SIGNINGS imminent: let the pre-emptive bitching begin….
In times past fresh faces arriving on Teesside would be met with curdled mutterings over a pint of Olde Pessimist in the Chickenrunners Arms.
New recruits would be systematically dismantled with cruel relish. If teh club managed to sign them without dropping a clanger. Too young, too old, too slow, two left feet, can’t pass, can’t control, can’t tackle, won’t score, never fit, no brain, no heart, no pedigree, no quality, no future. Fat. Lightweight. Drunkard. Idiot. Complete useless waste of time and money. Wouldn’t get a game with the Blind School. They’ll fit in well with the rest of this shower. Welcome to Teesside.
It was our birthright. The creative bitterness was born as a legacy of a century of Ayresome’s barren history. We had won nowt. Failure layered upon failure through fruitless generations with the prevailing winds of cynical consensus make Planet Boro a harsh emotional tundra where none but the most hardy sprigs of green optimism could take root and flourish.
The ingrained negativity was part of our natural defences. It prevented any rash outbreak of irrational optimism, any show of open-hearted weakness like aspirations and dreams that left us vulnerable to the inevitable enamel shattering kick in the teeth that would surely follow.
Back then of course the most actively boozy belly-aching remained in the background, a muted mosaic of intangible angst in pubs and clubs only made vocal and concrete in the brief bear pit of the terraces on matchday – although the imprint of generations of genetic grumbling is burnt onto our psyche and never more than a mild abrasion away from the surface, as we know only too well right now when the whole club is labouring under a heavy black cloud of nagitivity.
Now though the pessimism is given immediacy, momentum and weight by the internet. A cyber sneer at a prospective new hero can become the consensus in a day, unchallenged vitriol go viral with a click.
And with wall to wall television and YouTube to back the case for an ever more pro-active prosecution – the global diasBoro means the on-line inquisition works 24 hours a day – the dye can be cast before the medical is even complete. The new perma-crock carthorse is hung, drawn and quartered before a ball is kicked.
Hence we know already that of our new rejects from a team that dominates a league full of Darlingtons, Will he, won’t he defender Gary Caldwell is an error-prone, glacial hoofer and loudmouth who does his talking through the back pages of the press and who Mogga is getting shot of to replace with Sean St Ledger; that Barry Robson is a one footed, mono-paced plodder and injury prone to boot; and as for the other two…
Whatever happened to the quaint old custom of letting the new signings play a few games first and judging them objectively on how they fit the style and shape of the team? Then slagging them.
We’ve spent forever denouncing the current bunch of mental weak wasters based on mounting evidence. Surely Boro’s new Celtic fringe can’t be worse? And even if they are technically inferior or have worst stats on Football Manager, maybe they bring more mundane qualities to the party like physical and mental strength, workrate, awareness, determination, a will to win and the ability to play in a way the manager demands. Maybe they are being brought in to do a specific job that right now is not being done.
But don’t let that stop anyone indulging gleefully in their blinkered birthright of pernicious pre-emptive character assassination.
You wonder how some of Boro’s previous new signings would have been monstered by the keyboard worriers before they got on the pitch.
As we are on a Celtic riff, take Bobby Murdoch. The past it porky pass master arrived at Boro three years and three stone beyond his best. He was as slow as the Marton crawl, his knees were shot, he was out of breath in the warm-up and with a taste for the deep fried beer he had refueling issues. Imagine the outcry if Boro had signed him today. The internet would break.
And still in Glasgow. Take Bernie Slaven… a stroppy part-timer council gardener who had been bombed out by Albion Rovers. One footed, greedy, couldn’t tackle a fish supper, only on vague nodding terms with the offside law and couldn’t get a trial anywhere despite writing begging letters to the likes Hartlepool, Darlo, Halifax and Rochdale. Sign him? Yeah right. We haven’t got the bandwidth to cope.
What about a pensionable central defender with the turning circle of the Cala Portifino and knees patched up more times than a clown’s trousers? A veteran warhorse more known for scaring the hell of his team-mates than his technical attributes. Yet Nigel Pearson was a wonder signing.
What about John Hickton? Is he a defender? Is he a striker? “Utility man?” The lumbering baldy get. He’ll amount to nowt. Won’t last five minutes. Get shot. Foggon? A Newcastle reject? Have you seen the kite on him? He won’t be able to run let alone score. Get shot.
Hendrie? Bombed out by Coventry, Newcastle and Leeds and no wonder? He’s not winger. He’s not a striker. Low centre of gravity? And bandy legs! Bloody hell, he couldn’t stop a pig in a passage.
Paul Merson? Great, an emotionally shot drug, booze and gambling addict. You would have to be half-cut and on smack to take that chance. Typical Boro!
The PC powered pitchfork wavers would have had a field day with that little lot. It would have been cyber-carnage. But the mob don’t always – don’t often – get it right.
It is easy to get carried away with the tide of instinctive public condemnation but remember, shaping a real football team is more like putting a jigsaw together than picking a fantasy team. Anyone can do that.
The important thing is not that the individual pieces don’t look right in isolation but that they fit in, that they complement the others and contribute to the emerging picture.
And while we can’t see the image on the front of the box, Strachan can. He knows what the big picture is and what he is working towards. In fact, he’s actually done this one before and has a fair idea of what bits go where, which ones fit together and which ones he needs to complete this section before he moves on.
Strachan has been in charge long enough now to have weighed up the squad and know exactly where the structural flaws are in minute detail – and in far more technical terms than we can muster – and it is his judgment the strengths of the players he is bringing in can help rectify them. We have to trust him on that and hope that he is proved right.
One thing is for sure, having spent the past month restating the young, brittle and inexperienced squad lacks “men” he will not then go out and bring in more mice.