Fixtures: First Impressions

AND we’re off! The fixtures are out and that is the official start of the speculation season. We can now actively impose own own preconceptions on reality and either pick out a path to glory as the #mogganaut powers Boro to inevitable promotion or see the tricky run of fixtures where the wheels fall off and we start to splutter and slip back into danger. And whack a few days holiday or shift changes in now ready for the juicy ones.

First impressions: A tough, physical start with Pompey at home then Leeds away then relegated Birmingham at home soon after makes it a tricky August. We haven’t got a clue what the team will be after September 1st but with Burnley (A), Ipswich (H) and Leicester (H) that is a tough month too however we line-up then. Let’s not kid ourselves. It is going to be hard all the way. The Championship is a war of attrition.
Some highlights. And lowlights. Bistol and Cardiff away in December! That’s some driving in the dark. We may as well stay over. But to compensation we have the Crimbo jumpers on for Hull at home on Boxing Day and then Peterborough at home on the Saturday. And Blackpool away on New Years Day wil be bracing but its not too bad a trip.
The first long haul is Palace away on Setember 17. The other ones where we will pick up some air miles are Brighton away (March 31) and Southampton away (hotly tipped as the opener) is October 29th. Millwall is February 18th and West Ham is March 20th.
There are a lot more miles for Tees travellers this term. We have lost short hauls to Preston, Scunny and Sheffiled United and gained Brighton, Southampton and Peterborough. From the Premiership West Ham was a straight swap for QPR, Norwich and Swansea are probably a decent trade off too while Blackpool for Birmingham is not bad.
Irony fans will have noted that Steve McClaren makes a romantic Riverside return on Valentines Day – aw, bless – by which time he will no longer be newsworthy. We go down there for a sniff of Forest’s ‘history and tradition’ on on October 18. Leeds at home is March 10th so cover the kids ears and cancel all police leave for that one.
We finish the season at Watford on April 28th… unless we are in the play-offs.


27 thoughts on “Fixtures: First Impressions

  1. Halifaxp –
    I might come over to the UK in April again! And see us in the top two! Saturday, 7 April 2012 Middlesbrough v Cardiff, 15:00 Monday, 9 April 2012 Hull v Middlesbrough, 15:00 Normal places again? Navi before the home match (and King’s Head afterwards).
    You’ll pass us on the motor way to Hull again? Nice coincidence the Hull one!
    Up the Boro

  2. This will be a very intresting year not only for us but for many other teams in our league.
    Some of the other fixtures may just take the concentration away from us and we can move through the league quietly and quickly.
    For instance.Pompy and Southampton renew their war, add in Brighton there for a bit of extra spice and that’s six very tricky games there.
    Then we have Forest and Derby. I am sure there are many more but yes lots of reasons to be cheerfull.
    Well done this morning AV, no gremlins in sight hope our season goes the same.

  3. Tim from SA –
    In the East Midlands there are more than just Derby and the Tricky Trees, Leicester like to get involved in the local rivalries amongst the threesome.
    Then there is no love lost between Leicester and Coventry at either end of the M69, Come to think of it Coventry in the West Midlands is further east than a good part of the East Midlands!
    Peterborough are just down the road from Leicester (Peterboroangel can fill us in the local rivalry there, does it involve the Tricky Trees?), Donnie and Barnsley are just up the road as well.
    So plenty of tough games around here. Shame Sheffield Utd and Scunnie went down because there was no love lost there either.
    As AV says there are no easy matches in this league especially if you allow the opposition to get a foothold in the game.
    Good to see Mosso get an early pre season run out even though it was only a friendly. And a decent crowd in the BJ stand.

  4. West Ham home and away both on Tuesday nights? What clot programmes the computer to do that? So we miss out on much of their travelling support at the Riverside, then have to travel deep South mid-week!
    I think we’re also unfortunate in having Forest mid-week both at home and away. Another potential big crowd reduced at home.
    Anyway, can’t wait! Bring it on!

  5. Anyone else notice any similarities in this years fixtures? And no i don’t mean the names of the teams but the dates we are playing them?
    What I am trying to say is who did we visit on the 19th of October 2010, and who is beating us on the 18th 2011?

  6. Aye, Jarkko – there’s a lot to be said for the Kings Head. No airs, no graces, certainly not plush, but a real drinkers’ pub. And apart from a few “tame” supporters of other clubs, the vast majority of its regulars will be dancing and singing if things go right for the Boro next season.

  7. Time to guess which fixtures will be moved for TV and the most obvious early one is our trip to Leeds. Looking at the weeks fixtures it looks the most likely of that batch to get the Sky slot or are BBC still showing matches next season?

