Big Test After Boss Gong Black Spot

WELL there was an air of inevitability about that wasn’t there?
Having been slipped the black spot of the Manager of the Month award didn’t help – we have enough problems without having to shoulder the burden of history and superstition. More importantly the injuries to Tuncay and Shawky disrupted the continuity of early fluid displays and enforced some changes from the team that has started the season so well while Downing played with his chin on the floor after another demoralising outing as England scapegoat. Throw in the unforced change of Riggott for Wheater and even with a goal start Boro were always going to faced a battle against a fired-up Pompey looking to make up lost ground.


Boro lost the game in midfield (as elaborated by Philip Tallentire in a sharply observed analysis of the game) with Diarra putting in an awesome display that suggests he won’t be at Fratton Park very long: commanding, powerful, inventive, full of energy… he was the most influential player Boro have come up against so far this season and we just couldn’t cope. Didier Digard, who has looked good in his cameos up to now and who consensus claimed was ready for a start, struggled to impose himself while O’Neil’s running and industry was ineffective once Pompey stepped up a gear in the second half.
And another late goal leaked! How many times will that happen? Against Spurs it didn’t have an impact on the result but against Liverpool two in the last five minutes cost a famous away win and a 100% start and the late sucker punch at Pompey took the steam out of our sizzling start.
Now Boro must pick themselves back up for what could be a season defining run of three ‘winnable’ games. A year ago we had just beat Birmingham in a game with 20 odd chances leaving the foam handed fraternity sticking daft tenners on Europe. Then in the next game Boro let in a late leveller at home to Sunderland and started to unravel as they went on a run of four straight defeats and eight without a win that condemned us to a season of treading treacle in the bottom six.
We can’t allow that again. We now have away games at Sunderland and Wigan – our rivals in PL division three and games where we must take points to keep the top half bandwagon rolling – either side of a home game against West Moggawich Albion, a team who will be in the whipping boys section that we really need to put to the sword if we are to justify the hype. Those games and the £42 a head Carling Cup trip to Manchester United Reserves can go a long way to shape the mentality of the season. Come through with six or seven points and progress in the cup and we are flying and spirits will be bubbling. Limp through with two or three points and crash out of the cup and we will be writing the season of as another false dawn.
Yes we have mounting injuries to a thin and fragile looking squad – if the knock to Digard is serious then with Shawky and Arca also sidelined it leaves us light in the holding role in midfield in particular – but we knew from the off that would happen at some point. How we cope with the problem is the first big test so far of the new flexible young Boro squad, the resurgent mentality and the manager of the month.
Meanwhile, TWO Boro goals FOR in the Match of the Day Goal of the Month competition! And only one against! Is this some kind of record?

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46 thoughts on “Big Test After Boss Gong Black Spot

  1. We simply were not good enough yesterday. Injuries obviously weakened us from the off but there should have been enough out there to cope with Pompey. One shot on target tells the whole story. 1st half we were making the most of their 3 at the back but when Harry changed things to 4 at the back we looked clueless.
    Stewy clearly has a confidence issue (not surprising!) and should have been subbed when he was rubbing his shin or even bolder for Gareth perhaps should have been on the bench (ironically the alledged Jinky moans may have imploded). Hoyte looks to be absolutely lost at this level so far and has me wondering did Arsene swap him with a look-a-like just before he flew up. GON and Shawky struggled against Stoke’s midfield so I dont think the loss of Shawky is a major factor, GON’s in and out of form (often in the same game) and thats one of the reasons we struggled. Aliadiere has to start influencing games more and producing telling passes/crosses into the box and/or nicking a goal himself. Alves has the ability we all know that but like Keane at Liverpool and Arsenal’s Adebyor (up until yesterday) is struggling to look like a 20 goals a season striker despite his wonderous free kick.
    All of the above observations are indicative of how thin the squad is. We are better than yesterday’s offering, much better in fact but when 3 or 4 players are off form or out of sorts then we do not have the strength in depth to rotate. Once Hoyte settles and Stewy learns the way to repond to abuse is not to look inwards but go out and produce his best startling form silencing his critics then things will improve. Aliadiere will get better, Alves will get a hat trick, Mido hopefully will keep scoring, Tuncay and Arca will regain fitness. Turnbull put in a good shift and slowly looks to be gaining in both his own and the fans confidence.
    Refereeing decisions went against us yesterday but thats nothing new, we are far too nice. Referees know that a controversial decision against the Boro will result in players looking dejected at best and followed by a polite post match interview with the Manager (perhaps Gareth should take a leaf out of another managerial novice’s book just up the road). Whilst this is very sporting it is not what happens with Manchelsearsepool Utd and brings them more than their fair share of penalty/offside/booking decisions, over a season that’s probably half a dozen points or so, or to us Uefa cup or 13th oblivion!
    Just one question, where was Emnes yesterday? was he injured or Awol?

