2011: Twelve Months of Moggalution

TWELVE months ago today a brittle Boro were just outside the Championship relegation hot spots on goal difference alone.
A creaky post-Strachan side were above Crystal Palace by a fraction. They had scored just 21 goals and had taken a 21 points from 22 games – and most of those were banked after the arrival of Tony Mowbray in October. Fragile and unbalanced, Boro were just two points above rock bottom Preston with a trip to the basement boys up next. In that momentous game they actually slipped behind and were briefly dumped on the bottom.
Since then they have been galvanised and transformed in a spectacular year of renewal and revival. Now bubbling Boro are just outside the promotion places on goal difference and are a tantilising three points off the Championship top spot. From one defeat away from rock bottom to one win away from the summit. It has been an amazing year of deep seated change. It has been a year of Moggalution at Middlesbrough.

It has been an incredible 12 months of transformation engineered by Tony Mowbray. Despite having essentially the same personnel – numbers and wages have been trimmed dramatically but the nucleus of the team remain – Boro are almost unrecognisable. The Mogganaut is gathering momentum and could soon reach the escape velocity needed to go into orbit.
So far in 2011 Boro have taken a hefty 82 points from 46 games to top the annual adjusted Championship table discussed last week. That is promotion form in anyone’s book – certainly play-off form by a good 10 point margin – and week by week as the patchy form of January slips off the annual calculations to be replaced by relentless, ground out wins and the points-per-game ratio creeps slowly upwards, it looks healthier still.
The breakdown of league results in 2011 is impressive: Boro have won 22, drawn 16 and lost just eight with 73 scored and 54 conceded. And a once brittle and porous team have kept 16 clean sheets in that sequence too.
Since the watershed win at Preston year ago, Boro have clawed away from danger and steadily climbed up to the business end of the table and it has been a relentless if under-stated improvement by the match. They have gathered momentum and belief as they have slowly put in place the basic components of a team capable of winning promotion.
They have tightened up at the back, evolved an impressive tactical flexibility to counter the strenths of the opposition, found a steely will to win, developed an ability to see games out and concentrate through to the final whistle and learned to hit from behind. All the fundemental weaknesses of just a year ago have been addressed.
Compare the realistic optimism of going into New Year today with last year’s sense of relief at the exit of Gordon Strachan mixed with trepidation over an uncertain January (liquidation rumours were still common currency on the grapevine) and the icy hearted fear that the old boss had done deep seated permanent structural damage to the squad and the wage bill and that even under Mogga it was too late.
December has seen all the crucial pieces slotting together nicely as a deternined Boro bounced back from a stinging 2-0 defeat at home to pace-setters West Ham – the team who are setting the standard – to rattle off a significant sequence of four straight wins.
Boro have played a string of teams slap bang in the middle of a run of red hot form and come away with all the points by hook or by crook.
Bristol City were unbeaten at home under a new manager and had won five out of six – including leaders Southampton – but Boro survived a torrid time in the first half to mug them at the death and win 1-0 with a stoppage time Malaury Martin screamer.
August hotshots Brighton had bounced back from a wobble to battle to four wins out of five and were in high spirits as they came to snarl and scrap their way to a result at the Riverside but Boro matched that robust approach and again nicked it.
Cardiff were top of the form table, were unbeaten in 15 and had won six in a row at home and kept five clean sheets on the bounce. They were buzzing as they took a commanding half-time lead after a dead ball assault but assertive Boro, playing yet another new system, came out fired up after the break and went for the jugular and in a storming fight-back won a pulsating game 3-2 to go back above the dragon botherers.
Then Hull arrived on the back of four straight wins under Riverside boo boy favourite Nick Barmby and just two points behind. They perhaps edged the scrappy game in terms of clear cut chances but once again resilient Boro knuckled down, tactically stifled them, gradually took territorial control and then plundered the points at the death with a Robson Rocket that sparked this celebration in the packed North Stand.
It is a football cliche that good teams are those that can play badly but win. Boro have showed a capacity to do that.
Not that Boro have been playing particular badly – but they have certainly been far from in their sparkling, expansive early season form that produced a flying start. With a few routine knocks and bruises and suspensions the team has been tweaked in recent weeks while opposition managers are increasingly setting out to contain them and none of the past four games have been eye-pleasing classics.
At Cardiff Boro were superb after the break but were under the cosh in the first half, the Brighton game was physical rather than flowing while both Bristol City and Hull will feel deeply agrieved not to have got something from games they bossed for long spells and in which they created the bulk of the chances only to be mugged late on. Tough.
This re-engineered Boro are fit for purpose.They can match whatever challenges are posed physically and tactically and have the drive and determination to grind something out of scrappy close fought games. And there are a lot of those in the Championship.
Boro have come through their toughest run of fixtures so far this season and despite being under the cosh for spells in every one of them have come away with maximum points and well placed to push for promotion.
Hopefully the display – spirited, steely, successful – and the excitement and buzz over a favourable position in the Championship table will help win back on a full time basis some of the waverers who helped swell the Boxing Day crowd.
The bumper gate of 27,794 was 10,000 up on the normal Riverside crowd and was the biggest since Boro slipped out of the Premier League. The biggest in fact since 33,767 turned up to watch Gareth Southgate’s Boro slump to a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United in May 2009. Just two games before that Boro hosted Hull in another six pointer, a top flight relegation rumble, in front of a crowd of 32,255.
Since then Riverside crowds have followed Boro’s dip in profile, ambition and league position. Last season’s best was the 23,550 who turned out last October to see a 2-1 defeat to Leeds, Strachan’s swansong but the general trend was plummeting. At the end of the Strachan era gates were distorted by a counting method that included season ticket holders even though many were not attending and while they were regularly announced as below the 16,000 mark they were in reality well below that.
In the 2009/10 season, the campaign that saw the end of Southgate with falling gates cited as one of the reasons, the best crowd was the 27,347 who turned out for a 2-2 draw with Newcastle in March. That was a sharp spike in the graph and while the first four games of that season had been above 20,000 the trend was again downwards with increasingly regular figures of between 16 and 17,000. The crowd was flat, beaten, broken and demoralised. Stewarding was heavy-handed. Matchday was a joyless chore.
Those trends were reflections of crowds voting with their feet on a team in disarray and a club on the slide under Southgate then left directionless, toothless and heartless after the culture shock of the Strachan Year Zero.
But under Mogga, as with the team, crowds have recovered from rock bottom and are also showing signs of revival in terms of quantity and quality, spirit and passion. It’s a much better team now, stronger, tighter, better organised and much more likely to win and the crowd has responded by producing consistently better atmospheres home and away this term, combining unstinting vocal support with patience, good humour and realistic expectations. It has been a pleasure to go to games again. .
Fans who came along as a one off for the Hull game and enjoyed it, get yourself aboard the Mogganaut now. If the next year follows the same relentless upward curve as the last one, it could be a fantastic second half of the season.