  8. I’d be happy to see any of our AWAY matches on the TV. I’d prefer, for greedy personal reasons, if the home games were not shown. After all, I have paid for those games already, and I’ll be at the Riverside.
    On the other hand there really isn’t any chance I’ll be travelling down to Portsmouth, Southampton, Brighton, Bristol or Cardiff for the games, so if any of them were shown live, it would be a bonus.
    Incidentally, Vic, if games are shown on TV do the teams share the “TV money” or does it all go the home club? I don’t know how much the games are worth in the Championship (knowing our luck, not much) but if the money all goes to the home club I can see the hierarchy being keen for home games to be televised rather than away ones.
    **AV writes: I’m not sure. The new deal with sky is worth £195m over four years and covers all FL games plus the Carling Cup and Johnson’s Paint Trophy. The BBC are out of the game now. It is weighted towards the top so Championship clubs get close on £1m each every season plus the home team gets a facility fee for each match shown. I’m not sure what it is under the new deal but under the old one I believe it was £175k per game off Sky and quite a bit less from the BBC.

  9. I think the new Sky deal doesn’t start until the 2012/13 season – so the coverage this season should be the same as last year with the BBC showing 10 live games plus highlights.
    So the Boro better get promoted this season otherwise they will become the invisible team for us European based fans.
    Incidently, the entire Championship still gets less money than the PL club finishing bottom – which puts the gulf in wages that can be afforded into perspective.
    Anyway, my prediction of Ipswich away for the opener was only marginally better (three days earlier next February) than those predicting Forest at home – all can say is it was probably down to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

  10. Is Heisenberg a keeper in the Corporal mode?
    Anyway after my last post I checked and I think the BBC deal was for three seasons from 2009 as Werdmouth posted.

  11. Actually, if £175K amounts to 7,000 fans paying an average of £25 per head, that got me thinking about gate money at the Boro. It really isn’t that much is it, when compared to the money the EPL clubs get from Sky, for example, and therefore even for Premier clubs with larger crowds (unless they have Man Utd or Arsenal sized stadia) the gate money is only a small proportion of their income.
    If Boro had an average crowd in the next season of 20,000 – and that would have been a laughably high figure if people had been making predictions last Christmas – and if the average ticket costs £25, then that would be £0.5M per game. 23 home league games a season would be £11.5M, and given £1M Sky money each year, we have a total of £12.5M. Compare that to our wage bill, or to the amount the bottom PL club gets from Sky alone!
    I’m not sure how much £25 represents the actual average ticket price. It’s certainly less than we pay in the West Stand Upper, but there will be quite a lot of family tickets, tickets for OAPs and youngsters alone etc to lower the average, and we know there is a diminishing hospitality market.
    Unless the sponsors are putting a lot in, unless the club shop is doing a roaring trade, and the club is making plenty of profit on the food and drink outlets, it doesn’t sound like the club is going to be in clover next season.
    We are going to have to eat and drink for Boro at home matches next year. For the sake of the club…

  12. Forever Dormo
    The figures just show what a financial problem dropping out of the premiership was.
    For those who castigate Gibbo they should consider the fact that without his funding we would have followed Leeds, Forest, Suthampton and Leicester into financial meltdown and the third tier.
    Mind you, he does desreve his fair share of blame for us being in that position.
    On to other matters and I wonder what the odds are on the U21’s early return following performances that mirror the senior team.

  13. Well the fixtures are out and this has always been a time of the year I get excited looking forward to the new season.These days it’s also a bit of a downer knowing I can’t be at the Riverside every other week.
    My other team Brighton are already sold out for the season so I’ll have to try to beg, steal or borrow the odd ticket if I can. Boro not down here until the end of March, so hopefully I can do something and there’s also Pompey, Saints and the London sides to see the Boro, but it’s not really the same. It’s only when you can’t go to the Riverside you realise how much you miss it, even during the not such good times.
    I naturally hope Brighton more than hold their own, but I think if Boro can just secure a decent target man, they could have a very good season. Mind you I thought the same thing last season, believing then that Boyd would have to shine for Boro to push on and I expected he would.
    Stupid to make predictions at this time I know, as squads are still being sorted, but here’s an early try. McClaren and Big Sams teams to take the top two spots and Boro, along with Derby, Hull and Ipswich to contest play offs. You heard it here first folks.
    Re Ian Gills comment on the under 21s. I watched them. English international football is all so predictable. However, Sturridge does look like real class.
    Jarkko –
    Watched some of Finland and Italy a couple of weeks ago. Oh dear, nuff said.