  2. Disappointing yesterday, but 6 points from the first 4 games added to some of the performances is still a decent start.
    Tuncay could be a massive loss so lets hope his injury isn’t too bad.
    I think Southgate got selection a bit wrong yesterday as well, Taylor should have played left back, with Poga in the middle, though I expect he is reluctant to keep swapping Poga from left to middle every week.

  3. Why no Wheater? You’ve always got to play your best players. Wheats can’t be tired after a two week break? Was it just to give Riggott a game?
    Where was Emnes? Not even on the bench. He looked good against Yeovil and probably deserves at least a run out off the bench.
    Why put Taylor on for Digard after the injury? I know he has played they for the ressies but not in the Prem. Why not stick Walker on? That’s his position.
    A few injuries has shown that we actually have a very small squad and though its nice to stick one of the young kids on once in a while you wouldn’t like to have to rely on two or three of them at once and we are not far away from that now.
    I bit my tongue last week when everyone was ra-raring over the start but I was always worried that a few injuries would leave us exposed and it has happened earlier than I thought. Its looking dodgy in the middle now.
    Hope Digard is OK in time for the big games coming up. Especially the mackems. We need to get something there to keep the momentum up.

  4. In regards to O’Neil, he did very well in the previous games this season. I
    was one of those criticizing him last season, and supposedly he was distracted
    by personal issues which he has corrected.
    I think that it was simply a matter of him not doing well in his return to his
    former club. I think that players who leave feeling they were not given a chance often end up performing well against their old clubs – such as Aliadiere.
    But O’Neil liked Portsmouth and vice versa, and I think he had mixed feelings
    about playing against them.
    The big problem is Downing. When he plays well, there is, of course, no
    problem.
    But, when he does not play well, then all of Southgate’s methods seem to not
    apply to him. There is no “competition for places” when it comes to Downing –
    he should have been replaced at 60:00 by Johnson. When 70:00 arrived and there was still no substitution, I was baffled. When Johnson came on with about 10 seconds left in the match, IT WAS STILL NOT FOR DOWNING.
    Alves has continued to be sub-par, but he did have the assist, and the only difference between yesterday’s free kick and the one where he scored was that Crouch is much taller! The ball went in the exact same path, but Crouch headed it away, where anyone else would not have reached it (check the video if you don’t believe me).
    So, continuing with Alves was defensible, especially considering the lack of fit strikers, but if I were Johnson, if he doesn’t start the next match, I would submit a formal transfer request.
    to Neil M – Wheater had tonsilitis.
    to AV: please answer:
    – Where was Emnes ??
    – And please comment on why Downing never gets substituted, no matter how poorly he plays.

  5. That was our hardest game so far, we were given the run around by a good side and if you listen to the faint-hearts (after one poor game) we were battered.
    But even if it was a bad day at the office we only just lost out through some bad luck and bad refereeing.
    The ball screwed of Stewie and it could have gone anywhere. We should have had a stonewall penalty. They scored when we had one down injured and one still on the touchline after treatment.
    Not making excuses, we got beat by a good, strong athletic. But those who think we were taken apart and the season is falling to bits should look at the reality. That was our worse game so far but we only lost out by a whisker.

  6. Southgate got it wrong. He made mistakes in his selection (Riggs in rather than stick with regular back four) then was slow to react when Harry changed from wing-backs at the break and sat back even though they were creating a lot of chances and the goal was going to come.
    We are getting into a bad habit of nicking a goal when we are on top then retreating to our 18 yard line and crossing our fingers and hoping they don’t score. It isn’t working.
    We can’t do that at Sunderland. They have had an poor start and have been awful at home. We need to get at them and get two, three, four goals. If we get one and sit back it will cost us and then our good start will be wasted.

  7. A good start to the season and no reason to panic yet, but the Portsmouth game revealed two major weaknesses for me.
    The first being that our keeper was way, way out of his deapth. He looked like a headless chicken at times, and GS’s decision not to buy a new keeper will absolutely come back to haunt him and for me it will undo all of the good work GS has done.
    The second being our never ending ability to shut out games. For me this is due to a lack of managerial experience and knowledge.
    That said, GS seems to be a quick learner so let’s hope he gets on top of this soon.
    GS fully deserved his recent award and let’s hope that the Portsmouth game is just a blip and not the state of things to come.
    TB

