Blunt Boro Two Minutes From History

IF BLUNT Boro don’t score straight from kick-off against Leeds they face the prospect of being branded the most shot-shy side in our long and not always glorious history. And let’s be honest, there is plenty of competition.
By popular demand – well, a couple of pleading e-mails from people outside Gazetteshire anyway – here’s my Bigger Picture column on a toothless team on the verge of an unwanted limp landmark.
The clock is ticking…

GOALOPHOBIC Boro have now gone through an eight-and-three-quarter-hour mini ice age of impotence.
Herds of cattle are grazing peacefully in the penalty box, bottoms totally unbothered by stringed instruments. Barndoors remain intact and unpeppered by blunderbuss buckshot. Ladies of the night have their honour intact. Boro could still be playing at Watford now and the net would remain resolutely unrippled.
The flaccid frontline and misfiring midfield have now gone 525 long, bleak, soul-sapping minutes without scoring.
But it is not all bad news for shot shy Boro: they are bang on course for the record books.
Yes, history beckons as blunt Boro take on erratic Leeds in a small screen semi-derby showdown. Harry Glasper and a squad of stattos will be getting twitchy come kick-off and tortured over whether they want a fired up side to score straight from kick-off and avoid ignominy or to remain toothless and rewrite the history books.
Unless they score within the first two minutes against Leeds on semi-derby Saturday it will be Boro’s longest EVER league goal-drought.
And if they can drag out the agony deep into the second half they could make it a double and star in the longest EVER scoreless sequence in all competitions. Make space in the trophy cabinet.
The previous best – or worst – in the league came in the sickening slither towards relegation under Gareth Southgate in 2009.
Then our ill-fated heroes crumbled in a jittery January and went through five goalless games and clocked up 527 minutes of barren blundering.
The slide that marked a brittle side’s relegation fate started with a 3-0 thumping at Mogga’s rock-bottom West Brom, a comprehensive one-sided dismantling that left Southgate broken. He was ashen faced and almost incapable of speaking after the game, In retrospect he should have gone then. The local press corps who had seen him genuinely thought he would quit that night. Or his wife would make him.
But he battled on and the wobble worsened and deepened with a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea, an insipid goalless draw at home to Blackburn, a 1-0 defeat at Manchester City marked by a masterclass in missed sitters from Afonso Alves (and a brilliant display by Shay Given) and a brain-numbing 0-0 at home to Wigan.
Then Boro somehow contriving to beat Liverpool 2-0 at the Riverside with the long drought naturally ending with an own goal off Xavi Alonso from a Stewart Downing corner on 32 minutes. Typical. But hey, they all count.
Tuncay added a second late on but did that finally open the floodgates? Er, no. Boro managed just one more goal in the next three games and were on the wrong end of four goal thumpings by Spurs and Bolton.
That was a nightmare run. But there was an even more inept and punchless purgatory back in August and September 1978 when John Neal’s side got off to a stuttering start to the season and also suffered five fruitless and goalless games.
After losing two of the first three but managing to score in all of them, they went on a nosedive down the top flight table drawing 0-0 with Ipswich then losing 2-0 at Everton and at home to QPR.
But their low quality quintet of misfiring matches had an added dimension. They also included a 1-0 aggregate League Cup defeat over two legs to third division Peterborough – and they managed to force fans to endure a half-hour of extra-time toothless torture too.
There are people who have been waterboarded in Guantanamo Bay that would flinch in fear at the thought of being forced to suffer that 593 minutes of empty ineptitude.
The log-jam was finally ended with a 2-2 draw at champions Nottingham Forest. David Mills netted within a minute of the second half starting and David Armstrong added a second soon after as revived Boro stormed back from two down.
And that sparked a goal rush as Boro scored two goals in each of their next five games including narrow defeats at Arsenal and Manchester United then successive 2-0 wins over Norwich, Wolves and Villa.
On Saturday, if Boro don’t score inside 68 minutes that 70s scoreless sequence will be surpassed and no doubt human rights lawyers will be scrambled to take action against what is surely a ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ under international law.
This current blank run goes back to the scrappy 1-0 win over lowly Charlton on January 18 when Emmanuel Ledesma won a tussle on the touchline out on the right then sent in a skidding low shot that bounced over the diving keeper and in at the near post.
That took bubbling Boro’s Christmas upturn to 16 points from six games in which they had scored two at Millwall, one against leaders Burnley, three in beating Reading then two at Blackpool before scrambling past Charlton.
There was no sign then of the sudden slump. A 2-0 defeat at leaders Leicester was no shame and at least we could take the positives from solidity and rigidity as the watertight side rattled off successive goalless draws against Wigan, Doncaster and Blackburn – a game in which both bosses agreed visiting keeper Paul Robinson had “a worldie”.
Then Watford…
And next up is Leeds. My money is on a goal fest. Starting with Graham (3). Nailed on.


