being the next Blackburn manager.
    I spoke to a guy yesterday who was on his way to the bookies to place £1000 on Allardyce to be the next Blackburn manager. He reckons he has been told by someone within the club that Allardyce has already signed a contract to be the next manager.
    When I checked the bookies already made Allardyce odds on favorite to be the new boss at Blackburn.
    C’Mon Boro!

    When I write something in this blog, I sometimes imagine that the subject referred, i.e. the person or persons I’m writing about, might actually read it at some time.
    In putting this piece together, I’m mindful of the fact that I’m not a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist. But I can’t help but wish that the opinions I’m about to make, with their inherent assumptions, whether factually or clinically accurate or not, might somehow resonate with Paul Gascoigne should he ever read them and that something might just trigger a thought process that helps him through his personal difficulties.
    Apparently, my own ego, to which I refer later, is still alive and kicking – albeit a bit more recessive, hopefully, than it used to be! (But is that last statement not an example of my own self-doubt? – Most of us have it!)
    On to the opinionated stuff:
    Much as I can understand the outpouring of sympathy for Paul Gascoigne in this blog, the reality of Gascoigne’s situation is such that sympathy is NOT what he really needs right now. Well, not of the sentimental sort typically being shared in these columns or publicly declared and played out in the news.
    I don’t disagree at all with the well-wishing sentiments expressed in this blog and I do share the concern for the man’s welfare, but I can’t help wondering if Paul Gascoigne’s situation could have been avoided in his earlier life, if those around him had been understandably tougher on him, rather than either feeding his vulnerability or taking advantage of it, either cynically or subconsciously. (So easy to say with hindsight!)
    Gazza’s seems to be a tough case. His fragility has been publicly evident for many years. Yet he himself would appear to have conspired against some undoubtedly well intended and caring interventions from seemingly decent people, the likes of his close family, Gary Mabbutt and others.
    However, it is not possible for even well-intended and caring friends to “superviseâ€? and care for someone who, on the face of it, seems determined to undermine the best efforts to help them out of their dark places.
    Inevitably, for very practical reasons, such part-time assistance will sometimes have to lower its vigilance and it’s then that the subject will succumb to the temptations or excesses of indulgence or behaviour, thus setting the remedial process back once again and digging the hole even deeper.
    Paul Gascoigne’s enforced incarceration is the best thing that can happen to him for his own long term good – if he wants a long term, that is. And I personally believe and hope that he may have been caught just in time. Why he hasn’t been sectioned before now is a wonder to me.
    His support needs are clearly of a practical and professional nature. And Gazza doesn’t “needâ€? more indulgent sympathy. Gazza needs some seriously “tough loveâ€? if he is ever going to become a more temperamentally stable, robust individual, capable of assuming personal responsibility for himself and his own actions.
    Saving Paul Gascoigne from himself is going to be a full-time job for a team of people with Paul Gascoigne at the centre of it.
    He needs to rebuild himself from within – if it’s not too late already. And he will have to be supervised 24/7 for a long time with people who are trained and care enough about Paul Gascoigne, the man – not Gazza, the footballer. And they will have to induce the same in him – a belief and respect for himself as a person, not as a footballer – if he is to lead a more normal and less troubled life.
    If Gazza is assisted onto a straight and narrow path, I feel that he’ll need a focus for his creative talents. He needs some real significant purpose in his life, rather than flirting with the temporal offerings of the world that he has so far encountered.
    His personal investment in football – something he excelled at – needs to be replaced by something as meaningful for him, but longer-lasting than participative football. I don’t know what that is likely to be, but it is now for his present carers – his team – to find out by working with him, and to encourage and nurture whatever it is, so that when he resumes life in the open world, he can do so without the destructive introspection that seems to haunt him and drive him to artificial attempts to banish them from his psyche.
    Paul Gascoigne needs to find the belief in himself, that he is a worthy individual, who simply hasn’t yet found a substitute for possibly the only thing that made him feel worthy and which provided him with the adulation and feedback that his vulnerable personality seemed to require (that’s where the ego bit comes in!).
    I hope Gazza comes to understand that as football fans, we all like to quote Bill Shankly, but very few of us actually believe that football is more important than life and death! In Gazza’s case, Shankly’s quip may have been too close to a reality to be healthy.
    Like most bloggers here, I hope Paul Gascoigne finds peace and the inner strength to sustain it, but under his own steam, eventually without relying too much on the crutch provided by others and in spite of the tabloid pressures he may yet have to continue to endure.
    A personal coach/mentor of mine once said to me, on my own expressed admission of an apparent loss of personal status and resultant disaffection with a previous work regime, “You’ll always have difficulty with that for as long as you seek significance.â€?
    And as an extension of this, “Part of that process is in killing off your egoâ€?. (I have subsequently taken this to mean not actually killing it off completely, but subjugating it and learning to live without the need for external affirmation of worth and being “proudâ€? of my intent, which is generally good, I assert).
    I realize that this may sound contradictory, but if Gazza can be helped to feel more intrinsically worthy of himself, and helped along an accelerated path of maturation, rather than seeking some personal validation and gratification through and from others, he’ll come out a different person. It’s a tough journey, but with the right assistance, he’ll make it.
    If you’re reading this Gazza – I dare you to believe in Paul Gascoigne!

