Hammering Out A Defiant Beat

I TAKE it all back. Far from being “bungling Boro’s own goal shut up lettergate cock-up” it turns out the Block 53 gagging order was actually a cunning PR masterstroke!
In a classic example of applied reverse psychology the Riverside spin machine have used the default defiance of Teessiders to kick-start the season. By instructing bloody-minded supporters to sit down, shut up and stop banging the plastic sheeting the club engineered the best atmosphere in years and helped galvanise the slumbering crowd.
If Boro now spark a great escape the terrace folklore in years to come will record the letter and the ‘singing ban’ as this season’s Red Book Chucking, a watershed moment that jump-started a flagging season, united the fans and ignited the passion.


Sue Watson may just have saved the season with her syntax shredding letter. It has provoked a fantastic response. Before Saturday’s cack-handed dictat no-one had even heard of The Red Faction bar those who complained, a few geeky gamers and lovers of message board point scoring. Now they are the new heroes of the Riverside Revolution, noisy dissidents who have helped bring back the noise and turned the negative potential of the letter gaffe into an audible positive .
Long before kick-off they were a visible presence. Where usually there are 20 or so at the back, new recruits had swollen the group until it took up the whole ‘V’ of what should now be known as the Sue Watson Singing Section. They had become a magnet for those who are ‘up for it’, those determined to show that football is about making noise, about showing passion, standing up if you love Boro and about “driving people mad” with banging, singing, chanting, taunting the away end and generally creating a racket.
And the crackdown on the subversives has only served to spread their dangerous creed. Before the letter most people didn’t even know that there was plastic sheeting at the back: now it is the hip percussive soundtrack to every song and the leather lunged loyalists are all making for the back row. During moments of tension and drama the driving rhythmic beat was coming from the back of every stand, even in the normally more reserved West Stand Upper -although the lads immediately in front of the camera gantry are sure to be in the next batch of Watsonian correspondence if there is the slightest hint of lens wobble in the live pictures.
And standing too! The whole of the naughty corner and almost all of the other focus of passion in Block 17 directly opposite them looked to be on their feet pretty much throughout with no incursions from the dark forces of the feared Freddie Boswell Hi Vis Posse. Standing and singing unmolested? It was like these subversive elements were away fans. No doubt the stewards were (sensibly) told to take it softly-softly and avoid provocations or the PR disaster of ejections for this potentially volatile fixture.
The atmosphere was fantastic. All hail the Red Faction! All hail Comrade Watson!
Of course, that the team turned in a supersonic show helped Boro fans break the sound barrier. How could you not be on your feet and cheering after the team finally delivered. On the attack from the off, playing fluid high-tempo passing football that didn’t falter when the lone striker fell over the ball, using the width to pull wobbling West Ham out of shape and creating a string of excellent chances in an emphatic 2-0 win to book a place in the quarter-finals for the fourth year running .
There were two excellent goals with FA fifth round goal machine Stewie Downing scoring a cracking early free-kick and then teeing up Tuncay for the second with an exquisite cushioned lay-back. But he wasn’t the only one on fire. Tuncay burst back into life after months of sullen hibernation to suddenly make his flicks and deft touches count, fit again French forager Jeremie Aliadiere (unfairly a snipers’ scapegoat) caused chaos with his pace while Gary O’Neil, who seems to be slowly refocusing, put in an inspired display full of industry and dangerous deliveries into the box. Matty Bates and Julio Arca did well too with the yongster getting forward quite a bit in a lively last ten minutes.
Yes, there were a few rocky moments in the second half when West Ham were chasing the game and caused a couple of scares in the box and Brad Jones had a couple of butter fingered moments before recovering but the Hammers were scrappy, disjointed and lacked a cutting edge and never really looked like getting past a hard working and composed defence. Easy. Now let’s do it in the league.

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33 thoughts on “Hammering Out A Defiant Beat

  1. Game was on live last night in SA despite champs league. The atmosphere made me want to repatriate – well done to the fans the letter writer once sinner, now hero. I wont call her the female version, you might think I am talking drugs.
    The team also came to the party: great free kick, great movement and most of all comitment for the cause from key players. I admit we left it open a bit but we scored twice as all on here has been saying score two we have a better chance of winning even if we leak one.
    On the whole this was the town and the team at its best and if it continues we have a good chance of staying up. If not at least everybody will have tried.