37 thoughts on “Blunt Boro Two Minutes From History

  1. Looking forward to us hopefully handing out a good hiding to Leeds. I’ll unfortunately be at a Jockenese Function for a delayed Burns Night here in South Korea, but taking the laptop to sit in a quiet corner of the bar to watch the match & listen to Brownlie hopefully drown out the sound of the pipes with his goal celebrations.

  2. Since the result barely matters, let’s just go and try to enthuse the supporters. A televised semi grudge match watched by many a lapsed attendee is the perfect time to go for it. The formation doesn’t bother me. The intent and style of play does.
    If we want to shift some tickets and build some optimism for next season then a winning, attack-minded display is much needed. We need some new momentum.
    Will Tomlin play? With Big Ben suspended you would imagine it will be Woody and Omerou at the back, whilst Chalobah, Graham and Given will presumably play as well (this is Given’s last game, right?). As we can only field five loanees, does Varga drop out? He is the one who pre-dates Karanka.
    **AV writes: That’s how I’d read it.

  3. In truth, only goals from our midfielders (with most of them being long range efforts) have masked the total absence of our strikers to score goals.
    We’ve shipped out under-performing Emnes and Juke and replaced them with an out of sorts Danny Graham and suspended Lee Tomlin – leaving us with an honest but probably out-of-his-depth Main and a not yet fully recovered Kamara to challenge him.
    As one former Boro manager said “it is what it is” – We’re really now only pinning our hopes on Tomlin being the real deal as, although I admire your optimism, I can’t see Graham scoring a hat-trick at Leeds.
    He said he can’t remember his last Boro goal but I think he’ll start to struggle to remember any goal he actually scored as he’s managed only one in over a year – so he seemed a strange choice to fix our lack of goals up front.
    Anyway, at least you’ll get good odds at the bookies – though a covering 0-0 bet may pay for a pint afterwards.

  4. Who plays RB though if Big Ken and Woody are at CB?
    Unless Seb Hines comes in and BK plays RB?
    The logical decision for me would be to slot Leadbitter in alongside Whitehead and leave Chalobah out.
    He could of course leave Given out considering he’s leaving anyway.

  5. Werdermouth –
    AV doesn’t say that Danny Graham will score a hat-trick, he says he will score on the 3rd minute – straight after we break the record for most barren run ever.

  6. dtro –
    Sorry my mistake, I should have realised that AV is not prone to such overly optimistic predictions – however, in my defence I will plead entrapment by the phrase ‘goal fest’ (though a fest does usually follow a famine).
    I hope Tomlin is the first name on the team-sheet given that, but for a lack of time for a medical, we would have splashed out £1.5m for him – which is not the kind of outlay a club of our means would pay for a bench-warmer in a team that hasn’t scored for five games.

  7. With Tomlin now a permanent signing I guess that solves how many loanees we can play on Saturday. I would expect Varga to keep his place with either Omeruo or Chalobah alongside Woody (if fit).
    I would hope Tomlin will start given the woeful lack of a stud in the stable so I reckon that Chalobah will drop back to fill Big Bens boots rather than Omeruo and try and keep some understanding in the side with Whitehead and Leadbitter in the middle and Danny up front. Of more interest is will Muzzy and Albert play either side of Tomlin?

