Blades Out For Strachan If We Lose

THE BLADES are being sharpened for Strachan.
His team – and it is undoubtedly his team now – have been sluggish and one dimensional in the opening games; the La Manga trip was supposed to produce a super-fit team but they have been out-worked; despite the heavy summer investment the glaring long standing problems of a lack of pace and width in midfield remain; and the newly installed star striker has barely had a touch as the team have created next to nothing going forward. Right now the pre-season title favourites do not look serious contenders.
So is Sheffield United a “must win” game? Already? After two games? With 132 points left to play for and the transfer window still open? Plenty of people think so. And even those who don’t should brace themselves for the backlash if Boro lose.


In terms of points it would be preposterous to suggest the third game of the season is crucial. Mathematically Boro could lose the next six and still claw up the table and into the play-offs – although probably such a start would probably rule out an automatic spot.
But politically, losing to Sheffield United would be a disaster. It could blow a hole in what had been an upbeat approach to a crucial campaign. Already the sunshine summer odds on optimism of just a fortnight ago has dissipated to leave a clammy feeling of uncertainty and empty fear. The emotional vaccuum has been filled with murmurs of dissent. It would not take much to turn that into a more widespread opposition.
Losing a second successive game at home, on telly and to a team who finished below Boro last term and one reeling from dug-out and who have just been turned over by Hartlepool could see those fissures widen. Boro could easily go into the game eight points adrift of the leaders and in their lowest position in the league since the relegation battle of 1989-90. To fail to arrest that slide would be a disaster.
After four grinding years of downsizing, despair and disappointment the unaccustomed coat of collective enthusiasm was fragile and has already begun to crack. Those who are set against Strachan – and they are a sizeable minority – have largely bitten their tongues over the summer but will turn up the volume and vitriol in the wake of a poor result. Or even a good one with a poor performance. Meanwhile, those who are undecided and opted to to suck it see may spit it out as unpalatable.
The opening day crowd of 21,000 plus included 7,000 or so sceptics who turned up hoping to be persuaded to climb back on board a promotion bandwagon. They wanted to be given hope for the coming season and the future. They left to a familiar depressing sound track of booing and with many wondering why they bothered and telling friends and family – all potential bums on seats – nothing had changed.
The Blades match is on the box and that will be playing to yet another wider layer of exactly the people that Boro need to win back, those waverers who may be tempted to the Riverside if they thought that the new look side could out-fight and out-play the opposition and that Kris Boyd could fire the side to promotion. For those people watching at home and in the pub a defeat in what for most is the first chance to see Strachan’s new side will have them reaching for the off button on the season.
If Boro fail to shine against Sheffield United, if they fail to excite and inspire it will be very hard to win the battle for hearts and minds and get those disillusioned thousands back into the ground. The team may well later still slowly grind their way up the table and be among the chasers but it will be against a background of groans: “typical Boro”. Defeat now will be later used in evidence against them.
We need to win and win well. Or the knives will be out.

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23 thoughts on “Blades Out For Strachan If We Lose

  1. The most worrying thing is that for many, indifference could set in as a default position.
    I think, may be wrong, that there are still many just waiting for their Boro to kick i on and provide some reason to get on board again.
    If we dont then, the leap forward we made under Robson in the new Riverside stadium may become just a wistful memory.
    I have been positive about the moves to rebuild the team but if we are adrift then it becomes difficult to get back into the chase. Fans dont want the play offs, they want promotion though there is no divine right to a place in the Premiership.
    One suspects many fans are waiting for us to fail and that includes Boro fans. I dont think it is just chicken run mentality, there may well be a simmering discontent with MFC, a feeling that they have been let down.
    There are anti Strachan sentiments but I suspect Mother Theresa would have come in for stick.

