Clarets’ Champagne On Ice As Bubbling Boro Leave Them Flat

PROMOTION party poopers Boro ruined the expectant Burnley crowd’s coronation plans with an industrial double-shift of frantic defending. And a dash of luck.
The home fans were waving their pitchforks and hysterically screaming at the referee after two “seen them given” penalty shouts were waved away. It didn’t help that before Boro’s winner in the hard-fought 1-0 victory at Turf Moor physical Lee Tomlin had put a half-Nelson on a defender and thrown him aside before slotting through for Jacob Butterfield to score his second in successive games.

Burnley headed against the bar and missed two sitters in a nervous first half as a radically restructured Boro defence tried to get to grips with the game. Having two centre backs banned and no left back forced Aitor Karanka – ideologically wedded to 4231 – to change his shape to 352 and play three centre backs including rusty Daniel Ayala in his first game in two months and Ledesma and Adomah as unlikely wing-backs.
It was creaky for the first 20 minutes but Boro worked like Trojans to block and press and tackle and chase and gradually started to gel while after their first flurry Burnley started to get increasingly nervous. Not least their fans. And Boro stated to break out and carve out chances and in the closing spell of the first half they brought two good saves, Tomlin had two stabs in a scramble from a corner and Graham hooked a volley over. Then soon after the goal Tomlin went close and later on Chalobah had a cracker blocked.
Sean Dyche insisted later they had 27 shots and 71% of possession but he seems to have forgotten that actually Boro had the best chances of the first half and then deservedly took the lead with a well executed counter early in the second – you can see it here – and could easily have had a second..
After that it was frantic stuff and desperate Burnley piled on the pressure. They played well. Boro struggled to clear their lines and attack after attack swept forward. Dimi made a lot of routine saves and three or four excellent ones but the real problem for the edgy home side was breaking through Boro’s defensive wall. There was an incredible industry throughout the team and between them ten men – everyone was back – they blocked a string of goalbound shots in the box as tackles and bodies flew in.
Burnley had a couple of strong penalty shouts. Woody skittled one man over, Albert took a handful of shirt as he fell over and took Ings with him, there was a handball appeal after a shot was whacked straight at Ayala. It was a real backs-to-the wall finale. For the second game running it was pulsating, all-action, frantic and scrappy as hell. It was nerve-shredding stuff as a spectator in the last 10 minutes but battling Boro dug in and were equal to everything thrown at them. Fantastic
It was tetchy stuff. There was a lot of arguing. Diving. Tugging. Pulling. More diving. Flashmobbing the referee. Spurious appeals. Petulant theatrics. A lot of angry screaming from the Burnley crowd and technical area. Daniel Ayala got sent off for two yellows in two minutes in stoppage time, both for unsporting behaviour. There was plenty of that.. The red card took Boro’s tally to three for the week and 13 for the season – and not a bad foul among them.
It was a feisty atmosphere. And there was some simmering bad grace after the game too aimed at both officials and the visitors. How we laughed. Hysterically. We knew we had got away with mugging, But deservedly on the basis of workrate alone. And Burnley’s nervous fumbling and freezing as the big prize loomed. Still, job done.
And Burnley will still go up. And good luck to them. They are a well drilled unit with the best attacking full-back in the division and two 20 goal strikers. They are the archetypal Championship promotion team assembled on a budget without parachute payments and as such are a good model for a medium sized provincial club. I like them. They are a proper club, deeply embedded in the community and the the focal point of a post-industrial town. Like Boro. I hope we are where they are next year with four games left.
We’ve left it too late this season though. That is four wins on the spin now for Boro (for the first time since December 2012) and just one defeat in nine – and that to the bottle top bobble – as Boro launch a late revival. That run has seen them beat Burnley, Derby and Brighton in the play-off pack as well as Ipswich just outside and spirited Birmingham as well as getting good draws at Bournemouth (and not so good ones against Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday). That’s not a bad sequence.
And it was a second industrious 1-0 win over Premier League bound Burnley – and after table-topping Leicester Boro are only the second side to win at Turf Moor all season. That is some achievement, especially with such a depleted and distorted side.
Boro are now just six points outside the play-off places with Reading (just above us) and the bottom three to play? Dare to dream? It is probably beyond Boro to sneak in with three teams bunched around sixth spot and at least one of them must pick up enough points in the final four to seal it – but the finish can give the club a real momentum to take into next season and it has helped win a lot of waverers back behind Karanka.
The one sour note on a great day was the way that a couple of idiots ruined the pre-match minute’s silence in memory of Hillsborough and tarnished the name of the club, because much of the press-box was tutting and scribbling and no doubt it will be a line used in some of the reports while the TV cameras will have caught it too.
It appears a few drunken doyles arrived late and barged into the seats loudly and then when they were told to pipe down by other more respectful Boro fans an argument broke out. That prompted a group of well intentioned and probably embarrassed Boro fans to try to salvage the situation by drowning out the idiots and first clapping and chanting ‘Justice for the 96.’ Steward and police then went in and one man was arrested.
It was a good attempt by quick thinking fans to try to negate the disruption with applause and appropriate chants but few outside the Boro end will understand the nuances – although this Burnley blog suggests some realised what was going on . Most of the ground though just heard a disrespectful commotion and indistinct chanting from the away fans during a silence that should be more poignant than most for football fans. Burnley fans booed, the press box worthies wrung their hands and it goes down as a black mark against us.
MEANWHILE, Untypical Boro has been shortlisted for the Blog of the Year gong in the prestigious Regional Press Awards for all the local papers across the whole country.
This is serious stuff. And I’ve told them it is the quality of the posters that makes it a decent read. And the judges may have a look in so you lot better raise your game with your submissions. I don’t want anyone donning flip-flops and sombreros because the season is fizzling out. There’s still plenty to play for.


