Rewind: One Year Ago… Year Zero

I’VE JUST been flicking through last season’s Official Gazette Towers Bumper Book of Boro Fun (match reports, news cuttings, transfer linkage, joke of the day, crudely drawn cartoons, letters of complaint, gossip not fit for public consumption but which may one day all come out via Wikileaks etc)…
Boro had just lost 1-0 in a small screen shocker at home to promotion chasing Cardiff on December 13th (17,232… well down, but it was on telly). A win would have put us back within two points of the play-off places. The defeat left the season floundering and question marks piling up. Here’s the team:

Jones, McMahon, Wheater, St Ledger, Pogatetz; Johnson (Emnes 68), R Williams, Osbourne, Yeates; Bent, Kitson (Lita 62).
Subs not used: Coyne, Hoyte, Hines, L Williams, Arca.
I wouldn’t recognise Isaiah Osbourne if he stopped me in the street and tried to sell me a snood but this must have been one of his better/relatively less wose games as Mr P Tallentire gave him two stars. (Rhys Williams got three, Mark Yeates one). “Loan star” Osbourne left without leaving a footprint on our consciousness while up front we had two more ineffective (but incredibly articulate) itinerants in Dave Kitson and Marcus Bent.
How things change. Of the team that started then, NONE started against Cardiff this week. Wheater was suspended andMcMahon dropped for Hoyte who was on the bench a year ago. Emnes came on as substitute last year and started this. Arca and Hines started this year but were unused subs last year. Coyne was a sub both times.
Of the team just 12 months ago five – Jones, Pogatetz, St Ledger, Johnson and Yeates – have left the club while the three loanees are long gone. Realistically only Jonno of those is a big miss (Poggy would be OK but his injury record and wages couldn’t really be supported by our new frugal set-up.)
I can’t remember ever looking back just a year to find a team where, even given injuries and suspensions, there were NO survivors in a line up. That as much as anything shows the impact of Strachan’s Year Zero approach (and the club’s belt tightening) in the two subsequent transfer windows. Cardiff in contrast had seven starters then in action on Saturday and Bellamy for Bothroyd isn’t a bad switch.
Now you can argue that the team was rubbish and needed ripping apart (indeed, I did). But there are equally rubbish teams in this division who are faring far better in games now because for all their quality deficit they have the advantage of stability, the instinctive knowledge of each others’ ability born of several years of playing together and the benefit of not having the team personnel and philosophy deconstructed and radically rebuilt on the hoof. And, it looks likely to happen again over the next year as we creak back towards a coherent expression of Tony Mowbray’s approach.
ALSO in the Bumper Boro Book…
Dec 14th: Ironopolis first league game, 1889 v Gainsborough Trinity
December 15th: Boro’s first sending off – Bill Higgins, 1900, home v Birmingham.
December 16th: Micky Burns scored FOUR in a 7-2 hammering of Chelsea in 1978
December 17th: Andrew Davies birthday…. wonder what we could give him?


24 thoughts on “Rewind: One Year Ago… Year Zero

  1. On the same vein AV, I have an old football mag dated Dec 9 1995. What is interesting is league positions of certain teams and how things can change in such a small period of time
    Boro 6th
    N.Forest 7th
    Leeds 9th
    Southampton 14th
    Wimbledon 18th
    Grimsby 24th
    Tranmere 29th
    Luton 43rd
    Port Vale 44th
    Blackpool 51st
    York 50th
    Swansea 64th
    Hull 68th
    Wigan 78th
    Cardiff 86th
    Fulham 88th

  2. Assuming that we can afford to hold onto them, then hopefully having a group of young players who came through the academy together will provide some of that missing stability going forward.
    If Mowbray is to deliver a similar sort of team to the one that he built at West Brom, then another significant reshuffle is inevitable. We simply don’t have the pacy, creative, mobile and technically strong players to play as TM’s Baggies did.
    But in his interviews the manager seems to be taking a longer view and suggesting that he’s happy just to try and pick up points for now. That is the correct approach in my opinion.
    At the moment, all eyes are on outgoings rather in incomings.

