Slowly Does It As Strachan’s Changes Start To Show

THREE games in and Gordon Strachan is starting to slowly stamp his mark on the team.
Slowly. Too slowly for many supporters, true. Especially those that thought getting shot of Southgate was a magic bullet solution. And so slowly that any hopes of promotion are now precariously balanced against the swift expenditure of time and games. But the signs are there.

Admittedly one point from nine and just one goal along the way may not be much to shout about, and the new boss admitted himself that he was only happy with 30 minutes of a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Nottingham Forest.
And there were a lot of familiar Southgatian fatal flaws on show, so much so that there was plenty of post-match phone-in and concourse grumbling that nothing at all has changed and the managerial switch was pointless.
You know the story: over-elaboration; and a lack of the teeth to make the obligatory spell of territorial superiority count; the inability to hold on to a lead or to close out the game; a second half paralysis in the face of a spirited fight-back by a more determined and hungrier outfit; and once again the fatal peppering of cheap free- kicks conceded around the box, one of which inevitably led to the sickening goal.
If the truth be told Boro were lucky to escape with a point and but for a series of brilliant blocks by much-maligned Brad Jones Forest could easily have romped to an embarrassing emphatic victory.
It was another run-through of the Groundhog Day script that has sucked the soul from all but the most innately upbeat of optimists, compromised early hopes of a swift top flight return and ushered in a renewed ascendency of time honoured Teesside defeatist cynicism.
But despite all that weighing heavily in the debit column, there were small tell-tale signs of a change in approach and line-up – including some that chimed with growing demands from a knowledgeable crowd – that offer some hope of concrete progress.
The most visible and symbolic change came as the captaincy was taken from ailing David Wheater and handed to leader by example Gary O’Neil.
In recent seasons the armband has proved toxic. Since Gareth Southgate stepped up from skipper to supremo the responsibility of the role weighing down and drained form from in quick succession Mark Schwarzer, George Boateng, Julio Arca, Stewart Downing and Emanuel Pogatetz.
Only Robert Huth has worn the skipper’s skill-sucking dark-matter armband with any conviction and responded to promotion with improved displays, consistency and a heightened sense of inspirational leadership – and that was all too brief.
When he left the role fell on Wheater’s shoulders by default. O’Neil then was out having stomach surgery. Of the squad that travelled to Bristol City after Huth’s exit, Wheater was the only viable choice; the only other senior player on the day guaranteed a first team start was mercurial but meek Adam Johnson.
Wheater, one of our own though he may be, has struggled this term to reach the eye-catching early high standards that earned him an England call-up. And that is a generous assessment. A harsher one would point the finger at him for string of costly late lapses that started the day Huth walked out of the door.
After four clean sheets in succession alongside Huth, Wheater has had to learn on the hoof to play with teh more cavalier Sean St Ledger in a porous back four in constant flux – Saturday saw Boro’s 11th permutation at the back – and at times the local hero has looked uncomfortable and exposed, clunky and flat-footed. Calls are growng for him to be dropped for a breather and with Riggott back to full fitness it may be an option.
Wheater needs to focus on his own role, getting back to his best and developing his relationship with St Ledger. The armband is a distraction he can do without and Strachan taking it off him is sure sign that the problem has been recognised.
O’Neil is the most experienced, most influential and most consistent performer in the team and is the obvious choice to take on the mantle. Let’s hope the cursed captaincy does not now infect him too.
Another welcome change that hinted at thing sto come was the switch of Rhys Williams to right-back. He had a torrid second half but nevertheless the move to his natural position was a two fold statement of intent.
Firstly it suggested the end of an era of ’round pegs in square holes’ and secondly it has signalled that Strachan may already have decided some players in the squad are not in his first team thinking.
The dynamic Aussie started well in his emergency role as a makeshift midfielder this term but the quick-fix was far from ideal and soon started to show the fault lines. His lack of specialist experience and lack of creative instinct left Boro one dimensional in the middle, especially alongside the equally conservative Didier Digard or Isaiash Osbourne.
The arrival of Osbourne and the move of O’Neil back into the middle has signalled Strachan’s recognition that a makeshift mono-paced engine room is a major problem.
It has meant the move of Arca out onto the right which is far from ideal – but that has the feel of a short-term fix heavy with sub-text. Yet putting left footer Arca starting on the right ahead of several players who see that as their natural berth raises questionmarks over both Mark Yeates and Marvin Emnes and suggests that position could be a spending priority when Strachan starts to rebuild.
Similarly, the relatively inexperienced Williams slotting into right-back ahead of Justin Hoyte, who has played there in the Champions League, calls into question the ex-Arsenal man’s job security, especially as Tony McMahon was on the bench ahead of him.
And playing patched-up Pogatetzt on the left for solidity and experience in defence must worry fit and available Jonathan Grounds and Andrew Taylor who have been found wanting there this season.
Up front two arrivals on loan – Bent and Kitson – have already marked out Strachan’s intentions and again it doesn’t look good for Emnes.
There is much work still to be done and the feeling is growing that if the play-offs are to be achieved then there will need to be major surgery in January to reshape the squad in Strachan’s image.
Meanwhile the style has changed subtley too. There is more passing out from the back, a higher tempo early on and an increased emphasis on ball retention in the middle and more movement up front to create options.
The next stage is to make it gel. Several times against Forest Kitson or Lita made well timed runs behind the defence but the ball was still being played sidewards along the half-way line and never picked them out. That will have to change.
Strachan is off the mark now with his first point. It will take time to shape his team. But Boro don’t have a lot of that left if it is to happen this season.


