An Existential Howl of Anguish

BOOOOOOO! The Pavlovian post-match despair was all too obvious at the Riverside.
Yet another late lapse led to a ‘red zone’ sucker punch – the sixth goal Boro have conceded in the last five minutes so far this campaign – and victory was snatched away. Boooo.
A familiar fatal lack on solidity at the back, some chaotic scrambling and a failure to find Row Z and Derby wriggled off the hook with a cruel late leveller that – again, for a second game running – looked to have more than a hint of offside about it. Boooo.
But on the whistle the booing wasn’t aimed the officials. And I’m not sure it was even entirely aimed at the team. It was an existential howl at the Championship experience.

The game “wasn’t one for the purists.” It wasn’t a vintage show. But it certainly wasn’t the worst display of the season. It wasn’t as demoralising as the battering at Blackpool and it wasn’t as lethargic as Barnsley. But it was in many way more frustrating, if only because the full of enormity of a drab division really hit home.
Boro beavered away, broadly tried to play passing football rather than hoof it and they did fashion two deserved goals for Lukas Jutkiewicz – and they could have plundered a third to seal it with a powerful header from man mountain Andre Bikey – and there is no question they tried to win the game.
There were spells of decent passing football, crisp passing moves picking and probing although most of the match day traffic went down cul-de-sacs and ended awkwardly in convoluted reversing and three point turns before retracing the route back to the beginning to start again. No through road.
But that struggle wih detour and diversion is part of the cultural learning process that comes with trying to be a passing side. You don’t suddenly magic the finished product out of the air, especially with a jiggled team far from first choice in shape and personnel. You can’t just tell a team to go out there and play like Barcelona. Or even Swansea. It has be learned, instilled, drummed in and drilled until it becomes second nature and adopting a process which is as much psychological as practical will be littered with mistakes and nervous reverting to type under pressure.
A Teesside tiki-taka has to be slowly established out on the pitch over a period of months. Or years. And the opposition try to stop you. The Philistines. It won’t be easy. It won’t always be pretty. And it certainly won’t always successfully deliver victory with a flourish. Especially not with a team shorn of some key players.
Boro are battling through a demanding flurry of games without their first choice centre-back pairing, last season’s top scorer and the man brought in to add a lightning burst of pace and creativity down the flank sidelined. Among others.
So for a second successive slow motion home game Boro were stodgy in a mono-paced midfield, lacking width and zip and creativity and for all the patient probing there was a lack of the vital flash of speed and creativity to carve open a massed defence.
But we knew that. Adam Reach and Mustapha Carayol – the component parts expected to provide that – are out injured. You can change the shape and personnel and organise tactically and tell players to get wide or get forward as much as you want but you can’t make them faster. You can tactically create width but you can’t create pace.
The squad is big enough to cope if it mixes-and-matches and twists itself out of a natural shape bit you can’t expect them to assert themselves, to play enterprising attacking football and rip into teams in the cavalier fashion the gaffer wants and the crowd wants. So, until the walking wounded are back we are stuck with a team that falls between two stools and is trying its best to make headway in a tough division.
Most people understand the model that Mogga is working towards and accept it will take time – but I’m not sure it was even the frustration and impatience at the painfully slow progress towards a new look Borocelona that was being booed.
No, I think it was a general howl of existential angst at the chilling realisation that Boro have slowly turned into a prisoner of the Championship before our very eyes, a scream of fear at the prospect of a long incarceration in this hell of institutional mediocrity.
All the delusions that Boro are a Premier League side in exile are long gone. The players are gone, the cash has gone, the trappings have gone, the crowds have gone, the profile has gone, the ambitious horizons have closed in quickly like winter nights and the dreams have been downsized. Boro are now very much a middling second shelf side treading-water, a faded former top flight side struggling in the shadows. There are plenty of those.
Boro’s dour draw with Derby was an average game between two average teams in an unremittingly average division. It was in turn frustrating, disappointing, uninspiring, infuriating and for long spells a frightened brain-numbing embrace of mutual mediocrity – but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
In fact, it was pretty much par for the course; that kind of flawed and flaccid football by hard working evenly matched teams cancelling each other out is the divisional default. The lack of zest is not something specific to Boro, although it may feel like it to us. It is endemic across most of the teams in this attritional division most of the time.
This Legion of the Damned is packed with upstart clubs with top flight ambitions they are not quipped to deliver. It is populated by teams who are not quite good enough, who are inconsistent, who have squads that lack depth and balance and experience and creative magic, who are fragile at the back and lack a ruthless edge upfront.
Teams with institutional weaknesses, that can play in flashes but lack the mental strength to impose themselves for 90 minutes week in, week out and that make mistakes in dangerous areas at crucial points, who can’t put two good games together. One point at home from two – on paper – easy home games? Yes, that will be table-topping Brighton. From top to bottom the division is riddled with inconsistency and it is the few teams who can overcome that obstacle long enough to break the shackles that will go up.
That these flawed teams have to play each other means every fixture is a contradictory cocktail of shifting intangibles – form, confidence, injuries, expectations – that make games almost impossible to predict other than to say that for long spells it will be a grind.
That picture of purgatory is the broad context of huff-and-puff Boro’s on-going labours. As the manager’s mantra insists: It is what it is. But that is a very hard sell.
That’s why the crowd is ebbing away, worn down by the spirit-sapping slog. A lowest ever league gate of 13,377 stoic bloody-minded masochists represents a hardcore struggling to balance the instinct of loyalty with quality control. And with the fear that it is the ones who have drifted away that are the rational ones, the happy ones, the ones unburdened by the fear of a future of drab unrewarded toil.
Welcome to the exciting world of the Championship. A third of the games this season are going to be like that. Embrace the zen of mediocrity. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.
Some other things we noticed:
GEORGE Friend’s concerted push to shape himself as the new Franck Queudrue is going well. After developing a trend for cavalier surges forward and quick dashes back to recover when the balls goes down the gap that creates, our suave left-back poster-boy upped the ante by getting his head clattered and returning to action stylishly sporting a natty head bandage with Gallic elan. Sacre Bleu!
IN A REVIVAL of Steve McClaren’s ‘red zone’ rash, late leakers Boro have now let in six goals in the last five minutes so far this term: against Derby, Leicester, Blackburn, Blackpool, Millwall and Burnley. Not all of those have cost points (although the last two clearly have) but it is a very dangerous habit to slip into.
SCOTT McDonald was in his matchday tracksuit and “in the bosom” of the squad for the first time this season but had to watch from the stands… is there no end to his punishment? Expectations – and some reports – that he would play or at least be on the bench were well wide of the mark. He is ring rusty and still being rehabilitated and it will be a while before he works his way back.
DERBY were so close to being a retro-delight. Had Jamie Ward – their No10 – played, the Rams would have lined up numbered 1-11 and in their right positions too. I really can’t remember the last time that happened. Any ideas?


