LAST TIME we went to Scunthorpe was a lifetime ago. It was the second week of the season, it was shirt sleeve order and we were bubbling with August optimism. The Berlin Wall and Redcar Rock looked impregnable, Jinky was sprinkling magic in his trail and Tuncay was warming up ready for his devasting cameos. Emnes and Aliadiere were ripping defences apart with their pace before falling over and the consensus was that if we could keep the quality in the squad together then we were a shoo-in for promotion and we could swagger through these little grounds in a patronising and arrogant Premier League Billy Big Balls on tour season of partying. Oh dear.
Now just over a year later we are emotionally battered and bruised, in the basement battle and coming to terms with the fact that our squad is seriously unbalanced and woefully lacking in key areas, there are few stars or saleable assets, the club is borassic and we have come bedraggled through a traumatic year that has seen two managers bombed out and ambitions, morale and crowd collapse.
But we are all still here, digging in for the long haul. This time we go to Scunny with no illusions, expecting a battle, probably as slight underdogs with the bookies (the last away win was Plymouth at Easter after all) and hoping to get something – anything – that will keep us talking about positives under Mogga.
Here’s what we said after last year’s trip to Scunthorpe . Let’s hope after tonight we are still optimistic, even if it is from a far lower base.
MEANWHILE, here are Tony Mowbray’s comments from yesterday’s presser on the headache that is less than industrious goal-getter Kris Boyd.
“Kris needs support and I will give him as much as he need. I can’t, though, stick the ball in the net for him. If chances drop he has to do that.
“He has to work hard, he is part of a team and while he is at Middlesbrough he has to show the supporters, his team-mates, the manager, that he has to work hard for this team.
“At Rangers it probably wasn’t always the case because they would have so much of the ball that he could stand around the penalty box and smash it in when it came in to the penalty box. He is very talented at doing that.
“Until we get to the point where teams are afraid of us in this league, and teams are dropping off us, then he has to be part of a team and work hard.”
Very rarely does a manager say something that is so concise, balanced, nuanced, perceptive and constructive and that is 100% bang on the money. It gives a message to the fans (‘get behind him’), it gives a message to the player (‘start producing’) and it gives a message to the squad (‘the team is paramount’).
If you deconstruct that statement it is clear that there is something in there for everyone. Wherever you stand on Boyd – I still think he will be Boro’s top scorer this term and once Mogga tweaks the team and his head he can still justify the hype – there is an element in there you will be nodding your head at. Even those that want to ‘get rid’ will note the subliminal eqivocation in the phrase “while he is at Middlesbrough.”
Mogga is quickly proving to be a brilliant instinctive political operator, understated but clear and determined and using plain language that is inclusive and populist and draws people towards unity around the things they can agree on: the team, the need for results, we are all in this together, you have a role to play.