Boro Will Be All White On The Night

BORO took to a sun drenched pitch wearing a brilliant all white third kit.
I didn’t even know Boro had a third kit, much less that it was white. It was eye-catching and very nice but seemed a strange choice and another unforced change to the line up. The normal blue away strip is far from being a retina burning colour clash with Bournemouth’s red and black.
For a few moments there Aitor Karanka must have felt right at home as the fans whacked on Factor 30, squinted against the dazzling Costa glare and got ready to cheer on their gleaming heroes in bright white shirts.
But if the unfamiliar strip was cunning subliminal psychlogical trickery geared to inspiring Boro’s Galacticos to play like his former side Real Madrid it didn’t work.

Unless mighty Madrid are in the habit of going to Dean Court and parking the bus in a fierce rearguard actions and holding out bravely for a clean sheet and a point but you can’t see really see Ronaldo digging in at Dean Court and shouting: Non Pasaran!

Muzzy: wearing white – but not alright. Ayazz. Knee knack.

With the pristine strip and sunshine it was more like a washing powder advert with a hastily assembled squad of actors going through the motions, looking not quite convincing enough and asking themselves: “what’s my motivation for this?”
Not quite convincing enough up front where the movement was limited, width and creativity were at a premium and the few chances that presented themselves were snatched at and failed to hit the target. Not quite convincing at the back either as on-song Bournemouth had the edge, increasing penetrated and piled on the pressure.
Nor in goal. Dimi made a decent fist in his portrayal of the keeper with two good saves as he tipped over second half shots from Francis and Surman heading towards the top corner – but he seriously fluffed his lines just before the break.
He raced out to the right of his box scoop up a loose ball, realised his momentum would take him out of the box and into red card territory so dropped the ball then desperately turned and dived and stretched to gather it again and salvage the situation only for Lewis Grabban to dig it out from under his hands and slot into the open goal.
The referee – himself not always convincing in the role – had already blown for a foul in what must have been a very close call and the pivotal plot point in a now familiar format.
Boro were not quite convincing enough beat Bournemouth. They contained them fairly comfortably but in a now familiar scenario lacked the firepower to hurt them and had to settle for another goalless draw.
The Football League Show highlights and the press possession stats – 62/38 in the Cherries favour – may have given the impression that Boro were comprehensively battered and lucky to escape alive.
Far from it. Bournemouth may have had the edge but it was a very tight game in which Boro put in another impressively solid defensive display that deserves credit.
Ben Gibson and Kenneth Omeruo were fantastic in the centre, tackling and shackling and blocking and battling while both full backs worked hard to stem the threat down the flanks and help contain a decent side chasing a fourth successive win.
Yes, the disallowed goal was a big moment – but that aside I never felt nervous or particularly threatened. They had the bulk of possession and did most of the attacking but never really had Boro under the cosh.
The two saves were well executed but straight forward for a well positioned keeper. Apart from that Bournemouth’s best effort was a first half back header from George Friend from a free kick that squirted just over his own bar.
And Boro had chances of their own as Danny Graham sent one dipping over in the first minute, a Muzzy Carayol effort was deflected wide and Lee Tomlin sent a volley over. None of those decent efforts made the cut for the highlights – but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.
The opposition pundits and manager are usually a good objective judge of a display – they are not wrapped up in the hothouse of neurosis of Planet Boro – and thought it was a fair result.
They thought Boro were a very solid and well organised team and could see why we had so many clean sheets and were philosophical about the disallowed goal rather than furious. They certainly didn’t feel they had been robbed.
They thought it was a decent 0-0 draw… although to be fair they haven’t had to sit through an endless cycle of them or drive for six hours either way to watch it.
For them Boro’s rigid regimental rearguard was a fresh experience to be appreciated whereas for us it is fast becoming our universal condition.
Whatever the personnel Boro are now rock-solid at the back. It was the eleventh clean sheet in Karanka’s 16 league games and that is a significant and laudable achievement given the previous porous and chaotic defence, an error-ridden universe of disorganised self-destruction.
That was summed up by the reverse fixture at the Riverside when Bournemouth were two up after 12 minutes without having had a shot to two penalties then after Boro clawed ahead they threw it away again at the death for a 3-3 draw.
You can’t see that ever happening under Karanka. Ever,
But of course, for any form of sustained success the team need deliver at the sharp end too. We know that. They know it. The boss knows it too. It was a very long trip back for the 2,000 travelling fans. Most of the six hours trek will have been spent bemoaning the lack of intensity, the lack of teeth, the lack of creativity in this blunt Boro side.And Muzzy Carayol’s feared cruciate injury. But mainly the now institutional impotence of a flaccid frontline.
There will also have been much gnashing and wailing over being second best to Bournemouth. Bournemouth! Since the last clash at Dean Court in the league in 1990 the Cherries have bobbed around the lower leagues, been in administration, got through a host of owners and only just pulled off a final day Great Escape from falling out of the Football League completely.
Boro in contrast have spent the two decades since then enjoying a party of unprecedented success and are now suffering the hangover that followed. Since we last clashed swords with Bournemouth Boro have had a decade and more in the top flight, fielded teams peppered with global superstars, been to five cup major finals, won the League Cup, played in Europe and reached the UEFA Cup final.
And now the sides are equals in the Championship in an object lesson in the cyclical nature of football.
That Boro have slipped back from those heights more than anything will frame how supporters view the result of this game and other frustrating fixtures as the team try to find a style, an identity and the momentum to escape the shadow of Eindhoven.
But Boro have no divine right to beat “the likes of Bournemouth.”
That has to be earned. A promotion push and return to the big time will only happen when the club can build a well balanced side that can add goals to the defensive solidity and can convincingly set about “the likes of Bournemouth” with sustained intensity and firepower as well as set out impregnable fortifications.
Aitor Karanka’s Boro side is a work in progress and is heading towards that.
With one end tactical tweaked, organised and drilled the attention must now be turned to the other and barring things suddenly clicking and Graham and Tomlin setting about a net-busting goal frenzy, that will mean a transfer window and recruitment.
Of course, most fans don’t want to hear that. They want to fast forward to the end product and enjoy the fruits now. They want goals and the chance to EIO and party and leave games buzzing. But that takes time.
All good teams are built from the back. Getting that right was the priority for Jack Charlton, Terry Venables and Steve McClaren. Karanka is setting about his reshaping with the same functional methodology. The building blocks are in place.
Get the shape and mentality right is crucial, then you can add a striker that is right for that role and another attacking midfielder and then Boro can be a good team in this league.
Although the current position in the cycle is frustrating we will get there.
This Boro will be all white.