  8. I repeat the thoughts of Wenger defending Fergie during a bad spell for ManU, we are not as good nor are we as bad as the papers say we are.
    Portsmouth deserved to win, they were 15 points clear of us last season and that was after stopping playing as the FA Cup final approached. The result was no surprise.
    Interestingly Uncle Eric talked about our young squad being energetic and not prone to injuries. I suppose that includes Huth, Mido, Arca, Digard – is his injury the same as deprived him most of last season? – Pogo, Tayls, Riggott, Shawky, Tuncay, O’Neill, Bates, McMahon who have all had long spells on the sidelines. Even Downing had a long spell out under Mac.
    I watched and listened with interest the Sunday Supplement on SkySports. Ian Ridley from The Mail stated that fans should be realistic, most teams had no chance of getting into the Champions League and should just go along and enjoy the football. Hard to take but true as long as we see some decent performances. The problem is that the longer you are in that position then complacency/disatisfaction sets in.
    Still Mackems next and we face a different team to last season. So far we have largely had results that we expect to get, lets hope we dont get the usual last gasp goal to spoil the weekend.

  9. I mentioned the last time I posted on here that I could never remember a situation when we had only one outfield player [Arca] injured. Needless to say it has come back to haunt us all.
    Southgate said in his post match interview that 4 players had returned from international duty injured-Tuncay Shawky Emnes Williams -a quite unbelievable statistic. Add Wheater’s tonsilitis and it really is not surprising that we had a hard time particularly losing Digard during the game.
    Tony Black are you on the same planet as everybody else. In all newspapers Turnbull is given our top mark and he received the man of the match on the radio.
    Like most fans I’m right behind the manager and what he is trying to do. He needs a modicum of luck regarding injuries. However he is not beyond criticism. In pre season Josh Walker did very well in midfield. When Digard went off Taylor a left back was brought on to replace him and as you would expect looked like a fish out of water. I’d love somebody to ask him to explain the logic of that substitution.

  10. Having been to the game on Saturday the following points have been said before but why is nothing been addressed to sort out the following: having gone one nil up (again) why does the team not ‘kick-on’ and go for the juglar, Portsmouth were there for the taking (on their 1st half performance)and we should and could of killed them off but again as said by so many we sat back and did not impose ourselves.
    The tactics have to be questioned. The game plan was obvious – goal kicks from Turnbull – route one to Mido for a knock down header – great – even Alves was demonstrating to Turnbull to throw the ball out and get the ball on the deck, especially since Distin was having a good game for them. So tactically Gareth, you have to stop being so one dimensional.
    Going onto the substitutions, Downing was having a stinker, fair enough, but bring Johnson on and create a spark – give Portsmouth something to think about, but no, they gave us something to think about with 2 second half substitutions – change of formation and we could not cope – we were simply ‘battered’ in the second half and the scoreline could of been a lot worse.
    I could not understand the point of putting Taylor in midfield – why didn’t he even move Downing inside and let Johnson loose on the wing to give them a bit of a run around. After supporting Boro and attending games for over 35 years it was back to earth with a bump – but the most annoying thing is (on the 1st half performance) it was a game we were quite capable of winning because Portsmouth were poor first half and we had a great opportunity to go and score again and kill them off.
    If only we could finish teams off and kill the game. The support the Boro fans gave is also worthy of a mention because again in the first half the Pompey fans were silent and that was down to Boro controlling the game – if only (If only, if only …. nothing ever changes being a Boro fan does it !!!!)
    The dissapointment is that GS ( and I am a fan of his and believe he will do well for us)did not use his substitutions to any effect and he has to do something about the ‘Downing’ situation – drop him – give him a run out in the Reserves for a couple of games to get the lads confidence back and keep him involved on the bench for a week or 2 – it will not do him any harm in the long run.
    It is all down to man-management and making players realise – no matter who they are – that if things are going wrong – take stock – et back to a few basics and start again. Any idea where Emnes was??

  11. Jesus wept. Drop our best player and make him play in the reserves to give him his confidence back???? What planet are some people on.
    I expect that sort of rubbish on fmttm, but not on here.

  12. Beamish Boro.
    For any supporter to think that we can find a better chairman than Gibson suggests to me that they do not read the papers.Look at the shenanigans at all the other clubs that have brought in wealthy owners to see what problems they bring with them.Just look up the road to see what happens when you bring in “new money” to try and buy success.
    I’m sick of listening to stupid comments like this every time a result goes against us.

