Boro Sums Add Up In Healthy Conn Trick

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 £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!


The persistent cash crisis rumours are ill-founded but after two years of the cutting cloth mantra from the club as a soundtrack to decline perhaps it is no surprise that they are grasped as an article of dark faith by the Slavenista millinarian tendency and the conspiracists who insist that relegation has been the sinister aim all along .
But we are fans. Our number-crunching skills are based on mental calculations of points and goal difference and miles to Plymouth. We are not, generally, able to read Boro’s accounts sheet from Companies House. I’ve seen them but I can’t make head nor tail.
But this bloke can. David Conn is the dogs. A specialist in football finance who has chronicled the transformation of the game into an industry and who has revealed the tricks of the trade from the failed 90s flotations to the chase-the-lady structure of asset stripping holding companies and last year’s vigue for leveraged buy-outs, Conn knows when a rabbit is off.
So it reassuring that after looking carefully over the figures and the corporate structure he has concluded that the club and the company will not be left on life support when/if we are relegated on Sunday. And he has done his homework too, which is not always the case when the broadsheet big hitters get on the case. He was on the phone here last week, has spoken to some key figures behind the scenes and was asking some probing questions amid the gossip in the pressroom before the Villa match on Saturday.
Conn issues a mild rebuke for Gareth Southgate for over egging the pudding when it comes to pleading poverty – given the parlous state of the team you can’t blame the guilty gaffer grasping for some kind of mitigation – and finds some reason for optimism in the strategy the club have adopted. In short, the mounting debt has been faced head on and the crisis is over, even if the good times are not back quite yet.
In the report on the Guardian’s excellent sports blog, Conn says:

The club’s most recent accounts, for the year to 31 December 2007, showed that Middlesbrough lost £8.3m, following £13.3m in 2006, and had total creditors of £131m. The club’s bank borrowings, £93m, were the fourth highest in the Premier League
Steve Gibson, had not, contrary to some reports, loaned the club £69m of that £93m, but his company, Gibson O’Neill, does own and stands behind the club, and guaranteed £83m of the borrowings.
Transfer payment instalments from player sales brought the debt down to around £72m by July last year. Gibson, via his holding company, then injected £40m into the club to bring borrowings to £25m-£30m, which they believe will be manageable if Boro go down.
The calamitous fall into the £40m gap between the Premier and Football Leagues will be eased by £11.2m parachute payments, giving Boro a huge financial advantage over Championship clubs who will all receive just £2.5m from the league’s improved TV deal.
The £25m shortfall was expected to be met by the sales of Stewart Downing, Tuncay and probably Jérémie AliadiÚre, Mido and probably O’Neil too. Otherwise, Boro plan to keep the squad together, give the graduates and English signings more prominence, and push for promotion. Gibson is again expected to put around £5m into the club.
Gibson O’Neill, the holding company, in the year to 31 December 2007, the most recent accounts showed a turnover of almost £200m and a profit of £24.5m and given the specialist niche of his business is not expected to be severely affected by the recession.
The Rockliffe Hall development – the most expensive golf course in Europe, a 61-bedroom luxury hotel and spa, and 24 executive houses – is projected to bring £5-6m a year into the club eventually, approaching a season’s gate receipts.

Knowing you are not going bust but are merely borrassic is not exactly a silver lining but certainly we can have a softer landing than we dared hope for when/if we plunge ethrough the trapdoor.
Next season will not be easy. The squad needs a major overhaul and injection of steel and nouse and there are pressing questions to be asked about transfer targets and the tactical shape of the team… but we are NOT heading for oblivion.
What is crucial is that Boro must be up there and challenging for promotion. If we are not in the top three or four come the Autumn there will be bigger questions to be asked.
LEGAL NEWS….
Boro to sue Manchester United if they field a weakened side at Hull? Yeah right. As if anyone would try and sue a club the football authorities cower meekly before.
Besides, if players are given a squad number in August then they are accepted by the Premier League as members of the first team squad. Of course, you’d get suspicious if Fergie got his boots out and lined up alongside Bobby Charlton with the Glazer brothers and Robbo in midfield and Eamonn Holmes and Pally at the back plus the tea lady in goal but short of that a motivated United second string should batter Hull. They battered Boro without breaking sweat.
Every team picks a side that meets their short term needs. Boro have played weakened sides. Some would argue they do it every weekend. Here’s one…..
May 7th, 2006
Fulham 1 Boro 0
Turnbull, Davies, Wheater, Bates, Taylor, Morrison, Cattermole, Kennedy (Cooper 85), Johnson, Graham (Craddock 82), Christie (Walker 62)
The average age at kick-off was 20 years old exactly, dropping to 19.1 briefly when Josh Walker came on for golden oldie Malcolm Christie and then shooting back up to 42 or something when Coops came on.

