FREE! Your cut-out-and-keep Evening Gazette Boro supporters’ terrace telescope – the essential matchday accessory for the one eyed fan!
This amazing new optical aid will boost your football fun by showing you in great detail exactly what you want to see while blocking out troublesome objective reality and any sense of wider perspective. Perfect for Championship football fans.
Yes, this handy pocket-sized tunnel visioned prism of prejudice gives you instant close-up confirmation of all your deeply held beliefs about your football favourites saving time and energy spent on weighing up the complexities of context and the realtive strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.
A double action modern marvel of magnification lets you take the telescope gingerly in your big foam fingers and concentrate your gaze through the revolutionary ra-ra lens on all your heroes silky skills and strengths.
Marvel how their physical prowess, first touch and searing pace is boosted simply by the scientifically arranged subjective sight-line. See the quality of the passing, the international class and the sharpness of the picture of a bright future.
Or, for the more cynical and defeatist section of the demographic, simply flip it around and peer through the other end for a Chickenrun perspective, and all their flaws and inherent fragility will loom large in sharp focus.
Watch the poor first touch, wayward distribution and shots that fly high and wide – and look, with a little tweak of the view-finder you can see exactly where the cracks have been papered over and all the hidden long term problems.
Developed by top optical boffins at the South Bank School of Soccerlogical studies, your terrace telescope will save time and energy as you search for evidence that confirms your instinctive view.
Of course, most fans already have a fairly one-eyed view of their team and its prospects. It is traditional. It is innate. It is part of our cultural DNA.
But down in the shadows of Championship – well away from the bright lights and wall-to-wall interactive panoramic small screen coverage of the big time – it becomes more and more the default setting.
When you don’t see the whole picture the brain instinctively fills in the gaps, colours in the faint outline from an individually tuned emotional palette.
And in the Championship, and below, unless you frequently go home and away the outline is very sketchy, limited to 42 second highlight packages and brief flashes of goals ripped from the context of build up. There is next to no analysis. You are left to your own devices.
In that situation supporters will see what they want to see. And that has never been more apparent than this current campaign as Boro have defied expectations and muscled into the play-off permutations.
Plenty of Boro fans are viewing their own team through the wrong end of the telescope. They are seeing their own creaking teams’ fissures as gaping chasms and fatal flaws while looking at broadly equal opposition through a lens that shows them as footballing machines of far greater talent and potential.
Boro are fourth and still well placed. How can that be? Viewed through the lugubrious lens of the telescope we can see they are rubbish! We have just been tonked at home by an efficient but limited Leeds.
This is a Boro that laboured to get uninspiring draws at home to relegation battling Peterborough, Millwall and Coventry and only just clawed to uncomfortable wins over troubled Nottingham Forest and mighty Barnsley.
This is a side that took not one single point in a jittery January because they were missing one influential player.
This is a side that have proved fragile at home. The armchair army of Teessiders who have rarely seen the team this term will have been horrified at how easily Boro were beaten by the arch-pragmatist Neil Warnock’s well drilled side.
So surely this Boro side is short and shot? Look! Look, through the jaundiced telescope, see how weak, unbalanced and shot-shy they are. See them struggle to defend a dead-ball, complete simple passes or create chances and shots. See how they couldn’t tackle a parmo, are easily swamped in midfield and can’t hit the target. See how they are muscled out in both boxes and heads go down.
But the tunnel visioned telescopic view can easily give a very narrow and misleading view, especially when it is measured against a dated Premiership perspective.
There is no point calibrating your expectations of this Boro team against the expensively assembled team of superstars that held their own in the top flight, won a trophy and swept through Europe with a swagger just a few years ago. Those misty eyed halcyon days, those lofty standards are long gone.
This Boro is a Championship side with all that implies.
They are flawed, unbalanced, lacking much in the way of real quality and are physically and mentally weak in some key areas. They lack concentration and composure, they make some poor decisions and are inconsistent. Performance levels from player to player swing from one week to the next. From one half to the next. Within one half. They are flawed and frustrating with an encouraging half-an-hour spell of soaring brilliance followed promptly by a shambles of ineptitude.
But look closely, and not through the telescope, and all the teams are like that. West Ham, Birmingham, Reading, Southampton, Cardiff, Brighton… they are no great shakes. It’s the Championship, not the Champions League. They are all flawed. That is what you get at this level: clunky, unbalanced and inconsistent sides.
Boro are one of those inconsistent sides. The players are not proven Premiership quality. The ones that were are long gone. The ones that other sides wanted that is. The others that can boast some Premiership experience were either fringe figures or rookie bench-warmers in the top flight and have been largely injured or unimpressive in the years since then. One or two may show flashes that hint at the possibility they could step up but they are raw and well short of the polish that comes with brushing up against the big boys.