  2. All in all a ruddy good performance that one. The first time I’ve seen us fully live in a few months – and well worth the wait. The atmosphere sounded great and the players looked up for it from the off.
    Downing was superb, his ball retention excellent and always a willing recipient of the ball, even if tightly marked. I thought Bates was very impressive – especially in the second half when he still looked full of running. O’Neill chased and linked up very well with Hoyte. Even Arca didn’t do too much wrong.
    And, whisper it, there were some sensible substitutions from Gareth! I was saying to my other half – who clearly wasn’t interested – that with 60mins gone it was crying out for an Ali-Emnes swap, to keep some pace up top and rest Ali for the weekend. And then a few minutes later Gareth responds! I was also impressed that he had the balls to bring on Jonno for Tuncay and thus give us another willing runner. The only nagging worry is that Alves is being saved for the weekend, because after that performance I wouldn’t want him in the starting line up!
    But, the highlight for me was seeing our mercurial Turk looking something like his best. Perhaps it was a case of needing a rest after his Euro 2008 efforts – but he chased after pretty much everything last night, well done to him.
    Negatives? Not many, but I think Wheater needs to be reminded at times to keep it simple. A couple of times he was a little over-elaborate and it nearly cost us.

  3. Now, THAT’S what I call entertainment! A pity only 15,000 odd were there to see it (even if more than 3,000 had come up from the Smoke).
    My mate and me both took our wives to see the game, for a change. When earlier in the day I told someone at work what we had planned, they wondered what our wives had done to deserve such a fate. Oh, ye of little faith. They both enjoyed the game but we have told them all games this season haven’t been like this one!
    Hopefully this will have restored some confidence in the players. Downing – a good game and another goal (if that fee kick had been scored by Ronaldo it would be replayed at regular intervals for the rest of the season as an example of his genius).
    Tuncay – loads of effort, some nice moves with Aliadiere and, importantly, a goal. Ali’s pace has been missing throughout the period he was injured and we look much better now he has returned. Bates was a revelation when he marauded upfield (and at pace). If someone has found the magic potion that keeps Huth fit, it should be guarded safely as he looks solid and makes Wheater (who can learn much from him) play better. Jones in goal looks an inspired switch by the manager – it cannot be a coincidence that goals conceded have dried up.
    All in all – a very good performance, a very good result and a very good night out. The Holy Trinity of football. And so many of us had begun to doubt our faith. Let’s now look forward to the weekend and Liverpool. Would a prayer be out of order? It just might be that someone is prepared to listen. Yippee!

  4. It was great to watch such a good performance, to see Boro play with passion and score a couple. Downing’s goal was the perfectly taken free kick, Ronaldo will never score a better one than that.
    Scoring early was great, it gave the team a lift and inspired the crowd. The team selection was inspired to, even though there were one or two square pegs in round holes, it proved that doesn’t matter when the players are up for it.
    What we saw for the first time in a long while is what the combined movement and pace of Downing, Tuncay and Aliadiere can do to the opposition. The whole team played well, those three were the icing on the cake. Same on Saturday please GS!
    After Digard’s injury my big concern for the rest of the season was and still is central midfield, but if Bates can maintain his performances level from last night through to May I might be worrying in vain.
    So, three points from ‘unlikely sources’ please on Saturday. It was great to simply enjoy a game of footie and revel in the moment last night!

  5. At last.. a bit of form reminiscent of the early season, now lets keep it going.
    I agree with Smoggy in exile to keep the same starting eleven, and I might add no subs unless it is absolutely necessary.
    And Dormo, even tho’ we were deadly rivals during my growing up and youth days I just love your post’s.but I still prefer the old Cardboard City to Dog Alley.

  6. Sue Watson OBE. That letter has kicked the crowd into gear, Last night was fantastic. Red Faction have done more to lift spirits in two games than all the 12th Man card displays put together.

  7. Sue Watson OBE my ‘arris. She single handedly wiped 6,000 off last nights gate.
    Nice to see Boro playing with a bit of pace and movement again.