  8. Five loan players in a team for a match that is ultimately only for the Yorkshire bragging rights. How can that be in anyway representative of a Middlesbrough team or beneficial to the club and its own players development. Ridiculous

  9. I think the loaners needs to be looked at in perspective. Three games ago we were optimistic of the play offs, it isn’t to be now barring a seismic miracle.
    Graham, Chalobah and Omeruo will not feature in the starting 11 for their parent clubs next season regardless of how well they may do here. Varga was a gamble that looks like worth persevering with if he continues to play well at RB. Given was a given and after 2.00 PM Saturday is gone. Tomlin is now ours so apart from the Real Keeper coming in its pretty clear to me what the point is.
    Last February people on here were berating SG for having no ambition because didn’t blow £5m on Graham. Now he is here on sample basis and £5m still in the bank it’s suddenly not good enough because we have kids who can bag us 30 goals a Season suddenly.
    If they prove to be better than what we have most could be here next season along with Hazard jnr. Bigger picture guys, Watford made the play play offs last season comprised almost entirely of loaners. I’m not bothered how we get there just get us there Aitor!

  10. Before the virtual ink has dried on ‘would have splashed out £1.5m for Tomlin’ Boro now converted the loan into a transfer.
    I wasn’t sure how that was possible but FIFA rules stipulate: An existing loan deal can be made permanent at any time outside the transfer window. I presume that needs all parties to agree, otherwise it’s still not too late to convert the Shay Given loan – is kidnap permitted under FIFA rules?
    Though in terms of team development, I wonder if any of our Chelsea loanees may well have a evens chance of returning next season. It’s hard to see either of them being deemed ready to be in Chelsea team squad just yet – Omeruo isn’t even ready to start with Boro and may not even play ten games this season.
    I suspect Varga may also be available next term if Boro want him. If Graham hits form then he’ll be back in the PL – though ironically if he struggles he’ll be looking for a Championship gig again.
    So maybe Tomlin is the spark we’ve been missing – hopefully we’ll see this weekend.

  11. Take a look at the photo in the MFC piece “Welcome back Jason” – looks like a ‘Spot the aggro’ completion to me…is that Mr Tomlin in the foreground?
    **AV writes: Yes that’s our drought-busting No 10 elect. He says he likes to play “on the edge.” Two red cards in three games suggests he does just that. But having said that, after years of limp and lightweight players easily bullied at the business end maybe we need a little bit fire in the belly. Grrrrrr.

  12. Werdermouth has mentioned it, so have I and others. We have been relying on non striking strikers to score goals, those from the wide men should be icing on the cake supplementing bread butter from the main man.
    A common refrain from Ali has been come on Maddo, your expert summariser, what should we do. Just the same as when Higgie was in the same role.
    One of the key comments has been getting people in to the box, having someone go to the far post if the striker goes to the near post, someone to join and get beyond the striker.
    It isnt a new problem. It was there in the Mogga teams, it is here with Karanka’s squad.
    It is putting a lot of pressure on Tomlins.

  13. Ian –
    It’s a fair point about a lack of bodies in the box. The question is why?
    Is it that the players aren’t good/adventurous enough? Is it that they are they following a plan that doesn’t allow them the freedom to get there? Is it that we haven’t had a natural “no. 10” and are therefore arguably playing a system which doesn’t totally suit what we’ve got? Is it something else or a combination or problems?

  14. Andy R –
    If it was simple I guess either Mogga or Karanka would have fixed it.
    Mogga’s sides have tended not to play with one, they tend to play 433 type line up and the midfield three tend to play as a midfield three. I guess the wide men in the front three are exactly that or drop back to make a five without the ball.
    Karanka’s preference for 4231 at least gives the position for a no 10. We haven’t had one, Marvin may have been the closest but he isn’t going to get up any ones nose or bust a gut. Scottie was more of a striker.
    The Academy hasn’t produced one though Luke Williams has had the potential.
    Saturday will show us a something whatever it is!

  15. Ian –
    All fair points. I think a 4-3-3 is more suited to our squad at the moment but as you say, the central midfielders didn’t get up to support enough when Mowbray played that system. It probably isn’t all the midfielders fault – maybe it also requires your centre forward to hold it up better and we haven’t had a good enough target man. Tempo was also an issue.
    Anyway, let’s hope Tomlin can make a good fist of the no. 10 role. No-one else has to date. It’s the key position in the 4231 for me.