  13. Agree with Peter Thompmson in his summing up of the game except the Downing comment. Arguably our clubs best player and our finest creator of assists, his form is bound to dip but he has done enough for us to stick with him for a few games.
    The first half was very encouraging with Digard, O’Neil and Huth the stand outs (Huth was immense) and Riggott looked good. For all our neat play though we didn’t create anything and never looked like scoring a second. Harry was bound to change it second half, and quite frankly we got battered.
    Alves has got to work much harder defensively and that was the biggest disappointment. O’Neil tried valiantly but Diarra was on another level in the second half. Can’t understand why Josh Walker didn’t replace Digard; what message does that send to Walker – and Taylor looked lost!
    Turnbull, apart from the first goal was excellent, safe handling and saved two one-on-ones. To say he was poor is crass – nothing less. Perhaps the most telling point is that they brought on £7.5 million pounds worth of subs at half time whereas we brought on two 19 year old academy lads. Financially we cant compete with Pompey and the quality of the 2 benches was evidence of that. Our squad is thin, especially in midfield and Gareths gamble may yet haunt us.
    Last note; the fans were superb. 1100 of us silenced the much lauded hosts (only 18.5k of them 3 games after winning the cup!)though sadly only for an hour!

  14. Although there was nothing wrong with the effort put in against Pompey, there were a couple of negative aspects to our game. Firstly, though Mido played well, having him on the pitch seems to be just too great a temptation for the rest of the team to hit the ball high and long and hope he’ll get the knock down. It worked once for the goal, but mostly it just concedes possession. We have to be more disciplined, get the ball on the floor and hold onto it better. We missed Tuncay a lot.
    Secondly, our passing was poor. Some of GON’s passing is astonishing – it seems to be worst when he’s under the least pressure. You have to remind yourself sometimes that George Boateng has left the club. Redcar Red put it well – his form fluctuates over the span of mere minutes. If he sees two red shirts in a given direction, he passes the ball between them. I think it’s related to his lack of composure? / luck? in front of goal, he just needs to apply a little more deliberation.
    As for JP’s suggestion of playing Downing with GON in midfield against Sunlun, the idea fills me with dread! Given how easily the Portsmouth players skipped passed GON as if he wasn’t there, and Downing’s insubstantiality in the tackle, you might as well play a tumbleweed wrestling a ghost.
    I think Turnbull did well for the most part, so I don’t know what TB saw that bothered him so much. Plus ça change.

  15. On a lighter note in some ways it is disappointing that Dubai International Capital did not buy Toon. I would have luvved, just luvved it, to see 50,000 geordies with DIC on their shirts.
    As for our injuries it is a worry we have no central midfield but the huge loss is Tuncay in the hole with his immense work rate putting midfield and defence under pressure. Complaining about Alves and Mido working back is irrelevant, it is not their style to do so. Yes they will help but no more than that.
    Having so many players down with knee injuries is a worry, one suspects long term absences but at least we have ‘state of the art’ witch doctor facilities. Someone will be checking the entrails of chickens as we blog before giving them two paracetamol and telling them to run it off.

  16. In the first few minutes of the first half Alves nearly put us ahead against Pompy and they never looked like scoring although it seemed we couldnt keep the ball for any period of time.
    Diarra was clearly a level above any other player on the park throughout the match and when Harry changed it at half time we really needed to do something as they were going to score.
    I was singing /yelling all match long, its better than antibiotics when you have a sinus infection let me tell you, but I think that at the moment Mido went down with Digard already waiting to come on I would have pushed Digard back on if I was Southgate -regardless of the rookie ref-as we were wide open.
    Once Mido went down holding his face from an accidental elbow from Crouchy it seemed our lads switched off waiting for someone to stop the match. That would have been the time for a more experienced player to commit a professional foul to stop the Pompy attack until we got organised.
    This may sound very cynical folks but its a part of the Prem. Rochemback used to do it for us last season. It was a crucial turning point of the match as it gave them more belief.
    If we had a decent bench then Digard would have been subbed straight away though as it was clear that he would not be able to compete in a game we were losing any control of!
    Regarding the central midfield gap I agree with the other lads on here- move Downing inside and bring on Johnson from the bloody start! Give the lad a chance for gods sake.
    No more late goals either please !
    PS to all Wheater fans who were not at the match Riggot was top notch calmly cutting out lots of attacks. But with the midfield second best big time [ even with oNeil working his socks off ]it became mission impossible.
    Tuncay was the man who would have improved our shape pace and overall performance I think. Mido is on fire but Alves and Mido together offer no pace.
    Mido looked more like a Prem striker pushing and holding off defenders.
    A few lads commented at the match about Alves’s lack of competitive drive, well at least he wont get injured. GET STUCK IN YOU BUGGER

  17. Saturday’s result was a reality check I think. We now lie in eigth place having won two and lost two. The season is shaping up into one where the home form is good and the away form not so, but its still too early to see how it will pan out. The signs are still positive though, in the two away games we have more than held our own overall, the trick is to learn to be more positive as the game progresses and to not concede late in a game.
    Looking forward I concur with JP, playing Downing in the ‘Zenden’ role with Johnson outside him sounds like a good bet, the obvious place to try it out is away to Man Utd reserves.

