Blackpool Rocked By New Look Boro

IT WOULD be easy to look at the superficial sketchy outlines of the Blackpool game and think: Same old Boro.
Lots of possession and probing with no end product, predictable passing but no punch, caught cold at a scrappy set-play… the only thing that wasn’t “typical Boro” was that it was the opposition left reeling by the penalty box barrage and a leveller at the death.
The stoppage time salvage job didn’t just rescue a point.
It rescued hope that a new Boro are starting to emerge.

For many twitchy Teessiders that last gasp strike – ironically from one of the players most often barracked of late – was deeply frustrating as they had been preparing to boo on the whistle… or press the publish button on a scathing message board broadside.
Without that goal the mood would have been toxic. Three home defeats on the spin would have wiped out the feelgood factor from Charlton, reignited the dissent still smouldering from last term and intensified the pressure on the boss.
The damning charge would have been that nothing has changed at all from last season’s sickening slide, that Tony Mowbray had signally failed to reshape a failing team.
Instead Boro fans went away buzzing and laughing with the special glee that a plundered result brings.
But there should also be a quiet smile too at some of the less obvious markers of steady if unspectacular progress.
Because this is NOT a side that is showing the same institutional fatal flaws of last term’s second-half slump. In fact, it is a team that has quite consciously taken steps to put right the most obvious wrongs.
A lot of the most frequent accusations thrown at the manager and the team have been addressed. Or are at least in the process of being addressed. At least Boro have added physicality, experience, width, pace and creativity while the manager has stopped tinkering and started to make substitutions that change the shape of the game.
They still lack a killer touch, we all know that, but after years of belt-tightening Boro seem be actively trying to splash out on a player that can add bite.
But a lot of the other progressive pieces are already starting fall into place after a fruitful summer shake-up.
Last season Boro were lightweight, especially in midfield, and were often muscled out of games by more physical sides. Now they look a different prospect. With Dean Whitehead, Grant Leadbitter and Jozsef Varga, Boro have an industry and a robust presence that more than matches the Championship norm.
The trio imposed themselves at Charlton and did the same against a Blackpool midfield packed with defensively-minded battlers who were by their own admission out to frustrate and contain.
Six months ago a more brittle Boro would have laboured and been ground down and finished on the defensive and in disarray but this Boro grabbed control of the game early on and set the tempo and shape and never let up.
That is partly due to the added athleticism in the engine-room: Both Whitehead and Varga are comfortable chasing and closing and snapping into tackles – but they can both pick out an expansive pass.
At Charlton it was Varga bursting forward and pinging balls down the channels that added a spark. Against Blackpool it was Whitehead that stood out, dropping deep to shield the defence but also carrying the ball forward to spray the ball around precisely and productively.
He was tight at the back – it was he who was well placed to block on the line and scramble away Teessider Neal Bishop’s hooked effort, Blackpool’s only first half threat.
And in one of the best moments of the match he won a tackle deep in the Boro half, carrying it forward into space and then picked out Mustapha Carayol way out on the left touchline with a sublime 40-yard diagonal pass that was inch perfect. Nicky who?
Carayol responded to that ball as he controlled, flicked it over his marker then nodded on and raced towards the box, weaving past defenders before sending an angled shot at the keeper. It was a familiar theme: Boro are now using genuine pace and width.
In the first half Carayol terrified Blackpool down the left as he hit the afterburners, tricked inside and made scything runs, and although that did not paid dividends in terms of goals it was a refreshing sight and hints at a potent potential once refined.
In the second half it was Albert Adomah – on his home debut – who took up the baton, setting the pace with some incisive runs down the right, beating his man, streaking to the byline and crossing. Crossing!
After a slow start he started to deliver increasingly dangerous balls into the box for team mates to attack. He put in more teasing crosses after the break that Boro did in the second half of last season. It has been so long since Boro had a specialist right winger we had almost forgotten how effective a threat one could pose.