  16. “Semi-Derby” made me smile.
    Was this a deliberate literary construct to help keep the great unwashed of West Yorkshire away?
    **AV writes: It is a semi-derby because half of the Teeside public – those on the North of the rivers – don’t recognise it as having any cultural signficance at all, whereas to those of a certain age and birth certificate it is very much a Yorkshire clash.

  17. Andy R –
    Throw in the players available as well.
    Barry Robson did not really suit Mogga but he would have rattled a few cages in a pressing no 10 role. It was what he appeared to do well.
    A major criticism was his marauding style, he certainly wasn’t suited to staying right side midfield and don’t be a naughty boy. By the way this isn’t a eulogy to Robson, more a comment on his style.
    Grant has played there but he is better to suited to box to box. It is possibly the role Morrison would have loved, certainly Tuncay would have revelled in it.
    The key thing is we want someone who wants to score, not likes to be is desperate to score. A Nolan or Robbie Keane type.
    AV –
    Do you think of Leeds as a derby, semi or otherwise?
    It isn’t a trick question, as you know I consider myself as a Yorkshireman and a Teessider and went to Leeds so class it as nearly a derby. Toon and Mackems are derby’s.
    I think you went to Newcastle and possibly have a more northward looking stance.
    **AV writes: It was definitely a derby when I was a kid. Boro were in division two, Revie’s side were giants and their gravity pulled the weak willed towards Leeds as their “other team”. And Middlesbrough was very much in Yorkshire then: they played cricket at Acklam Park, old blokes were passionate about the North Riding and we got Yorkshire TV.
    Now aerials point to Tyne-Tees and we have been moved culturally 30 miles to the North. Now its not a derby for the vast majority of fans. Especially younger ones.

  18. Apropos of nothing Boro, I am going to talk to my son tonight who is good at websitey things.
    I cannot believe that no-one has yet started a petition boycotting the Qatar World Cup. So I am going to ask him to start one.
    I cannot believe, based on the people I have met while following Boro, that there are any football fans who will want to spend their money and holidays supporting games in Qatar.
    I can’t believe they are so debased as to enjoy supporting a venture that has already cost thousands of lives, and lost, moreover, in conditions at least as bad as the slavery of the 19th century American sugar plantations – and probably worse (as slave owners had a vested interest in keeping their slaves alive, whereas these Qataris can find plenty more Nepalis)
    These poor duped people have often been willing to give their life savings to an agent who will arrange for them to go and work there. They are working in inhuman heat, far too long in that heat, improperly fed and housed, regularly unpaid. Football cannot be associated with these near- genocidal crimes, even if Blatter and his cronies think this vile business is worth it, in some sense, to them, to what they value and we all know what you are like, Mr Blatter, even if we treat you with the uncomfortable indulgence we might accord any freak show?
    Football fans surely have more decency than FIFA! But why has this boycotting not already happened? Ordinary football fans must not allow our game to be sullied (not a strong enough word, but AV has standards!) by an operation that has already killed at least a thousand poor Indians and Nepalis! We must not!
    **AV writes: I think plans are already afoot in cyber space to switch fire onto the big World Cup sponsors (that is the only place to hurt FIFA) as soon as this year’s budget-busting spending spree in Brazil is over. Plenty of workers have died there too. FIFA isn’t too bothered about that.
    There was a failed attempt by leftist groups in the democratic west to organise a boycott of Argentina 78 (what with their Dirty War and death squads etc) that fizzled out because the lead time is so long, football was seen them as “not political,” wide layers of fans see any attempt to stop the team taking part as treason and there was no obvious point of attack. I think social media and a trigger point could maybe change that and make any potential campaign more viable.

  19. Please let me know if there is something concrete. Many millions of true football supporters might sign a pledge a) not to go to it in person and b) not to subscribe to any pay TV channel that supports it. It seems that we must all support one cyberspace movement, though, so as not to dilute the effect.
    **AV writes: Yes, I agree.

  20. HalifaxP –
    A very good idea. But as AV suggested we should place the ban on the World Cup sponsors – that is a briliant idea. If they fear that their sales go down, even Baltter must take notice!
    Up the Boro!
    PS. Pete, we will come over to see three Boro matches in April. Can we meet before the Millwall match in Halifax?