40 thoughts on “An Existential Howl of Anguish

  1. I said on arrival last night it felt bad. It was difficult to see anything good coming from it last night.
    I really think there are a few things need to be addressed.
    1 – Get players back on the pitch – the loss of key players IS a factor. Hopefully at least a few will be back soon.
    2 – Tactics – the available personnel could have been set up differently and more effectively. Derby should have won last night. We were outplayed for long stretches of the game. For the first time I am wondering what Mogga’s plans going into a game are. Not a position I thought I would be in.
    3 – Crowds. On Saturday I paid £35 to take me and my four year old in the ‘familiy enclosure’ – don’t get me started. Last night £22 for North West Corner just for me. It is too much.
    That crowd last night was awful and should be a final wake up call to all concerned. Two games a week at full price is too much. Kids tickets – £14 for ANYONE under 18 not in Family Enclosure – come on Boro – give your heads a shake! Let the young uns (under 10,under 16) in for less. Get the families going again.
    The fans apathy seems to have taken hold in the Chief Exec’s office as well.

  2. A brilliant and brave piece, AV, that pre-empts, and will put into the necessary context all of the Why, oh, Why responses that last night’s result will predictably produce.
    It is the polar opposite in understanding and tone of the current Boro Banter piece, in which it is assumed that if only Mr Mowbray had the footballing knowledge, experience, wisdom, insight, and tactical nous of John Powls, then we could all experience the joys of the sunlit uplands.
    The injury to Caroyal has been a critical loss. He could have given us the flair, pace and creativity that the squad currently lacks. Without him and Emnes where are these qualities going to come from? As you say, you cannot coach pace. Or creativity for that matter.
    The squad we have currently fit and available is not of a quality that will do anything more than struggle in the lower reaches of the Championship. Under Mowbray I think that we can be well organised and difficult to beat. Until we get back something like a fully fit squad that is probably the best that we can hope for.
    Fans who assume that our main problem lies in the manager not having their insights are both flattering and deluding themselves.

  3. This lad will be really good, last season injuries and game time hid his potential. Now have we got another Allen Peacock on our books?
    You may think that after such a short time this is a massive assumption but I will stand by this and time will tell if I am to be shot down in flames or my predication was correct. Service to the lad will be key. Wasn’t Ian Gibson five feet nothing? Don’t we have another little grafter we could pair him up with?

  4. It’s times like this when you are struggling that you need a bit of luck – unfortunately for us it’s all bad.
    Although the last two performances were not brilliant we could easily have collected four points. We need to have the injured players back again and at the point of repeating myself, we need to play a settled side and a settled system and I’m not sure Mogga will do that.
    Onwards and backwards.

  5. Adam Reach? Injured? Is this the same Adam Reach that barely got a look in when we were all crying out for him to play? Now he is the missing ingredient! Same with Carayol, not included for the first few games.
    The problem is Mowbray and his ultra cautious, negative, soul sapping selections. Four central midfielders! Garbage! Where was Cameron Park? Halliday? Where was Ledesma who Mowbray called our new Juninho??!!
    Sorry Mowbray, your time is up. No excuse for that sort of team selection. If you think I’m going to spend money to watch tripe like McCechran, Leadboots and Thomson, then you are deluded.
    **AV writes: Park and Halliday have little knocks. Ledesma went on from the bench. There is very little width to call on in the squad beyond that. I don’t think Mowbray picked four similar central midfielders because of some ideological conviction.

  6. Same old same old, thats why the Boro faithful are staying away – can you blame them….. Get a decent run going and the crowds will return. Its not rocket science Mogga

  7. I just filled a can up with diesel for my dotty old father in law who although isnt a boro fan decided to try running on empty.
    £7.53! for a standard plastic emergency “can”
    Now I am not trying to bring politics into the discussion, but those of us who would have to travel to a home game, you can add your £22 to the £5 fuel costs and while I am there a pie and a hot chocolate and I have spent rather a lot of cash.
    Entertainment would be great, but I dont expect it, I would prefer it and love to see the lads perform and win consistently, but if they do return to the PL then the prices will go up and then I would be looking at no pie or hot drink probably to balance the books.
    Its just too damn expensive however you cut it, and I dont care about comparisons with other sports or pastimes either, if they stack up against it, then they are also over priced. I dont recall the proportion of my disposable income being quite so high in years gone by?
    Maybe its a case of rose tinted nostalgia that makes me think it was more affordable back in whatever past you prefer to remember.
    But when peoples everyday lifestyles are on the declinne and other costs are rapidly rising theres no other answer other than to tighten your belt.
    Thereya go, no politics, I didnt even mention overthrowing our fascist overlords on November 5th “V”
    I typed that last bit out didnt I ?
    **AV writes: It is simplistic but I find the beer index a good guide. In 1990 it was £2.80 to get in and a pint of Sam Smiths in the Linny was £1.30. Two pints. When Lennie was boss the Holgate price went up to £6 and a pint was about £1.80. Three pints. Now a walk up ticket (with Boro Pride) is £23. Without it is £27. That’s a lot more beer than I can comfortably drink these days.

