Third Time Unlucky?

HOW many goals do Boro need to score away from home before they can win a game? At Coventry, Preston and now rock bottom Peterborough they have thrown away precious points that should have been tidied away, wrapped up, stored away in the kit box and in the luggage hold of the team coach long before the whistle.
Three times now Boro have drawn 2-2 in away games that looked in the bag. Three times now they have wasted chances to seal victory and then contrived to throw away commanding positions through largely self-inflicted wounds. Grrrrrrrr. Gutted.


And how loud do the alarm bells have to be ringing before the team wake up to the cracks appearing around them. Boro twice scored well worked goals but that is scant consolation for the sloppy two conceded as they switched off and failed to deal with what were fairly basic balls back in after they failed to clear their lines properly.
Last season Boro were in the Premier League and Peterborough in League One. The home side were bottom of the table, had just changed managers and had spent the week working on switching to a new more direct tactical approach and had signed a player whose last game was in the Conference.
Yet they looked more organised, coherent and spirited as a side. They got forward confidently, used their throws and deadballs effectively and twice caught cold a defence that all bar St Ledger had plenty of Premier League experience. It was disappointing. It was frustrating. It was demoralising. It was cold. More than that it was deeply worrying.
This was a game which was supposed to be the catalyst going into a run of four fixtures against “promotion rivals”. Well you can forget that. Automatic promotion is gone. There is no way this side can claw back a double digit deficit. And unless there is a radical change in the outlook of this mentally fragile team the play-offs look in doubt too.
The levels of organisation of the team – the club! – were shown when they turned up at Peterbrough having travelled with just the light blue away kit. Didn’t they watch Posh on DVD? Didn’t they spot the blue shirts? That is just sloppy. Only a late phone call and a U-turn on the A1 to send a senior official back to Hurworth to pick up the normal -blush red shirts prevented a major embarrasment. As it was they warmed up in the blue kit but switched when the strip arrived ten minutes or so before kick-off.
Little details. Like picking the right kit. Like closing down when a ball into the box is only half-cleared. Like ball watching when it is knocked over the top, like failing to pick up and holding a disciplined line at the back.
Yes, you can argue that Boro should have won. That they had a goal disallowed and had a late stonewall penalty waved away, that Lita could have had a hat-trick, that Posh keeper Joe Lewis had a blinder. That O’Neil was missing and that left the midfield lacking in pace and ingenuity.
And yes there were positives: Dave Kitson showed awareness and finishing power to score twice (the second was his 100th league goal) and pointed out exactly where Boro have been lacking for 18 months or more; Arca showed flashes of creativity and for the second week running had a shot rebound for a team-mate to score; Lita worked hard and was a lively – if lonely – presence up front; Adam Johnson’s delivery for the second was delightful; the 2,400 fans were magnificent; and the defence coped well for long spells with a direct aerial bombardment and a Stoke style howitzer long throw.
But should we have to go through this increasingly desperate mitigation every week? Slipping up once to underdogs is unfortunate but these things happen. Twice and you start to question aspects of the game plan and attitude. But this is now a full blown habit and one that threatens to blow the entire season disatrously off course.
Four games in and Strachan is yet to find a win. Is yet to address the fatal lack of concentration and organisation at the back. Is yet to find the formula that turns good spells of possession into goals and victory. Is yet to develop a winning mentality.
Now we go into four very tough games with the pressure on the team mounting and searching questions starting to be asked about the new boss. No matter how many subtle changes are made in style and shape and selection it is hard to avoid the stark reality that Strachan arrived with the team one point off the top and a brief of securing promotion – now it feels like a yawning gap, not just in points but also in possibilities.
I needed a haircut when Strachan arrived but made the rash pledge not to do it until he won his first game, fully expecting to have the clippers out within a week. Now I am starting to look like the new bosses X-Factor Nemesis Jedward. By Scunthorpe on Boxing Day I could look like Mike Peters out of the Alarm.

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48 thoughts on “Third Time Unlucky?

  1. Middlesbrough boss Gordon Strachan:
    “We had more than enough chances to win the game, but there was far more right with our performance than wrong.
    “We just have to work on that aspect of the game as well as our awareness in moments of danger.
    “Of course it is frustrating when you have the lead in football matches but don’t go on to win them, but we could quite easily have won three of the four games I’ve been in charge for.”
    The above is “cut and pasted” from the BBC website…….the transition from GS1 to GS2 would appear to be seamless.
    To paraphrase a well known rallying call…. Midfield, Midfield, Midfield!!!