  21. Carltonp –
    I agree your sentiments but they have odd bedfellows. Barca did not have a sponsor on their shirt and in fact had Unicef emblazoned upon it.
    Oddly the sponsorship deal occurred about the time voting was taking place for the location of the world cup, Even odder, Spain were in the bidding at the same time for the world cup due to take place in Brazil.
    Do we now now boycott Barcelona shirts? Qatar are probably no worse than many oil rich countries. Should we now take action against Arsenal and Man City.
    Talking about principles, what about an owner of a football club who is allegedly a tax exile wanting taxpayers to help at a steel plant when his own ground is built of German steel.
    That is the problem, there are principles and there are pricip£es.
    That doesnt mean I disagree with what what you are saying.

  22. George Kinnell, Alf Wood, Ray Hankin, David Currie, Paul Sugrue, Andy Crawford, Dwight Marshall, Lee Miller, Caleb Folan, Dong Gook Lee – can you hear me ? You guys took one Hell of a beating.
    We’ve seen some bad Boro sides over the years and witnessed some awful strikers but in a matter of months Karanka has managed to out do them all. A considerable achievement.
    When we don’t score in the first 2 minutes against Leeds he will beat Southgate’s unenviable goalless record. In fairness to Gareth his team’s desperate run came against the best defences in the land. Amazingly, Aitor has managed it against the limited, flawed defenders of the Championship.
    The run is even more remarkable given what went on before he arrived. Under Mowbray and Venus we scored goals for fun, top scorers at home and third top scorers overall. Contrary to Ian’s suggestion there was no sign of that letting up. In fact in the four games pre-Karanka Boro netted eight times.
    This season, pre-Karanka, we averaged 1.66 goals per game which corresponds to 76 goals over a full season. Under Karanka we’ve scored only one goal a game, the equivalent of 46 a season. That’s relegation scoring form in anyone’s language, indeed every team in the Championship last year managed to score more than that, yet bizarrely some claim Karanka has saved us from the drop!
    Hopes now firmly pinned on Tomlin. Let’s hope he’s as brilliant as AV’s piece above with Paragraph 5 particularly inspired – “bottoms totally unbothered by stringed instruments”- bravo sir.
    I actually have high hopes for “Lily” who apparently possesses the ability to control and pass the ball as opposed to just running around a lot with gritted teeth.
    Poor old Aitor certainly needs some inspiration from somewhere. He can’t be happy with his transformation from Spanish Hero to El Zero.
    **AV writes: And yet the goal difference has improved from -2 when Mogga went to +5 now, and that counts in the table rather than goals scored. Points return too. Under Mogga it was 12 points in 12 games in the opening phase of the season, one per game. And that is “relegation form in anyone’s language”. Under Karanka Boro have taken 23 points in 16 games which is far from spectacular (and has not been eye-catching) but it is an improvement.
    After some initial spluttering Karanka has solved a problem at the back and his tweaks have created a problem elsewhere. But he knows that. Do you think he doesn’t? Do you think he is happy that Boro are not scoring? Just listen to his interviews after the games, He knows where the problem lies which is why he spent most of the last few days of the deadlne trying to reshape his strikeforce.
    We haven’t seen his new sharp end in action yet. It’s probably best to give them a few games together before consigning them to the hitman Hades along with Sugrue, Folan, Ben Hutchinson, et al.

  23. Ian –
    The problem, as I see it, goes way beyond principles. So far, at least a thousand people have died. By the time of the tournament, will that figure reach 10,000?
    It is possible.
    In such a case, will any football supporter be actually able to enjoy watching the fruits of the slavery and human rights abuses? Will you?
    Will any sponsor wish to be associated with such an enterprise? Only if people are as feeble as FIFA, who say things like, “We are just a bunch of football administrators. We can’t do anything?”
    Well, with modern media networks, ordinary football fans can do things. it is possible to send a message to FIFA and Qatar that makes this project toxic.
    As to Qatar not being better than other countries, you may be right that life is cheap in North Korea, Qatar and other such regimes, but FIFA seems, in theory, to want to extend what it calls “the football family” to incorporate any vile rubbish. My hope would be that the existing football family might be able to state a position on this matter: namely, that we do not support slavery or murder and will not support any enterprise built on the back of either.
    And if the perpetrators and accomplices in these crimes can be made to recognise that they are defiling their reputations, actual lives can be saved. That’s the point! Many lives can be saved.
    I don’t think any people died making the Riverside. If as many had died in building it as have already died in Qatar, I would like to think that nobody on Teesside would have felt comfortable sitting watching football games on the site of such carnage. What kind of person could? It goes way beyond principle, Ian!

