Dismal Display Deepens Basement Gloom

A DISMAL and dispiriting day in which cautious Boro set out to draw a ‘must win’ match and came out of it claiming some kind of moral victory (“I was proud”) after failing to really test the visiting keeper and hanging on for dear life at the death.
In one of the few remaining ‘winnable’ home matches against a relegation rival, insipid Boro were shown to be lacking firepower. Lacking fire. Just lacking. Time is running out. It was a massive missed opportunity to regain control of a situation rapidly spinning out of control and to give the fans some hope and inspiration in what will be a sticky run-in.

On a day when Boro needed to win, when they needed to deliver, needed to show some spirit and steel, pride and passion, they rarely played with any urgency or noticeable desire, failed to respond to the gravity of the situation the club find themselves in and din not set the tempo or ask the questions. Worst still, they were left hanging on grimly at the death and but for a string of saves from Brad Jones could easily have been on the wrong end of an embarrassing and near fatal defeat.
Yes, the squad is thin and injuries and suspensions have tied Gareth Southgate’s hands but that was a scared selection – not so much a team as a noose. Boro started with five central defenders on the pitch including one in central midfield; they played their most creative player out of position on the right and in a game crying out for two up front to give a cutting edge they left a striker who had scored four in four on the bench in favour of a frustratingly out-of-sorts luxury player who has not produced the goods for months in a deeper role most effective away from home.
And the overly cautious selection was matched by an overly conservative approach: it was low key, low tempo and low quality. The defending was scrappy and nervous (although arguably the Land of the Giants rear guard did its job with a rare clean sheet and a tighter grip of dead-balls), the midfield was disjointed and unbalanced and the strike-force barely featured. Even during the spells when Boro had the bulk of possession there was little penetration into the box and Robinson had only a few routine long range efforts to save.
In contrast Brad Jones had to turn in a man of the match display to save from David Dunn twice and then Benni McCarthy in a hectic last five minutes.
Elsewhere the tightly bunched table is starting to thin out. A fortnight ago five teams were lock in joint bottom. In the two games since then Boro have taken one point while the team above them have started to inch away. Even Stoke won! Soon the “one win” needed to gain some breathing space won’t be enough.

76 thoughts on “Dismal Display Deepens Basement Gloom

  1. Gareth’s low point was when he talked about challenging for champions league position about 10 weeks ago. I cringed when I heard it. For me he has taken impersonation of Wenger too far. The Boro isn’t Arsenal and he’s not Wenger.
    Let’s get real and start by picking a side that resembles the one when were playing well i.e. Centre Halves in the Centre Half posiotion , Full Backs in the Full Back position and so on and so forth.
    We have a better side than Stoke, Sunderland, Newcastle, WBA, Portsmouth, Hull, Blackburn and Bolton. Get rid of the FEAR and if that means GS resigning then that’s what needs to happen.

  2. It just seems inevitable now doesn’t it! The club just seems to accept that relegation is around the corner and are simply going through the motions.
    EVERY other club in this league are busting a gut trying to stay up; buying players, changing managers, adding to coaching staff. We, on the other hand, just sit back and ‘go with what we have’.
    Scandalous! How Gibson can watch ‘that’ and tell us that Southgate is the future is beyond me. I have lost faith in Gibson now and honestly feel he will never deliver the experienced manager that we need. He had NEVER done it. Why the hell did he turn down Hitzfeld?
    Southgate will never walk; he has the easiest job on the planet. He is under no pressure and Gibson is the most stubborn man on the planet. Result? Championship football with 15,000 fans.
    The world and his wife could see in the summer that this squad wasn’t good enough, but the club did nothing to address it.
    RIP Middlesbrough. Will we ever rise again? Gutted!

