Habitual Heartbreak At Hillsborough

*SIGH* A familiar frustrating tale is being retold with a heavy heart after a grave injustice at Hillsborough – but an injustice that doesn’t outweigh a worrying sense that a habitual inadequacy is fast becoming the default.
The “sharp” end first: Jacob Butterfield’s goal was in. Definitely. It hit both posts then looked to have crept well over the line before Chris Kirkland clawed it to safety. It looked in from where we were. It must have looked in from where the linesman was standing. We didn’t have the benefit of a monitor in the Hillsborough press box but your multi-media Gazette team quickly provided conclusive and exclusive proof. Here it is:
You can’t argue with that.

After the game Kenneth Omeruo told us the referee had admitted at half-time he now knew the ball was over the line. Presumably at the crucial moment he didn’t and had to go with the linesman. While Kenneth was talking to the Teesside press Kirkland was talking to our Sheffield counterparts and confessed the ball was “miles over.” And it was.
Karanka said he hadn’t seen it and wasn’t really interested in excuses. He was angry that the players hadn’t delivered the intensity he wanted, hadn’t forced enough clear cut chances to make the controversy redundant and threw in a new word to his now familiar post match lexicon. Along with ‘frustrated’, ‘angry’ and ‘disappointed’ he added that he was ‘worried.’ He didn’t specify what he was worried about – the situation in Ukraine maybe – but I think most of us probably share that bundle of emotions.
Meanwhile at the other end, his big selection didn’t come off. Playing Tomas Mejias ahead of fit again Jason Steele was a risk. He hadn’t played a minute in English football. And he didn’t have the greatest of debuts. Yes, he made a couple of good saves, a good tip over from a dipping Hutchinson effort and a good ‘Shay like’ reflex save from a 10 yard Coke shot… but he fumbled three times as he came to collect crosses in confusing situations and twice got away with it before the goal. He spilled it sparking a scramble and when Best drilled it goalwards Dean Whitehead – not having a great day – handled.
That was Boro’s 11th penalty conceded this term. The vast majority were avoidable. The vast majority have cost Boro points. These are the mistakes that Karanka has tried to eliminate and which keep bubbling up.
As at Watford it was only a penalty that decided the game. Boro haven’t conceded a goal in open play in seven games. Which remains the key positive. Provided Boro don’t shoot themselves in the foot, they are very very hard to beat. But that has to be the building block of a team that can win.
Boro didn’t look like that today. They created very few chances themselves, the best – ghost goal aside – came as Butterfield sent Danny Graham into the box to try to curl one around the advancing Kirkland. He didn’t look overly confident as he struck the ball and Kirkland saved, then when the ball rebounded to the edge of the box it fell to Kei Kamara and his shot wasn’t completely convincing either and Kirkland saved that too.
Let’s not kid ourselves that Kirkland had “a worldie” hot on the heels of Paul Robinson and Jack Butland. They were good saves but they were routine saves. Boro made it easy for him. He wasn’t being peppered with screamers at awkward angles. It was routine stuff.
There’s the problem. Boro lack a clinical edge and confidence in front of goal. That needs to be resolved very quickly. The goal drought is now 11 hours and 45 minutes … 705 minutes…. an ice age of ineptitude – and not even the consolation of a clean sheet.
More later….


