Mogga’s Smart Board Tactical Masterclass

TONY Mowbray served up a smart board tactical masterclass as battling Boro put in a solid 90 minute shift to beat Cardiff.
It was a spirited and steely display by a well organised, highly motivated and determined outfit and every player deserves to enjoy the plaudits. It was a rot-stopping win that lifted Boro out of the drop zone and sent the crowd home with a spring in their step.
But the boss deserves his share of the applause too.

The makeshift back four – Justin Hoyte was making his first start in defence under Mowbray and Seb Hines his first senior start for 14 months – were superb as they effectively shackled the Championship’s joint highest scorers and jet heeled dangerman Craig Bellamy to claim only a second clean sheet at the Riverside all term. The only previous blank at home came in the 1-0 win over Sheffield United in August.
An industrious midfield denied Cardiff space and stopped their speedy wingers exploiting the flanks and they flew into tackles and scrapped for every ball to ensure they won the engine room battle. A long clunky unit looked more balanced than for months.
And the frontmen may not have carved out too many clear cut chances – Julio Arca’s penalty and a Nicky Bailey sizzler were the only times Cardiff keeper David Marshall was really tested – but they dropped deep to help flood the midfield when the visitors had the ball then broke quickly to offer an outlet on the break.
But while the team will rightly be praised for a functional but spirited display that had a relieved Riverside buzzing, the victory was as much about the planning as the delivery.
Mowbray set out deliberately to frustrate Cardiff and neutralise their pace and firepower with a system that stifled the basis of their attacking prowess.
The gaffer is a football thinker. He assesses the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses and is flexible enough to come up with a system to  counter it. He has shown himself willing to change from game to game and within matches. He has shown he is willing to rip up the rule book and will change a winning team or even stick with a losing one if he thinks the shape and options it offers are the right ones to face the next opposition.
That doesn’t always come off. Trying to second guess the opposition and gearing to their shape can sometimes put your own team on the backfoot and ask them to adopt systems and styles they are no comfortable with but this time Mogga got it spot on: he got the shape right and had the personnel with the strength sto make it work.
That is a radically different approach from the cautious ideological rigidity of Gordon Strachan that would not bend. Strachan tried to jam ill-suited players into unfamiliar roles – Barry Robson at left back! – despite the mounting evidence that it wasn’t working.
Against Cardiff Mogga shuffled his pack again – partly because of the enforced absence of David Wheater and partly because of the on-going virus ripping through the training ground – and came up with a winning hand.
Despite the selection problems he put round pegs in round holes – full-backs on their right foot, a straight swap in central defence, Gary O’Neil on the right, Julio Arca on the left, two solid and disciplined men in the engine room, Marvin Emnes up front – and he came up with an astute and effective strategy that worked.
And in a refreshing post match interview – again in contrast to his guarded predecessor who regarded tactical terminology as a mystical secret world to be guarded jealously from the unwashed with an inpregnable wall of witticism – he was all too ready to explain what he had asked the team to do.
“I’m very proud of the team” he said. “They stuck to the game plan. We haven’t had the chance to do any work on grass for two weeks so the game plan was set up entirely on paper and smart boards.
“Cardiff are a quality team with quite a bit of pace and a lot of options up front. We knew that. They had the extra man in midfield and they spread it wide quickly but we handled it and played on the counter-attack.
“If you press too far up the park they will pick you off with Bellamy and his pace. It wasn’t a day for trying to press them. The crowd here like to see Boro going at teams and smashing into tackles but it was never a day for that. We let their defence have the ball and our forwards had to drop deep into midfield to help out there.”
But it wasn’t just about the shape. The personnel were right too. There was a better balance to the team in every department.
With Wheater suspended the gaffer had initially caused ripples of fear when he hinted earlier in the week he would play Hoyte there to combat Bellamy’s pace. He resisted that temptation – Hoyte has played as a centre back in the Champions League for Arsenal – and instead threw in Hines.
The youngster was awesome. His only previous action this term was a brief cameo from the bench against Chesterfield in the League Cup and since then he has been dogged by injuries and played very little fooball but he looked immaculate at the back as he read the game like a veteran, timed his tackles superbly and was mobile and powerful and equally comfortable attacking the ball in the air or playing it out on the ground.
And he looked a good complementary fit with Matthew Bates and with Wheater a possible departure in January, Hines made a strong case that he is ready to step in.
But Hoyte was excellent too. He has been a bit part player under Mowbray but selected ahead of Tony McMahon because of his pace he more than coped with Bellamy in a solid show at the back and looked incisive bombing forward too.