Having two outlets down the flanks has added another dimension to Boro. Last term it was easy to double up on Carayol and stop Boro playing, It is far harder to shackle two flankers. And once the team learn to use them in concert and switch rather than focus on one at a time it will give Boro serious forward thrust.
Yes, Boro still need a clinical finisher to work with and off Lukas Jutkiewicz, to get to the knockdowns and quickly support when he is holding it up in and around the box… but the supply line is now there for the right man to make merry.
At the other end Boro seem to have tightened up too. At Charlton Jason Steele had one real save to make in anger. Against Blackpool – wearing a strip with a sash that made them look like a hen party – Jayson Leutwiler was barely tested. The only goal was from a scramble after a deadball. In open play they look solid.
That is partly down to the more robust and effective midfield but it is also undoubtedly partly down to the more settled and solid looking backline.
Last term the defence was a mix and match mess with personnel and position changes by the week. But against Blackpool injury-dogged duo Jonathan Woodgate and Rhys Williams played the full 90 minutes for the third consecutive match and showed distinctive signs of developing a real relationship.
They were calm and composed throughout – bar a clattering tackle from the Aussie that conceded the crucial free-kick right on the edge of the box – with Woodgate in particular showing incredible awareness to snuff out attacks and head away balls casually. He is starting to look like the player we all hope he can be, and consistently.
Of course, that may just be down to luck. But it may also be down to both having a full pre-season and the new faces in the backroom staff, dedicated conditioning coaches who are getting marginal improvements in fitness levels that can make all the difference.
Added to the commanding and cultured central pair it should be noted that George Friend looks to be edging back towards his best, making some powerful forward runs without sacrificing defensive solidity.
And Frazer Richardson, also making his home debut, has added strength at the back. He may not have the pace overlapping that Justin Hoyte offers but with Adomah on that flank a marauding full-back is less important now while the new boy’s physicality is a major plus when Boro are defending their own box.He can deliver a cross too.
Last season one of the chief criticisms of Mowbray was his tinkering. Now, with some leeway in the budget, he has recruited quality rather than quantity, bringing in ‘core’ first teamers rather than squad players and a fixed first team is taking shape.
The injured keeper aside, Boro started with the same starting team as at Charlton. And the signs are that Boro are now playing with an established team and shape. That can only bode well for the future.
Another stinging criticism last year was the manager’s failure to use substitutions to change the game. Changes were either like-for-like tactically and failed to transform the dynamics or the players put on did not have the quality to make an impression.
But against Blackpool for the first time in a long time the boss made a switch that counted. With an hour gone the introduction of Marvin Emnes for the fast fading Varga completely changed the game.
Emnes added zip behind Jutkiewicz and tricky runs that linked up well with the supply from both flanks. Boro looked a more fluid unit with the interchange of passes quicker and pushed from the half-way line towards the edge of the box. That change in the dynamics of the game – and the crosses being fired in by Adomah – were forcing mistakes from a Blackpool backline that had otherwise looked solid.
And the pressure told as Emnes scored with a well taken strike as Boro turned the screw. It was a well taken strike from the engimatic Dutchman who pointedly marked it with only a muted celebration, his body language totally out of synch with the emotions that such a late salvage job had sparked around the ground.
It was well deserved point for Boro. They never gave up. They showed spirit. They showed belief. They made the tactical change that counted to raise the tempo and pile on the pressure and made it count. So often we have been on the wrong end of that.
Yes, it just a single point when in truth Boro probably should or could have had three had the overall possession been rammed home, if the elusive missing marksmen was part of the mix.
But the positives outweighed the disappointment. Just below the surface something is happening. Bits are gradually falling into place. The shape is being tuned-in. A distinct pattern is starting to emerge.
Slowly, surely, Boro are making progress.