100 thoughts on “Slowly Does It As Strachan’s Changes Start To Show

  1. Jaguar Boy – an excellent appraisal of where we are at. It’s shocking, the speed at which we have hurtled from UEFA cup finalists to average championship side.
    We may reach the play offs this season but I wouldn’t bet on it now. If we did and managed to get promotion, where would that leave us? Odds on for instant relegation and a season of abject misery at the bottom of the Premiership would be a realistic possibility.
    We are now well and truely confronted by the fact that todays professional football is a very simple equation; ‘money = success.’ Spurs are an excellent example of how spending power can propel you into being champions league contenders. Boro an excellent example of how weak spending can propel you to mediocrity.
    I suppose football success is cyclical like most things in life, at the moment Boro are very much on a downward curve. If GS2 can change that trajectory and get us into the play offs from where we are now he will have done very very well.

  2. Ian Gill
    I would agree that Gibbo wanted GS1 to succeed, but my point is that it may very well have been an issue of timing – if rather than when as you rightly say, and if the decision was actually made in the summer to allow GS1 to take the flak for the required player sales and move him on once a new manager was found.
    Who knows how long it takes to find a manager and agree a deal? MFC could have been talking to GS2 for a long time before a deal was agreed, and could show Gibbo and the count in a very cold calculating light, even if it was in the best interests of MFC.
    It is all water under the bridge and really past debating. All we can hope for is as much cash for AJ as possible in the window (maybe with a loan back to us), and for Gibbo to show as much “ambition” as possible and give plenty of cash to GS2 to spend who we hope will do so wisely, and as many good results as can be generated with what we’ve got between now and then.

  3. Nigel, whilst I agree that in football money = success it’s probably more that success is directly proportional to your wage bill, which equates to the quality of your players.
    It’s probably possible to get close to breaking even on transfers if you know what you’re doing and move players on before they either lose value or run down their contracts – but far too many of our recent purchases were gambles that didn’t pay off.
    Boro’s problem now is that most of our assets have been sold we will need quite a significant investment in transfer fees to regain anything like mid-table obscurity in the PL.
    Though what would be a sustainable wage bill in the PL for a club of Boro’s resources – £30-40m? where £15m = 6 players on £50k a week or 15 players on £20k a week – but I guess we’ll cross that bridge if we get to it.

  4. Nigel at 2.30pm – whilst money might equal success, far more important in raising Spurs in my view is the tactical “nous” of their manager ‘Arry Redknapp, and his ability to get the most out of his players. If we had been able to get the best out of ours last season we would not have finished below Hull City or Sunderland and would not have been relegated.
    And as Werdermouth said at 3.04pm whilst money is important it is more the amount you have for wages than the amount to buy players that counts. ‘Arry might spend a lot but also sells players and so recoups some of their value, and might make the odd very profitable sale, too.
    We have tended to pay over the odds to get players, we have often bought them on the downwards slope of their careers, and have therefore sold at a big loss or had to see them leave for nothing at the end of their contracts. We seem to be good at the latter.
    Oh to be able to dig out an unknown like Anelka for very little money and then (after getting quite a few goals and some value from him) sell him at a vast profit thereafter. Profit that can then be ploughed into a new purchase or three. Mr Wenger seems to have either a very good scouting system or be extremely lucky. But if you keep doing it, it can’t be luck, can it?
    I suppose someone at the club has thought to go and have a chat with Arsene, haven’t they, to see what his secret is? Not to try to steal him or his coaching staff (some hope!) but to learn and to see what he has been doing right that we could adapt to our needs and bank balance.
    Surely even we at the Boro could offer enough to tempt…I don’t know, but some tasty Uraguayan or Argentinian battling youngsters or some talented and athletic ball-players from the likes of South Africa, Mali or Nigeria.
    Are things so bad it’s better to stay in sub-Saharan Africa than to come to Teesside? Or is it that our net no longer covers as wide an area?