  2. That was poor. And that is being polite. That side was in the third division last year and Boro were in the Prem but there was nothing between them today.
    On that showing, if Peterboro are in the relegation battle then so are we. And I’d give them the edge. We couldn’t deal with a basic route one style and a bloke from the non leagues with a long throw.
    We couldn’t match them for workrate and passion. For me this is the worse Boro team since the one that disintegrated under Lennie Lawrence when they cut the cash off. And thats saying something. Obnly this time there is no big money revolution under Robbo in the pipeline.
    And turning up without the right kit? How shoddy and amateur are we? I can’t believe the speed the club are going backwards now. The dream is over.

  3. One thing that comes from all this is that I never get round to watching MoTD or The Football League programme (or whatever it is called). Somehow I just have no enthusiasm to watch. The weekend just feels empty.
    After a string of poor Boro performances it is like having a hangover without having had the alcohol. And it is raining outside. No wonder she hides all the sharp objects in the house after Boro games these days.

  4. Not since 1986 have I been so depressed about my football club. In fact, I think this is worse. I have never liked Strachan, but had a feeling that he might just turn us into more of a force in the Second Division (don’t hold with this ‘Championship’ nonsense – there is patently nothing ‘Champion’ about it!) How wrong was my usually trusty gut-feeling on this occasion.
    Not only are we sinking fast, now cut adrift from the promotion slots, but we are also drifting aimlessly towards the lower reaches of the 2nd Division – a team without a leader, something which has been lacking since the 1st GS held the post. Furthermore, our saviour of yesteryear has finally admitted financial defeat and the loans he brokered in better times have now started to be called in.
    Some time ago I wrote that we ought to stay behind the club and face the fact that our moment in the sun had gone. Now the depression has got the better of me I honestly can’t see any future other than lower league football.
    The great Academy myth has been exposed for what it is, and other than a couple of notable exceptions, most of the kids are simply not good enough, even for the 2nd Division. It’s no coincidence that of all the players to have emerged from our wonderful academy, there has not been one striker worth a light – and that has been the very root of our problems since the departure of Viduka, Hasselbaink et al.
    In short, with the current owner, Middlesbrough FC is heading for oblivion, sadly…

  5. Championship , yer having a laugh! We even made peterboro look decent. I think the wheels are about to come off. It shouldnt even come down to a late penalty decision. Rubbish!
    The players need to wake up and quick.

  6. I agree that automatic promotion is out of reach, but I thought that before this game. The issue is whether we can reach the playoffs, and I don’t think this result has greatly changed that. We are still two points away from, and one place closer to, the playoffs. But things do need to improve if we are ever to close that gap.
    If you don’t like statistics, look away now.
    There is evidence from the Peterborough game that Strachan is improving some things. Boro had 62% possession, scored two team goals, and probably should have scored more.
    What Strachan hasn’t yet got to grips with is the flimsy defence. In fact, he gave them undue praise after the Forest game. This has to be sorted out as a matter of urgency. A major issue is the following.
    Goals conceded in 7 league games pre-St Ledger: 4. (Average 0.57 per game.)
    Goals conceded in 11 league games post-St Ledger: 16. (Average 1.45 per game.)
    I don’t blame this entirely on St Ledger. I think he may be a good player, if he can be found a suitable place in the side. Neither do I blame it entirely on the two centre backs. Some of the responsibility certainly lies elsewhere. But I do think these statistics reflect something that has gone badly wrong.
    St Ledger’s partnership with Wheater doesn’t work. Worse still, it has led to Wheater losing form. This has been so disastrous that many fans call for Wheater to be dropped. Now Wheater isn’t a bad player, but he obviously needs to play alongside a compatible central defender. He seemed comfortable playing with Huth, a solid and conventional centre back, and Hines, who has been a colleague since Academy days.
    He’s not at all comfortable with St Ledger’s freewheeling and indisciplined style, which often leaves him exposed. Since I don’t think St Ledger will play any other way, how can this problem be resolved without replacing one or the other?
    The simple solution would be to let St Ledger return to Preston at Christmas. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem possible due to the dubious conditions of the “loan”.