That was more than balanced by Joe Bennett on the left. He was frozen out by Strachan and his development was set back by a year but he looks hungry and inventive as he surges forward to offer width and some telling crosses.
And even though it was yet another new permutation, the midfield unit also had a better balance to it too. Often O’Neil loses shape in the middle as he chases the game and fails to impose himself but he looked dangerous and energetic and far more disciplined on the right and in the second half he had a stormer.
And Arca – among Boro’s best performers this term despite an on-going injury – was comfortable and creative on the left and linked up well with the central midfield pair and offered support for Bennett’s marauding runs. It was a clinical, calm penalty too. Other spot-kick candidates, take note.
Those two were the outstanding players on the pitch but alongside them sitting deeper them the central pair of Nicky Bailey and Kevin Thomson were rock solid in the middle as they battled against Cardiff’s extra man.
Much maligned Bailey came in for a lot of stick in his early outings but has been an energetic and enterprising figure in his last few games. He arrived labelled as an attacking goal-scoring midfield who was going to bomb on but there has been little evidence of that so far. However, in an anchor role at Coventry he was outstanding and again against Cardiff he flourished further back.
And Thomson deserves special praise. Having come back from a broken leg – possibly too early after taking a few rattles on it and limping off time and again in the games that followed – he managed his first full 90 minutes for Boro and grew in stature as the game went on. After coming gingerly through his first few tackles he became stronger and in the second half was crashing into tackles – including a bone juddering 50/50 with Bellamy – and played some excellent through balls.
The pair together offer the possibility of a solid deeper pairing in a 4-2-3-1 and with O’Neil, Arca, Emnes, McDonald and possibly Luke Williams and further down the line Jonathan Franks there are plenty of possibilities to play in the three – although that could rest on the manager finding a fitting frontman who can play the role effectively.
Up front Scott McDonald was probably the only player who fell short of what was required on the day – dropped deep to help in the middle but struggled going forward and lost possession too often to invite pressure in the second half.
Marvin Emnes in contrast started in a striking role for the first time and looked a livelier and more threatening prospect than the lightweight and demoralised figure of last season. His pace and willingness to run at players terrified the Cardiff defence – he had ripped them apart when playing for Swansea – and he carved out a few chances and won the penalty but he still needs to add end product 
So, a few more pieces of the Mowbray jigsaw fell into place: a clean sheet, a win to edge out of the drop spots, players finding their feet in natural positions, the offer of new options and the team responding to his tactical tweaking.
We shouldn’t get carried away after a single narrow win, especially when the goal came from the spot, but a shape and spirit is emerging slowly from the post-Strachan debris that can be the platform for a sustained improvement.
Some observations:
WHEN was the last time Boro played a game without making substitutions? Maybe in the days of one sub. I can’t remember it. Managers always like to tweak it as the game unfolds – it is a tactical OCD – and there were plenty of candidates in the frantic final 20 minutes. Man flu victim Emnes faded badly for instance. But Mowbray resisted the temptation to change. Can anyone remember the starting XI finishing a game of late?
WHERE does the game leave Barry Robson? Sat on the bench? The midfield unit looked well balanced, efficient and disciplined and you wouldn’t want to tinker with it. Robson arrived with a reputation for versatility and an ability to play anyway across midfield and at th eback end of last term he was our best player by far.
But which of those players against Cardiff is he better than in the roles they played? He is too slow to realistically play in one of the wider roles and too undisciplined to hold the shape in a deeper role. Like O’Neil he can make cavalier runs out of shape but he doesn’t have the pace to get back if he loses the ball and so leaves a big hole behind him. Boro look better balanced without him.
DITTO Kris Boyd. If Emnes plays his way into contention it effectively leaves Boyd – the top piad player – as at best third choice striker. He doesn’t have the pace of Lita, he doesn’t have the work-rate and instinct to drop deep of McDonald and unless Boro are pounding teams (which doesn’t look likely) the fox in the box role doesn’t exist.
IN WHICH mathematical system were there less in the ground for Cardiff (14,250) than there were for Hull (15,250)? We know how the figure is arrived at … season ticket base plus visitors … but it increasingly bears no relation to reality and is starting to just look a bit daft. It is time to bite the bullet and announce a crowd figure based in reality.
DAVID JONES… sour gapes? He’s under a bit of pressure but his press conference was tetchy, defensive and seeped bad grace. He started by saying he didn’t want a blame culture to emerge at Cardiff then systematically put the boot into his defence and told them they had to accept criticism for the current run (not my fault, guv) and then complained that they had dominated the game but been undone by “a long punt forward.” That’s a bit harsh on a neat ball in by Bennett for the penalty.


