HERE we go again with a 24 hour rolling news style service to take you right through to panic o’clock. And by 24 hour rolling news I mean passing on unsubstantiated tittle-tattle on a loop and occasionally offering some real concrete developments to be relayed on the official yellow scrolling ticker-tape.
So get the beers in the fridge (we’ll practice downing them in one Ashley style when it gets boring) get the Parmoteria’s number handy for later on and let’s go… but don’t expect much action from Boro. I know we like to usually take it right up to midnight and beyond but this one looks set to be quiet. We have quizzed Gareth repeatedly and at length and he insists straight-faced he is not doing business and unfortunately the NUJ code of conduct forbids us from trussing him up and administering a dose of CIA truth drug sodium pentathol although water-boarding is considered acceptable if deemed in the public interest.
But here’s a good rumour to start you off……..
Mido to Newcastle? Surely not! And, wait for it, not just that but in a straight swap for lip-balmed serial badge-kisser and confirmed non-goalscorer Alan Smith. Come on, you’re taking the Micky now. But no, our contact, a respected “insider” from Tyneside’s soccer soap HQ is swearing down dead it is a goer and that Newcastle are interested in being this year’s Mido panic buyers.
That’s got to be ridiculous. If he wants guaranteed first team football why go to a team where if (and yes, it is a very BIG if) everyone is fit then he would be behind Owen, Martins, Viduka and who knows, maybe Shola Ameobi as well. Wigan makes some sense. But Newcastle? And given the Mapgpies creaking treatment tables can they really afford to add another striker with an injury record as bad as Head Over Heels.
Besides, Boro have spent two years engaged in a scorched Earth policy on the wage bill and successfully trimmed it in line with a prudent approach to the credit crunch so why would we go for a player who snubbed us a year ago and who is on a reputed ÃÂ£60k a week? It doesn’t make sense. Do Newcastle now think the outside world is adopting their own mindset? Anyway, Mido owes us at least one good season of slim-line striking action. Three in three is a good start but the big fella is a year behind on the payback and we couldn’t let him go now without having a ready made replacement lined up.
On the subject of Mido, a digression: the story seeped out today about the gaffer stepping in at the last minute to press the flesh in the Riverside Suite after the striker snubbing the sponsors and failed to do his stint on the post-match meet and greet. The lads in the hot and airless press room were left simmering gently for an hour after the Stoke game before the boss appeared.
“As well as fulfilling his duties as manager on Saturday, Gareth Southgate was also a substitute,” said the Times. “Not as a player – that era has passed – but as a late stand-in at a corporate function at the Riverside Stadium that Mido, his striker, refused to attend. Middlesbrough may have had their best start to a league season for nine years, but harmony remains a fragile concept.”
The Independent added: “I had to fill in for someone who didn’t do the hospitality,” Southgate said, explaining his lateness. Once it became clear who this was, he said: “He’s a very emotional lad and he wants to play. He obviously feels that, having scored three goals in three games, he deserves the right to start.
“He’ll get his opportunity to start very soon. He’s made his case and his attitude has been excellent. He tries very hard to disguise his feelings. But we love him to bits, he makes things happen on the field and you have to accept that all the characters in your team are very different.”
They certainly are. It was the second time that I left to stew after the game because a player wouldn’t do his bit on the PR side. Down in the tunnel Robert Huth had been pencilled in to talk to the Gazette and the club website but he was another no-show. He had already declined to talk to Radio Tees – who had made him man of the match – as he left the pitch. Ever helpful Emanuel Pogatetz, always a willing talker, stepped in and joked “I am here to impersonate Robert although I am not so sure I can do the accent.” As always he talked eloquently with pride and passion and from within an engaging bubble of friendly sincerity. He is a pleasure to deal with – but he can’t be expected to do it every week.
It raises the question as to whether the players should be compelled to talk to the media as a normal part of their working day. It’s not hard is it? Five minutes outside the changies answering easy questions with a safe bat. It is not some sleazy tabloid sting. It is all easy PR for the club. I always think of it not as talking to me but talking to you . The Gazette is the most direct route to 200,000 Teessiders and almost ALL the season ticket holders, the people that ultimately pay their wages and elevate them to heroes. If players can’t be bothered to talk to them via the local paper what signals does that send out? And how can you discipline millionaires over something they see as completely trivial? Anyway, whinge over….
