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?