Brum Deal: Battling Boro Suffer Second City Sucker Punch

WELL that was a sickener. Birmingham got a late, late leveller to mug Boro of what would have been a hard earned – and rare – away win and kick long suffering supporters squarely in the kisser. You would think we would have evolved six inch thick emotional armour against the stoppage time sucker punch but it still stings like hell.
Leaking deep into added time to a twice taken corner was a real blow. Especially after also conceding a needless penalty. All we needed was a harsh sending off to complete the shambolic defending full set.. Battling Boro had played with a real shape, spirit and solidity and were within touching distance of a result that could have been a turning point of the season before the familiar fatal flaw showed its face. It hurts. But it isn’t a great surprise.

Almost a year to the day ago Boro edged to a 3-2 win at Peterborough. Since then – a calendar year – Boro have won ONE paltry game (at Charlton) and have now just drawn four from 22 games. That’s seven points from a possible 66. Jesus wept. That’s abysmal. At any level. The law of averages suggests you’d have spawned more than that.
That sequence has been littered with sob stories, bad luck, dodgy penalties, sendings off and freak deflections – but mainly it has been blighted by poor defending individually and collectively. Under three gaffers and with a bewildering permutations of players. The needless rash tackle and the suicidal stoppage time slump are now systemic. It is in this squad’s DNA. an institutional mental weakness. It urgently requires a complete overhaul and cultural rewiring. But we knew that.
You could be forgiven for a crazed rampage of drunken dog-kicking and rage against the world and the cruel Gods of Football. You could be forgiven for thinking that the players are all useless, the new manager is just as bad as the previous incumbent and the season is over. Go ahead, point and shout and demand recriminations.
And you can point and shout at me if you want but I can see positives. Boro ended a run of five consecutive defeats with a gritty draw. That is a small step. A tiny tentative step. I’m not suggesting for second you crack open the champagne because Boro got a point at a limited Birmingham side – but there was a real spirit about the side.
Boro worked hard at the back and were rattling into tackles and closing quickly and got to grips with both penalty box lamp-post Zigic and Man United starlet Lingard (although they struggled with Arch-Nemisis Chris Burke in the second half). Midfield also beavered away with revived Dean Whitehead and Grant Leadbitter pretty taking control after a rocky opening 10 minutes and forcing Birmingham to go long as they chased the game.
Boro are lively going forward and have width, pace and a bit of trickery. Look at the goals scored column. Boro can hurt teams at this level. And increasingly they can contain teams for long spells too. They are defending from the front more – even lightwight Fancy Dan Marvin Emnes won a few physical battles – and closing quickly high up the pitch. It is starting to come together.
In Karanka’s four games Boro were edged out with 10 men at play-off contenders Leeds and suffered a late lapse at Derby seconds away from snatching a point at form-side Derby a man down too. In between those game they ground out a win against another side in a purple patch with the 1-0 home win over Bolton. Then they outplayed and out-fought Birmingham – five undefeated – and were only denied victory at the death. Boro have done well in all those games and come away with just four points from 12 when they probably deserved at least two more and possibly five. It’ll come.
Again, I know that talk of ‘fine margins’ and ‘maybes’ is cheap. A year long slump has eroded patience and perspective and lowered the boiling point. Fans are rightly getting annoyed at weekly battle cries from players who vow to ‘learn the lessons and bounce back’ while the trapdoor creaks just below them. But it is early days under a new boss who does seem to be slowly tightening and fine-tuning the team.
He is having a good look at the players, identifying the problems (and all his public pronouncements suggest he is under no illusions where those lay) and deciding exactly where he needs to strengthen in January. In the meantime he needs to squeeze a bit more out of what he has got. And, even if it is frustrating, we will have to be patient.


45 thoughts on “Brum Deal: Battling Boro Suffer Second City Sucker Punch

  1. Come on AV, learn the mantra…”I’m a Boro fan, and we’ve got rubbish players”
    If the club and its hierarchy (The KGB) are serious about pushing for a return to the Premiership, then on Jan 1st loan signings will be announced. If that is not the case, and we get the usual flannel until Jan 31st when we sign a couple of no hopers, then I can see League 1 beckoning.
    In my opinion that wouldn’t be a bad thing. At least then AK could build a team geared to gain promotion, with the possible impetus (a la Norwich and Southampton) to have two promotion seasons. This squad of players are not good enough.
    I’m tired of saying it, player recruitment for several seasons has been abysmal, until we get that right we are going nowhere.