  3. A famous cricketer, when announcing his retirement, was asked to explain his reasons for doing so. “I’m going while everyone is asking ‘why’ and not waiting until they’re asking ‘why not” he replied.
    If GS cannot see that everyone is asking ‘why not’ who is going to do him the service of putting him out of our misery?
    Having posted extensively – & critically – in the previous blog after the Chelsea defeat, it’s notable that those supporting Southgate then in his team selection have gone to ground after this latest horror show!! Where are you all?
    Dwight Eisenhower was once asked why he was such a successful US President. He said “because I surround myself with people who know more than I do.”
    That is indeed the key to successful leadership. Listening. Sadly, GS has repeatedly demonstrated he’s not listening, and he’s isolating himself from good company and common sense that could have averted the disaster (in a footballing sense) that has/is befalling us. Every week simply reveals more befuddled tactics and less faith and belief in his players to go out and do the business.
    He comes across as completely out of touch with the fans feelings and with the realities of where the club are. More confused & flaccid tactics, one shot at goal, and your keeper being man-of-the-match in a 4-5-1 (I think) line up says it all.
    Would those GS supporters like to suggest the tactics for our trip to Citeh? Or would anyone disagree with me when I predict one up front, pack the midfield, basically kick it anywhere and try and nick something on the break?

  4. Here’s that rousing speech in full from the Boro manager:
    I am Gareth Southgate, a man who will not entertain for a minute – the supporters should forget any thoughts of walking away and remember to hold their heads high because like them I have bored shoulders.
    The supporters should be reassured that i’m not a quitter and when it comes to hard work, I’ve been there, I’ve got the T-shirt. So we’re going to roll our sleeves up and dig deep and get ourselves out of this hole.
    I’ve spoken to the players and flagged up a few issues – So the team needs to group together like a stick and stand firm on the pitch and not be blown away by the opposition – Each player I select knows that he’s there as a defender for the Boro cause!

  5. Although it’s stating the obvious, Boro are in this predicament because they are not scoring enough goals. Generally if a team scores against us we do not win the game. We concede too many goals but the scoring problem is the big difference from last season. Let’s face it, if it hadn’t been for Downing and Wheater’s goals we would have been in a similar position last year.
    Given that we are unlikely to bring any players in before the transfer deadline we need to work with what we’ve got to improve the number of goals scored.
    The only central midfielder capable of a defence splitting pass is Arca but that’s only on a very good day! We do however have two of the best wingers in the country in Downing and Johnson so giving them the ball in advanced positions is clearly the best way to create chances. A quality centre forward who is good in the air would score plenty of goals from their crosses (did anyone see James Beattie’s header against Man City! He only cost Stoke £3 million!!!)
    Unfortunately we do not have a centre forward who is good in the air and can convert crosses. Southgate doesn’t know where to play Tuncay and Aliadiere because they do not score goals. Although they look good on the ball they deliver little. Emnes looks bright but is light weight and unlikely to get us out of trouble. King doesn’t look to be anything different from what we’ve already got.
    Although Alvez hasn’t scored goals at least he’s proved capable of finishing clinically in the past. He needs to be supplied so that his first or second touch is a shot (which is exactly how he scored each of his recent goals). He is however poor in the air so needs someone in there to win the ball from Downing and Johnson’s crosses and provide him with chances in the six yard box.
    The answer seems obvious. Play Wheater as a centre forward along side Alvez. He would get on the end of Downing and Johnson’s crosses having proved an excellent finisher with his head. Alvez could feed off the scraps. He’d also have a better chance of winning the long balls up field and flicking it on to Alvez or feeding the wingers.
    It would also mean that we could play a proper right back but still have Wheater in the team to call on to help with defending set pieces.

  6. AV
    ‘It’s all gone quiet over there…’
    There seems to be no updated news on the Gazette Boro home page. Is everyone waiting for the news that Messi and Lampard have signed? Or are the journos as hacked off as the rest of us?
    There appears to a sullen brooding amongst the fans. Whilst there was some booing on Saturday at half time and the end ther overwhelming feeling around me and the fans leaving the ground was resignation.
    Even the postings on here are exasperated rather than rude.

