A FEW statistical snippets and some nostalgic number-crunching …
Send for the low loader. Mido may be Ajax bound (please, please, please). There is always someone willing enough (or daft enough) to take a chance on a player with a good YouTube goals clip and a good agent.
Ajax gaffer Martin Jol got the best out of the serial bridge burner when he was at Spurs plus staff and supporters at the Amsterdam club were probably the last to see Boro’s heavyweight hitman actually put in a full seasons shift. All those factors and no transfer fee may well swing it. We can but hope it goes through and quickly as it will free up enough space on the wage bill for three industrious professionals who actually want to be here and who can make a real contribution.
Even if he doesn’t go there he is unlikely to play for Boro again. His agent has been faxing around every club in Europe looking for a gig. He never even made the punishment detail at La Manga. Even the club’s official site doesn’t list him in the first team squad profiles. Unless he has an epiphany and decides he wants to be a footballer again (and given his 11 clubs in ten years and declarations that despite that he has “nothing to prove”) or bubonic plague leaves Boro with only 10 fit men his Boro games and goals figures will not change. Which leaves him as part of a very exclusive club.
Mido is one of a select band of flop forwards who are Boro’s ÃÂ£1m a goal gang. The Sphinx cost Boro ÃÂ£6m in August 2007, a deadline day panic buy of the sort we know so well. Six million quid…. six goals. Six goals! Count them. In 25 games sprinkled over two injury ravaged seasons he scored six goals at ÃÂ£1m a time. Bargain.
Add in the signing on fee and ÃÂ£25k a week basic over three years and the bank-busting bottom line is sickening. The self-important club-a-year waster has been a disaster. A massive indictment of not only Gareth Southgate who signed him but also a discredited scouting set-up that either recommended him or failed to set off the alarm bells and the collective heirarchy who endorsed the deal and agreed the financials.
Mido joins two other gilt edged goal-getters who broke the ÃÂ£1m barrier. Powder puff “Goal Machine” Afonso Alves drained even more out of the club coffers for every isolated net-busting incident. The errant Brazilian cost Boro a well over the odds club record fee of ÃÂ£12.7m (plus a monster signing on fee and wages over 18 months) and scored 10 goals in 42 games that were a frustrating object lesson in the law of diminishing returns. The pea-hearted predator visibly shrank by the week.
The other member of a tarnished triumverate is Michael Ricketts. What a waist. Boro’s flabby frontman, a one time England international and Next Big Thing cost ÃÂ£3m from Bolton in another of those deadline day signings. He got three goals… injury jinxed defender Chris Riggott who arrived on the same evening scored more.
Ricketts was the subject of one of the funniest and most damning cameos I have ever seen at a football match. He came off the bench towards the end of an early round Carling Cup game (Coventry?) and trundled from the dug-out to the edge of the opposition box then stopped, slumped hands on knees and gasped for air, knackered after ambling 30 yards.The crowd laughed. They didn’t boo. They didn’t jeer or throw insults. They just laughed at this pantomime horse of a footballer. What an embarrassing indictment. But who had the last laugh?
At the other end of the scale there is Bernie Slaven. Teesside’s favourite radio shock Jock cost ÃÂ£25,000 in 1985 and scored 146 goal… that is a grand total of ÃÂ£171.25p a pop. Even allowing for inflation it is still just ÃÂ£405 a goal at today’s prices. Some players not fit to comb his quiff spend that on a single trip to the bar.
Then there is Boro’s scandalous signing of Alf Common in 1905. The world’s first ÃÂ£1,000 signing (ÃÂ£89,000 in new money) sparked questions in the House and grave editorials in the times about a new slave trade and the perfidious nature of money undermining the Corinthian ideals of the game. Not that Boro were bothered. He scored 58 goals in three years at a cost of ÃÂ£17.24 a time.
And what about George Camsell? He cost ÃÂ£500 from Durham City and scored 345 goals at a budget ÃÂ£1.45 each. What can you get for that in the club shop?
MORE stats and some thrashing around the question of identity….
In the Gazette’s big survey about Teesside’s identity almost 2,000 Teessiders were quizzed about what the area we live in should be called and the results revealed that despite two decades of expensive quangocratic attempts at rebranding most people were pretty happy with the does what it says on the tin label “Teesside.”
There are some understandable minor quibbles about identity around the edges of the historic Yorkshire/Durham divide but the vast majority of people in Teesside accept that the entire ethos and economy of the area and its prospects for the future are based on both sides of the river and joined by a bloody great big bridge.