  5. These statistical debates bug me. As a professional teacher, I know how dull the people are who try to measure progress by figures – and how many new levels of stupidity they bring into the thinking of honest teachers.
    In reality, educational progress takes place in individuals, not in “cohorts”; very exciting things can happen in education across large numbers of pupils, as I occasionally was lucky enough to observe with things like school plays, where groups get excited and bring each other on in great big leaps. But I have never known groups to make progress via management initiatives or, still less so, by government initiatives.
    Does this have anything to do with the situation at the Boro? Maybe not, but maybe so.
    On the money thing, do we all remember Bruce Rioch paying out of his own pocket for the kitman’s car to be repaired? Do we think this kind of commitment had nothing to do with the improbable improvements he achieved from the utmost in bargain basement squads? I, for one, don’t. This magical work had to do with heart, with soul and with complete commitment.
    I would say that, although you may have to pay good wages to attract good footballers, paying good wages does not mean you get good footballers or good football teams.
    Big wages to Ravanelli ensured a fair return in terms of Premiership goals (16 in a season, for example, nothing special)and he cheesed people off to the extent they assaulted him in the team bus, but many of the big earners gave us very little in fact. Tuncay did little when he was not on TV; Huth was injured a lot, so was Viduka. On many occasions, Hasslebaink was no great asset. I have never seen a more arrogant demonstration of contempt than Yakubu at Burnley pre-season (before he went to Everton). Anyone who thinks we should have kept him did not see him on that day.
    What hurts me most about our recent history is the fact that we can’t seem to bring our Academy lads on as well as other clubs can bring them on. I was (together with, I think, Gareth Southgate) genuinely buying in to the (OK, romantic, but romance and soul go together) idea that our club could survive and, in time, thrive with our own lads at the heart of the team.
    Turnbull or Jones; McMahon, Bates or Wheater, Davies, Hines or Williams, Taylor or Grounds, Morrison, Cattermole, Someone Bought In or Downing or Johnson, Graham and Franks or Porritt. OK, so I’m an idiot! But not such an idiot, since no other Premiership club could come anywhere near as close as this to providing its own team. And I was rightly proud of bragging about this fact.
    Well, we’re all slagging David Wheater off now (not me: I saw his emotion at West Ham, which was as genuine as you will ever see from a professional player, as genuine as Juninho’s tears) and talking about our lads like Tayls and Grounds and Brad Jones as if they are rubbish (which they are not) and keeping ridiculous arguments going about whether Gareth could have done better than Gordon etc.
    It’s heartbreaking. My biggest hope is that GS2 doesn’t sweep “clean” and send Aliadiere off to Fulham where the best manager of the lot (Hodgson) will make his speed and skill count for something, send one of the quickest players around off to show what a decent winger he could be (Emnes, not really asked to do his job yet) and give Digard away to someone who can see a good midfielder in him, give Williams back to Burnley where he was valued, Hines back to where he was a success, McMahon back to Sheff Wed where he was applauded warmly when he appeared this year, etc. etc. etc.
    If that happens we will end up with a bunch of mediocre pros who weren’t really wanted by anyone and have no real interest or desire in proving that this town is a deep-down, thoroughly passionate football town.
    Sorry, I have gone on too long, I know, but I am still very proud of our club and what we have built here. I still don’t think any other club has as much to be proud of as ours. And it is an arrow to my heart to hear people who I know love this club deeply as they set about slagging off our players who have worked very hard to be as good as they are.
    We need a creative midfield player still who has authority like Souness or Peter Eustace, but we have some great potential at the club still – I would say more of them than Bruce Rioch inherited – and we cannot make anything better by fouling our own nest.
    I would rather support the Middlesbrough Football Club than Gordon Strachan’s fantasy team any day of the week. (No disrespect to Gordon, who is a good man and a football man and a manager we are lucky to have.) But can’t we stop demoralising our lads? Please? Pretty please?