  7. Turning up with a Blue Kit when playing Peterborough away is a case for instant dismissal in my book, sadly it is indicative of the levels of incompetence which is now apparent at every level in this club. Without an immediate major and radical overhaul MFC are freefalling into League 1 never mind back to the Premiership.
    According to todays papers MFC are allegedly saying Gareth was “relieved of his duties” rather than “sacked” and are staging his contract payments rather than paid up in full within 28 days of his “departure”.
    The more I see and hear the more I feel a huge degree of both empathy and sympathy towards Gareth. It is begining to look like the ills of the club were not his fault after all and are more rank than ever after his “removal” smokescreen has cleared. The term “Scapegoat” comes more and more to the fore.
    Rather than dealing with the true ailments within MFC it appears the softest option was taken and another word “Shame” is starting to come to the fore. Despite all the success of the last decade the last three years are what the Teesside public will remember Steve Gibson and Keith Lamb for.
    Their time is running out before things implode irrevocably around them. They need to see the light and very, very quickly!

  8. That was an appalling showing. The two goals and other missed chances shouldn’t disguise the fact that Boro were second best (of two poor teams) for large parts of the match. The fruitless wing switches, the lack of movement off the ball, too many wrong decisions and poor passes, inability to keep a recognisable shape, and sloppy defending all led to a very predictable draw that felt like a loss.
    High points: the shed terracing, the 2,000+ travelling fans. Low points: the performance, the team booed off at the end (I don’t remember that level of hostility at an away game before).
    Trying hard to keep the faith, but fearing that we will have a very mediocre season (or seasons) in this very average league.
    C’MON BORO.

  9. Glad to see that I am not alone in my feeling very “down” in what has been happening on the field. And I actually thought we were going to win at P’bro.
    An FA Cup game in 5 weeks time is a complete distraction. Let’s be honest here, if we were to play Hartlepool at the Riverside tomorrow, would anyone bet their house on our winning the game, even if we took the lead twice? You just KNOW they’d score the winner in the last 10 minutes.

  10. Well, another two points dropped. A game in which we dominated possession, but another which cruelly exposed our sad “defence” post Huth.
    Whether it is Wheater or the more refined St Ledger brings out the worst in our defensive capabilites doesn’t matter. What does is that GS2 needs to sort this out as a priority, or else our goal, the play offs will become a distant dream as we start looking over our shoulder at the ever improving bottom three.
    Despite all the hysterics, we should have won. But we didn’t and the fantastic travelling support were left down. The hysterics on the bus coming back were out of sync with reality, and I can’t subscribe to blaming the boss after just 360 minutes in charge. If you simply don’t like the man (Strachan) that’s fine but don’t use your dislike for a guy as a stick to beat him with.
    It’s not his fault he has inherited such a wasteful and talentless squad, and at least one of his loan signings – also heavily critised on our bus – scored two great goals. As for Lita, well, say no more. Poor, just poor.
    I don’t subscribe to this from 1 pt off top to look were we are now. I believe we would have had this coming no matter who was in charge. Dylan was right, changing horses midstream is never a good idea. We were heading for a fall, and we are now living it.
    Unless January’s transfer window is kind to us, then Strachan has his work cut out. Gibson will need to somehow find some cash from behind the sofa, or we may feel a winter of discontent heading our way. We can make the playoffs, but already there a host of fans actually wanting Strachan to fail! How sad is that!

  11. We lost to a wonder goal and a shocking non-penalty decision.
    Kitson is scoring, we are still in touch with the playoffs, automatic promotion is not out of reach.
    Still plenty to be optimistic about.

  12. I’ve spent the last hour unsucessfully searching the internet for the Elixir of Eternal Optimism that BoroPhil has on tap – I given in, where do you get it from? Or is it a secret family recipe handed down through the generations?
    By-the-way AV, isn’t it time you exchanged your blog photo for an alarming up-to-date miffed quiffed version so that we can show virtual solidarity until that victory comes – perhaps you could also consider colouring said hair ginger in order to break the spell.
    **AV writes: I’ll ask our photo-shop wizards if it is possible.

  13. Those of you fond of statistics might be interested to note that we’ve now lost more points than we’ve won (26 gained from a possible 54).
    Also six of our seven victories (known as a win to those with short memories) have come against teams currently occupying places 22,21,20,19,18 and 16 – sadly we threw away a victory against Coventry in position 17 to spoil the sequence.
    The other victory of course was ‘early doors’ against a now relatively high-flying Swansea who at the time of the win were still coming to terms with losing their inspirational manager to Wigan.
    As we approach half-time in our alleged promotion campaign, the next four games are against teams currently above us. So it’s sink or swim time – with an unlikely eight points I suggest being the minimum requirement to maintain any credible remaining hope of making the playoffs.

  14. **AV writes: I’ll ask our photo-shop wizards if it is possible.
    They can soon just paste a picture of “Cousin It!”