  18. Reply to Borophil regarding Downing. I would like to expand on the Downing debate. Have the days gone (unfortunately I do not get to see anymore Reserve games these days due to living away) when the Reserves could be used for a Player to build his confidence back by either scoring a couple or for Downing especially to getting more space and getting a few runs to the by-line (which he does not do enough and I would love him to have the confidence to do more because we all know he has the ability)?
    Also is the problem that he is guaranteed his place every week (even though GS states every position is up for grabs) and very rarely gets subbed even when he is having a ‘stinker’?
    For Saturday hope GS does not go for Taylor in midfield, give Josh Walker a chance or play it safer with Stewie in there (as long as he doesn’t get injured in the Reserves!)

  19. JC Wrote…
    ” I think Turnbull did well for the most part, so I don’t know what TB saw that bothered him so much. Plus ça change. ”
    Plus ca change ???? I’m sure I gave plenty of positives in my post. That said many fans are yet again left in utter shock at yet another collapse when in front and conceding late on. So yes, you’re absolutely right… Plus ca change Boro, plus ca change.
    So you didn’t see him scramble way out to his left into no man’s land only to see the ball passed right across his open goal just needing a tap in for the goal ?
    If this isn’t bad goalkeeping then I really don’t know what is.
    TB

  20. The other one if we are desperate in central midfield is put Wheater in as a holding player allowing O’Neil to go forward more.
    Wheats is a great player and I think he would be more solid than Taylor and it would be great to have more power in the box for corners and free kicks –

  21. I can’t see Stewart Downing filling any role in any football club in the world where he is required to win ball. It’s absolutely NOT his strength. When he’s on his game, he’s strictly a creative player with occasional left-back hole-filling, holding, defensive capabilty.
    Don’t under any circumstances expect Stewart Downing to make tough, possession-winning tackles in midfield or rely on him to risk his limbs for the cause. It ain’t gonna happen! He’s not that kind of player.
    And especially, don’t even think about experimenting with it against Sunderland – he’ll get killed! – or in what is likely to be our best chance of a crack at a European place this season – next week’s mid-week trek to AIG’s biggest customer!
    That is, of course, the plug ain’t pulled on Manure’s line of credit before the match and the Glaiser’s find themselves calling in the glaziers!
    Just as well Arsenal didn’t have to bank on Lehmann, eh? (Yes, I know it’s spelled differently!)
    Incidentally, I believe it’s why Adam Johnson hasn’t yet been used as much as perhaps he would like. He’s not big enough or strong enough to play in a tough, ball-winning capacity. He’s a Stewart Downing, more of the same, with quicker feet but slightly less composure. Not yet the complete Premier League article – a bit like Aaron Lennon.

  22. Peter,
    I just don’t think dropping Downing would do any good whatsoever – and obviously players can’t be un-droppable, but they also need to know that they will not be left out after the first poor performance, which interestingly was something that Adam Johnson came out with last season.
    I’d love to think that we could bring Stewie inside and play Johnson on the left, but I just can’t it working, and if it was a possibility surely Gareth had the perfect opportunity at the start of the season.
    Having said that, I probably thought the same about Zenden.

  23. It’s all coming home to roost now. We all knew in the summer they had got shot of three central/holding midfielders and only brought one in. We all knew the squad was thin and inexpereinced. We knew apart from the Brownlee Brigade and the foam handers.
    Now four games in and a few knocks and we are looking at Mr Inconsistent GON in the middle alongside a young left back, or a winger, or a kid with one first team appearance, or God help us, someone even suggested Wheater.
    When they got rid of Rocky and Boat to save a few bob they should have brought in one quality MF with PL pedigree. They still would have been quids in. Instead they got a foreigner with a poor injury record and crossed their fingers.
    I was embarrased last week when everyone on here was talking about Europe. Will you lot never learn?

  24. The result on Saturday wasn’t surprising. As someone posted, they finished 15 points ahead of us last season, and Diarra is a class act.
    I’m still reasonably comfortable for the rest of the season – 9th or 10th.
    Good to see our top scorer has 4 goals already in 5 games…and he’s a striker. I wonder how many games it took us to get to that milestone last year. Stewie would have been first, and Tuncay the first striker…anyone?
    Some observations from round the traps…
    – re the goalkeeper debate, I notice that Paul Robinson, one time favourite of multiple posters has conceded 8 in the last two games. In fact both of the highly favoured keepers (the other one being Carson) have conceded more than Jones & Turnbull so far this season.
    – I see Viduka is injured again!!
    – I notice Woodgate has also spent as much time on the treatment table as on the pitch, although he was back last night to steer his new team carefully to the bottom of the league.
    – and least surprising of all, I see Cattermole got sent off at the weekend!
    Overall I think the club has been doing good business for the last couple of seasons. Of course, not everyone that has left (or didn’t come in) is suffering a bad time…Yak keeps banging them in for Everton, and it was nice to see James Morrison notch at the weekend, but all in all I think our decision making has been better than average recently, which is why I remain quietly confident (if not foam handed).