30 thoughts on “Habitual Heartbreak At Hillsborough

  1. I can’t take any more. You’ve driven me out to the pub.
    But before I go, the artwork PROVES it was a goal.

  2. Another blank and it’s seriously getting beyond a joke now!
    Despite not being given the “goal that was” in truth apart from Danny Graham’s lame shot and Kei Kamara’s follow up we were never anywhere near the goal.
    So once again it’s the same unanswered question,what are the players not doing that Karanka says he tells them to do??
    I’m all for players being picked on merit but making three or four changes a week and bringing players in that haven’t featured for a month – ie Whitehead who was hopeless and managed to get himself sent off,a blessing now that he is suspended,- is hardly going to have a positive effect if there is no continuity.
    If Karanka is going to,play the same system and tactics every week but select different players each week because the previous week certain players didn’t play a certain way is just asking for trouble.
    Is Tomlin fit or not? He’s been here a month now and despite being available to play has only featured for about 20 minutes. Myself and a few others doubt it was Karanka’s decision to sign him or even want him
    Whatever is going on with the Carayol situation needs sorting quickly too. Is it right that Muzzy has said he will never kick another ball for us? He went from being man of the match at home to Blackburn to a second half sub the next week at Watford, then a big fallout and now doesn’t even feature!
    We got rid of unconfident strikers in Emnes and Juke and replaced them with another one – Danny Graham… another woeful shot today. Same goes for Adomah and Kamara, they are nowhere near their pre Christmas form.
    For me only Omerou and Varga played reasonably well today. Since the turn of the year the whole team has totally lost its way and its a mystery why we are so defensively sound now yet so lacking and inept everywhere else on the pitch.
    There are alot of tough games coming up in March if we are not careful we will end up exactly where we were when Karanka took over by the end of it.

  3. Blimey. 7 games. Good grief – you couldn’t make it up. It’s a phenomenon.
    It’s blindingly obvious that our current play is phenomenally ineffective. Steve Claridge is convinced that AK’s tactics are flawed. Either they’re just plain wrong, fundamentally and intrinsically lacking, or, more likely, they would work but we simply don’t have the players to make them work. Claridge is convinced AK should switch his approach and try something more suited.
    I’m not so sure there’s that much wrong with AK’s tactics. The defensive porosity has been substantially rectified. I know it’s easy to say but add a cutting edge and we will go places.
    Our lack of scoring forwards dates back several managers and across pretty much the whole spectrum of tactics. A large slice of ‘Typical Boro’ is a decade of strikers who mostly don’t get into double figures.
    That has left trauma. Our mind-set and scoring confidence is deeply damaged. I suspect, rather than the wrong tactics, we have a psychological block.
    Unfortunately unless we gives fans some excitement in the remainder of this season and show significant potential for next season, it must affect season ticket sales. That in turn would affect FFP and restrict our chances of signing players in the summer. So it’s bad enough now but, if form & results continue in this vein, the knock-on effect will be greater.

  4. I wouldn’t be too hard on the linesman as it looks like the ball and the keeper’s head could be easily confused in the heat of the moment.
    Anyway, I’m now beginning to think there may be a semblance of an international conspiracy evolving to stop us scoring a goal – surely it’s time that George Osborne’s betting slips were confiscated and checked for a ten-game Boro nil accumulator.
    On the plus side it’s now over a month since I had to stay up late to watch the Boro goals on the Championship highlights – though I suppose Steve ‘is he a coach’ Claridge will be shaking his head knowingly tonight.

  5. Underwhelmed yet again but sadly not unexpectedly. Once is an accident, twice is deliberate… but seven times?
    We are now looking very one dimensional, struggling when faced with teams who allow us possession but who we are totally unable to break down, or put in simple parlance, score goals.
    Aitors mentor also seemed to have issues with his players at Real and we seem to be witnessing a similar scenario here. Benzema received the “treatment” as did Ronaldo who famously expressed his feelings towards the bench when he scored against Malaga. Iker Casillas was subjected to being “disrespected” (according to Pepe). Ironically Pepe himself has courted far more controversy than most Boro players I can recall.
    This style of blame culture is questionable in any management sphere but in footballing terms its tolerated so long as the results justify the means.
    There was definitely a need for a few rockets up backsides at Rockcliffe when he arrived and very few of us would doubt that. That said any manager or leader knows that your charges have to have belief, confidence and trust in your decisions and direction. There was evidence of that initially but it looks now to me that there is a serious waning of that belief.
    A blame culture is not healthy, this week it seems that its Grant’s turn and Jason must now be wondering where he stands. Footballers are no different to any other workers, a few frustrations can quickly spread and if more are subjected to the same feeling of being unjustly treated it spreads quicker.
    The result usually is a split, a divide, two camps, those who feel cast adrift and those (for the time being at least) who are “preferred” by the boss. Aitor has gone out of his way to make it clear that there are no favourites but I suspect that it becoming more fundamentally flawed than simply that.
    The continued selection policy seems to illustrate an Adomah/Carayol versus Main/Kamara either/or split. Throw in the Tomlin conundrum and it looks even more bizarre, it looks like Tomlin is already fringed, out of favour, presumably because he doesn’t bring an apple to training every day. We all smiled a few weeks back when Muzzy said that the boss is never happy, as strong, focussed and determined as that seemed at the time it perhaps is now becoming an achilles heel.
    Aitor has done some excellent work to date but presently his tactics look to have been rumbled by opposition managers and that there is no Plan B. I think Aitor needs to become his own man and quick, being a Minimourinho is starting to unravel, creating a lack of belief and confidence, it is draining away on the pitch and in the stands.
    The use of so many loan players has divided the fans but I have stood firmly behind his decision in the belief that if they are better than what we have then fine but with the season now effectively out of gear and coasting in neutral I find myself starting to question the logic in playing so many whose careers and loyalties lie elsewhere long term. Our short term goal was to make the playoffs, a few weeks ago in January it looked a realistic objective, now it looks a forlorn distant dream.
    Not conceding is great but not scoring makes it very frustrating and regularly giving Penalties away makes it pointless. Today’s penalty I feel was harsh but I have seen them given and seen them waved away, the ensuing red card was harsher still. Finding ourselves in those situations now seems to be the default.
    Two months back the players did get it but now it appears that they don’t get it, the fans certainly are rightly questioning things and its now starting to create divisions and lack of unity, not healthy for any business.
    Lets hope we see an effective strike force and tactics to support next Saturday, no doubt MMP is practising his volume trigger finger reflex for after the Ipswich game if we are forced to endure more of the same semantics.

