Poignant Pressure, Perspective and Professionalism

FOCUSSED and efficient, Boro withstood considerable emotional pressure to battle past a highly motivated Doncaster and win 3-1 on a difficult night at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Rovers were fired up and driven by the touching personal plight of striker Billy Sharp and in a difficult and charged atmosphere Boro did well to come from behind and claim the points.



On a night of harsh perspective on the importance of the game often elevated above life itself, the bustling frontman had bravely opted to play the game despite the tragic death of his new born son.
The infant – Luey Jacob – was born on Thursday and died on Friday plunging Sharp and his family into a deeply personal turmoil beyond imagination. At black times of mourning and emotional dislocation work is generally the last thing on anyone’s mind, let alone something as ultimately trivial as sport.
But brave Sharp chose to channel that into the game as a public celebration of the short life of the boy and in doing so harnessed the emotional response of the entire club – and beyond – and gave the strugglers an added incentive and bite.
Sharp was made Rovers captain for the night. There was a tear-jerking pre-match PA tribute to the two day old innocent ‘taken by angels’ and then an overpowering wall of noise as a minute of applause gripped the Keepmoat Stadium as hard-bitten football fans put aside their default cynicism and clapped with lumps in their throats. Sharp himself was in tears.
The noise from the Boro end – there were 2,273, a quarter of the crowd – was as intense as any part of the ground, a gesture that was warmly appreciated by the home crowd and by the player who later tweeted his thanks to the travelling fans.
Boro of course have been touched by similar tragedy. Colin Cooper, now an Academy coach but then a first team fixture, lost his own toddler son Finlay, and there was a similar unified and dignified reaction among the home crowd and opposition supporters when the club icon made his next appearance. That game was against Sunderland and the Mackem supporters showed a commendable respect that crossed all partisan barriers and was greatly appreciated.
Boro fans also joined in a warm supportive applause at the end of the game when Sharp was named the sponsors man of the match.
And naturally Sharp scored. Roared on by the home fans from the first whistle with his every touch – there was a cosmic ying and yang thing going on as Boro fans booed the every touch of his hate-magnet debutant team-mate, spit spat striker El Hadji Diouf – he set about the game with a zeal and burning desire.
The poignant – and inevitable – goal when it came was a cracker. A ball was forced towards the goal and it was flicked up by an audacious back-heel from Diouf and it looped up to the corner of the box where well placed Sharp struck a sublime volley on the turn that dipped over the stretching Jason Steele and looped into the far top corner.
It would have been a wonder goal in any game. In this one it was infused with an emotional impact that exploded.
Sharp revealed a touching t-shirt with a ‘That’s For You, Son’ message and while his own post-match celebrations were sombre, the Rovers fans roaring was redoubled.
Even the referee Darren Deadman was dragged into the solemnity of the occasion and declined to book the striker for his shirt stripping celebration, a clear infringement. That may well have earned him a black mark from the assessor in the stands but that is surely better than being cast as a heartless villain and being villified forever in South Yorkshire
At that point it felt certain that Boro would be crushed by the inevitability of the tribute match (and for many it probably felt equally certain that Diouff would get the next goal).
So it felt brutally insensitive as Boro put aside the bubbling sub-text of the emotive evening to step up a gear and take ruthless control of the game.
“We all knew it would be difficult for him and we weren’t sure how it would pan out,” said Tony McMahon. “I’m a dad myself and I know I wouldn’t been able to go out and play. I was a bit wary about how it would go.
“But after about two minutes he elbowed me in the eye so I knew he was up for it.”
The opening goal broke the spell and after a tentative start played in a strange bubble of respect aand restraint, the game burst into life.
And Sharp was accorded no special treatment. Big Mick Mcmanus was booked before the break for ploughing straight through the back of him with a hefty tackle.
Boro had their own emotional engine too. An incredible turnout by the travelling Teessiders ensured they were driven on by a full throated roar for the full 90 minutes.
Boro supporters have been incredible on the road this season. There were over 1,600 at Southampton on Saturday to watch a systematic butchering of an out-of-sorts side yet they bounced back for the next game with a zealous determination that matched the team.
The crowd was Boro’s second biggest turnout this season after the Leeds game. And they played a massive part. On a night when the team could easily have cracked and been overwhelmed by the occasion the leather lunged loyalists added a compelling counter-balance to the home fans while still doing the club proud with their show of respect to Sharp.
The team too were superb. After the bruising 3-0 defeat at Southampton and with the pack gathering just behind them during the recent wobble, the stakes were high for Boro going to second bottom Doncaster. Even a draw at a team that had looked relegation-bound and in disarray would have been seen as a strategic disaster.
Given the intensity of the situation, the early emotional opener and then an enforced change to shape and dynamic with the injury to Justin Hoyte – a switch that had a mixed response from Boro fans in the twittersphere – they showed great composure and professionalism.
They played their way back into the game with admirable application and vision. They passed and probed patiently, the movement off the ball was fluid and productive, they showed intent and ambition and carved out a string of excellent chances.
That brought its deserved reward, And after the well worked leveller from Barry Robson Boro took complete control and put in a polished performance that spoilt the script and banished any thoughts of a Southampton hangover.
Of the individual displays, Robson bossed the midfield with a show of drive and determination but Marvin Emnes was also on fire.Emnes seems to have clicked back into gear. At the start of the second half he was unplayable for 20 minutes as he twisted and turned, tricked and feinted through crowds of defenders but somehow emerged with the ball to slot it into dangerous positions that had emerged in the huge gaps his mayhem had carved.
At the back McMahon and McManus both did well. Scott McDonalds may not be able to hit a barndoor with a blunderbus right now – one goalbound sizzler hit unsuspecting Chimbonda and bounced clear but he is working very hard. And Faris Haroun impressed with ‘good engines’ and some neat distribution after coming on.
But every one of them did a fantastic job. Every department clicked.
It was a vital win in difficult circumstances. The team – and the fans – deserve credit.

