BY popular request – no really – here’s this week’s column number-crunching Boro’s long and proud history of New Year nosedives. Is the current headlong slide to oblivion the worst ever? Or does it just feel like it because we have collectively blocked out the painful memories of past plunges to protect ourselves? Read on….
THIS is not the first time Boro have suffered a New Year nosedive – but it is fast shaping up to be the worst in living memory.
This term, since January 1, Boro have played 19 games and taken just 11 points from a possible 57. Just three wins, two draws and 13 defeats have seen them slide from a proud second place to a crestfallen 10th.
How does that stack up against previous plunges? Well, it’s not bad. Or rather, it is bad. Very bad. But not quite the worst.
The win against Forest last week clawed the current run above the two worst ever, dismal back-to-back campaigns 90 years ago leading to relegation from the top flight.
But their tally since the turn of the year is far worse than both the Bobby Murdoch and Willie Maddren relegation seasons, generally regarded as the benchmark for ineptitude by traumatised eye-witnesses.
They are still two points shy of the New Year nosedive that saw Gareth Southgate’s side slip from the elite. And they will need to win both the last two to avoid the shame of a far more pronounced plummet than that from the Premier League under Lennie Lawrence.
Here are some of Boro’s sorry slithers of the past.
Manager: Jimmy Howie
P19 W3 D1 L15 Pts 10/57*
THERE was early title talk as Boro tussled at the top with Liverpool and local rivals Newcastle and Sunderland.
Boro went second by beating Spurs on December 30 – then followed a spectacular collapse that was to become a familiar feature of the calendar for future generations.
Boro went on a run of six successive defeats, beat Arsenal then suffered four more losses on the spin. They got a draw then thumped Forest 4-0 then finished with five defeats in six, the only saving grace a 2-0 home win over Sunderland that ended their title bid.
Despite the plummet Boro avoided the drop, their first half stockpile enough to see them finish 18th, six points above Stoke and Oldham.
Manager: Herbert Bamlett
P20 W1 D4 L15 Pts 9/60*
UNDER a new boss Boro continued their downward drift and spent the entire season bumping along the bottom, although two wins and a draw in the festive fixtures brought hope of a New Year revival.
Alas, from losing 1-0 at home to Cardiff on New Year’s Day Boro lost eight of nine and scored just one goal in both January and February. They won at home to Blackburn in early March to bring some relief then embarked on another long losing run before perking up to sarcastically draw three of the last six when already down.
They finished 10 points adrift – some going, under the two points for a win system.
Manager: Raich Carter
P20 W4 D4 L12 Pts 16/57*
WITH Alan Peacock flogged to Leeds, Boro struggled for goals but did enough to take up residence in the mid-table pack and were ninth going into Christmas when back-to-back defeats to eventual champions Newcastle punctured morale and form disintegrated.
A 3-2 home defeat to Coventry on New Year’s Day started a run of six defeats in seven that included a 6-1 spanking at Cardiff and a 5-3 loss at Ipswich.
A brief rally in march saw two draws and a win at relegation rivals Swansea before another long slide punctuated only by crucial wins in basement battles with Portsmouth and Orient, just enough to inch Boro into 17th, two points above the drop spots.
Manager: Raich Carter
P19 W5 D3 L11 Pts: 18/57*
BORO took the previous season’s second half form into the new term and were trapdoor dancing throughout the campaign.
An unbeaten December inched them up to a season high 14th going into New Year when they hit the skids with a 4-1 defeat at Rotherham then took one point from five to slide towards danger.
Home wins over Preston and Bristol City brought a brief respite before six defeats in seven – including a 6-0 thumping at Bolton – pushed them into the relegation spots.
And although two wins in three offered a late lifeline, three losses from four and a final day do-or-die 5-3 defeat at Cardiff sent Boro down to the third tier for the first time ever.