  6. halifaxp-that’s the best post I’ve read on here for several weeks.Interestingly enough I’m told Emnes played on the right wing this evening for the ressies and scored two goals to boot.

  7. Halifax P – what about toe poke though? ( (Hamilton Ricard) I liked him. He always had a crack at goal and produced unexpected goals to liven up a maych.

  8. Halifax P – I agree with what you say, I believe the current squad is full of triers and are doing their best.
    It is harnessing their sundry talents that is the tricky bit and how we could do with a footballer to put his foot on the ball and look around for options, someone always available who can pick a pass but is also an athlete. The closest is probably Arca but I dont think he has the legs or physique for it never his propensity for the drag back and twirl.
    It is not just a holding/destroying midfielder we need but someone who pulls the team together but where on earth do we get one. Are Digard and Walker capable of that role? One is never fit and the other keeps being abducted by aliens.
    O’Neill? He is a workaholic who will run all day and like many of our players would be ideal alongside the man we need.
    Williams is a right back despite his valiant efforts.
    Problem is most clubs need someone to be that man in midfield, wonder if Fabregas likes Parmos?

  9. The problem with footballers is that they want it both ways – they’ve managed to convince themselves that they’re actually worth over £20k a week (or in some cases more than double that) but seem unable to perform the most basic of skills required by their chosen profession as soon as the slightest of pressure falls on their precious shoulders.
    And then if they don’t get picked by the manager then they’re demanding a move or if they suddenly think they’ve been playing better than average they either want a pay rise or will engineer a move to a ‘better’ club.
    Also there’s probably a reason why most premiership clubs don’t field teams of academy graduates – on the whole they might have the odd good game individually but they appear to lack the overall ability and mental strength to consistently win matches as a team.
    OK if you stick with this principle then they will find their level as a team but it’s probably at the lower reaches of the Championship rather than in the PL – as Crewe discovered and Boro were on their way to discovering too – plus better players will regularly jump ship unless you can match their ambition.
    I think the romantic notion that you can build a team of local lads and take them to the top belongs to an age before football became a multimillion pound industry – Strachan is a realist and will try to build a team based on ability but I think sadly the days of putting loyalty to the club before self-interest are of a different age.

  10. Forever Dormo – I agree with you that Spurs employing ‘Arry’ was the catalyst they needed to become top four contenders, but it is their buying power which has given them the potential. If ‘Arry’ was at Boro last season we would probably have stayed up but we’d be nowhere near the top four.
    Halifax P is right in stating we have plenty of committed players, the problem is they are inexperienced and some of them aren’t committed enough. I’m not a fan of Aliadiere for example, I think he lacks guts.
    What we need is a couple of experienced leaders on the pitch and goodness knows where we get those who have the quality we need.
    I think there is every chance that Strachan will be capable of instilling into this squad the self belief which is currently lacking, whether he can do it in time to get us up this season is debatable.

  11. Dave Connor
    I tried not to bring up the fact the club discarded every central midfield in the summer of 08 and brought in a crock for the future.
    Now you mention it…..

  12. halifaxp wrote: “But can’t we stop demoralising our lads? Please?”
    This reminds me of the “Keep the faith” campaign of last season, which the club and the Evening Gazette (to its eternal shame) promoted. Did it make one scrap of difference? No.
    Werdermouth (11.43AM) gives a realistic portrait of the modern professional footballer. Read that and stop blaming the fans for the shortcomings of the players.
    Maybe these players can be turned into a skilful, disciplined and committed squad.
    The real problem you need to address is why they aren’t that right now. Why is it that the Academy players, who clearly weren’t good enough in the Premier League, are also proving not to be good enough in the Championship?
    Whether Strachan can perform a coaching miracle while these players are at Boro, given its recent history, seems very doubtful to me. I hope I am wrong about that, because it would be the ideal solution to the current problems.
    You are concerned that some of these players may do better elsewhere. That may very well happen, but their failure at Boro is not the fault of the fans. Put the blame where it belongs.
    **AV writes: Backing the club when it was in trouble = eternal shame? Blimey.