49 thoughts on “Clarets’ Champagne On Ice As Bubbling Boro Leave Them Flat

  1. Great blog as ever top man.
    Hard not to be a bit excited eh? Burnley’s fixture list is interesting. Seems Aitor’s post match comments are an attempt to motivate the Clarets..
    “Dimi Konstantopoulos was the best player for us today – he has played very well for us in the last few games. They had a lot of chances today and we were lucky. They had more chances than us and showed what kind of team they are – one of the best in the Championship.”
    Although it’s likely even seventy points won’t quite cut it I like what I’m seeing and as today is my first day as an ex expatriate I’m going to enjoy some football over the next few weeks.
    Season ticket looks like a good bet too as Karanka seems to know what he is doing. Might even have another crack at converting R Kid from Manure. Moyes is
    doing all he can to help me in this endeavour.
    Yup, feeling pretty good… (Foam hand solvent abuse can kill instantly)
    Up the Boro!

  2. The other week I watched the Burnley v Leicester game as I wanted to find out what they where doing right that was missing in our game.
    The game itself wasn’t a master piece ,but both teams where at it,the reason Leicester won, was because they matched Burnley physically. What I also noticed was the interchange between the midfielders and forwards, the strikers were always on the move, This was different to us,where we had constantly been playing in straight lines across the field
    I then watched Boro v Brighton expecting to be frustrated and ready to give them the gears, Whats this i thought? Danny Graham coming off the centre backs,Luke Williams interchanging positions, players getting into striking areas ,its a revalation,
    I hope and it seems a little tweaking is going on,maybe the light as gone on,and we are seeing what to expect next season,
    But getting back to the top two teams,and it was evident today again you have to add plenty of aggression to win this league, What I mean by that is ,you cant be getting knocked off the ball too easily, I think at times young Chalobah and Butterfield are victims of that,
    Never mind fantastic result, and anyway we do it is ok by me.
    Onward and upwards UTB

  3. Well what a nice surprise ! Turning on my satellite tv to a spanish speaking channel known for showing various matches from UK, I find myself watching Boro at Burnley. Although I missed most of the first half except the highlights, I sat down to enjoy the second half and saw the goal (well taken) that dented the Burnley net and then watched wave after wave of pressure from the clarets who couldn’t find a way thru that defensive wall and some excellent goal keeping by Dimi. How Burnley failed to score is a mystery and the ref did miss a couple of nasty shirt pullings in the box. Well may be the luck is going with us after a long time the other way.
    Maybe I will be able to see another four wins in Spanish. Hard to take that geezer screaming “Go……………..l” for 2 full minutes though ! UTB.

  4. I don’t know whether to be happy or angry with this end of season revival. Happy because it looks like we are finally showing some spirit and determination, or angry because for the want of the very same in earlier games we may be home and hosed and planning the open topped bus parade.
    Tactically Karanka’s hand was forced yesterday. I hope this shows him that it is possible to change formation and still get a result.
    Too late for this season,and I am not a believer that this run will assist us next season either. Next Season is seperate, summer holidays, pre season training, injuries, suspensions,different squad. If we were to win every game between now and the end of the season I dont see how it would assist us next.
    It would however, give the fans expectations (maybe unrealistic ones) that i hope in typical Boro fashion, are not left dashed on the rocks come December. Is this the most red cards we have had in a single season? I am struggling to find another as prolific.
    Well played Dimi yesterday. since his unfortunate bottle top incident he hasnt been found wanting. That says a lot about his character.