22 thoughts on “Boro Will Be All White On The Night

  1. The light blue away strip was actually last season. Boro’s current away strip of blue and black stripes as well as their current red home strip probably would have clashed with Bournemouth’s home strip. Hence the one-off alternative kit for this game.
    I think the all white with red trim is a go-to theme for Boro in need of an alternative kit. I recall them wearing a similar strip several years ago during the days of Southgate and co.
    **AV writes: There was a one off third kit at Basel in the UEFA Cup that was white.

  2. A good point yes, but it was so frustrating watching Boro give away possession time after time through poor passing. On quite a few occassions we found ourselves on the attack with men to spare but failed to deliver the ball into the right areas and instead hit the last defender with it.
    Five points from the last three games isn’t too bad a tally but we need to excite the fans a bit more, especially as ST renewals will be out soon. I hope Carayol’s injury isn’t as bad as feared and we can see him fit for the start of next seasons promotion campaign.

  3. The disallowed goal took me back to a incident in a Derby v Man U match when Malcolm Christie had a strike ruled out in that match.
    I think it might have been our own Jeff Winter who explained why the goal didn’t stand.
    From memory, if a goalkeeper has even a finger on the ball he is deemed to be in control. In that case if the opposition player kicks it then it is a free kick.
    From the video the keeper had his hand on the ball so the ref was correct. We should be saying well done to Dimi for his presence of mind, well done to the ref for his grasp of the law.
    So we didn’t get away with one but we were lucky that they didn’t apply the normal Specsaver’s principle to the decision.
    Many years ago big John scored at Leeds and that stood. The keeper was laid on the floor with his arms around the ball but not in contact with it. Big John toe poked over the line and the goal stood.

  4. I think that rule is open to interpretation Ian, not too long ago a Derby winger (under Cloughie) headed the ball whilst it was balanced on the top of the keeper’s glove but because he didn’t have proper hold of the ball, the referee allowed the goal to stand.
    Perhaps the rule has been changed again.

