GORDON Strachan was finally unveiled as Boro boss at a Riverside press conference today and revealed a simple – and we hope effective – manifesto:
“I’m looking to make the players better technical, tactically and mentally,” he said. “My aim is developing the players to make them better, fitter and more able to pass the ball.”
As the margins between success and failure this term (and last too) have so often been frustratingly thin it should only take the ability to squeeze an extra few per cent in performance individually and collectively to turn Boro into an effective unit.
Strachan looked assured and confident as he was first quizzed by Sky Sports David Craig and ticked all the right boxes: he was here because he wanted to be, he relished the challenge, he thought the club was stable and ambitious, had a good structure; he had nothing to prove as he had taken a team from second bottom to eighth and the FA Cup final before; he had rejected other offers because they weren’t right; he didn’t have to be here, or need to be here but “wanted to be here”; and he would have the time – and he hinted the resources – to develop the Middlesbrough team the way he wanted to and he was determined to succeed in that project.
It was hard to pick fault with that broad set of aims, with his quiet determination or with his proposed methodology. He wants to get on the training ground and work with the players. Four times he stressed he wants to ‘develop’ the players, especially the younger players, and make them better, which will reassure any with doubts that they will get a chance to flourish and learn under the new boss.
He stressed that he would work on some key areas where there are clear flaws that readers on here are well versed in pointing out: fitness, work rate and mentality.
And he indicated there would be no radical reshuffle. He has met the staff and is ready to work with everyone at the club, he wants to see continuity and stability.
But he is aware of areas where the team need improving. He several times referred to the need to be fitter and stronger mentally and there was an oblique reference to the need to strengthen the attack ‘one way or another,’ a subject he has already brought up with scouting kingpin Gordon McQueen, possibly a discussion that led him to write out his now infamous ‘PR blunder’ shopping list.
He was less keen to answer the questions from Tyne Tees’ Dawn Thewlis about transfer targets for January, plan for Plymouth and the problem of performances at home. “If you say its psychological then I’m ready to believe you,” he said, although you felt it was close to adding a dismissive “hen” on the end of that sentence. Whether he was distracted by any inate swirl of sexism there is hard to tell.
He was certainly a bit peeved at the distraction of the chatter of hacks at the back of the room and was at one point driven to scold them like naughty school boys. I’m hoping there is a lot more of that. It is always funny to see your peers in trouble. And it is nice to have the first inevitable televised put down out of the way too.
There was a sprinkling of the quiptastic one liners we expected, and yes, they are mildly amusing – when they are used to divert other people’s questions. Given that the previous two incumbents have been criticised for not being straight with the fans that could soon wear thin.
Journalists questions at times may be bland, inane and sometimes blindingly obvious but that doesn’t make the interrogator stupid: they are asked in that time honoured way as an open mechanism by which the manager is invited in a non-confrontational way to make their observations or any point they want. They are asked to produce information for the public and when a manager refuses to speak, or is surly, sarcastic or dismissive it may be mildy amusing to see a hack who is just doing his job squirm a bit but ultimately it is you the reader who is being given the second hand snub.
What do readers think of the performance? First impressions?
Some other questions:
Who will flourish under Gordon Strachan and who will crumble? As a fan of workrate and honest endeavour he will surely love Gary O’Neil, Rhys Williams, Leroy Lita and possibly Tony McMahon and Mark Yeates too. But those who disappear in games and don’t get stuck in may find themselves out in the cold… Jeremie Aliadiere will have his work cut out in proving to GS2 – “the Wii Fella” – that he is a fundamentally better player than the on-loan Arsenal man he left on the bench at Celtic.
Can Strachan deal quickly and effectively with the key problem areas? Namely the nervous late slow motion retreat, the panic that sets in when the fourth official starts to fiddle with his board, dead balls into the box and the profligate failure to convert chances into a commanding lead when Boro have teams on the rack.
Who will he bring in and get rid of between now and January 31st?
And – the only one that really matters – are we now more or less likely to go up?
Some interesting background to the launch of GS2, which promises to bring more exciting and realistic gameplay to Boro than ever before…
Gibson risked knacking GS2 – and spoiling any chance of him coming here – with a series of heavy “let him know your here early” tackles when they crossed studs in the chairman’s annual Far East five-a-side frenzy.
And GS2 wasn’t always so keen on clubs like Boro. When viewed from the summit of Mount Celtic a provincial Premiership struggler let alone a cash strapped Championship side didn’t have such appeal 18 months ago.