Derby Daze….. Sunderland And The Shifting Sands Of Parochial Pride.

IS THE Sunderland game a derby? Only if we win.
A victory either way will prompt metaphorical jubilant hand-gestures from an aural open topped bus parade on the Three Legends on one side and furiously feigned indifference on the other. If either team take the three points it will spark either bouts of gleeful triumphalism or a series of history and geography lessons proving conclusively the result is irrelevant. We all know the script; the scoreline just determines who plays which role.

Of course it this a derby. Denial of that by ideologues on both sides is just the dark arts of soccer spin doctors trying to distance themselves from the glaringly obvious fact: this is a match of paramount parochial importance. It is pre-emptive damage limitation aimed at reducing the pain should the unthinkable happen.
Derbies are not about distance, not now anyway. Historically it was always taken to mean games within the same city: Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, Bristol, Milan, Rome, Glasgow all have derbies. Those games still have the power to divide communities and still stand for local pride, intense passion and high-profile policing.
By those strict criteria Boro are from a one team town and have never had a true derby – unless you count a few Victorian skirmishes with the mighty Ironopolis. Yet we all know there are teams it matters more we should win against. Or at least not lose.
When I was a kid it was Leeds. With Boro in division two coach loads of Teessiders headed south wearing their smiley badge sock tags every other week, the glory hunting Man United fans of their day. Playground pride demanded we beat them above all.
Of course, that was when Middlesbrough was still very much politically and culturally part of Yorkshire. As we know the entire town was moved several miles north in 1968 in an act of bureaucratic feng shui to become part of a different entity and so new rivalries have been created.
Some may argue Boro have only ever played eight real league derby games, against Darlington in 1925-26, 26-27, 66-67 and 1986-87 (won seven, drawn one). These football fundamentalists are backward Luddites who need a sharp dose of the new reality.
The world is bigger now, our horizons wider and social mobility and transport links have blurred ancient loyalties that were once sharply defined by the city boundary. The concept of the derby game has been broadened. We have Thames Valley derbies, East Midlands derbies, South Coast derbies, M62 derbies – and most definitely North-east derbies.
While the strict local element has faded the other ingredients have increased in inverse proportion, especially the intense passion, the cost in social status of failure and the high-profile policing – and there is no question that the trip to Sunderland means that. You don’t need helicoptors, mounted police and paramilitary crowd control for just another match.
Now derbies are about shared accents, shared workplaces and shared transmitters. It is no co-incidence Tyne-Tees derbies are named after the TV station that defines the area. Our current mental universe has been shaped by Kenneth Wolstenholme on Shoot, Roger Tames late night commentaries of the Rioch revival and by the inane schoolboy banter of the regional playground of Three Legends.
There are other considerations of course, mainly whether Newcastle are also in the mix. When the Geordies are in the same division there is no doubt that Our Friends In The North concentrate their emotional fire on each other and we are just a troublesome Southern second front – but that doesn’t make the Boro irrelevent. If either get battered by their hated reflection then the Boro game becomes a face-saving avenue to regain some local credibility, although the stakes are high and defeat leaves them in deep angst and rock bottom in the hotbed pecking order.
With Sunderland spending so much time in lower divisions in recent years the Mackems have simmered. And for all their talk of being a big club with a big stadium, big crowds, big dug-outs and big dreams they have clocked up a string of new record Premiership points lows while Boro have enjoyed Carling Cup triumph and basked in UEFA Cup glory. How dare the Yorkshire upstarts do that! Boro have been a more successful side in recent seasons and that has got to sting.
No matter how much they talk about this game not being a derby they are desperate to win to claw back some credibility and build up the balance of banter points after that N-n-n-nineteen debacle and the F-f-f-fifteen foul-up. When it comes to the traditional flux of workplace score settling and local pride – especially in the frontier towns like Billingham, Hartlepool and Sedgefield – this game matters.
If we lost to Leeds now we wouldn’t hear a peep, unless possibly we wandered into the no-mans land of Whitby or Thirsk wearing a Boro top. There would be no price to pay, no squirming and no need to listen to smug former Elland Road legends gloating about it for the rest of the season.
But lose to Newcastle or Sunderland and there is a massive price of public humiliation, baiting and banter to be endured and harsh new political realities to adjust to. Every game is added to the common body of knowledge that determines the local pecking order, that informs the arguments in pubs and workplaces and underpins the banter, the chanting and the folklore of a region fired by football.
That is what makes these games derbies. They are public property shared with other people who also believe that they really matter. The sting of defeat is more painful than with other teams and is dragged out for weeks – years – by the mischievous or maliciously minded neighbours.
It is inescapable because the victors are in our orbit and in our face, rubbing it in and using it as a weapon to beat us and a tool that invalidates every other achievement for the foreseeable future.
Unless we lose of course. Then it is just another game…
WATCHING YOU watching us…. when the derby crowds are being pushed around by tooled up bobbies in and around the Stadium of Light and when the cameras start to click and whirr it won’t just be Boro supporters that are being filmed.
Members of the Football Supporters Federation are warning the police that this year they will be under close scrutiny this time. At the last meeting of the two teams on Wearside there was a public outcry as even respectable supporters like magistrates and coucillors were left shocked by the aggressive policing.
Boro fans complained that they were herded in designated pubs whether they wanted to go or not, were held back in the stadium after the game and prevented from even using toilets and were marched in convoy back towards the railway station no matter where they had left their cars. Some even said there were shades of the confrontational methods used in Rome by the carabinieri.
“This time we are watching them, watching us,” said FSF regional committee member and Boro fan Tony Bing. “Supporters from all the region’s clubs have raised concerns about the way derby matches are policed and believe that some of the methods of crowd control used have added to the problems.
“After a lot of complaints last season we are urging supporters to use their camera phones to record any unneccessarily heavy handed behaviour and we will be handing out leaflets advising people how to complain if they believe they have been treated unfairly. Fans are citizens and they have rights.”
Of course, we know that the fixture has in the past been marred by unjustifiable sickening violence and that sensible, pro-active policing is neccessary in order to ensure that the day passes off peacefully. It is to the benefit of all supporters that the meatheads on all sides need to be monitored, isolated and controlled and that any prospect of disorder is dealt with swiftly and effectively.
But equally we know though that the mass of ordinary law-abiding supporters have no involvement in any trouble nor are they likely to be and that detaining them and treating then in a confrontational manner is unneccessary and counter-productive, not to mention a throwback to the 70s. The atmosphere is far less strained and there is next to no trouble at the Riverside amid more relaxed policing. That should be a lesson. Fans should not need to surrended their civil liberties if they travel away. After all, it’s not a derby.


