NOT MORE bloody repeats! Well everyone else is doing lazy schedule filling repeats, flash-backs and reviews of the year so I may as well join in.
Here’s my contractual obligation, calendar based compilation clip-show of soap-box scribblings, post-match impressions and alliteration heavy free-style jazz riffs. Nice. I’m sure there is something in there to engage you. Or enrage you. And don’t forget to read the comments. They’re usually the best bits.
Hope you have enjoyed reading the blog over the past 12 months. If you have joined the discussion and made comments on my posts over the year, thank you. Your knowledgeable, passionate and witty contributions are valued (and sometimes stolen, resprayed and back on the streets within hours). And if you don’t comment, why not? Come on, make it your mission to have your say from now on. We don’t bite.
I hope you all stay aboard for the looming promotion push.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Repeats: My 2012 Clip Show Review
THIS YEAR started with a nightmare trip to Blackpool. It was a freezing New Years Day. Bloomfield Road was Baltic, windy and sleet lashed. The facilities were poor, we got no food and the wifi didn’t work. Brittle Boro got battered 3-0 by a gung-ho Ian Holloway team with frightening pace and trickery up front on a day with absolutely no positives. It was to be the start of a jittery, injury ravaged January that cost a play-off place. I lost my house keys. I crunched the Gazettemobile in an unlit wasteland car-park and limped back over the top of the icy tundra of the A66 at minus six. Happy bloody New Year.
It ends with buoyant Boro having finally beaten Blackpool – the first victory in the league since Mogga was a player in 1987 – to lay a few ghosts, with the team in third spot having won four on the bounce at home and warmed by a pulsating 4-2 display at the Riverside. It feels far longer than just 12 months book-ended by Blackpool. And, despite the similarity of the table right now, it feels like a lot has changed for the better.
Yes, it was a nervous finale, but hey this is Boro. That’s why we all got valium and whisky for Christmas. And it is the Championship where every game is decided by fine margins. In this case it was decided by shot-stopper supreme Jason Steele’s superb spot-kick save from highly-rated but largely anonymous Tom Ince when the pressure was on.
That pivotal penalty save killed off a spirited second half revival by Blackpool – who have noticeably gone backwards since they monstered us in January and again in early September – it calmed nerves on the pitch and in the satnds and set Boro up to seal it with a fourth to make the score look far more comfortable than it actually was.
But look at the positives. Boro totally bossed the first half in a display of polished passing, fluid off the ball movement and assertive, attacking football that was as good as any 45 minutes this year. Grant Leadbitter’s corners are brilliant. Steele is the best keeper in his league (HANDS OFF!) Big Ish scored again (his goals/minutes ratio is starting to look very good), Dormo Destroyer Richie Smallwood celebrated his 22nd birthday with a smooth strike. Enigmatic Emnes decided to have an “on” day and lit up the first half with electrickery (although he faded after the break). Scott McDonald – playing his 100th game – was excellent, hard-working in an alien role and notched again. Rolls Rhys got through his first 90 minutes for four months. Adam Reach bounced back with a goal. We got away with a penalty which despite the ‘controversy’ was nailed on. The scran in the restaurant – I was suited and booted and living it up in hospitality – was superb. It was a very entertaining game.
Derby next. Get set for a Rams raid.
Happy New Year.
BLOATED Boxing Day torpor and hazy hangover atmospheres. It was ever thus.
The eagerly awaited festive fixture is one of football’s most entrenched traditions but like the heavily trailed Christmas small screen spectacular and this year’s ‘must have’ present it so often fails to live up to the hype.
There is a strange air of dislocation in the ground and the inflated expectations of a bigger than usual seasonal crowd – many of them exiles making an habitual visit heavy with obligation but lacking the warmth of familiarity – totally at odds with the reality of game that is oddly out of synch.
It is a midweek game at 3pm in the middle of a flurry of sporadic games, untimely training sessions and fractured preparation. In an age of exact scientific professionalism, the players’ bodyclocks are all over the place and tactical planning is rushed and haphazard.
No surprise then that so many Boxing Day games are scrappy and unsatisfying on a lot of levels. Blackburn was like that.
Continue reading Bloated Boxing Day Battle. Again.
LEEDS blog: *cut and paste from Birmingham game here*
Boro bossed the opening spell of the painful 2-1 defeat at Elland Road, played some sweeping football, picked their way forward with some crisp passing movement and created a string of passes to dominate for 40 minutes in the first half. Unfortunately the current conversion rate is very poor. Right now all Boro’s striker need three or four chances to chalk up a goal.
Lukas Jutkiewicz smashed one in – via a little deflection and at the second time of asking – but he also squandered two more golden chances after the break, both times taking one touch too many and nudging it just too far wide. One was lashed into the side-netting and the other squeezed through the keeper’s legs and then clipped the post and went out. Then there were a couple of scrambles, otherwise anonymous Marvin Emnes sent in an overhead kick that grazed the upright and Jason Steele – yes, Jason Steele – had a header charged down at the death.