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43 thoughts on “Poignant Pressure, Perspective and Professionalism

  1. “We all knew it would be difficult for him and we weren’t sure how it would pan out,” said Tony McMahon.
    “I’m a dad myself and I know I wouldn’t been able to go out and play. I was a bit wary about how it would go.
    “But after about two minutes he elbowed me in the eye so I knew he was up for it.”
    Haha.
    Absolutely fantastic story about Billy Sharp, I don’t think it can fail to touch you, particularly if you have young kids yourself. I just can’t imagine what his emotions must have been during the minute’s applause.
    Great win – I feared the worst at 1-0, and at 2-1 when Haroun missed the sitter. I don’t think many Boro teams in my lifetime would have come back from 1-0 down to win so convincingly after losing the last two on the road.

  2. A very emotional night rounded off with a victory.
    Those who attended will testify that Boro were woeful for the first 25 minutes. It took a change in personnel and shape to get us going, but after the equaliser there was only one team in it.
    I thought we had a large slice of luck last night too, Marvin’s effort just trickling over the line, and the penalty was indeed fortious as the ball looked to have gone out over the line in the build up to the incident.
    A special word of thanks to Darren Deadman, who seems to be Boro’s lucky talisman this season. He refereed the Walsall game too. His common dog decision not to book Billy Sharp was commendable and put into context the reality of the situation.
    Haroun looked the business when he came on, and in my opinion changed the game. I hope he keeps his place on Saturday, and I would also like to see Zemmama and Ogbeche feature too.
    UTB

  3. Perfect response after being battered by Southampton, fully agree AV, it could easily have gone the other way after going an early goal behind.
    This season will have many twists and turns, hence whilst I still believe the squad is lightweight and bereft of in-depth quality, I am delighted where we are and wish the guys well always

  4. Great result last night. I feared the worst going 1-0 down but evidently we won at a canter. What was the formation were we back in our natural positions and a full strenth!

