THE VOTES have been counted in the Big Boro Survey and Tony Mowbray has squeezed home at the ballot box.
The manager was endorsed as the man to lead Boro into next season in the Gazette’s Big Boro Survey – but the results also showed a significant vote for the opposition. Mogga is now defending what is in effect a marginal constituency.
The good news for the manager, the club and for the medium term stability of the club is that almost half of the fans in the poll have declared themselves as either ‘certain’ or ‘pretty sure’ that Mogga is the right manager for Boro and in favour of the status quo.
But the bad news is that lining up on the other side almost a quarter of voters in the extensive on-line poll were quite clear that they were against the current manager.
In topical terms they are the confirmed dissidents demanding a straight-forward “In or Out” referendum now, even if it isn’t on the table.
There is also a large and potentially problematic volatile group in the middle-ground that are “unsure” and who could swing quickly either way depending on exactly how next season pans out. That is the key battleground in the early stages of next season.
Equally problematic is that the results also show that almost half of voters point emphatically to areas under the gaffers control – tactics and team selection – as the primary cause of Boro failing to secure a play off place in the shrivelled season just gone.
And the survey was quite scathing about the team as a collective and in many cases harsh on individuals too. One individual in particular. But then, it seems to be a cultural obligation to have a clearly defined and widely recognised scapegoat. It is nice to have some clarity on these tricky matters.
The obvious impression given by the figures from the Big Boro Survey is that fans remain largely behind the boss – but many have marked doubts and criticisms too.
Next season, the pressure is really on the boss to deliver.
That’s the headlines. Before we look at the results in detail, first, a word on the survey.
We asked a wide ranging series of open questions about the team, the players, the manager, whether your expectations had been met, the key reasons for the campaign’s feeble finale and what needs to be done to improve Boro ready for next year.
The main results have been illustrated in the Gazette over the past two days and are also on gazettelive.co.uk website.
The Gazette conducted the poll on-line via specialist third party website Surveymonkey over the course of three weeks in April as a second successive frustrating Championship season fizzled out.
The first week of polling covered the aftermath of the win over Nottingham Forest so the backdrop was not totally bleak. The polling period also covered the narrow defeat at Bolton and the fightback in a 2-2 Riverside draw with Charlton so there was a little bit of everything and no one emotion would have dominated the hustings.
There were 807 respondents, which is easy to dismiss but is almost as big a sample size as the national polling organisations use when shaping national policy on the big topical news issues of the day. National newspapers run stories calling for the end of the NHS and Michael Gove wants to rip apart education in a far more flimsy basis.
The vast majority of respondents were active supporters with almost a third having attended every single home game and a slither over half having travelled to at least one away game as well. This is a well informed and representative constituency.
Yes, there are problems – the sample is self-selecting rather than random but then strangers stopped in the street are not neccessarily going to have an informed view on which of Boro’s wasters was the most disappointing – but this poll is as scientific as we are going to get. And the results put a lot of flesh on the bones of assumption and anecdotal evidence that surround the big issues.
Chief among those areas that have previously been dominated by guesswork and unsupported supposition (and some mischievous manipulation too it must be said) has been over the true size of the opposition to the boss.
Judging by the hot-housed angst on the message boards and the institutional whining of the moan-in shows with all their assertions that “almost everyone I know is against Mogga” it would be easy to believe there is an unstoppable bandwagon, that the dug-out dissidents command a majority. The Big Boro Survey nails that myth.
In fact the opposition is a whisker under the quarter mark. That is still a sizeable political problem but far from the groundswell of overt dissent that is claimed.
Only 23.9% of respondents nailed their colours clearly to the mast and defined themselves as “not at all confident” that Tony Mowbray is the right manager.
A similar figure was thrown up in answer to a different question. When asked what will be the most important factor in success next season slightly less, just 23.3%, voted for a change of management.
In contrast a smaller group of confirmed loyalist of 16.4% said they were “certain” that Mogga was the right man – but they were swelled by a further 26.5% wwho said they were “pretty sure” making a substantial slice – 42.9% – firmly behind the boss. That is not a majority but it is still a healthy bulwark to any notions of a terrace insurrection.