  13. AV writes: “Backing the club when it was in trouble = eternal shame?”
    No. The actual equation was
    Throwing up a smokescreen instead of addressing the real issues = eternal shame
    **AV writes: We did address the real issues on the pitch out, week in, week out. Relentlessly. There was no escape from that. But equally there was no escape from the fact that the chairman was quite adamant that no matter what the circumstances he was not going to sack Southgate during the season.
    By our calculations calling for the manager’s head in those circumstances may have been a populist gesture that sold a few papers but it was disruptive and destructive and could only undermine the team at a time when, even with a few games to go, survival was still possible.

  14. The Gazette would have backed Custer at Little Big Horn!
    **AV writes: Bad analogy. Of course we would have backed Custer. Would you back the enemy just because they were more likely to win?

  15. I agree with Ian Gill that harnessing the talent is the difficult bit, and the place of the highly paid professional in a club like ours is to set an example, encourage and educate (along with the coaches, of course)the younger lads.
    Gordon Strachan said on arrival that he liked working with young players and improving their game – music to my ears! I just hope he does not mean working with Aston Villa’s players, improving them and sending them back at our expense!
    Mythbuster, I do already recognise the realities of the modern game, so I do not need to be told to “read that”, although I did of course read Werdermouth’s words (as I always do) with great interest.
    My pride in this club revolves around the fact that – and I think it is a fact – we have been much better than other clubs in bringing on loads of capable players; we are an exception to the rule that clubs are things to be bought by outsiders and used as personal playthings, as if they are a 3-D Panini scrapbook – with the players feeling no real commitment or interest in the local population or community.
    I also feel that Teessiders have as strong a passion for our team and our football, as any other group of fans – and a far stronger passion than most. That is our soul; that is why we do achieve Romantic dreams now and then; that is why I am not so stupid as you think I am in holding that romantic feeling up as a prize asset of our beloved club.
    Do you actually think it is helpful for posters to respond to suggestions that David Wheater might move on with “good riddance”, or might it be better for this young man to hear and be reassured that he’s “one of our own”? If you think the former is the right way to proceed, well, I do not agree. He’s young; he needs support; he has a lot to learn, but he is not “rubbish” and should not be rubbished.
    I also do not anywhere in my post blame the fans for the shortcomings of our players: that is far too simplistic. I don’t blame the manager, the coaches or the players either in isolation: in fact, every player – as every human being – has shortcomings.
    Souness was quite slow and could be a very dirty player indeed, for example. Cattermole was a hothead who kept getting booked. His passing could be woeful. George Best and Jimmy Greaves were alcoholics. Bobby Moore was slow and also a drinker. How managers, coaches, team-mates and supporters deal with these shortcomings is what concerns me. That’s why Ian Gill is right: harnessing and balancing out shortcomings is what makes a good team and also a good manager.
    Because we have so many younger players who have shown medium-term commitment already to this club, a good manager should have something really valuable to work with there – a fund of players’ knowledge about each other’s games, weaknesses and strengths. To me, that has got to be worth something in a team game.
    My post was trying only to express the hope that Gordon Strachan respects the fact that we have a lot of promising young players who need building up in just the way that some other clubs’ coaches seem to have been able to do (Steve Bruce with Cattermole, Owen Coyle with Williams for example).
    And perhaps also to suggest that playing experimental games with other teams’ cast-offs might bring occasional short-term hopes for a Boro fan-base who have had a real bashing and are desperate for signs of hope from anywhere (Bent seemed to look good to the good folk of these boards in his first game; now posters say he’s rubbish too) but this strategy does not seem like a great way to build a half-decent team. Too much guesswork and disruption is involved.
    We simply can’t afford to build a team of superstars now: would the real superstars ever come here except for one final, lucrative pay-day? Have they actually done so in the past – apart from Juninho, of course?
    Robson threw Gibson’s money around like water, buying one left-footed centre forward after another until he finally got one who alienated the whole team: two of his full-backs, Fleming and Cox were (in my humble view) nowhere near as good as McMahon, Bennett, Williams and Grounds; two other full-backs, Ziege and Luke Young left us in the lurch. For all Robson’s “investment” or, to me, wastage of money, his results were not much better than Southgate’s. A couple of mid-table Premier League finishes, one ninth; and a relegation.
    So, it’s all well and good recognising the mercenary nature of many modern footballers, but can’t we recognise as well that sport is very much involved with romance, feelings, commitment, passion? Isn’t that where the real interest is?
    And if we do recognise that it’s about feelings, then comments from the “fans” to the effect that McMahon, Tayls, Emnes, Wheater, Aliadiere, Jones, Bent, Digard, Grounds, Folan and Wheater are all rubbish – and that Southgate was “clueless … an idiot” are not likely to help promote the commitment and passion we need from the players or managers we have got. Are they?
    (And my list of targets is not complete, of course: even Johnson has been called rubbish on these boards this year!!)