  2. I bet every single poster on here if asked before the game what was their biggest concern was to a man we would have said Chris Burke.
    Second concern would have been conceding in the dying minutes followed in third place with conceding a penalty and the fourth getting a man sent off. The only thing we didn’t manage out of four as AV said was getting a man sent off. It is a big worry that we are so predictable and so repetitive.
    Ian Gill and myself both made the point on the Derby blog previously that we need to keep up the momentum in the dying minutes rather than invite pressure. We took off Emnes for Butterfield on 71 then on 90 Kamara (who also is a key player when defending corners), wasted time, slowed things down tried to take the heat off instead of keeping the adrenalin flowing and what ensued at the end was foretold.
    Prior to all that of course we strangely took off Carayol again who was having a decent game, very strange unless Karanka figures his fitness levels can‘t manage more than 60 minutes.
    Apparently there was confusion for the injury time equaliser over who should have been picking up the blue shirt because he was a sub, could it have been the just subbed Kamara picking up Hancox’s replacement Bartley?
    With the players we have we can attack and we can score goals and hurt teams. What we can’t do which by now obvious is sit deep, defend and hold on. I don’t expect Karanka will repeat this misjudgement while he has to work with the weak psyche he inherited.
    Despite the draw there are definite signs of improvement though. We are used to getting beat away from home so the fact that we felt gutted with just a draw shows something in terms of our expectations. Rhys seems to be settling down and getting back to his 2012 form pre injury, Ayala had a decent enough game, Whitehead seemed more confident and Marvin is smiling again so something is changing and gradually improving.
    Talking of 2012 our best form was pre Christmas and for most of those games it was Bikey and Hines playing at the back because everyone else was crocked. Neither player at the time was considered good enough but the team had more victories with them in than when they were either dropped, shifted or injured themselves in early 2013.
    I don’t think that either Hines or Bikey are the answer but I do think that the style of pairing as much as anything is why they were effective. One strong, mad and bad the other a tall, ball player who nicks a few goals from corners to boot. We are spoilt for choice for the Hines role including the lad himself but we desperately need the battle hardened intimidating veteran alongside them. Hines, Woody, Ayala, Rhys, Friend even Burgess up the road are all too samey.
    We can say the senior players need to stand up and take responsibility for our repeated woes but unfortunately as I have frustratingly said before we don’t have leaders. We have too many quietly spoken, eloquent, coiffured, dandruff watching, tattoo fashionistas with little to no aggression. Handbags at corners rather than pigheaded, single-minded determination to attack the ball with a “he who dares wins” mentality, too many Alice Bands and not enough Band of Brothers.
    We can perhaps afford to have one or two classy defenders but not the luxury of an entire defence composed of them. Time to ship out and man up is approaching fast, tick tock, tick tock..

  3. Im kind of confused on the substitutions, especially bringing Ledesma on with four minutes left. Why not Hines and go 541? Like I said, ugly wins are needed right now

  4. Well Kamara will be regretting going there to Boro. I have just returned from an exciting day at the MLS Cup Final where Sporting Kansas City won the championship over Real Salt Lake in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw after extra time. If Kei had stayed here he would have a champions medal tonight…..

  5. I am so so sick of this now,conceding needless clumsy penalties and switching off in the last five minutes of a game!
    It doesn’t matter who plays either,the outcome is still the same!
    Don’t the players ever learn?? In the last five minutes we play in the wrong half of the field, we always retreat back into our own half, constantly give the ball and corners away and just wait for the opposition to score!
    It’s beyond a joke and so repetitive now. The sooner we get a new defence the better.
    The opposition aren’t winning the games it’s Boro who are losing them and throwing away points!

  6. I completely agree AV. Lots of talk at the game yesterday of ‘same old, same old, and ‘typical Boro’.
    But, like you, I thought we played well and deserved more. The signs of progress and pattern can be discerned. Thinking back a year ago to the game at Cardiff, I wasn’t as immediately impressed yesterday as I was then.
    At Cardiff, we bossed much of the game and looked a leading Championship team. But we lost and, upon reflection, we made very few threats on the Cardiff goal so deserved to lose.
    In contrast, yesterday we were more workmanlike, compact and battling. Not as attractive but it was more EFFECTIVE. There was purpose and shape that has been missing for most of the last year. In particular, at Brum the players showed spirit – there is clearly belief in the new regime.
    AK has won one and drawn one out of 4 games. However we could & should have won yesterday. Also we deserved at least a draw at Derby and could have pinched a point at Leeds. If we had finished at Brum undefeated since AK’s first game, and having gained seven points out of 12, then things would have looked much better. Soon. It’s coming.
    You made a good point about the defensive frailty now being in the DNA of this squad. It hadn’t occured to me the extent to which it is ingrained in these players after years of this back four porosity. Woody is a good example. Elsewhere he was a defensive stalwart, pivotal to the back four of several teams. Hell, he was previously a rock with us. Now, he is infected with the Boro malaise and just as wobbly as the rest.
    I had been thinking that we needed a CH (spec described elsewhere many times) and perhaps a LB. I now think we need the Pol Pot approach to team building: a defensive Year Zero. Unless we could find a very strong character (which we can’t afford) who can carry the others with him and change the culture, it would be pointless the drop any new player into this lot. The majority would rule and he would soon get dragged down to their level.
    No, nothing but wholesale changes will do. We need a complete new back five. Nepotism aside, the only exception might be Gibson, who might be too new to be infected and shows promise. Otherwise, two or three of the present numpties will make good cover for them.
    Get your cheque book out, SG. Serious wheeling-dealing needed over the next couple of transfer windows.