  6. Never mind karanka, I’m getting seriously worried. Kei kamara still out on the wing. Curtis main still getting a game. I dont care how hard they train I want the best 11 players out on the pitch. It’s good being on a moral high horse if you still get results but not if you haven’t scored in seven games.
    As for his comments regarding Jason Steele, a young keeper who has shown in the past real confidence issues. I can’t understand how karanka’s comments will get the best out of him.
    Yes there have been many positives we are much harder to beat, but the last few weeks have shown some really worrying signs. We aren’t chelsea we don’t have the money to replace every player who doesn’t see eye to eye with the manager. Karanka quickly needs to work out how to get the best out of the players he has at his disposal.

  7. Oh bugger… another Saturday and Sunday spoilt again It is taking me a long time to recover these days before I pick myself up and start to look forward to the next game.
    We always knew after AK was appointed this was going to be a transitional season and even the most optimistic of us knows we will not make the play off positions now. Let’s hope we can use this time to gel together a team which can perform next season.
    At this moment in time, I am still in full support of our head coach, he is a very professional individual who has played and coached with some of the best players in the world and if he wants the best then we should accept he is doing it for the best reasons for the Boro.
    Please give him time to develop his team remember, Alex Ferguson took time to develop his team and look what he achieved
    In Aitor Karanka we trust – let’s show our support for him at the next home game to show him we trust him and the way we are going.
    Fat Bob

  8. I haven’t read all the posts above. I stopped when I got to the one that mentioned Steve Claridge.
    I regret to announce it, but if he is being cited as some form of authority, then that is conclusive proof the lunatics have been left in charge of the asylum.

  9. Its getting itchy bum time out there,
    So lets see, the club has been on a steady decline for five years, recently as all of 2013 the worst record in the whole of the football league. Does that suggest even though far more money in wages etc,than teams that have been promoted lately has been thrown at it,there might be another problem?
    Some now want to kick into touch,a man whose only been here three month,and has obviously recognise a culture of easy street,
    When was the last time you heard a Boro Manager (maybe Rioch) basically say “If any player slacks off,or doesn’t show full commitment to this club,he will never play again” he did tonight. Now I for one think, a man who is that passionate about doing the right thing for my club,should be given full support.
    And even though it hasn’t been pleasant of late lets be honest how many of them games should have been 1-0 to us?

  10. I dont think the artwork does the goal justice. Normally the the assistant referee has a fraction of a second to judge, Leaditter’s goal at Wolves, Leicester’s first goal.
    In this case there was no such problem, it probably took longer than the usual highlights package on BBC. Even Kirkland had a snooze laid on the ground holding the ball over the line.
    Sadly it still says nil in my paper.
    What else did we learn? The new keeper is not Given, no surprise there.
    Nothing else was new.