38 thoughts on “Derby Daze….. Sunderland And The Shifting Sands Of Parochial Pride.

  1. Of course these games have an extra edge as far as the fans are concerned but I’m not sure about the players except for the local lads.
    For example Sunderland’s first eleven on Saturday will contain nobody from the town, the north east or even the north of England.That might be the case for the subs as well unless Leadbitter makes the bench.
    These players have been bought with money from Irish “investors” who are no doubt subsidising their wages as well.It perhaps explains why the game becomes more and more remote from the average guy in the street.

  2. I lived in Leeds in the seventies and never really thought of it as the major derby even when Jack led us into the promised land.
    When we were in the same divisions it was always the Mackems and Toon, especially the Mackems. Tyne Tees TV created the regional area, the fact it was more like Tyne Wear and those other people further south certainly wound me up.
    Luckily we also have a panto to throw into the mix though whether Disney will use Mike Ashley and the poisoned dwarf as a sequel to Snow White is unlikley.
    The major change now is that prem survival is the holy grail. Oh, and the fact we are the only club to have won something for many a year. Toon havent won anything since black and white TV and Sunderland since the early seventies.

  3. I regard last year’s first meeting with Sunderland as one that defined a large part of the rest of Boro’s season and it almost got us relegated. If I was picking the team for next Saturday, my primary criterion for selection would be robustness. Keane sent his players on a commando course to prepare for the encounter last year and we have to expect another highly physical onslaught once again, especially in light of our current vulnerabilities.
    I wouldn’t play Alves or Arca and I would drop Hoyte and replace him with a proper, “robust” defender. 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 decide to play it.