  14. Ian –
    Can I suggest that if you want to win tournaments, you have to pick the best team out of those who qualify to play? Obviously some may be injured, but of those who are fit and are good enough, surely they should all be in the squad?
    There is a tug-of-war between club and country as regards Under 21 football, and much emotional blackmail appears to be employed. Managers will remind their young up and coming stars that it is the club that pays their wages and an injury on “some little tournament” might put the player out of action at the start of the forthcoming season, so the player might lose out to a competitor in the club squad and might find it difficult to get back into the team for the club’s Premier League and European campaigns.
    The way the rules work, players might be 23 years old and still qualify for the U21 squad – it all depends on their age at the start of that tournament’s qualifying cycle. In THIS tournament, England could have had Jack Wilshere and Andy Carroll playing but they were “left out” of the final squad – and I guess that was much to the relief of their club management, if not to England supporters generally.
    To win tournaments at the highest level (eg the World Cup) I would have thought it is common sense that it would help if the players had experience of being in a winning squad at younger age groups. Doing well becomes a habit. Players develop confidence on the international stage and become used to being away from home for several weeks with their playing colleagues.
    Obviously not all good U21 players go on to be good full internationals, just as not all good U14s go on to be good professional players. But doing well at U21 MUST be a start, must be a boost to the ego and to the career development of a young player.
    So if England wants to do really well at these tournaments, it has to choose its best team. And it’s impossible to argue that Wilshere and Carroll wouldn’t easily get into the U21 team. It’s ridiculous to say a player is “too good” to play for that age group – there’s no reason why a player can’t play for the U21s and the full squad.
    Managers talk rubbish about not wanting young players to “burn out”. It’s rubbish because after the tournament there is plenty of time left before the new season. And if they were REALLY worried about the young players, then it would be fairly simple not to select them for that ever-so-lucrative tour of Thailand, or Malaysia or wherever in July. Just wait to see where the major clubs go towards the end of this summer!
    Whatever anyone says, the system as it now operates isn’t working for the full international squad. You’d have to be deluded to think England are anywhere near to winning the World Cup. Trying to get the best players together for age-group competitions like the U21s so they can develop together and hopefully experience success, could hardly be worse than the current model.

  15. OOPS! No doubt someone will be saying “told you so…” about the England U21s….
    Still – could be worse. England at the cricket still have a decent chance of a 2-0 series win tomorrow, weather permitting, and the golf is looking good”

  16. Forever –
    We would of course benefit from a winter break if only we had one. It would do the players the world of good to have a rest by flying to Thailand or Japan and play three matches to held spread the game!
    You have to feel sorry for the players losing two goals right at the death to go go out early.
    When the Premier League was being flooded by foreign players we were told they would benefit the national team because young players would learn from the best. Whilst there are signs that Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool etc. are now bringing local lads through but it has been a long time coming.
    We still have many teams with workmanlike British players supplementing overseas play makers.
    I was racking my brain cell for the name of the man who developed a blueprint for coaching at the FA and then it came to me. He was called Charles Hughes and here is an extract from Wikipedia
    ”Hughes emphasized the importance of particular areas of the field from where goals were most often scored. He called these area the POMO – Positions of Maximum Opportunity – and asserted that players would score if the ball was played into the POMO enough times.
    “He stressed the importance of set plays and crosses into the box.[3]who analysed stats and came up with the model of using as few passes as possible.”
    Look familar? I dont think it was that long ago and I dont know what the current coaching manuals say.
    When I listened to the build up to the final game there was talk of square pegs in square holes with Muamba in midfield in his natural role and Mancienne (a defender) on the bench. There was no settled line up or style of play.
    But we have seen all the same old failings of not being able to keep the ball or pass to each other. We are not comfortable on the ball and end up launching it forward.
    Like many I have become bored with our national teams, the predictable nature of our exits mirrored by the way we play at all levels.
    Rory won last night, rain is likely to halt the cricket and we have the annual tennis let down of Wimbledon to come.
    Roll on August!

  17. I’ll be going to my first Boro match when I come to London in September. I will be going to the Crystal Palace game.
    I have persuaded my girlfriend and some friends to come along, so hopefully we have had a good start to the season.
    I’m certainly looking forward to standing among the away support.
    **AV writes: Good luck on your first game. I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself immensely.

  18. The debate on where to play Rhys Williams is an interesting one, my preference would be in midfield I think he would be most effective in a central midfield role.
    There is also the possibility that we’ll loose one or both of Thomson and Robson, given that they are in the high earner category (I assume).
    We have a few good centre backs, Bates and McManus are the obvious first choice pair I would have thought. But then if McManus is sold because he’s on high wages, then maybe Rhys becomes an obvious choice at centre back.
    Maybe Mogga will decide where to play Rhys once he knows which players he has left in his squad when the window closes.
    Cardiff interested in Taylor? Are they in a position to pay him a higher salary than Boro are?