  5. I e-mailed my comments to John Powls on returning home last night – have a look at Boro Banter.
    A couple of things to add to Vic’s comments. Quite a bit of our passing was sloppy but we still racked up mid 55% possession.
    After Haroun came on we changed gear and our football took over, most of their threats came from sloppy possession and were self afflicted.
    I must admit I thought Emnes could have been more effective in that period when he was running them ragged, lots of twists, turns, dragovers etc. But I can cope.
    Haroun, McMahon and McD worked the right side well. That could well prosper, Haroun looked the real biz with strength, pace, technique. I just wish McD would score because he is a very clever footballer.
    Robbo rampaged as Robbo does, he moved over left from the middle when we reshuffled, a pleasant change from him on the right.
    Steele had a few sticky moments but only three shots on target shows the thorough job as once into our stride Donnie were largely kept at arms length.
    All in all a good night out and for once I dont begrudge the opposition a goal and a cracker at that.
    What a contrast to the sad mess at Stamford Bridge and cricket in the law courts. My wife had a tear in her eye when I told her about Billy Sharp.

  6. Just dreadful news about Billy Sharp and I’m sure everyone feels devastated for him but he gets massive credit for turning out and of course his goal.
    With the emotion of the night, the boost Donny have got from signing Diouf and the question marks about Boro after the weekend, the game had the ingredients for a shock but the determination of the players did us proud in the end. Haroun did himself no harm, but credit all round.
    Another three points against Watford now please before three trickier looking fixtures come up.

  7. After the first twenty minutes of the match last night I thought it was going to be very uncomfortable.
    We were slow, ponderous in thought and action, personified by Bennett who never seems to wake up until half time. Our movement was sideways, we were hesitant and unsure in possession and then with the foraging of Robson we worked our way back into the game.
    We had a good grip of the match in the second half mainly because we quickened the tempo, used Haroun to good effect, moved the ball better and finished the match more like the team at the beginning of the season.
    There is no doubt that Robson may be a moaner and generally disruptive, his fighting qualities were what was needed and he takes a penalty as it should be taken, straight down the throat of the goalkeeper.
    Very satisfied with the outcome, a much better feeling coming out the stadium than last year, despite a poor start we finished strongly.

  8. Last nights match stats were interesting, as Ian has pointed out Boro finished with 55%+ possession and yet after the first twenty minutes we were a goal down and Donnie were at 55%+ possession. This Boro team has a certain amount of resilience, it would appear.
    Haroun coming on and the switch in formation seems to have had a positive effect, no doubt Mogga will keep Haroun in the team and the same formation for Watford.
    Three points against Watford aren’t a given, but a win would be a nice way of starting another international break.

  9. ‘and then an enforced change to shape and dynamic with the injury to Justin Hoyte’
    Sometimes, just sometimes, something happens to change things radically and the side starts to play. Hence the line quoted from AV above.
    This of course was totally serendipitous, there was clearly no way yer man Hoyte could be replaced like for like so its back to a 4-4-2. Combine that with a team who want to/give away points thru error and the Mogga Mo is back into action.
    I will of course take the points and Mogga bein the smart manager that he is will not forget how the Boro ticked the boxes last night (or will he).
    UTB
    And naturally condolences to Billy and his wife.

  10. Football was certainly put into perspective last night.
    However, it was a good result after Southampton and maybe shows the league standard is maybe not as equal as previously thought.
    Fingers crossed for another 3 points at the weekend.

  11. Great result AV. I won’t get carried away, as I didn’t last Saturday when losing to the Saints, there are many rivers to cross in this season. But nothing compares to the emotional rollercoaster Billy Sharp will be going through. Well done to all for a great and dignified reception for him.

  12. Hicktonite powered penalties in the 60’s and seventies.
    How about Robbonium in 2011? They certainly stay struck, the keeper may move early, probably in the hope of choosing the wrong way.

  13. Having just posted about should Robbonium be a new element for powering penalties I had another thought, should it be Robsonium?
    As TV is dire with non Champions League on TV my thoughts turned to Boro penalty takers. How many posters actually saw Hickton setting off from Dormo museum to thwack the ball goalwards? What about you AV?
    I watched man land on the moon amid a load of overseas people at a fruit farm in East Anglia. They were so left wing Vic would have played them right midfield and whilst I watched agog they booed.
    But nothing is etched in my memory like Hicktonite failing to reach critical mass in the game against Hull City in the FA Cup on 27th Jan 1968. For newer posters that was a Saturday at 3.00pm.
    Anyway, here is the question, which is more fearful?
    A) The sound of big John approaching the two bob end followed by the sight of steam coming out of his ears as he approached the ball.
    or
    B) The sight of a ginger Jock with manic eyes and a thunderous left foot stood 20 yards away.
    Have I missed out any fiery finishers? I suppose there are Deano, two step JFH and Zitfest. I think the malice aforethought of Big John and Robbo win the day.