Most are, well, just average. They are perfectly adequate Championship players in an above average team playing in a below average division. Now there’s a slogan to storm the world with.
None of them are world-beaters but on the whole most are as good as, if not better than most of the players at all but the top two or three sides. On their day. That may well be a damning indictment of the Championship but if remains true.
If we go up, most will fall short and need to be replaced and I’m sure Mogga knows that. If we don’t go up, well, it is easy to see why. It is a team with inherent weaknesses that lacks quality and consistency and that needs a lot of remedial work if not a complete rebuiild.
But for now, that’s what we have got and what the manager must work with. There’s no point berating them for not being better. People screaming at the boss for picking players far from perfect must remember this is not the squad he would have chosen given the option. It is largely a reshuffled inherited Gordon Strachan side with a few minor tweaks and patches as and when the budget has allowed.
And for all that, and whatever the current angst or anger after the Leeds debacle, they are not a bad Championship side. No, really. They aren’t. There are a fair few of those around and Boro are not one. Neither are they a great Championship side. You only get one of those every other year or so. But they are certainly an above average one.
For a realistic view of this Boro side your perspective needs to be calibrated against the other teams in this league. Now. And in real terms, not a telescopic imagined excellence. Anything else builds in a distortion that makes any objective assessment impossible.
Frustrated fans regularly point out in exasperation that player X is ‘bloody rubbish.’ Take Justin Hoyte for instance, a popular boo boy target for the #haters, although you could just as easily pick any alphabetical Aunt Sally.
And yes, Hoyte is clearly ‘rubbish’ – when compared to Dani Alves or Phillip Lahm. Or even Micah Richards, Glen Johnson or Kyle Walker or most top flight regulars to be fair.
But he’s not ‘rubbish’ when compared to the vast majority of Championship right backs. You know, the one who we see regularly fall over their own feet, wheeze back into position after a rare run forward, fail to deal with crosses, misplace simple passes and play suicidal balls back to their own keeper or across the box. Even some of the better ones are restricted to hefty hoofing of diagonals that fly into touch.
Put the telescope away. Judge poor Hoyte against those donkeys, not against the Platonic ideal of the Premier League right back. Admittedly, he is no matchwinner – but he has a decent first touch – usually – and a turn of pace when going forward to add a bit of width. He can exchange passes and link up well. He’s one of the better ones at this level.
Some fatalists take a gloomy tunnel visioned view of our rivals (often based on the briefest of highlights and a rudimentary reading of the table) and conclude they must obviously be far better than the Boro side they have witnessed close up and have decided is poor.
Before every game we are warned gravely by the nervous scouts surveying the opposition through their terrace telescopes: ‘this will be a tough game’ and ‘Boro are rubbish – we’ll struggle against them’ Get away. Barnsley? Millwall? Bristol?
Look down the team sheet. Who from these teams you are so scared of would get into the Boro team? Or squad even? Very few teams, on balance, are better than Boro. Some may have a few players who are more experienced, or more physical. But those players are at Championship clubs for a reason.
Most Championship sides are deeply flawed, massively unbalanced and inconsistent to the point of being bipolar. Just look at the results every week.
To expect Boro to be ruthlessly efficient is not realistic. To expect them to demolish teams at the Riverside is foolish. It may be Barnsley or Doncaster’s one good week in three.
And if you want you can glance through the telescope and focus on home results and say Boro can’t possibly make the play-offs because we have a “woeful home record.”
But swing it around and look at some of the others. Sam Allardyce is currently grumpy over the Hammers home form which has the Upton Park crowd squealing anxiously. West Ham have drawn four in a row, the latest points squandered after leaking a late leveller to rock bottom Doncaster. Sound familiar?
This is a team Boro are supposed to be a million miles short of in every department. Yet they have taken just two points more at home. Birmingham’s record is almost identical to Boro’s and they were last week’s threat de jour.
All the top sides bar Southampton are flawed and inconsistent at home. Most are equally or more so away – especially the Saints who have really struggled on the road. There’s that inconsistency again.
It is easy to take a limited look at the opposition and gush about their qualities – but for much of the season rival managers and fans have done the same about Boro. At times I have barely recognised the Boro side the side other managers or press men have gushing about. I’ve lost count of the number of well-informed and hard-bitten hacks who have said Boro are “the best side we’ve played all season.” And they weren’t just being polite.
It’s the Championship. It’s a poor division populated with largely limited and unpredictable sides that lack quality and consistency. Boro, on their day and with a strong team out, are better than most but not convincingly so. “It is what it is”.
So don’t rule out the play-off on the strength of a telescopic view of the Leeds game.
A good run now – that is good in the sense of consistently above average rather than qualifying for Europe with a cavalier flair – will see us safely stay in the top six.
***By popular demand (well, a few vaguely interested queries anyway, about three) this is a MC 20/20 ft P-Spek Tiv Remix of this week’s Big Picture Column.