  2. Yes, its a stupidly early ‘must win’ match. But that’s the price of all the spending. Biggest spenders in the division = biggest expectations. Bookies favourites = odds on expectation. All the talk of hitting the ground running = expectation.
    As you say, its Strachan’s team now. Last year it was easy for the “strachanovites” to deflect the flak by using the Southgate shield. No there’s no excuses.
    There are a lot of people out there just waiting to put the boot in. And plenty of others who will just walk away and write the season off at the drop of a hat.
    It worries me that if we don’t win (and people see us being rubbish on TV) then we play a weak side at Millwall in the CCup and lose it will feel like the season is over and the manager will be fighting for his life before the transfer deadline.
    **AV writes: I don’t think the stakes are quite that high but if we don’t win soon – preferably tomorrow – then it will be a long hard slog and even if we start to climb the table and grind our way to promotion I fear it will be against a background of public indifference and cynicism. We will have wasted the feelgood factor felt after the flurry of signings and the open training day.

  3. The biggest disiilusionment about this season is that this team is still being out-worked and out-fought.
    After La Manga and the fitness trainer of world reknown, we were told that this was going to be the fittest team in the division. Strachan clearly was buying ball-winning, hard-tackling warriors.
    It didn’t promise to be pretty – although Souness took no prisoners but was still one of the most creative players seen at the Boro – but it sounded pragmatic and probably appropriate to the football in this division.
    Yet, despite all the talk, the team is still slow, lethargic, lacking in inspiration – being out-run and out-fought. If we’ve sacrificed any semblance of flair but haven’t got the fitness, speed or battling either, what are we left with?

  4. Too many Boro fans are fickle and only too happy to get on the team’s back if the plucky opposition happen to put up a credible fight and don’t let the big team walk all over them.
    They might be better off staying on their well worn settees with all the other square-eyed plastics ‘supporting’ one of Murdoch’s Big 4 or the other Sky darlings Newcastle or Spurs.

  5. **AV writes: I don’t think the stakes are quite that high …”
    I disagree, the stakes couldn’t be higher. With the new parachute payments due to come into effect it is imperative to achieve promotion this season. We can’t afford not to keep up with the pace.

  6. What got me about the Ipswich game was that with such a big build up to the game and so many walk up fans desperate to find a reason to get behind the club again Strachan should approach the game in such a negative fashion with 4 central midfielders and 3 players out of position.
    A disjointed performance,bad result and one shot on target in 90 minutes was a complete PR disaster.
    The bare facts are that there are a number of clubs in this division who are living off scraps [Palace,Watford Scunthorpe are but three]. Strachan has one of the biggest budgets in wages and transfer fees.
    So far he has produced 10 wins in 36 games. If he continues to fail he deserves every bit of stick that is coming his way.
    When he took over we at least had a decent counter attacking team aay from home.If somebody can point out the improvements since his appointment then I would like them to tell me what they are.

  7. Following the 0-0 at Leicester, I think I was probably the first on this blog to give the Sheff Utd game ‘must win’ status – and that was mainly to avoid creating a feeling of disaffection with the supporters that nothing had changed from last season.
    But perhaps you are right AV that nothing less than winning well will be enough to stop the pre-season bubble of optimism from well and truly bursting.
    However, there seems to be little indication that things will be much different tomorrow – only League 1 signing, Bailey and the unknown quantity Kink are the only new faces available to give the Boro midfield a cutting edge and supply the so far anonymous Boyd.
    I suspect winning well is possibly beyond us tomorrow – so I’ll settle for simply a win in the first ‘definitely musn’t lose and would be much better to win’ game of the season. Though should we lose it may well put too much pressure on the next game and prove a tipping point for the whole season.
    Having said all that, suffering injuries to key players doesn’t help to get the team to gel – so it may just be a case of hanging in there and getting results for the time being.