  24. I’m not suggesting AK is unaware or happy with the situation and I hope the new players will do the trick. My fear is that it isn’t really a personnel issue but more fundamental than that.
    The really worrying thing about the current run is that, Blackburn aside, we’ve hardly created a chance. The same was true in the previous scrappy 1-0 wins against Bolton (penalty) and Charlton and Burnley (keeper errors). It’s not a case of strikers fluffing their lines, they don’t get a chance to score. It’s interesting that the much maligned Juke has scored twice since joining Bolton on loan.
    There has been more than just a tactical tweak under Karanka, we’ve seen a major refocussing of the team. A dogmatic defensive approach now prevails above all else, creativity and risk taking are frowned upon. It’s made us more solid but blunted any attacking threat.
    Given that we’re well drilled without the ball but toothless with it I expect more teams will adopt the Watford approach. Let us dominate possession safe in the knowledge we will never get anyone in the box.
    Karanka may well be laying the solid foundations which we can then build on but will people have the patience to let him finish the job? It’s going to take a considerable time to go from the worst scorers in Boro history to scoring enough goals to be serious promotion contenders.
    **AV writes: I see Boro right now as being where Crystal Palace were two years ago under Dougie Freedman when they were very, very hard to beat – most games finished 0-0 or 1-0 either way – but were in the bottom half of the table. They were there because while the shape was right the personnel wasn’t. Not quite. They lacked teeth. Then they found Glenn Murray.

  25. The evidence is clear and unarguable, Amnesty International did a report on Qatar last year. Hosting the World Cup is merely a marketing exercise for Qatar in it’s $220bn project to become a global business hub.
    How FIFA can be comfortable with the estimates (based on the current migrant worker death rate) that concluded 4,000 people will die in building the World Cup venues – which incidentally will have no further use once the trophy is lifted.
    Workers are not being sacrificed to avert some impending disaster like those following the nuclear meltdowns in Chernobyl or Japan – no these people will die just so the world can enjoy a three-week tournament of football.
    Are FIFA so powerful that not even governments can say no? The scandal of the collapse of a crumbling factory in Bangladesh had politicians demanding the price of cheap clothing was too high and it should be better regulated.
    And where is the EU – so fond of legislation to protect workers in it’s own sphere but seemingly happy to go along with the charade of football in the desert.
    Also the FA appear more concerned at the disruption of fixtures – now that after the event has been awarded, the decision makers have realised that the desert in summer is too hot to run around in for 90 minutes – let alone be a builder working 12 hours or more without enough water to drink.
    Perhaps the best and easiest way to stop the tournament is to petition the best players in the world to commit to ruling themselves out of being available for selection – even FIFA wouldn’t want a tournament without their stars being available for their rich corporate sponsors.
    It would only take one journalist to ask a post-match question to a top player – “Great goal Ronaldo, but how do you feel about 4,000 workers dying so that you can score at the World Cup?”, not exactly over the moon I’m sure.
    **AV writes: Here’s FIFA secretary general Jerome Valke talking about the popular opposition to the cost – financial and social as well as the deaths of workers in unsafe construction sites – of the World Cup in Brazil and about the government’s use of force against legitimate protest.
    “Less democracy is sometimes better for organizing a World Cup.
    “When you have a very strong head of state who can decide, as maybe Putin can do in 2018…that is easier for us organizers than a country such as Germany….where you have to negotiate at different levels.
    “The main fight we have is when we enter a country where the political structure is divided, as it is in Brazil. There are different people, different movements, different interests and it’s quite difficult to organize a World Cup in such conditions.
    “I remember my first World Cup where I was directly involved was the one in Argentina and I would say I was happy Argentina won. This was a kind of reconciliation of the public, of the people of Argentina, with the system, the political system, the military system at the time.
    “I think, and this is my approach on such a matter…I don’t know what could have happened if they had lost this final and they were close to losing because the Dutch they hit the post in the last minutes of the 90 minutes. The game and the world changed, that was my feeling at the time.”
    So the oppression and slave labour is justified because if Qatar do well in the tournament there may be brief period of national joy followed by a renewal of the Death Squads and who knows, a few years down the line an unpopular repressive government may collapse after an ill-advised invasion goes wrong.
    Sepp Blatter then chipped in to insist that the Orwellian FIFA is all things to all men and they are conservative, liberal and socialist, all at the same time.
    “We are conservative, like the Catholics, when it comes to the laws of the game and referees. Then we are liberal when we go to the market,” he said, referring to FIFA’s commercial dealings. And we are Marx and Engels when it comes to the distribution of the money, 70 percent of all income is distributed to the national associations for development programs.”
    This is totally corrupt and amoral cleptocracy beyond any jurisdiction who will accept any level of domestic political oppression so long as FIFA get their revenues and the sponsors get their tax free monopolies policed effectively.