  14. Boro close in on automatic promotion slot er what planet are we on here? The season is in its infancy and we are closing in on promotion? Not sure what wacky baccy you guys are on however can I have some please for the tea lady?
    AV whats the word on the street on her ‘biccie tin’? Is there a couple of bob in there for the transfer window?
    **AV writes: There was som erattling around on transfer deadline day for Jutkiewicz. I’d presume that’s still in there. Not sure about any more.

  15. Quiet and peaceful here, when the ship steered by Mogga, is heading steadily towards the harbour of PL.
    It’s totally different if the ship makes a small change of direction as at Southampton.
    People seem to panic if a small dip in form is recognized. Please remember we are still turning away from the rocks and the course is yet not steady.
    But it was wonderful match. All my condolences goes to Sharp and the atmosphere was special at the Keepmoat as well as BJS. So everybody was satisfied.
    Let’s hope we can continue the form at home against Watford, too. We are unbeaten at home but need the three points to keep the momentum at the top. I am sure Soton will get a batch of bad results too one day. So we must keep on plugging away.
    Up the Boro!

  16. Are there any Hicktonite penalties saved for posterity on youtube?
    Ian – I prefer Robbonium, but then I’m sure there is a panel of scientific luminaries somewhere in the world who decide on the name for a new element, presumably the same body of people that decided that Pluto wasn’t a planet……
    Alternatively we could always refer to an impartial FA board for a view……….

  17. A good three points at Donny, now onwards and upwards to Saturday and hopefully another three.
    As has been pointed out, it’s far better to win two and lose one than draw three, that’s the beauty of three points.
    Onto Ian’s topic of Big John, the first time I saw him play was against Walsall in the old third division. We lost 2.1, they even beat us at our place that season and then got relegated,no change there then.
    Anyway we were awarded the pen; my mate said “watch this fellow strike a ball”. I saw him place the ball on the spot and then turned and walked back… I thought he was going home. He eventually turned round, ran in and took the skin off the ball. Not bad for a ‘full back’ and what a player.
    Only right that it was he who scored our first goal in the first division after promotion at Birmingham, a header from another Boro great Willie Maddren.
    Good memories. If only eh.

  18. Intesting weekend to come. Before Boro play, there will be Hull v West Ham and Coventry v Southampton.
    I think we must aim for the top two spot – I mean aim but I won’t be sad if we end up in top six in May.
    Let’s enjoy the season. Up the Boro!

  19. Anybody seen the article on Johnny Crosson in the Guardian today. I had no idea. He was a good player for us as I recall – played alongside Eric McMordie?
    **AV writes: I linked it on my Twitter. You should all really follow me on Twitter.

  20. AV –
    The old memory plays tricks I know, but I am sure Big John’s début was home to Workington Town and we were 2 – 0 down and awarded a penalty. Big John stepped up and then as has been said above went back almost to the penalty area turned round and well. I think we went on to win 3 – 2.
    Well worth shinning over the wall in the kids end into the bob end.

  21. When we were kids taking a “penack” was always done in the Hickton mould. Of course you had to run half a mile just to move a casey anyway!
    I cant remember if I ever saw him take one in real life, probably did, but you never realise what things are worth remembering!

  22. Jarkko: BJS?? Am I missing something here? In my short absence has the BJS been resurected and that upstart twitty thing been usurped?

  23. On Ian’s topic of fearsome penalty takers, I know it is eons ago but what about the Jamaican Lindy Delapena?
    He came to Boro in 1950 (I said it was eons ago) and was our leading scorer in the 1951-52, 1953-54 and 1955-56 seasons. A winger or inside forward (as they were called then), he scored 93 goals in 270 league and FA Cup appearances and left Boro in 1958.
    He had an explosive shot and he was a fearsome penalty taker. Legend has it that one of his penalties was hit so hard so that it went straight through the net and ended up behind the goal with the result that the referee ruled that a goal had not been scored.
    I saw him play in his later years at Boro and I can confirm that he compared favourably in his penalty taking even with the mighty Hickton.