  11. I absolutely agree with AV, Never Give Up and Redcar Red.
    We were woeful. Ghost goal or not, we didn’t deserve to get anything from the game.
    Distressingly, I now find myself questioning several of Karanka’s decisions, like other bloggers above. Why go with an untried goalie, who couldn’t decide whether to punch or catch and got many of them wrong? Why no Leadbitter? Why no Tomlin? Why Kamara and Main? Why oh why oh why no Carayol? Why take off Butterfield when he was our only creative outlet? Why then put Ledesma out wide so that the midfield had no forward momentum whatsoever, because there was no-one left in the ‘number 10’ role we have apparently tried so hard to fill?
    My brother also spotted that the manager stood virtually all game with his hands in his pockets without once shouting or getting worked up that his players were charging about like headless chickens.
    On TV he did get annoyed with the officials once the penalty was given, but we saw no sign of animation from him during some awful passages of play.
    And when he takes training this week, would he care to remind the players that we are the team in red? I lost count of the hundreds of times we gave the ball back to SWFC yesterday, starting with our keeper.
    And finally he MUST sort out the Carayol situation. We cannot afford to have players of his quality, however inconsistent, sitting at home. What a complete waste! Time to put the naughty step back in the cupboard now, Aitor.

  12. I thought the idea of “pragmatic” football was that it delivered results, that the ends justified the means.
    Can we all agree now that what is currently on offer is just plain rubbish? The good run has long since passed, now we are left with zero entertainment and not many more points.
    This doesn’t mean that patience has run out, nor that Karanka shouldn’t be given until the end of next season to deliver something worth watching. But it’s very difficult to get excited about Boro at the moment.
    Park the pragmatism, leave the loanees, spark the spectators and sort it in the summer.

  13. Forever Dormo at 12.33 –
    ‘when I got to the one that mentioned Steve Claridge … if he is being cited as some form of authority, then that is conclusive proof the lunatics have been left in charge of the asylum.’
    That was my post, Forever. You need to read before you reject because I said exactly the opposite of what you’re assuming. I disagreed with Claridge.

  14. Perhaps we should replace the goal of the month competition with a goal kick of the month competition. Who will win the prestigious throw in of the season?
    Cannot say for sure when the next goal will come, Ipswich and Forest will undoubtedly do their homework. How many points do we need to stay up?