  26. FIFA, UEFA, CONCAF etc. don’t care as long as they can keep their trotters in the trough.
    When will the next draw for a major tournament take place by Skype? About the same time a world conference on global warming does the same.
    The same type of self seeking people will always rise to positions of power whatever political persuasion they adopt.
    It almost makes you grateful to have the FA and Premier League. I did say almost though that might be construed as a glowing endorsement by some.

  27. Very interesting response AV – and it’s quite incredible what ethos this so-called governing body has. It’s purpose seems, as you say, about raking in as much dosh as possible and not looking after the duty of care of those involved in football.
    An organisation must be answerable to the laws of the country in which it is based – in this case Switzerland. But have they investigated properly the alleged corruption involved in awarding Qatar the World Cup when Jack Warner claimed that he was told it was ‘bought’ in a leaked email from Jerome Valke?
    Perhaps one of the reasons governments have not got involved is that one of its sanctions of FIFA is to suspend teams and associated members from international competition when a government interferes in the running of FIFA’s associate member organisations.
    That means if the British government told the FA that England should boycott Qatar they would probably be suspended from all internationals.
    Since you say FIFA is able to use it’s vast wealth to pay-off (sorry, distribute income) to remove any dissent from regional football confederations, it seems to be untouchable.
    Since Switzerland is not in the EU it is they alone who can bring them to account – and it’s not a country that is prone to asking too many difficult questions of how people obtain their money.

  28. I’m not sure about your Crystal Palace comparison AV. I would suggest it was Holloway (and his attacking style of football) that got Murray his goals and Palace promoted.
    Freedman did a solid job on a limited budget at Palace, but they were looking down the table until Holloway injected his peculiar brand of positivity.

  29. halifaxp –
    Good to hear from you, mate! It’s been a long time – have you been in hibernation?
    I agree with everything you wrote. Please keep us all posted on any cyber-thingy we can all sign.

  30. Carltonp –
    Sorry, missed your reply but I agree with everything you say.
    A post I made between your reply and this one makes the point that many are involved. The difficulty is where do we draw the line. Sadly the major governing bodies in sport are happy to take the money and turn a blind eye.
    Even worse, so are most fans.

  31. A propos of the price of fish, I am sitting watching Spurs travails in the Europa Cup and thought to myself, we played Dnipro and, being ashamed of my inability to remember the score , proceeded to Google. I came across a BBC report which contained the following:
    “The only disappointment for Boro was that so few fans showed up at The Riverside following Saturday’s 4-1 win over Manchester United, the huge swathes of unfilled seats giving the game something of a funereal atmosphere.
    “Not that the tame start – neither goalkeeper had a serious save to make in the opening half-hour – gave the 12,953 fans who had turned up much to get excited about.”
    Two things sprang to mind after reading this:
    1. Was this the first documented use of ‘swathes’ and ‘seats’ in the same sentence in relation to Riverside attendance?
    2. Given the intimation that the size of crowd was paltry with its concomitant atmosphere, and in view of the current average attendance, perhaps a sponsorship deal with the Co-op may be worthwhile? Divi stamps instead of free pints?
    And then I thought, ahhhhhh, those were the days…