72 thoughts on “Blackpool Rocked By New Look Boro

  1. Wiggys mate said:
    “Given the benefit of a six to eight game run, he might have taken his chance but what if he hadn’t? Would the depressive realists have forgiven either him or the manager? Would they have reacted with a philosophical shrug and a sympathetic understanding toward manager and player that a gamble hadn’t paid off despite the best of intentions?”
    The answer to that one is emphatically yes but only in so far as it made sense organisationally, tactically and it was the best and most logical decision and the one most likely to produce the desired results at the time in question.
    That is the difference between a Chicken Runner and a Depressive Realist. Chicken Runners in my experience tend to have a pent up fury that will be released regardless and the weakest is usually likely to cop it. By weakest I mean in terms of performance/ability or just plain irritability factor and Boro have historically had a long list of those.
    Depressive Realism is the tendency for mildly depressed people to make judgments that are typically more accurate than people who are not depressed. Those who are not depressed often make judgments and attributions that are self-serving. Depressive Realists tend to see life without “Rose Tints” on and therefore tend to look beyond the harsh realities of life (and the scent of foam) but not to say that we are unrealisticaly negative either. We are a complex lot!
    The question is as a self confessed Depressive Realist is what made me depressed? Answer “Typical Boro” in my case!

  2. I think 1M squid for Ross McCormack was already too much. Move on and forget it.
    I’d rather see that kind of money spent on Terrence Boyd of Rapid Vienna (or any number of Eastern European boys we never heard of, but our scouts have checked out!! ?? Maybe? (Please?).
    The simple economics of the situation is that we can’t buy a crackerjack strike already in country. We can’t afford it. Better pull in a couple of lesser league no-names and bet on one of them coming good.
    As for the kids. They have had chances and not taken them. Maybe another dozen games may have made the difference, maybe not. I think Reach out on loan will be far more beneficial, in the long run, than 20 minutes here and there for us (Downing at Sunderland?).
    And yes, like everyone else. Who is this defender?

  3. AV, considering the McCormack thing.
    As Steve Gibson once again backed a manager whose falling in love again with one player. How many times do we have to go over this again?
    The goal for me is promotion Now OK, you sign McCormack let’s say a fee plus a three year contract could be £3m,and you fail to go up. You’ve still got that player on contract,
    Now I’m not big on loans but how about a player like Kenwynn Jones of Stoke or similiar,if you could do it. For me he would tear this division up. By the way he is as good as a centre half defending corner kicks. He’s mates with Leadbitter and Whitehead,and Im thinking the cost about £1m for a one year loan and if it goes wrong, he can go and your not stuck, That’s my thinking anyway.
    **AV writes: The thinking is fine but I think Jones is a busted flush.

  4. If the rumour about Becchio from Norwich is true, then – as I said in my ‘Opinion’ piece on Monday, that’s very good news indeed.
    With another ‘sniffer’ type striker, that would give Mogga a strong roster up front and an alternative to Juke.
    Now, if we can only nail the big centre half too…..
    **AV writes: Boro have had a bid accepted by Norwich for Daniel Ayala. Don’t know too much about him but he has played quite a lot of games in the Championship on various loan spells.

  5. Picking up on Nigel Reeve’s original point on the Academy, I was one of the early bloggers on our youngsters. My point seems to have been distorted and missed even by AV, as Bob subsequently highlighted.
    I wasn’t so much saying that more of our current kids should get more time in the first team nor was I criticising Mowbray.
    My point was nothing to do with blips, peaks or troughs because I was looking more long term, looking back over several managers. In particular, my focus wasn’t on the Academy per se but was examining how few, comparatively speaking, of its fertile production line make the transition to first team regulars.
    As evidence, I pointed out the number of players (Morrison, Cattermole, Graham, Johnson, etc, etc.) who never nailed down a place at Boro but have gone on to become PL or Championship regulars elsewhere. Even Downing was getting nowhere at Boro until he set alight the Stadium of Light. Why was Boro unable to nurture them through to become regulars?
    As elsewhere, Boro youngsters typically first break through at 18 or 19. As at most clubs, they can then expect to spend one to three seasons making occasional appearances while maturing and learning the first team trade. However, at most clubs, by the time they’re into their 20s, players have either established themselves or been moved on.
    Not at Boro. We have had players who spend years on the fringes. We have had players long-term in the first team squad who have never been a regular and seem to have little prospect of ever doing so.
    This has to be down to unwillingness to give young players a run and/or the reluctance to move them on when they clearly aren’t good enough to be regulars. As others have pointed out, the influx of none-too-effective loanees last season was testament to Mogga’s judgement on our younger players.
    **AV writes: I think there are a few other factors too. The growing size of the squad is a factor with seven subs and rotation meaning that a manager may want to have 24 players on his rosta, seven on which will only ever be peripheral figures.
    Then there is the pressure on young players (from themselves, their friends, their agents, the supporters) for getting regular first team football. You mention the one to three year spell after the initial breakthrough when they are learning their trade and waiting a chance. Very few players are willing to go through that now and are more likely to be encouraged to ‘bang on the manager’s door’ demanding a first team start setting up tensions and frustrations that can’t always be resolved.

  6. Ayala? Not really the sort of time served Champo centre half we need. But if Mogga and Bausor are talking to The Canaries anyway…..

  7. Although he hasn’t been at Norwich long, I would imagine that Becchio is available after Hughton has signed three other forwards this summer.
    Becchio is a good player with a decent goalscoring record at Championship level but I don’t see him as an ideal foil for Juke. I would imagine a quick player who looks to get onto knockdowns and run beyond would be the ideal partner. Becchio looks to me to be more of a physical workhorse, the type strikers work off rather than for.
    He looks more like he would be competition for Juke, unless we’re going to become a 442 crossing team. With Carayol and Adomah maybe that’s the way Mowbray wants to go.