  7. In the absence of any Boro deals here apparently is the latest on the Wenger Window Watch:
    Although nothing is yet certain, there is still a little tidying up to do and even though he would have liked to have had brazilian up front he may now settle for arshavin…

  8. Numerous first choice players injured or suspended. Some playing that were clearly carrying injury.
    A makeshift central midfield with virtually no experience.
    What else was Southgate supposed to do? Attack Blackburn full pelt and we’d have been susceptible to their strong physical forward line – worth between them as much as our entire starting 11.
    Yes the team selection was based on fear, but we did get the first clean sheet in weeks.
    The Downing on the right decision was based on Warnock being a key supply line for Blackburn and designed to give Warnock something to worry about. For most of the game it was an effective – if defensive ploy.
    Club management have left the team short in central midfield from the start of the season, and we’re in a mess as a result.
    Had we our first choice central midfield available I’m sure the outcome would have been very different, but we didnt.
    There are 14 games left and enough quality in the team to pull through. Whatever we may think of Southgate as a manager, it’s time to stop whinging and get behind the team.

  9. Transfer deadline has passed and nothing from the Boro, this is getting silly. We need some serious help, or maybe it’s time for a Geordie like rant at the chairman?
    Why oh why does GS continue to play defensively, with baffling tactics and such (Alves starting on bench again!).
    C’Mon GS we played great attacking football earlier in the season (fair enough we did not get the results) but give me that anyday over the dire that you are serving up at the moment
    COME ON BORO!!!!!

  10. It’s amazing how many people think they know more about running a business than Steve Gibson or think they can tell Gareth Southgate how to manage a football club.
    “Pick your next team from what the fans are telling you”
    That’s a classic…

  11. In light of virtually universal condemnation in this blog this week it is galling to read the Boro perspective in today’s Gazette. Gate was “proud of his players”, because we’ve had difficult times and this was a difficult fixture.
    So our times have been more difficult than other clubs’, then? The Geordies, say? Everton and their striker “crisis”? Pompey losing their best players? Come off it! And this was a difficult game? So is every other game in the Prem. And this was a home game against poor quality opposition just one place above us.
    Even more galling is the implication in the article that Boro began their so-called 15 game survival plan with the intention not to get beaten. So that kick-starts the campaign, then? That really says it all, doesn’t it!
    Surely Gate must realise that we now have to win 4 or even 5 of our last 7 home games to stay up, cos we sure as hell aint going to win many away. He can talk all he likes about fighting as a unit to beat the drop but until and unless the attitude changes to one of going out to attack the opposition with our best players in their best positions, aiming to exploit opponents’ weaknesses rather than trying to stifle their strengths, then that fight will be in vain.
    And not even a loan signing coming in to help out. I am getting more and more livid with every game.

  12. Team prediction for Saturday using Southgate logic!
    GK: Steele (because Jones went and kept a clean sheet on Saturday and don’t want him asking for a pay rise like Bull)
    RB: Riggott (because everyone keeps moaning about Wheats playing there and couldn’t play Hoyte or Mac otherwise I’m tumbled)
    CB: Bates (because everyone keeps moaning about him playing in Midfield)
    CB: Huth (because everyone keeps moaning about Wheats playing RB so stuff em)
    LB: Pogi (because Tayls is injured so nobody can moan!)
    RM: Stewy (because he asked for a transfer and he’s crap out there with his left foot, that will teach him)
    CM: Walker (because he makes me look good and I can talk about Youth, getting behind the lads, blah, blah, blah etc.)
    CM: Wheater (because I can’t play him at RB so if I stick him in midfield I can hear the moaning already………genius)
    LM: Jinky (because he looks the part…….need to rethink that one…..maybe if we Crockcliffe him?)
    ST: King (Lets face it will never score but looks busy)
    ST: Tuncay (because Alves hasn’t read the script and might keep scoring)
    Now for the aftermatch excuses………….!

  13. After reading the blog I am sure every BORO supporter now knows Southgate must go if we are to have any chance of staying in the premiership.
    I like the other supporters love this club. I travel to watch them whenever I can, buy strips tee shirts etc and watch almost every game. I believe that a team is a reflection of the managers personality. Southgate is a good man but dear me he dose not inspire does he.
    The next choice of manager is so important after two and a half years of destruction. Yes that’s how I see it. He said he was getting rid of dead wood. what an insult to players he played alongside, players who took this club to cup finals and great young local prospects.
    Yes, I agree two or three needed changing. BUT SOUTHGATE GUTTED THE WHOLE TEAM AND BACKROOM STAFF. That could not be justified and I do not believe for one minute that Steve Gibson and Keith Lamb two men who have given their lives to this wonderful club told Southgate to sell the players off cheap and give the kids away.
    Gibson backs his managers and he did back Southgate fully. But now is time for change so I would like CHRIS COLEMAN,he is a manager who has a good track record in the premiership, saved Coventry from the drop and did a good job out here in Spain.Yet he has managed small clubs with little money to spend and still achieved good results good football and the fans love him.