49 thoughts on “Mogga’s Smart Board Tactical Masterclass

  1. Yep, it was quite good wasn’t it?
    I was screaming for us to bring some subs on towards the end, Emnes or McDonald could have been brought off, surely Kink or Williams could have stretched some Cardiff legs, but actually we looked pretty comfortable at the end despite what must have been six minutes of stoppage time by the time we finished.
    I had kind of assumed Robson was only on the bench because he was still suffering the effects of his illness, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come in for Bailey at some point – we might need him more in games where we need to make the running rather than Saturday where we let Cardiff do it.

  2. AV –
    Another possibility in a 4-2-3-1 is to pair Robbo with Thomo in the holding two (which is what I suggested Mogga might have done on Saturday) and Bailey in the three further forward where he may be more comfortable.

  3. Good to have AV back! Seriously, a good analysis of the Cardiff match.
    I just wonder if the goal came from a penna was that the only difference from the last two defeats. If we had scored the penalty at Coventry the response would have been like now after the Cardiff result. I think this shows how small the margins are. Just one kick succeeding and we are over the top.
    I don’t want to be negative but sometimes it is down to luck (penna going in or not).
    But then again I will enjoy the result. That’s the point of being a supporter. On a positive note I think Thommo will be a success and we had a very strong bench against Cardiff.
    Up the Boro!

  4. BoroPhil and John –
    I too think that Robbo was still feeling the illness he just had. He played all matches under Mogga at Celtic until he was sold to Boro. And I think we should try Bailey in a more attacking formation, too.
    Really, when was the last time we did not use the subs? All I am dreaming now is that we could field the same starting 11 in two successive matches – because then we have found our top form and don’t need to worry about the opposition. But that won’t happen before a long undefeated run. Until that we’ll need to study the opposition team’s weaknesses like on Saturday.
    Well done Mogga. Up the Boro!

  5. Where is everybody? I am blogging here on my own. Dormo?
    I just saw that Josh Walker is on loan, again. Walker joined the Hornets on a free transfer from Middlesbrough in the summer, after featuring just 13 times at the Riverside.
    But first team opportunities have been equally limited at Vicarage Road, Walker having made just four substitute appearances before being shipped out to Stevenage in a loan deal that expires on 5 January.
    Anyone wanting him back? Up the Boro!

  6. Admittedly a great win, but before we get carried away, Cardiff have only won one in seven I believe, and without Jay Bothroyd they are not the same team. Yes they still have quality and yes we played well to earn three points but the painting of Mowbray as a tactical genius may be stretching it.
    As for Hoyte. his first start under Mowbray? I remember him starting on the right wing against Swansea! Tactical masterclass that day? Not really and it was definitely not putting ’round pegs in round holes’!
    But hey three points, will take them, but we have been here before. Beating the Palace and Scunthorpe then a series of defeats.
    Still UTB
    **AV writes: You are correct on Hoyte. I only looked down the defence list. My bad.

  7. This has to be our turning point of the season. Let’s hope all the bad luck has passed and we put a winning streak for the rest of the season. C’mon Boro Roar like A Boro-Lion And Put Back The Pride In Teesside. Another 3pts At Donny and who knows what might happen! Up The Boro!

  8. Its been a patchy start under Mogga, not unexpectedly given that a new approach and a new philosophy take a while to become embedded, but there is an air of cautious optimism around Teesside.
    Let’s hope we have a good run of form through Christmas, then we can focus on the FA cup. When was the last time a second tier side won it!! (Inhales deeply on foam hand)
    Oh, keep forgetting, congratulations Smog.

  9. Good news on Steele. As a young keeper he is better off playing than sitting on someones bench like Turnbull and Jones.
    With a bit of luck with injuries he has nearly 20 years in front of him.