35 thoughts on “2011: Twelve Months of Moggalution

  1. Its hard to over state the effect Mowbray has had on Boro. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the hero that Mogga is return to manage the Boro and grow in stature and heroic status above and beyond what he was as a player.
    Its been a great year and there’s every chance it will prove to be a great season, the Boro seem to be building momentum at just the right time………..

  2. I had to sit in my season ticket seat for the first time in errrrr 3 years. ( I normally just pick from any of the empty rows in the east stand ) and even worse no time for Bovril at half time and had to queue for a pee! Hull were robbed by the Ref, lady luck, hard work and the left foot of the now Boro institution.
    Going soon Williams was my mom, with Mogga’s shape changing tactics a close second.
    I still don’t get it – please someone help me understand – how can a team without any pace in midfield and an impotent strike force be doing so well??

  3. Lovely post AV, and sets out what an exciting journey we have been taken on by Mogga.
    I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday, and the wonderful sight of most of those red seats with a somebody in them! OK, we stole the points, but I thought we deserved it overall. what a strike by Robbo!
    What a prospect in store for 2012 if we can maintain the pace of the mogganaut. come on Boro and come on down again to a rejuvenated Riverside all those of you fans who appeared for the first time on Boxing Day!

  4. It was like a Miracle on Dockside Street, keeping to the festive mood.
    Brilliant to be part of a big crowd again with a super atmosphere.
    The four Tiger’s fans I brought with me were very subdued on the way home but I had a smile the size of the mogganaut.