  14. BR14
    What else could Gate do?
    We pay salaries for McMahon and Hoyte and either would have given some impetus and helped getting forward. You know what I mean, towards the other end of the pitch where you can score goals.
    Lets use one of our few creative players to mark their full back!
    We didnt have to go on all out attack, just try to support our wide men so we played further up the pitch. Having the defence so far back actually created the space behind Downing and Johnson to attack when they couldnt get past the double marking.
    Playing so deep meant that when Tuncay tried anything that didnt come off they got the ball in our half not near their penalty area.
    Sorry it was a shocker. We had enough defensive cover with Bates and Walker to allow the full backs to get forward without compromising the defensive elements. Come to think of it we defended so well Jones made 7 or 8 super stops and was man of the match, at home against a team fourth from bottom. Blackburn should have been home and hosed by full time.

  15. Haven’t been back for a week or two as it’s an almost entirely dreary read these days.
    I will once again swim against the tide (with only Steve H for company it would seem). Still think the bottom half of the table is wide open. Still in favour of Gareth Southgate continuing his positive transformation of the club and Steve Gibson preparing the club for the impacts of the credit crunch. Still think we will stay up.
    Reasonably happy with a point on Saturday.

  16. This really is depressing, isn’t it? It feels like being in a large group of passengers huddled on the deck of a ship taking on water, faster than it can be bailed out, in the middle of the ocean and without a radio to call for help.
    We might gain some hope from the fact that there are no sharks visible in the waters below. We are, however, a thousand miles from land and the lifeboats were washed overboard in the storms last month. Not many of us are confident of being able to swim for a thousand miles….
    No wins for 12 league games. It isn’t as if we have been unlucky in all those games. We haven’t threatened Premier League teams with the carving out of numerous chances and thrilling forward play, only to have been denied by an inspired keeper or “robbed” by fate.
    Our points tally in the last few months reflects accurately the quality of our performances. If we put the ball in the opposition’s net more times than they put it in ours, we will win games. If we have kept a few clean sheets in addition to the rarity that was achieved against Blackburn, at least we might have had the chance of not losing some of those games.
    Is it likely Boro will now be so galvanised by the Save Our Skins message from the manager, that the players will suddenly discover their confidence, the ability to score goals, and keep a number of clean sheets in the next few months? Not to mention suddenly finding themselves in a rich vein of good luck. Because that is what must happen if we are to stay in the Premier League.
    If you were a betting man, you just wouldn’t waste your money, would you?
    A couple of additional points:
    (1) I note that quite a few loan deals have been done as the transfer window came to a close. Not by us, though. Maybe management believes the players we have are good enough.
    (2) If turning the players’ performances around proves to be as easy as issuing an “SOS” as per the back page of the “Gazette”, why was it not done earlier to save us the heartache? If the players CAN do it, simply flicking a switch at the request of the manager after a few months of very definitely NOT DOING IT, that says a lot about them, their desire, their professionalism (or the lack of it shown in the last few months) and the man management (or not) skills of the coaching staff.
    If the players are not good enough (despite what The Count apparently said about the squad a short while ago) that is bad news. If they are good enough but for some reason (lack of motivation, lack of organisation?) then that is also bad news. If we do not, as a club, have the resources to go into the transfer or even into the loan market to try to strengthen our squad, then that is also bad news if the current squad is too weak.
    There really isn’t an “up side” to this situation. Managing to turn things around sufficiently to stay in the Premier League would be marvellous (even if it now seems less than probable), but it would still leave us in a very vulnerable position next year. A number of players apparently soon to leave (Downing, O’Neill, the finalisation of our divorce from Mido etc), the same management in place, not enough money to replace players who were either not good enough this time around or could not be motivated enough to do better etc.
    Where can we find sufficient money to compete in this league, and where do we identify the management that can organise and motivate players so as to get the most out of them? Time to put the kettle on….