  4. Hahahaha, Gilly is still blathering on
    about winning a Micky mouse cup. How long ago was it now? (gets flute out and starts playing Living In The Past!)
    Give it up mate, its a nothing cup and means nowt. Never has done, never will do. Even Rochdale have been in the final of it!

  5. I think this game is a fantastic opportunity to use players who are fighting to keep thier places in the team e.g mido, riggot and at the moment taylor.
    But most of all i would love to see jinky get a run out, think it would be a massive benefit if gareth could fit him into the team somewhere.

  6. Its not a derby. There is only one derby game for us and no matter how much you talk this one up it will NEVER rank anywhere near the unwashed. You are a minor irritant at best. Concentrate on your Yorkshire derby with Hull.

  7. Diablo; head out of anatomy time now old son and listen to the musings of Moyes, O’Neill, Ramos et al about the Mickey Mouse cup and its ticket to the promised land of Europe. Who to believe; a wind up merchant complete with a big red nose, spinning bow tie with an identity crisis or the majority of Premiership managers? (Scratches head for a moment looks at sky and decides against the Spanish Mancunian from Darlington). That’ll be all son, jog on.

  8. Hi Diablo Rojo
    Wondered where you had got to, tried looking up your telephone number in the directory but realised what a fool I was because you hide behind a false name. Not brave enough to use your real name or will your mam shout?
    ManU must have had a dodgy start to bring you on here. You never know, come the end of the season you might be pleased to win the Carling Cup.

  9. I love the way the mackems come on to our blogs to tell us we are a ‘minor irritant’. If that was the case, you wouldn’t bother surely?

  10. Billog Black Cat – we are a “small club from Yorkshire” and I, for one, was delighted Hull City joined us in the Premier League. Since Leeds, the Sheffield clubs and even Bradford and Barnsley – who had brief visits to the top table – are now in the lower leagues, it IS good to have another Yorkshire team in the top echelon.
    People my age who were born in Middlesbrough have birth certificates which make it clear they come from the North Riding of Yorkshire. My school books made it clear they were paid for by the North Riding Education Committee. My county cricket club played games at Middlesbrough (where I saw Geoff Boycott score his 150th hundred in a county championship game, shortly before his retirement, so that shows my age). That was before rationalisation caused Yorkshire’s team to play only at Headingley and (thank God!) Scarborough.
    I am happy to look south to our historic county home. I know some people have complicated loyalties. A man might be proud to be British and to have a Bangladeshi heritage, or proud to be both an Orcadian and a Scot (and maybe also British). I am proud of my Yorkshire birth and Welsh roots and my British heritage. I do not feel a “north easterner”.
    I can appreciate that some feel differently. I am not ashamed of Teesside, it’s just that is was an artificial political construct in 1968, swiftly to be followed by Hartlepool’s being bundled into the pot when Cleveland County was created in 1974. Hartlepool! The Barrow of County Durham, whose people felt cut off and apart from the rest of County Durham, let alone having much in common with Yarm or Saltburn and Marske! Teesside was at least a more or less continuous urban area on both banks of the lower reaches of the Tees as it approached the sea, and which had an economy dominated by steel, chemicals and heavy engineering, so could be considered an entity.
    I feel that Teesside has always been considered an appendage of the Tyne and Wear axis that thinks of itself as the real north east of England. Funding always seemed to be made more easliy available up there than down here. If you don’t believe me, go up there and count the number of astroturf pitches (no doubt with a contribution met by Brussels) compared to down here. It seemed like every school, every steet corner had its own astro for use by the local sports clubs.
    This part of the world always seemed to be ignored by the amusingly named Tyne Tees TV until the time the franchises were due for renewal, when an effort would be made to increase coverage of the southern part of the region as a “sweetener” for the next round of negotiations. Maybe Tyne-Wear wouldn’t have been considered viable without our being lumped in (even with us, it has a tiny population when compared with the old Yorkshire, Granada, Midland, London etc franchises).
    I accept that in the old pre 1968 days people living in Stockton on Tees or Billingham considered themselves part of County Durham. But south of the Tees we were very definately Yorkshire. I doubt most people living, say, in Saltburn or Great Ayton a century ago would have even considered there was such a thing as the north east.
    So in light of all this, I am happy to meet Hull City in the Premier League and will feel the contest a little more keenly than, say a game against Stoke City or Fulham. But that doesn’t make the game a derby game. Those games are usually played between teams who are close neighbours and whose supporters would desperately NOT want to lose against the other team.
    Hartlepool may be in a different division for the moment, but no-one could think the game against their “almost nearest” club, Darlington was anything other than a derby game. At a game at Wembley a number of years back, against Darlington, I could hear the Plymouth Argyle fans singing most loudly about their fairly near neighbours, Exeter City. On the same basis, a Sunderland fan might spend most of his time baiting their managerless neighbours from just up the road in Newcastle, rather than worrying about us on the sunny banks of the Tees (I just thought I’d point out we had some sun today, one of the first times this wet summer).
    For us Sunderland may be the nearest club against which we are likely to play league football, but they have a much nearer neighbour. If we think it is a derby game, it really doesn’t matter what the Sunderalnd fans think. It is a game against our nearest competitors (at least when they are in the same division as us, which hasn’t always been the case in recent years).
    Sunderland may have a closer neighbour than us to their north – bully for them. Presumably if Gateshead regained their place in the Football League, and climbed up the divisons, in a few years there would be a couple of changes. Firstly some football fans from Gateshaed would stop crossing the bridge and support their local (County Durham) team, and secondly both Sunderland and Newcastle would suddenly have a new “nearest neighbour” team and a new set of derby games would begin.
    I suppose the acid test of a derby game is firstly how the fans percieve the game and secondly seeing how many Police have been called up for duty for the match. There may be exceptions (eg if your club is drawn against Millwall in the FA Cup, or a further wave of Anti-Ashley demonstrations is called at St James’ Park) but I’ll bet there will be more Police at the Sunderland/Boro game than at, say the Sunderland/West Brom match. And as AV has said, if the result goes against our club, there is always going to be the office Sunderland fan who will make life intolerable until the next derby. The Sunderland game passes both strands of the acid test and is our derby game. Who cares if it isn’t “their” derby?
    Let’s be honest, would you really want to be a Police officer on duty at a Pools/Darlo game? I’m not really sure they like each other very much at that game. It’s a good job neither of those clubs are supported like Cletic and Rangers because, if they were, the County Durham Police wouldn’t be enough, a UN Peace Force would have to be mobilised. Funny old game as Jimmy Greaves used to say (but then he probably never witnessed Pools/Darlo – it might have wiped the smile from his face).
    I would hate it to lose against Sunderland. I am sure Poggi, Wheater, Downing and Tayls would understand why and feel the same way. If we could get three points up there, I would be happy to leave the Sunderland fans to concentrate on their forthcoming “real derby” against Newcastle for as long as they like. As long as we get this weekend’s points, that is!