  8. Boro Weather Update:
    It’s clouded over a bit. Heavy rain clouds are gathering on the horizon. But it’s changeable. Depending on wind patterns over the next week, atmospheric conditions could see major change – either way.
    Short term, it’s an uncertain outlook. With a midfield whose brolly’s are already inside-out and an attacking force blowing hot and (mostly) cold, there are considerable doubts about tomorrow’s forecast. Some weather warnings have been issued in some locations. We can only hope that the (remaining) flood defences are strong enough to withstand transient, incoming high-pressure fronts.
    Heavy precipitation on Sunday would seriously dampen enthusiasm. On the other hand, new signings during the week may provide some warming rays of renewed hope for a generally improving longer-term climate.
    Midweek, the same, possibly further weakened, weather system will move south before returning again in a northwards direction. Whether it blows itself out or gathers force, returning as an even deeper depression, which may subsequently cause localised storm conditions, depends on interaction with weather systems elsewhere.
    With current uncertainty however, there does remain the threat of a serious atmospheric chill, with developing conditions possibly giving rise to ice formation at high-altitudes, although this is considered unlikely in the immediate future. Nevertheless, there are already indications of unsettled conditions in the New Holgate end which may, in time, lead to putting a wind up the boardroom.
    Activity outlook for the weekend: With the current prospects, I suspect many may choose to stay indoors. Daytime Sky-watchers will be hoping for brightness returning early on Sunday afternoon. At the same time, in outlying areas, those with laptops connecting with Gazettelive, will be hopeful that Mosso’s cloudfiles are more high-altitude cumuli strachus rather than threatening cumuli numbus.
    **AV writes: Thank you Wincy Willis….

  9. All the teams in this division are very enthusiatic, most have players with some quality, none to me seem to have a set structure. Its mostly hell for leather football,for 75 mins its chase ,chase chase ,
    What Boro have to do is what Newcatle did, match and frustrate the other team and then hopefully the quality we do have can get us the wins we need. We dont have to be like Barcelona, just very professional in our approach. Its a slog and we have to understand that

  10. Just a warning….if you open today’s “The Times” at page 78 to read the obituaries, there is an article that smacks you right in the eye, and occupies at least two-thirds of the page. Open the paper carefully. Or ensure you have a cardiologist on hand.
    **AV writes: You’ll have to give us a clue. I can’t (sorry, I won’t) scale the pay wall.

  11. Dormo,
    Do you also trawl through the obituaries looking for a free lunch? The best one I ever ’stumbled’ upon involved the Bigg Market, false teeth, a coconut and a pair of leggings. At times I do miss not living in Newcastle.
    Rumour has it that we have a game tomorrow. I’ve not been to a game since the Coventry game four or so months ago. I can’t wait. I’m gonna sing myself hoarse


..for all of ten mins untill we go two nil down.
    Really don’t know what to expect tomorrow, but I am fairly sure we are going to start the season slowly but we will come good and be in the top four come the end of the season, possibly top two.
    Think the scalectrix car on the dodgy piece of track then suddenly whosssssssssh 

 careers off the track ends up under the sideboard, rips its front wing off and the cat leaves a stain on your mums favourite rug. Who gave it salmon for god’s sake?
    I’ll try an get a word with Kris ( He scores with his feet, He scores with his head, Krissy Boyd he loves playing in red) Boyd tomorrow for you all but he might be too busy drinking his pre-match quota of 5 cans of Irn Bru (without using the ring pull!)
    AV any ‘bog’ bellows news? Mitch and Harry coming? Or any truth in the rumours linking us with the trio of French midfielders at Montpellier, Henri Du’rex, and his mates Emanuel J’iffy and Ribe Tickeleur?
    **AV writes: I think we’ve withdrawn.

  12. Spent the afternoon at a family reunion in York with my wifes family and there was a family there from Middlesbrough. The two lads were season ticket holders whilst dad was a lapsed fan.
    The boys were certain we would get promoted whilst dad was reserving judgement. We all agreed it was important to get a win against the Blades.
    Having got back and had a couple of medicinal beers it was time to check out todays results and the table doesnt make brilliant reading. We can all sort out the permutations but the fact is unless we win we will have some ground to make up.
    With O’Neil unlikely to be available, Josh Who? gone, Digard leaving, Haliday probably still unfit we are going to have a makeshift midfield.
    At face value we have Robson, Bailey, Arca and Kink available. There is also the chance that Bates can be moved forward allowing Kilgallon to take over at left back. No one has answered my question over whether he is left footed but why worry.
    It just doesnt look convincing. Robson isnt the quickest but would be great with some young legs around him, Arca is even slower, Bailey hasnt settled and we dont know anything about Kink just yet.
    If we set out classic 442 it is difficult to see anything more than a point unless SheffU are poor. They wont come to make it easy.
    It is of such concern to my son he doesnt want to watch the match, more accurately he doesnt want to be disappointed and angry.
    With our limited resources in midfield it points to the need to play three up front – McMonald and Kink either side of Boyd. That would mean Robson, Bailey and possibly Arca as a three. The alternative being bates instead of Arca.
    That then leaves the question of will the full backs bomb in to help give width. Hoyte can do but Kilgallon is an unknown quantity. Tricky.
    It is fair to say that for all the work that has been done we are looking vulnerable. A defeat would be damaging to morale and leave us adrift. A serious injury to Robson could be terminal to our promotion propects even at this early stage.
    It is far too easy to panic but not too soon to start stroking ones chin and being grumpy around the house.