  3. Av, just a thought. Have we won nearly all matches where Thommo has played (more than 20 mins, of course)? I think he is TM’s favourite player from Hibs days already. When fit we have solved the central midfield problem. Or what John Powls think there?
    Secondly I understood that TM’s best friend during school years was a certain Colin Wheater. So don’t count out that Big Dave stays here until summer. Let’s wait where we are in mid January.
    Up the Boro!

  4. Jokes, cartoon and tittle tattle… I’d like to see this Bumper Book Of Boro Fun AV. Can I get it on Amazon? At this time of year when everyone is thinking of great little stocking fillers what could be better? The Gazette are missing a trick. Untypical Boro annual?
    **AV writes: Hmmm. We talked about an Untypical Boro book of some sort earlier in the year but the figures didn’t add up … potential profit v potential legal costs. Would people buy something that has already been out there on-line for free? Maybe next year. Do you think people would buy it?

  5. AV, During the past fortnight there has been occasional denial to get to the your blog. Sometimes a new try helps or using a different link to the blog helps. Also some times I don’t get a confirmation that the post has been sent. Hence I re-sent a post yesterday again and it ended up twice on the page. Sorry for that.
    The above was the reason I wondered why there were so few posts earlier this week. Where to report if there is a technical problem?
    Up the Boro!
    **AV writes: Has it been sticky? There is a major upgrade of the entire Moveable Type system being rolled out (ie, the operating system itself rather than anything that Trinity Mirror administers) but I haven’t been notified of any specific local problems. Then again, we mere minnions are the last to know. Keep trying.

  6. AV –
    At the end of the body of the thread you talk about lack of stability in selection.
    Having got his A list in early, even so there was no evidence of continuity with little sign of pattern or shape to our play.
    I stick by my view that these players are not as bad as the results. The constant tinkering and square pegging has provided no platform to perform.
    If we had played anywhere near the sum of our parts we wouldnt be in this pickle.
    **AV writes: I don’t think we have seen anything like what any of the players are a capable of because none have had a good run in their right position.
    We haven’t played the same team two games running yet this season and we only did it once last season. We had 27 different permutations at the back last season. We probably had the same again in midfield and up front. It got to the point where it was impossible to guess the team in advance. It has been chaos for almost two years now. That is half the problem. You can’t build anything on shifting sands.
    Now I think it is a sign of progress that we finally have what looks like a settled back four. The two changes last week (one enforced) were tactical coherent and the first in three games. Midfield is starting to take shape too I think.

  7. AV –
    Haven’t experienced many problems with the blog recently – except an occasional & random change to centre justification of all the text when I open the site on my Mac.
    Over the past couple of days, though, the main Gazette site – which opens fine on the Mac – just produces a dire, ‘aborted’ error message when I try to open it on the PC – which, admittedly, has an older, but still supported version of IE.
    From experience with my own website this sort of issue has occurred for users when the techies have decided, unilaterally, to ‘improve things’ by ‘upgrading’ to the latest bells and whistles version of whatever software they are using. I presume, in this case, it’s Movable Type 5a (see the web for all the feedback and complaints).
    This tends to be based on two false assumptions – that everyone in the world is as entranced with software updates as they are and has the latest version of everything on their Mac/PC/handheld and that the software supplier isn’t doing what they all do and putting out a ‘beta’ to allow the unsuspecting public to test and debug it for them.
    Hey ho.
    **AV writes: I’m sure that geekery is all true but it means nothing to me. I am a mere keyboard monkey. Generally I am nervous of any ‘improvements’ on here because they always herald a bug ridden month that alienates readers with problems I can’t resolve. Besides, I think it all works fine as it is.

  8. I think Mogga would like to keep Wheater but he is waiting to see if anybody comes in January with a realistic price. If that happens he will try to do a deal to the benefit of Boro but if no realistic offer comes in he will be able to negotiate a contract with Wheater that will not break the bank account.

  9. AV –
    For work I still like to operate on XP because I find it more reliable.
    We regulary interface with sundry providers online systems and if I had ten pounds for every time an improved platform came out and promptly fell over I would be a rich man.
    I had a debate with a techie when I lost everything on their online system. He asked me if I had saved it as I went along. I replied there are two options available, save and exit or continue.
    I was informed I should save and exit then I would be given the option to exit or continue. I pointed out to him that save and exit means precisely that, save and continue is spelt totally differently and means different things.
    At least the cricket is going well, I wonder of Mogga has something to do with it?
    It is interesting that the Aussies are chopping and changing there cricket team and are in the same sort of mess we are used to.