  10. Still here, Jarkko! Just late home from work and no chance to turn on the laptop to see what AV has been up to (after his office Christmas Party?).
    Anyway it was really good to see a good performance, a clean sheet, and three points on Saturday. The weekend is much better after a win!
    And in a few minutes, a little saunter down to the Tortured Toad for a pint of Redbreast (is that the guest this week. can’t remember) or Cocker Hoop, and a quick look at Manchester United against Arsenal. Just in case we might be taking Fabregas on loan in January and we need to work out which formation we might squeeze him into…. (Only joking).
    And Jarkko if you can listen to the BBC Tees Mogga interview with Ali Brownlee on the radioPlayer (or whatever), I think you’ll be impressed by him. Good sense, obviously caring very much for the club and steeped in it and the area, and clearly very open.
    He couldn’t be expected to say “We are going to get rid of XX and YY but we are hoping to buy in ZZ” but he said all that we could ever expect. I am feeling good about his appointment. And it’s been a while since I felt good about the Boro.
    Feet on the ground, though….

  11. For the sake of historical accuracy with regards to our past defeats to Cardiff, I was wrong when I said a Rooks hat trick failed to save Boro relegation in a 3-3 draw in 1966.They lost 5-3 on that day according to the records.
    In relation to the match on Saturday, did anyone else notice Mowbray’s tactical awareness with respect to whenever we had a goal-kick, Steele directed the ball to O’Neil positioned in Cardiff’s half, close to the touchline, so that he could win the headers or at worst their left back could knock the ball out of play.
    Presumably his reasoning being their defenders were too big for our smaller forwards and the danger of the ball immediately returning to the vicinity where Bellamy could pick up the ball and make a run. Increasingly as the match wore on Bellamy had to track back to the half way line to gather the ball. A small example of Mowbray thinking creatively about the game as it unfolds.
    For once we have a manager who knows what he is doing.

  12. Great result but we are still relegation fodder if we continue to remain scoreless from outfield play. No team can be successful if it has to rely on penalties for its survival.
    I sat up in amazement when Scott McDonald stated that the problem was that the Boro were making too may silly mistakes in defence. I am afraid young man the problem is you and your fellow strikers are not performing to any where near in goals per game that is required of the modern day striker.
    Viduka one goal every two games over his career, if you and your fellow strikers could manage one goal in four games it would help to alleviate the relegation problem, even then you would be lucky to score fifteen goals a season.
    We need a bigger span of goal scorers in the team, If you look at the very successful teams they have goal scorers all over the park. That being said let us hope this is the turning point of a very dismal season so far.

  13. Tactically Mogga is way ahead of Strachan and Southgate but that doesn’t make him Mourinho. I don’t buy the idea that he gets one game right and suddenly he is the messiah. I don’t think he will be getting carried away either.
    Mogga is doing his best to make a silk purse from Strachan’s pigsear but nothing has changed from last week or last month. We still have a BIG problem: we can,t score. Apart from the ridiculous Hull game we have scored one penalty (and missed one) in four games. Until we can solve that problem our results will depend on results and mistakes.
    Mogga will get it right. Eventually. Having heard him speak I believe that more than ever. But don’t expect any sudden surge up the table. We still have players not good enough, not fast enough, not physical enough. We still have a massive wage bill on players we can’t afford and who aren’t delivering.

  14. Sorry chaps. Not “Redbreast” but a pint or two of “Bah, Humbug”. 5.8% alcohol though, and not to be taken lightly….
    What chance Morrison to join us on loan in January? Mind you, if we could get a certain left winger interested in real ales (I have a suspicion he might be a lager drinker…) we could have someone able to deliver from both sides and suddenly football becomes the thing that dreams are made of.
    Football. The disappointment grows on you like a fungus
    **AV writes: You and your wackily monikered real ales. I’m looking at a range of Boro themed beers: Paisley Fence Climber? Hicktonite Netbuster? Mad Dog Bonebreaker?