  5. Nice piece. Very funny. I hope you are right, but at the moment I don’t buy the argument that having solved the defensive problems we can now move on to addressing our midfield and attacking deficiencies.
    What this does not take into account is the extent to which our new-found defensive stability has been achieved at the expense of building up attacks from the back, losing possession of the ball far too easily, having midfield concentrate more on defensive rather than attacking duties, having our strikers chasing all over the pitch etc.
    In other words there is an organic relationship between our defensive efficiency and our problems elsewhere around the pitch. What is absolutely certain is that the eventual welcome move out of our shell, if it ever comes, will be accompanied by a recurrence of our defensive frailties.
    I was actually at the game you mention. It was Forest v Man City. Forest winger Malcolm Crosby headed the ball out of the hands of Andy Dibble and put it into the net. All hell broke loose, but the goal stood, and most neutrals agreed with the decision at the time.
    The law as it stands now is that the goalie is deemed to be in control of the ball even if he has only one hand on the ball whilst it is on the ground, so the ref was right not to allow the goal on Saturday.

  6. Interesting debate on the relationship between attack and defence.
    All I know is that perceived wisdom is that you get your team to defend first and then you build the offensive part afterwards. Of course the other ‘factor’ any manager needs as the final building block is a striker who can score goals and they are rarer than rocking horse manure.

  7. Len –
    There was also the George Best incident with Gordon Banks where I think Banks threw the ball up to kick it out. Best kicked it and scored but I think that was disallowed.
    On the Christie incident there was uproar in the local press and the phone in’s were on about it for a couple of days. I got that fed up I made one of my rare calls to point out the law to Radio Derby phone in.
    The researchers response was revealing. It WAS ManU and it made a great topic whatever the truth, thanks for the call. Get knotted in gentler terms; don’t confuse us with the facts!
    The same attitude applied when they came back from 3-0 down and we had kicked the ball out when Stamp went down. They threw it down the pitch and scored from the resulting corner as we were in disarray.
    The resulting call-ins were along the lines whether they should have thrown the ball back to us or not. Robson played for ManU.

  8. Only thing for me worth commenting upon is the white kit. I loved it, and maybe it’ll help Boro players pick each out. Lord knows we need any help we can get in our current goaless vacuum. Keep the white for our promotion season 2014/15!

  9. Always looked at Bournemouth and wondered what might have happened had that Saturday in May 1990 ended differently. Some of their supporters are still bitter apparently.
    Just wish this dull season would come to an end. Out of both cups in the first round and never more than a passing flirtation with either the promotion or relegation battle. That’s before we even mention the three goals in 10 games. Has been like the Charlton game from 2002 but over an entire season. Can anyone remember a less exciting season?
    Saying that- having remembered 1990- should be careful what we wish for.
    **AV writes: It is the curse of ordinariness. After 20 incredible years with at least one spell of drama every season – promotion or relegation battles, cup runs and superstar signings – we have settled into flabby humdrum mid-table ennui. We slipped from crazy rock and roll high jinks to cocoa and Radio Four and early nights. Pipe and slippers time.

  10. “The curse of ordinariness” is a good phrase for it. That is what has happened in the last five years. I think it is what happens to all the clubs who slip out of the Prem spotlight and don’t go straight back up. You quickly get forgotten by Sky and the national media and that has got to hurt after years of thinking you have been up with the big boys.
    It is probably worse for Boro fans because not only were we up their for 11 years but it was the most successful era in our history what with Cardiff and Europe and Eindhoven. It is slipping back from such a high point that makes ordinary not an option for most fans and makes it so hard to sell ticket to part timers used to only dropping in for Man U or Arsenal or big cup games.
    I think we still have quite a way to go before the majority of supporters accept ordinary as the norm.

  11. Shame about Carayol. I think the whole of the Boro fanbase thought cruciate without the benefit of seeing the incident or subsequent scans etc. And that isn’t being clever, it just seemed that was the case.
    Mr Average –
    I don’t think it is any worse for us than at other clubs, ask a Forest fan fed on a diet of Clough and European trophies or Leeds fans for that matter.
    It is just the way of life for a middling size club.