  8. The key was that there was no Alves. That meant all the good passing wasn’t wasted by someone stumbling over the ball or a shadow.
    Knowing that the good work wasn’t going to be wasted raised the spirits of the rest and they upped the work-rate and tempo. It was a very promising performance.
    For me Tunks and Ali have to start up front from now on. And it was interesting that Emnes came on ahead of the goal machine. By my reckoning that makes Alves for sale in the summer even if we have to take a big hit on the price.

  9. Ste Mac said:
    “And it was interesting that Emnes came on ahead of the goal machine. By my reckoning that makes Alves for sale in the summer even if we have to take a big hit on the price”
    Such as,say, £12 million?
    John, Aus

  10. I think it is easier to come on forums like this and criticise the team, and the management teamI have done that and for most of the season that has been justified but I want to praise Southgate for choosing a balanced team, having the right tactics and for how well we played on the night.
    It has been a long time coming and it has to be carried forward in to the league.
    If we can do that , we shall stay up.
    A couple of observations , has anyone noticed that O’Neill picked up his fourth consecutive yellow card yesterday and am I right in thinking one more he will be suspended for two matches? A cynic might think that at least it gives him more time to spend with his family in the south? And where is Cooper? Has Agnew been promoted? I noticed him directing operations with Southgate.

  11. Hi Anthony
    See, SEE! Thats what we can do when the shackles are off Gareth. Was that Bates going forward like a whippet? I thought we’d signed Bellamy! More please, no more negative “one up front at home” Gerrin!

  12. Denis,
    Cooper is now in the stands with agnew becoming more involved in 1st team affairs.
    Great performance last night but I would have taken that performance on saturday and got the three points we so desperately need. Passing, movement, ball retention was all impressive and that is the key: move the ball quickly get into good positions and take a shot. Easy peasy.
    West Ham didnt really look to much of a threat and i thought Wheater and Huth where strong and ruthless when they needed to be.
    Its nice to have a good cup run but we need to stay in the Premier League. Should be a good game against the Scousers and it looked as though El Nino took a whack in Madrid as well so it might be a chance to take something from the game.
    Crowd was very good last night as well and I have had the same thaughts as AV was this letter a PR master stroke?
    COME ON BORO!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. It’s now lunchtime and I still haven’t stopped smiling from last night’s game. It’s amazing what a win can do for the spirits. I hope it has the same effect on the players and the coaching staff, and gives them enthusiasm and confidence for the League battles to come.
    Suddenly things become possible again. What we always needed (apart from square pegs in square holes, 90+ minutes’ commitment in every game, and some indication that we had a plan – even if it wasn’t a particularly cunning one) was for our Big Players to perform, to come to the plate, to do their jobs. Last night they did. It was good to see. If it’s OK with the Club, I’d like a little more please. I promise not to be too noisy next time.
    Actually that is a bit of a laugh really, isn’t it? Get kicked out of the ground for falling asleep – and there must have been mitigating circumstances for that one at several games this season. Get a letter complaining if you make too much noise – perhaps inadvertently upsetting those who had come to the ground expecting to have peace and quiet for their Teesside University course revision work.
    However a few thousand people chanting about the, apparently still legal in private, sexual activities of the referee, and how they might affect his eyesight, is perfectly acceptable and merits no comment.

  14. It was slightly alarming how much better we were without the “Shank Machine”. I think others have hit the nail on the head previously, both Alves and Arca (until last night’s performance) were passengers in too many games, and two passengers is too many.
    The question is, what role does Alves have now? Clearly his confidence has evaporated and he is struggling to adapt to having to do a lot of leg work. I think in a team with a stronger midfield he would have been in double figures by now, but when you’ve got a young team and a small squad you need someone who is very hardworking to lead the line, like Ali.
    I thought Emnes played well too, he looked comfortable on the ball and ran the channels well. Hopefully we will see more of him in the league as I think his pace can be a good asset from the bench.
    Let’s hope GS does what he’s done previously and stick with the same tactics.

  15. Great win!
    I listened to it live via internet. Ali and Gary were very impressed. They also pointed out that the recent clean sheets are important, too. This has not been appreciated by all supporters. You cannot run before being able to walk, perhaps.
    Nice to see some light in the tunnel. And read some positive posts here for a change! Up the Boro!

  16. I see all the Champ Man tactical gurus and cynical doom-mongers that normally swarm round here like vultures have gone to ground.
    Maybe they are scared that they may choke on their humble pie if they give grudging praise for an excellent performance.