  8. In light of the Park and Haliday knocks here is the Treatment Room Team playing
    Bates, Woodgate, Williams, Haliday
    Zemmama, Arca, Reach
    Emnes, Miller, Carayol
    subs: Main, Park,
    Just need a goalie, maybe Main could deputise like Macca did. Midfield looks a bit lightweight.
    It is easy to see some of Mogga’s problems but who knows who and where he would have played them.
    I have had to use a little bit of artistic licence plus keep Bates as part of the plans.
    It isnt bad but not as good as the one early Jan 2011 when it was a properly balanced team and had a goalie.
    Len –
    I take it John is off your Christmas list?

  9. Excellant article AV, which tells it all about the second division. I remember it well,along with the low crowds that people are bemoaning now, and the poor poor football that was served up at times.I think we are just going to have to get used to it.
    The reality is that the crowds we have are not going to generate anything like the income that will be needed to give us a chance to escape this league. ( not even considering the teams with the parachute payments ).
    Posters have come up with lots of really good ideas to improve the atmosphere and attendances but you have poured cold water on some as not acceptable to MFC. Well next year the season ticker holders will not be a problem to consider, as they will not be many of them.
    The walk up price to me, for a decent seat is far far too expensive. Possibly AV you could do an article on other teams pricing structure.
    But back to last nights game. Both Emnes and Carayol both played at Blackpool and Blackburn. The defence for me is the biggest let down, remember TM signed, Friend, Bikey, Hoyte and Woodgate. This is the biggest problem. Jack Charlton used to say, if you do not concede goals, you do not get beat.

  10. I’m not going to comment on the football, can’t bare to repeat myself after the Leicester comments.
    What I will say though is last night was a horrid experiance. That ground with less than 14,000 is a god awful place to be. I don’t even think most that were there really wanted to be. We don’t need 25 thousand fans in to make an atmosphere. Look at Millwall and the New Den. Fans need something to support, something to see and rally round.
    But as a season ticket holder who pays approx. £16 a match I urge the club to sell walk up tickets at the same cost, hell I don’t care do them for a tenner. Just get some people back in the ground, create a buzz otherwise we are dead. Stone cold dead.

  11. I shall not re-tread all the familiar arguments about the team, but the novelty for me was inviting my cousin who is over from Australia to visit her sick mum to come to the match with me.
    The last time she saw Boro was when Cloughie was playing. So looking at the game with fresh eyes, she quickly appraised how slow we are, the sideways,crab like style of our football and the innocent delight of seeing us in the lead and then thwarted at the end.
    It was a ‘fun night’ she remarked after the game, which was well, nice, and different to the sourness that prevails my mood after watching too many matches like that. We are ground down by the sheer tedium of cautious, careful football- it is too predictable.
    What worried me most about last night that for most of the time, we had two banks of four and still an average team like Derby opened us up at will.
    I understand the creativity issue that is obvious but our defensive qualities from midfield to the goalkeeper requires serious consideration. We are not solid enough as we were last season and the late goals prove that.Roll on the two week break- free us all from this angst.

  12. AV – I was prepared to write a piece about the dwindling crowds and the dreary, turgid football, but once again, you have just about summed up all my points and concerns.
    A prisoner of the Championship perfectly sums up the situation exactly. The people will not come back. I actually believe that if we offered free tickets, we would be the laughing stock as a club who still couldn’t fill the stadium. It really is that bad.
    I do understand and sympathise with Mogga over his damn luck with injuries, after carefully bringing in the players he pursued. But really, the excuses about offside goals don’t wash. I listened on the way home from the match, disillusioned but waiing for some inspiration from the manager to his post match interview, but Mogga offered nothing. Quite sad really. I still believe in my club, always will, but the thought of reaching the Premiership is a distant dream.
    We may have a good attempt in the New Year if we get and keep all the creative players fit, raising hopes for NEXT season, but we will be playing catch up. I do agree that this league is very much of a muchness, but a few clubs will pull away in my opinion, those who have the cash to do so. And there’s quite a few of those isn’t there, when you consider those clubs with investment and parachute payments coming in.
    How do we turn this around AV? That is the ultimate debate. Gibson can’t simply wait for a miracle .. can he? How do we recreate that spirit of ’86 without going bust? Spirit and belief from the fans that we can achieve a dream agian together, that’s what this town needs right now. And us long suffering fans can’t do that without a spark. You can’t start a fire without a spark someone once sang. How very true.
    **AV writes: I think we have already turned it around. But very, very slowly. I think we hit rock bottom in the last few weeks under Strachan and had the change not been made we would have been relegated and disintegrated as a club: we would have imploded financially and the fanbase would have shattered in warring factions with a whole layer walking away forever. We have avoided that.
    I think positive things have happened under Mowbray to half that slide, many of them off the field and not immediately obvious but nevertheless crucial to the short term stability of the club. And we have started from scratch on the pitch. It will take time.
    I think the danger is that many fans are not prepared to give it. Some believe the message from the club – “we are financially stable” – is a signal that we can now start throwing money around again. It isn’t. It just means we are not going belly-up. In fact we are at a lot lower base now than we were two years ago and people have to wake up to the reality of what that means. It means a slow rebuilding with no short cuts.