But on to football. Buried in the big survey was a pointless, tactless and sensibility trampling question about a mooted changing of the name of the football club to portray a more positive image of the area. Because obviously potential massive inward investors from Bisonbreath, Arizona or somewhere in Qatar will be persuaded to stump up if the local football team has a more teasingly attractive moniker. Like Lambsley Meadows or something.
Any hopes that the punters would fall for that marketing wheeze were kicked into touch when 95.8% on respondents voted that the team should be called “Middlesbrough” (another ‘does what it says on the tin’ moment… Teesside is that kind of place).
A negligible sliver of 3.2% – presumably from Stockton and the hinterlands outside the magic five mile radius of the Riverside – voted for “Teesside United” and a pathetic 0.9% opted for the laughable, non-existant, soap script selection “Tees Valley United.” Whether these few sad individuals work for quangos themselves and have some political or financial interest in this label being perpetuated is not recorded but who else uses these terms? Not football fans that’s for sure.
You can’t interfere with a team’s identity. Even considering it is a gross insult that strikes to the heart of a precious cultural heritage that can not be traded or updated to suit the suits. It is a transgression from which there is no return. History is non negotiatable.
Robert Maxwell tried it with his barmy plan to merge Reading and Oxford to form the Thames Valley Royals. That finished him off at both clubs and even though he had funded Oxford into the top flight and a League Cup triumph he was villified and driven out of the club. Suggesting a name change at Boro pretty much hammered in the final nail for Malcolm Allison back in 1983 as well.
Similarly the entire fabrication of MK Dons still raises hackles among “real” football fans a decade after a cynical franchising operation was endorsed by the FA and the Football League in a shabby backroom deal that allowed a businessman to buy a place that had not been earned. The shady fix left an artificial club that had no identity, history or respect playing in the professional game and the “real” club cast adrift. The move managed to make a cause celebre of AFC Wimbledon in the wider game despite the previous consensus that they were a hateful epi-centre of anti-football.
Do the quangocracy think that a queue of eager sponsors will rush forward to pour cash into Tees valley United that they weren’t willing to stump up when old fashioned unglamourous Boro were in the UEFA Cup final and on the telly every other week?
Football clubs are incredibly important to the identity of a town, especially an otherwise unremarkable Northern industrail one. There is no question that Boro is the biggest brand – probably the only brand – from Teesside that would be recognised outside the immediate area. It is the single most important institution in Middlesbrough. It is the cultural glue that holds the region together and no matter what the brochures for MIMA say, it is the only real institution that will attract leisure tourists by the thousands – and their crucial pounds – to the town on a regular basis.
So why would anyone – especially smart business people – think that a name change for the only visible brand is a viable vehicle for boosting the region? And I know it is not a serious proposition – it isn’t a manifesto pledge – but even giving the impression that it is something that may be on the agenda of the kind of people who considered changing the name of Teesside Airport to “Newcastle South” is damaging.
Football can be a galvanising force and can be a powerful ambassador for a vibrant region (look at the role of Newcastle United in rebranding tired Tyneside as “the geordie nation”) but the reality is that Boro have enjoyed their golden age in the national spotlight and the quangocrats missed an open goal and failed to exploit it.
A club in the Premier League gets to bask in the acclaim of the Murdoch juggernaut. It also attracts visitors en masse into the town, and more specifically into the ground. But while the club were at their height – Wemboroly regulars, transfer record breakers every season, trophy winners, cavalier European adventurers – the squabbling suits charged with developing and championing the area were guilty of an unforgiveable institutional paralysis that left the environs of the Riverside a barren wasteland.
It is the failure of a mosaic of ineffective competing development bodies (and the similarly disunited local authorities and MPs) that did most damage to the Teesside and Middlesbrough brands by missing that open goal. Where were the Tall Ships, the marina, the exciting leisure, retail and residential projects that were supposed to spring up around the stadium? Where were the pavement cafes, the shops and the bars? The trees and landscaping from the videos?
The fact is that the very bodies now suggesting that name changes and rebranding of not just the team but also the area, the twon, airport, the sub-region in a superficial retrospective door bolting exercise are exactly the same ones who have failed completely to utilise the national impact of Boro to their advantage and who let the club – and the town – down so badly by failing to deliver on their own promises and the Riverside’s potential.