  25. I think we are in danger of a return to square peggism.
    With Shawky, Digard one leg and Arca all likely to be sidelined we are short in central midfield.
    One choice is to play someone out of position which is a flawed philosophy, something we have railed about in the past.
    The alternative is to play Josh Walker, a professional footballer who gets paid to ply his trade in central midfield. If he is good enough to get a contract, squad number, play at Aberdeen and get rave reviiews, to let several central midfielders leave the club, look good when he we see him in occasional first team action then you either play him or rip up his contract.

  26. Blimey one defeat and the bickering has started! Doesn’t take much to get us going!
    GS clearly has a couple of options for the midfield, GON is a shoe in, so is Aliadiere on the right, so its two from three of Downing, Johnson and Walker.Downing is also a shoe in who had one poor game perhaps because he was cheesed off at the way he was treated when with England. He’ll get over that, dropping him because he had one poor game would be utter madness and it won’t happen.

  27. Ian, complaining about Alves and Mido not working back is certainly not irrelevant. Its like saying ‘saving shots at all costs is not Brad Jones’ game’; it flippin’ well should be! The team needs to defend as a unit. The Pompey back 4 had too much time on the ball to work the ball through midfield setting up wave after wave of attacks.
    I understand what you mean but he needs to work at it to make sure his contribution to the team is greater. Certainly with the shortage of experience in midfield, it needs to be.

  28. Point taken Andy but the problem we have is that they are a bit like Yak and Viduka, they will do their work in the box and off the centre backs shoulder. You need a complementary player such as Tuncay alongside one of them. Teams dont normally play two out and out strikers anymore, one normally drops off into the hole.
    And that is why Tuncay is a huge loss, his work rate is exemplary. There are not many who can keep that up or are even suited for it.
    Come Saturday I suspect we will see a five man midfield. Certainly Downing can tuck in but not as holding type player but part of a central three with Walker holding (as I stated above that is what we pay him for, dont try to force someone into that role) and O’Neill doing box to box work. Jinky left, Aliadiere wide right. Alves or Mido up front.
    We may have some miraculous recoveries to change everything round.

  29. I’d back Walker for midfield – if he can’t get in the side with so many injuries, when will he ever? Surely he’s more suited there than Taylor. I suspect the midfield 5 of Ian’s is the best option.
    TB – yes, Turnbull did slip up as you describe, which is why I wrote “for the most part”. I’m not yet sure if he’ll make it at PL level, and was as surprised as others here that we didn’t get an experienced keeper in the summer, but I’m prepared to give him and Jones time before writing them off, and Turnbull has been OK as far as I’ve seen when he’s played.
    We’d give oufield youths a lot more time to establish themselves; let’s give the keepers a chance too.
    Plus ça change – because you do tend to be overcritical of at least one person or aspect of the club. It is hard to be critical of GS or SG at the moment (although that will change at times during the season, no doubt), so it’s the rookie keeper’s turn. I define “overcritical” as being more critical than the average poster on here, so my statement is objectively true!
    I’m not necessarily complaining; it’s simply your style to do so! It takes different opinions to make a good blog.

  30. I regard last season’s corresponding first fixture with Sunderland as one that defined the rest of Boro’s season and it almost got us relegated. If I was picking the team for next Saturday, my primary – probably sole – criterion for selection would be player “robustness”. Keane sent his players on a commando course to prepare for the encounter last year and we have to be prepared for a highly physical onslaught once again, especially in light of our current vulnerabilities.
    I would replace Alves, I would replace Downing and, most of all, I would get rid of that clown Hoyte and replace them all with people who are ready to die for the cause. It might mean filling the team with academy graduates but if we go down, at least we’ll go down fighting.
    Let’s do something totally unexpected and define Sunderland’s season for them this time round, if that’s the way they want it.

  31. Well at least the midfield problems and the Boro knack of shipping a goal or two in th last five minutes of a game have given us something to get our teeth into!
    AV’s piece in the Gazette on our away form over the past couple of seasons hits the nail on the head in terms of what we need to improve on to have a good season. I suspect that to make the top ten we will need five away wins. I’m not sure Boro have ever recorded more in a prem. season.
    Still, its early days, the away form may come good and there are still grounds for optimism, when the season started we all anticipated debating the goalkeeping issue which currently is no issue.
    Looking further a field the Barcodes continue to be an ongoing source of amusement and I see Spurs have had a blinding start to the season, Woodie must be pleased he opted to join a progressive club which was going to challenge for a place in Europe rather than play for a team languishing in the bottom third or indeed even rooted in the relegation places………..