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35 thoughts on “Boro Sums Add Up In Healthy Conn Trick

  1. AV, I read the David Conn article earlier this morning and I’m glad you’ve picked up on it – I was going to ask you if you thought he had his figures right, but you seem to have given your approval.
    Initially, I was taken aback by the figure of £131m owed to creditors. If £93m is owed to banks, which £83m is guaranteed by Gibson O’Neil – what does the other £38m consist of?
    Then I’m getting a bit more confused that the debt was then brought down to £72m (is that from £131m or £93?) – before Steve Gibson injected a further £40m to bring the debt to a manageable £25-30m.
    Does that then mean if we sell a few players we’ll then be close to zero debt?
    If all this is true then I’m guilty of misjudging Steve Gibson’s recent finacial commitment to the club – it’s a phenomenal amount of money that has been pumped into Boro.
    What is staggering is that we’re still forking out £33m a year to pay the wages of a group of largely average players – that’s what is wrong with football – it’s a joke.
    **AV writes: I think the £93m is unsecured loans – that is to banks and other creditors including Gibson O’Neil. Of the rest I think the bulk will be outstanding transfer balances to be paid, usually over two years, and given the reining in over the past 18 month those will have largely filtered through by now.
    I am led to believe that that next set of accounts will look far healthier because of that, the rescheduling of internal debt and the continued reduction in the wage bill.
    Zero debt isn’t possible because the wage bill will still exceed income from TV money and gate money combined in the immediate future plus the club make massive investments in both the academy and the community education and inclusion projects (£9m a year I believe) which do not generate revenue and which many believe are a frivolous cost but which the chairman passionately believes in.
    The important thing is that the debt is manageable. Contrary to the persistent rumours Boro will not be going into administration if we go down. In fact the club have been ahead of the game and have spent the past three years taking steps to ensure that will not be a risk should the bubble burst.

  2. Fulham 1 v Boro 0
    If it would have been possible to maintain that team, I bet they would have player with more passion and aggression, and gotten more points this season than the current everchanging squad.

  3. The heart of the club’s money worries isn’t MFC, its Bulkhaul. If Bulkhaul’s creditors, in particular the banks, call in loans Gibson would need call equity out of MFC, ideally by a stake sale (which looks tricky).
    I hope it doesn’t happen but Gibson may find himself caught in the horns trying to decide which of his business interests have to suffer.
    Also I have to question the blue sky thinking in the assumption that the (Bulkhaul) development schemes will bring in £5-£6m into the club.
    The real pain of all of this is Mr Gibson’s saying one way or another there will be exciting (Cheaper) football being played at the Riverside. The only real issue to debate is:
    (i) Will Mr Gibson lose his investment?
    (ii) Will as a going concern MFC be able to honour player contracts?
    Certainly if were supplying pork pies to the club I’d be asking for cash on delivery

  4. John Powls – ever thought of giving credit where it is due?
    It seems to me that what we have just read is further confirmation of the widely acknowledged belief that Boro (I wont join in with the Boro v MFC spin) are a well managed club (I’m talking about business management, the football management debate is for another time)