  7. Let’s all be realistic here. There will be other games in which points will be surrendered in the final moments, as yesterday. And there will be other games in which goals are conceded early, so the matches are lost well before the end.
    There will be plenty of other games where we meet with gut-wrenching disappointment, plenty of times when our long-suffering partners hide all the sharp objects when they hear the score, waiting for our return home. Plenty of Teesside dogs will continue to hide when they hear the key in the door after a match.
    It’s because the players in our team are not as good as they think they are – not as good as the club thought they were when added to the squad, and not as good as we supporters had allowed ourselves to believe. It’s not simply bad luck that we have collected only seven points out of a possible 66 in recent away games. Actually, that’s so many games that it is no longer possible to say those games are “recent”. Some of them are historical now, as the run goes back so far!
    We obviously need to select the best combination of those players in our squad, who can play most consistently so as to avoid the regular “musical chairs” we have seen all over the field in recent years. Consistent team selection, bar the odd injury or loss of form, is the key to success together with some sensible purchases or loan deals.
    All of the above does not mean I am a down-in-the-mouth pessimist. I think it shows I am a realist. Things were in a parlous state and have been edging downwards for a long time. Had it not been tackled, those who talk about the club’s relegation to League One would have been proved right. It is still possible, but I think there is room for some optimism that the club has now started to tackle the problem.
    We would be foolish to think that the new manager will wave a magic wand and that the club will roar up into the play-off positions. That might be a statistical possibility but it will not happen in the real world, at least not this season. Relegation remains as possible as promotion.
    The ship will take a while to turn around. But I hope those in charge now realise that we have been operating under some sort of communal delusion over the last few years, and that a lot of hard work and careful choice of players will be needed. You can’t build a mansion on the jerry-built foundations of a small bungalow or a garden hut. There is the need for digging of new foundations before building upwards.
    This project is going to take some time. If we acknowledge that, and factor it into our expectations, there is less chance of disappointment. I retain hope. It’s just that I don’t expect to see glory delivered to our club in the imminent future.
    Discernible positive changes and a gradual inching forward is what I will be looking for in the next 12 months, not promotion. I am, of course, prepared to be pleasantly surprised, but a quick fix is not going to work here, bearing in mind the financial constraints within which our new manager will be working.
    The one thing I do expect, though, is that the manager is given enough time. It is appalling that Alan Pardew, as he comes up to his third anniversary, finds himself as the second-longest serving manager in the Premier League.
    Frankly if every Premier club sacked its manager today, three clubs will still be relegated next Spring, and only one will win the league (and co-incidentally that is increasingly looking likely to be the club whose manager has been in post the longest).
    The Boro ship will not turn around on a sixpence. Karanka needs time and we will have to be patient.

  8. Boro Doug, December 6th at 10.48am – you wanted 3 things (albeit, repeated in consecutive games). You got one – no-one sent off – in one game.
    Can’t even sing “Two out of three ain’t bad” like Meatloaf….

  9. Well that was a kick in the nether regions as I thought we were going to come away with the three points. What a pillock I am.
    I thought we were very comfortable especially in the first half where the game should have been won, we got into good positions but it either fell away because Marvin messed up or we made the wrong decisions.
    As has been mentioned we can and do score goals and may score even more if the big forward actually stayed in the centre. Too many times the ball was crossed (a few times by himself) only to see one of the smaller players being beaten by a man mountain at centre back. I really don’t see what Kamara brings to the team playing this was although under orders to do so.
    I also think like above that we require a complete back four or at least two proper full backs and a gnarled centre half added to a decent goal scorer and we wouldn’t have a half bad side.
    The main criticism I had yesterday and this again has been regularly written about before is Leadbetter’s corners. The number of times especially in the second half where he over hit them (first half he under hit them), we found ourselves being put under pressure straight away from a Birmingham counter attack. I was hoping in the last 10 minutes not to be awarded one as they proved to be Birmingham’s advantage rather than ours.
    I think we just had to be thankful that Chris Burke never started the game as he caused us problems all the second half although I’m still not sure regarding the penalty although it was a stupid challenge, interesting to see that the lino who was very close to the incident never flagged.
    Still it was one point more than we usually get from St Andrews (or anywhere else for that matter).

