Pounds, Goals, Stats and Identity

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 £1m a goal gang. The Sphinx cost Boro £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 £1m a time. Bargain.
Add in the signing on fee and £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 £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 £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 £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 £25,000 in 1985 and scored 146 goal… that is a grand total of £171.25p a pop. Even allowing for inflation it is still just £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 £1,000 signing (£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 £17.24 a time.
And what about George Camsell? He cost £500 from Durham City and scored 345 goals at a budget £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.

123 thoughts on “Pounds, Goals, Stats and Identity

  1. I never thought I’d be concerned or even particularly interested in Scotland’s international calendar. However, this has all changed with the inclusion of four Boro players selected for Scotlands ‘friendly’ against Sweden next week.
    Am I right in believing that because it is a friendly, Boro cannot request the postponement of the important league cup match at Chesterfield and will therefore be missing the heartbeat of their team.
    Now I know it’s ‘only’ the league cup and it’s ‘only’ Chesterfield,but a good run in the competion, helps finacially in these difficult times and helps keep what we all hope will be a winning run going.
    Bit suprised the lad from Dundee Utd isn’t in the Scots squad.
    Interested to see the odds earlier on this blog re promotion and that Boro are favourites. Looking at all the teams in the division, it looks very tight and in my view there are as many as fifteen teams with a (un)realistic chance of making it into the top six.I don’t want to put added pressure on to the Boro, but it looks as though we are going to be the team to beat.

  2. AV – I would be very interested in hearing your opinion on why Digard and Emnes have not done anything at Boro. Actually more so concerning Emnes. While Digard has very frequently been injured (and that alone could have been sufficient for him never to get going), Emnes has been fit all the time. Emnes was Rotterdam’s Player of the Year, so he clearly has talent. What has been the problem with Emnes?
    **AV writes: Homesick? Culture shock? Struggled to adapt to the faster and more physical English football? Lack of bottle? Not hungry enough? Just not good enough? A cocktail of all of the above. It is hard to say because he has had so little first team football. Whatever the reason he hasn’t been able to step up a level and given the chance he has spluttered and fizzled out. It is a shame but the move has been a personal disaster for him and a financial cock-up for Boro.

  3. Not sure why there is so much fuss and fretting generated over permutations, line ups, who is in or out, especially by seasoned pundits such as Powls,Gill et al, surely they have seen and heard all this before over many pre seasons.
    I am relaxed about friendlies which are essentailly meaningless, apart from the fitness aspect and bedding in new players.
    I am looking forward this season to a new determination,a winning mentality and the ability to strike a metronomic level of consistency of performance and outcome,week in and week out. If that means being flexible, being canny with the choice of players, let us get on with it.
    We shall not leave this division if we are not at least pragmatic in our approach even if it means carrying Arca and Jones for the season. Chill lads

  4. Just to get a view from around the area here is Skysport’s guess for up-coming season:
    Skysport view:: Anything less than the title would be a disappointment.
    Prediction: 1st
    Sky Bet odds: 13/2
    Of course I trust a certain AV more but wanted to seek an opinion outside the Tees Valley area (or what ever called). Hope the pundits are right once.
    But more importantly nice to see more positiveness in the NE. Positiveness does not mean foam hand as a must. Usually when you aim high you end up there. Up the Boro!

  5. I don’t really think there’s such a thing as “square pegging” in the modern game. You need players that can fill many roles.
    Nowadays you need full backs that can get forward and cross a ball. Your defensive midfielders need to be able the use the ball when they win it. Not just knock it 5 yards sideways. Your forwards have to press the ball. Wide midfielders have to tackle back. Central defenders have to pop up with a few goals a season at set pieces. Forwards have to defend at set pieces. Right footed players on the left, and vice versa, can cut inside and shoot at goal (see Robben for Bayern/Holland).
    Players are so versatile nowadays that they can play almost anywhere.

