IT’S quiet out there. Too quiet. Soon enough all hell will break loose in torrid take-no-prisoners, bargain-basement wheeler-dealing but for now we must wait. Patiently.
It’s football’s Phoney War.
Blase Boro fans have been spoiled by far too many cash-rich summers of speculation with substance and by our so often productive squared-eyed Sky Sports vigils, pupils locked onto the teasing yellow scrolling bar of plenty with the intensity and belief of a South Pacific cargo cult.
Evidence of fruitful years past has shown that if we all watch the screen long enough then eventually a manical David Craig will magically pop up with a frenzied car-park confirmation of a sensational star signing.
We have grown used to staking out Teesside Airport for incoming household names and scouring the Tontine car park for flash motors with number plates boasting M3551 or OW3N or, of late, as we lowered our sights CH09RA.
Even last year when we were already well down the road of “cutting our cloth” and downsizing the cost-base in the harsh new financial reality of the Championship, even then we were by this stage of the summer gleefully out and about on a confident Strachanovite spending spree, successfully working down Wee Gordon’s list of targets with a selection of irons in the fire and the smithy working full pelt on the bellows .
Now though we must get used to the new prudent reality. And the stubborn summer inactivity. And the quiet. The quiet.
At Hurworth the phone has been ringing out sporadically fracturing the eerie silence. Manager Tony Mowbray is away and doesn’t expect anything much to happen until he gets back with his Costas tan.
“Hello, you have reached Middlesbrough Football Club. Unfortunately there is no-one to take your call right now but if you are an agent selling a footballer leave your message after the Power Game tone and we’ll get back you in July.
“If you are an agent buying a footballer you can reach us 24 hours a day by phone, pager, fax or e-mail on… ”
That is the reality. If anyone wants to buy a Boro player then we are open for business (please feel free, come in and browse) and we will be readily availble to listen to the offer and work out the maths – but anyone selling will have to come back later. There will be a lot of agents and managers leaving messages that will go unanswered.
The basic landscape is this: there are unlikely to be any ins until there are outs. And there are unlikely top be any outs until the new football calendar clicks over on July 1st.
Then, when the new contractual year begins, the departure from the wage bill – or at least a vastly downsized commitment to if both opt to take much reduced wages – Julio Arca and Andrew Taylor may free the log jam and allow some movement.
But even then the entire strategy will be based on the hope that some of the big earners – we all know the names off pat by now – can be moved on quickly and cleanly in time to reinvest and reshuffle. It is like the stagnant summer when we had the brooding presence of Mido and Afonso in the departure lounge holding up all movement.
Of course it hasn’t been all tumbleweed so far. But the two transfer tit-bits to surface last week were instructive. The stories were both agent driven and they showed something about belt-tightening Boro’s new recruitment policy.
First Dutch flanker-forward Anouar Hadouir was revealed to have had productive preliminary talks with Mogga at Hurworth last month and been mightily impressed with both the set up and the gaffer’s vision. Who wouldn’t be?
His agent told the Gazette the Moroccan-born Roda JC assist king was keen to join Boro.
He is the right sort of player: pacy, suited to breaking down the right flank, versatile and can operate in a four, or a front three, or two, or at a push, one. He is free, eager and would probably come cheap after playing for one of Holland’s provincial makeweights.
A cynic might suggest he could be a ready made replacement for Swansea target Marvin Emnes, a project that is finally nearing completion.
But Hadouir’s agent also made it unequivocally clear that his client has been told he must wait and that whether any deal is eventually pushed through is entirely dependent on Boro selling players first to free up space on the wage bill.
So the parameters have been set. One in, one out; no room for manoeuvre on the existing pay structure, even for a free transfer on modest money.
The second illustration of where we are as a club came when the Gazette’s sister paper the Sunday Sun revealed that Kieron Dyer’s agent had been “in contact” with Boro to offer the former Newcastle on pitch pugilist and largely under-performing Fancy Dan..
The flamboyant serial crock is a free agent after his bloated £80,000 a week contract with relegated West Ham expired. Deluded Dyer is symptomatic of the kind of player who has got clubs like Boro – and the Hammers – into big trouble. At £6m plus £4m a year in wages he has cost the Hammers £22m – and has played just 30 league games. Ouch.
Now he looking for a club with more money that sense willing to take a chance on his fitness record and it was suggested a convenient move to Teesside could appeal as he still has property in the North East from his time at Newcastle.
Yeah right. We are not that kind of club anymore Kieron. The days of barmy Boro being a retirement home for high-profile hasbeens whose egos are writing cheques their body can’t cash are long gone. Good luck finding another one though.
“Contact has been made with Boro by Dyer’s representatives to see if there is any interest in bringing him to Teesside,” outlined the story, convincing no-one.
Leave your message after the Power Game mate, we’ll get back to you. Eventually. After we’ve all stopped laughing.
MEANWHILE, as you are all twiddling your thumbs, here’s something to while away an hour… a Farewell To Ayresome Park video special hosted on the excellent Middlesbrough Supporters South website. If you’re bored have a poke about, there’s some good old school football footage among their archives.
And here’s a depressing photospread from the 28 Days Later website that archives abandoned Britain… the crumbling overgrown remains of a once proud McCain Stadium.
ONE of my regulars rang up today to say he was still buzzing from the end of last season putting a daft tenner on the #mogganaut to steam to the title. A triumph of hope over experience. I’m saying nothing after last years misguided Boro/Southampton promotion double and Kris Boyd for top scorer but if anyone else is so inclined – before a penny is spent in the transfer market – you can get 14s at Bet 365 and William Hills.
COMRADE Teflonov has responded to murmurs of dissent within FIFA’s envelopocracy by setting up the Stalinist sounding “Solutions Committee” that is tipped to include not only Johan Cruyff but also hand-picked experts in global football adminstration and governance Henry Kissenger and Placido Domingo.
Which begs the question, if Boro had a similar triumerate to resolve problems, which former football hero, random tainted politician and light classical/opera singer would we turn too? I’m going for Big Billy Ashcroft, Cecil Parkinson and Suzannah Clark.
DANNY Graham has signed for Swansea for £3.5m (and no, before you ask, there is no sell on fee due to a team that released him the club before last) which keeps the number of Boro academy graduates in the Premier League at a healthy 13.
Graham did not start at Boro as an ankle-biter so some purists may argue that he was not strictly a product of of Hurworth but he was brought in from Chester-le-Street when he was 17 and played for the Academy team before progressing to the first team fringes so he counts for me.
More contentious is maybe Jonathan Hogg at Aston Villa. He came through the system as a schoolkid after joining at the age of nine but was later released as a 15 year old before battling back to earn a trial then a contract at Villa.
One that people may not recognise is Jordan Robinson. The now Wigan Athletic defender was released by Boro as a 17 year old first year pro but knuckled down, worked hard and earned a contract with the Latics.
Stewart Downing (Aston Villa)
Adam Johnson (Man City)
David Wheater (Bolton)
Chris Brunt (West Brom)
Lee Cattermole (Sunderland)
James Morrison (West Brom)
Brad Jones (Liverpool)
Andrew Davies (Stoke)
Jordan Robinson (Wigan)
Herold Goulon (Blackburn)
Danny Graham (Swansea)
Jonathan Hogg (Aston Villa)
Ross Turnbull (Chelsea)
The end of term relegation’s from the top flight meant we lost Stuart Parnaby and David Murphy (Birmingham) from the list. Enigmatic French midfielder Goulon looks set to depart soon after being told to find a club.