  10. Jarkko –
    I may be wrong bit I think Thompson has completed five games of which Boro have won 4.
    He does look to be the key to turning our season round and will end up being the best of Strachan’s signings if he stays fit.
    C’Mon Boro!

  11. When Martin O’Neil had Villa playing the best football they had in years and worrying the top four it was with a squad that had played together with fewer changes than any other Prem team at the time.
    With injuries and playing folks out of position we have been at sixs and sevens.
    Hopefully there wont be too much messing about in January – it always unsettles the players!
    This team on paper should be doing miles better, too much tinkering has blighted the club and bad results have made it worse as players confidence visibly drains away.

  12. Well after the settling in period I am of the opinion that Mogga should be given an extended period to see if he can turn this ship around. Give him four seasons. I cant see how anyone else would do a better job in the given economic and boardroom conditions.
    He obviously is the best thinker we have had since McClaren, but has something that he was missing and maybe a bit of what Robbo brought to the club.
    Time for the long haul upwards. If we dont by some miracle go up or down then we still have to keep the faith and build as much as we can while times are hard, only good football and more wins will bring the crowds back, but they will return if we have stability and results, the division we are in is immaterial really – well as long as we dont go further down that is!

  13. Doncaster thoughts on us:
    “I saw them the other week and they’ve got some quality players,” said Rovers No 2 Richard O’Kelly. “If you look at the squad of players they have got, and how much they cost, you realise that they have spent a bit of money.
    “Things haven’t worked out (so far) but form is temporary but class is permanent, so you can’t take anything for granted just because they are down near the bottom.
    “They had a good win at the weekend, beating Cardiff – a side which has been firing on all cylinders (this season) and have been top of the league.
    “I saw them the previous week against Coventry and they were very unlucky to lose. They lost to a penalty, having missed one themselves, and I’m sure had they scored it they would have gone from strength to strength on the day.
    “They are like a wounded animal like any team (who has lost a few games) and hopefully we’ll be the same tomorrow.”

  14. To those above who say that the performance of the squad amounts to less than would have been expected from the players available, I agree. And it has been going on, not just for a few weeks but for AT LEAST the last year, and maybe rather longer than that.
    If you have poor materials, you can’t be expected to make a good product. But if you have good materials and fail to make a decent product then there must be something wrong with the process or those operating it.
    I’m not saying that with the team we had left we should last year have been thumping Newcastle and West Brom and finishing above them in The Championship, but we shouldn’t have been showing relegation form for much of the season, and we shouldn’t have got almost to the foot of The Championship this season.
    I think we have demonstrated poor management and maybe coaching (don’t know about the latter as I haven’t watched training sessions), and the “chop & change” and the “square peg” mentalities are signs of this. Lack of morale and a tendency to collapse after conceding a goal have been apparent.
    Hopefully we are coming to the end of this depressing sequence. We won’t suddenly be invincible, and no doubt there will be a few defeats and steps backwards amidst the generally forward progress. But I have a feeling we will make progress.
    Mogga’s interview and Radio Brownlee phone in on Monday gave some confidence that someone who has ideas and is prepared to take difficult decisions, and most of all understands the area, the club and its supporters and who CARES, is now at the helm.
    I had a feeling until fairly recently that management didn’t GIVE a damn (with emphasis as per “Gone with the Wind”).

  15. Never mind the team who played cardiff a year ago, what about the team to play them next year? (they won’t go up, we won’t go down.)
    By then the rest of the big earners will be sold off to cut the wage bill. Wheater, O’Neil, Boyd, McDonald, Mcmanus, Hoyte, Lita and Arca will all be gone plus Taylor and Grounds and I think Flood is out of contract as well.
    We will stick with local youth, bring in a few mid-range journeymen to firm it up a
    bit and a couple of ex-West Brom lads and recycle some of the savings in wages/fees on a decent(ish) cheap(ish) striker or two. I don’t have a problem with that. Cutting our cloth etc.
    Zuiverloon, R Williams, Bates, Bennett
    Franks, Thomson, M Brown, Emnes
    Ishmael Miller, Bednar
    Subs: Coyne, McMahon, Hines, L Williams, Park, Bailey, Jerome Thomas.
    Can’t be any worse than now. Probably best for the club in the long run. Won’t get us promoted but it wil stabilise us ready for the season after…. bring it on.