  6. I can understand why Bates or Hoyte would be left back as we are short there and it is certainly better than Arca.
    I also agree that players can and should be able to fill many roles but I still cant see the logic of Flood left and Robbo right. I have difficulty in seeing what was gained from that midfield.
    As the spine is crucial to the team why not play it especially in the last pre season game. You may well find Ipswich have been doing just that and tinkering on the fringes.
    I think we are already one of the best equipped squads in the league, a Derby County player was in our office and he really fancies us for promotion and I guess that is the view of many – at one point we were down at 11/2 to win the league having come in from 13/2. We have a young lad with a SkyBet account so dont think I am a gambler.
    The proof of the pudding is in the eating, a good start is essential plus getting a fair share of the luck. Toon had plenty of early season points from poor performances and lucky breaks before running away with the title.
    A few out and a few more in and we should be be just fine.

  7. A final thought on wingers playing on the wrong flank and players being able to play anywhere….
    As Steve H said above, players have to be multi skilled but it doesnt mean they are.
    Last season we had Arca left midfield and Pogo left back and that didnt work because Pogo wasnt happy going forward.
    People like Robben (and Jinky) can play on the right and cut in and the full back can bomb on, Chelsea can do the same on the other flank with Ashley Cole at left back for the same reason.
    Put a right footed left back behind a right footed midfield player and you are posing needless questions and the opportunity for the opposition to exploit a weakness.
    Whether Ipswich are good enough to do so is a totally different matter as is whether we line up the same on Saturday.

  8. AV – Did GS2 ever mention Tarmo before he joined? Sometimes it’s the one’s that don’t get mentioned that actually happen.
    Has Strachen mentioned Adam Lallana at his old club Southampton? No?
    Chance of him signing 65.34% depending on the 1 in three chance of Gary O’neil moving to Blackburn who have a 25% chance of increasing their midfield squad from 7-8.
    Overall rating 4 and 2/3rds

  9. Right, third time lucky for this particular post. It might actually get through the Untypical Boro fog unscathed this time. I thought I was being quite smart, so saved it on my other PC at work……… 60 miles away !!
    I have been having a look at the recently announced squad numbers for the forthcoming season. I believe there are a few strong hints in there towards the make up of the first XI, the departures & the possible incomings.
    Firstly, the number three has been left blank, which suggests a new first choice left back is high on the current shopping list. Taylor has been relegated from number three to number twenty six. That tells us all we need to know about GS2’s rating of GS1’s former first choice left back.
    Also left blank are numbers twelve & thirteen. Being held in reserve for the anticipated arrivals of Dawson & Conway by any chance ?
    Most interestingly, Gary O’Neil has swapped from sixteen last season, to number eighteen this year. I would imagine that if you were looking to change the number of one of your regular starting XI, it would be into a single figure, not downwards. This hints that the club do not expect him to be part of the squad by the 1st of September. First XI numbers are however, given to Kink, Thomson & Bailey.
    There is no number for any of Mido, Emnes or Digard. The club must be relatively confident that all three will be long gone before the definitive squad list is submitted the the FA on the 1st of next month. Although, the Mido – Ajax story seems to have gone deathly quiet now. Would the silence suggest that one is dead AV ?
    There appears to be a lull in transfer movement at the present time. Clubs are waiting for others to blink first in the game of brinkmanship. We may have to be patient before the final few names are added & the expected departures are confirmed. Whatever happens, it’s still an exciting time to be a Boro fan.