  32. Clive –
    Not exactly in hibernation, mate, but I have had a very “interesting” year, as in the Chinese curse, which it would be nice to fill you in on if we can perhaps meet at a match. However, I don’t go to all away matches these days, hardly any in fact. This season just the Blackburn game when Chris from Beverley was able to drive me, something I can no longer do. Huddersfield, maybe?
    As to the cyberspace thing, my son (whose work can be seen regularly on BBC Online) and I will talk at the weekend and we will see what can be done. I still find it odd that there isn’t some sort of petition already going viral!
    I am having dinner on Saturday with another person who knows how these things work, so, if nobody tells me of something that has already been started, I hope to have something to report soon. The sooner Qatar can be made to realise how this whole business looks to the civilised world, the greater the number of lives can be saved.
    Ian –
    You are so right about the trough and FIFA snouts. Footballers and their agents also like troughs, and remembering Tom Finney was a salutary thing, even if all those modern pros looked very hypocritical celebrating a superior being but keeping their arms around each other!
    Someone suggested getting the footballers themselves to boycott the 2022 festival of slaughter. I immediately started imagining agents talking to the Wayne Rooneys of eight years hence.
    AGENT (to player, let’s call him Wayne): Now then, Wayne, I understand people from cyberspace have been bothering you about playing in Qatar next year?
    WAYNE: Yur, boverin’, Yur. I don’t like reading things.
    AGENT: Well, that’s all my job, as I have told you before.
    WAYNE: Yur, your job.
    AGENT: What I need from you – all I need from you – is for you to think what would
    make you really happy. What do you really want next, Wayne?
    WAYNE: Stevie G2 has got a diamond-encrusted snooker table. I was jealous. I want one like what he’s got. Nurtamin?
    AGENT: You don’t play snooker, do you?… Never mind. Good thinking, Wayne. Good lad. Leave it with me.
    WAYNE: OK. (Picks up PS 8 and happily plays shoot ’em up games, while agent gets on the Skype)
    AGENT: Septic Blotter, how’s your soaking going these days? Good. Glad to hear it. Listen, I think I can get Wayne to sign up for your tournament. Took some doing, I can tell you.
    That Untypical Boro website has gone viral over here. But I think we may have our superstar ready to defy public pressure and validate you. All you have to do is get him a diamond-encrusted snooker table and £500, 000 in cash. Yes, I thought it was a reasonable offer too. You’ll get back to me? Looking forward to it already!

  33. Carltonp –
    Last nights riots in Ukraine and Spurs playing a game in the country is a classic case of where do you draw the line between regimes and sport.
    No right or wrong answer but in that case it wont just be one group to blame.
    As we are playing the Dirties it made me think of the moans from the managers of Arsenal and City.
    Is a penalty a sufficient penalty for denying a goal scoring chance in the box?
    I am old enough to remember a Friday night (I think) against Liverpool when Clemence came storming out of the box to wipe out a Boro player in the clear bearing down on goal. Booked, trotted back into goal and free kick came to nothing.
    Brucie’s boys 1-0 down at Derby, Ripley though the middle clear of Wright who just clipped his ankles. Yellow card, free kick in the D, super save by Shilton.
    This isn’t one eyed, I am sure Boro players will have done the same but you remember those against you.
    Denying a goal scoring chance is a red card and a direct free kick. In the box a direct free kick is taken from a fixed spot.
    What an irony if the rules said that the better a goal scoring chance the weaker the punishment. The rules have been changed to stop players being launched in to row Z.
    Anyway, Dirties up next.

  34. I hope this new manager has a complete clear out at the end of the season. This team is an absolute shambles,yet another season in this god forsaken division. Players undisciplined ,no passion.
    I honestly think if this manager,who was second to Mourinho,at one of the worlds biggest clubs,does not get financial backing from Gibson ,next seaon ,he wiil be off.He is not going to hang around in the championship.

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