  8. Cheers for the “nose” AV!
    What sort of price do you recon old Danny boy cost us?
    A former £800k signing, not played Prem football really, basically a young, punt signing by Liverpool and Norwich that hasn’t paid off the way they would have wanted so he was loaned to get experience till he could be moved on. Harsh but fair. This doesnt mean he wont be good at this level or at a higher level in the future.
    So what does that type of player cost a club?
    £250-400k, with 150k cash down and the rest on Boro’s performance?
    **AV writes: Maybe. Plus sell on clause and promotion bonus. That kind of thing I would have thought.
    Or Norwich want their 800k back, persumably most of which wasnt actually paid as he hardly played at Norwich, but then they did stay up, so that might have triggered more cash.

  9. So to paraphrase your answer RR….,
    Mogga’s decisions and tactics will enjoy your full support so long as they meet your pre-set criteria ie “only in so far as it made sense organisationally, tactically and it was the best and most logical decision and the one most likely to produce the desired results at the time in question”.
    Do you really think that Mowbray (or anyone else for that matter) knowingly makes decisions that don’t fit those criteria before the event? You know, before the other pesky manager and his team contrarily carry out their own “organisational and tactical decisions…” leading to them getting the “desired result”?
    I can see why being a depressive realist is so attractive, if things go wrong then clearly it’s because the manager is not following your approach. Disenfranchised from the decision process you feel entitled to be critical of it without actually having seen it, but if things go right it’s because finally “they did it my way”.
    And you call foamies (and I have never identified myself as one btw, I would be more an optimistic pragmatist) self serving.
    Clearly, the only way to keep many bloggers happy would be to run the club, including team selection, through the interweb. It has been tried before at Ebbsfleet and has been an unmitigated disaster for followers of a long established club, which is very sad for the locals, but at least it has gone some way to proving that the blogosphere isn’t quite as knowledgeable or insightful as it thinks it is.
    Perhaps in that Through The Looking Glass world “untypical Ebbsfleet” consists of posts from Liam Daish (or whoever his successor is) lambasting a community of bus drivers, SME manufacturing managers and minor civil servants on their performance in their respective professions utilising his experiences from twenty years in professional football. I’d read it!

  10. I am surprised we went for Ayala. He doesn’t have a particularly good injury record of late. Part of the issues we had last year was failing to have a settled back four due to injuries especially players like Woodgate.
    Signing Ayala I would have thought, no matter how talented, is precisely not the kinda of dependable core player we were hoping to sign. The only consolation is the deal mentioned is a six months loan with the option of a permanent deal after so we can still change our minds. Wonder what is Tony Mowbray’s thinking behind overlooking his injury record.

  11. Daniel Ayala has the Championship experiance but nobody snapped him up from his loan deals, good luck to him and here’s hoping

  12. Ayala isn’t what I’d hoped for. I’d only vaguely heard of him.
    Others have said he’s not the time-served Championship CH we needed. However he has been in England for five years and played most of his football at this level with Derby, Hull and Forest. In particular he has the 6’2″ height credentials of a true CH.
    Although he’s never established himself as a regular, he’s only 22 and has clocked up over 50 games. Perhaps he’s being lined up as the successor to Woodgate who, with his injury record, must be on his last contract? If he has Woody as mentor for a year or two he’ll be a lucky boy.
    It has been said that Ayala’s injury ‘record’ is suspect. However, although he did miss a three month spell with a bad knee injury, his record otherwise is reasonable. What’s more, there appear to be no after-effects because he had a successful stay with Forest since then.
    The concern is that, despite having been on loan with three clubs, none of them have taken him on and, despite being 22, he’s never nailed down a first team place.
    I think Boro have been wise to give him a six month trial and keep their options open. As first reserve for Woody and Williams, he should get plenty of games.

  13. Been up in the lakes so catching up on the news.
    Good debate about the squad going on. New faces coming on and I suspect one or two going out. Academy or loan players, experience versus potential.
    You mentioned a 24 man squad – by my counting we have that already! Unless of course you are not including local players. Are they beyond the fringe?
    **AV writes: I would expect two, maybe three to leave before the window and maybe two more in. Bit of tweaking. I expect a couple of the other ‘kids’ to go on loan – maybe Main and Luke Williams – for some pitch-time once the squad shape is set.