  25. JP – they were the most stress-free relegation battles I’ve ever been involved in then. In neither season were we ever realistically going to be relegated. I have the feeling you might disagree with that, however.
    Hughes has done a very good job – no doubt about it. That’s why he was being linked with Chelsea and Gareth wasn’t. Then again, I can’t remember him having so much dead wood to clear out. The upcoming season is when Gareth knows he really has to deliver.
    As an aside – I might be overestimating our status/potential here, but I can’t imagine Gareth swapping us for Man City if they had gone after him? Or, am I wrong?

  26. John Powls, I’m not giving you my opinion on Sean Davis because I’ve not seen enough of him to give one.
    I was repeating the content of a discussion about his potential departure on a Pompey chat board by Pompey fans and he is well thought of .
    I note that you describe him as second rate but better than others we have been linked with. We all want the best but a dose of realism is needed. We can all say we want Messi and Fabregas in a dream world but we aint going to get them.

  27. John, your standards are falling. Whether you intended it or not, that has got to be the most patronising post I have read on here; during such a quiet period to!
    I’m sure BoroPhil can look after himself but I couldn’t let that one pass. My thoughts (for what they are worth) on this issue:
    – Relegation battle; absolutely although we were in the main, more peripheral than others.
    – Hughes; excellent manager, less resources undoubtedly, but more experienced than Gate following his spell as a national manager.
    – Davis; good player (not brilliant) who has fallen out with ‘Arry and will never be a regular. Living where I do I know Pompey fans rate him (as a player at least as much as O’Neil) but they have the likes of Utaka and Muntari. So, if he is as poor as O’Neil that can’t be bad, and for £2 million I’d take him.
    – A lot of Pompey fans will never forgive ‘Arry for jumping ship to Southampton, but will forgive his sins at this moment in time! However, his failure to play Davis is as much for personal as for football reasons.
    Anyway John, its all about opinions. BoroPhil can represent the uber-optimists but perhaps the uber-pessimists have an eloquent spokesman in the Berkshire area!

  28. Interesting fact about Sean Davis – he was the only player to play in all four divisions during Fulham’s meteoric rise from the basement to the Prem.

  29. Its easy too say we should all feel sorry for Gazza but then why should we? This guy had the world at his feet yet he chose to waste his talent on drink. Nobody forced him too do this.
    As for his Boro career he must rank as the worst value signing ever: 41 appearances (of which he only completed 8) and 4 goals at a cost of around £7m! SHOCKING

  30. We must all be bored if Sean Davis is the focus of our attentions, and /or ambitions!!
    We are all in the silly season awaiting the end of Euro 2008 and crumbs to fall from the tables of our superiors.
    Now ho will we support over the next few weeks? Austria and Mad Dog or Turkey and Tunny the Tank Engine.

