Monthly Archives: August 2012

Deadline Day: ‘Live’ But Truncated

SORRY but this Deadline Day ‘Live’ blog is going to be a bit rubbish. And not just because I think it will be all quiet on the Boro front. If David Craig turns up in the car-park at Hurworth he will need to get there early for any footage. The only players he will sight at the ground today are those getting on the coach ready for the red eye trip to Millwall.
No it is also going to be a bit rubbish because I’ll be taken out of the equation for a big chunk of it. I’m gutted. The grand televised shouty Sky Sports Speculatathon is one of the highlights of my year, like an Hyberbole Eurovision meets It’s A Knockout . But the outside world and family commitments mean I am going to be out of the game all evening. And there’s a three line whip on this one. Who plans these things?

Continue reading Deadline Day: ‘Live’ But Truncated

Bennett Exit: This Year’s Model

ON NO, JOE! After the exit of Joe Bennett – £3m down, up to £4.25m if he gets a game plus a sell-on fee – there have been some squeals about lack of ambition and the folly of selling young talent but the harsh reality is that this is Boro’s new sustainable business model kicking-in. It is a move that brings the structure of Boro into sharp focus.

Continue reading Bennett Exit: This Year’s Model

Stuttering Start Spoils Sunshine Script

WELL that didn’t go to script did it? Expectations were high among the squad after a productive pre-season of building, bonding and box-ticking and even the more cynical fans let their guards drop to become swollen with August optimism again. A nice short-haul holiday trip to the scene of Boro’s best display last term encouraged a mass migration South encouraged 3,800 fans to travel. Mido was out injured so that inevitable goal was ruled out… what could possibly go wrong?
Boro were sluggish and laboured in all departments and were out-worked by a side that most pundits have pencilled in for a relegation battle. They failed to grab control of midfield, failed to keep or use the ball well, failed at the back to get a grip of an average looking Championship front-line and failed at the other end to hurt Barnsley. Boro had five or six low shots fly wide in the first half but not a single one on target then in a frantic finale had a flurry of efforts blocked without ever fashioning a clear cut chance.
Barnsley in contrast repeatedly carve Boro open – the defence were clunky and creaky and flat-footed – and but for Jason Steele could have been left red-faced. Boro’s keeper made three superb saves from Craig Davies and other blocks from Mellis and Perkins and at times was left woefully exposed.
So it was a stuttering and disappointing display – in front of a massive crowd, typical! – but despite the deflated return journey it wasn’t a disaster. There’s a long way to go and the team is barely bedded in, there were four Championship debutants today, and the lack of goal threat is not overly a worry. Yet.
A lively team with width and pace and zest and scored a shedful in pre-season . That team didn’t turn out today so the return of that fatal flaw of a flaccid frontline today may be more to do with the experimental and unconvincing shape and the personnel on the day and the internal exile of Scott McDonald. Those issues can all be tweaked and resolved while the on-going talks with Fuller could yet add a bit more physicality up front.
It is early days yet and despite some nervous kneejerk squeals of disillusionment and a few cataclysmic predictions of doom, there is no problem. To dip into the big bag of football cliches it is a marathon not a sprint. But a slip up on the openibg day dents the pre-season optimism and stokes up the pressure for the coming home games.

Boro In Credit After Curtain-Raiser

TONY Mowbray’s new look Boro boosted their credit rating with a comfortable curtain-raising 2-1 win at Bury in the Capital One Cup.
The boss started with the bulk of his new signings: Woody making his second bow, George Friend at left-back, parmo-powered flanker Mustapha Carayol on the left, midfield schemer Grant Leadbitter taking centre stage in a new look engine room and Argentinian forward Emmanel Ledesma up front. Justin Hoyte was at right back with only Stuart Parnaby of the new boys not on show. He’s injured. Insert your own cynical comment here.
All the new boys showed positives in flashes. Friend had a rocky start but grew into the game in the second half; Woody was classy when needed but was rarely stretched; Carayol was the pick in the first half with bursts of penetrating pace down both flanks and the pass of the game (a slotted defence splitter for Hoyte) before going off as a precaution; Ledesma was frustrating at times as he held onto the ball too long or failed to pick out better placed team-mates… but he scored on his debut and had a couple of other good efforts; and Leadbitter was perhaps the pick of the bunch over the full 90 with plenty of movement on and off the ball, drive and energy in midfield and good ball retention and link up play.
The kids looked good too. Luke Williams and Adam Reach both injected pace and attacking intent when they came on. Plenty of boxes were ticked.
Of course it wasn’t a complete performance. It was stuttering at times and having seemingly sealedi it with a second goal they suffered a familiar wobble, leaked a goal from a sloppily defended corner and then had a shapeless spell. But they held on, settled down and finished with a long spell of dominant possession that probably deserved a more emphatic scoreline.
But hey, job done. A potentially tricky cup obstacle has been passed, Boro are in the draw for the next round and in good shape ready when the real business begins at Barnsley next week.

Shrinking Gates Or Second Shelf Norm? Historic Numbers Crunched

FORGET tales of impending Turnstile Armageddon. Boro gates are not in terminal free-fall. They are just bouncing along at their historic second tier norm.
Yes, I know agonising over attendance has become as much a part of the matchday routine as moaning about goal music and #haters hurling abuse at Hoyte. And that’s understandable. The stinging sight of empty acres reminds us of our painful rapid fall from grace and the steep downward graph is seen as a stark indication of the club’s ambitions and trajectory. It is a visible and unavoidable symbol of decline. It hurts.
But it is nothing new. Seriously. Current crowd levels are bad news for income streams, for supporters’ and players’ morale and for the mental health of those overly sensitive to seat-counting jibes from cruel neighbours. But it is not some unprecedented statistical quirk.
In fact, the current crowd levels are perfectly normal for Boro in this division. I know. I’ve crunched the numbers from every season since the war. We are bang on the curve.

Continue reading Shrinking Gates Or Second Shelf Norm? Historic Numbers Crunched