  5. John Powls, you make a good point about the fact if the finances weren’t at the critical point then the strategy wasn’t going to be based on relegation.
    I think the fact that Boro spent £12.5m on what was supposed to be a top-notch striker (ie Alves), plus a further £10m on Digard, Emnes and Hoyte – together with a refusal to cash in on Downing, O’Neil, Tuncay and initially Mido – along with the continued presence of the likes of Huth, Pogi and Wheater – would seem to indicate that the strategy was staying in the PL with a bit to spare.
    It would seem where it went wrong was the inability of the coaching staff to get the best out of these players after the first ten games – as surely £33m in wages should have produced better value on the pitch.
    It’s a case of whether Steve Gibson made the right call in not replacing Southgate in January – which appears on the face of it to have cost us our PL place. It seems Southgate is over-egging the financial restraint as an excuse, whilst Gibson was sticking to his line of supporting his manager in the hope that reducing the pressure would yield better results.
    Should the miracle fails to happen on Sunday then we are facing a whole different stategy – and not by choice.
    **AV writes: I think the most compelling evidence against the idea that the club is basket case and was aiming for relegation came in January. If the club wanted to go down and were desperate for money then both Downing and O’Neil would surely have been sold. That the club fought publically and against conventional wisdom to keep ‘unhappy’ players with buyers waiting suggest they aimed to stay up.

  6. John –
    Is it not easy to criticise a strategy after the outcome is known?
    When a strategy is formulated and implemented there is always a risk it will fail or not achieve all of its objectives, no amount of risk management can alter that fact.
    I would argue that the strategy would have been a success if the investment in Alves had paid off to the tune of as little as four or five more goals.
    Success and failure in football hinges on the success or failure of such transfer transactions and Alves has sadly been a failure in the prem. That is why we are almost certainly going to be relegated not because of a failed strategy.
    To round off, how uncertain the success or not of transfers will be and how hard they are to call is demonstrated to me by the fact that there was not one dissenting voice on this blog at the prospect of spending £12m on Alves, in fact most posters were screaming for Boro to rush the deal through in case he was hijacked by someone else, how ironic is that now?
    And (I really will round off now, honest!), the distinction between Boro and MFC is an artificial one isn’t it? The organisation is one entity, no part can exist without the other, the differentiation is a convenient way of criticising the club without criticising the club!

  7. The fact is Keith Lamb was right, the people of the area will get the club they deserve (not the fans).
    All this hype about the Euro runs was just that, all hype. I dont think they made a penny from them, the attendances where appalling and considering the cost of all the travelling expenses etc,it must have been a drain.
    Having said that , in the history of Boro football club, 100 odd years, they have only spent two seasons out of the top two divisions so we are not just this little no-name club from the boonies. That is why most of us (real fans) dont listen to the drivel(spin).
    With a better manager and coaching staff we would have been in a better position today, but which top man would come here if everything is done by committee? Maybe Steve should let the manager do his job and get out of the locker room

  8. In reality though (and wonderful hindsight) AV, you have to question the wisdom of keeping both Downing and O’Neil, when the money generated should have given Boro enough money to ensure we bought the steely players we so clearly needed – to replace the ones we sold the previous summer!
    I would be interested to back down on this point if someone can give me the stats on both Downing’s and O’Neils contribution to the few goals we have actually scored since January.
    As for Boro’s business model – well, SG clearly is making Boro recession proof, and that is so important in the present economic climate. Just down the road at Newcastle, there are a few getting pretty twitchy about their particular impending relegation in four days time…

  9. Nice to know it would appear that we are not going to the wall.
    Putting the financial position to one side surely Gareth Southgate’s position should be determined by a reasonable assessment of his ability to organise select and instruct his team this season. I’ll give you a few examples.
    1.Everton at home Boxing Day. Pre-match Southgate identifies set pieces as the danger and then leaves his best headers Wheater and Huth on the bench.
    2. Blackburn at home.An eminently winnable game. Five centre halves selected to play out a 0-0 draw.
    3.Sunderland at home, experiments for the first time with 4-2-3-1 and his three are Arca left Downing middle Tuncay right-all out of position.
    4.Newcastle away – was this team and positions selected determined by a lucky bag?
    5 On more than one occasion two left wingers on the pitch neither on the left wing.
    I’m sure other readers of this blog can come up with other examples.The bottom line is that the failings of Gareth Southgate and his backroom staff has without doubt contributed to our pending relegation. I really do not see the point in persisting with a group of people that are not up to the job.

  10. Following Eric Paylor’s rumour mill, why don’t the Gazette do a poll to see if we (the fans) want Southgate to be in charge of us getting promoted next season?
    **AV writes: We have done them what feels like fortnightly since about Christmas on gazettelive.co.uk. No doubt there will another one on Monday.