  17. Great professional performance last night, so much improved from Saturday.
    Part of the reason must be that West Ham’s game on the night played into Boro’s hands, but the changes, especially the dropping of Alves, made a huge difference. At last we had 11 men, all workers who believed in and supported each other.
    I cannot agree that Alves would get goals in a better team. He cannot head the ball, hold it up, make incisive runs or make himself available to receive the ball. Quite simply, he is out of his depth by a considerable margin and quite how the Boro scouting staff were blind to his shortcomings before the purchase is beyond me.
    Alves must join Shawky in the rejects bin if we are to have any chance of avoiding the drop. Go on, GS, be brave and do it – you’ve persevered too long with Afonso and now we can all see some hope with last night’s selections.

  18. Excellant performance, amazing that when most of the pegs go into the right shaped holes the team performs better. Also amazing that playing with tempo and pace makes for better football and results. Positive subs keep the team going forward.
    Now that was more like it. There are tougher tests ahead but if we keep that level of intensity and performance we stand a chance of maintaining our premiership status.
    Alves and King back on Saturday?

  19. Not getting too carried away or anything but does anyone know if, WHEN we beat Everton, that the semi-finals are at Wembley or at another stadium?
    Great performance, recently we have been defensively sound, last night Huth was my man of the match as he was consistent throughout.
    I know the South East corner were loud last night but I was sat in North and it was the loudest that it had been all season. Credit to everyone that was there last night, whenever West Ham were singing we completely outsung them. Hope it’s like that on Saturday against Liverpool. Glad that Torres is injured for them.

  20. Stewy was as good as I can ever remember him, Gary O and Tuncay both looked like the players they were before they got distracted. The rest were good.
    We will have to play like that from now until the end of the season to stay up now. If we get cocky and start to beleive the press after one game we are in big trouble.
    The crowd were excellent. I don’t think Watson should get any credit, even tongue in cheek. It was the fans who deserved credit for defying the club and proving their point by turning up and singing and not just walking away in a huff.

  21. Last nights game has probably given GS another chance in the eyes of many (me included). Still stupidly high on the euphoria of a win maybe…..
    But if he gets the team to perform like that again for the rest of the season, all will be forgiven and we will almost certainly stay up. Its a big IF like. Gigantic in fact. Oway Boro!!!!!!

  22. Superb wasn’t it? I agree it is easy to come onto these message boards and criticise so only right that praise is given when due.
    Good positive team from Southgate (square pegs as I keep saying pay dividends) and some superb quality performances: Tuncay and Ali – so much movement, leaving the hammers defence breathless, Bates looking like the new Gerard (ooh, steady on) solid defence in Huth and Wheater, but for me the best of the night was Hoyte, a fully paid up right back supporting the attack and defending with style.
    Well done Boro, loved it. Has Southgate the bottle to stick with the same team? forget all this negatvity and tiredness … it’s all in the mind. Come On Boro!

  23. When the season has been more than unkind to us in terms of dodgy decisions and bad luck going against us it was inevitable that a lucky “own goal” would provide a break. That said I don’t think any of us thought that Sue Watson would be the scorer of the own goal that gave us a lift!
    Lets hope Gareth has the courage of his convictions and sticks to his attacking game on Saturday.

  24. I’d like to ally myself to the comments of John Powls at 4.16pm. At the start of the season I suspected that Turnbull MIGHT have it within him to be a good Premier League keeper, but equally suspected (admittedly on the basis of little evidence) that Jones didn’t.
    It looks like I was wrong about Jones, who has done all that could be expected of him since being surprisingly brought into the team. Now, I don’t want to tempt fate here, but we have stopped leaking goals in recent weeks. I don’t put all that at Jones’ door, because much must also rest on the fact we are now approaching a settled defence, with Huth and Wheater apparently being accepted as the kingpins in the centre if everyone is fit, with Poggy and Hoyte at full back. But Jones has seemed a safer pair of hands and has looked good in goal. Of course confidence helps breed success.
    Who is keeping that plate of humble pie warm for me?