  10. I’m with you Mr Dormanstown – Karanka needs time and lots of it!
    There will be no quick fix, not with the squad Boro currently have. Sure, there are really good individual players, but also too many simply unable, or unwilling, to learn.
    As I write, I’m watching Fulham – another side with a new manager – the difference being that they look a team rejuvenated and who probably have talented players who just couldn’t get along with Jol.
    It seems that Aitor doesn’t have that luxury and is having to start from scratch to try to re-educate (particularly) his defenders. Surely these very well paid (even at Boro) ‘professional’ footballers should be better than that? Hence my assertion that there will be no quick fix, certainly without substantial changes in personnel, something which we all know is extremely difficult for Middlesbrough.
    We can only hope that Karanka will make full use of his contact list and bring some continental talent to the club to extricate us from this worrying situation; the problem being that it won’t happen until January which may well be too late.
    I am not from the school that says relegation may be a good thing – it would be a disaster…

  11. It is hard to know what to say that hasnt been said already. I suspect my mucker, JP, will not be over complimentary in his opinion piece.
    The danger is that if you don’t get the points when you should you suddenly stop being in games and the form goes pear shaped.

  12. Let’s see whether this one makes it through the ether at the first time of asking (I kept re-posting on the Derby thread only because I couldn’t see the original whenever I checked).
    Boro top the table this term – for penalties conceded! 😦 Been doing some digging & it seems we’ve conceded seven so far, more than any other team in the league (including TWO in the home match against Bournemouth), six of which were duly converted.
    Unless I’m very much mistaken, that equates to SEVEN points squandered, or eleventh place (or better: couldn’t be @rsed to work out the relative positions of the teams that benefited from our generosity, as I’m not that good with figures!) in the Champo compared with our current eighteenth… *shakes head*

  13. I was busy on Saturday afternoon buying a wide variety of lighting from the Max Bahr* closing down sale. When I got in I checked the result and thought 2-2 didn’t seem too bad – but then I saw the 90+4 Brum equaliser and the requisite muttering of strong language ensued.
    Just seven points from 66 on the road really does say it all – There’s no reason in being unable to play the same game of football that you train every day for in a different place. Logically it must mean that the crowd and surroundings are a bigger factor than the actual players in determining the outcome of a match.
    My thoughts go out to the Parmo Army who have witnessed all those 59 dropped points (shudder!) – Steve Gibson should line them up for inspection at the next home game and pin a medal on them for outstanding service beyond the call of duty.
    Anyway, Despite the football I’ve had a brighter than usual weekend – though only thanks to the haul from the Max Bahr closing down sale.
    *Other struggling German hardware stores are available

  14. Of course AK needs time. Unfortunately it leads to a general apathy until January. That is, of course, unless things take a dramatic turn one way or the other in the meantime.
    As it was for much of Mowbray’s time, it is what it is. For now.
    I fancy a strong finish and midtable at seasons end.
    Boro’s new mantra – there’s always next year.

  15. Bit of a goal post moving exercise going on here.
    The minimum requirement for the previous regime was the top six, yet apparently patience is the buzzword for the Karanka era. That is despite the fact he will have the advantage of a decent sum to spend in January, certainly more than the last manager ever had in a transfer window.
    Won’t he also benefit from those “exciting” links with Chelsea, Mendes, Athletico Madrid, Kenyon etc. Wasn’t this meant to be our short cut to success; an alternative to waiting patiently ?
    I fear that the fans’ new found reserves of patience are going to be sorely tested whilst everything we do goes against what is proven to work at championship level.
    We are unfortunately continuing to ignore the lessons that successful teams at this level can teach us.
    The current top 3 : Burnley, QPR and Leicester City all have English managers with a considerable amount of Championship experience. Dyche has only ever managed at this level, Pearson has spent most of his managerial career in the Championship and Redknapp was coaching in the English second tier when Karanka was still at school.
    It’s a unique league with particular challenges. Knowing the league counts for a lot yet we’ve put our faith in a complete novice.
    Those three teams also have the benefit of strong, robust no nonsense centre backs that are the bedrock of their defence. Shackell, Dunne and Morgan. We persist with injury prone, ball playing defenders who fail to get the basics right. It’s no surprise that the top three have kept a total of 26 clean sheets while we have managed just three. Only bottom two Barnsley and Sheff Wed have kept less.
    The need for a solid brute of a centre back is not something that has been lost on this blog, but ask yourself this. Is a young Spanish coach with no first hand experience of English football really going to prioritise that type of player ?
    Like Cassandra I anticipate a huge influx of foreign players in the next two windows although I don’t share her/his confidence that we’ll be any better off. Certainly if the make up of the top three are anything to go by.
    There all have squads made up almost exclusively of British players, clearly with talent but also the temperament to cope with the rigours of two games a week.
    QPR spent the whole of the August window trimming their squad of expensive foreign players and adding the likes of Dunne, Simpson and Austin. Solid pros who can be depended upon at this level.
    We are heading in the opposite direction and are set to fill our squad with high risk imports of questionable pedigree. It’s an irresponsible gamble, which experience tells us is very unlikely to come off.
    I don’t like to be negative and in many ways I admire the “bums on seats” contrarian approach that Gibson has taken. The championship is tough however and deserves to be taken seriously. We are continuing to approach it in a way that flies in the face of what actually works.
    That could well result in us moving to the next level , but not in the direction we all hope.