  15. I feel sorry for Mogga. He is the right man at the wrong time. He is a likeable man, passionate, tactically aware, a good speaker and PR operator who knows the Teesside mentality and I think he is a potentially great manager for the club he loves.
    But he has arrived at the club at a dark time when the town and Teesside have abandoned the club in their hour of need. He was brilliant on Radio Brownlee tonight and set out an inspirational vision of rebuilding the club. But how many people were listening?
    The rot has set in. People are past caring. They have given up. Thousands of ST don’t bother going to games. You can’t give tickets away now and God knows how many we will sell next year even if we stay up. We don’t get a mention in the national press and only insomniacs get to see our one minute slot on TV. The people at work that used to fake enthusiasm in the glory years don’t even mention Boro now.
    Tony Mowbray – too little, too late.

  16. Someone asked if the Donny match was on TV. I cant see it listed anywhere, anyone got the definitive answer?
    On to other matters and it has all gone quiet on Wheater. Listening to talk of Villa it seems they may be looking to replace Richard Dunne though Houllier is doing his best to get out first. Villa fans I know are not overjoyed with him.
    I just wonder if someone is whispering in Wheats ears to do a Downing and get a new deal with a promise of escape next summer.
    **AV writes: Donny match is on Friday to avoid a big fixture clash with Xmas shopping mayhem. Weather permitting… major freeze expected Thursday night/Friday and the Keepmoat doesn’t have undersoil heating.

  17. Mad Dog Bonebreaker sounds like a fruity, spicy number in the style of a Hobgoblin to me…
    On the subject of Pogatetz, I read a blog the other day on a certain national newspaper website, beginning with the letter G, which praised his contribution to Hannover 96’s lofty form. By all accounts he has calmed down and is giving a series of measured performances in Central Defence.
    I’d like to suggest a further beer to add to the Boro stable – Le Franck, a fruity light ale in the mould of a Kronenburg Blanc – dedicated to our favourite peroxide bothering, quintessentially French left back, Mr Queueueueudrue (could never spell that right). I remember once seeing him in Asda at Portrack with a stubbly beard and a black turtleneck jumper – all he needed was a beret and a chain of onions round his neck to fit the stereotype perfectly.
    Is he still playing? Maybe we could loan him as well as Morrison is we’re going for old school loanees. Best left back I’ve ever seen in a Boro shirt – once you got past 75mins played it was just a matter of time before he launched into an ill advised two-footed lunge/sliding tackle which would result in a yellow or red card. At least it made me smile, something in short supply when it comes to Boro at the moment.

  18. AV, your match report paints a picture of Mowbray beginning to shape his team – do you think his selection has also got an eye on who is likely to be leaving in January?
    I think most people would be surprised if Boyd is still with us come the end of January. You are also suggesting Barry Robson’s best Boro days are probably behind him. I guess Wheater will go if a half-decent offer emerges – plus I think the fact O’Neil lost the captains armband suggests he’s only filling in at right midfield.
    As for incoming, I would prefer some decent young fringe PL players but I’m not sure our position as relegation strugglers would facilitate much interest from them – which makes the next six games extremely important to give the impression of a team moving forward again.
    OK, I don’t think we’ll be able to persuade anyone that Boro are remotely playoff outsiders (not unless you believe 16 wins, 6 draws & 3 defeats is a possibility) but playing for a winning team with a PL setup would be a more attractive proposition.
    As for Boro real ales – I hear many fans swear by a Heckled Lamb…

  19. Yes, nice result. Happy with that. Continually amazed at how players come in and out of fashion on here. Former ‘love child’ Barry Robson the latest to be of questionable value, whilst Emnes, Arca and even Hoyte enjoy a renaissance. Who’d have thought that 6 months ago? We’ll see. I’m happy to let the manager decide.
    Meanwhile, football continues it’s absurd logic. Closely following Chris Hughton’s amazing sacking comes Sam Allardyce at Blackburn. I’m no fan, but this strikes me as another ridiculous decision. It will be interesting to see who they come up with… Alan Shearer anyone?
    Third test starts in Perth tomorrow. Can’t wait. My work colleagues still not talking to me 🙂

  20. Mogga was brilliant last night. If anyone hasn’t heard it, I strongly recommend listening to it. He is so refreshingly open, happy to talk about individual players and give us an insight into his thinking and what goes on behind the scenes.
    He pretty much confirmed that Taylor and Digard won’t be coming back and that players will need to be sold if he is to bring anyone in, I’m pretty certain now that Boyd and Wheater will leave in January and maybe O’Neil as well.
    I like the way he is happy to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the squad – Southgate would never have done this for fear of upsetting anyone and Strachan certainly wouldn’t have been this open.
    Mogga recognises the potential for using constructive criticism to motivate players, in order to get the best out of what we have, which we have failed to do so miserably in the last few years.
    There was a very interesting bit about Franks and Rhys Williams as well – Franks is apparently back in training and has really impressed him and Williams was the player at Boro that the Celtic scouts thought highly of, though it sounds like probably won’t be back for a while yet.
    This season might well be a write-off, though he was still talking about getting up the table, but surely next season we can start getting it right. Surely.