  10. So our first shirt sponsor is Deepdale Solutions. Perhaps as well we’re not playing Preston North End in the first month, then………My PNE supporting mates will be very amused.
    By the way, Sky Sports reckons Burnley are in for Craig Dawson. Brian Laws says they are financially sound so expect a bid! And of course, if he went there, he wouldn’t have to move house. Ho hum! If only we could get shot of Midough to give us more financial clout.
    What do you reckon are the chances of us getting rid of both Emnes and Digard, AV? Are any clubs sniffing around? What happened to Emnes’ trial spell in Germany?
    **AV writes: Digard will be fairly easy to get out on loan. A sale may be more problematic. He did well back in France last year and still has a good reputation but he is on wages that will be considered MASSIVE over there. Potential buyers will know Boro are desperate so we may end up paying a slice of his wages. If we move him on permanently we can’t expect much of a fee if any.
    Emnes is a problem. He was never really an established big player in Holland before Boro signed him. He was a prospect on small wages. Now he is a tarnished prospect on what will be big wages over there. We will be very lucky to get a fee. We need him to go to Holland on a long loan and do really well with a view to a sale next summer I think.

  11. Birmingham have lined up an ambitious bid to land Italian World Cup-winning left-back Fabio Grosso on a season-long loan from Juventus according to the Daily Mail.
    Perhaps then we could move for D Murphy from Birmingham on loan.
    I still hope the Conway deal materialised. We need a right winger. But most probably we see more moves near the window closure. Of course we could hope somebody to buy Mido before that. Unfortunate very unlikely.
    Up the Boro!

  12. Living in Derby my memory of David Murphy was a good left back never really given a chance at Boro but did well at Hibs.
    Not seeing the reserve team and limited opportunities to see any of his few first team chance he was one of those players you didnt know much about but wondered why he left.
    What can you recall Vic?
    **AV writes: I think he was highly rated but wasn’t going to get a game any time soon (Queueueue was LB) and he wanted to play first team football and turned down a new deal, which is fair enough.

  13. Linked with Kilgannon and former Boro left back David Murphy as unwilling to pay fee for Dawson.
    As discussed above it is getting players out that may be the priority. This may drag on and it could be we will be watching SkySports on 31st August.
    What is good is that looks like it we have the bulk of the squad in place.

  14. Kilgannon and Kilgallon, two for the price of one – sorry for my lumpy fingers and/or befuddled brain.
    Would be interesting to see the Corporal behind Liverpool’s zonally obsessed defence.
    If it comes off I will be a fan of the Count forever.

  15. The story ends in Philbo’s link like this:
    “However the resistence of Gordon Strachan has proved to be a stumbling block for the Kop boss.” So no sales of Jones!
    I don’t always see all the dislike some Boro fans have on Jones. Last season there was too many changes in the back four (some say 30 varieties!) in front of him but he played well towards the end. And all the coaches seem to rate him – and now Mr Hodgson, too.
    Still I will see Conway as our number one target as said earlier rather than a new goalkeeper. And of course, KL must sell the Big Three first. UTB!

  16. According to this morning’s ‘Times’, the move for Kilgallon & Digard to Nice on loan are a “decent bet”. Fingers crossed…
    The Corporal to Liverpool? Now I’ve heard everything! ROTFLMAO…

  17. Steve Claridge, the BBC Sport football expert says that Middlesbrough might have pulled off the signing of the decade in Kris Boyd and Bristol City could be a dark horse under Steve Coppell.
    Let’s hope so that we’ll still talk about Kris in ten years time. A new legend like Bernie or Hicks.
    Up the Boro!

  18. What is the probable line-up against Ipswich on Saturday?
    Up front: McDonald & Boyd
    Midfield: Kink, Thomson, Robson & O’Neil
    Defence: Bates, McManus, Wheater, Hoyte
    Goal: Coyne (Jones suspended)
    I am so glad to see Bates back there. If we sign a LB on loan he might even drop McManus to the bench! Hoyte will be replaced by Rhys when fit. Then I hope GON to fight with Conway(?) on the right. And Bailey has a fight in his hands with Kink on left. What is best, both Bailey and GON can cover in middle. Fabulous!
    Up the Boro!
    **AV writes: At the open training session yesterday they lined up with Kinky on the left and Flood on the right. Bailey had a knock so sat it out but should be back on Saturday but O’Neil is struggling and probably will miss out.
    I think that means Flood will drop out and Robbo will go out wide with Bailey coming into the middle.