  13. Wow, AV. ‘This hell of institutional mediocrity’ – pass the razor blade somebody. Let’s hope your careers advisor pointed out your unsuitability for a life in marketing.
    ‘Boro are now very much a middling second shelf side treading-water, a faded former top flight side struggling in the shadows … That’s why the crowd is ebbing away, worn down by the spirit-sapping slog … a future of drab unrewarded toil’- You were enjoying youself there, weren’t you? Boro PR are not going to thank you for that.
    Then you relly warmed to your theme: ‘ an unremittingly average division … flawed and flaccid football is the divisional default … This Legion of the Damned … for long spells it will be a grind … picture of purgatory … Welcome to the exciting world of the Championship … Embrace the zen of mediocrity.’ Keep looking over your shoulder AV. Look out for hit men from the Samaritans, let alone from the League marketing agency.
    You’ve made me feel inadequate. I’m just an old-fashioned misery-guts who cares so much about the Boro that my only coping strategy is a shell of defensive pessimism. Refusing to go gentle, on a regular basis I rage, rage against the dying of the light. But compared to your polemic, I’m nobbut a beginner.
    **AV writes: Well I do paint from an emotional palette…
    The point though that unless we collectively accept the reality of where we are, we can never progress. Too many people are still psychological wired for the Premier League: they judge games and players and signings by PL standards so think everything is woeful; they think we have PL money and the current situation is some sinister unexplained ploy by a chairman who is holding out on them; they believe we should be there ex officio and by extension they believe that if we are not promoted this season then we have fallen short and the manager will be a failure.
    We need to end those illusions because they are damaging the club. So long as every event at the club on and off the pitch is measured against what we would have done or expected in the Premier League we are destined to disappointment and dissent as frustrartion at falling short of an unattainable artificially inflated notional abstract status feeds into the general feeling of failure and discontent.

  14. Maybe we do need a little perspective when considering Boro’s performances and position in the league.
    Yes, the first half of the Derby game appeared to feature two pub teams trying to put a few passes together but, inevitably, finding the third pass (sometimes the second) going to the other side or straight into touch. On the other hand we are mid-table so far, with some decent results and some shockers, and that suggests that, if we are a pub team, so are many of our competitors in this league.
    Yes we have injuries but so do other clubs and it would be paranoid in the extreme to suggest that God has got it in for the club. That is why we don’t just have 11 players, and a few extra for the bench, in our squad.
    Yes the crowd was a disappointing 13,337. Probably the sort of crowd it wouldn’t be a surprise to see written alongside many of the other fixtures in the division. Derby often have decent crowds and if a “big club” looks like securing promotion its stadium will rapidly fill up. But you can’t berate people for not wanting to watch something they don’t enjoy.
    I have heard it said that the “customer is always right” and the paying supporter is, of course, the club’s customer. YorkieBoro, above, suggests the club should looks at its pricing policy and there is merit in that. However if a £30 ticket became a £15 one, I think it is almost certain we would not see anything like a doubling of the crowd – a small increase maybe – but if the cost were to be reduced it would almost inevitably mean a decrease in gate receipts, and that is a large proportion of the club’s income in these impoverished days.
    Yes, we conceded again near the end and lost points as a result. But as we heard recently “Derby don’t play for the last 20 minutes…” (or words to that effect) so it looks like ours must be a common failing in this league. It would be nice to leap out of the blocks for a change, though, at the start of a game and tear into the opposition rather than seeking to weigh them up suspiciously.
    Yes, it may be that a decision here and there has gone against us. Yes it is frustrating that we appear to fumble easy chances to put a game to bed (Jukey hitting the bar against Leicester and Bikey against Derby) but we are also let off the hook sometimes – Sky seemed sure Blackburn deserved a penalty courtesy of Hoyte’s calf-kick, Steele produced an incredible save against Leicester and Derby should have sewn up all three points with a point- blank chance for a last gasp winner.
    If we were playing Manchester United or Chelsea, or Newcastle, next week, we would not fill the ground. Perhaps the effect of the Robson/Juninho/Viduka drug has worn off and a cynical public has found other things to do with its money.
    If money is an issue I can see that £35 plus the hassle of getting to the ground, queuing to get away and enduring the “refreshment bars” in the concourses might easily be outweighed in the balance by the attraction of going to the local pub and watching Arsenal in the Champions League, or Ajax v Real Madrid. You are allowed to hold your pint in your hand whilst watching the footie in the pub and £35 (and whatever else you might have spent at the refreshment bars) will pay for a lot of beer.
    Alternatively – you get a slab of beers in, Jim will get some pizzas ordered for half -time, and we’ll meet at my place to watch the games, not only last night, but Mondays and Tuesdays and the weekend. Next time I’ll get the beers and we will go to Jim’s and maybe you can order some kebabs. You can see the attraction.
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is said. Everyone thinks their little daughter is the prettiest, cutest little girl in the world. Thousands of people on Teesside, and others in the diaspora, really believe Boro are special. But move to Kent, or Shropshire or somewhere else distant from the north east with your work and you’d find that for most people the town and its football club hardly enter their consciousness.
    If the club had disappeared in 1986 many followers of this Blog would have been inconsolable, but most people in Kent, Shropshire or wherever would not have missed it, and 20 year olds on Teesside might once again support Leeds, or Manchester United, or maybe follow some other sport.
    We who read this Blog, and those who go to the matches, or even follow on the radio, place Middlesbrough FC high on our list of priorities. But we all know people, even in our own street, who treat that (and the club) with disdain. “You are not still following that load of rubbish are you?” Who hasn’t heard that when returning from a game in search of a last-gasp pint to numb the pain?
    Some people care. Most couldn’t care less. Getting back from that position is going to be a very tough climb. As it will be for followers of that “trees team”, Charlton, Sheffield Wednesday (let alone United!), Barnsley, Burnley and a host of other teams which have played in the top division in the not-too-distant past.
    Time for food, now the good lady has returned to the fortress we like to call home…

  15. All good points Vic. and to repeat what I posted in the last blog:
    Reading’s 1st 6 home games last season:
    2-2 v Millwall
    1-2 v Barnsley
    0-2 v Watford
    2-0 v Doncaster
    0-0 v Boro
    2-2 v Derby
    Position after 10 games: 15th (12pts)
    As long as we keep in touch with the top, a good run (and it will come) of wins will get us right in the mix. We are asking a lot if we expect that good run to happen without R Williams, Woodgate, Carayol, Emnes, Reach and so on.
    The first three months always looked hard on paper, you could argue we’ve done well to collect as many point as we have.