There were however exactly a third – 33.3% – that said they were “unsure” either way which is a grey area of floating voters that will need to be won over next term to avoid things getting sticky.
Those figures are more in keeping with the actual matchday experience this season rather than the virtual one on the foaming forums where there appears to be a white noise of permanent fury, only a small easily shouted down minority of vocal Mowbray loyalists and very little evidence of a middle ground.
At games, fans have generally been stoic and remarkably patient despite the second half slump. The booing has limited largely to the whistle and even then born more from resignation and frustration than any discernable anger directed specifically at the boss. There have been no audible chants of ‘Mogga out’ for instance.
That is not to say that supporters are happy with the way the promotion push wilted.
The biggest indictment of Tony Mowbray comes as 43.3% of voters pointed to tactics and selection as the primary cause of the campaign’s collapse putting the blame firmly at the manager’s feet.
Injuries, inexperience and a lack of depth – factors often wheeled out as mitigation after defeat by the boss – were brushed aside with negligible numbers citing them.
The other key factors flagged up were a lack of quality in the squad (17.4%), a lack of goals (15%) and conceding too easily (18.5%) – although how many who voted that way would put the onus on the manager for those faults anyway is open to question.
And more people suggested new players are the way forward than a new boss.
Asked what will be the biggest factor in success 28% suggested an attack which takes its chances and 24.6% said new players, both higher than the 23.3% who see dug-out change as the solution.
It is not just the boss facing flak at the polls. Naturally the under-performing players come in for a kick in the ballots too. No department of the team and few individuals escaped the withering criticism.
Asked which area of the team needs strengthening, 74.4% of respondents said attack, 59.3% said defence and 52.3% said midfield.
And poor Jason Steele may have been called up for the England Under 21 side in their European Championships and he may well have scooped both Player and Young Player of the Year gongs but even so 12.3% think goalkeeper needs strengthening too.
On the plus side for Steele, he was rated the highest of all the players in the individual marks with an average of eight.
The detailed breakdown of the marks makes better reading for the keeper too.
The system allocated an overall mark reflecting where the largest single cluster of votes were cast.
A healthy 37.5% of the voters rated the keeper an eight but another 15.9% gave him a nine and 4.7% even gave him a ten out of ten.
Of the rest of the squad only George Friend, Grant Leadbitter and Mustapha Carayol dented the top mark.
Those three plus Justin Hoyte, Scott McDonald, Adam Reach and Seb Hines were the only players who made a seven with the latter two only just clawing over the line by less than 1%.
Most of the voting patterns were almost unanimous which shows that most fans watch roughly the same game. The majority of players votes were clustered within two marks.
Two players were given a damning one out of 10 mark for their contribution: a staggering 35.8% of voters gave pricey perma-crock Kevin Thomson the lowest possible mark while 20.8% gave frustrating frontman Marvin Emnes the same black spot.
Merouane Zemmama and Ishmael Miller were given a one by more than 10% of voters but polled enough elsewhere higher up the rankings to avoid the shameful stain.
That may muddy the waters over who was the popular whipping boy and ease the burden for enigmatic Emnes – but there is no escaping the harsh reality of the most eye-catching and damning numbers in the entire poll.
The Dutch striker, 18 goal top scorer in the previous term and briefly a £4m Swansea target, was overwhelmingly voted the most disappointing player of the season.
A hefty 57.6% of all voters named him as the undoubted flop of the campaign.
Injury jinxed Rhys Williams was the only other player to even limp into double figures with 12.5% of the vote while Jonathan Woodgate, equally dogged, was the only rival to top the 5% mark.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was that “all of them” attracted only 3.4% of the vote.
There was a sign of the new realism creeping into the Boro fans mental universe when asked about potential new signings. Asked to name ONE player to bring in the overwhelming favourite was Albert Adomah of Bristol City. Lionel Messi was only third. So if we can’t persuade Adomah to sign only then will we ring Barcelona.