  19. Re Digard and Emnes:
    Did they not sign on 3 year deals so thiss eason is the last on their contracts so we can either get nowt for them now or nowt in a year’s time. I’d give them frees now and save the last year wages.
    Re Murphy:
    I saw quite a bit of him as a youngster and had high hopes for him. He was a solid built lad with a bit of the young Julian Dicks about him – a bit more meat than the other lads he was up against and he made good use of that power.
    If I remember rightly that solid forceful tackling was his undoing and he picked up a bad knock at Southampton I think it was early on in his debut. When he did get back fit again he showed himself to be alarmingly lacking in pace and was soon shipped off to Scottish football with Hibs. I doubt he has got faster so would not see him as any better than what we have already.
    **AV writes: On Emnes and Digard -. the problem is not valuation, there are always clubs who will take them. The problem is their wages. For instance, Digard is among the highest paid players at Boro and in France will be paid as much if not more than all but the top paid players at their Champions League clubs.
    To get a French club to buy him AND pay a fee may be almost impossible. To get him to leave AND take a pay-cut may be equally problematic. The most likely scenario is a year long loan with a view to a permanent deal next summer but with us still paying a slice of his wages this season. It’s a buyer’s market.

  20. I am so excited about the season ahead. This is the best squad we have had since Mclaren was here.
    Just got to say “Jones to Liverpool as understudy to Riena” LMAO! I’m not one to usually use those texting do-dahs, but thought it was very apt in this case.
    Good luck to you Brad, hope it works out (for our benefit that is). I think Schwartzer must have put in a good word to Mr. Hodgson. Hope GS gives Steele a chance, or goes out and buys a good keeper.
    Come on you Reds.

  21. “Manchester United’s Portuguese winger Nani has upstaged his team-mates by showing up to training in a limited edition Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni – costing £150,000. It is one of only 250 made in the world.”
    What is the point – just a months salary to buy one. Do he have all the other Lambo’ models in his garage as well?
    AV, as we have Allegros and Marainas (and before that Trabies) here, I suppose the “men” of GS2 are driving Volvos (solid, reliable and not too expensive). Could you make a story about the car part at Riverside now and five years ago sometime in the future.
    **AV writes: I once parked my mud-splattered and dented Fiesta next to Mido’s supertanker sized gleaming white Rolls Royce if that helps.

  22. Jarkko and AV –
    The only change I would make if O’Neil isnt fit is Bailey on the right rather than our Barry though as AV says ‘when in doubt, play Robbo there’.
    I like the idea of Robbo and Thomson central though the players will switch around in any case. Just seems nice and solid and I suspect Bailey’s younger legs may be more useful out wide, a sort of goal scoring O’Neill.
    Jiffy –
    Thanks for the feedback on Murphy. Even if he isnt that pacey he may well have more solidity than Taylor or Bennett and that is useful in this division. And he is left footed.
    AV –
    Shouldnt have mentioned Midough’s huge Limo, John still keeps muttering about being held up at West Brom whilst the Sphinx’s two limos were reversed out of the Hawthorns.

  23. AV –
    What sort of reaction do the players who are not in the team photo give in training and around the club? Do they know they wont be here and as such aren’t actually training and are spending their time by the phone waiting for agents to fix moves whilst on gardening leave?
    They want to fight for their place and its a slap in the face for them? (hmm maybe not)
    They dont want to be in our stupid photo in the first place?!
    Whilst we have seen very little of him on the pitch Emnes has kept a very dignified silence through the not playing/not in GS2 plans period which is a credit to him.
    *AV writes: Most the players who are not in the picture are youngsters who wouldn’t expect to be and who are aiming at next year’s snap.
    Those who are frozen out know exactly where they satnd. My understanding is that neither Mido or Emnes are around and are away looking for a club. They need to keep Digard fit so when the probable v possibles game was going on yesterday he was training with the kids and in the gym.

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