  16. Or, having now eaten, I could maybe put it another way.
    Sometimes it’s horrible following the Boro – the 0-4 “season ticket throwing game” against Villa for example, or much of last season at home, or Blackpool away on 18th September.
    Sometimes it’s really quite enjoyable, such as the away game (via TV) at Blackburn on 21st September, proving a high and a low can be only three days apart, or the away game at Barnsley last season. Occasionally it can be almost ecstatic – not only Basel and Steaua but also Burnley at home this season – three goals (one good, two absolute corkers and the winner two minutes from time!).
    But at the end of the day the pleasure of a good result on the pitch isn’t as good as being happy at home, or being generally healthy, and a disappointment at football is not a matter of life or death. Football is quite important, but not vital. I could easily have a life without it. (Maybe that’s what the “missing Riverside thousands” have discovered?).

  17. pass, pass, pass, pass, pass (Bikey waves arms in frustation at players in front of him) pass, pass, pass back to Steele

  18. Good article AV, sums up where we are.
    I remain a fan of Mogga even if we fail to get top six, and grateful to have someone who aspires towards a modern football team. You only have to look back to when Strachen era when dire football and short term thinking nearly sunk us.
    The attritional nature of being an average team trying to build a footballing culture is sapping away support. Even reading in to moggas own comments frustration is creeping in. My own concern is our lack of ability to dominate posession, fair enough – leak goals and miss sitters – i’d expect us to be as cack footed as everyone else in the division. But for a team with its eyes set on the passing game I can’t think of a game where we’ve kept the ball significantly longer than anyone.
    Still its a long road, and drab medicine – hopeful injured players return sooner than expected, and suprise performers will emerge. Feeling trapped in the champ is grim, but being trapped without a plan is worse. Utb.

  19. Sometimes I think you play to the galleries too much AV, and you’ve pulled out the hackneyed old ‘last five minutes’ cliche which the galleries will lap up. But as usual you fail to balance it out.
    Yes, Boro have conceded in the last five minutes six times at the cost of -3 points, but they’ve scored in the last five minutes twice in the league (Crystal Palace and Burnley) for a gain of +2 points, and once in the cup (Gillingham). So the ‘last five minutes’ problem at this stage of the season has cost us a net -1 points.
    It would be unsurprising at the end of the season to find the points lost to late goals neatly matched by points gained. I remember a few years ago a poster deriding our Brazilian striker’s (forget his name) poor goal return of eight goals in a season by pointing out that two of those were against Barnet in the cup “so they don’t count”. S/he conveniently avoided the fact that he also scored two against Manchester United…perhaps they would count double in such a counting framework.
    More balance please AV, irritating stuff.

  20. “But as a season ticket holder who pays approx. £16 a match I urge the club to sell walk up tickets at the same cost, hell I don’t care do them for a tenner. ”
    Amen to that. At least try something.

  21. As always interesting.
    Expense is an issue but it rears its head when compared to what else you can get. Beer vouchers is always a good measure. Makes it worse if you travel from distance at current fuel prices. The thought of 280 miles at over £40 of fuel is gulp worthy.
    It makes it harder to go and watch turgid fooball. It doesnt help that my son is now living in London so I have lost the person who used to say ‘next time, dont bother asking me’ or my daughter who struggles to get time to go to York with Mrs G to give another ‘reason’ to nip off up the road.
    My reduced visits are not the cause of our low attendances. Living in Acklam and getting dropped off for the match is a different matter.
    Late goals? Derby have now conceded eleven out of seventeen late on.

  22. Pass, pass, pass, pass, ball moves out to Friend. He moves towards half way line acres of space. Thomson turns round and runs towards him offerring an easy 10 yard pass. Move slows down. Pass, pass, pass, pass, central midfielder show for possesion but always turn back to face their own goal. Easier pass for the Centre half but only option open is to go bacwards again. Pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass to Bikey who attemps a spectacular 60 yard cross field pass. Out for a throw in.
    Trying to keep possesion obviously has it’s benefits. But for it to work the player on the ball has to have several options to pass to. Currently we have no width, no pace and no creative spark. So it goes nowhere, congestion in midfield.
    Pass, pass, pass, pass – intercepted – counter attack – late goal conceded

  23. Only had the live feed from Sky all seemed pretty dire.
    We must have some very clever managers in this league. They have all just about stated that Boro are a good team and they like the way TM plays his football.
    Well interpret that another way and TM must think we must be getting something right or the opposition think keep them thinking they are good and we will beat them.
    Sometimes you have to go down so far until you get to a level where you can be top dogs. For example Darlo they have dropped a long long way down but are now doing very well at the top.The crowds are no worse than what they were when they where in there totally unaffordable palace.
    At more our level. Southampton and Charlton who have dropped down to league one are doing well full houses again. The Saints will continue to get full houses even if they fail because they are now in the Prem but it wont last for too long if they continue to fail.
    When we have played teams in the Cap One cup we have done very well against teams in the lower leagues and with a full second string side out.
    Would rather get it right where we are any time but the harsh reality is we are buying players from league one to win the Championship and the more experienced players are very injury prone.
    Lets hope we get some players back soon and push up this league.