  17. I think today says it all… no Vic on transfer watch… no Southgate on we’re trying our best… no nothing!
    The Management at MFC have decided, no, resigned themselves to the championship.The worry is I think this was decided 3 years ago. Arsenal rebuilt from youngsters but they have a state of the art management team we have novices.
    Doing nothing fixes nothing. That is life not just football. So Mr Gibson what are you doing? Are you going to try fix it? Or are you going to sell out for your losses? Maybe not selling Downing was yet another …homer ‘duh’ moment. It would have paid a big chunk and the season would have been the same.
    Spurs may only offer you £5million next year becouse of course he is only a championship player!
    *AV writes: Ah yes, the drama and anticipation of the deadline vigil… I remember it well.

  18. Okay, so after our latest home shambles, maybe our away games will save us. So I
    just did some checking up on Boro away stats under Southgate:
    We’ve played 59 away games (incl League Cup & FA Cup): won 10, drawn 16, lost 28. Goals for: 49, goals against 85.
    We have kept a clean sheet in 11 of those 59 games.
    We have scored two goals or more 10 times in those 59 games.
    Biggest win: 3-1 at Charlton in 2006-07, the only time we’ve managed three away from home under Southgate.
    We have seven away matches left, and based on our record date this means a safe prediction is four losses, two draws and a win, 1 clean sheet, possibly one more 2-goal bonanza. Or simply 5 points, if you want the brass tacks.

  19. “Doing nothing fixes nothing”
    Possibly the most succinct summary of our current situation. There is a famous phrase, “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it”, presumably the reverse applies? We are more than broken, we’re shattered into more pieces than the bad lad in Terminator 2.
    The only problem is we’re not made of liquid metal and look unlikely to pull ourselves together again.
    The watch-word here is “experience”. When teams are promoted from the Championship the managers always talk about getting proven “Premiership experience”. They realise that whatever the Championship is like, you need players used to the PL to bind the team together.
    We had lots of Premierleague experience in our squad last year but, for whatever reason, we’ve mercilessly stripped it out. I don’t believe that GS was told to weed out all of the experienced players, I think this was a convenient excuse to get rid of stronger characters such as Boat and Schwarz who essentially had the same level of experience as GS and probably grumbled somewhat about him being their gaffer.
    It’s fine to get rid of one or two of Rocky, Boat, Catts, Young, Schwarz – but all five? This is madness. That is basically half your first eleven. And this madness has left us woefully short in midfield, where Digard is the only real addition to the squad (I’m classing Emnes as a forward).
    Oh, and one thing that has really annoyed me recently – GS coming out with the absolute cobblers line of “we’ve had two young players (Walker & Bates) emerge…like two new signings”.
    WHAT!?! Two players who he evidently didn’t trust for the first half of the season are now paraded as important new signings! Sometimes I honestly wish when somebody put a microphone infront of GS that he would engage his brain before spouting absolutle balderdash and piffle.
    Let’s not forget Bates was already a first team squad member coming back from a long term injury. Walker was also someone who played in Europe last term, and therefore should already be considered in the first team squad. How to wind the fans up…
    Anyway, I’m hoping and praying that O’Neill can now concentrate on his football for the next five months and him and Digard can form an effective, and more dynamic, midfield partnership. Hopefully this will shore us up through the middle and allow our wingers, whichever two you choose, to get forward more.
    Let’s just please go back to a simple 442. Whether that is a 442 with Tuncay dropping a little deep, or a 442 with two out-and-out strikers I don’t care, I just want a simple round hole – round pegs line up.

  20. Forever Dormo’s first paragraph just about sums it all up. A siege mentality has developed at the club but unfortunately Gibbo, The Count and Southgate have rounded the wagons and left the fans on the outside to fend for themselves.
    It seems we’re stuck in a Groundhog Day hell continuously muttering to ourselves in the knowledge that nobody is listening.
    We may as well all shut up and just watch the car crash unfold and practice saying ‘I told you so’ in the mirror so that we look convincing come the end of March.
    I’m afraid our only hope now is the phenomenon known as ‘Typical Boro’ which sees the tide turn with a victory over Liverpool in a few weeks time.
    I’m going to do my bit in a couple of weeks by heading off to Australia for a break from the winter’s doom and gloom – the last time I did this we won the Carling Cup – I hope you’ll all thank me for this selfless sacrifice!