  21. Having read CraigB’s blog you could be forgiven if you felt like topping yourself. How depressing and negative.You worry about yourself and not what other people do and think.
    I like football and I like Boro and more so when we are going through this trough of form and failure. Do not ask me for a rational explanation for supporting a team that has been playing poor football and been in decline for four years.
    As I become older the desire to be part of sport and competition grows stronger and in difficult times as these, the distracting focus of football contributes to your personal well being.
    I am too old to play the game but I know what a good footballer is and how the game should be played. We have a manager at the club who knows the game instinctively in the way Mannion, Clough played.
    As a supporter I was brought up on the fine qualities of football as played at Ayresome and latterly the Riverside. If I lost that enthusiasm then something of me diminishes and I am not ready to give up on myself and the club.
    You only pass this way but once as my late dad would say and now is a good time to support that rare instance for us, of a clever manager at the helm.

  22. Craig B –
    Who was listening? Well – sadly – I wasn’t. A sign of the times that I all too easily forgot he was on Radio Brownlee. But – encouraged by your comments – I’ll make sure I get to the ‘listen again’ thingy.
    I’d agree with some of the comments above, though. Welcome though Saturday’s result was and encouraging though the thinking tactical approach was, I’m not ready yet to annoint Mogga as a tactical genius or Venables Mk. II yet.
    Particularly, because it came off the back of a run of failed selection and tactical experiments, some of which showed worrying elements of Strickenism, and that failed to learn the lessons from previous experiments that failed.
    But, it is encouraging to – at least – have someone who is prepared to think stuff out and plan flexibly. I look forward to – and hope for – more and better as the season goes on.
    Interesting that a few, out of contract ‘(muted) blasts from the past’ are gathering round the so-called ‘training squad’ (whatever that is) and may get a game for The Ressies – Andrew Davies and THE Femmer Frenchie (now that he’s recovered from his cruciate) for two. Hmmmm….
    Another interesting snippet was that Fat Sam got the push for not wanting to bring in Boydy (amongst others) in January. All we need now is for the new Blackburn manager to have recruiting the Scotch Pie Pharaoh as a condition of their employment…….

  23. A very great signing by Mogga. I mean the SOS deal (Save Our Steele).
    Is there another one coming as McManus is injured now?
    Boro have welcomed a former face back to Rockliffe Park after allowing Andrew Davies to join in a number of training sessions ahead of the January transfer window.
    Stockton-born Davies, who made 65 appearances for Boro before making a £1m move to Southampton in 2007, has fallen out of favour with his current club, Stoke City.
    Up the Boro!

  24. I have not lost hope that Big Dave stays at Boro. Mind you, Dave’s father and Mogga were friends in the school time. From about 5 yrs till leaving school.
    Also I think the offer must come from the right big club to take Dave away from us.
    Up the Boro!

  25. I have not lost hope that Big Dave stays at Boro. Mind you, Dave’s father and Mogga were friends in the school time. From about 5 yrs till leaving school.
    Also I think the offer must come from the right big club to take Dave away from us.
    Up the Boro!

  26. Craig b – blimey mate, send me your address and I’ll ‘DHL’ my foam hand off to you, take a deep breath and everything will look a lot brighter. If you feel so bad now, how did you feel in ’86?
    Benny Brown – Viduka a goal every other game he played in, true enough. The problem was though he only fancied it a dozen times a season.
    Just read the Gazette piece comparing Mogga and Teesside Tel, on reflection Robbo was the right man at the right time probably up until the season we were relegated, he should have gone then. His strengths appear to have been ‘club building’, training facilities, academy and of course the ability to attract big names. A perfect director of football maybe.
    McClaren proved to be the right man at the right time too, I hope Mogga proves to be the right man, I’m optimistic.