  31. Richard – I agree whole heartedly with your post, although for Gascoigne to start believing in himself I suspect is going to involve a long journey, but a worth while one, hopefully.
    As for him finding a role in life which he finds satisfaction from, that has to be within football surely?
    Moving on to the Boro and transfers etc. I agree with John Powls (which is a rare event I’m sure we’d both agree) I would like to see Stewie play inside jinky.
    I would then put Aliadiere on the right wing and if O’Neil stays I’d play him centre midfield.
    In terms of transfers in , a couple of central midfield players are clearly needed otherwise we would lack options.
    I dont know much about Sean Davis , not a name to excite but neither was Luke Young and he was the buy of last season.
    To finish I put myself in the ‘uber-optimist’ category , but for sure my ‘needs’ with regard to Boro are the same as the ‘uber-pessimists’ such as JP.
    We may disagee on the how, but what we need is a much more succesful premiership season than in recent years, we need a good top ten finish.
    Constantly finishing in the bottom half is not sustainable

  32. JP – don’t worry, you didn’t cause any offence – I was too busy snorting my way through my plentiful foam hand stash.
    To pick you up on one comment – ‘we all know that we could be doing a lot better’ – well, no not really. We could have done marginally better in the last couple of seasons, maybe sneaked into the top half, but I don’t think we were ever realistically going to challenge for the european places while we were rebuilding.
    That’s for the next couple of years.

  33. Boro Phil
    It depends what you call a lot better.
    If we had turned up more often, had a striker and played with higher pace and tempo we would have finished in the top half and been to a cup final, nor would we have been in or near the bottom three for a large part of the season. Threatened the european places.
    These were all matters that were in our own hands, nobody else to blame, only ourselves. That is a big improvement that could have been made with the right management, coaching and witch doctors at Rockcliffe.
    I am sorry but spending a good part of the season looking over our shoulders is being involved in the relegation battle, maybe spent most of it on the fringes but if it wasnt for our abilty to pick up unlikely points we may have been in the mix on the final day.

  34. IG,
    The only reason why we were occasionally looking over our shoulders was because we took our foot of the gas everytime we developed a comfortable gap, which let the others catch up again.
    We always came up with a performance when it mattered (bar Cardiff), which suggests the motivation isn’t quite there for some of the games – and I think Gareth has acknowledged match preparation is something he needs to work on.
    We were in no danger whatsoever in the final few games – just ask the bookies at the time. It would have taken freak result after freak result to send us down.
    The only time we were realistically involved was back in November when we were actually in the bottom three – then we pulled away with an excellent December when we needed it.

  35. John.
    Very fair answer and I’m sure you never meant your words to come across in that way. Actually, I am one who thinks we have done well in comparison with other ‘like’ teams over the past few years but agree there have been opportunities (ie Cardiff) that have not been seized.
    I agree with your points on new players. I think Bradley would do well for us especially at the prive being quoted, and much as I’d like Sidwell, £6m is too much and there are other clubs in for him who are likely to be more appealing.
    The younger players (Kightly, Maynard) are interesting. They dont generally excite us fans but if we can unearth another Tim Cahill then we’d all be happy. Young English talent always carries a higher premium and unfortunately with any young player, a higher risk.

  36. Boro Phil
    Palace 9 points clear with three games left – ask Gate about them going down.
    Reading looked comfortable at one point but couldnt put their foot on the gas and got relegated.
    My view at Xmas was that 36 points would keep us up and I didnt think we would go down. When we had 36 I posted we may have enough already. I also posted that we were playing a dangerous game by not making certain sooner.
    ‘Occasionally looking over our shoulder’? We spent nearly all the time up till Xmas within three or four points of the bottom three and often withinone point, the rest of the season trying to let them catch us up. Think of those shocking second halves where we could easily have dropped points to Fulham, Wigan and Derby.
    We tell our kids not to play chicken on the roads because someone always gets it wrong. Take the six points from the last two games away and we have 36 points. That is simply not good enough for the reasons both you and I have posted and agree about.
    As JP says the difference is how people view much and marginal. I stick by my view that instead of shamefully capitulating to Cardiff and actually trying more often and for longer counts as much better.