  11. I don’t consider either the Mackem’s or the Tackem’s a Derby. A Derby surely is a contest between Local Rivals!
    The Mackems are a collection of much travelled “has been” journeymen footballers from anywhere and everywhere who couldn’t find Hendon, Silksworth or Southwick on a map assembled and run by Irishmen!
    The Tackems apparently are run by the Cockney Mafia by their own admission!
    How on Earth can either of those two be classed as a local Derby? There is absolutely nothing local about them.

  12. billog black cat, you are being a bit hypocritical, saying that sunderland and Boro arent a derby basically because they are too far apart and then saying Hull and Boro are one even though thats 1hr 40ish mins away and the fact Middlesbrough technically isnt in Yorkshire, get a map!
    To me Sunderland arent that significant, more important than other premier league game but if we win, i wont be in gleeful joy that we put the mackems to the sword, more the fact we have picked up 3 points on the road. It would be such a relief to atleast get a point as its a game we have to look upon saying that the reason why in past seasons we have been flirting with relegation is because we fail to even get draws out of these sort of games.
    We have men down but its not as bad as it seems to sound, Tuncay out, big blow, especially away from home because he is a perfect playmaker just behind the striker to employ when on the road who runs his heart out, but then again its a chance to play mido and continue his good goalscoring form, he will be out to impress and hopefully so too will Alves who has had a pretty ordinary start to the season, great goal against Stoke but that has covered up some pretty average performances and i hope Southgate has warned him about that.
    Centre midfield is thin but with Digard looking likely to return to action then him and O’Neil will resume in the middle whilst Riggott did a perfect job in covering for wheater and i think Riggott deserves his place on saturday

