Gareth Takes A Swing At Critics

AND SO the pendulum swings back the other way – for a week at least – as schizophrenic Middlesbrough’s metronomic season continues. The crucial win at Reading on a day when our chief promotion rivals all faltered helped Boro claw back lost ground in the table and earned the gaffer some political breathing space after a week of sustained fire had him on the ropes.
Some, but not much. Those with foam finger fume poisoning may well now feel vindicated for their brave stance against the midweek mob but the rusty bedsprings faction who hoped for defeat today won’t go away. It was after all only Reading. And third is not an automatic spot. Nothing has changed. It is just double or quits carried forward onto the next game with a fortnight off to lick wounds, grind axes and generally simmer before things swing back their way.


I didn’t go today, Big Phil T baggsied this one pre-season because it was a new ground for him. It was the first match I have missed since Wolves away in the FA Cup what seems like eons ago so naturally was listening to Ali and Gilly (isn’t that a different experience from the polar opposites Punch and Judy show when Bernie was on?) while watching Jeff Stelling and the boys and following developments on here, Fly Me and the Beeb via the lap-top. So a bit of a busmans’ holiday then.
[Incidentally I noticed there was a few people posting on the blog during the match… is there a viable audience for me trying live quip-by-quip coverage in some form?]
It was interesting to note after the game that Gareth resumed the high-risk assertive defence of his position that he had mounted in the Thursday pre-match presser. Then he had answered questions about the booing at the Leicester game by having a pop at the booing culture at the Riverside and dismissing the concept of “opinions without responsibility.”
This time he edged towards a divide and rule strategy by bigging up the away fans. Now, the away fans have been magnificent this season and have impressed both in numbers and volume, of that there can be no question but it would be naive to think that Venn Diagram-wise there is no intersection between those hardy travelling hardcore of loyalists and the tetchy thousands who have roasted him at the Riverside.
Nevertheless, it suits his political ends to draw attention to the superb support away from home and the team’s impressive results on the road in contrast to the more impatient, demanding and disgruntled home fans who he says have piled pressure on the team. After the game he said:
“We had incredible travelling support today. It’s a hell of a long journey to come down here, I know we have a lot of support in the south but when you can reward that travelling support, that’s great. We want to reward our home support as well and being together as a group is going to be crucial.”
Asked why Boro have played with zest away from home but have struggled at home, Southgate said: “I don’t know what to make of it if I’m honest. It’s something that as club we’ve got to think about. We’ve got two important home games coming up and we’ve got to have the strength of character to win there.”
That last phrase is the most important. It he wants to take the heat off the team and himself Boro MUST start winning at home. That the away fans have seen goals aplenty and a couple of superb performances is a fantastic reward for the miles and hours they put in but home turf is a far more important political constituency and the vast majority who only see the team at the Riverside have had to endure a grind against Sheffield United, the pummelling by West Brom and the purgatory of the first hour against Leicester need to be given compelling reasons to stay on side. Or at least not join the overt opposition.
After a bitter and damaging week in which Boro fans have marked out their territory, nailed their colours to the mast and been identifying and insulting members of the rival factions Southgate may have got a dig in – which is fair enough, his detractors have been free enough in making political capital from results – but he also added a note of sober reason to the debate.
“We were very professional about how we went about it and how calmly we played it out and we were solid as a team,” he said. “But we won’t get carried away with it, in the same way as we didn’t with previous results. Other scores today show the topsy-turvy nature of this league.”
Which is true. After battering Boro there were plenty on here who suggested that the engraver may as well get to work on the trophy that hey had already awarded to West Brom. Since then they have lost two and today could only draw. Boro, written off after the 5-0 gubbing, are now just a point behind them. Newcastle, still reeling at Jason Euell scoring in Blackpool’s win have also drawn two in a row. Neither will run away with it. Boro are third, a point off an automatic spot and are averaging almost two points a game.
There is a long way to go yet. Boro’s best chance of promotion is sticking together when things get sticky, as from time to time they will. But there is no point in appealing for unity on some abstract point of principle when the crowd are divided. The only way the fractured alliance can be kept together is by Boro continuing to win. Especially at home. Over to you lads….

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115 thoughts on “Gareth Takes A Swing At Critics

  1. Interesting to read Mendie’s last days at Boro, also the way he has embraced the area. Wouldnt it be an advantage to the club to use him in some kind of capacity.to maybe help new signings ,who come from other cultures, settle in. I wonder who was behind the idea of just pushing him out
    **AV writes: Who would burn bridges with such abandon I wonder?

  2. Talking of ‘burning bridges’ and ‘cunning plans’ – It appears Folan has executed both in order to make it very difficult for ‘nice guy’ Gareth to send him back to Hull.
    In reaction to Phil Brown’s negative remarks about his attitude towards training, he reportedly said to the Daily Star “If he wants to come out with stupid comments like that then just let him be”
    In the article he also said “It’s laughable, to me. I laughed when I first heard of it. My first reaction was to laugh because it was so pathetic. It’s very strange because it’s a good set-up there [Hull] but I just think they’re not being managed in the right way.”
    Personally, I think what would be more laughable is a film of their first meeting if Boro decided to cancel the loan deal after all.
    **AV writes: Yes, it would be an instant YouTube classic.

