LUNAR leader Tony Mowbray wants to dampened down expectations for this season. That could be tricky if bubbling Boro are going to put in interstellar shows like that!
Bubbling Boro battered Barnsley in a sizzling first half display that was out of this world. Somewhere out of the haze of Championship mediocrity loomed a brief teasing glimpse of the utopian style the boss is working towards, a hint of what is possible. And it was fantastic.
Mogga’s energised team showed great resilience to roar back from an early out of the blue own goal blunder and then systematically dismantled the shell-shocked South Yorks sacrificial lambs with 40 minutes of devastating total football.
The passing was exquisite and incisive, the movement dynamic, fluid and with purpose; the attitude was positive and confident and enterprising; there was workrate, commitment, unity, energy and passion; and there was a constant crackling threat going forward. It was awesome.
There were three well engineered goals based on crisp, intuitive interplay and an evident hunger to attack. There could easily have been three or four more as fluid Boro swarmed forward.
There was a sublime defence splitting ball from Scott McDonald to set up Marvin Emnes that had lines and angles straight out the pages of a geometry text book and a series of other equally perfectly executed audacious passes and chalkboard moves that brought appreciative applause.
It was a genuine pleasure to watch. It was exciting, pulsating and inspirational and it sparked an explosion of chest-bursting pride among the 1800 travelling Teessiders roaring and EIOing with glee at Oakwell. It was a ritual celebration of a club reborn.
Those that were there went away gushing if the post-match Boro babble in the ground and in cyber-space si anything to go by. The witnesses will all have become evangelical ambassadors for the Moggalution. And word of mouth is the best bet to put bums on seats. There is a real buzz about Planet Boro now and that could become contagious.
The players are infected, that’s for sure. They are now playing with the kind of zest and pride that supporters expect and demand but have so rarely seen in recent years. They are beaming in post match interviews and can barely contain their own enthusiasm. They are as excited as we are. And they are celebrating goals with a collective joy that matches and feeds that on the terraces. You get the impression some strong bonds are being forged.
There is now a growing, almost tangible sense among supporters that the Dark Ages are over, that the chilling Strachanovite shadow has lifted and that a born again Boro are emerging into a era of enlightenment and possibility.
Crucially, after years of estrangement supporters are starting to really love their Boro again. Not through duty or obligation but through sheer joy. The buzz is back. There is a tingling sense of untainted youthful anticipation before games now – and so often the team are justifying that expectation by playing entertaining football blending steel and skill.
The bottom line is that it is enjoyable to go to games again, not the soul sapping chore it had become. It is worthwhile and rewarding. The flame has been reignited. And people are responding. If not in vast numbers certainly in passion and intensity. The atmosphere around Boro feels healthy again. Fans have their club back. And it is fantastic. It is worth celebrating.
Forgive the gushing torrent of rose-tinted superlatives but this felt like an important step forward.
There will be many who raise a practiced cynical eye-brow at such enthusiastic babbling and think dismissively that we have been here before. And they will say: “it’s only Barnsley, they’re rubbish.” And that is a valid point.
The Tykes are the archetypal Championship side. They are limited but industrious, organised and full of honest endeavour but short on matchwinning magic. They are an average outfit aware of their own flaws and ready to beaver away to overcome them.
But 12 months ago a similar down to earth, unremarkable Barnsley side comfortably beat big spending Boro 2-0 in a seismic season-shattering game that ended optimistic August illusions in Gordon Strachan’s side. That defeat revealed their fragility and made a mockery of their label as title favourites. It was a bruising lesson. That brittle Boro back then could not cope with an ordinary but motivated mid-table Championship outfit who wanted it more.
A year on so much has changed. Before the game Barnsley’s PA blared out the Stone Roses Madchester classic ‘I Am The Resurrection.’ How approrpriate. This is a born again team. This is now a different team with a different and refreshing mentality and an attacking outlook but also one far tougher, physically and mentally. They may not yet be world-beaters or even fully fledged promotion contenders – but they are fit for purpose. And that is worth celebrating.
The win against Barnsley has extended the unbeaten start to the season and helped stretch a few sequences of the kind that underpin productive campaigns and raise morale. And yes, raise expectations too. Sorry Mogga.
It is the first time since 1993 Boro have rattled off four away league games in a row. Then Lennie Lawrence’s side won 3-2 away at Sheffield Wednesday in their last game in the inaugural Premier League – too little, too late – then started the next season in style with a 3-2 win at Notts County, a 4-1 thumping of Barnsley and then a 3-2 victory at Wolves.
It leaves Mowbray’s rejuvenated side one short of the all time record of five on the bounce.
That mark was set in 1973-74 by the record breaking Charlton’s Champions with won 3-0 at Hull, 2-0 at Sunderland, 4-0 at West Brom then Fulham and then 1-0 at Luton as they marched imperiously towards the title.
The five star show was repeated in 1986-87 by the Bruce Rioch side that bounced back from relegation and liquidation to claim promotion in a football fairytale. They won their last five away games 1-0 at Blackpool, 1-0 at Bolton, 1-0 at Carlisle, 2-1 at Chester and 2-0 at Doncaster to seal promotion back to the second division.
If Boro can match that this term it will be expectation ramping platform for the current campaign.
And the Dreadlocked Dynamite, on-fire Marvin Emnes is also closing in on a record. The galvanised goal-getter’s first half strike made him the first player since Mark Viduka in 2006 to score in four consecutive games.
A goal against Birmingham on Sunday – no pressure Marv! – would put him in a very select group of only 16 players to have scored five in a row. The last of those was Shock Jock fence-climber Bernie Slaven back in 1991-92 – who still insists Marvin is “not a natural goalscorer.” Bernie must be getting worried now.
Natural or not, Emnes has been a revelation. With his pace, trickery and eye for goal the Draedlocked Dynamite is unbelievable right now. He has scored six goals already! Last season it took until December 17 for Scott McDonald to reach that mark.
It is hard to believe Emnes is the same player as the forlorn shadow of a year ago.
It is hard to believe thsi Boro is the same team.
Tony Mowbray, what the hell have you done?