  5. Two things, Chris from Beverley:
    1. If you walked over the footbridge from the Riverside to the Transporter Bridge, you’d have been engulfed by a darkness so Stygian…. There will be accidents on that road in the winter nights, as thousands walk back to their cars. And at that stage the Council, or the Club, will say they never realised there was a problem, and ask how could it have been foreseen.
    This message realises there is a problem and foresees possible injuries resulting. Remember the date. I don’t have a crystal ball, just a set of eyes (that don’t work too well in the dark) and a brain. I suspect most of those in postions of authority, and those polishing the insurance policy, have eyes and a brain, too.
    2. I suppose if I’d been an away supporter after a game like that, I’d have expected to come away with a point. And as the clock ticks by, the expectation grows. Then, to have your hopes dashed so late…it must be a blow.
    But what a goal to earn the points! I’ll bet you smiled all the way home and said lots of complimentary things about their team (in the way you can, when your team has won!).
    In an ideal world, I’d be happy for Hull to go up, so long as we go up as well. A deal with God, for us to go up in second place with ANYONE else so long as we go up, has been proposed. I’m just waiting for Sentamu to make contact, because the proprieties have to be observed at all times.

  6. Wots going on AV? Does this blog only work when we lose?
    Got my wish for Christmas, and I think Barry Robson is the real Santa Claus.
    Up the Boro.
    Happy New year everybody

  7. After the unmitigated disasters of Southgate and Strachan and the horrific plight they singularly and collectively inflicted on the town, the coming of home town boy Mogga has been a massive ray of sunshine. What he has done to this team is nothing short of a miracle and I am now dare I say it ‘starting to believe’.
    Keep it up Boys and come on the Boro

  8. You know I am sitting here after a few drinks and thinking about how good the season has been, and how good it could have been if Southgate and Strachan had not been in charge.
    Anyhow, when we think about the type of player that we need right now to play with Emnes and McDonald, there is a big bloke playing in China who has scored 8 goals from 13 appearances and he played in the world cup in South Africa. His name is Chris Killen !! How do you think he would have done for us this season, or is he worth bringing back??
    **AV writes: LOL… as I believe the young people say.

  9. Thank you for a well written piece Anthony. I agree with everything you have said.
    Years ago I moaned in the football section of the Sports and Sunday Sun about Two Halves Robbo, not for the Hell of it, but because I have always felt a deep rooted passion for the team I have supported for 50 years, and I have never been a sycophant.
    Robbo bought, with Gibson’s mi££ion$ many big named players which other managers, people tell me, could not have persuaded to come here, but money speaks all languages, and Tony Mowbray will not need the likes of El Tel to help stave off relegation will he?
    Some of Boro’s previous managers could learn a great deal from Tony Mowbray.
    Tony has been starved of transfer funds after inheriting a demoralized shambles of a squad, the result of a 12 month frenzied Scottish sojourn by Jimmy Cranky.
    Attendances were down and only the hardcore supporters went along at first, because even though Boro had started to win once more, many said,
    “Here we go again, they build you up, and then they let you down!”
    The crowds kept low despite Boro’s healthy position and many looked at the home draws against Portsmouth, Coventry and Ipswich and even the three defeats expecting a long term slump which did not happen.
    Boro have dug deep when it mattered, and Tony Mowbray has nurtured the team from a young sapling to a strong, lean Oak tree, getting more solid as the months go by. Under his guidance, The Boro have a 46.67% Win Ratio: the best Post War Strike Rate of them all!
    Once the lads couldn’t travel, but now Boro have the equal best away form in the division.
    Boro have the least defeats in the division.
    Boro have the most clean sheets in the division
    Boro have conceded the least goals in the division, and all this, on a shoestring!
    Tony Mowbray’s marauders don’t know the meaning of defeat, and after the game of “chess” against Barmby’s Hull, maybe the tide has turned and the crowds will start to believe once again.
    For Tony’s sake I hope so, but also for those dogged supporters who have watched the lads through thin and thinner, and, like the proverbial bobo-doll still would not give up.
    You will not find a good word about The Boro in the nationals, because Southern based reporters get nose bleeds when they travel North of Watford Gap! You will however get reports, sometimes over the top, but always passionate about the lads, from the Gazette.
    Many people working and living in the far flung corners of the world depend on that vital link with the local people and The Boro. Keep up the good work, and let’s look to the remaining half and a bit of the season with renewed hope and enthusiastic believe in the possibility that happy times may be just around the corner.