  14. Wiggy’s Mate –
    “only in so far as it made sense organisationally, tactically and it was the best and most logical decision and the one most likely to produce the desired results at the time in question”.
    “Do you really think that Mowbray (or anyone else for that matter) knowingly makes decisions that don’t fit those criteria before the event? You know, before the other pesky manager and his team contrarily carry out their own “organisational and tactical decisions…” leading to them getting the “desired result”?”
    Honest answer is I would seriously hope not, but having experienced a manager not playing his best striker for months, employing tactics which baffled the players and disillusioned fans, a stadium which emptied more and more week after week, split striker’s, set piece disasters and then from an automatic promotion spot to a relegation scrape in the worst run of results in over 100 years of the clubs history………let me think on that one!

  15. I think it amusing the comments on the fans think it a good result drawing 1-1 with Blackpool. Surely the club should be blasting the likes of Blackpool
    Still think Mowbray is inadequate and the crowds are a joke, under 14000 in an 35100 seater stadium. Either Teesside is not a footballing area,or people are going to watch other teams.

  16. AV –
    Main and Williams gaining out on loan wouldn’t be a surprise. Ideally you would like to see them stay and get chances in the team but it hasn’t looked likely over the last couple of seasons so maybe that is best for them.
    The problem is we don’t see them much and will always wonder whether they are getting a chance or not.
    Managers tend to be a pragmatic bunch, they also seem to play those they have brought in. They would look mugs otherwise.
    **AV writes: When the manager was bringing in squad players to pad out numbers you would think they had a chance. When he is bringing in first team ‘core’ players then they are nudged down the pecking order. Loans make sense. They need to go away and get a lot of games under their belt and come back and make themselves serious contenders. That’s normal football development.
    People keep on telling me that ‘he doesn’t rate the kids’ but he gave four or five of them lengthy new contracts last year so he must see them as having a future at the club.

  17. I try to have faith in TM over the “kids” debate…but it works a charm in Football Manager. Smallwood’s my 2nd leading scorer. And it must be realistic, last season I could’ve fielded a team from the injury table!

  18. The Ameobi story is a big worry, a backwards step if true. As Boro Doug points out, 50 goals in 300 is a very poor return for a striker and Boro have had a lot of these in the past.
    I agree that letting Main and Williams go out on loan is a good way to get them experience and game time if they are to be “peripherals” but I would think either of them would better a 1 in 6 strike ratio.
    **AV writes: I’m not advocating him but in Newcastle’s Championship season he got 10 goals in 18 games which is a more than respectable strike rate.

  19. AV –
    Dont get me wrong, I just want to see Boro lads playing for Boro.
    Add in the fact I dont want us to be in this league and it makes it tricky.

  20. Really nice day yesterday taking Mrs Dormo off to Northumberland for a day of tranquility and culture. It was her birthday.
    Thanks to everyone who contributed to making the day successful by ensuring I missed nothing important in the sporting world: Wigan by putting the Boro game back by 24 hours and the weather gods for giving us a washout at the Oval so I wasn’t distracted by the penultimate day’s play in the last Ashes Test of the summer. My personal DAB radio was not called upon. And, remarkably on a very wet day all round, we must have found ourselves in the only dry spot in the region, though we hit the rain on the drive back to N Yorks.
    One thing I noticed is that I wasn’t interested in MoTD last night. The whole Big Weekend Football Extravaganza so vigourously puffed by Sky leaves me a little cold. I’m not really bothered what happens to the “Big Clubs”. I’m more interested in Boro youth teams than I am concerned about “who’s going to get the 4th Champions League place?”. Although we all hope for promotion, somehow I really HATE the Premier League and what it stands for – hype, greed, the same select group of “teams that matter”, re-writing history etc.
    Having given some thought to it, going to the pub to watch Premier League football is all about having some crack with mates, and sampling this week’s guest ale. If the same lads were there, but they were showing synchronised table tennis on ice, I’d probably still set off for the Headless Dog.
    BUT – it’s Sunday. The last day of the Test series may be spared by the rain, and Boro will turn out a side at Wigan. Beginning to get some enthusiasm. I can feel it seeping back.
    The Ross McC is beginning to rival the Bale transfer saga. We may well be very happy if it has a deft twist in the tail of its tale. But whatever happens, whoever we sign, following Boro is what we do. We might reserve the right to be grumpy after poor performances, to moan and be cynical, but that is part of the Boro supporters’ DNA (all wrapped up in a thin sheet of hope). It’s only because we care.
    Bring Wigan on….

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