  11. Ken Bouttel’s point on the retention of downing and o’neil in Jan, especially given their combined zero goals total since, is a good one.
    However, if they had been sold, the fans reaction to selling our best player would have fuelled the fires of accepting relegation and could have turned the fans against the club even earlier.
    It was a gamble that back fired, even more so given the news in the last few days.
    I would imagine you could of got at least 100/1 on Downing not scoring a prem goal this season.
    Actually, maybe thats it. Gibbo has placed a few million pound bets with bookmakers throughout the country to clear the books and give us a £300 mill war chest for next season. Don’t know why we’ve all been worrying!

  12. Tried posting 3 times today without success it seems.
    **AV writes: What, even though I have killed the Captcha dragon? Incredible though it sounds, I am not aware on any current technical problems.

  13. I am glad that someone who actually knows what they are talking about has come out and killed this ridiculous rumour about Boro going into administration. It has been all anyone has talked about this week.
    I blame Bernie Slaven because he never shuts up about the debt. Him and his legion of doom never shut up about how the money has run out, Gibbo has lost his ambition and we are going under on Monday.
    Can’t people get their head around the idea that we can’t keep on spending money that isn’t there? Don’t they see a connection between the front page stories about the credit crunch and Corus and a recession the back page ones about Boro being skint?
    They talk about Boro “doing a Leeds” then complain we didn’t spend £20m in January!
    We don’t know what is going to happen a few years down the line – the next TV deal might be a lot less, Setanta are trying to get out of their deal or cut the price. And don’t forget how ITV Digital went belly up and left loads of clubs up the creek.
    I’ve seen the padlocks on the gates once and I don’t want it again. If Gibbo reckons we need to watch the pennies for a while that is good enough for me.

  14. Stockport Wiggy
    Just a correction mate:- GON did score at Bolton, not that it did us any good, as the defence failed to turn up (again). But I take your point, of course – the midfield has scored only 4 goals all season – GON 3 and Bates 1. That’s just not good enough.
    Ste Mac
    A very fine post, mate, and one I agree with entirely. Provided, of course, that “watching the pennies for a while” doesn’t mean hanging on to Southgate because it would cost too much to release him from his contract.

  15. David Conn is a respected,investigative football journalist on the finances of football clubs and I believe he has got it about right regarding the financial situation we are currently experiencing.
    Regarding funding, it all comes down to good judgement and sensible forecasting, which is where we appear to have shown improvement but to use a popular word at the moment, lamentable judgement is evident on the playing side – starting with a disproportionate loyalty to the manager and his coaching staff.
    Putting the finances and footballing issues together has confused our understanding of the deterioration visible before eyes. Whether that was deliberate by the club to unknowing supporters is worth reflecting upon?
    We will know for certain on Sunday

  16. Be honest – who would you rather have running our club? Ashley and Shearer, Quinn and Sbragia (is that how you spell it or are they just the last letters in the Scrabble bag?) or Gibson and Southgate?
    No – think about it for a minute and be really honest!
    To say the least it hasn’t gone well for us this season, but the current incumbent and owner appear to understand their jobs and the context in which they have to operate.
    Personally, I believe (and think that the management believe) in the next couple of years that the whole Sky-fuelled gravy train for PL clubs is going to implode (look at Italy) and the smaller clubs (i.e. outside the top six) that haven’t prepared will be absolutey crushed by it (all hail Phil Gartside and his radical – but probably doomed by the power of the wealthy – plan for an expanded meritocracy).