  10. Having seen the highlights on Boro+ twice, I think we were robbed off a penalty. It was intended hand ball – so a yellow card and penalty.
    Secondly the challenge by Bates was never a penalty. I fabulous tackle by Bates after his mistake.
    Also Steele made some great saves and Williams was superb with his tackles. No wonder we keep clean sheets.
    Up the Boro!

  11. Summed up the great Mogga revolution perfectly.
    As you say we have done this without playing particularly well lately. As i have said in earlier posts somebody is in for a hiding from us very soon.
    If we roll over the posh Mogga should be up for manager of the month again. Not sure we need that as we were flying for the first eight or nine games before he got it last time.

  12. fellow bloggers reading my posts may think I have reservations about what Mogga has done, nothing could be further from the truth, may only concern is that we left too many points on the pitch in the first half of the season. The last few matches have redressed some of that.
    The real progress was made in first half of the year. At the end of last season I hoped for a better season this time round but the bar had been raised because of the upturn in form. It has been like a pole vaulter in the high jump!
    The most delicious irony is that Mogga went to Celtic and made a hash of Strachan’s team.
    Strachan was brought in to sort out the fragility of Gates team but whilst the purchases looked great the team was never the sum of its parts, a Morris Marina on permanent recall.
    But it was Mogga, the alleged disciple of flowing football, who built a team with some steel. A combination of luck with injuries and getting the best out of players has turned us round.
    Make no mistake the likes of Bailey, Robson, McManus, Thomson and McDonald are good players. Sending Emnes out on loan did wonders for him, I still think that he had to do it himself to fulfill his talent. Bates and McMahon were both liked by Strachan and Southgate but have had horrid time with injuries as has Rolls Rhys. Having them available has been a huge boost.
    A comment I thought I would never make, I didnt bat an eyelid when Hoyte started despite McMahon being back from suspension!
    There have been some irritations – the line up at Southamton smacked of LMA, pro licence tinkering. The sort of thing that if the team sheet were given to the fans to vote on before handing it to the ref would have yielded a resounding nul points, maybe the extreme ‘in mogga we trust’ brigade would have swallowed it. Throw in some bizarre substitutions (or not) but that is it
    There has to be something to debate but it is much better having the odd quibble from joint second from top than second from bottom.
    What a change from the run of joyless home games that saw us relegated then unable to play against anyone with organisation.
    Onward and upward

  13. Ian Gill –
    I agree. Most of the players bought by Strachan were OK! He was given a job to bring us back that season – so he bought players he knew and trusted. But there was no time for the team to gel together.
    But all credit to Mogga, too. He made the team play and tick, galvanized the team spirit, solved the captain problem we’ve had since Gareth hang up his boots, knows how to talk to the people of Teesside (and a foreign supporter), etc. The list is endless.
    We just need a player or two now. So it’s up to you, Sir Gibson. Up the Boro!

  14. God it’s slow on here these days? Where are all the crusty old doom-mongers? Where are the Slavenites? It’s all gone quiet over there! Hands up all the Bernie Brigade who were predicting a relegation struggle and who every week say the bubble is going to burst and wish for a defeat so they can say “told you so”? Oh ye of little faith.
    This is the best position at Christmas I can remember for a decade. Not highest in table because obviously we were in the Prem. But then we could only look forward to a McClarenesque grind of draws and midtable.
    Now we can look forward to big games with something at stake, real excitement and the prospect of battling for PROMOTION. This is like the old days under Brucie when you could look forward to the match with anticipation and know the team would give it a good go and show a bit of passion.
    I am LOVING this season and the football under Mogga. I don’t care that we’ve got no money and being ignored by Tyne Wear TV, Sky and the national papers. It feels like the club is ALIVE again!
    All aboard the #mogganaut!