  27. It’s clear we are making progress although the tactical genius who sits behind me would not agree.
    He berated the players for not pressing Cardiff when they were in possession in their own half. He appears to regard Julio Arca as the anti-Christ personified.
    Yes the crowds are disappointing. If the people involved agree, maybe the club could consider shutting the corners until better times return. An effective capacity of 28,000 is far more than we need just now.

  28. Tony Mowbray – too little, too late.
    What a statement. I think he is the right man at the right time. We now have a Manager / Coach who can turn average players into a cohesive team willing to do as asked.
    AV wrote an article on Venables contribution when he was brought in and Robson’s failings all of which I knew nothing about. Very interesting just made me worry about the Thailand team. No money to spend there.

  29. More new players? MFC report that Jeremie back In Boro colours.
    JEREMIE ALIADIERE will be back in action at the Riverside this afternoon with a run out for Boro Reserves against Sunderland as he rebuilds his fitness after a serious knee injury.
    We need speed. Pay as you play deal, anyone? Up the Boro!

  30. Craig B & BoroPhil –
    Have now listened to Mogga on Radio Brownlee – very interesting, insightful and pretty impressive. Looking forward to words becoming deeds.
    Wheats is defo on his way, though. Mogga did everything but say so.

  31. A good win on Saturday, it was more than probably most expected, but the Bluebirds are not exactly setting the pace right now even though they are hanging on to a top 3 spot. It shows that in this league everyone is beatable and prone to have a bad spell, QPR were hammered by Watford on Friday night.
    Don’t get me wrong, I still think Boro have a lot to do just to stay in this league never mind looking up at a play off position.
    I also think TM (and MFC I suppose!) has done more than a “Smart Board Tactical” move in getting Jason Steele to sign on the dotted line for 5 years, that protects the clubs investment so he isn’t able to leave for a song. I suspect a deal has already been done with Wheater ala Downing and I would be surprised if he isn’t on his way in January.
    Maybe a short term deal for Andrew Davies is on the cards, never a PL player in my opinion but if he can do a job at Championship level?

  32. ….or Mikkel Beck(s) – the bottle promises more than the drink delivers.
    ….or a pint of Hugh McIlmoy Ale – a beer with a great head.
    ….or a few Johnny Spuhlers – if you have too many, you do what it says on the beer pump.
    …or even a glass of Dean Glover – beer that bites your legs.
    **AV writes: Oh go on then, I’ll get a round in: one Holgate Gizzasqueezer, one Boyd’s Scots Missed and a half pint of Samba Dreamweaver.

  33. I have just watched Danny Graham play a blinder for Watford. QPR Manager Neil Warnock was full of praise for Danny, he said his defence could not handle him. What would the Boro give to have this strong, fast centre forward in their line up today?
    Who was responsible for getting rid of such a potential goal scorer, never giving him a good run in the team then loaning him out to Darlington? Instead we have had a series of flops, Maccaroni, Alves, Mcdonald, and the best of the lot Boyd.
    Surely some one is responsible for this inability of the Management to pick a striker who will deliver the goods. I had to laugh when I saw that McDonald had l blamed the defence for letting in too many soft goals for predicament. Young man Viduka averaged one goal every two games he played at all levels of football, if you and your co strikers could average one goal every four games we would avoid relegation.
    A good win last week but if we continue to fail to score from open playe WE ARE DOOMED TO RELEGATION.
    **AV writes: It might be a handy stick to beat the club with but at the time Danny Graham was nowhere near good enough to play in the first team – we were in the Premier League and he was behind Viduka, Yakubu, Hasselbaink and Windass – and no one complained when he wasn’t kept on. That he is now lauded by Boro fand says more about our fall than about his rise .

  34. gt said “…any chance of getting Viduka back in training”.
    I saw a picture of Viduka sat in the stands watching the Melbourne local derby at the weekend. He looks like he’s put a few pounds on, and he was never the most streamlined of players!

  35. Benny –
    We have not produced a top striker for many years. Loads of full backs and midfield players but no one to put the ball away.
    I have always felt none of the kids has been given a chance upfront. They get a couple of games in losing causes then disappear. I am not saying they were world beaters but Graham was not really given a chance to learn his trade nor was Craddock after him.
    We cant even pin this one on Strachan, both franks and Williams have been shown more faith, maybe because they have more potential.
    I am pleased for Graham as he has progressed but Craddock seems to have fallen off the edge of the world.
    **AV writes: For years we produced 30 goals a season strikers in the ressies… Fletcher, Arnold, Agiadis, Ormerod, Campbell, Graham… but it is a massive step up that few manage to make. And they get very few chances to prove it.