Leeds had maybe four chances and Becchio scored two of them.
Boro were on top in the first half when it was a football match but failed to make it count and then Leeds clawed back into just before the break. In the second half Leeds made it more of a scrap, broke up Boro’s rhythm and hit long diagonals on the break. They got their rewards with a goal from a poorly defended corner (stop me if you’ve heard this one before). Boro picked it up again in a frantic all out assault late on but couldn’t salvage the point they probably deserved. Frustrating and disappointing – but probably par for the course for a not quite fully shaped Championship side.
It must be said it was a fantastic game to watch: it was all action, end-to-end pulsating action. It was competitive and full-blooded and high-tempo with sliding tackles flying in, although never dirty. And the rain-lashed surface making for plenty of heart-stopping errors in both halves. It was hugely entertaining and played in a fantastic atmosphere that was charged and hostile and supportive and very loud. It was a great match.
If we can play like that every week, but just tweak it – 10% more in each box – we’ll do OK. No one ever said it would be easy. And if you had been offered fourth at Christmas back in August you’d have taken it. We are still in touch with two home games coming up and players coming back. We’re doing alright.
WITH amoral arch-pragmatist and recent docusoap star Neil Warnock – football’s ‘nutter on the bus’ – joining Ken Bates at Elland Road and then signing El-Hadji Diouf, three of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse are in place and recruiting ready to unleash plague and pestilence on the beautiful game once more.
Well I suppose that’s my basic position carved out, a subliminal default still shaped by a playground antipathy to Revie’s all-conquering shock-troops and, I think, shared by Ayresome veterans of a certain age. But plenty of others just don’t care too much about Leeds these days. Whateva. That’s youngsters for you. They don’t know their history.
So with our silly seventies sock-tagged and smiley badged antagonists up next, it is time once more to consider the changing nature of this de facto derby by default. Here’s “another chance to see” (that’s “a repeat” in old money) a blog first written two years ago in the last dark days of the Strachanovite abberation.
Continue reading Derby Daze II: Leeds- A Retro Rivalry?
ANOTHER big box ticked: If Boro are to get promoted then that was exactly the kind of game they will need to win.
It was a comatose encounter ignited at the death by a contentious penalty – but Boro made sure it counted. And for all the visitors howling about a grave injustice with the spawny spot-kick they didn’t do enough to win. Boro did. Just.
It was a massive result that could prove vital come May.
Continue reading Box-Ticking Boro’s Last Gasp Christmas Gift
FOOTBALL can be a very cruel game.
Proud Boro out-played a high-flying Premier League side for over an hour. On their own patch. Then they were beaten by a very harsh late own goal off a player having a stormer. And after a couple of game changing injuries. To come away empty-handed after the most wicked of watershed moments has got to sting.
Continue reading A Cruel Blow For Proud Boro
“PROJECTION bias is the tendency to falsely project current preferences onto a future event.” To rearrange possible permutations of unfolding events to script an outcome to match subjective desires or fears. Football fans are THE BEST at this.
When it comes to rearranging the bits of the picture shattered by the latest result to create a new complex and concrete reality of possibility – nay, certainty – no one can beat a football supporter. It is part and parcel of what drives us on and keeps us prisoners. On the road home from a game, no matter what the outcome or display, we have already assessed the new landscape, planned out the next two or three results and recalibrated the table.
Continue reading Projection Bias: Boro Nailed On
OH NO! BORO in “doing it the hard way against rock bottom side” shocker!
With a display that almost wore out the “typical Boro” catchphrase, Tony Mowbray’s side only just salvaged a narrow, nerve jangling 3-2 win at cellar dwelling Peterborough.
Hot on the heels of the unlikely implosion at Birmingham, a fragile looking Boro once again threw away a commanding lead to descend into a scrappy mess at the back. Once again they showed some crisp movement to take control early on before inviting pressure and handing the initiative – and goals – to a limited but hard-working side.
Continue reading Posh Spice Up Scrappy Boro Win
DEFEAT snatched from the jaws of victory…. *sigh*
Somehow Boro contrived to a lose 3-2 at Birmingham after twice leading.
Three collosal cock-ups cost precious points after what had been as dominant a first half as you are likely to see this weekend. Bikey finally got caught out after riding his luck with high risk tackles week in, week out, Steeley developed Brad Jones aerial flappy wrist syndrome for the second in a rare lapse of concentration then Josh McEachran, good going forward but who struggled when under the cosh, played a sloppy stray sqyuare ball and got punished. By Marlon King, naturally.
Boro were in command op but failed to make it count, then lost their rhythm, lost their composure and finally lost any semblance of a grip on the game against a limited and demoralised side suddenly galvanised by the gifts.
Continue reading Brum Deal For Bungling Boro