  37. We can go round in circles forever. I can re-intrepret your points positively and vice versa.
    This oft-cited Palace example – does anyone actually have a link to the table where they were 9pts clear with 3 games to go. Sounds a bit unlikely to be honest, and if it is accurate, then a series of freak results will surely have occurred. Unlucky, Palace.
    Reading had one decent result in the whole of 2008 and were always likely to get dragged back into it.
    Yes, we had those poor 2nd halves where we could have dropped points – but we could also have got more from Villa, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd, Newcastle. Even Reading had Stewie won his penalty. Swings and roundabouts.
    36 points isn’t good enough. Neither is 42, really. In the context of the league, it’s just about acceptable. It probably won’t be next season, and I’m sure Gareth knows that.
    **AV writes: The flux between the two extremes of perspective is my raw material. Don’t be trying to recocile that or I am out of a job!

  38. “Discussionâ€? between John Powls and BoroPhil (and others’ contributions):
    Gents (apologies to any gender-disguised IDs or lady cross-dressers!), your respective positioning on uber this or uber that and your relative perspectives set me wondering!
    What constitutes a genuine “relegation battleâ€?? There’s a huge degree of subjectivity in how different people might interpret it – depending on a host of factors.
    Relegation doesn’t actually happen until it’s mathematically impossible to avoid and that, for obvious reasons, tends to be closer to the end of the season.
    I’m inclined to consider that the profile of “relegation battlesâ€?, like that of the contest at the top, don’t really start to have any real significance or meaning until perhaps about after half way through a season, when some kind of pattern has emerged and some assessment of the future becomes a little easier to get a grip on.
    Thereafter, simply because we’re on the run-in period (“the back 19â€?, to paraphrase a golfing term), what the various club squads’ capabilities are, how they’re performing week-to-week and what injuries they’re carrying, becomes a bit clearer – that, and because of the proximity to season end and therefore, scope for turnaround becoming more constrained.
    It’s always the 18th position performance you’re trying to beat in a relegation battle and how close you feel you are to it probably defines whether for you whether you’re in a relegation battle or not. For example, you could be in 17th position, yet so far ahead of 18th that the likelihood of being overhauled by the 18th position incumbent is so remote as to not cause concern.
    On the other hand, if the league is particularly “flatâ€? and a number of teams separated by small points or even goals differences occupy positions say, 15 – 18 (or wider even) then as one of the teams occupying one of these slots, you’d feel vulnerable and therefore, accept that you were in a relegation battle scenario – not at the beginning of the season, but towards the back end, when time and matches are running out.
    So, to address the matter of whether Boro were embroiled in a difficult-to-define “relegation battleâ€? in season 2007-8, I’ve had a brief look at Boro’s stats and have come up with the following:
    18th position points per match (ppm) return was 0.973*. So,