  15. Utterly fed up with it all. The same thing keeps happening. If we were rubbish and we were gaining these draws on the road you would be relatively pleased. But without sounding ‘Billy Big Time’ we are or at least should be better than this.
    Completely agree with Dormo, weekends are now completely empty. Only thing rattling around in them is the anguished phrase ‘Oh god not again!’ I’m coming to the point where I am feeling like jacking it in.
    I won’t though for two good reasons.
    1, the hex factor will soon finish. It is now undeniable that the return of this TV programme has destroyed our form. Go check out when it started and when we last won on a Saturday.
    2, I am about to make the supreme sacrifice. From the 10th of December I may well not be Smogonthetyne. Lookout out Teesside, I’m coming to my spiritual home.
    Born and raised 130 miles away in the East Midlands, via Tyneside I’m coming ‘home’. This has nothing to do with Mrs Smog’s living preferences but solely down to me wanting to go to midweek games and avoid the interminable journey back on the train after another home game.
    I wonder if there is a decent local paper with up to date football news, with cutting comment and opinion.
    **AV writes: Naaaah! The local rag is rubbish.

  16. Well, I gave up my season ticket 3 years ago after 11 years. Saturday was the first time I’ve seen Boro in the flesh for 30 months.
    I live 2 miles from London Road and finally got to the ticket office on Friday. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about going. I was appalled by the performance.
    The positives for me;
    1) Wheater looked very assured. Contrary to what I thought this season.
    2) Second goal was a brilliant header. Kitson virtually bundled the 2 defenders into the net to score. If only we’d had him last season!
    The 1st half was unbelievably bad. Two very average teams.
    The negatives;
    The club is on a slippery slope. Something drastic needs to happen – quick!

  17. Well I have to admire Borophil, I regard myself as optimistic, a ra ra, foam hander etc. but at the moment I can see no cause for optimism.
    Boro are like a super tanker heading for the rocks; Capt. Strachan is desperatley trying to get the ship to turn but at the moment ‘the lady isnt for turning’.
    I know confidence is an elusive and mysterious thing and if the Boro players happen upon it anything is possible but at the moment what we have is relegation form….again.

  18. Ha, ha, ha, what an image I have in my head! How about looking like Tony James during his Sigue Sigue Sputnik days???? Shoot ’em up shoot ’em up shoot ’em up.
    Sorry…….you have to have a laugh.
    ..got to admire the support and passion you show to The Boro…fantastic. Roll on when you play The Mighty Leeds next year eh?

  19. Let’s have a little dose of reality here Boro fans.
    Saturdays result in its self is not disastrous. Those letting the previous history of the two clubs cloud their judgements on the result are only serving a more severe punishment to themselves.
    Both Posh and MFC are in the same league this season. This fact alone means that the clubs are at a fairly similar level. Why should we expect to travel to a club like Posh and get a win? It’s not a divine right. Its 90mins of football, 11 v 11.
    The fact we threw away a lead twice compounds the fact we only managed a draw against bottom of the league but lets not get hysterical. It’s an away draw. One more point to add to our season total. We didn’t lose or get battered. There was some progress, two goals for a start.
    This is GS2 4th or 5th game in charge. He has to have time to get this young squad playing his way. Afford him the time, get behind him and it will all come good. We are now two unbeaten, lets hope this is the start of a run because December is a season defining month for our club.
    Every club will have a run of unexpected results at some point in the season, that’s when we will make up the ground on those above us.

  20. Here are my observations on Saturday.
    1.Mcmahon had a wretched afternoon.
    2.Yeates has failed to step up from League 1.
    3.I havn’t a clue what Osbourne is supposed to offer the team that either O’Neill/ Digard/Williams cant do in that position.
    4.Surely when Yeates was taken off the correct substitution was to replace him with Emnes on the wing and try and use his pace.What was the point of bringing on Hoyte out of position?
    I also agree with the points made above about St.Ledger.Committing ourselves to paying a large sum of money for an O.K. centre back that does not play well with Wheater is stupid.Send him back and write off the down payment.Riggott or Pogi alongside him would do just as well if not better.Use the money saved to get a right sided midfielder and one that comes under the category box to box.