  3. Re: Powmill October 7, 2009 2:04 PM
    Great post. I also believe in thinking positively. The crowd must be won over at home. We can hope luckily getting a goal early on – or have the crowd urging the players on from the first minute. The latter is something the supporters can help with!
    As we are just one point behind WBA the next two home games look exiting. Six points are possible – I hope the home supporters notice that! Also Digard is again OK after playing 90 min for reserves this week. So the team should be very strong – and the bench, too!
    Up the Boro!

  4. southgate today: “But since Alves was signed, we have changed the whole policy and procedure and the way we go about our recruitment”
    What was the policy before? Sign a player on the basis that he put seven past a non league team, watch some videos or take his agent’s, or mum’s, word that he is very good. Think of a realistic figure: double, no treble, no whatever the word of multiply by 24 is that to work out the inflated fee you will pay. Not get suspicious that there hardly seems to be a scramble to sign him, despite a dearth of goal-every-two-games strikers anywhere out of the top four.
    In some industries, in fact probably all, someone in responsibility who made that decision (and despite what anyone says, it was his responsibility and he would have a veto) and lost such a lot of money would be sacked or would be expected to, at very least, offer his resignation for the employers to accept or reject.
    I cannot think of a such a shocking misjudgement and poor signing in football as it relates to a club’s own finances. Ok, Man U and Chelsea have had bigger, more expensive turkeys, but their pockets are effectively bottomless. For Boro to waste that amount of money given their turnover, and debt, must be one of the worst signings ever made.
    Southgate must pray nightly to give thanks to whoever is the patron saint of tame local journalists who never ask hard questions.

  5. I thought Alves was a great signing at he time it happened. I still think he had more chances to score than anybody else in our squad last season. I think he was a good player (bad players don’t even get the chances). But something went wrong – unfortunately!
    But I agree with John Powls that this interview serie might get people angry again. Just as I were hoping that something positive might emerge here and at the Riverside. So please accept what happened and concentrate on the next two home matches!
    Up the Boro!

  6. Southgate has revealed that the policy used in signing of Alves has been changed and basically admitted that the sale of Luke Young , Cattermole and Boat made good buisness at the time but weakened the squad regarding prem experience. A 7 mil cut had to be made to the squad.
    Luke Young was our player of the year the previous year and a real leader on the pitch, he was replaced by Hoyte for 3 mil making a profit of 3 mil. He basically sold our player of the year and the bite in midfield to chae an inflated price on un proved Alves. Complaints about a lack of experience on the pitch are mad after the team stripping that went on.
    Experienced brazilian Rockemback could have supplied the bullets for Alves but went for nowt [ I know he was on big wages] but even then we had Mendi not able to get a game all season despite being the most experienced player on the books and having blinders for the reserves. In order to save £7m we lost £25m and prem status.
    I dont want to hear the learned lesson stuff any more because it seems in order to teach Gareth what it takes to manage Gibbo has sacrificed the team. OUCH

  7. A straight forward interview with GS so far,he’s as honest as always. I dont think there are any surprises in what he has said.
    For me the summary would be several mistakes made due to inexperience, combined with a reduction in funding, result relegation. There’s nothing new there, I am interested in looking ahead though, strategy for the rest of the season, plans for the January window and indeed the Summer.

  8. AV, I think the Gazette website is experiencing some technical problems as it seems a Boro Banter piece written by Richard has accidently been posted as a legitimate interview from Gareth Southgate.
    Still, at least the Gazette has kindly broken up the article in order to give us time to recover from laughing from each gem – obviously these are too numerous to list but my favourite has to be the following:
    “There are certain players that you would have banked on to score goals and to make assists. They promised to reach those levels at the beginning of the season, but then it stopped”
    Priceless! i’m already looking forward to parts II and III.

  9. I ts a shame Shawky feels the way he does at the club, hes never really been given a run in the team and could be useful next to O’Neil in the middle as a more holding player. He is experienced too. We are paying him and Gate should be able to motivate him.