  25. GS must stick with the team that beat West Ham on Saturday against Liverpool. To change it would be folly. We need to maintain the momentum from Wednesdays match. A bench of Alves, King, Johnson, Emnes, Walker is pretty strong and gives alternatives if they are needed.
    Liverpool may not have Torres or Gerrard playing, but they are still a formidable side and the bookies have them odds on to win and we will need to perform above and beyond Wednesday’s performance to win or indeed draw.
    It can be done, but Liverpool are a whole different ball game to West Ham, they are a team who will finish in the top four and its not inconceivable that come May they are champions of Europe.
    On the plus side we usually produce one startling and winning performance a season to beat a top four side, Saturday would be a good time for that to happen.
    Ian – just a small point, there were several square pegs in round holes on Wednesday weren’t there?

  26. BLT,
    With respect, calling fans who criticise whats gone on at the club this season cynical doom mongers, is ridiculous. It was an excellent performance against West Ham and a great result which should be applauded.
    However, Boro’s performances this season have been for the most part abject and the league table doesn’t lie. Most Boro supporters are sad and angry believing for whatever reasons, the club has gone backwards to the point that survival in the premiership this season is fast approaching the point where divine intervention will be required.
    Although its perhaps best left for another blog, as this is supposed to be a celebration of the teams excellent performance, I just have to say that the attendance of 12000 Boro supporters the other evening was an absolute disgrace and says so much about Middlesbrough as a premiership club.
    Up the Boro
    **AV writes: Fulham v Swansea 12,316 ; Blackburn v Sunderland 10,112 ; and they weren’t even on telly. Maybe it is just the FA Cup losing its shine.

  27. Lets just say I enjoyed that game so much. Still on a high. PLEASE Gareth dont change things around keep the same 11+2. Give us a chance. COME ON BORO

  28. AV
    I take your point about the crowd sizes at Fulham and Blackburn and even that the FA Cup may have lost its appeal, although I disagree with this last point, especially at this stage of the competition. Neither am I interested in crowd sizes at Blackburn and Fulham. I do agree that the match being shown live on terrestrial tv makes a difference.
    However, I stick to my view that the attendance was woeful and seeing all those empty spaces in the east stand was an indictment of Teesside’s lack of interest in its football club.
    On a happier note, I guess those who turned up on Wednesday night , should at least be guaranteed a ticket for the Final.

  29. Davidt.
    The crowd wasn’t great but you are well off the mark having a go about it. Look at the factors involved:
    1. Live on terrestrial.
    2. Also live that night two attractive Champions League games involving Liverpool and Chelsea.
    3. One goal in nine games and no wins in 14.
    4. Last two games at the Riverside appalling 0-0 draws.
    5. Three home games in a week including a match with Liverpool which will sell out.
    There were plenty of reasons to give it a miss rather than bust a gut to attend.

  30. This is one mans opinion but above all the doom and gloom, Stewart Downing has been the best player in the Premiership since the new year, and even in a credit crunch has added to his value

  31. Nigel
    Fair point, sometimes you have to play people out of their preferred positions but at least they were ovalish pegs in square holes with rounded corners.
    Pogo has spent a large proportion at left back. With the absence of Digard, Shaky AWOL in the mind and Walker still young, Bates was not the worst selection.
    There were no ridiculous or outrageous selections that defied belief. Examples?
    Dowing up front, Tuncay on the left at West Brom. Grounds at right back and Johnno right midfield against chelsea. Wheater at right back with McMahon and Hoyte on the bench.
    Square peggism is used by many teams when needs must. Just as important is attitude and commitment. On Wednesday we saw a team ‘wanting’ to win.
    AV:
    Are we having problems again? Got ‘internal server error’ a couple of times yesterday.
    **AV writes: I am not aware of any but I was off work yesterday so there could have been open heart surgery on the system and I wouldn’t know. It did seem a bit slow but I just put that down to Boro winning and there not being so much to moan about.

  32. Just changing the subject slightly but with Liverpool arriving this afternoon, its interesting to see Rick Parry’s got the push. I’ve always thought theres something of the night about this character, both at Liverpool and previously at the Premier League. Wasn’t he instrumental in the handling of the purchase of that German bloke with the dodgy skin who played for us (cant remember his name)? Anyway good riddance, although rumour has it he is off to help run our World Cup bid.
    PS Feeling quitely confident again about this afternoons result.

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