  16. Next time we have an international break, maybe AV should provide us with a hypothetical report from an imaginary game, based upon the clichés that are typical Boro. My imaginary game would have us 3 – 1 up at half time and naturally end up 3 – 4.
    **AV writes: I’m seriously thinking of live blogging/tweeting the Carling Cup final on #borolive to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our glory.

  17. Paulista Park –
    Under the previous regime we could have made the top six but sadly League one rather than the Championship looked the likely outcome.
    I don’t think anyone knows who will be brought in to the club in January. Hopefully they will be better than some of our loan players in recent years.
    There were lots of things we experts on this blog wanted as well as a shouty, pointy centre half. Mogga’s solution was Ayala who came in later than hoped for. May come good
    Some of us wanted an end to you, to me, to you, to them sideways passing. We wanted us to try and move the ball quicker.
    We also wanted us to play further away from our own penalty area, to press and tackle further up the pitch.
    Some things are starting to happen, we were going nowhere other than backwards under Mogga, at least we seem to be getting some sense of direction forwards.

  18. Happy with the point from Birmingham when I first heard the final score. But as Werdermouth said, it was devastating to learn we lost the two points on the final minute.
    I still think we have a decent side. But the team does not have any confidence left. As Aitor said: “When I arrived (I said) the most important thing is getting the points as it makes the players and myself more confident.” So we need a win or two and then I think this side will come good.
    But where to get these results? Easier said than done. Perhaps we need to have Given for a longer period and make him a captain. We need confidence and an organizer at the back.
    We have looked a bit more solid recently but as Dormo said we need to be patient. Let’s give AK time until the end of the season. I have a feeling we will be better as a team in 2014 than we were in 2013. There is still time to finish in the top 10 or even top six this season. Let’s see if AK can get the confidence back and add some right personnel in January.
    Certainly I don’t share the negavity of PP. Let’s wait what players he brings in first. At least the team is better than after Strachan left and no need to start from scratch.
    Up the Boro.

  19. On the face of it a draw away is a sound result, but to be leading twice and concede deep into stoppage time is deeply frustrating. The frustration is magnified by the fact that both goals were as a result of defensive mistakes again.
    January cant come soon enough for me.
    Dear Santa, four new competent defenders please.

  20. Forever Dormo:
    Only the big fat fellow in the red jacket could make it happen back to back to back. Even our team could fluke one game (every two years) with everyone on the pitch, no pens and no donkey mistakes.
    Three is proof it’s the Big Man’s work.
    Where is the sprinkling of magic the team needs?
    They say sprinters train for a 101m sprint not the 100m so they cross the line at full speed. How do you make 20-33 year olds who have played football all their lives stay on their toes for 95 minutes and not switch off?
    Honestly I think Rockliffe needs some electroction type devise. Gone is the time for soft sholders to cry on, or smoke up them to inflate the ego’s, or it will be better next game belly rubbing. Just juice the whole team at a high level, then say if you get sent off, give away a pen or switch off at the end of the half we juice you some more at a higher level for longer.
    See how many more mistakes are made after this. What else is left to say to professional footballers about doing the utlimate basics correctly?
    Don’t give away daft pens, dont get sent off, concentrate the whole time you are being paid (shock resonates through readers as the concept of a footballer concentrating all week and longer than a 45 min spell kicks in. It’s never been suggested before, only in 45min sections previously. Now a whole week’s worth, then a month, then a season of concentration, it’s just too far out a concept to fathom.)
    Players – do your jobs, properly.

  21. Paulista Park –
    Just re read your post then did the same for Cassandra.
    Unless I am mistaken some continental talent are different words to a ‘huge influx’.
    Could be wrong, it could be that was Cassandra meant.
    There again Adomah, Ledesma, Carayol, Karmara, Ayala, Leutwiler, Konstantopoulos are hardly qualified to play for England.

  22. Watching the BBC text and the other scores, again reminded me of what the Championship is about. When for those minutes we had 22 points, and others dropping them like hot potatoes, I briefly dreamed of a possible top six finish.
    Then reality kicked me in the you know what. Another basic mistake at the death. Did wonder why Ledesma and not Hines?
    Seeing Senor Karankas picture today in the EG, he looks right cheesed off.

  23. Paulista –
    one thing is to set a target of the top six before the season begins – it’s quite another to give a new manager the same target but with a ten point handicap.
    As I’ve said before, Boro would need to perform as an automatic promotion team from now on just to make the play-offs now. That’s not realistic given that around a quarter of our remaining games will have already taken place before any new faces appear in the January window.
    For me it’s now all about Karanka getting his team to play consistently well and showing that we’re capable of sustaining a challenge next season – this season is now at the ‘needing a miracle’ stage if top six is to be even contemplated.