  32. I think the only option for us on Saturday is a 5 man midfield and that picks itself, Ali, GON, Walker,Stewy and Jinky. There is absolutely no way Stewy can play alongside GON in a 4 man midfield, tackling and Stewy just don’t go in the same sentence.
    Presumably then Gareth would start with Alves up front on his own but I would go with Mido for his physical presence. We can always bring Alves on if we are chasing the game later but Saturday will not be pretty.
    Wheater obviously needs to come back alongside Huth but if Hoyte still looks rocky I might be tempted to give Riggot a go at RB he would also add another threat at set pieces considering our likely one striker scenario.
    Goalkeeping I’m not convinced yet but in fairness to Turnbull he is doing a lot better than I originally feared so lets hope he has a blinder this time at the SOS.
    Outside desperate hopes maybe that Emnes is fit after his calf strain (?) and Arca comes through the reserves this week unscathed and can put in 45 minutes?

  33. Gilly, I totally agree that our best attack would have Tuncay dropped in next to front striker he was badly missed at Fratton Park.
    As Andy [Hants] said the Pompy defence were under no pressure at the back when they had the ball and were allowed to build attacks.
    I also think that Tuncay’s effort inspires the rest of the team to play up.
    Tayls in midfield is a weird one and it will be interesting to see how Southgate copes with the line up and bench for the next match.
    I hope these injuries dont derail our progress too much. Reading’s Steve Harper now looked like a good option in a very competitive league , not to mention cup matches.
    One things for sure …..
    ‘Theres only one Tuncay’

  34. Playing Taylor in midfield would be akin to playing Southgate as a holding centre midfielder, and what manager in their right mind would do that?
    If Walker can do it in the SPL then surely he can do it at the SOS, lets not make this a lesson to be learnt.
    Again.

  35. On a different note: let’s think of a situation in which you had to sell a football club in a hurry.
    Let’s say you had bought in haste and had been hoping to enjoy the purchase at leisure. Let’s say the club hadn’t won a domestic trophy for generations – since the 1950’s with post-war austerity still a reality and a maximum wage for players who might have travelled to home games on the same busses as the fans.
    To have been present at that last Wembley triumph, and to be able to remember it, the current fans of the club would have to be retired or be on the verge of retirement! The last piece of silverware of any description (ie the Inter City Fairs Cup win) was a few weeks before Man first stepped foot on the Moon in 1969! The flower power years! Almost a different lifetime.
    With a large 21st Century fanbase eager for a return to successful football, and a Messiah to mastermind the job, it must have all seemed to be looking so positive to our hasty investor. However, in almost the time it takes to drink a pint of (non-alcoholic) lager, the dream turned into a nightmare.
    Alleged mafiosi from the dark and distant south, terrifying images of an evil dwarf forcing the returning Saviour to the ege of the cliff – all these horrors and more filled the Faithful with dread. The natives were revolting, and journalists looking for a vox pop had to beat the hordes back, to get out with their lives.
    A fire-sale suddenly loomed.
    Any possible purchaser might want to look at the books. The buyer might want to see what has been happening to their possible purchase over the last few decades. The buyer might want to do some market research on the potential customers (but will the pollsters want to risk the safety of their staff in such a turbulent place?). The prospective purchaser might want to look at the assets (ie the players – some of whom might seem to be Rover 45’s bought at Mercedes prices), and might be fearful of their massive contracted running costs.
    In all the circumstances, could there have been a worse time to be hawking such a football club around the world in search of a buyer – ANY buyer?
    Has anyone noticed the global credit crunch? With Investment and other Banks hitting the rocks (Bear Stearns wasn’t that long ago, the Northern Rock should have been local enough not to have been forgotten yet, and the corpse of Lehman Brothers still twitching….), with global share prices looking decidedly downwards and people queuing to get places on the ledges of the tall buildings on Wall Street and the City?
    What a time to be trying to sell a turkey for £400M. Times are hard. Some say it might get as bad as the 1930’s. There has to be a fear it will all end in tears. So forgive some of us trying to gaim some little comfort from events up the coast. You could not make it up!

  36. borospark
    I seem to remember Kevin Keegan playing Southgate in a holding midfield role for England! It may even have been KK’s very last game as England manager – defeat by Germany at Wembley.
    But as you say, what manager in his right mind ……. ! Yet another piece of mystic Messiah management!