  17. Not for the first time the club have been exposed as having been ‘economical with the truth.’
    I don’t think that too many of us really believe that relegation was a preferred or even acceptable option so far as the club was concerned
    The spin that were being asked to swallow would have us believe that we can’t compete with the Wigans, Fulhams, Portsmouths, Boltons and Blackburns of the PL, let alone finish above the promoted sides of Stoke, Hull and WBA…
    We are (for another couple of days) an established PL club with a modern revenue generating stadium and a highly productive cost-effective Academy. We have a larger supporter base than half of the teams we compete against, and we generate more in revenues
    Three years ago we reached the UEFA Cup Final, this after having won the Carling Cup. Since then we have progressively disintegrated to become a team without heart, organisation or personality: I am not saying however that the players we have lack ability
    The evidence of our demise is there for all to see, not just in terms of League position but in the detail underlying that – sequence of consecutive away defeats, number of goals scored, number of goals conceded, winning positions turned to defeats, consistent failure to defend set pieces, consistent failure to play players in their right positions, consistent failure to effectively counter tactical changes made by the opposition etc etc
    We can sign players who have some reputation or pedigree, we can watch as so many of these fail to perform for us, and we can resign ourselves to writing off a large part of the investment when they move on to other clubs
    What is harder to take is the failure to agree contracts with the likes of Turnbull and Bates before the season starts, and then to see them leave for well below their market value, when they’ve come through our youth system and we are better placed to recognise their abilities and to negotiate new contracts than anyone else
    As others have pointed out (but it bears repetition) there is a distinction that has to be made between the prudent financial management off the field and the abject failure of management of the team
    Let’s be absolutely clear on this – there has been no comparative shortage of funds invested in players. Relative to most of the PL we have the resources, fan-base and infrastructure to compete effectively – we are better placed than most
    When you look behind the smoke and mirrors what emerges is the inescapable failure of the team management and coaching staff to match the ability of their counterparts.
    We have consistently failed to learn from our mistakes, we have become poorer as the seasons and the games have gone by, and as a consequence we make the same basic errors over and over again. The price we are about to pay for this is relegation
    As others have said, we are resilient, we are used to set backs and disappointments, and we are better placed than most to survive relegation and come back strongly to reclaim our rightful place in the PL
    Before we can do this however we have to appoint a new manager and coacing staff, someone of experience and proven ability

  18. AV
    I lost a couple posts which appeared to have got through but have not since appeared. you are not aware of any problems, there again it may be like Gibbo and come out of the blue like a relegation battle.
    Nigel
    I dont think the differentiation between MFC and Boro is artificial at all. I first voiced the view two seasons ago because the club was clearly making peculiar decisions without considering the fans, daft things like the shirt and badge. It was ploughing on regardless.
    MFC are the entity that run the football club, luckily they are all fans as well.
    Boro is the team that I have supported from Harris to Huth.
    MFC can change, it did hugely in 1986, it has done several times in my supporting lifetime as the boardroom changed.
    ManU fans dont love the Glazers, Lpool fans dont love Hicks and Gillett. An extreme case, AFC Wimbledon are different to MK Dons.
    We are lucky in that Gibbo is a legend in his own right but when I watch the Boro I am not cheering on the whole infrastructure. Boro and MFC are closely linked but I can fall out of love with MFC but not the Boro.

  19. Anybody seeking a bit of light relief from the doom and gloom should check out the guardian’s website as the subject of their gallery this week is Alves – there are some definite laugh out loud contributions – especially ‘Unhappy Days’ with Gareth as Richie Cunningham and Alves as of course The Fonz.
    **AV writes: Yes, I linked it earlier via my twitter feed which I am contractually obliged to suggest you sign up to. It’s great. There’s an icon on the page somewhere.

  20. On to the main debate of this thread.
    Uncle Eric does a good job in dealing with the various rumours, the Conn report makes interesting reading. Personally, I dont know enough about the clubs finances to comment so will dwell on the football side.
    If we take the finances as a given and that there has been a tightening of the purse strings then we must look at the use of the resources we have available.
    Uncle Eric points out that we have £23.9million of strikers, not all here at the moment but the return has been scandalous. The lack of goals from the players we have is nothing to do with Bulhaul.
    The inability to defend at set pieces is a long running saga. When zonal marking was ditched we expected some improvements but a close look at Villa’s equaliser showed ten Boro players in the box and Carew unmarked.
    I am not going to just repeat the words of Nigel(Mumbai) but would like to throw in the negative messages coming out of the club before and during the transfer window, the air of resignation.
    I know Gibbo’s remark about the relegation battle coming out of the blue was for public consumption but it beggared belief as many saw it coming.
    A final thought is Eric’s comment that Gibson, Lamb and Gate are some sort of holy trinity who have presided over our current demise. Maybe they should be renamed Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru, collectively sanbiki no saru.
    **AV writes: The fact that work as a triumverate is precisely why there is little or no pressure on Southgate’s position – in almost all the areas in which he is most heavily criticised there is a collective rather than individual responsibility.
    In most clubs the quickest way for a manager to get sacked is to spend money badly. Here that pressure is removed because all transfers are decided by a consensus… although you could argue that Southgate could easily be outvoted or caught in a suited pincer movement so is at a disadvantage.