  24. Percypieblocks –
    I saw big John on his debut at home against Workington Town. He had a shocker in the first half as we quickly went 2-0 down. He was at centre half and one of the goals was his fault. Thigs were looking bleak as we faced the prospect of another relegation battle starting the match in 23rd place.
    Then, 37 minutes and we had a penalty. It was the first use of Hicktonite at Ayresome Park. I seem to recall him setting off from behind the Holgate End and leathering the unfortunate ball.
    Went on to win 3-2 with goals from Arthur Horsfield – a man we tend to forget but he scored a lot of valuable goals that kept us in touch until Big John and O’Rourke took the honours as the season ended.

  25. Walmsleys – Someone as sad as me!
    Mohammad Abdullah – That goes for you as well!!
    Odd that our replies were separated by quite some time. I think Vic was busy because I posted 4.27 and your posts were not up. I wonder if the workload is greater without Uncle Eric.
    By the way Vic, will we be hearing from Eric? He is missed – no insult to you and Phil.
    **AV writes: Forgive me for wandering away from the lappy for an hour or two but I have got a life. Ish. I’ve been out at Macmillan Academy sports awards with my boy the flipping fantastic gymnast. They have got some talent in that school, world champions and everything.

  26. Its great to reflect on our remembrance of Big Johns penalties but how many out there can remember Jim Irvines famous penalty shot that almost hit the corner flag?
    He came down from Scotland and was to blast us into the first division. To be fair he did get his fair share of goals but that penalty shot … he sliced it with the outside of his left foot. It was impossible to do. I was stood in the boys end.

  27. Another Boro penalty taker who belted the ball – little Arthur Kay. Anybody remember him? Only small but built like the proverbial.

  28. Interesting thought…. lose 3-0 and 50 posts in about 36 hours. Win 3-1 after coming from behind and 31 posts in almost 3 days – and most of them about hicktonite!!
    What is this diasboro coming to… Are we almost as mad as the toon? This season is a long hard slog, and we’re not even at Fireworks night yet, let alone Xmas. If we’re still within 9 points of the leaders at Easter, then we have a chance (though we could also be in about 10th position!)
    The bottom line is that unless we finish top two (and one of those will be West Ham), the team that finishes the season in form will get promoted, not the one who wins a few and loses a few before Chrissy.
    On another note AV – any sign of the usual pre January sales banter? Is anyone necessary to leave before someone comes in, or do we have irons in the fire? and if so what do they look like?
    A good win on Saturday sets us nicely for another break, before the long cold winter starts
    C’mon Boro
    **AV writes: Mogga is always working on players but there are a lot of balls in the air. Whether there are in-goings will depend on potential out-goings (if PL teams make a move that is too good to turn down), league position, crowds, the feelgood factor at the time, the local economic outlook, potential loanees coming in. Very complex.

  29. AV – I’ve got no problem with you having a life, but if you had an ipad then you could have a life and still talk to us to! (Only joking).
    Gents, Thanks for the Hicktonite links on Youtube, I will enjoy perusing those this evening, sipping a beer or two while the missus is out with the girls.

  30. I think we all assume West Ham will be in the top two come May, but to date their form makes them contenders rather than a shoe-in.
    Personally, as of today I would back Southampton for promotion, with several contenders for the no.2 slot, amongst which would be West Ham & Boro, but watch out for Birmingham, they’re coming up on the rails fast and the ony reason they’re not 2nd/3rd/4th is because they have played fewer games because of their UEFA cup commitments.
    Brisbane Phil –
    Its a bit like watching News at Ten, good news is never reported. Our lack of feedback to a win and the flood of criticism following a defeat never fails to amuse/annoy me, depending on whether I’ve had a good day or not…..
    **AV writes: One of the first things you learn in a newsroom is that no-one ever rings/writes in to say they are “generally satisfied” with a situation. People are motivated by extremes of emotion.

  31. AV –
    Sorry Vic, I wasnt having a go at blatant dereliction of duty but at concern at the potential workload following Uncle Eric leaving. Shan’t be so concerned in future!
    Brisbane Phil –
    My fault about the Hicktonite but at least I covered the match as well.
    Percy –
    I am sure I saw Arthur Kay, I will have to check the dates.
    On to tomorrows match and a win in front of the camera will do nicley especially if it is a good performance as well.
    The key will be getting off to a fast start though Mogga seems more interested in keeping it tight and seeing how they play before opening up.