  16. **AV writes: Bad analogy. Of course we would have backed Custer. Would you back the enemy just because they were more likely to win?
    Are you calling the fans the enemy Kemo Sabee?

  17. Reported by PA in Yahoo! News yesterday, 25 Nov 2009 12:59PM:
    “Scottish researcher Dr Gordon Strachan said it is plausible Jesus may have visited Britain to further his learning”.
    Apparently they’ve made a film about it. “Life of Gareth”?

  18. AV – your reply to Grove Hill wallah at 3.07pm: but would the Gazette have challenged Custer’s ability to lead, to enthuse the warriors under his command, to set up his troops in a formation to make it best for them and more difficult for the enemy, and would the Gazette have challenged the tactics he employed?
    Was it critical of a management that, as we know from more recent dislcosures, only saw relegation “come out of the blue” as the season ended?

  19. Further to earlier posting, and to be fair to you Vic, I went back into the archives. In January this year, for instance, and whilst I don’t know what Unlce Eric was saying at the time, you were critical of what had been going on as we looked towards our own Little Big Horn.
    Jan 31st – “Dismal display deepens Basement Gloom” – starting out a game we should have been setting out to win with FIVE central defenders and no real midfield at home to Blackburn.
    Jan 18th – West Brom “demoralising scale of the defeat…..WBA organised, motivated and up for it” (and by implication Boro were not) and “….10 without a win and turned over by the basement boys…”
    Jan 11th – not exactly effusive praise after a draw against relegation rivals Sunderland. (Actually the thing linking these is that they were all our relegation competitors).
    ….and no doubt there was more. The problem is that no-one at the club seems to have been listening.

  20. If we draw or lose on Saturday it could be a monumental point in MFC’s recent history.
    The Foamee’s will struggle to hold the high ground and the Bedwetters will run out of Tena pads! Crowds will collapse even further making a January spending spree unlikely and the level of deserters even greater.
    There are a lot more than just 3 points riding on Saturday’s result, it could be the defining point where Boro’s hopes of a return to the Premiership died or kept the light barely flickering.

  21. Saturday sees us play a team we should beat comfortably. They are not huge brutes and try to play football. They are porous at home but do score goals. We should have too much pace and quality for them.
    But should is the operative word. It only takes a few percentage points drop off in attitude and performance to cause problems but I am going for a first win under Strachan.
    If we don’t come back with three points it is difficult to see us getting enough in the following games up to Xmas to get into the top six ready for Santa.
    **AV writes: We we don’t win I’ve got big problems hairwise. When GS2 arrived I needed a hair cut but I vowed not to until he got his first victory. I already have hair like Jedward. If we don’t beat Peterborough I could be going to the Scunthorpe game on Boxing Day looking like the Alarm.

  22. Mythbuster; backing the club equates to eternal shame? I think the shame is all yours!
    A couple of interesting posts regarding the academy players and relative levels of success. Surely no one can argue that Boro’s academy is one of the most succesful in the country? Players such as Downing, Johnson and Cattermole show that, plus plenty of others at Boro or now elsewhere.
    The problem is a premiership team and almost certainly a Championship team cannot rely on its academy only, especially one that recruits almost entirely from the local area.
    There is also the wider issue of the ability of English/British players compared to those from say the continent such as Holland for example. British kids simply aren’t given the coaching needed to develop their individual skills, ball control etc. Which is why Arsenal’s and Man Utd’s academys are full of foreign players and even then most of them don’t make the first team.
    Playing elite support is as much about mental toughness as ability and spotting ‘mental toughness’ in a teenager is very very difficult. We have a great academy which we can be proud of but that alone is nowhere near enough to give us a team which can survive in the premiership.