  24. Since my last post I have been giving some thoughts about recent football matches.
    We have the debate on the board about tactices and it rages, well wanders, between ‘bloody sort it out Mogga’ and ‘using the cleaning staff is rotation’.
    The truth lies somehwere in between. Even Mogganistas are sometimes scratching their heads over what happens – only occasionally and only a little scratch.
    AV has told us that Mogga is a bit of an overthinker, Woodie came out and said after the Blackburn game they had got it wrong at Blackpool.
    My own view is that Mogga is putting another layer of complexity on top of new players he is bedding in and poor availability of players.
    You certainly tweak from match to match but it appears – I use the word appears because it is a summation of evidence of my own eyes, what I hear, comments of others including AV, Mogga, Woodie, other journalists and esteemed posters – that we are focussing too much on the opposition and trying to stop them.
    At Blackpool we went 4-5-1 which is reasonable but we tried rope a dope. We were slow out of the blocks and tried to wait for the opportunities to come to us. Mogga and Woodie admitted as much. The succesful 4-5-1 teams play a pressing game to push the opposition back.
    At Blackburn we had learned and played a high tempo, pressed Blackburn and Emnes gave Juke some company. Great performance.
    Went to Preston without Miller and couldnt risk Juke so quickly again. Still played a high tempo but with two lively split strikers, works with quick and clever players. Top performance.
    Leicester had Mogga talking the Foxes up all week. Went in with a Billy no mates up front, a midfield on the ponderous side and lost. Late on but we lost, thats what it says in the table, we didnt really trouble them and the goal was another 30 yard bomb.
    Derby sounded dire and Derby fans who went said neither team deserved to win. I suggested it would be a cautious first half, the second was not much good either. Played a diamond in midfield with Bails behind the centre backs all the time, Thommo the box to box provider?
    There will be those who nod their heads and those who say what do you know compared to the staff at the club. Thats what it looks like to me, despite what other people think I want Boro to win, Mogga is the best man for the job because we can debate without bile.
    Mogga say’s we are struggling with injury and it is gospel, Mogga says musnt rush the kids too much and it is gospel, Strachan and Gate say it and it is heresy and nonesense.
    Come to think about it, if any of us say we play better when all the players are fit and available for selection…….
    It isnt easy and the club is financially constrained but dont blame Strachan for all of the that, he only came in to try and raise the Titanic sunk by the previous crew. The jock salvage team proved useless.
    We are where we are because of what happened when Gate was manager, not all his fault but the slither in to the championship was inevitable. The danger was the continued slide that afflicted Forest, leeds, Leicester, Norwich, Soton etc.
    That has been halted and it is a great relief. It will take time and Mogga will get the time to do the job.
    Any guesses for tomorrows line up?

  25. The idea of lowering ticket prices sounds attractive. Surely it would be better to have the same income from a crowd of 18-20K?
    But are we certain that it’s the price that putting off some people? What if Boro dropped the prices and failed to attract many more through the gates? With a reduced income from a 15K attendance, where would they go from there?
    I would prefer to target the kids. There’s a whole generation been lost since the advent of GS1. They’re still being lost. As AV so vividly (and depressingly) highlighted ‘the crowd is ebbing away, worn down by the spirit-sapping slog’.
    A football club becomes part of a town’s culture and in the DNA of its supporters. In the 60s, The Ayresome Angels were a fine example of a generation being engaged with their club even when there was very limited success. I suspect many of them, like me, have been life-long supporters. Going to school, half the rucksacks would be emblazoned with ‘Boro’- is that still the case?
    Let’s get kids back in the habit of regular Riverside attendance.
    **AV writes: Pricing needs an innovative approach. The basic price for adult ST is not the problem. At £16 it is cheaper than most League One clubs and some League Two/Conference sides too.
    The real issue is the walk up price. It is a massive disincentive to casual attendence and that is the key factor in the overall gate figure – and income. The current matchday ticket pricing structure needs scrapping as a standard rate and should be approached game by game with different prices for groups, different ages, for a variety of multi-game packages, kids go free games etc.
    We’ve been through the list dozens of times before. Most fans can suggest a dozen good ideas. It is time for the club to wake up and stop knocking them idea of ingeniuty back or face sub 10k gates as the norm

  26. Is it possible you’re being wildly optimistic AV?
    Maybe the paying public have heard the message, understand the finances, the situation, the future. They’re old enough to remember the 80’s (I know it’s not a true comparison but poor football in an empty stadium is the reality if not the whole picture), they take in the beer price comparison and make a rational decision not to go.
    Maybe they’re never comIng back because they understand all too clearly the level we’re at.
    **AV writes: I think that is true of a whole layer of people and the historical figures (posted and discussed at length on here before) pretty much nail that. In the second tier our crowd average is a shade over 16,000 and we are not far from that now.
    It is the angst of the ones who are there that I was writing about. I think people are growing ever more frustrated and internally conflicted at where we are and the reality that there is no automatic quick return.
    I think most people expected a swift promotion after we came down. I did. The Strachan cul-de-sac was seen as an unfortante diversion and Mogga got us going in the right direction again…. but we are three years out of the loop now, the parachute payments have run out, momentum has gone and the fan base wobbling and we are up against eight or ten teams better resourced than we are. We may not go up this season. Then what? Is there a demand for blood and a change of course?

  27. I guess the attendance equation is determined by the people who ‘want’ to watch a particular Boro game plus those who ‘need’ to watch it, minus those fans who can’t afford it, minus those who prefer to watch it on telly.
    Attendance = NeedToWatchFans + WantToWatchFans – BrokeFans – TellyFans
    The club prices tickets to maximize revenue not attendance – unless ‘BrokeFans’ is the most significant fraction then reducing the price will only reduce revenue.
    I also figure that the number of ‘WantToWatchFans’ often depends on the opposition and will also steadily decline with bad results and performances – and is relative to Boro’s league position.
    Having said that it is probably also affected by the matchday experience so falling crowds will actually speed up the decline in ‘WantToWatchFans’ and may break the resolve of some of the ‘NeedToWatchFans’.
    Appologies for the terse nature of the post but I’m currently in the middle of a programming project.
    **AV writes: Good imput. But you’ve missed out what is currently the single biggest variable in both gate and atmosphere … the number of away fans. If they bring 1,000 it makes a massive difference to the numbers and the buzz.
    So far this term we’ve been unlucky because the midweek fixtures have been against teams that would have been expected to bring a decent following on a Saturday – Burnley, Derby – and we’ve got more of those to come, Sheff Wed for example.
    And no matter how you dress it up, the lowest record gate on Wednesday was down to Derby… 275 away fans for a former Prem club on a relatively easy trip is a bit embarrassing. If the fixture was reversed we’d have taken 700/800 easily.