  32. I like this walk down memory lane with Ian, Percypieblocks et al, on penalty takers.I was there to see Hickton make his debut against Workington and saw the return match at Workington, a town, which made Middlesbrough look like Cannes.
    Arthur Kaye too, could take a mean penalty.I just like the intent showed by Robson to hit the ball hard and true, none of this fancy dan, step over, shimmy stuff that inevitably ends in tears. Oh by the way what has happened Maluary Martin?
    **AV writes: He is always in the matchday 20 but never seems to make the 16 on the team sheet. See also Richie Smallwood.

  33. **AV writes: “One of the first things you learn in a newsroom is that no-one ever rings/writes in to say they are “generally satisfied” with a situation. People are motivated by extremes of emotion.”
    Well, just to buck the trend, it’s going reasonably well,….. is it not? OK, there are the churlish amongst us that would demand better home results, but then we wouldn’t be Typical Boro would we?
    That’s it! Fascinating, inspirational, entertaining, controversial & amusing stuff. Eh?
    Ho hum!

  34. Brisbane Phil –
    Forest Defeat 45 posts
    Derby win 40 posts
    Chain reaction 39 posts
    Soton defeat 57 posts
    Donnie win 39 posts
    Dont think there is anything really significant in there.
    Most of the extra number for Soton was me arguing with sundry posters that Hoyte left back, Bennett left midfield and Robbo right was nonsense before the match, nonsense during and nonsense with hindsight.
    After defeats we probably dwell on lessons to be learnt, in some cases several times because someone had a misguided belief that a cunning plan will work if tried often enough.

  35. Missed all the drama through work commitments again!
    Good result and the perfect way to respond after Southampton and especially Robbo who proved Ian G’s faith in him by bagging a brace when not stuck wide right.
    Glad Billy Sharp was able to have a night to cherish and that the fans from all sections and especially the Ref contributed to it with the dignity and respect the occasion demanded. Billy’s actions were in stark contrast to many so called professionals these days who should be hanging their selfish heads in shame. I hope he, his Family and loved ones can rebuild their lives and have happier times ahead.

  36. Ian –
    Forest Defeat 45 posts
    Derby win 40 posts
    Chain reaction 39 posts
    Soton defeat 57 posts
    Donnie win 39 posts
    This probably emphasises my point better than I had thought. Especially when you consider each defeat only had a couple of days until the next post.
    And now the Donnie post has been augmented by Hicktonite!!
    Now the real reason for my post to you – fancy a pint or two when I’m over in March? I think I could get my Boro fix in about 2 days with you around. Maybe Jarkko can come over and we can do Beano 2 – the return….
    Anyone else up for it, plenty of time to organise things!!

  37. I agree with Powmill’s post from yesterday. I, too, am generally satisfied with the with the current situation at the Boro.
    Now, if you want controversy, or a more down-in-the-mouth view of things, ask me about the weather (very grey and wettish in North Yorkshire, for those living abroad) or the general economic position. If I were Greek I might have a different perspective.
    Which makes me think… There might be a silver lining to the economic travails of our southern European friends, the cradle of democracy etc. I guess their football clubs might also be operating in an economic minefield, and might be looking to offload the odd player or two.
    There might be some good players there who look at the rioting (maybe in their own town) shown nightly on TV and who wonder whether it mightn’t be safer to move away. There might be bargains to be had. Get the new European scout a ticket to Athens…

  38. Brisbane Phil –
    March sounds fine to me.
    Interesting to see how many posts we get after tonights game, it was generally poor and being live on TV had a small crowd. My son fell asleep watching it which is in no small measure related to the dreary nature of the fare on offer. I am sure he was out with friends in London last night and only got back ten minutes before the match was coincidental.
    All I will say about the performance is thanks for the three points. If one of those early chances had been taken it may have been different.
    What is important is the fact we are undefeated at home and nicely placed in the league. Southampton will have a bad run and as the example of Toon showed in this division the important thing is to keep winning. Eventually the performances pick up as momentum is gained.

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