  15. A great result for us especially with the goal coming so late, I’d settled for a point until Robbo hit us all with his screamer.
    I am now starting to worry a little with the window coming up, I feel now that there is going to be more interest in our players than a couple of months ago.
    It could be a real upsettling period with offers coming in for Bates, Williams,Bailey, Emnes and perhaps a couple of others, it’s going to be a real test for Mogga and one he’ll do well to cope with. Not just rejecting/accepting offers but keeping the players happy after rejecting offers from Premiership clubs.
    Still a far different landscape from 18 month ago when we wouldn’t have been able to give some of the above named away.
    All thanks to Mogga.

  16. Weird saw three posts, then when I came back to post myself there were none. Now there are three again.
    Off to the banks of the Tay for New Year, very little coverage for my dongle so have a good one if I dont get back on before my return.
    Onwards and Upwards.
    **AV writes: Are you having problems? The blog seems to be flying at the minute.

  17. Work commitments have prevented me from posting lately. But, catching up over Xmas, good post AV.
    If you think of the mess we were in and the players we’d lost, the recovery under Mogga has been miraculous. Furthermore, as somebody pointed out, it just shouldn’t be happening.
    A small squad whose thinness is easily exposed, no physique up front, no pace in MF (or anywhere else), injury-prone players with only Crockville to back them up. No money to shore things up so we rely on loanees and free transfers that nobody’s heard of. In the real world, as opposed to the Mogga fantasy land, that’s surely that’s a recipe for relegation?

  18. A perfect December? Boro just don’t do that. We don’t even have reasonable Decembers. It might be my bah humbug memory playing tricks but, as I recall, Boro almost always implode over the festive season.
    As I peer back through the mists of half a century, I remember many seasons that looked promising but then hit the skids by January. Off the top of my head (no doubt scores of bloggers will hasten to correct me!) the only notable exception was Big Jack’s promotion year.
    In my time, there have been three managers that achieved discontinuous change. Big Jack organised a ramshackle club and professionalised the place. Bruce Rioch overturned years of damage and firmly established us as a club that gives kids a chance. With Gibson’s millions, Robbo turned a selling club into a buying one and catapulted us (for a few seasons) into the public eye.
    Mowbray looks like being the fourth. It will take another two or three seasons before we can summarise the nature of the revolution but I have no doubt we are witnessing one.

  19. Since the end of last season I have been confident of promotion – if not this season then next – and results so far have served to greatly increase my confidence.
    However, me being me, such unbridled positivity is quickly followed by concern. Do we have the wherewithall to survive the Premiership? These players are achieving minor miracles in the Championship but this squad strikes me as highly unlikely to hold its own in the top flight.
    Stoke have shown what can be achieved, once a foothold is established and the Premiership riches flow. By their standards, they have spent big money over the last couple of summers to strengthen their squad but still stayed within their means. But you have to survive the first season to reach that position.
    To survive after promotion, my guess is we’d need at least three players and possibly as many as five. What’s more, nobody picks up Premiership quality players on frees the way Mogga has done with some success at Championship level.
    Swansea had to spend a few million on each of their purchases – and none of them have been unqualified successes. Does Boro have the capability to fund three or four players costing £10-15m in total?
    Steve Gibson, our future lies in your hands.
    **AV writes: I think Swansea have brought in nine players as have Norwich and QPR have signed ten. That is the scale of the reinforcements needed if you do go up. I think QPR have thrown a lot of money at wages but the other two have been reasonably conservative which is important in these frugal times – although looking at the table right now both would say the spending has been a success.

  20. Nikeboro –
    I know that McClaren wasn’t that popular but he did win the League Cup and went all the way to the UEFA Cup (but they were mickey mouse cups until Man Ure entered the cup this season).
    So how about McMaren being up there with the other decent managers of the past?
    Up the Boro!