  28. I haven’t had chance to read all the posts, but lens point is spot on, Carayol is a big loss to the team as is the loss of Rhys in defence. Hines and Bikey are not Woodgate and R Williams. Hopefully with Woodgate, Reach and Emnes fit we will be fielding a strongish team more often than not.
    Given all the first choice players that were missing I would have taken a draw before the match, although to concede so late on (again) is intensely frustrating.
    After the first season back in the Championship I reset/programmed my brain, I enjoy the Championship experience, it brings hope and possibilities which the grind of the constant battle for Premiership survival never did.
    I dont like it when Boro lose or perform below expectation but I shrug it off and look ahead. I’m enjoying the Championship and when promotion comes this season, next season or whenver i’ll enjoy that as well.

  29. I don’t think TM should have ever been made manager. I don’t like him. As someone previously stated, he is another Stan Anderson. Will SG get it into his head, fans will not travel miles to watch Championship drivel, only when the club is back in the Premier League, have a decent motivated manger and play ATTRACTIVE !!! football will fans RETURN !!!

  30. Spot on, Nigel Reeve at 11:13.
    The danger with too much navel-gazing when things are not quite right, is that it starts to build a collective mentality to talk us down with the danger then of building a momentum of self-fulfilling prophecy.
    Borophil is right. Look at Reading last term, and that is not an unusual thing … even Sunderland came top in 2006/07, after languishing in 19th place with only 13 points after the first 12 matches.

  31. On the face of it, ‘Unhappy players can go’ seems an overly dramatic headline that carries a number of implications. Those don’t seem to be fully borne out by Phil’s story.
    A subbies’ hyperbole, AV, or is there more to it?
    **AV writes: I think there may be one or two players who have expressed the opinion they should be in the team. A classic Slavenesque ‘banging on the manager’s door.’ A couple think they have to move to get a game and Mogga has said ‘fair enough, if you can find a club’ and believes they can be fairly easily replaced. I don’t think it is ‘dressing room discontent’ as such, just that it is par for the course at any club.

  32. Powmill –
    And the turnaround under Mogga as players started to become available (mentally and physically). Christmas 2010 we were 21st in the table with 21 points from 22 games. We finished 12th with 62 points.

  33. AV –
    Following your response to John, I wonder if it is a sort of follow up to the resolution of the McDonald situation. Looking at face value none of the squad have been fit enough for long enough to knock on any door other than the treatment room.
    Maybe it was just Mogga musing again.
    More imnportantly wonder how we will approach the match at little Italy tomorrow. I suppose it will be perm any eleven from eleven.
    I fancy a good result following the let down of two home matches as we revert to Typical Boro.

  34. From a positive perspective this season we are getting all our injuries at the start of the season rather then the 2nd half as we did from January onwards last year when our form dipped.
    Assuming that fate will be evenhanded to us and that our injuries clear up eventually by Christmas and we are not as blighted as the end of last season we should actually see Mogga’s preffered 11 start and hopefully perform. Thereby we should improve as the season progresses along with our league position and hopefully storm into the top six at the end of April or better still do a Reading.
    Mogga has “previous” on some strange tactics and team selections. His Celtic days were often in conflict with the fans up there and in the end it came to an abrupt halt with a 4-0 thrashing by St Mirren. I nearly choked on Saturday when I saw the line up, I nearly cried when I watched the Jukes seeing tumbleweed rather than the ball for most of the afternoon.
    I was so sick with it that I didnt make the effort to rearrange my work appointments to make the Derby game and I have to admit when I seen the line up for midfield I was glad I hadn’t bothered. Listening to it and reading about it afterwards I’m glad I didn’t go and that should be a major worry for the Club and for Mogga. Its not the first time of late I voted with my head and not my heart and I’m sure I’m not the only one judging by the gate.
    Disillusioned? Not yet. Disappointed? Yes. But frustrated is probably more appropriate. I want Mogga as our manager, I want him to remain at the club and guide us back to the Prem but I also want him to look in the mirror and realise that if it looks like a dog, smells like a dog and barks like a dog then it probably is a dog. Too many of us are now making the same observations and comments the Bhoys on the Terraces were making in his previous role.
    His signings have in the main shown promise, Carayol, Friend, Bikey and even Hoyte looks a different player. His insistence with Steele looks to be paying off and proving us all wrong so its not all bad and had the injuries not been as devastating then we could have had at least another four or even more points on the board.
    That said the midfield selection when there was a golden opportunty to give a youngster a chance rather than square pegging favourites doesn’t wear well with some of us.
    The McDonald situation should never have got to the stage where one of the club’s most expensive assets is left to rust in the yard especially when we have production problems regardless of how tempermental the equipment might sometimes be to service and maintain.
    These foibles can be papered over if we were five points clear with a game in hand and unbeaten in the league, however we are where we are but it doesn’t need to be how it is. Along with our personal perspectives and dreams for all things Boro, Mogga too must realise limitations in order to move forward.

  35. Well, AV, I’m going to disagree with Bob and stick up for you. I thought your article was brilliant and hits just the right tone. It says exactly where we are as a club and a community. I did go and put on some Leonard Cohen records after reading it and that cheered me up no end, but your message is dead right. It is what it is.We are where we are.
    I missed the Derby game. Couldn’t face another long round-trip after Leicester, and having spent a fortune on three away games in Lancashire. By the sound of things, I didn’t miss much either in the way of entertainment or of atmosphere. Clearly many others also stayed away.
    The crowd, or lack of crowd, has been upsetting me for some time. What was it Wordsworth said? ‘I wandered lonely as a crowd…..’ I do think the club has to do something to get a few hundred back but like others on here I very much fear that a Boro side playing sideways tikki-taka in the living hell that is the Champo, and losing as many games as we win, is not going to bring many racing back soon.
    I wish I could be proved wrong, I really do. But only a side that wins pretty consistently (especially at home) and looks to stand a very good chance of promotion will bring back the missing thousands.
    Now, what is all that guff Mogga is spouting today about unhappy players being allowed to go? It doesn’t sound much like a rallying cry to me. And there’s another problem, I think.Too often the manager himself gives the impression of being downhearted, downbeat and negative. Not exactly Winston Churchill, more like Iain Duncan-Smith, as somebody once said. Time for my dose of valium. Keep smiling!