  15. I have stopped contributing to this blog as I believe it is the rightful place for those fans that still actually go and put hard earned money into watching this awful team play.
    The last time I paid cash to watch a game was last February when lowly Barnsley won at a canter. That was the final straw for me and I have not darkened a turnstile since, nor posted on here.
    I do follow this blog however and appreciate the opportunity to put my point of view forward, albeit as an armchair ‘supporter’. My conclusion is that the players and the management simply don’t care about the current plight into which they have put the supporters, the chairman and the whole town.
    When a group of players bring a club to a new and humiliating low, it can only be because something basic has gone drastically awry. And that something is the lack of care, the lack of professional pride in allowing this horrendous goalless run build and build – which shows no sign whatsoever of stopping, by the way – which is being dished up for the rapidly dwindling group of fans who do still care.
    It’s the most awful run and I would go so far as to say this is the worst Middlesbrough side since the days of Malcolm Allison. At least he had some excuses.
    As a professional player, with every conceivable advantage at their disposal in terms of facilities in which to train, so-called ‘expert’ guidance from the army of hangers-on, and nothing else to do but focus on playing, the only way a side can end up in this sorry mess is that players really just aren’t that bothered. You’d like to think that after even two games without scoring they’d be concerned enough to be on the training pitch from first light til last, at least trying to give the appearance of a group that want to solve the problem.
    As it is, they’re clearly settling for an hour’s tippy-tappy before heading off to the tattooist or the sunbed and just assuming that things will change.
    It is impossible to imagine a professional rugby team going seven matches without recording a single point, or a cricket team seven matches without taking a wicket – let alone come even halfway close to actually winning a game – without severe action being taken.
    That’s the equivalent of what this shower has achieved, and quite frankly the best option in terms of severe actions open to our fantastic chairman is to cut his losses, liquidate what he can to get some cash back at least, and shut the whole thing down.
    Through no fault of his own, Steve Gibson has been unable to find a manager whose ambition and ability matches and outlasts his own, although there have been fleeting glimpses in the times of Bruce Rioch, the early years of Bryan Robson, and a wonderful 15 months in the otherwise doleful tenure of Steve McLaren. All a very, very long time ago. Otherwise it has been one sap after another, dreadful football, relegation scrap after relegation scrap, and tens of thousands of people like me deciding enough is enough.
    Incidentally, Jose Mourinho must find it privately hilarious that his throwaway recommendation was actually taken seriously and we end up with a clueless novice in charge. Perhaps it will be the icing on the cake of Chelsea’s season, to make up for Boro getting them relegated in the early years of the play offs.
    This bunch of mercenary players and staff who are clearly only interested in the pay and perks deserve the rude awakening of having contracts cancelled. Given the continual, season after season awfulness I would make no protest if Steve Gibson did the sensible thing, pulled the plug, and put everyone out of their misery.
    Perhaps there are 12 half decent amateur players somewhere with whom a newly formed club could start again in whatever tier of the football combination the likes of AFC Wimbledon and FC United started in. It is difficult to imagine no professional league club on Teesside any more but not as difficult as having to stomach this latest lazy, useless and uncaring bunch of players taking those true fans that are left, and the town, to one wretched low after another.
    **AV writes: At the risk of being branded a ra-ra apologist (again), that is not a picture that I recognise. Boro have drawn a blank up front and that is very, very frustrating but they are not being out-played and out-thought, much less bei ng battered. This is not a team in free-fall. Not a team that is not trying, that is shapeless or lacking cohesion.
    They have leaked two goals in seven games, both from penalties. Karanka has lost ONE game and conceded ONE goal at home. That is not a team on the verge of imploding. Teams in crisis or that have lost faith in the management unravel in games and get battered three, four, five. That is not what is happening.
    They have hit a wall (25 yards out from the opposition goal line) and that is now having an impact on the morale of the strikers. Maybe they are hesitating, over-thinking or bottling when in front of goal and that is now a massive psychological problem that the manager must resolve quickly – but that is very different from a team lacking identity or purpose.
    Nice to have you back by the way.

  16. Nikeboro –
    you are right. I sent in the 1st post to this thread then went away. When I returned I saw some other posts to read: first Never Give Up on Boro, and then yours and a few more.
    I read Never Give Up’s post then started to read yours. It had been a decent gig at the “Ploated Pheasant” and it was half-past midnight. I saw Claridge’s name in the second paragraph and cut my losses without going any further. A very quick response then off to bed….
    I have to say that Claridge is one of those people who get right up my nose. No doubt he’s a lovely fellow if you get to know him, and he’s probably very kind to animals and old ladies. But there’s a little thing about a League Cup Final Replay that’s very hard to forget, quite apart from a certain whining tone of voice….
    I came back to the blog today and read the rest of your post and late posts. I agree with what you said.
    There is a German word that describes the picture of Steve Claridge. It is: Backfeifengesicht.
    **AV writes: A fac e you’d love to slap. The Germans have a stickle brick compound word for everything.

  17. I think to get an insight to Karankas thinking, watch again The Special one interview Gary Lineker had with Jose Mourinho when he took over Chelsea, especially when he talks tactics,and later on how he transformed a no name third tier club in Portugal, to success.

  18. AV –
    Was the card awarded to Dean Whitehead a straight Red? It was certainly not intentional and I would accept a yellow being brandished. But this means a three game ban rather than a one game ban (some may say this is a good thing). If it was a straight red, will the Boro appeal?
    Why wasn’t Tomlin playing? I could see against Leeds in his brief appearance that he has something about him and surely is the spark we need?
    The time has almost come for Karanka to explain his persistence to play with one striker. If he does not explain candidly, his support will wain I fear.
    **AV writes: It was a straight red but will only be one match as it was for denying a goal scoring opportunity. A professional foul.