  21. I suggest swopping Bailey and Arca’s squad numbers and giving Nicky an Arca type wig, and Julio a Number One all over. This will protect us from losing Bailey in the Jan window, the one player we couldn’t replace.
    BORO Power Past POSH! and Spice Up the Promotion Race!
    (AV, the only way I can see posts is via the Preview button.)
    **AV Writes: Hmmmmmmm. That’s a few people now saying they are having a few problems yet generally thing seem to be working. I’m wary of asking for any tweaks with a major Bank Holiday shutdown looming. *crosses fingers*

  22. Aside from Jutkiewicz who are the ‘big lad up front’ contenders?
    I liked the idea of Becchio but I can see why Leeds don’t – so that’s not going to happen.
    I can see why Ishmael Miller’s name keeps cropping up – despite him not succeeding at The Tricky Trees, Mogga would be getting someone he had at West Brom and knows what he can get from him.
    Then there’s Rob Hulse who isn’t even in QPR’s registered Prem squad. There were rumours of him being loaned to Blackpool or Donny before the loan window closed but it didn’t come off.
    Not one for a signing (he’s probably too comfortable on Prem wages for training with the Ressies) but a six month loan would do. That’s if he didn’t burn too many boats with his response last time it was mooted he might come here.
    Any other ideas?

  23. John –
    How about Billy Sharp? Not the biggest striker, I’ll grant you, but a proven marksman at this level. He’d be my favourite if we can’t get Jordan Rhodes (rumoured to be too expensive and on his way to the Prem.)
    **AV writes: The word on the grapevine has Billy Sharp on his way to either Southampton or Leicester. Jordan Rhodes has been priced up at £3.5m and anyway has reportedly agreed to stay this year and get Huddersfield promoted.

  24. An utterly brilliant and unbelievable 12 month transformation. What used to be an endless torrent of frustration and ridiculous team selections, tactics and shipping of last minute goals has been stemmed and turned around under a complete transmoggafication.
    Boxing Day was a tense duel between two evenly matched teams and Robbo was doing his best to astound the faithful with his trademark grit, tenacity and determination but dissapointingly his end ball was often overplayed throughout the match causing much frustration and angst.
    Then when the game was in its dying embers he collected an innocent enough ball out on the right flank, cut inside and let fly with a stunner. There was a spilt second delay when the ball hit the back of the net before we all erupted in joyous disbelief. Three points and Robbo was once more the Riverside darling.
    The transfer window gives us much hope to up the ante for the last half of the season. I doubt we will lose anyone we don’t want to unless a ridiculous offer comes in. The Premiership strugglers are unlikely to appeal to Emnes, Bates or Rhys when they could be celebrating promotion come the summer instead of a relegation dogfight. How much funds are available however is likely to be limited and we certainly don’t want to be paying over the odds for mediocrity but in Mogga we trust.
    Bart looks to me like he will get better the more he plays and he certainly battered his way through the Hull defence on a number of occasions. Perhaps with his physicality and the rest of the Team getting used to his alternative approach we could see some positive results come Saturday. Curtis Main remains untried and untested at this level but may be enough to stop any desperation creeping in to sign for the sake of it, in fact a good loaner might be the answer.
    AV we are still having to hit the “Review” button to view all the posts. The Techies seem to have got it started at least, albeit only firing only on three cylinders. Like you say the gamble is for them to overhaul it just before the Bank Holiday weekend. Think you can guess my thoughts on that!
    **AV writes: The current system is obsolete and right up at max capacity and this blog is the busiest on the entire network so when there is a wobble/surge/conflict anywhere, this is the first site to freeze or have bits fall off. We have a shiny box fresh state of the art new system arriving in May which will be stable and far more user friendly but in the meantime we have to make do and mend. And preferably not mend too often. Please, bear with it.

  25. Jarkko –
    I discounted McClaren. I was identifying those managers who had achieved (in my view) a long-lasting step change for Boro.
    Yes, McClaren won our first major trophy and gained our first experience of Europe. However, considering the healthy starting point he inherited and the comparative wealth of resources, I consider this was scant return. He only achieved what should have been achieved some years before and it was already slipping away from him when he left.
    Time has shown that that success was fleeting and, based on Gibbo’s millions, it soon proved illusory – nowadays it needs billions to buy success, not millions. Instead of being a sustainable game-changer, the Robbo-McClaren era returned us full circle to the poverty of the 80s.