  24. Pedro –
    At one point after Brums first equaliser we were 20th in the table.
    With all the revelations about match fixing I wondered if Boro were involved but then when I thought about it, I realised someone betting on Boro conceding a penalty, having a man sent off or conceding in the red zone would not be classed as unusual betting patterns.
    It is the defending that’s criminal not the players though they are close to infringing the Trades Description Act.

  25. Paulista Park said:
    “Bit of a goal post moving exercise going on here. The minimum requirement for the previous regime was the top six, yet apparently patience is the buzzword for the Karanka era.”
    You seem to be doing your share of the moving. We were repeatedly told, not least by AV, that the only requirement for Tony Mowbray was some nebulous idea of “progress”. It was the fact that the progress had gone into reverse gear that led to Tony’s sacking, not a failure to reach the top six.
    You say you “don’t like to be negative”, but your posts certainly don’t support that statement. You blame Aitor Karanka for signing players who haven’t been identified yet, let alone signed. At least give him a chance to make the mistakes before your criticise him for making them.
    The mistakes Tony Mowbray made in recruitment are there for all of us to see. The poor state of the current team is his responsibility. This was finally “his team”, and the excuses had to stop. Our patience had finally run out.
    His squad was not assembled to be of the “hard-bitten pro” type that you would obviously prefer, but was supposed to be a continental-style, slick-passing, ball-playing, all-singing, all-dancing outfit. The fact that most of his recruits don’t seem able to pass the ball accurately didn’t deflect him from this objective.
    In particular, he didn’t say he wanted to recruit the “row Z” kind of defenders you would like to see. The role of the defence, however they play, is to keep a clean sheet, and they haven’t done that consistently for over a year. For that, we can only blame the players and the management that recruited them, not the current “head coach”.
    Tony’s squad was not assembled without spending money, as you claim. Some went on transfer fees, but probably more on wages. For example, Lukas Jutkiewicz cost £1.5m, is reportedly on £12K per week, and has proved a complete failure. His miss in the first half at Barnsley was probably the final nail in Tony’s coffin.
    The only player who seemed interested in saving his boss’s job that day was Albert Adomah, signed by Tony this summer for £1m, and what the Evening Gazette described as “decent wages”. The others didn’t seem to care, and Tony had only himself to blame for that. He really had nothing to complain about and, to his credit, he hasn’t complained.
    At the moment Aitor Karanka is working with what he’s got. Give him a break. Yes patience is the buzzword. I’ll be happy if we can finish mid-table with this crew. For the past year, the play-offs have simply been a mirage in the unforgiving desert.
    If Aitor can strengthen the team in January, we might be able to raise our expectations, but probably not. Boro have a poor record of signings in the January window.
    Unless relegation really threatens, I feel that it would be better to see this season out and spend what little money is available next summer. That would be a test for these players, who must know by now that their own careers are on the line.
    But let’s wait and see.

  26. AV writes:
    Doug –
    Nice try but I can’t possibly publish that. I know fans up and down the country are joking about the match-fixing probe and demanding tongue in cheek that their own inept team or particular donkey are investigated for this or that result but we can’t make scurrilous specific libellous allegations.

  27. Ian your wondering to Pedro about match fixing is absurd, I mean it’s like saying QPR or Burnley after being top or thereabouts at Christmas are going to finish this season playing in a relegation dogfight at Sheffield Wednesday/Barnsley/Yeovil etc. on the final day and putting in a lame spiritless performance.
    It’s ridiculous in the extreme and just couldn’t happen. If it was seriously attempted you can guarantee “Typical Boro” would mean they couldn’t even do that right. A spawny draw meaning an unlikely point in the run in against a side who were even worse than them would keep them up despite their worst efforts.
    On a serious note it is a football fans worse nightmare if the current investigations involving irregularities are proven.
    **AV writes: I I don’t think it is possible to fix a specific score at the highest level and it would even very difficult to pre-determine an outcome because you would need so many players to be involved, every kick is under constant TV scrutiny and ultimately they are so well paid that the risks outweigh the rewards.
    I do however think away from the cameras and with players earning far less and on precarious contracts it is possible to manipulate games lower down the leagues and especially to ‘fix’ particular betting markets other than a specific result. Spread betting and live betting on incidents offers all kinds of opportunities. First corner, number of bookings, goal in specific time period… “it’s all about the in play.”
    The authorities should take action against those kind of betting markets. They are offshore and opaque and so obviously open to abuse.

  28. Redcar Red –
    It was in the category of joke that I posted as AV posted in his response to Boro Doug.
    Poor defending and decision making is so widespread in our squad match fixing is impossible! Mogga’s best squad are so hit and miss that any self respecting match fixer couldnt rely on them.
    Joking apart I think we have an honest bunch of lads – I am talking football here, who are unhappy with how things have gone. They don’t feel the pain we do because they live in their own bubble.