 better than that and you were safe.
    So, taking an admittedly simplistic view of Boro’s season:-
    Boro’s 1st half-season was poor, but in “relegation battleâ€? terms, we could discount it, because there was still time to recover.
    In the 1st half of the season, our lowest point (for the whole season) was at Match #15 when we dropped to 18th position with a ppm return of only 0.733.
    Boro failed to achieve a (season end)* 18th ppm return for 32% of the season and were within 1 point of it for 40% of the season and within 3 points of it for 55% of the season.
    These are worrying statistics until notice is taken that these instances were mostly in the first half season and by Match #24, Boro’s cumulative ppm return was consistently above the 18th position return rate and from Match #20 onwards, Boro’s league position was never lower than 15th.
    However, a late season wobble dropped us to 15th at Match #36, with a ppm of 1.000, with Boro dropping bad points against Reading, Bolton and Sunderland late on.
    For me, that late episode puts us into the regime of a relegation battle. With only two matches to go and several teams around us resurgent, picking up points (against us!) it was definitely “squeeky bumâ€? time!
    But it was “looking-over-the-shoulderâ€? squeaky bum time, rather that watching others’ squeeky bums disappear to premier league safety and Boro being left languishing, as ultimately was the fate of Derby, Birmingham and Reading.
    Whether you classify Season 2007-8 as a season in which Boro were embroiled in a relegation battle, a minor skirmish, or a full-on survival war, is (almost) irrelevant however.
    It was, from the point of view of being, at least, a “top-ten-finishâ€? aspiring club, a disappointing season. And particularly so because of poor home performances that did little to attract, befriend, excite, inspire and give confidence and hope to its local support – apart from the aberrational 8-1 thrashing of Manchester City, of course!
    * Positional points per match returns of course vary throughout the season. For simplicity and ease of statistical comparison, I’ve taken the end-of-season value, which is, ultimately, the only one that counts!
    **AV writes: There are different types of relegation battle, different depths of sticky stuff you can be in, and your perception of what point of the anatomy we are up is determined by your philosophy and jitters trigger point.
    There is a big difference for instance between the kind of statistical situation where “it is in our own hands” and when you are “looking for snookers.” At no time this season (or indeed last season which was remarkable similar) was it ever out of our own hands.
    That is not to minimise what was a bitterly disappointing season but it is qualitatively different from the relative predicament that Fulham were in.
    Also you can’t look at points per match in isolation. While it is natural to focus on your own team it can be hypnotically scary but standing back and looking at the rest can sometimes help inject a bit of perspective.
    As JP knows – because we squabbled last season over the issue – last season I declared from just after Christmas and the wins over Sheffield United and Charlton that Boro were all but safe bar a statistical sequence of freak results that would have NASA number-crunchers puzzled.
    I did that not because I am inherently a foam finger addict, far from it, but because looking through a consistently jaundiced view at the stats, squads and fixtures of the rest of the sorry bunch of strugglers I couldn’t see a scenario that would take Boro down without subjectively manipulating other results to suit that bleak outlook. And I did the BBC predictor scores of times.
    Similarly this season, even though it was uncomfortable at times, once Boro had that good run in December to build a cushion it never really slipped out of our grasp because the rest of the dead men were woeful.
    Of course, it is disappointing that after a decade of Premier League cash to spend on squad building we stay up by default and because the teams chasing us have only got one or two years cash behind them
    That situation can’t be allowed to go on because you only need one bad year when it does slip out of your grasp to go down.

  39. AV:
    I take your points. However, the other factor causing various involuntary anatomical spasmodic convulsions was the actual performances of our own team and how convincing, or otherwise, they were at the time when others weren’t covering themselves in glory either.
    The unconvincing results (as opposed to “displaysâ€?, because we saw some very, very neat football at times) at home in the league, even when we won, coupled to the dismal cup displays against Sheffield and Cardiff, the former taking us to replay and the latter turning us over in ignominious fashion at the Riverside, did nothing to convince me personally, that we couldn’t continue to slip up when not expected.
    Similarly, if WE could pull off random results against the likes of Arsenal unexpectedly, the “random factor” could also work against us and for others to “do a Fulham” or as Reading did to us, gain points in the wrong (for us) places.
    The only team seemingly unable to pull off anything like a shock result was Derby and all others were pulling off “unexpected” results occasionally, grabbing points where we wouldn’t have expected from the form book.
    Despite the use of the BBC predictor, which got all kinds of hammer I’m sure, – its use by anyone following the (mis)fortunes of lower positioned clubs is in itself an indication of possibly a certain degree of concern AV?!
    I couldn’t get comfortable, despite my own private prediction earlier in the season that in the very flat and underperforming lower league as it was, as few as 36 points would possibly be enough to avoid the drop.
    As we’ve both said, or at least hinted, whether you consider you are in a relegation battle or not depends, to an extent, on your outlook and temperament. I personally don’t like leaving important matters like relegation to chance, in the hands of others – at all! And we had a few chances in late season to put it to bed, mathematically, before we actually did.
    In fact we didn’t reach 36 points until Match #34 and then conspired to languish there until meeting Portsmouth in Match #37 at the Riverside, while others around us gained points. It was only in the last two matches of the season that we really pulled away. While at the same time managing to halve our otherwise huge negative goal difference!
    Without those 10 goals in the last two matches of the season, we would have been the second lowest scoring club in the Premier League! We may JUST have remained safe on goal difference only, had we lost both those matches.
    However, that’s all history and rather typical Boro…….innit?
    Eratum: In my previous post I wrongly quoted 0.973 as EOS 18th position ppm. It should have been 0.947. Sorry – don’t know how that happened, because all my calcs were done using the correct number. (I can’t even use the old Imperial vs metric excuse!)
    **AV writes: Again though, that concentrates on Boro in isolation. The wider picture is that this season, as last season, the fixtures meant that for any one team below Boro to overhaul us would have meant taking points of other teams below us, thus undermining their own hopes.
    And it must be said, hard though it may be to believe, those teams down there were all worse than Boro. Man for man, overall sum of parts, resources in depth, in terms of unity and direction on and off the pitch they were all in worse shape than Boro. Yes, I know, crazy talk, but true.
    And for Boro to go down would have taken at least two and probably three off those teams to suddenly overcome those obstacles and start taking points not just off each other but also the teams in the top eight and above, all while Boro’s admittedly erratic form took a nose-dive. The Premiership is not that kind of league now.
    The dogfight of the last two years has not been pretty but we have always been watching it through our rear view mirror – although that is still too close for comfort.