  21. Team for Man City:
    Jones, Poggy, Riggott, Huth, Hoyte,
    Jinky (left), Downing (CM), Digard, O’Neil (right and swapping with stewie)
    Alves, King
    you know it makes sense!

  22. It’s going to be a long hard slog between now and May. If we finish fourth bottom I’m not sure if I’ll be delighted or full of gloom lookin ahead to yet another season slogging it out in the bottom third.
    Werdermouth any spare tickets for Oz?

  23. I noticed the editor of Match of the Day has knocked another two seconds off our 30 second slot and tried to camouflage it over.
    Gary Lineker always rubs it in by saying” We’ve got another feast of goals coming up this week”, which confirms that we end the show again.
    This week Chelsea will kick off the show when they run up a cricket score against
    Hull City which will benefit us greatly, providing we don’t get beat.
    Portsmouth v Liverpool could see Tony Adams finally cry on Television.
    Blackburn v Villa should wipe the smile off fat Sam’s ugly mug.
    West Brom v Newcastle may well see Mogga on his way to the Championship.
    Sunderland v Stoke should see the Mackems push Stoke towards the Championship
    Man City v Boro is a guaranteed draw as long as they don’t score.
    That’s how I see the weekend’s forthcoming fixtures panning out.

  24. Nigel
    Several Derby fans had the same feeling before they first dropped out of the Premiership. They got fed up of the struggle but were unhappy at going down.
    After a few years they went up almost by default, winning a host of matches 1-0, often against the run of play. After the original optimism the old dread set in of knowing they were doomed. They were used to seeing ManU, Arsenal etc from their previous stay but were being systematically destroyed by all and sundry (except us of course).
    The long slither from being a secure premiership side into a relegation struggle does take its toll. Whatever people say about Eindhoven our slide began Dec 04. The squad couldnt focus on league and cups, it was getting old and expensive and needed rejigging.
    The problem is we are still waiting for jam tomorrow. Hopefully we can turn it round but if we just scrape through it sets the wrong tone for next season especially as we have no money when we desperately need it now so how will it improve in the summer?
    The argument is that the players will be better for the experience, dont buy into it. A culture of fear and failure is difficult to change.
    The one thing I will say is that there is still time to turn it round but there seems to be no clear strategy to do it, no consistency in rational selection. I would be delighted to have the blog inundated with foam as the RaRas return. I see no evidence at this stage.

  25. James Emmerson.
    You were wrong on what you posted then, plain and simple. You even succeeded in scuppering your own argument and not many can do that. Your attempted justification was tantamount to an admission of this but I have no wish to kick a man while he’s down so merely wished you all the best.
    The team selection was wrong on Saturday and even a blind man can see that. It doesn’t take ‘yah boo told you so merchants’ like you appear to be to see that.
    Thing is Saturdays team was that of a frightened man. Like everyone else I was hoping for a little more adventure. If we have strong centre backs play three of them and five in the middle. That way we can accomodate Alves and King, keep the middle tight and also play Tuncay as well.
    Away from home most teams play one up, thats just the way it is. Maybe Premier league managers need to take a leaf out of your book eh James and have a go against better teams away from home. After all it worked for you; oh hang on……

  26. Werdermouth said:
    “Forever Dormo’s first paragraph just about sums it all up. A siege mentality has developed at the club but unfortunately Gibbo, The Count and Southgate have rounded the wagons and left the fans on the outside to fend for themselves”.
    How true. After all these years, the boys in charge have run out of ideas, not to mention money, and have indeed “rounded the wagons”. It’s time for change and the top is where it must start…after all, the upheavals at Chairman, Director and Manager level may have adversely affected the Geordies and Mackems but at least they’re both still ahead of stale but stable (sic) Boro in the league.

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