  21. As someone else posted I too are in agreement that if SG feels the need to ‘watch the pennies’ for a while to ensure the football club doesnt return to the dark days of ’86 then thats fine by me.
    What I do find interesting is the guys that say selling Downing for £12 mill is a good piece of business. I completely disagree with this – selling argueably our best player who plays every week is never good business.
    Anyone think the current management team could spend 12 mill wisely if it was given to them? I am horrified at the cash wasted by the current management and a few before them also on what amount to crap players. Ask yourself this if you had 2 columns 1. Good Buys and 2. Bad Buys – which column would you fill up first ?

  22. AV – your comment about there being little or no pressure on Southgate because 3 people act as a triumvirate cannot be right. It may well be the case that all 3 are involved in deciding incomings and outgoings, however Gibson and Lamb will have nothing to do with selecting the team, deciding on tactics, deciding on substitutions and preparing the players for games.
    These responsibilities and down to Southgate and his staff nobody else. If they are getting it wrong repeatedly then there is only one conclusion that anybody could come to-that they are failing in the job for which they are being paid.
    In any other field of employment – or dare I say it at any other football club – such ineptitude would not be acceptable to the employer.

  23. AV
    It was me who said David Conn was a respected football journalist, not himself as has been written.
    One point regarding our defensive failings this year, often overlooked, the extent to which Steve Harrison’s retirement has had an impact. Just a thought.
    **AV writes: To be fair, I didn’t really think it was him blowing his own trumpet.

  24. Thanks AV. Certainly more interesting than eric paylors piece of MFC propaganda.
    There can be no excuses about rookie managers with no money to spend.
    Southgate has had three years and around 120 games, and has more than enough cash to spend. If money was so tight, why spend £3M on emnes and then play him?
    We need to accept relegation, and then have a good clear out of all the overpaid deadwood

  25. Jaguar Boy’s suggests that SG may well have appointed rookie GS so he could have greater control. Conspiracy theories don’t usually bear close examination and in this case lack of suitable candidate at affordable price is surely the reason for GS’ appointment.
    It’s great, anyway, to see so many positives in these postings after earlier distress. Let’s hope the mood survives Sunday!