  21. Three away draws – not bad. So forget the Peterboro’ draw now. We need to get our act together at Riverside! That’s why the fans are depressed!
    Anyway we can get several points even though we play teams above us. I don’t think it’s about the opposition – it’s about us, the Boro. The solution is between the ears of OUR players. So let’s not worry about the opposition.
    But reading AV above he is getting “half empty” also. He needs his hair cut soon. You must promise the player to do the shave who scores the winning goal!
    **AV writes: I am usually quite upbeat but I am more depressed now than for years because I can feel the spirit of the crowd ebbing away. Something must happen soon to spark a revival or this season wil be a write off. Although to be fair, I am pretty despondent about starting to look like a fraggle and that doesn’t help.

  22. As I’ve often said, being positive is a lot more fun than being negative.
    There are positives if you want to look for them. Let’s not forget GS2 has been in charge for FOUR games. Did anyone really expect him to make an impact in that time?
    Look at our position. Two points off the play-offs. That’s after an awful run. That suggests to me when we go on a good run (which we will), we will be in a play-off position at least.
    All we need is one win and things will start looking up. As GS2 says, we could have easily won three of his four games. It will come.

  23. I see people are still blaming Southgate for the recent dysmal form. Thats quite sweet, but also utterly rubbish.
    As Kev B put it: “I believe we would have had this coming no matter who was in charge.”
    What? Are we being serious here.. When was our last win, when was our last clean sheet, and what position were we in?

  24. As we watched Boro warming up John, Phil and I had the awful vision of them commiting the fashion crime of marrying a red shirt with the cyan shorts and socks. Throw in some hideous boots and it would have been a real shocker.
    What started as an offence prosecutable by the fashion polcie has morphed into gross incompetence. Should one be surprised? The answer is a resounding no. If they couldnt see relegation coming how do you expect them to notice that blue clashes with blue?
    Come to think of, how about Vic with a purple rinse or streaks.
    Sadly one has to return to the football. No I cant talk about it.

  25. The black dog of depression is clearly on the prowl as people are coming to terms with the fact that the team isn’t nearly as good as they’d hoped.
    Since I didn’t ever think that automatic promotion was a realistic target, I’m less disappointed than many. But I did hope we could make the playoffs, and I still think it’s too early to write off our chances.
    Allan in Bahrain says “stats don’t lie”, which I agree with entirely. But what truth do they actually convey? More stats coming right up.
    The points required for a playoff place in the seasons 2002-8 were:
    74, 73, 73, 75, 75, 70 (An average of 73.3 or 1.59 points per game).
    Boro now have 26 points from 18 games, that’s an average of 1.44 points per game. Without improvement we would finish around 66 points. To be on course for a playoff position we should have about 29 points now. There are 28 games left, from which we need about 47 points. That’s around 1.68 points per game.
    Admittedly, that’s more than we ever achieved in the Premier League, but it’s not impossible here. The target doesn’t rise to 2 points per game (automatic promotion form, which is a hopeless target) unless we lose our next four games.
    Clearly we’re falling short of our target at the moment, but not so far short that we’re doomed to failure already. The next few games may determine whether it’s still possible, maybe not. I don’t share BoroPhil’s boundless optimism, but there’s no reason for quite so much gloom. Things could still improve.
    Our team is not as good as many had hoped, but most of the teams in this division are worse. We didn’t lose to Peterborough, we drew, and Boro were the better team. Peterborough just showed more spirit and organisation, and had some luck on the day.
    Spirit and organisation are things that can hopefully be improved in our squad. Then, with some adjustments, they should be good enough to reach the playoffs in this division.
    Let’s be realistic, not unduly optimistic, but not quite so pessimistic.

  26. To add some positives to our current situations:
    *Riggot will soon be back as a viable alternative.
    *Pogatetz is gaining match form.
    *Digard might just get himself a injury-free couple of months.
    *Kitson might prove to fill our seemingly everlasting vacuum up front.
    *Strachan will soon find his winning formula, and the whole team will gain confidence.
    And even if the two treasured promotion slots are beyond us, the playoffs are well within reach. The bonus for us is a packed Wembley come May!
    Ps. Andy Oslo, I also live in Oslo. Thought you might be interested to know that Im working to establish a Norwegian Boro club, after Boronorge didnt quite work out. Maybe youre interested in participating?