  23. Why we are so worried that only Boro will possibly loose players in January. This is more likely happen to others in this league than us. The papers reported today that Manchester United have concluded a deal for Cardiff’s teenage defender Adam Matthews, who will move to Old Trafford for £5m in the January transfer window.
    So we are the big players and we have above average squad in the C’ship. And I believe GS2 have some money to spend as well as Sean Saint is staying January window.
    So let’s be positive for a while. Up the Boro!

  24. Very good Richard and well spotted – It’s an unbelievable coincidence that we’ve had both the messiah and the anti-christ working at the same club.

  25. Redcar Red, you a right that the Boro may well face an Exodus tomorrow… but according to Uncle Eric he is not expected to start.
    Surely there’s some serious mileage in that name that you will be putting to good use AV?
    **AV writes: Oh yes, quite puntastic. If he comes on and scores it will be a smiting of Biblical proportions but no doubt GS2 can still lead us to the Promised Land. Etc

  26. Dave Connor
    I was pretending not to dwell on the full central midfieldbotomy that we managed in the summer of 08. I was trying to look forward but without much success.
    I suppose the Boro are a bit like Christmas Carol with Keith Lamb in the role of Scrooge. Gate could be Bob Cratchit and downing Tny Tim. Charley Amer could be Marley. Sadly we cant replay it and get a happy ending.
    There is also another problem with too many academy kids. ManU had their golden gereation and then the supply seemed to dry up.
    You cannot play them all unless like ManU they were supremely talented but even than they were sprinkled with imports from other British teams and overseas. You end up with blockages and players not developing. Managers tend to play their big earners or someone above them asks why they were bought.
    I guess, at best, you may be able to get 2 or 3 a year breaking into the team without it undermining performances.
    If you can make money out of the academy as well that is a bonus.

  27. Nigel said:
    “Mythbuster; backing the club equates to eternal shame?”
    I didn’t write that, AV did. Read more carefully.

  28. Exodus 2:24-25, “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Gibson, with Lamb and with Strachan. So God looked on the Boroites and was concerned about them.”

  29. halifaxp at 5.48pm – I think we are in agreement at least with the idea we should be looking at what the management and coaches are doing at the top clubs, and see if we could learn from them. See my post on 25th at 7.54pm.
    Isn’t that how progress is made? Look at what the successful performers are doing and see whether some of their work could be adapted to our needs, to improve what WE are doing. Particularly if those successful performers keep on doing it consistently over years.
    Wenger, Ferguson, ‘Arry (go back further if you like but let’s keep it simple). It isn’t LUCK that makes them consistently improve players and teams. Yes, they may now have more money than we have, but they’d do well with less. Were Aberdeen a rich club?
    Look at their methods and try to use those parts which we can. It really shouldn’t be rocket science.

  30. AV
    I hope you can have a haircut after today but maybe an Aliadiere foppish bob might just suit you.
    Will we win? My view is yes based on the fact we are in a bit of a pickle if we dont.
    We should have too much quality and if we put the effort in should be too good for Peterborough.
    But football thows up odd results, which would ‘odder’ a home or away win?

  31. I reckon that, whilst AV was on the A1 down to Peterborough, there will have been an avalanche of posts all trying to get the big, fat, round 100. Honestly, haven’t you all got something better to do?
    We will win today.

  32. Left leg shinner…rolls agonisingly slowly towards the goal line…goalkeeper laid out ….can the defender get back in time…

  33. Looks, lads, I have given you all a chance. I have been to the grocer and the butcher’s (actually 2 butchers) and then the bakers (but not the candlestick makers) and then the Big shop at the Co-op. I return home expecting to see someone has bagged the Merc, but maybe you are all being shy.
    This is, therefore, my official attempt at extending the fleet. I will not make repeated posts to do it. We will have to see if this is the 100.
    Incidentally I heard on the radio as I returned home that there had been power cuts in the Press Box at London Road, so I hope the Live Blog is in order. I will switch over now to see….
    Still a Boro win, though, despite the odd midfield.

  34. 1. The 2-2 draw at P’bro wasn’t good enough.
    2. For those who haven’t gone to the Live Boro Blog, you should get on there for the next game. Some banter. Talk about food, drink, and then the disappointment of the football.
    3. To the “Bloated Goat” to calm down after all the excitement…..

  35. Leading twice to a team rooted to the bottom of the table, but only taking a point. I’m afraid there is no excuse for that. We must get this midfield sorted out….and listen very carefully Mr Strachan, Julio Arca is not the answer.