  29. AV –
    Several years ago, watching Sky with their panel of pundits and one of them, Matt Le Tissier openly said he had bet on the time of the first throw in and got miffed when a team mate stopped his pass going in to touch.
    It came back to me on reading about the current spate of arrests.
    **AV writes: Yes. It was in his autobiography too. It shows both how many easy opportunities there are to manipulate betting markets other than just the score/outcome – and how risky a gamble it is even if you are actively trying.

  30. Personally I think it’s a good thing to have a coach who points out we’re only four points above a relegation spot. I suspect the previous coach would have said we’re only 11 points off a play-off spot, or 19 off a promotion spot. At least I get a sense we won’t be sleep walking into another relagation.
    Not sure I agree with Jarkko. I reckon Strachan left Mowbray a stronger team than Mowbray left Karanka. Mowbray’s best spell was when he was still using Strachan’s buys. Things started to go pear-shaped when he couldn’t cope with the stronger characters in the dressing room (signed by Strachan) and started to ship them out. Now we have a team with no leaders. Go figure.

  31. AK has indicated that he is looking for a left back as Friend is injured and that he does not see Gibson or Haliday as a natural left back.
    That means we have Woody, Alaya, Gibson and Hines available at CB. So one addition can be expected in there.
    For right back we have Rhys W and Richardson. If I remember correctly we still have Parnaby around somewhere. And Hoyte is warming the bench at Millwall – but he is on loan there. So plenty of cover at RB – too much I’d say.
    The most interesting part is the goalkeeping position. How long again? I hope we could have him until May but as he is on £ 55 000 a week, that does seem unlikely. Interesting though is if Given is given the nod over Steele next weekend.
    So in addition to a LB and CB, I do expect to see an striker arriving. If you hope to see more changes in January, we need to shift out a few players first. That could be difficult as I don’t think Blackburn are after Jutkiewicz anymore (they signed a striker on loan and their injury list is shortening).
    So no major changes in January which could be a good thing. When have Boro signed an inforcement in January? Up the Boro

  32. AV:
    If you think it went too far, I apprecaite that. It’s the Gazette getting sued before me. However I didn’t name or even suggest any particular players. I was surprised it got binned. Your ball, your court, your rules – fair enough.
    Ian Gill: I didnt see your post before I sent mine (which was binned). Great minds think alike, yours just thinks faster!
    Redcar Red: If it was seriously attempted you can guarantee “Typical Boro” would mean they couldn’t even do that right. That’s funny. And shows your true faith in our boys.
    With old Sam Sodje saying he could get booked no matter what he did. Could you imagine the situation where two rival betting syndicates have knobbled different players and the ref in the same game? One set of players is committing murder in the tackles trying to get booked. The ref has his best Nelson glasses on trying not to spot a single infringment in the first half!
    Obviously I am not referring to any British based players or refs here. This sort of thing would only happen in a shameful, overseas country anyway.
    **AV writes: It is not really a question of whether I think you have gone too far. It’s the law. And libel law is very expensive. Believe me, even a throw-away remark can be costly. Best be careful.

  33. Mythbuster-
    My post wasn’t intended to be pro-Mowbray nor anti-Karanka.
    I was just pointing out that we don’t appear to be learning the lessons that successful championship clubs are teaching us.
    Mowbray was as guilty of that as anyone. He put the “pace and penetration ” cart before the ” strong defence and leadership” horse and paid the price. Ironically he was sacked just after the penny finally dropped. You will recall how he refused to take the promising young European defenders Bausor and Gibbo were offering him in favour of Championship hardened pros.
    I have actually been impressed with Karanka, off the pitch at least. He talks a lot about team responsibility and has praised the players efforts whilst leaving no one in any doubt as to where our problems are.
    He’s also giving himself a chance to look at the squad and make his mind up, although that’s mainly because he failed to bring in a load of loanees on deadline day.
    I just hope I’m wrong and that January sees us bring in a sensible mix of experience and youth, British grit and foreign flair. Perhaps a strong willed, experienced British assistant to Karanka might help on that score, rather than rely on Clapham who will be just grateful he’s still in a job.

  34. Boro Doug –
    Faster or sadder?
    My post about Matt Le Tissier contained a lot more than Vic actually posted, most of it was about leaving it to his judgement because I wasn’t aware that the incident was in his book.
    Jarkko –
    Talking of Juke and Blackburn, they may have a vacancy up front due to ongoing enquiries.
    Bob –
    I agree with you about comparative strength of squad. I have regularly commented about changing perspectives on Mogga’s squads. Sundry mantras such as best ever, stronger squad weaker league, own squad now etc have all come and gone.