  13. If one were to think of Teesside as an entity then Pools are the derby opponents of Boro. Versus Hull will be must win games for Boro this season but not because they are derbies. The idea that Leeds are a local rival is off the wall.
    Overall, Boro fans bothering about the issue in relation to Sunderland is like folks in Wigan or Bolton supposing that dates with them are marked boldly on the Man Utd calendar. My experience is that playing Boro is pretty much just like any other game against a lower half team for Sunderland fans.
    Obviously my expectation is that Boro will lose on Saturday, but I wish them luck overall and especially when they play the Mugpies.

  14. Derby schmerby. The mackems can deny it all they like – it is them getting the excuses in early – but there is no way it is just an ordinary game to them.
    I work with a load of them and they are so bitter about Boro it is not true. It eats them up that we are the top dogs in the region. We have won a trophy, been to a Euro final, enjoyed the glory years while they have had Peter Reid, Howard Wilkinson and relegation seasons where they have barely got in double figures.
    That is why they are always so angry about a team they are “not bothered about” and we need armed police protection to go there. Its jealousy.
    I’m glad they don’t see us as being part of their private axis of stupidity with Newcastle though. Imagine being locked into their crazy universe where they think big crowds and winning the title before the first world war get you points, where fat lads crying when they lose counts as passion and the only ambition is winning your derby.
    The only thing that separates these two teams is the colour of the stripes on thier XXXXXXXL shirts.

  15. Charlie Hurley
    Are you the same Charlie Hurley who played for Sunland way back in the seventies? That man mountain of a centre-half?
    Don’t let anyone tell you this game doesn’t matter. Of course it matters. It will hurt like hell if we lose, be sheer heaven if we win.
    I don’t live in the North-East anymore, but I feel the passion of these derbies just as much as I used to when I did live there. I’ve never forgiven the Mackems for the time I very nearly got me head kicked in in the old bob end by their hooligans. And the older I get (and of course, the more mature!) the more I want to whip their hides! Them and the Barcodes. It spoils my day when I see anyone in a red and white striped or black and white striped shirt!
    Come on Boro! Git stuck in!

  16. Is there a Derby derby?
    Why is a derby called a “derby”?
    If there was a contest for male milliners from Derby with only names from Jane Austen’s novel would it be called the Derby Darcy Derby derby ?
    Ok, so I’m bored! It’s been Thursday (UEFA Cup) night – “Boro at home, watching the Bill”! Bummer!
    Ho hum!

  17. I’ll necet quite get my head round why we get supporters from other clubs posting on here, still it does bring something to the party. I’m pleased to see old Diablo Derek back, I miss him when he’s not around, he’s a man who needs to get out more if ever there was one. As for billog he destroys his arguement simply by reading the blog and posting on it, some people just don’t get it!

  18. I wonder if Lawro’s been reading the contributions to AV’s blogs:
    “Sunderland v Middlesbrough
    (Kick-off 12:45 BST)
    Sunderland put in a decent performance at Wigan last week, but had to settle for a point after leading for quite a long time. I think they need to go and get a good result at home now after defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City at the Stadium of Light.
    Middlesbrough have led in quite a few games and been beaten in a couple recently and their away form smacks a little bit of a lack of concentration and **I am a bit worried about the goalkeeper Ross Turnbull**.
    Verdict: 2-1”

  19. Sunderland; a city famous nationally for nothing. Even the localon the south coast think that and I of course cannot defend the indefensible. They’re not even famous for smog…!!

  20. There are quite a few Boro lads working here in Aberdeen, in fact we are known locally as the “Teesside Mafia”.
    There are also some of our brethren from the Tyne and Wear regions so that because we are surrounded by foreigners, we share a certain cameraderie (somewhat begrudged at times, I must admit). But that cameraderie goes out of the window when any of the 3 teams play each other.
    We get the best of both worlds because, when the Mackems and Barcodes play each other, we can wind up the losers.
    Whereas if we play either of them and lose, the others would not wind us up because that would be tantamount to supporting their bitter rivals.
    Anyway, roll on tomorrow and a good result for us. Pleased to see that more of the injured players are likely to be available for selection.