  27. Now then. It’s the manner of it that hurts. A complete implosion and rapid decline would be borne, I think, by the majority of fans. Such adversity we were bred for. It allows, again, for a Phoenix rising from the ashes recovery.
    Something more profoundly dangerous seems to be developing, however, if the blogs and boards are to be taken note of. An awful boredom with the methodology of decline. Same old, same old and Typical Boro have never rung so true.
    Groundhog Day is an enervating, numbing down to a dismal acceptance of knowledge that we will blow it late on in games, that we do not know or understand zonal marking, that substitutions will be unfathomable, that favouritisms will be displayed. And so on.
    Such a boredom may well be the final product of taking people for granted and feeding them on spin and spin alone. Are Gibson and Lamb running the risk of Boro folk memory placement as the Blair and Brown of football?
    Reading the comments above, this ache, this boredom seems clear.
    On the South East Virtual Terrace, far, far away and in an unearthly time zone seemingly subject to a three minute live radio delay, we have choices. I exercised two over the weekend. I watched Villa, sentiment for Stewy, and Sevilla. Dear, dear,we have fallen back rather far.
    The South East Virtual Terrace Live Blog Ultras had a great time, however, and salute the Virtual West Stand modern technolgy crew (that lad who got hauled off for Thanksgiving missed the horror and probably gave thanks). The Central European Virtual Terrace were missed.The home based Virtual Holgate were witty and informative.
    AV accepted his Yellow card for use of the B word with equanimity and also got the answer to the hair question from the culinary debate.
    Dye it! Lime Pickle on top and Corned Beef at the side.
    **AV writes: I don’t know where to start when it come to deconstructing Saturday’s at times surreal live matchday blog.

  28. I have had a long hard think about our current predicament and I may have a possible way out.
    We were an established premiership side for 11 seasons and therefore played a premiership style of football. Losing so many of our experienced players meant our style wasn’t good enough and we were duly relegated. We now find ourselves in the Championship where a different style of play is required.
    This could explain why so many “sub standard” teams find it so easy to play against us. We are still trying to play premiership football in a hostile environment without enough qualified personell.
    We need to adapt to playing at this level, if that means bypassing the midfield with the long ball, and getting stuck in with some questionable tackles, then so be it.
    This league is the survival of the fittest, we need to change completely the way in which we play. Concentrate on getting out of this league, if we don’t evolve pretty quickly, we may just become extinct!
    **AV writes: I agree. We need to get Northern, get mean and get results. We need to bin Arsenal-lite and become Bolton-on-Tees.

  29. Well Saturday certainly was one of those days!
    Went with Pete from Halifax, who felt the wrath of a Peterborough local speed camera. We then realised the match tickets were still in the glove box of the car after reaching the Peacock Inn opposite the stadium.
    Then just to make our day complete we had to witness what felt (yet again) like another defeat away from home.
    Strange when you think that last season, we would have welcomed any point away from home, whereas this season a draw is so deflating.
    Hopefully, Rhys Williams will return to right back for the QPR match and Gary O’Neil will be back in his midfield berth. I think we missed both of them at P’Boro, we were unbalanced, especially down the right. I thought Osbourne had a good game, and it was nice to see a striker score a brace, even if he doesn’t want to stay.
    Agree with Kev B that GS2 has got his work cut out. It is amazing to think that when GS1 left we were a point from the top, and 4 games later we are not even in the play off positions. I think the term rhymes with clucking bell.
    QPR will be difficult. They are a decent outfit and play well as a unit, which means we will have to break them down; something Boro are not good at doing. It will be a match where a clever strategy will be tantamount to achieving a victory. Time will tell…..

  30. I’m just wondering AV – if this form continues, will you be going for the traditional ponytail, or something more original like plaits, pigtails or schoolgirl bunches?
    **AV writes: I’m thinking natty dreads.

  31. AV- two questions for this weeks press conference.We’d all like to know the answers
    1.Caleb Folan’s loan deal runs out in 2 -3 weeks .Why is he still here?
    2 Is Shawky still alive and in the country?He has never appeared on the injured list nor has he turned out for the reserves.Since my season card money is contributing to his wages I think we at least deserve an explanation.

  32. Note to coaches:
    If teams continue to play long ball,why not play three centre backs.in 3-5-2 formation.You will
    a; negate their midfield.and
    b; make the other team go long from the back allowing the defence to set up earlier.and dont you think once you are ahead you might want to tighten up everywhere, so sort your subs out