Meanwhile from the twilight zone of text pranksters making merry at tax payers expense, the hugely entertaining BBC on-line interactive deadline day free for all comes a bizarre Boro-related non-starter as a mischevious reader claims: “I have just seen Hamilton Ricard arrive at the KC Stadium. Looks like we won’t be getting Frazier Campbell but at least Ricard has plenty of experience.” Yes, Premiership experience plus he will slot straight in as a younger pair of legs alongside former Boro strike partner Dean Windass.
Last week’s big buzz was over a secret late move for American midfielder Michael Bradley. A selection of taxi-driver deffos and Lambie’s best mate’s daughter’s hairdresser’s cousins’ confirmations suggested he was lurking on Teesside pending the red tape bing thrashed out and it was whispered on Tuesday that he was at the Riverside waiting to be unveiled Alves style to the camera wielding restaurant diners. Alas, that too seems a non-starter as he is now poised for a move to big name side Borussia Monchengladbach.
No news on a keeper. There had been hints last week that with Brad Jones having dislocated his finger that Boro may bring an experienced journeyman shot-stopper just in case but since then David Schwimmer’s Aussie doppleganger has returned to training so the sense of urgency has eased. Former Boro second string shot-stopper Carlo Nash has been “spotted” on Merseyside by the Beeb’s text-telltales and linked with Everton or he may well have done the job. Where’s Mark Crossley these days?
6pm… no ins but one temporary out: Jonathan Grounds has gone to Norwich on loan. Boro have used loans very effectively in recent years starting with the taste of first team action that Stewie Downing got at Sunderland and they are now the norm as Academy graduates are blooded in the big league ready for the Riverside. Two years ago David Wheater had a productive spell at Darlington, Josh Walker scored against Bayern in a successful spell at Aberdeen and Adam Johnson was elected mayor of Watford after his three month stint there last season.
One rumour that wouldn’t go away finally shuffles off sheepishly muttering as Albert Reira finally rushes through a medical and signs at Liverpool to fill a Stewie shaped hole on the left. Door slammed shut on that one then. How I look forward to the Stewie for City rumours in January.
Manchester City rush through the signing of yet another money-no-object billionaire boardroom sugar daddy as Thaksinatra bails out before the extradition papers arrive and the Abu Dhabi United Group complete a buyout before launching on a desperate transfer window trolley dash. Their name and the fact at they immediately make the long expected ÃÂ£30m plus North-west bid for Red Devil-in-waiting Dimitar Berbatov increases suspicions that they have bought the wrong Manchester club.
City have gone mental: as well as Berbatov they have gone on a buy, buy, buy charge down the Mexican foods aisle and are said to have have thrown Pancho Villa, Mario Gomes, Emile Zapata and Subcomandate Marcos in the trolley. Robinho has been mentioned too. It looks like they have no intention of being in the ‘ten items or fewer’ queue come midnight.
Hilariously – and in an object lesson of the crazy nature of the market and the dangers of having money burning a hole in your pocket – Sunderland appear to have shelled out almost ÃÂ£6m to buy back the very same average defender George McCartney that they sold to West Ham for ÃÂ£1m two years ago, presumably to reunite him with ÃÂ£8m Anton Ferdinand and help recreate the famous Hammers defence that was so notoriously, er, watertight last season.
7pm…. The Beeb interactive service turns off the idiot filter and a delusional text gets through: “Ooh, just heard a good rumour (twice) that Spurs want Middlesbrough defender David Wheater. Some dude just texted in to say Spurs have offered ÃÂ£7m plus Michael Dawson, which seems a bit steep to me.”
I think he has either slipped while texting and missed the ‘1’ that goes before the ‘7’ in the fee or misheard the name of the Spurs player being offered in part-ex and it should be Berbatov.
A bit dull Boro wise but if the conspiracists want something to get their teeth into they should consider that if Berbatov goes to Manchester United/City then Spurs need a striker and Emile Heskey is among the candidates which would leave a vacancy at Wigan. And one at Boro too. That said, Mido is en route to play Congo with Egypt so it will take some doing to get him back to the JJB for a medical.
8pm… a quick trip in the car brings babbling fools spouting wild-eyed nonsense only vaguely on nodding terms with reality on the radio. No, not the Three Legends… it is delirious Man City fans trumpeting their imminent cash-fuelled return to glory backed by the new front line of Berbatov and Robinho, impervious to the wave of new dawns that have washed over the club with tidal frequency over recent decades and showing admirable ability to forget the events of just 12 months ago when the last White Knight rode into town pledging to slay the red devil that has devoured their club.