Manager: Bobby Murdoch
P24 W6 D6 L12 Pts: 24/72
WITH the stars flogged off in the Great Ayresome closing down sale, the season flat-lined from the off. Three players – Billy Ashcroft, Tony McAndrew and Heine Otto – were to share the top scorer gong… with FOUR. It was a write-off. Boro never got above 18th.
A big freeze meant no action between early December and late January when rock bottom Boro failed to thaw out and went on a run of eight games in which they clocked up two points and two goals and were cast adrift.
They occasionally threatened to click and ground out wins at Sunderland and home to Notts County and Brighton in a solid five match unbeaten run in April but the damage was done and even a final flourish of three unbeaten could not prevent the inevitable.
Boro finished bottom and five points adrift.
Manager: Willie Maddren
P20 W4 D5 L11 Pts: 19/60
BORO were rapidly sliding towards the abyss when poor Willie Maddren was handed the poisoned chalice.
Already deep in trouble, Boro never scored a goal in the league in January (and lost in the FA Cup to Darlington) and while they kept eking out the odd draw they never won a game until March 12 when teenage goal machine Alan Kernaghan grabbed a 1-0 win at home to Sheffield United.
The bottom two – Wolves and Cardiff – were well adrift but Boro were caught in a furious scrap with Notts County to avoid the last drop spot and a late spurt of three wins in the last six, including a final day 2-0 victory at Shrewsbury which saw them scrape to survival.
Managers: Willie Maddren/ Bruce Rioch
P19 W5 D3 L11 Pts 18/57
BORO were down at the bottom in the first half but were in touch until one point from the first five games after New Year saw a gap start to open.
In February Maddren was axed and Bruce Rioch took over but with a weak squad he was on a hiding to nothing. He started with a win but four defeats in five showed there would be no instant upturn.
There were brief flashes of hope as Boro beat fellow strugglers Grimsby, Huddersfield and Blackburn then victory over promotion hopefuls Portsmouth lifted them briefly out of the relegation places.
But three losses in the final four including a final day defeat at Shrewsbury as other results swung the wrong way consigned Boro to the drop into the third division.
Managers: Bruce Rioch/Colin Todd
P21 W5 D4 L12 Pts: 19/63
AFTER relegation from the top flight Boro settled into a pattern of win one, draw one, lose a couple and were flirting with the drop – but after New Year the wins became rarer and the flirtation on became a full on snog.
After a dreadful first footing 1-0 defeat to Stoke just two wins in the first 11 games – although one was a 3-0 derby defeat of Sunderland – saw Boro get bogged down in the relegation places, distracted by a first ever Wembley trip in the ZDS Cup and coming to terms with the exit of Rioch, engineer of the post-liquidation football fairytale.
Two wins and a draw early on under new boss Colin Todd seemed to have salvaged the situation but then a lost lead and a woeful 3-2 home reverse to Port Vale sparked a slump of just one win in seven leaving Boro suspended above the abyss before a famous finale in a 4-1 win over Newcastle.
Manager: Lennie Lawrence
P19 W5 D1 L14 Pts: 16/57
A WIN and three draws in December left Boro in the mid- table comfort zone going into the New Year – then seven defeats in eight sent them plummeting into trouble.
Crucially Boro lost to Forest and Palace – both to be relegated with them – and also Oldham and Leeds who were also in the mix.
Typically, sarcastically, Boro won two of the last three and drew on the final day at home to Norwich but the damage was done.
Manager: Gareth Southgate
P20 W2 D7 L11 Pts 13/60
AFTER a bright start Boro were already deep in trouble come New Year after a run of five defeats and a draw. It was about to get worse.
Another seven without a win followed. There was a shock 2-0 home victory over Liverpool before a brittle Boro went into a tailspin.
With a string of basement battles looming the Gazette launched a ‘Keep The Faith’ campaign: Boro won just one game in the last 10 – at home to Hull – then surrendered with four defeats in the last five including a limp loss at relegation rivals Newcastle. Although they went down too.
* Denotes total adjusted to three points for a win system.
MEANWHILE, here’s a plug for the Gazette’s big Boro end of term on-line survey.