  33. I felt at the beginning of the season we were unlikely to gain promotion automatically and dismissed the play-offs as equally impossible. I felt that with the number of senior players being discarded to reduce the wages bill that we would be lucky to avoid relegation!
    I was pleasantly surprised when the early season form had us as high as we were, however the loss of Huth and Tuncay, particularly the former, made a huge difference to the stability of the side.
    The addition of Kitson has definitely added to the strength but then you would expect a “man” to add experience and quality to such a relatively young squad.
    In my opinion Johnson and O’Neill are playing very well and probably both for the same reason, to escape in the January transfer window.
    Once they go I fear that relegation form will be the order of the day. Without the necessary financial backing of the Chairman and given that the fare on offer does not inspire the fan base I can see nothing else.
    Boro will have done very well this season if they manage to stay in this division. Hopefully as the country comes out of recession then the Chairman’s purse-strings will be loosened, but should we be relying solely on one man’s largesse?
    As has been pointed out before we need a creative midfielder, a regularly scoring forward and a leader on the pitch. Until then, hold on to your hats it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
    Regards
    Pauline

  34. It would be nice to share a beer (literally at 8 quid a pint – two straws please) and commiserate about the demise of our once average Prem League club!!

  35. AV, I have never heard you so negative.
    Admittedly, automatic promotion looks tricky. But statistically history (and this years league table too) shows that we are only two points off a play off place. How good would a trip to Wembley be? Just imagine that last minute Dave Kitson header!
    I recall Steve McClaren lost his first four games in charge of Boro, but went on to reach the FA Cup Semi Finals, and finish 12th in the Prem – and later won the Carling Cup and reached the final of the UEFA Cup.
    **AV writes: I am very downbeat right now, not just over where we are in the table as the situation is easily retrievable – but more because I feel the club (and more importantly, the crowd) is drifting rudderless away towards rocks of apathy. It lacks vision, direction and leadership. There is no buzz and no indication from within that the club have a coherent strategy. We are prisoners of fate.

  36. If anyone is struggling with optimism generation, how about omens. When we got promoted in 92-93, we beat 1st division Man City at Ayresome in R3 of the FA Cup.
    We also knocked them out of the League Cup that year on a ridiculously foggy night, one I remember very well as I had broke my arm at school the same day and had just had my arm set in plaster!
    **AV writes: That team would beat this one. Even with Jon Gittens playing.

  37. “AV wrote: The levels of organisation of the team – the club! – were shown when they turned up at Peterbrough having travelled with just the light blue away kit…”
    I wrote awhile ago that I felt the men in charge of this club were turning us into a laughing stock…sadly, I still haven’t changed my opinion.
    “AV wrote: By Scunthorpe on Boxing Day I could look like Mike Peters out of the Alarm…”
    Well I find myself in reverie
    ‘Bout what we might have had
    And what might have been
    We had something going once
    That was such a long, long time ago
    It was way back in ’86…
    Oh- Oh
    Where’s it gone
    The SPIRIT OF ’86.
    **AV writes: Go on then, *back combs hair and dons tassled leather jacket and welsh accent*….
    “Going out in a blaze of glory
    Setting your sights for the sky.
    They can offer you anything at all
    But your dreams must not be sold.”

  38. The 92-93 side may well have beaten this one, but it had the advantage of everyone pulling in the same direction, fans, players, management. I’m not convinced that it had better players on paper. One of the most enjoyable seasons, that one.
    **AV writes: I agree. It is the intangibles that we are lacking now.

  39. As BBB hinted at 3.06pm yesterday, the best thing about Saturday was the live Boro Blog (though the sandwich was good – I went back for more). In the evening at the Bloated Goat even the few Newcastle fans had stopped taking the mickey.
    The real concern is the fact that virtually everyone I have spoken to seems very despondent about the whole situation. For example one lad at work who has held a season ticket for about 13 years tells me he hates going to the games and is almost certain NOT to renew at the end of this season. He is a bedrock fan. He is not expecting Premier football next year. He has had enough.
    I have “invested in the club’s future”. I paid in advance at Premier prices for three years of football, and find if things go reasonably I might get two of them in The Championship (or, if things go badly, possibly a season in The Championship and one in the laughably titled League One).
    We were never going to be a Rolls Royce, but bear with me. Pay for, let’s say, an Audi and get presented with a VW Polo 1.2 this year replaced by a Perodua Kenari next year. And not new ones, but “previoulsy owned” and on loan!
    Not a good business proposition to put before your customers is it? More likely to result in a reduction in the number of “customers” next year, and so to perpetuate the cycle of reduced income and a general decline in the team and the club itself.
    The club is a commercial enterprise of some size (though if we keep on the same course, the size is likely to diminish fairly quickly). A commercial enterprise whose customers feel let down, fooled, “spun to” (or whatever) and who generally feel they no longer enjoy the product on offer, is a commercial enterprise that will collapse.
    To get out of this tail-spin (and it is possible) will take some doing. Winning the odd game, whilst it might make some of us feel a bit better, is unlikely to be enough. It would be like a dry day after months of heavy rain. The puddles would still be there, and everyone would be nervously looking up at the clouds for the rain to start again. The umbrellas wouldn’t be thrown away so easily, the coats would still be on.
    The Board has a lot of work to do. And the players must start to produce on the field. The backroom staff has got to get its act in order. The alternative is to be playing in front of empty seats at a lower level of football.