Over on the notoriously mischievous but usually obsessively well informed Fly Me To The Moon board there’s a commendable attempt to whip up some Boro interest as we head into the late shift with a suggestion that Teesside Airport has cleared the decks ready for some late night private charter action. Oh, exciting isn’t it? The Fly Me/airport connection has paid off in the past with an exclusive that Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was in town, probably the last big Boro transfer that genuinely sneaked under the media radar.
9pm… the Berbatov saga is crazy. How funny would it be if he passes the United medical and agrees terms but then Spurs don’t accept their bid but then it is too late to do the City deal? Could Spurs then sue United for the loss of business and a de facto illegal approach. It can’t really be more blatant than giving a medical to a player you have been denied permission to speak to can it? Unless they are sticking to the letter of the law and doing the whole deal through the medium of mime (hmmmm, imagines the Chuckle Brothers Fergie and Berba with the No 7 slap on and doing that stuck in an invisible cube routine….)
10pm… back on SSN after watching Dragons Den and nothing has happened. Poor David Craig, after all that gripping action the last few times he is sat kicking his heels and hoping for Newcastle to unload Joey Barton or Little Micky. Elsewhere, Berbatov is still on the ring road waiting for either Fergie or the Spurs money men to blink. “Jaunde, let me tell you where I am, I like the boy but I’m not sure where you get your valuation from and I’m not sure if I would get a return on my investment and for those reasons, I’m out.”
Has anyone touched down at Teesside airport yet? Does James Harper even have a private jet? The outside bets for Boro activity are falling fast: a Reading source has sent a text to Sky Sports News saying there will be no movement at all there either in or out so Harper is a non-starter while ‘have gloves, will travel’ merchant Carlo Nash has signed for Everton as cover for Tim Howard.
Joey Barton – linked with Portsmouth, Everton and Scottish giants Barlinnie – sends in a text to say he is staying at Newcastle because they have stood by him and owes them a debt of gratitude. Besides, with a 13 game ban coming his way any time now demand is low. Best stay put until January. And Michael Owen wasn’t sold putting him firmly in the driving seat: if he turns down a new deal he can talk to club sin January and leave on a ‘Viduka’ next summer.
Sky Sports are broadcasting footage of Berbatov inside Old Trafford talking to David Gill and Fergie. Have Spurs given him permission to talk to them yet? They’ll have to get a move on if United want to thrash out what would no doubt be a complex deal and get him through a medical in time won’t they? After being filmed shaking hands and chewing the fat razor sharp Gill turns on the telly and seeing himself on the box belatedly decides to shut the blinds while City, in a huff after losing out on the sulky Bulgarian embark on a bit of retail therapy and instead agree a ÃÂ£32m deal to sign Chelsea target Robinho.
11pm… come on Lambie, get your act together. What about the pledge to entertain this year? Text in and tell them that Kerlon and Wagner Love are just coming through passport control in a ÃÂ£22m double deal. Get Boro on the box. Where’s the ambition? What about pulling a Stephen Appiah out of your hat just to give our brand a presence on a big night for profile building and reckless spending?
Madrid have confirmed that Robinho has signed for false dawn specialists Man City in a ÃÂ£32m deal. “He has been crying every time I asked him about it,” said president Ramon Calderon… oh ho. You know that phrase about signing in haste and repenting at leisure? He hasn’t visited the ground, he hasn’t met the boss, he hasn’t had a medical, he hasn’t seen Richard Dunne try to trap a ball… this is Football Manager deal concluded in a rush “for human reasons” – human reasons being a broad brush stroke that covers a multitude of sins: pique, jealousy, anger, penis envy…. he will be misquoted by January, sulking through the run in and at Chelsea for next term.
The Beeb window watch site has Newcastle getting twitchy with reputed last gasp bids of ÃÂ£2m for Giles Barnes of Derby and ÃÂ£2.5 for Matt Kilgallon of Sheffield United in an audacious attempt to top George McCartney as the North-east’s biggest buy of the day.
12 midnight… SLAM. That’s your lot. It has been strange to not be involved but quite funny watching some of the other clubs waste silly money hand over fist. No bombshell departures, no late bids for Downing and despite the bluster no bids for Mido. I’m a bit concerned maybe that we didn’t get a keeper in but hey, free agents can sign at any time so that particular crack can always be papered over later if need be. Now, I’ve got my own deadline to be in bed so I’m out of here.