  16. Went for a Christmas pub crawl yesterday afternoon, one of the best I’ve ever had. Every time I walked into a new pub Australia had lost another couple of wickets! Can’t remember what happened later…

  17. Bob –
    I had our office do last night and got up at tea in the cricket to see that Mitchell Johnson took 6 wickets as England collapsed.
    Australia are 16-0 and lead by just under 100. Life isnt fair.
    AV –
    On another topic, is it me or are we suffering a similar slump in posters on the blog as at the Riverside. Maybe you can add in those who have posted in the past for your figures.
    **AV writes: Yes, I think there has been a dip. We were flying a month ago with record high unique users and page impressions so I don’t think it is the general malaise around Boro but certainly the system is creaking a bit.
    There is a major upgrade in process so maybe some people are struggling to post or are caught up in cyber-gridlock and although no specific problems have been notified to me that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.
    Maybe people are just being shy. Or need a prod. Come on, speak up.
    What points return do people expect between now and New Year…
    Six points from that (especially if it is an unbeaten run) and we will be OK and start to slowly pull away. Anything less and we are dug in to the basement battle for the winter. Any more and we’ll be starting to think of the play-offs come March.

  18. We must hope something:
    Doncaster – a narrow away win
    Forest 0 – 0 stalemate
    Preston a (comfortable?) win
    Leeds – a narrow defeat
    So it makes 7 points and a defeat. So better than your minimum. Three of the matches are away I think – so not easy. but we need to improve our away record. Up the Boro!

  19. **AV writes: “Yes, I think there has been a dip. We were flying a month ago with record high unique users and page impressions so I don’t think it is the general malaise around Boro but certainly the system is creaking a bit.”
    Maybe that but also Boro won. Unfortunately we get less posts after a good display. Typical Tesside ‘optimism’? Up the Boro!
    **AV writes: Hmmmm. I’m not sure that is true. If we have won a few in a row there is a marked spike of activity as people peel off the defensive armour of cynicism and start sniffing the foam finger again and talking about the play-offs. That said a lot of that activity could be from chicken runners dissmissing the positivity and saying “we haven’t turned the corner yet.”
    I do think there is a general malaise, not just around the club but around Teesside as a whole. I think there is a correlation between the local economic outlook (bleak, big cuts and job losses are on the horizon) and the club’s health. Think of the early 80s kicking Teesside got from rampant Thatcherism.
    That said, in times of trouble we need the club to be healthy more than ever. A football club is the social glue that holds a place like this together.

  20. Over Xmas/New Year?
    It’s the the time for optimism – so, I’m going to go for your 6 points and unbeaten option. I think tonight’s the most likely for the win.
    But it’s optimism – not fantasy.
    Everyone – on here, at the club and associated with it – should make a public resolution not to mention ‘play offs’ again until/unless we’re steady and above half way in the table. It has all the resonance of the continued use of the ‘E’ word until about Easter in our relegation season from The Prem.
    The idea is to learn from history to avoid repeating it.
    The other thread we could run is who’s Mogga got his eye on to come in over the January window?
    Here’s a start – Leon Best (on loan from The Barcodes), Michael Brown (from Pompey), Ishmael Miller (on loan from The Baggies), Roman Bednar (on loan from The Baggies when he’s finished his loan at Leicester).
    And, a bit more out of left field, Richard Dunne or Carlos Cuellar (on loan from Villa – as part of the deal that takes Wheats to The Villains).

  21. “Doncaster Rovers Football Club would like to assure supporters that this evening’s game against Middlesbrough at Keepmoat Stadium is definitely on.
    The Club has received numerous enquiries regarding this evening’s game, after Doncaster suffered freezing temperatures on Thursday evening.”
    I hope Mosso is fit, too. Looking forward to BJ stadium this night. Up the Boro!
    **AV writes: Anacdotal evidence suggests the frost is not as hard in Doncaster as on Teesside.

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