  21. “if these two teams are supposedly our local rivals why do we react badly when dim cockneys call us ‘geordies’.”
    Is it because you are too dim to react otherwise.

  22. You lot make me laugh. You WANT it to be a derby because then it will give you some kind of equality with a big club. It is not about distance it is about HISTORY – and yours didnt even start until you won the Micky Mouse Reserves Team Cup.
    Our derby is about big teams with big historys and a dozen titles and FA Cups between us. It is about giant clubs with massive crowds and a national reputation and fans who live side by side.
    You are just the next nearest team with fans who think you are big time now because of a few freak years. You will NEVER be a big club and if Gibons gets bored or bitten by the credit crunch you will be back down where you should be, talking up games with York, Carlisle and Hartlepool as your derbies.

  23. Ha Ha Billog. Another history lesson from a has been club. Were you there in 1936 when you won the league? You and the mags have been in 2 league cup finals. Concentrating on the league title were you?

  24. Big gob; the bin dippers a big team with a big history?? Maybe the skunks old son but it certainly aint you lot. Reputation certainly; for embarrassing yourselves with record lows for points and dreaming of the old days. Your in the shadow of the skunks, you always will be and you know it.
    We’re not a big club big gob, and dont claim to be. We leave that to delusionals in their second consecutive season in the big time (our 11th by the way). We’ve been relatively successful in the last 10 years; you’ve borought shame and embarassment on yourselves.
    Now then old son; what are you doing on here if you aren’t just a little bit envious? You go back to your own manor and dream of having some local lads in your team. Arsenal are more English than you lot.

  25. Billog Black cat – I know I should’nt bite at your attempt at a wind up but this ” big club” mentality is probably the reason your lot and the black and whites have done nothing for donkeys years.
    And by the way what do you think is going to happen if your Irish owners get bored or get cold feet or are bitten by the credit crunch???

  26. I can’t stand the renegades from Teesside who claim to be Mackems just because their grandads worked in a pit in the 30s. It is like Rod Stewart’s Scottishness or all the plastic paddies, emotionally insecure people looking for some kind of identity.
    Worst still are them ‘Middlesbrough Mags’, glory hunters who jumped on the Keegan bandwagon in 1995 thinking there were in at the start of the next big thing walking around the Boro with Barcode tops on. How stupid were they? ‘Middlesbrough Mugs’ more like.
    If they had supported their local team they could have been in Cardiff, Ostrava, Rome and Eindhoven with the mates. Instead we have had a whale of a time while they have taken it in turns to be the laughing stocks (19, 15, Souneess, Wilkinson, Ashley etc) LOL.

  27. All my childhood was about beating the Macks. We never played Newcastle as often as the Macks and to beat them was the best feeling. Remember Don Goddman missing that pen or Jamie Pollock bungling the ball over the line.

  28. As a German living in the northern eastern part of England for many years, 12, and as football fan still of my home city, Gelsenkirschen,(Schalke 04) i would like to say that of the three big teams in the region, that Boro is 1, Geordies 2 und the red-white stripes 3.
    Boro have always played or try to good football. The two others like to play ‘typisch Englisches fusball’ either ‘kick and run’ or ‘boot the ball up the field’.

  29. Things are looking up on the injury front with it looking as if Shawky, Digard and Emnes will be in the squad.
    Wouldntbe surprised to see gate start with two holding midfield players with one of Mido and Alves dropping to the bench. That would give us 451 when Sunderland have the ball and 433 when we move forward, Downing and Aliadiere free to attack and O’Neill box to boxing.
    The usual caveat is that the formation is less important than the players starting on the front foot with tempo. In our case we must try and concentrate for the whole match.

  30. we have got to start qucik today, get right out of the blocks and get at these maccems from the off. if we can start well then they are nervous becasue they have lots of new players and the crowd may start to get a bit twitchy.
    they arnt a good side and man city exploited there lack of pace last week so lets get at them and take our chances when they come.
    COME ON BORO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  31. Southgate OUT. He is clueless and the team is not fit.
    Downing SELL HIM. He’s nowhere near as good as he thinks he is.
    We need a billionaire to compete. The fact that we cant beat these Mackem hillbillies proves this.