  36. Spot on about Graham, he may be good enough for the Championship but he’ll never be a prolific Premier League striker which is where we were at the time. We could hardly keep him on just in case we got relegated.
    Didn’t he make his full debut at home v Sporting Lisbon? Could well have been the peak of his career.

  37. The Currant Bun alleges that we’re in ‘a tussle’ with Hull for Michael Brown from Pompey. He’s supposed to be in a contract row with them.
    Don’t know if that’s right but, given the need for an experienced, ‘robust’, holding midfielder it would make sense – if some sort of sensible deal could be done.
    Maybe Veno can do the Monkey Hanger Mafia thing with him!

  38. I see there’s some nonsense in this morning’s press linking us with a move for defensive midfielder Michael Brown – last time I looked we didn’t need another central midfielder, let alone a 34 year old one!
    Perhaps it’s just lazy journalism – “where’s he from? Hartlepool – isn’t that near Middlesbrough?”
    BTW – I enjoyed reading your article about Terry Venables, couldn’t believe just how naive Robson’s approach to tactics and man-management were – makes me wonder why Gibson gave Southgate the job having seen the risks from employing inexperienced managers.

  39. Benny Brown Said: “I had to laugh when I saw that McDonald had l blamed the defence for letting in too many soft goals for predicament. Young man Viduka averaged one goal every two games he played at all levels of football, if you and your co strikers could average one goal every four games we would avoid relegation.”
    Interestingly enough both McDonald and Boyd average roughly 1 goal every 4 games. McDonald has started 21 games this season scoring 5 goals. One can only assume to keep this up he needs a goal in the next 4 games.
    Boyd has started 16 games (plus more sub appearances) and has scored 5 goals.
    So both are achieving what you say would help us avoid relegation.
    I would have expected both to be doing better though, with more goals than that by now but we also need to look at the rest of the team. We don’t have many other goal threats playing in the team behind them.
    I mean if I was a defender I wouldn’t have the slightest worry about the likes of Arca and O’Neil getting the ball 25 yards out. In the case of O’Neil the only thing we have to worry about is getting more broken seats in the upper rows! Oh and the scoreboards at the Riverside – I’m sure he’ll hit them one of these days.

  40. Wheater is nailed on to go surely? We have Bates, McManus and Hines, no doubt if needed we could pick up a Championship centre back as cover from somewhere.

  41. Has the Gazette site been hit by Hackivists or has someone taken a WikiLeak on the server?
    Not just the ordinary error message – or even the bizarre blog one – either. Just one down from ‘you have committted a fatal error’!
    **AV writes: I thought that was just Lambie posting a comment on the blog.

  42. John:
    As I posted the other day someone was varnishing the cache server and there always seem to be some Apaches about. Maybe the geeks are circling the wagons?
    Pleased that Franks got a run out yesterday. He can add a bit of pace to the side.
    I also hope our Aliadiere’s recovery goes well.
    The shame about Viduka was that there were not enough international matches. He always seemed to be fit for those but always returned with a hammie only to rise Lazarus like as the next Aussie game arrived. Obviously flew out business class but had to walk back.

  43. I’ll be absolutely amazed if Wheater stays now. We also have Justin Hoyte who can play centre-half don’t forget…
    Of course, we have Rhys Williams to come back eventually who could always end up there. and Grounds.

  44. BoroPhil –
    Although Mogga did seem to suggest on Radio Brownlee that Grounds might well not be coming back from Hibs any time soon.
    I think the ‘Hoyte at centre back’ thing was just one of those in jokes that sports people play when being interviewed that Mogga joined in on. Lines from songs, film titles in your answers? Or absolutely implausible selection suggestions dreamt up when on early hours of the morning calls with Veno.
    Problem with Stricken was that he was never in on the dressing room joke and kept doing it for real!

  45. Boro Phil –
    I was actually trying to forget that Hoyte could appear at centre back, play is a little bit generous. But at a push, if no one else was available.
    We have to be careful about Hines. He has had a good return from injury but he is very inexperienced as yet. This isnt meant to demean him but a plea to give him a chance to develop.

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