  36. After London Road this afternoon, it appears that Gibson and Lamb have actually managed to achieve what Mike Ashley couldn’t despite the appointment of Dennis Wise and the rest of his ensemble. That really takes some doing, stand up and take a bow Messr’s Gibson and Lamb you have taken us from Eindhoven to the level of last years League 1 sides in only a few short years.
    I was sat thinking after the Peterborough collapse (sorry match) about who we need to get rid off, starting at the top of course with the two aforementioned then after going through the management and coaching staff (including Stricken!) I realised it was easier to list who I would want to keep:
    1) Wheats (because he does care and is one of our own)
    2) GON (because he is our most consistent player)
    3) Pogi (because he runs through walls, literally)
    4) Jinky (our best player by far)
    5) Dave Parnaby
    6) Roary
    Thats it 4 players, Dave Parnaby and Roary out of our entire structure, no wonder the club is in the state it is. That means the Ledge can return to Preston where he has a chance deservedly of getting into the play-offs.
    Not that Sean isn’t a decent player but he doesn’t compliment Wheats and together they are like Mike and Bernie Winters (not greatly entertaining and made you feel uncomfortable and cringe at their act) whereas Wheats alongside Huth in August were the footballing equivalent in the Championship of Morecambe and Wise (best double act in decades and so comfortable together they were like a pair of old slippers).
    Our lowest ever attendance at the Riverside by Christmas (accompanied by a league position to match) and demonstrations with chants of “Sack the Board”.
    Oh dear and there’s not even a Scapegate (oops Scapegoat) in sight. “Et tu North Stand”?

  37. AV, I hope you have a hair cut soon! Meaning we start winning…
    Can we see a picture of you now? Any hope? I mean at QPR? UTB!

  38. Forever post poaching Dormo. Fancy you posting when there is no one about.
    Anyway, against my better judgement I was making the cross country journey whilst you were poaching, it was an even crosser country journey on the way back.
    We should have that in a canter with so much possession and chances but we let it get away again. Lita has proved a livewire but he misses some chances. Kitson looked like a centre forward.
    A few other thoughts.
    When Johnson went onto the right wing after 8 minutes I started grinding my teeth, luckily he swapped back before I wore through the enamel. In general his end product was not at its best but it was a marvellous cross for Kitson’s header.
    Osbourne and Arca were too slow as a partnership tending to stop momentum. Without O’Neil I would have preferred Digard to partner Osbourne. There was a fair bit of aerial stuff in central midfield and Land Crabs are not renowned for jumping ability, the ball must have cleared Arca’s jumps a dozen times.
    The substitution of Hoyte for Yeates was futile. Hoyte added nothing apart from being in the wrong position and confusing McMahon.
    John and I agreed, we seem no nearer to a settled midfield. Phil, Powls the younger, just muttered. I dont think he has forgiven his father for the Boro gene.
    One consolation is that Vic will have a quiff by the time Xmas arrives.

  39. Time to call it a day, lads. We’ll never, ever, return to respectability (let alone any modicum of success) whilst we continue to sail on the ship of fools (“Heh?! Keith!!” We are truly “The Damned”).

  40. Well, I listened on the radio and it was same old same old. Our meek squad of players and our poor coaches along with the farce that runs the club have sunk to this depth.
    The midfield is and always was shameful, now the defence has got just as bad.
    No chance of promotion this season.

  41. There is definitely a chance for promotion. Our squad is better than average in this Division – that’s for sure.
    We just need to start playing well and especially scoring: Our midfield is good and make chances enough to win games. Wait a few weeks before saying GS2 is no good.
    By the way Cardiff 1 – 2 Ipswich yesteday. I think it was the 3rd successive defeat for Cardiff now. So the top 6 places are there for the taking for us. Up the Boro!

  42. There is the famous story of Bill Shankly at the hairdressers. When he was asked if he wanted anything off the top he replied ‘Everton’.

  43. AV cousin it look will do. Will send you some shades from sunny SA.
    On to the game live thread was great. Pity GON didnt play as i think he would have been the differance. Two goals was a change but two against not good enough against the bottom club. I think this blog should hang around for the two hundred as it is still the story of slow improvement.
    We can give SG the Gomez look and guess who can be Festa.

  44. Hmmm….two posts to comment on, decisions decisions.
    A bit like deciding which of my Merc’s to get out of the garage.

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