  26. AV – ‘looking at the table right now both would say the spending has been a success.’ Early days, Vic, early days.
    I’ve seen too many promoted teams flatter to deceive at Christmas. Only last season, Blackpool were going great guns but hardly won a game in the second half. Even more extreme, I remember Carlisle topping the table but nevertheless finiished bottom.
    I would bet a lot of money that one of the promoted teams will go down. Notwithstanding the current travails of Wolves, Wigan, Blackburn and Bolton, I’d have a punt that two of the relegated teams will be relegated.
    If so, even having bought 9-10 players, that would not constitute successful purchasing. What does that mean for the kind of purchasing power that Boro will need? I’ve just revised my estimate of £10-15 million sharply upwards.
    **AV writes: I think both Swansea and Norwich have put together teams with one eye on winning promotion from the Championship the following year believing there was a good chance they would go down (Swansea bought Graham and Lita for instance, Nowich Steve Morison). And both have capped wages and built in relegation wage cuts for new signings. A sensible insurance policy.
    The only realistic model is to plan/hope/budget to be a yo-yo side, build the likelihood of relegation into your business plan and accept anything else as a bonus. Ten years ago clubs hoped to “do a Boro” – kick-start a tilt at glory by what was in those days viewed as massive short term spending; now the way forward is the frugal first year and crossed fingers and “doing a Stoke/Wolves”.

  27. Just make sure the momentum continues by beating POSH.
    Any complacency should be removed by them beating Forest away – I hope!

  28. AV said: “‘both Swansea and Norwich have put together teams with one eye on winning promotion from the Championship the following year … The only realistic model is to plan/hope/budget to be a yo-yo side, build the likelihood of relegation into your business plan …”
    Good point AV. The parachute payment is now so substantial and lengthy that the objective, as a minimum, must be to get tapped into that. Even if promotion is followed by relegation, the benefit of those resources means there is much less need for a fire sale.
    The wise clubs have ample opportunity to ‘do a Newcastle/W. Ham’ and hang onto their better players by sustaining Premiership finances and aim for a more sustainable promotion the next time.
    However I see no need to become a yo-yo team, at least not one that goes through promotion/relegation most seasons. Even before the enhanced parachute payment, WBA showed (as did Bolton some time ago) that relegation need not be a disaster and can be an opportunity to bounce back bigger and stronger.
    Wise marshalling of resources can mean that, although relegation is likely every five – ten years, a small club can spend most of its time in the top flight. On that basis, there is the chance of ‘doing a Stoke’ and having a run in Europe or even emulating Pompey (without the disastrous downside) and winning a cup.
    Thinking about it, with recently-relegated clubs having the big advantage of parachute payments, it is going to be increasingly difficult for any club to win promotion without QPR-style investment. Over time, apart from an occasional Norwich/Blackpool-type incursion, I suspect the Premiership will become largely exclusive to 25-28 clubs, made up of about 10-12 near-permanent residents, six to ten who spend most seasons in the top flight and then a periphery of yo-yo teams.
    **AV writes: Isn’t it like that already?

  29. Holgate Ender –
    Good post and roughly how I feel. The club feels like it belongs to the people again. Do I care about the Premier League? Not really!

  30. Simon Fallaha –
    I agree with what you are saying completely about the perils of leaving the Mogganaut for a bigger wage (but players’ agents may possibly have a different view).
    There is also another matter for would-be money-grabbers to consider: they would be leaving a group of lads who seem to have a real desire to battle for each other and for us, for our cause.
    This psychological health and honesty is, as AV has eloquently argued, the heart of Mogga’s success, and I hope that the coaching staff ram the message home to any waverers that several players whom WGS bought or inherited have been transformed by Mogga’s management – not by their individual brilliance – into highly saleable assets; further, the Mogganaut has not levelled off yet because the mood around our place is turning into a real sense that the lads now believe in each other and in the project. All that tends to get lost when you go to Bolton or Blackburn or Wigan!
    So, I hope the club says clearly and emphatically to any bidders, “You can have Bates for £5m, Rhys for £12m, Emnes for £10m, Bailey for £10m, Robson for £5m, etc, provided you give us the cash up front by Jan 7th. If not, go away and annoy someone else.”
    This would show the lads as well as other teams (and, dare I say, the long-suffering supporters?) that we all really believe this Mogganaut has further flying to do! The boys’ heads have been turned enough over the last few years, and their eyes need to be looking forwards with the Boro from January 8th onwards.