  36. Note to Mogga
    The world/ Team as we have created, it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.
    Albert Einstein

  37. My wife and I arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport after driving down from halfway to Florence. We were on a tight schedule arriving with just over an hour before departure time. We had checked in online the previous evening. We only had to drop off our check-in luggage and asked at the Information Desk for directions to the KLM (Skyteam Alliance) baggage drop-off.
    We found ourselves in a long, slow-moving queue of perhaps a hundred people. There were perhaps a dozen Alitalia/Skyteam Alliance check-in desks, but only four were manned. And there seemed to be some considerable hold-up at one of them with three staff all seemingly attending to one person’s situation. Time dragged and the queue moved slowly. Less than hour to boarding and we still had our luggage. Then, just before 12:00 noon two of the “active” check-in desks closed down, the staff simply donning their jackets, picking up their handbags and disappearing! This left two active check-in desks, one seemed to be dedicated to Skyteam Priority Card holders and the other holding a summit about summat!
    By this time, we were about forty minutes from flight departure and goodness knows how far away from the departure gate – we’d never flown out of Fiumicino and didn’t know the layout.
    A member of Alitalia ground staff came within hailing distance. I explained that at least half of the check-in staff had just suddenly walked off the job and that there were many of us in the queue whose flights were about due to close. Could she please do something about it?
    She said that they (the Alitalia check-in staff) had flights to catch! (Erm, “So do we all in this queue” I felt like drawing to her attention! But I saved the sarcasm, considering the situation).
    I said that we were concerned and that many people were in danger of missing their flights because of the unavailability of check-in staff. I also explained that we, and probably others in the queue were already checked-in with seat allocations and that we simply required our bags to be labelled and loaded onto the right aircraft. By this time I was seriously questioning the advantage of online advance check-in and e-ticketing!
    But the only comment from her, and the one that finally blew my relief valve was…………..
    “It is what it is!”
    That did it! The laisez-faire (or its Italian equivalent) complacency and apparent acceptance of poor customer-care standards inherent in that short statement that I found completely unacceptable. At that moment I considered maybe why the Italian economy is in such a mess. They came across as though they didn’t really care; and why should they, when their public leadership was setting lousy standards and their infrastructure was inadequate? The people at the top had and continued to look after themselves and those much further down the food chain would just have to get on with it.
    I marched to the check-in desk where the same three staff were still having what appeared to be a social gathering, centred on some customer who’d been at the desk for about half and hour while the rest of is stood and stewed. I made it quite clear that there was a great long line of people waiting for flights and that our flight was due to take off in about 30 minutes. I also pointed out that there was, by now, only one check-in desk trying to serve the needs of a growing line of passengers. I wasn’t smiling!
    With one phone call to her supervisor, suddenly, within less than two minutes, there were a further three check in desks operating as from somewhere out back, a fresh set of Alitalia ground staff appeared and things finally got moving.
    Where had they been until then? It was clear that here was work to be done and that there was a huge queue of people waiting to be attended to; passengers whose money ultimately pays their salaries.
    We caught the flight with less than a minute remaining before closure.
    Within a week of return to the UK, I got that old déjà vu feeling when Mowbray’s quotation hit the headlines.
    “It is what it is!”
    Oh no! Not you as well Tony?
    **AV writes: I’ve had to dig this out of the ‘spam’ basket. All those key words used in cheap airline offer e-mails. It was only the reference Antonio Mogganari that saved it.

  38. Oh, per favore AV!
    Surely the proscuitto transformati basket?.
    And we ought not to be surprised that Antonio Mogganari saved it. After all, he’s the Messiah, is he not?
    And THAT, of course, was the underlying ironical point of the post, albeit perhaps a bit subtly disguised as an indulgent rant from one who is now one of Dormo’s “life beyond football” followers.
    And just to add my tuppence-worth to the value for money and pricing discussion, and “for the record” : It’s not worth the money – at ANY price. You’d have to pay me to attend regularly now – and even then, it’d be a tough negotiation. I’ll go when there’s nothing better to do (and I include “saving money” in that) – but over the last few years, the list is long – and growing.

  39. I am going to be generous. My routefinder says that if you leave Watford at 17.00, average 85 on motorways and 80 on dual carriageways Vic should be back in Acklam at 20.28 if he leaves Watford at 17.00.
    I will check later to see if his match blog is available. Slacking otherwise.
    **AV writes: No problem with the basic calculation on distance/time however when the game ends our real work starts…. rattling out match reports, interviiew boss and players (length of wait for that depends on result), … usually away by 6pm though. One quick coffee break on way back. Home at 9.41pm.

  40. I guess you set off not much later than nine in the morning to get there as well.
    The problem is the getting there. When we played against Spurs in a season opener I was a little late and set off at 11am from Derby, ended up in three traffic queues and parking up at 2.25pm. Normally takes 2 hours. Being a little late getting back isnt too bad, being late for the kick off makes nonsense of the reason for going.
    **AV writes: Yes, left Acklam at 9am. We aim to be there two hours before kick-off. That leaves a healthy cushion to take account of traffic jams, flooding, diversions and unforeseens (a cracked windscreen once). If we get there ‘early’ well we can have a chin wag, banter with the players as they arrive and swap gossip with the local press lads. This big gap – and the length of the day – explains the tactical/calorific importance of the pre-match scran (next to nothing at Watford.)

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