  19. Yes Ian, I even had Notts County involved at one stage. I was refering to the cup match but as i got carried away i turned it into a league game. Thanks AV for saving me.
    Some very intresting fixtures indeed. Anything to keep the eye off us will be good until we are sitting on top of the heap.
    Steele as no 1 worries me a bit he clearly took a dip in form last season and our results only improved when Smith came in.
    No disrespect to Steele I think he is and will be a great keeper but if we are going to make it this year we need to look at the goalkeeper position.

  20. A tough opening. By October we should already have a good feel.
    Leeds maintained promotion impetus and it would be a surprise if they weren’t in the play-offs.
    After relegation, Pompey looked likely to collapse. However they’ve retained some key players, look to have consolidated and so could make a top 6 push.
    Birmingham are difficult to call: no manager, likely money problems, could drop straight through or bounce back like Newcastle. I’d fancy Brum for a promotion push but, playing them early, we might catch them before they’ve adjusted.
    All in all, August will be testing. If we were to get seven points, you’d be very happy and feeling optimisic. With two homes out of home games, less than five points would be worrying.
    September’s no better. The resources of nouveau riche Leicester means they will expect to be pushing from the off. Burnley recovered pretty well in the latter part of the season and showed signs of building some momentum. On the other hand, Keane never got it together at Ipswich and they were all at sea for the second half of the season.
    I’d fancy us to beat Ipswich (despite their humiliation of us in last year’s first game) but it’s hard to feel confident about the other two matches. I’d be delighted with five points out of the nine.
    If we went into October with more than nine out of the 18 points, that would bode well. I’m expecting a comfortable, consolidating top-half finish that builds towards a promotion push next season.

  21. Where will Rhys Williams play next year? Good question, looking at his style, and the make up of the squad I think he’ll be playing. ……………….. For Bolton.
    But fear not because Tony Mowbray is casting his eye over Peter Lovenkrands.
    BS update brought to you via a gobby Geordie ‘in tha’ kna”’

  22. Looks like the carboot sale is soon to open.
    Swans after Lita and Emnes. Are Watford in a better financial situation than us? They could hold out for £3.5m for Danny G. If reports are true and the offer for Lethal was for less than £1m then it’s a good job we turned it down as accepting it would have sent out all the wrong signals?
    Seeing that Lethal has scored Prem goals ( without getting knocked out) he surely has to be £2m plus
    Marvin, what’s he worth? No idea.
    Who’ll be our forward two next year? No idea.
    Sadly with all the will in the world this is not the preperation for a top six side.
    But the turnaround we witnessed at the end of last season still gnaws away at my doubt. #mogganaut will do it, somehow.

  23. Smog –
    I’d rather see us keeping Emnes than Lethal if we need to reduce wages. Also anybody else rather than Thomson from midfield.
    I agree that it’s very difficult to predict the front line for next season. I think a lot rest on the possible sale of Boyd. Will he stay or go?
    Let’s hope Mogga can sell the players he is willing to part company with. But still we have a lot to look forward to next season. If only Rhys, Smallwood, Park, Bates, Steele, Bennett, Thomson and McDonald stay.
    Up the Boro!

  24. I have to say I rather see the ‘Rolls Rhys’ at centre back than in midfield.
    He’s outstanding at the back and would make a formidable pairing with a Big Mick or Mogga-like partner.
    In midfield, he’s still very good but just not outstanding.
    But I can see that where he actually ends up – assuming he stays – is going to be driven more by ‘needs must’ rather than what’s ideal when we see wha cloth Mogga has to cut at the start of the season and by the end of September.

  25. In terms of a fire sale, the saving grace is that so many of our players have serious injury records.
    It would be a real risk to buy Bates, who has had so many bad cruciate tears that he has a season ticket with the surgeon.
    Similarly, Williams is barely rehabilitated from his very lengthy career-threatening injury. There must be a question mark over his fitness for at least another season – as we saw with Bates’ repeated injuries.
    We are told that Zemmama has yet to fully recover and will only peak during the coming seaason. Thomson missed nearly all of last season with two injuries very close together and McManus wasn’t much better.
    All in all, Crockliffe could, for once, serve us well in tempering any interest that would otherwise be there.

  26. Its worrying there is interest in Bates. Yes he has an injury record but is a great player and one of the few left with Prem experience.
    They say if you want to go up you need some Prem players to get you there and better Prem players to keep you there. That is probarbly where we are going to fall down due to financial constraints.
    But hey we are more localised now than we have been in many years which should bring some of the fans back and I am looking forward to a fighting Boro side feared at home and decent away and competing at the top half of the table. That will do for me.

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