  31. “**AV writes (in response to Clive Hurren’s reply to my earlier posting about incoming ‘big lads up front’ possibilities): The word on the grapevine has Billy Sharp on his way to either Southampton or Leicester. Jordan Rhodes has been priced up at £3.5m and anyway has reportedly agreed to stay this year and get Huddersfield promoted.”
    The interviews I saw from Lee Clark yesterday seemed pretty confident in his assertion that Rhodes wasn’t going anywhere ‘in January’ – so it seems like the ‘reportedly’ position is right. He’d have been too rich for our pockets anyway.
    I’d take Billy Sharp, Clive – but that would probably mean losing one we’ve already got from the wage bill and to make the fee – and we’d still need a big lad as well. Given the benefits of continuity, I’d rather hang on to what we’ve got and just add the ‘centre forward’ type. A big bid for M&S might move that argument on, though.
    Boro are right to resist any notion of big wages for Miller – whether that puts him off or not.
    Just to say, also, that I’m up and running again on Boro Banter – starting with a pre-match piece for tomorrow’s game.

  32. I am a little disappointed at some supporters putting themselves above our manager when it comes to selecting teams. Tony Mowbray has managed professional teams in 350 matches to date and has an overall success rate of 44.29% which compares favourably with;
    Strachan 44.12% –
    without the 183 matches with Celtic beating Mickey Mouse teams nearly every match,
    he was a flop at all his other clubs:32.88% at Coventry, Southampton and The Boro!
    Robson –
    Just short of 34% in all 436 matches he managed, the bulk of which was with the Boro where he threw money around on players like Gazza for Mi££ion$.. enough said.
    Steve Mac –
    44.17% with the bulk of his matches coming at The Boro.. 250, where he only got 38.8%. The genius who only got 50% with England, managing to lose 5 times in 18 matches.. now that took some doing!
    Gareth Southgate –
    29.3% despite loadsamoney.
    Lennie Lawrence –
    35.05% with nowt, and managing such international clubs as Charlton,
    Grimsby, Plymouth, Cardiff, Bradford, Luton and The Boro, where he achieved 40.1% on a shoestring… that rings a bell!
    Brucie Rioch –
    41.39%, and doing wonders for Torquay 42% and Bolton 48%!
    So, should Mogga clear his team sheet with these wannabe managers before he gives it to the refs?
    Tony Mowbray’s record stands up to scrutiny, and he is doing an outstanding job here, so don’t you think that we should leave selection and tactics to him rather than the bar room lawyers?
    I don’t think the sun shines out of Mogga’s bum, but he is the man with a plan, and, as I said in my previous post, I am no sycophant!
    Best wishes for 2012.

  33. Looking at the bigger picture if someone had told me Jan 1st 2011 that come Jan 1st 2012 Boro would be second in the table by two points I would have assumed they meant League 1 and I probably would have settled for that.
    If they had meant the Championship then I would have had them committed to the nearest Sanatorium for their own welfare. The fact that the reality is that we are indeed 2nd is remarkable and a testimony to Mogga and Venus.
    All that said you can’t face the future looking backwards and now that we are were we are and having come from a very dark place indeed we need to build, consolidate, improve and constantly keep striving for better and better.
    With that in mind yesterday’s showing against the Posh was a “Typical Boro” performance. We completely dominated the first half to the extent that I have to admit I was bored rigid come half time. With our absolute and total domination we should have gone in five up at 45 minutes. Instead we huffed and puffed and passed ourselves to death in the last 20 yards with absolutely no effect. In fact Lewis could have gone to the sales and popped back for the second half.
    Obviously Mogga delivered a rocket at half time and the result was Mac’s goal which should have opened the floodgates, it didn’t. Instead Fergie junior switched tactics, introduced a sub and we switched to a flat back four, sat too far back and invited pressure which up to that point was non-existent.
    Ogbeche coming off finished any intimidating threat we had up front and Posh grew in confidence. the inevitable happened when after a couple of great shot stops from Steele a corner came in, both Bennett and Hoyte were stood together holding hands and Steele glued to his line coming out too late and with a lack of confidence to try and clear. Shambolic set piece defending cost us yet another two home points.

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