AFTER being inundated with requests from readers outside the five mile golden radius of the beating heart of Gazetteshire who don’t get to see my column in the paper (well, two anyway) here by popular demand is Tuesday’s Big Picture post-mortem…
CHAIRMAN in “town full of Mackems” Stockton own goal future misquote shocker!
SO BORO’S slow-motion car crash of a season skidded and spluttered to a half-hearted halt at Upton Park; the Riverside Revolution twocked by bean-counters, downsized from a gas-guzzling flash bright red sports number to a humdrum family hatch-back with little power but better value for money before being left rusting on the drive with a felt-tipped notice in the rear window “for spares or repair”. Sad. But inevitable.
SO. An unprecedented golden age of 11 years Cardiff glory and European adventure now boils down to one jigsaw finale when all the pieces must fall in place or the picture will be a bleak one of broken dreams and bitter recrimination.
RELEGATION looms and tetchy Teesside is gripped with dark fears of impending administration. Bulkhaul is bust! The banks are coming with a big truck to repossess Mido! They will padlock the gates again! The ÃÂ£200 a time gold plated taps in the seven star hotel are dragging us down to oblivion! Oh no, we are all going to die!
WELL that’s the financial strategy underpinning the summer reshuffle fractured. Asset in chief Stewart Downing has a broken foot and will be sidelined throughout the close season shopping frenzy, which torpedoes Boro’s plans to use his transfer fee to rebuild.
Initially the post match assessment was that his injury – inflicted by an unpunished heavy challenge from behind – wasn’t as bad as first feared. When he was stretchered off the press box speculation was a trendy metatarsel or more old school ankle ligaments but after the game Stewie hadn’t been rushed to hospital, he had watched the game from the dug-out and afterwards was zipping around on crutches and although he was clearly “knacked” and ruled out for West Ham he seemed upbeat and positive.
WELL, it is still mathematically possible to get something on the last day at West Ham but the stats swung against Boro when they failed to beat Villa. It was a last chance to keep our fate in our own hands. Now it comes down to results elsewhere, goal difference and prayers.
It was deeply frustrating because in the first half Boro played with considerable zest and desire and took their fate in their own hands, scored a cracking opener and engineered a string of good openings and could maybe have sealed it… but then as so often this season they went off the boil, leaked a leveller and started to panic. By the end they had run out of steam, ideas and the institutional mental frailty had kicked in. In truth, we were lucky to get away with a point in the end.
Gareth Southgate got booed at the end and admitted it hurt but to be fair he got off lightly. That could be the end of Boro’s Golden Age of Premiership football fizzling out for the foreseeable with barely a wimper.
TODAY I am loving the defiant and proud but still harshly realistic assessment of the current situtation by Football365’s professional Boro loving rock and roll Northern Monkey John Nicholson.
I largely agree with both his poetic appraisal of both Teesside’s psycho-history and his analysis of how impending relegation will sit in the grander scheme of things. I don’t take a doomladen millenarian view that relegation is the end of the world. If anything it may dampen down some of the damaging aspects of hysterical over-expectation and inject a new sense of realism about what – and how – we can achieve.
BUGGER! That’s us needing snookers then. What a mess. Same old story: strange selections and an awkward shape, a failure to take the chances when they presented themselves, a failure to concentrate at the back, no heart, no steel, no urgency and substitutions that swung the game against us.
THREE YEARS ago we were in Eindhoven. A dramatic and memorable campaign had taken bubbling Boro to the heights of the UEFA Cup final and offered a glorious opportunity to bring an unprecedented Golden Era to a climax with a European trophy.
The Riverside years had served up trips to Wembley, world class stars playing to full houses, a major national knockout trophy at Cardiff after a fruitless century of heart-break, the longest spell in the top flight since the war and successive Euro campaigns. We had never had it so good. The world was at our feet. We had raised our profile, raised our expectations and raised the bar.
Fast forward through three stuttering seasons of down-sized ambitions and slow-motion strategic retreat and we face an even bigger watershed with far more at stake.