  12. Being ordinary or a middling club is better than the roller coaster of flirting with the relegation zone. AK has sorted the defence, the tricky part is now the attack there are plenty of clubs with this dilemma.
    The difference is AK wants success at Boro, he needs it on his CV. His perfect scenario I think is he gets Boro promotion, steadies the ship and moves onto a bigger club.
    Already, like it or not, Chelsea have provided both a class centre half and mid field player because Jose’ wants him to succeed. After all he endorsed him. Who knows next season maybe Hazards brother as he has already proved his worth in Belgium.
    Right now Boro are in a good place, any other time a goaless draw at the likes of Bournemouth would have been welcomed it’s just that in steadying the ship there have been rather more than we would have liked.
    I believe next season the roller coaster ride will involve play offs as against automatic promotion.

  13. I have to admit that the last two draws have been hard to take. Not as draws against top-half teams as such – but because it meant practically the play-off dream is gone.
    Yes, I really was hoping for a winning run to catch up the 6th team. Not likely but it was a dream that was possible. Now it is more or less a mathematical impossibility and we don’t have much to play for – except for a place in the team for next season.
    Anyway, I will come over to the UK to see Boro next month. Three games – I hope to see a couple of goals, though. But no sight of Carayol as he is injured.
    Up the Boro!

  14. AV –
    you stated a few weeks ago that you expected there to be a lot of movement in/out during the summer as there is a lot of contracts coming to an end. I then asked if you could list the first team squad and when their contracts finished so that fans can have an idea how much room for maneuver AK has got in the summer.
    Today Philip Tallentire has gave his views on who he thinks will be in AK’s squad next season. The interesting thing is that there is only two players (Konstantopoulos and Leutwiler both goalkeepers)who are out of contract this summer. I do not count loan players as they are not our players.
    We all know from previous experience how difficult it is to move players that still have time left on their contracts, especially if it is only 1 year left as it appears that there is more first team squad out of contract in 2015 than this summer.
    Therefore I ask you to qualify your statement as to where you think the funds and room on the wage bill is going to come from for this overall of the first team squad !
    I will be renewing my season ticket in the East Upper come what may before 21 April but I suspect some fans would appreciate some honesty on possible in/outs before they commit some hard earned money. I do understand that the club may be counting on bids for Juke, Emnes and even Rhys but to me they look unlikely, unless the Juke/Emnes loans have already got a buy clause in the loan deal.
    I await your reply with interest !
    Come on BORO
    **AV writes: Out of contract on July 1:
    Christian Burgess (option of one year)
    Nathaniel Chalobah
    Matthew Dolan
    Danny Graham
    Dimi Konstantopoulos
    Jayson Leutwiler
    Tomas Mejias
    Kenneth Omeruo
    Stuart Parnaby
    Frazer Richardson
    Lewis Sirrell
    Richard Smallwood
    Joszef Varga (option to buy)
    Luke Williams
    Plus a load of kids some who may get new deals, most won’t. David Atkinson, Andre Bennett, Ryan Brobbel, Jake Fowler, Brad Halliday, Adam Jackson, Jordan Jones,
    Wilson Kneeshaw, Birger Meling, Ejiro Okosieme, Matthew Waters, Charlie Wyke.
    Then there are the players who look like they are available for sale that could be moved on like Lukas Jutkiewicz, Marvin Emnes and Andy Halliday. And a few who would probably be up for grabs if there is a decent offer… Jacob Butterfield? Albert Adomah? Probably Muzzy Carayol before he got crocked? Curtis Main? Rhys Williams if fit?
    That is plenty of leeway for a massive reshuffle.

  15. The curse of ordinariness, great phrase. Certainly the team is entirely bog standard Championship fare but there are a couple of extraordinary positives from this season that should be celebrated.
    Our away support is phenomenal particularly given the rubbish they’ve had to endure for the last 18 months. To have over 1000 at a 12th v 13th clash more than 300 miles away is amazing. In terms of numbers we must be in the top two for away support in the Championship which is a brilliant effort for a team who’ve been nowhere near the top of the league all season.
    Perhaps equally extraordinary is the transformation of the club from suspicious, uninspiring naval gazers to the forward thinking, outward looking radicals that this week were voted Best Family Club in the Football League.
    The family zone has been a triumph so hats off to Anthony Emmerson et al for a great idea realised in the most impressive fashion. An important step in improving fan experience and engagement with with the club. Let’s hope we build on it.
    At least we’re achieving some of our goals off the pitch even if we can’t score any on it.