  35. On 29th November I wrote:
    “So let’s take stock:
    21st October – Mowbray fired. General relief.
    13th November – Karanka appointed. Most pleased, a few question why it took so long given he was available, ticked all the boxes.
    21st November – Pears and Proctor leave.Cachada joins. Took ages for the club to announce what was already known.
    28th November – hope to bring in ‘3 to 4’ loan players. Arrival of Given seen as a positive.
    29th November – no further additions to the back room team – assistant coach, goalkeeping coach etc. To the consternation of some Veno still seems to be with the club.
    So 40 days (sounds almost biblical) after Mogga was fired Karanka is having to make his home debut with both arms tied behind his back. No word of explanation to worried fans – Typical Boro.”
    Eleven days on (10th December) we’ve thrown more points away at Derby and Birmingham yet seem no nearer completing Karanka’s backroom. No word of explanation to fans and no sense of urgency – Typical Boro.

  36. From the Gazette website….
    ‘He’s determined to establish Boro’s best combination of 11 players and that’s why he’s made a significant number of changes in each of his four games in charge,’
    Now there’s a euphemism for trying to make the most of a bunch clueless, disjointed individuals.

  37. AV –
    John Bowman is right here, the silence from the Boardroom is deafening.
    MFC are starting to look a little stupid, without explaining the problems with the delay in getting the backroom staff sorted.

  38. I wonder how deep the current investigations will go. With several high profile players having what may be loosely termed “addictions” to the odd speculative throw of a dice and the dire financial consequences they subsequently find themselves in then the Premiership and UEFA might find themselves sitting on a time bomb.
    We can all think of names of individuals who play or played at the highest level and found themselves in dire straits. When you start to think in detail of some bizarre bookings or indeed a sending off or two especially in massive club games you start to wonder where they in any kind of personal trouble and was it a way out despite their ridiculous salaries and lifestyles.
    An addict becoming involved with the wrong people is not a good mix but if for arguments sake you consider a stereotypical attitudinal egotistical Premiership footballer (insert one of many) with dubious previous near misses being given marching orders in sensational circumstances then one could reasonably wonder was it just a moment of madness or was there a lot more riding on it.
    One or two high profile events in recent years in domestic and European games in particular have started to resonate with me. I suspect this “investigation” could have far reaching consequences with careers well and truly finished and the FA, Players Union and UEFA all sweating and not just in the English game.

  39. I think everybody knows that the betting market is not fair in Asia. I have always tought that betting on a result or one action is very, very risky. One individual (or two) can affect a result or an action. As AV said it won’t happen in the PL or Championship, but it happens every month in the lower leagues.
    I had an local favourite team in Finland (it came after Boro – always). They played on the highest level here but needed money as they had some debts.
    A Chinese business man entered in, bought the club and fired the popular local manager. A Belgian manager was hired and he bought some 5 players from Belgium. Everybody thought they were not good enough nor fit enough as they were without clubs in Belgium.
    In a couple of weeks the manager left the best Finnish players out of the team and played all the unfit players instead. Also the best keeper was sent for a trial in Belgium (to a team unable to afford this goalie).
    The result: a 7-0 defeat in the Finnish Premier league. All my colleagues – I couldn’t attend the away match – left the match before half time as the team was so terrible.
    The authorities found out that somebody had bet and won a fortune with this result in Asia. Later the same gang of Belgians were jailed (both in Belgium and Finland), the club relegeted down 3 levels. The club went bust and does not exist anymore. The said Chinese owner disappeared since the result and stopped paying the bills. He is said to be dead now. The fans lost a club forever and the stadium has been empty for five years now.
    There is another Finnish team with similar problems relegeted from the top level, too. So does it happens – and according to a worlwide recent surway Finland is the least corrupted country in the world!
    What I try to say that there should not be possibility to bet on a single result outside professional leagues as the players are prone for fraud if not well played.
    Even more stupid is to have a bet on a yellow or red card. Too obvious for a fraud. Plain stupidity.
    Secondly I never wish Boro to get a foreign owner – especially so if he is from outside USA or the EU. It just does not make sence why a foreigner would invest a club like Boro, Hartlepool, Darlingtom, etc.
    Unfortunately the away results of Boro in 2013 have not been a fraud. We are just not good enough. Up the Boro!

  40. I said in the last two games i would settle for two draws. We nearly got one at high flying Derby and nearly won at Birmingham. We are so so close.
    We are scoring goals at as good a rate as any other team in the league so a striker is secondary to the problems in defence.
    If we have few funds spend it in the defence.

  41. My typo – “… the players are prone for fraud if not well paid (not played).”
    Just to add, the fixed match was comic to watch with a goalkeeper missing the ball and kicking it to the opponent. I can laugh on it now but could not back then!
    Up the Boro!

  42. Jarkko –
    Those Belgian players that were gaoled – bit harsh wasn’t it? No matter what you’ve done, to be in both a Finnish prison AND a Belgian prison at the same time is some going. Even Mandela was only banged up in one place at a time.

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