  13. Must win situation. What has changed since Southgate? Quite a lot. This team plays rubbish long ball football, popular in the Scottish leagues, totally useless in a quality laden Championship Level.
    Strachan’s record must be one of the worst ever in a manager at the Boro. I do not have the Stats, but would be interestred to know if that statement was correct.
    Southgate was burdened with the job description of gettting the age of the team down Which he did, getting the overall wages bill down, which he did, and keeping the team in the Premiership… too many restrictions on a young manager to be a roaring success. Arsene Wenger thought highly of Southgate, Southgate was let down badly by his scouting system as was McClaren.
    Mr Strachan appears to have ignored the scouting sysytem and signed players and coaches who were personally known to him. I can not understand Strachan giving Josh Walker a free transfer when the lad had just been named man of the match at Chesterfield. Where is Tony Mowbray? Get him quick smart before it is too late. We can not afford Strachan:s mismanagement any longer.

  14. Just popped round Boyd’s and I don’t think I’ll ever get the sight out of my mind. Clad just in the McBoro tartan kilt, face painted in the boro home shirt colours, in his garage muttering some very strange things.
    Come on Boro

  15. Ach Smog ye bawbag, will ye knock next time. An would it nae kill yee to put some troousres on!
    O mount and go, mount and make you ready,
    O mount and go, and be the Captain’s lady.
    When the drums do beat, and the cannons rattle,
    Thou shalt sit in state, and see thy love in battle:
    When the drums do beat, and the cannons rattle,
    Thou shalt sit in state, and see thy love in battle.
    O mount and go,.
    When the vanquish’d foe sues for peace and quiet,
    To the shades we’ll go, and in love enjoy it:
    When the vanquish’d foe sues for peace and quiet,
    To the shades we’ll go, and in love enjoy it.
    O mount and go,

  16. “but we will come good and be in the top four come the end of the season, possibly top two”
    Dusts off Supertramp CD and prepares to play “Dreamer”.

  17. I see the BBC, who always amuse with their pre-match information, have chosen this time to focus on our 3 wins in the last 15 Championship games we’ve played.
    Nevermind 13 of those were last season, before wide-spread changes to the playing personnel.
    Anyway, they make a very valid point. 3 wins in pretty much 1/4 of the season is woeful. If not relegation form it’s certainly lower-midtable-obscurity form.
    This is Strachan’s team now. The comparison to last seasons Newcastle team is an interesting one. I wouldn’t be bothered if we could get promoted playing a solid, hard to beat approach, but Newcastle had 2 talented wide-players (Jonas and Guthrie) with 2 big lads (Ameobi and Carroll) to nod in the crosses. We don’t have the same flair, or the same big ugly guys up front.
    The second automatically promoted team played a completely different style, with more flair players, more width and more goals.
    I don’t really care which approach we take, as long as we win. And we need to start winning today. If we want promotion – we need to win almost all of our home games, starting today.
    Strachan hasn’t got long to start improving that win ratio before most of us will have given up on him.

  18. IF we lose we’ll be joint bottom with the only team from whom we’ve got a point.
    That just about sums up Gordon’s team doesn’t it.

  19. Hi Mr Vickers
    Talking about fastest goals scored,could you please find out how fast the goal scored at Ayresme Park by Graham Souness when we played Leiecter City at home. That is the “night match” when the flood lights went out and the match was canceled.
    I think it was in the midd 70s. I think it was only seconds from kick off.
    Please let me know. Thank you.
    **AV writes: It isn’t in the official big book of Gazette records. Does anyone know?

  20. Hi Bob,
    Good question. It was officially timed at 27s but as the ground had no clock and being a night match the sundial was not operational you will just have to take my word for it.

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