  19. I’m prepared to reserve judgement until next season but it all seems a bit shambolic at the moment.
    Steele not on the bench?
    Where is Tomlin?
    Leadbitter on the bench?
    Carayol jesttisoned?
    Adomah a bit-part player?
    Roll on next season. (again)

  20. leninbelgium –
    I have no problems playing with one striker, many clubs do the same thing. The idea of having a back four, two holding/promting midfielders and four attacking players is fine by me.
    The problem for us is the four attacking players. One of Graham, Kamara, Main at the pointy end is what we have so we can get on with that.
    The problem is the three. In my mind two out of Carayol, Adomah, Ledesma must start. The man behind the striker, the no 10 as he seems to be called, is key. He is the man who knits it together, he is the withdrawn striker, he needs to be our Beardsley or Sheringham.
    That three seems to be where we are falling down.
    442, 451, 4411, 4231. It doesn’t matter. It isn’t the system that’s the problem. When Shearer played up front he had Beardsley or Sheringham doing the thinking. They were not out and out strikers, they were linking play.
    At Leicester Nugent is the front man, Vardy pops up all over the place. The front four should be moving about, interchanging positions, switching play. Playing with real pace.
    We are not doing that, putting Kamara and Main out wide wont work. Butterfield in behind the striker wont work.
    I don’t think pairing two out of our three strikers would work either, none of them are clever enough to play the drop off role. They will do their best but that is it.
    The idea of being solid is to give a platform to do the business at the other end. Doing my Championship manager bit, I would play Graham up front. Adomah, Tomlin, Carayol/Ledesma as the three.

  21. AV –
    BBC claim that there was a yellow first and then red. So was it red and “additional yellow before hand”. So my question is if Deano received an yellow earlier, too? Does that have an affect on the ban?
    Up the Boro!
    **AV writes: There was a yellow shown in the first half for a foul on Best but I didn’t see one shown before the red.

  22. Its all very dismal at the moment and I am sure very hard to take for the long suffering fans who pay to watch it. But a couple of months ago we were leaking goals for fun and now that has stopped conceding only two penalties recently.
    I for one can see better days coming Karanka has done what he can with what he has got. The consistent teams start with a strong back four then build on that.
    My only gripe is that we could be a bit more attack minded at home.

  23. It will be interesting to see what the entertainment will be like on Saturday. Are we going to be watching the Boro or a Boro tribute act with a decent backing track but out of tune and out of harmony!

  24. In my mind the drought is over Boro scored a perfectly good goal on Saturday. Just because a referee and his assistant did not give it does not mean the Boro did not score!
    As far as the Carayol saga is concerned, I read most posts on the gazette MFC pages and I am now baffled! Quite often after matches I have read that Carayol was “lazy” “non productive” ” a passenger” “did not turn up” and now because he is being disciplined by the manager for an attitude problem I now read he is “pivotal” “badly missed” “the answer to our lack of goals”. How the opinions change when looking for a stick to beat someone with ! I also notice Carayol played in five of the last seven matches (the goal drought) only missing Leeds and Shef Wed games.
    Tonight MFC have announced that Craig Hignett has been appointed as assistant head coach to Aitor. First there will be loud cheers and gasps of “at last”, in a few weeks time it will be “why did they appoint him”.
    Come on BORO

  25. Is this correct, AV? Higgy being appointed as Aitor’s No 2 ?
    **AV writes: Yes. He has resigned at Pools this afternoon and it has been confirmed he will join Boro and start work tomorrow. There is no official word on in what capacity but it seems he will be ‘assistant head coach’.
    *Now confirmed as assistant head coach*

  26. Why was it a penalty? Whitehead had his hands at his side and there was no intent or movement of his hand toward the ball and also a Boro player behind him that probably would have blocked it so it was a diabolical decision by Durso and also a diabolical decision by the lino to deny Butterfield.
    Decisions like this can knock a teams confidence further and who,s to tell that we wouldn,t have won comfortable if the lino had got it right.
    AV has Durso been relegated from the top flight and do you think him and his lino should be sent to the Evostick league?

  27. Is Higgy going to be good cop to Karanka’s bad cop?
    Maybe Higgy is the one to prompt an aggressive front four?
    Will it make any difference?

  28. Dont know what experience Higgy has at this level. But one thing for sure he knows where the goal is and we have been crying out for years for a coach for the strikers. He could be the buy of the season.

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