  40. I see Lionel Messi has won the highly coveted Ballon d’Or – Though commiserations went out to Alves who once again narrowly missed the less coveted Barn d’Or.

  41. AV, your blog and subsequent comments, all of which I agree with, suggests to me that you are as depressed about the situation as you have been for many a long year. If nothing else, it may at least stop the bloggers who consider you and the Gazette to be a mouth piece for the club.
    I’m going to Loftus Road on Saturday and expect to be pretty miserable afterwards, but who knows.
    Boro Phil, I recall the game at Ayresome in the fog. I was awaiting an hernia op in The M’boro General the foloowing morning, but they let me out to attend the match. Memory is a bit blurred these days, but didn’t McMahon and Peter Reid (I think) try to intimidate a young Jamie Pollock, but completely fail to do so? Now there was a fighter for the Boro cause, even if he did lack a bit of skill.

  42. A couple of interesting posts above:
    The difference between the 92/93 team and the current one (playing ability aside!!) was that team and the club were on an upward curve, full of optimism, confidence etc. The current team and the wider club are on a downward curve, low on confidence etc. The big question is when will we hit the bottom of the curve and where will we be when we do?
    AV’s point about needing to get ‘Northern’ is while I fully agree with it, full of irony. When McClaren left my recollection is that Sam Allardyce was ‘unemployed’ now if he had been appointed we would have quickly had a ‘pragmatic’ team, muscular, direct etc and how we would have moaned. I certainly would.
    What Eindhoven did was give us a collective false belief that we could be on to something sensational and when GS1 said the way forward was open attacking entertaining football that pressed a lot of buttons.
    But lets face it teams with Boro’s resources cannot compete against the big boys playing that style of football. Even Arsenal struggle sometimes, look what Chelsea did to them.
    Yep, we need to get Northern sharpish alright, but if it happens on Saturday its already three years late. When Steve McClaren said the fans needed to be re-educated he made a huge PR gaff, but the truth is he was right.

  43. Nigel
    I dont think MacMoses was right. We wanted an end to the paucity that Mac ennineered into the team. We wanted an end to the timid approach at home hoping to nick a goal on the break against teams worse than us.
    His ultra negative style got us into the messes against Basle, Steau and Seville. The difference was that when we attacked Seville they didnt fold.
    What I wanted was us to play more of a pressing game than immediately retreating to our own 18 yard line as the whistle blew for kick off.
    You dont have to get Northern to succeed. You have to earn the right to play. You could hardly accuse the Arsenal team that went unbeaten in the league of being shrinking violets. Nor are the current Chelsea and ManU teams a collection of angelic choirboys. They all have a hard edge to them. They are also athletic and supremely fit. Can the same be said about our team?
    On Saturday Osbourne and Arca repeatedly slowed play down by the need to twirl and pass sideways. Apart from Arca’s shot that led to the goal he had no influence on the game, it just passed him by. It isnt his fault that he isnt a latter day Vieira, I dread to think how many times he jumped to head the ball and it just sailed over his head. Osbourne was better but we badly missed someone to drive us forward.
    Yet still we had over 60% possession. That is how poor some of the teams are in this league. It is also a measure of how far we have to go to compete in the Championship. The Toon or the Baggies would have murdered the Posh.
    **AV writes: Not many teams have “played” their way out of this division in recent years. You need steel. Fortunately it is easier to find robust industrious labourers within our price bracket than it is artisans.

  44. AV
    I agree with your comments at the end of the last post but as John followed up you have to have craft and graft. Without both you get relegated from the top flight without a whimper, without both you wont get promotion from the Championship.
    Our strictly come dancing central midfield got plenty for artistic merit but chuff all for controlling the game at London Road on Saturday.
    There is scant evidence of the players taking ownership of the problems. You dont need bruisers to win in this league but you do need some nouse and grit. Both appear to be lacking in many of the players.

  45. BBB- please refrain from using long words until you know how to use them.
    As regards our situation under Strachan, I think there’s a lot of “typical boro” panic. No chance we won’t at least be in the playoffs, was surprised to hear Anthony allude to such a thing.

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