  32. Well, apart from Mido’s last-minute injury it was all a bit predictable in the end, wasn’t it? Played well first-half but failed to capitalise and went down to goals in the last 10 minutes. Bit of a pattern emerging.
    I’m concerned that Boro have paid too much for Alves. In my opinion he’s not as good as Yakubu, who we sold for a lower fee. He wouldn’t be the first much-hyped import to find that he was not suited to the Premier League. I think he’s a very good finisher but the rest of his game is not as strong.
    Anyway, the next games is an easy one and not a lot rests on it.

    Your team is garbage and all you have to look forward to this season is laughing at a team who like us dont take you seriously as Rivals
    2-1 FTM.

  34. Not getting on Downings back but why do we have a winger taking penalties?Surely a striker is the man for the job?
    I think maybe we got carried away a little from the first 3 games as now we seem to be seeing typical Boro.
    I really hope we can sort a system out for the next game but i feel this is how it will be now till the end of the season.
    Again we are failing to deliver….ufff

  35. Well that was a bit disappointing.
    I don’t get to see many games these days, but with this game on at the Oz friendly time of 9.45pm I thought I’d wander down the pub to catch it. I missed the first half hour as the first pub I went to wasn’t showing it. Most of the pubs in the area seemed to be concentrating on the post-match scenes at the Hawthorn vs St Kilda match, but I eventually stumbled into a bar showing the match and settled down with a pint to watch.
    It was all a bit average really. You can see why we are two low/mid table teams. For the Boro Huth was probably the stand out. We had some good patches but also seemed to drift off for periods too. A couple of things to comment on:
    First the penalty. I rather suspect that if we hadn’t been awarded a penalty the game would have continued it’s drift towards a 0-0 stalemate. From the moment we missed it we looked like losing. Sunderland got a lift and we just fell apart. It didn’t actually look like a penalty to me anyway, but I was a little gobsmacked to see Stewy stepping up to take it. I was really surprised a couple of weeks ago to hear he had taken one against Stoke. I can think of 4 or 5 players in the team I would pick as penalty taker before Downing (Hell, thinking about it there’s probably 10).
    As someone has posted on here before, Downing is a confidence player and his form can dip when he feels the pressure. I can’t see the sense in putting him in the pressure spot. I’m actually surprised that Alves lets anyone anywhere near the ball when we get a penalty – I would have thought it was made for him. Incidentally, I thought Alves looked OK last night and I’d stick with him. It’s nice to have a player who makes intelligent forward runs and more importantly, one who keeps it simple and gets an early shot in as soon as he gets a sight.
    Secondly, the goalkeeper. After all the millions and millions of words devoted to the goalkeeper situation over the pre-season this was my first sight of Ross Turnbull, so I was looking forward to watching him and making my own mind up. I was pretty impressed with what I saw. His positioning and handling looked secure and he made a couple of excellent saves. Of course he dropped the ball once and that will be shown repeatedly on TV and seized as ‘evidence’ of something or other. A few of the outfield players made considerably more than one mistake last night. I made Turnbull second best Boro player on the night after Huth.
    As for Sunderland. Well I thought they were pretty average too. Apparently they’re not too keen on the bloke who scored the two goals because he played for Newcastle or something, but I thought he looked pretty good and a significant step up on the expensive dandy he replaced. I saw Cisse give a couple of smouldering looks that would look good in a Hollywood movie, but his football was a long way short of box office. I haven’t seen Stoke City play since the seventies, so this comment might seem a bit strange, but as I supped on my pint I mused that Sunderland looked a lot like I imagine Stoke to be – and I wasn’t just thinking about the shirts. Still, they beat us. Good luck to them for the rest of the season, I hope they stay up, although I think it will be close.
    Beamish Boro seems a bit of a strange bloke. Wow, what a reaction…perhaps we could get Mike Ashley for him.
    And FT Maxwell as well. If my team had won I think I would have ordered myself another pint and settled down to enjoy the after-match glow, not race home to log on to the other teams web site to type up some gibberish. Takes all sorts, no doubt we’ll hear from him again as others post there reactions, then not again until the return match.
    By the way, the pub was very good and I shall return. Perhaps I might get one more match in before daylight savings makes it all happen long past my bedtime!

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