  40. AV
    You posted that Richard looked at Boro in isolation. Two statisticians were at airport check in and one said to the other ‘do you you know there is a one billion to one chance there is a bomb on this flight’, the other said ‘dont worry I have looked after that, there is a billion billion to one chance there are two and so I have put one in my luggage’.
    The bookies odds of going down suggested we wouldnt, especially after Christmas, but to spend your time in the bottom six or seven is not pushing for europe nor is it comfortable mid table.
    We have to look at what we did because that is what got is into the situation. Keep playing chicken and eventually you will get run over.
    And I repeat, I didnt think we would go down but if Derby, Wigan or Fulham at home had been another Bolton result then we would have been in serious trouble.
    **AV writes: I never for a second suggested there was anything “comfortable” about the situation, just that I never at any point believed Boro wouid go down.

  41. You professional worriers make me laugh. How do you enjoy the games when you are so busy inventing sceanrios that would put Boro down?
    If Bolton win here… if Reading win there… if Fulham get a point… if Chelsea rest big players for the Champions League… if we lose to Portsmouth by more than three and the wind changes direction on a Tuesday… get a life.
    All this talk about people with foam fingers? Maybe they are just enjoying supporting Boro and going to games. You chicken run moaners should try it.
    AV, any thoughts on the Euros?
    **AV writes: Funny you should say that…

  42. AV
    Neither did I but I was very concerned at times because that is what the team thought and played like it.

  43. Forever Dormo:
    That’s twice you’ve come a-fishin’ (or sniffin’ round my secretary)! I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you!
    Great post, Legal Eagle!
    You said, succinctly,
    “The problem with being ahead, but still catchable is that, teams like Fulham occasionally succeed in getting the snookers they require for safety.”
    That’s exactly the “random factor” I highlighted as one of the sources of my personal discomfort and despite AV’s assertions of my posts being entirely Boro-focused, or Boro-isolationist, it was the possibility of the combination of poor Boro results and others below us getting more than their “form” share that was always a concerning possible outcome – however unlikely.
    From other posts on here, I believe that sentiment was shared widely – despite the retrospective macho reassurances from AV.
    Like AV, at the time, I too, considered that on the balance of probability, Boro would remain safe, when the analyses were done.
    However, statistical probability is only a pointer to likelihood of outcome and how one views the situation and FEELS about it, involves emotional reaction and how one responds to the residual uncertainty once the indicative statistics are taken on board. And emotional content is individual.
    And this emotional content results in the range of reactions to being in the situation Boro were in and whether we each considered it to be a “relegation battleâ€? or not.
    THAT was what I was attempting to highlight in my posts.
    One’s “point of viewâ€? (opinion) depends not only on one’s “viewing pointâ€? (perspective), but also on the “filtersâ€? (predispositions) one looks through!
    We’re all different!
    Why do I now feel a Euro blog coming on?
    **AV writes: It should be there. Go to the front page and hit refresh.

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