  37. Time to be Boronoid.
    The FA disciplinary panel has excelled once again. If Mark Halsey refused to rescind John Terry’s red card how come they overturned the decision? It was a clearly premeditated, cynical act designed to deny an advantage to the opponent. Result is an escape from a ban.
    Aliadiere is banned an extra match for a frivolous appeal for barely touching Mascherano. Previously Mikkel had elbowed an opponent, was found guily, appealed and just got the three match ban.
    Guthrie kicks a player, decides he didnt kick him enough so goes back and scythes him down breaking his leg and putting him out of football for months. Result three match ban.
    Do I think it is anti Boro and pro big club? My heart tells me yes but my brain tells me the people who run our game are incompetent.
    Where Fergie is correct is that Chelsea and Arsenal seem to have different rules applied to those ManU get (never mind the fact Manu and Lpool have different rules to the rest of us).

  38. If a Man U or Chelsea player did what Danny Guthrie did to the Hull lad, the Hull lad would probably have been told to shut up and stop making an unneccessary fuss.
    **AV writes: And booked to boot.

  39. My post yesterday seems to have been eaten by AV’s aether-dwelling wordivores, but I just wanted to back Josh Walker for the midfield slot. That point is probably now moot, since it looks like Digard will be fit.
    I’d also be happy to see the 5 man midfield that has been suggested – we’re going to need some scrappers in there though if we’re going to get anything from the match.
    TB – note I wrote that Turnbull was solid for the most part. Let’s give these young keepers the time we would give young outfield players to settle in before we become too critical.

  40. David Moyes’s case is just the latest in a never-ending series of examples of refereeing inadequacies. All could have been avoided if audio-visual technology was used routinely to provide the referee and his “assistants” with more information with which to make a correct call.
    Managers and players (and supporters for that matter) would have no cause for frustrated remonstration, knowing that justice had been done.
    And maybe then, relationships between the officials and club management will be mutually respectful – most of the time. And teams will get what the deserve – not what the officials decide to give them – or not – knowing that it’s correct and having the righteousness of certainty behind them.
    Someone should take a civil action out against Guthrie of Newcastle. This was a serious common assault. There was never intention to play the ball. There was clear intent to harm Craig Fagan. He ought to be prosecuted in law, just as his thuggish team-mate Barton was. There’s absolutely no room for behaviour like that on a football field and anything short of bringing charges of GBH against this idiot will be a complete whitewash by all the “authorities” in the game and by society in general.
    What the hell is WRONG with the dumplings at the FA – handing out a trivial 3-match ban to a complete thug who broke a guy’s leg by kicking him with deliberate intent! Even if the guy hadn’t suffered a broken leg, it shouldn’t matter. It’s the actions that ought to be severely penalised. The extent of the resultant damage is only relevant in compensation cases.
    The world’s gone crazy!

  41. Richard
    I couldn’t agree more! It was only a matter of weeks ago that a young Man Utd player got zillions in compensation from Boro’s insurers because of a reckless tackle that ruined his career. What Guthrie did was horrendous and could easily have ended the guy’s playing days. Yet he gets the standard 3 match ban.
    And as for Terry, words fail me. He doesn’t even get a yellow card now! The FA is just unbelievably incompetent….or unbelievably biased.
    Forever Dormo
    I know we’ve had some fun at the Geordie’s expense (with lots more to come, I’m sure!), but saying that the natives are revolting is perhaps going a touch too far! Then again, when you see those ghastly fat bare bellies with King Kevin tattooed around the navel, I can see where you’re coming rom …….

  42. Richard
    It looks like Guthrie will be the subject of private legal action by Fagan.
    Normally the courts should be kept out of sport. The problem with Guthrie was the intent. The first challenge was similar to that of Morrison on Ronaldo, a silly tackle borne out of frustration and would have justified a card in its own rights.
    Going back for a second swipe from behind was a premeditated, physical assault. It was the same as Thatchers assault which resulted in a six match ban.
    Interesting that the FA are taklking about sliding penalties next season, now there will be an opportunity for some Boronoia, Aliadiere would have been banned sine die (I think that is how you spell it).

  43. Pat Mc – I agree and expect to see Riggot playing on Saturday, he had a good match against Pompey and deserves to retain his place. It will also be beneficial for Wheater to sit on the bench draw breath and take stock of how far he has come in such a short time. He will also benefit from knowing he’s not an automatic choice.
    With regard to Guthrie what he did is beneath contempt, a six game ban in my opinion would be inadequate, for that sort of pre-meditated vindictive ‘tackle’ a ten game ban has got to be a minimum. He also deserves to go to court and suffer the consequences. For him to apologies and say he acted out of character is utterly inadequate.

  44. There is NO WAY Chrissy Riggot should lose his place for the Sunderland match He was imense at Fratton Park!
    His positioning and timing hardly gave them a sniff , Defoe with the ball at his feet in form will give most defences and keepers a torrid time-
    If Weater is fully fit then Hoyte should step aside as he was more than shy against Pompy.
    Up The Boro.

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