  26. So is it the case that GS has a ‘veto’ on signings, or that his is the technical assessment (‘this is the player we should buy and he’s worth this much’) and SG/KL provide the financial evaluation (‘if we spend this on him we need to recover x from sales or reduce the wage bill by y’)?
    For player sales where is the balance of power (SG/KL: we’ve received a great offer for Luke Young we think we should sell him and buy a younger player such as Justin Hoyte’ or GS: ‘He’s my most experienced and consistent defender, from a team perspective we can’t afford to lose him’)?
    Also, does the holy trinity preside over team tactics and selection? Is there pressure on GS to adopt particular tactics or play specific players?
    Is the effectiveness of the ‘band of brothers’ mechanism going to be under scrutiny during the post-relegation review, and if so how will accountability be divided up between the three?
    Just how comprehensive, wide-ranging and objective is the review going to be and how open will the club be as regards explaining the how and why to the increasingly dissilusioned ranks of the red and white army?
    It would really help to know how we’ve arrived at the following levels of PL performance:
    1) fewest wins (7)
    2) scored fewer goals than any other club (27!!!)
    3) failed to score in highest number of matches (17)
    4) won the fewest games from a losing position (0)
    5) worst performing ‘second-half’ team
    6) scored fewer second-half goals than anyone else (15)
    7) conceded more second-half goals than any other team (37)
    8) lost more away matches than anyone else (17)
    9) scored fewest number of away goals (10)
    10) kept lowest number of away clean sheets (1)
    What these statistics indicate is a consistent failure of motivation, organisation and tactics. One clean sheet away from home all season. We fall to pieces in the second-half of games; we can’t defend; we can’t score goals (even from set-pieces) and if we concede first we’re dead in the water…FGS. Is this really how far we’ve travelled in three short years?
    Adam Johnson is the latest Academy graduate to refuse a new contract – assuming that the likes of Johnson, Bates and Turnbull feel some loyalty or commitment to the club is it that we can’t offer competitive terms (in which case why have an Academy if all we are likely to receive is ‘compensation’ payments?) or is it that these players have no faith in the clubs management (which brings us back to roles and responsibility)?
    ‘Boardroom interference’ has until now appeared at least to be an illness that only afflicted other clubs. One of the USP’s of Middlesbrough to prospective Managers had to be the patience and support extended by SG to the incumbent, and so it seemed, his willingness to let the Manager manage…
    To the extent that this ‘freedom to manage’ has been changed, we need to know the ‘when’ and the ‘why’. Were decisions taken collectively to try to compensate for GS lack of managerial experience? If so, on what basis do SG/KL feel that they have the necessary technical ability to guide him? Further, why appoint someone who needed this level of support in the first place?
    It would really help if we got a clear and detailed statement from the club that addressed/answered these questions
    **AV writes: I think the best way of looking at it is by forgetting the moment that it is our football club and just analysing the structure, using a kind of corporate algebra. Southgate just runs one department, yes the one that is most public facing, but one that in management terms is a rung below the executive.
    He is part of the decision making process, may have some imput into financial planning and medium term strategic decisions and probably helps shape the targets and budgets of his own department. But he doesn’t have much autonomy, can’t raise his own revenue and is bound by both the corporate structure and the company strategic aims.
    He will have been given – and presumably agreed to – targets. His current targets include reduction of manpower levels and the wage bill, plus on the recruitment side he is being encouraged to promote from within rather than head-hunter externally and have to pay a premium. Every big earning new recruit has to be justified with a business case to show it is cost effective and crucial to business performance and it must be sanctioned by the executive. That sounds like pretty much any company in the country to me.
    The thing that is probably most frustarting for fans – who don’t give a toss about bean-counting and prudent models – is that Southgate has met most of his targets and in the one that matters most, delivering results on the pitch, he has a ready made mitigation: that the impact of wage and staff cuts agreed higher up the chain have impacted on performance. That is why he has been stressing the financial situation at every turn, it is his get out.
    Given that his executive have set out the strategy they can hardly turn on him because it has gone wrong. If finances are at the root of the problem then the responsibility is as much with the executive as the departmental manager.

  27. Sounds like our accountants are as slow as our full backs if our most recent set of accounts are to 31 Dec 2007!!

  28. Nigel (Mumbai)
    I think it highly unlikely that we will find out about the internal workings of the holy trinity. I am a great fan of Gibbo and what he has done for the club but a benign dictator is still a dictator. He is not going to come out and reveal all, nor are Lamb and Gate.
    Nor do I think anyone is going to throw themselves on a sword. Gate will state he is the manager and it his responsibility safe in the knowledge that they are all in it together and that the football world wont judge them too harshly.
    They will be hoping that should the likely happen, events elsewhere will take some of the pressure off MFC by Shearer truly becoming the Messiah or being revealed as just a naughty boy.
    I am not advocating a purge nor keeping the status quo just stating how I see the situation. I cannot do anything to change it no matter how frustrating it is. That is why I differentiate between MFC and Boro.

  29. I dont know if I am allowed to suggest this but I would recommend a visit to ComeOnBoro and read the article by Peter Hughes on Gareth did it his way.
    Made me chuckle.
    **AV writes: Yes, as they say on the BBC, other web sites are available.

  30. If our strikeforce is worth some £20 odd million who was in charge of making the signings because at the moment they ar’nt worth £20.
    Many of the fans have seen the dowward spiral yet noone at MFC saw it coming and surely the idea of tightening the purse strings was dependant on us staying in the PL because the returns MFC recieve in the Championship will be a pitance compared with the PL.

  31. Most tackles in the Premier League this season – one Lee Cattermole.
    To sell him and Boeteng without a replacement was a gamble which hasn’t paid off. The bottom 6 have been so bad, that I’m sure we would have stayed up with either of those 2 still at the club. That is just bad, bad management.
    I still think GS should be given the chance to manage us next season, but a change should be made if we don’t make a very positive start.
    Contrary to what I posted earlier in the week, I do feel better that Newcastle are relegated with us although I think it will make next season tougher.
    Congratulations to Hull for staying up. They deserve a second season in the Prem. after some of the enjoyment they gave everyone in the first half of the season.

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