SHAY GIVEN’S last gasp wonder save will go down in Middlesbrough mythology.
The rib-rattling reflex block from Dale Stephens’ point-blank bazooka was fantastic. It was a brilliant and brave save at a crucial stage of the game, a moment of magic that secured a precious victory and maintained the momentum of Aitor’s Upturn.
And it was a save that will help cement the amiable Irish shot-stopper’s position as Boro’s new cult hero. It is a save that will take its place in Teesside’s football folklore.
But the vast majority of Boro fans didn’t even see it!
Even as we speak the mythweavers are hard at work threading the moment into the great cultural tapestry of Boro history.
It will take its place alongside the day Wilf Mannion dribbled with the ball balanced on is forehead leaving the opposition defence bursting into spontaneous applause, Big John’s Cenotaph penalty run up and the Little Fella getting on the end of his own throw-in to score with a diving header against Chelsea.
Give it a few years and it will be right up there with Gordon Banks blocking Pele’s header and ahead of Mark Schwarzer’s “gerriinyerbigAussie” Ned Kelly moment of glory to deny Robbie Fowler’s penalty and book Boro’s place in Europe.
It defied Stephens. It defied logic. It defied physics and geometry. It also defied the “typical Boro” script that demands the stoppage time sucker-punch.
The save will grow in stature as Boro climb the table and – hopefully – it will be awarded its own especially struck medal if we win the play-offs at Wembley. And it will surely be inked for posterity on triumphal tattoos across Teesside.
Its tale will be handed misty-eyed down the generations as unimpeachable terrace truth and the velocity of the shot, the impossibility of the narrowed angles and the brilliance and bravery of the block will increase with every telling.
And no heretic will ever be able to deny the miracle of Shay’s Messianic moment – because there is no evidence to the contrary.
Incredibly, Shay Given’s points-clinching wonder save wasn’t shown on the “highlights”. Which is crazy. That was THE moment in the match. The pivotal point. The match-defining image. And the Football League Show “highlights” didn’t show it.
And it wasn’t the usual 40 second blipvert that presents a massive technical challenge to distil all the action into a very tight edit, so there is no excuse.
BBC royalty – Teesside’s own lower league small screen specialist, Clem – was in town because Boro’s clash with Charlton was a featured match, given the full six minutes treatment with colour, insight and, you would think, the luxury of extended highlights. But no!
Plenty of Boro fans stayed up late – and it was late, very late, it was still the last match shown from the Championship – just to see the brilliance of the sterling save again.
We got to see Clem’s tea-cup in lingering close up, Aitor’s inspirational 2011 Jose Morinho calendar quote and the jump cut coach route to the stadium as part of the big build-up. Ironically there was even a zoom of Karanka rushing over to gleefully cuddle Given on the whistle but no contextual illustration of why he was singled out for this merry managerial manhug.
But without the super save the entire segment was all a massive anti-climax.
It speaks as lot about the fact that goals are the currency of such shows. Especially for dispassionate neutral viewers. And that’s fair enough. I wouldn’t want to watch all the saves from Yeovil or Barnsley.
Like many viewers I’m usually a couple of cans in and dozing off by then and willing them to fast-forward through all the saves, misses and this week’s controversial Blackpool sendings off so as to get to Boro’s graveyard slot all the quicker.
But mighty Boro’s clash with creaky Charlton WAS the “feature” match.
And that save WAS the story of the game. Just read the intros of all the written reports.
The brilliant and decisive denial saved two points, brought the Riverside to its feet chanting and was the first thing both managers were asked about after the match. It was such an arresting second of skill that BBC Tees pundit Neil Maddison hastily changed his Man of the Match award and snatched the accolade away from poor Jozsef Varga in favour of Shay.
It was the only thing anyone was talking about afterwards, from the press room to the underpass and filtering out into the town and into the night, spreading the word.
Surely it had to be shown in awe-struck slow-motion from three different angles?
Apart from the Emmanuel Ledesma deceptive skidding strike and the 1952 shoulder-barged effort Simon Church had disallowed, there really wasn’t much else essential action screaming out to be included in the final cut.
But somehow, among all the padding, the show missed the money shot, the actual highlight, the last gasp moment on which the entire outcome of the game revolved (and incidentally, the fluffed punch under pressure that fell short and teed up the shot too, but that’s another story and undermines the myth so we will airbrush that out of history thank you very much.)
If that thunderbolt goes in then Boro have two points snatched away at the death and the supporters go away under a mumbling cloud of renewed dismal fatalism about ‘typical Boro and yet another sloppily conceded late goal while Charlton drive home laughing their socks off at the audacious mugging. If it was saved then we are all hailing our ‘win ugly’ heroes and provisionally booking hotels in the North London area for the end of May. Fine margins.
That was THE moment in the match. And the Football League Show highlights didn’t show it.
It caused an indignant late nigh ripple in the twittersphere with bleary-eyed Boro fans screaming into cyberspace: “Bloody hell, I stayed up especially for the save!” “I’d rather see that than the goal. What a rip off.” Ali Brownlee fired a barded tweet the way of his own corporation then stomped off to bed. The flurry of fury briefly had #FLS trending.
Still, the media blackout may help disguise exactly how well bromantic Boro fans’ new BBF Shay is playing, may keep predators in the dark and at arm’s length and may just help Boro secure an an extended say. Good work Clem.
In truth it was a poor game and you wouldn’t fancy trying to find the best bits.
But winning ugly is part of the skills set for success in the Championship. It is nice to think Boro could get promoted playing free-flowing, pundit-pleasing football but in a division in constant flux the teams that prosper in this war of attrition are those that can grind it out when they don’t play well. And Boro are starting to do that.
The 1-0 win over the Valiants was far from polished: it was low-thrills, low-tempo, error-strewn but it took the points. It took the current run to five wins and a draw from the last six in the league. Five clean sheets in that. And 16 points from 18. That’s not bad. But it was real minger.
To be fair, the 2-0 win at Blackpool had plenty of slap on but still looked ropey. And the 2-0 at Millwall wouldn’t win many beauty contests either. Not even in Deptford.
Luckily in all those three poor shows against weak sides there were enough flashes of quality to win largely lack-lustre games. If Boro are to continue to continue to climb then they will have to be better more often and leave less to chance against weak sides.
And they will have to be better still if they are to get something from Leicester next week.
PUBLIC pressure has forced a sheepish Beeb to send a minnion looking through the scraps on the floor of the edit suite to find footage of the Shay Given wonder save. It is available here on Boro’s Facebook page.
My suggestion that they forget the actual footage and get Shay down to Riverside to do a ‘Phoenix From The Flames’ style reconstruction and preserve/enhance the myth was rejected.
WE HAVE the Big Boro Survey half-time results in the paper all this week.
Usual format, a sample of almost 800 answering questions on Surveymonkey. We are breaking it down into easy to digest infographics first with analysis of the juicy bits to follow.
Here’s Part One:
Here’s Part Two
And Part Three… me number crunching the fans’ choice team.