  10. Bored of extra time. Watching the clock tick down, waiting for the fun bit of penalties? Tired of has-been pundits talk of the lottery of the shoot-out and it’s a shame we can’t find another way settling a game.
    Well after much thought, research and practical testing I have the new solution.
    MULTI BALL
    Extra time starts as normal but after seven and a half mins a second ball is introduced via a bounce up in the centre circle. The original ball enters play where it last left i.e. throw in corner etc. Now the offside rule is only applicable from the edge of the box.
    The start of the second half begins with an addition to the pitch. A giant (6ft) wooden toadstool. The sort of thing you might find on the bar billiards table, only bigger. Then with seven and a half minutes to go a third ball is introduced, a vividly different colour to the other balls and is worth two goals if scored with.
    If you are still reading this you may be wondering why the toadstool. Well this is placed on the centre spot but if knocked over by a player or a ball this ends the game. The side responsible for knocking over the toadstool instantly loose, even if they lead 15-4.
    I only post this as I have grown bored by the constant criticism of the club no matter what they do. Southgate gets pelters for talking to the Gazette and trying to explain some of last season’s failings. The Gazette gets pelters for asking soft questions. What sort of world are some of you living in?
    What do you want? AV dressed up in full Rambo gear, breaks in to Southgate’s home in the middle of the night demanding answers. ‘Why did you destroy my club you fool?’ Southgate meekly replies ‘I’m sorry, I’m a worthless man, put me out of my misery’
    Can we please lay off the club and the ‘soft press’ for a while or Multi ball extra time could become a reality for the modern, instant satisfaction football fan.
    AV writes: *sheepishly takes off ninja gear*

  11. Southgate Interview – more statements of the bleeding obvious.
    Did he specify the questions as well as give the answers? Why were those answers blandly accepted? He should have been grilled over an open fire. Poor show by Paylor. Sorry,but you journoes should know better. Just more PR spin from the club which has again backfired.
    Get him before a select panel of supporters, and let him answer the questions THEY will put to him.
    **AV writes: Do you think he would answer differently then? Or is the plan just to shout the questions louder when he doesn’t say the right things? When the public asked questions on the BBC phone-in, some very forcefully, the answers were still derided as being soft soap. For some sections it doesn’t matter what the questions are, or what the answers are, they will still not be satisfied.

  12. Shawky is obviously a good player technically, but I think the best game I’ve seen him have was against Stoke last year at the Riverside when they had 10 men. I just can’t see him being effective in a two-man midfield in the Championship and Gareth probably thinks the same.
    As for the positive/negative debate, isn’t life simply more enjoyable seeing the glass half full than half empty?

  13. AV, Gareth isn’t so much giving answers, just reading from a prepared statement. Some of those ‘questions’ asked should have been followed up with qualifying questions, as the answers did not give a full accounting. The fans would not have let him get away with some of the bland responses he made, and would almost certainly have had tougher questions for him to try and wriggle out of.
    Eric and Alistair are seen as club mouthpieces, and so we would not expect either of them to hold any worthwhile ‘interviews’ with anyone from the club.
    **AV writes: Journalism doesn’t work by arguing with people which is what you are suggesting when you say “fans wouldn’t let him get away with bland responses.”
    As for “tougher” questions, interrogation under spotlights is fine if you are Jeremy Paxman dealing with a politician who sees being quizzed as central to their job but people in football are under no obligation to answer questions, are uncomfortable with having their words scrutinised and clam up if you are too aggressive with them. They can easily just retreat into taking each cliche as it comes. We find that gentle coaxing and empathetic conversation gets better results, relaxs people and encourages them to open up far more than a confrontational approach would.

  14. When Gareth was first appointed I believed that his honesty and integrity were admirable qualities and something that set him apart from his peers. Now they reek of self parody.
    I guess I should admire the tolerance of some of the people on here but I am incredulous that anybody could have read this self pitying, facile, vacuous piece without poking their own eyes out.
    Gareth neatly itemizes all of the multitude of mistakes that were made last season in response to the questions asked and on occasion talks of ‘taking responsibility’ for them. BUT HE DOESN’T.
    He is the manager. Does anybody out there understand what that means? He is in control and makes the strategic decisions. HE IS RESPONSIBLE. Nobody else is to blame. And now there are people on here pleading with the fans to get behind the team because if they don’t we might not go up.
    It is the not the fans fault or responsibility and it is cloud cuckoo land to imagine that we can get the team promoted. Newcastle fans back their team to the hilt in massive numbers, match after match, are as one eyed as they come with regard to referee’s decisions and have tolerated the worst chairman in Christendom and they have won completely zilch in over 50 years.
    Boro fans do back their team and have done so with passion and hard cash for years. It is the manager and the players that provide the success on the field, nobody else. Gareth has presided over three years of perpetual decline and even this season whenever properly tested has failed abysmally. We have not beaten anybody remotely any good.
    John Powls, right at the beginning of this thread, got it absolutely right. The overriding impression provided by this interview is weakness. He has more or less admitted that he cannot affect change when things start to go wrong, incredible for a man in a job whose sole focus is to do just that, otherwise why have a manager?
    When we fail to go up and lose more of our better players, entrenched in championship mediocrity, some of the people on here will still want nobody to moan, will still want their match day experience to resemble a night at the theatre and will still believe Gareth is the man for the job.
    Not even Steve Gibson is so short sighted as to give this man a new contract so for the rest of us it is just a matter of time.

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