  16. AV. Thanks for the reply to Exmil.
    Interesting only in numbers really, with very little on offer (including those still in contract) to bring in some money for new players.
    I cannot see any money transfers in unless we sacrifice the likes of Adomah or even Leadbitter. Do not see any real offers for Emnes, maybe Juke if he continues to score and they do not change their manager.
    So that possibly leaves us with the Chelsea young uns if AK can call a favour.

  17. AV thanks for the prompt reply but out of the 14 players you listed I do not see a great amount of saving or sale value. As I stated in my post I do not count Loan signings as if we do not get them back on loan next season (Varga, Omeruo, Chalobah) they will be replaced by other loan signings (Graham, Mejias).
    I already listed Konstantopoulos and Leutwiler who I think do not earn a great deal. That leaves seven players left on your list Burgess, Smallwood and Richardson are out on loan therefore part if not all of their wages are being covered by the clubs they are at, although I would keep Smallwood and possibly Burgess. Parnaby and L Williams I would release but I would imagine they are not on a great wage. That leaves Dolan and Sirell who are not even first team squad members and would be on less than Parnaby/Williams.
    As for possible sales I already mentioned Juke and Emnes, also possibly R Williams but I did forget about Halliday and Main if you can find buyers! I am surprised you have listed Carayol and Adomah but not mentioned Leadbitter or Jason Steele, to be honest if the bid was good enough I think they would sell anyone.
    In reality I do not think we are going to get good enough bids for anyone unless already agreed (Juke/Emnes) which brings me back to the point I have made, where are the funds/room on the wage bill going to come from for AK to be able to overhaul the first team squad !
    I am not being negative, I just believe in honesty and fans should not have their hopes built up only to be let down.
    No matter what I will be there season after season until I am no longer.
    Come on BORO
    **AV writes: I don’t think anyone can realistically say they are having their hopes built up. People should know exactly what the financial landscape is given the constant reinforcement of the picture from within the club over the past three years.
    That is why so many being out of contract is a boon. If two or three fringe players leave that can fund one first teamer. Parnaby and Richardson won’t be on a fortune but their wages added together would be enough to bring in an above average Championship. If eight or nine leave you are starting to have a bit of wriggle room. If on top of that Juke leaves for say £1m and his wages of £10-12k are saved too then you can bring in one good or two “decent” players. Ditto Emnes with his £18k or so. It soon adds up.
    No-one is saying it is easy. But the other clubs in the Championship are being squeezed too and wages are falling while a lot of players out of contract this year will be released by clubs who can’t afford them. Plus the scouting network is up and running now. And Karanka will have more of an idea of what he personally wants. The current financial situation is not ideal, but it is a better one than inherited by Tony Mowbray who was stuck with the high earners for three or four transfer windows.

  18. Of those players listed as potential leavers by AV, I think only Smallwood, L Williams and Varga (unless the agreed fee is prohibitive) are worth holding on to. I would happily see Omerou, Chalobah and Graham return on loan again next year.
    The key will be what happens to Juke and Emnes. I have some sympathy for Juke but it’s probably fair to say that neither represent value for money for us and moving them on, even for nothing, would surely make a significant difference to Karanka’s spending power.
    If we can’t sell them on, then it may have to be two from Leadbitter, Steele, Adomah, Carayol and R Williams – the other potentially saleable assets – that have to make way. That would be sad, though I don’t think anyone is untouchable.

  19. Andy R,
    I would agree somewhat with what you say. However Carayol will probably not be ready to play come the start of the new season, and will Williams have proved his fitness for anyone to take a punt?
    That leaves us with Leadbitter, who I would sell if we can get £3m and Adomah, if we can get £1.5m. For me two “wingers” are a luxury in AK’s system.

  20. Pedro –
    I think people have got obsessed with AK’s system. All it is is way of the team playing, 442, 433, 451, 4231, it doesnt matter which you adopt.
    The key things are the players, it doesnt matter which system you play the players have to work hard. Defend as a team, attack as a team. If the full back disappears up the pitch leaving acres behind him and nobody covers it doesn’t matter the formation.
    If the final ball is pants it doesn’t matter if you have Messi or Mr Blobby.
    Last season we fell apart because we couldn’t score and couldn’t defend. At least we can defend now. The problem is one we have had for ages, no strike force and no midfielders to get in to the box.
    That is little to do with AK.

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