  5. I couldn’t make the game the game today (man flu) but disgusted to read about the commotion caused through the minute’s silence.
    I was 15 when Hillsborough occured and distinctly remember the images of the young people pressed against the fence and thinking that could have happened to anyone at any ground.
    I am proud Boro fan for many reasons and therefore thought some failing to observe a minute’s silence would be unimaginable, but along with incident at St Andrews this season I am concerned our rank and file away fans may have been infested by a short number of total morons (true descriptor would be unprintable).
    Hopefully some redemption may have been achieved with the joint reception Parky received at half time. Watching Soccer Saturday Jeff Stelling slightly broke down and took a few minutes to compose himself after showing images of home Gary with his family being applauded at half time.
    Finally nice to see the game against Reading has more of a six point feel about it than the Millwall, Barnsley and Yeovil games. All credit to the coaching staff and players.
    Bring on next season!……..

  6. Phew is the only description but one of the fundamental laws of football stands.
    The result is what it says it the papers after the match. We know only too well that there are columns in the league tales for what ifs. There are no columns for dodgy decisions, hit woodwork or keeper’s saves.
    The keeper is their to save shots, the man is on the line to prevent the ball going in to the net. They are not meant to let them in.
    We have been on the end of our fair share of ill fortune, we will finish in the part of the table we deserve to be in. So will Burnley.
    Onwards and upwards.

  7. PS
    A brief comment about the fans in my morning paper but that was all, basically Karanka’s criticism. No claims from the paper it was widespread.
    The fans know who they are and I hope they are ashamed today, somehow I doubt it.

  8. Typical Boro, I’m thousands of miles away and they put two of the grittiest and gutsiest performances in all season and I miss them both!
    Birmingham sounded like it was a passionate occasion and yesterday sounded like it was backs to the walls with a patched up rearguard supplemented by Manu and Albert.
    From the clips I seen on the box we held strong and had the Burnley players been as keen to stay on their feet as Tomlin was then they might have edged it. Pressure is building on teams at both ends of the table and our pressure free attitude allied to a new found resilience and team ethic will hopefully ensure we continue on a roll unto the season’s end.
    Its just a shame the goalless streak and dodgy decisions earlier in the season look to have proved very costly as we near the end. The play-offs are gone for this season barring a mathematical miracle but it bodes well for next if we finish with a squad of players buzzing along with the fans.
    That the reprehensible behaviour at the Boro end yesterday was created by individuals entering a football ground late (and like as not at least partially incapacitated) and in a rickety derelict wooden stand more reminiscent of the even earlier Bradford disaster shows just how far the game has really moved on. Throw in the absence of police control and “rent a kid” stewarding and someday, somewhere it will happen again soon, hopefully not in a stadium near me.
    What happened at Hillsborough was an unimaginable tragedy that is lost on a younger generation of fans who were not even born in ’89. Nothing can condone mindless irresponsibility but the true likelihood is that they will not be remotely or vaguely embarrassed or ashamed by their actions.
    Last week we had geriatric Derby fans trying to relive their aggro youth by putting on a show of Statin induced bravado. Yesterday we had ageing Burnley “bovver boys” throwing coins threatening women and children so we cannot claim an exclusivity on mindless morons.

  9. Really enjoyed the game. Every single one of the players showed 100% commitment, effort and determination to snatch all three points and keep our little revival going.
    Dimi gets better and more confident with each game and can see why Leo favours him above the other keepers. He praised his confidence and mental strength as his reason for him holding on to the shirt.
    Great team performance in view of the defenders missing and took everything Burnley threw at them,we may have rode our luck at times but we were due a rub of the green and a few ref decisions.
    Ayala was silly kicking that ball away minutes after being booked,another red card and another suspension but luckily Ken is back next week.
    Play offs are a step too far now,not enough games left,to be honest another season in the Championship developing under Karanka will do us more good than going up this season and give us a better chance of staying there if we do.
    I’m sure Burnley will still go up. If by chance they don’t I must remember to take a sheet of sandpaper for those wooden splinter ridden seats!!
    Finally the couple of morons who couldn’t keep quiet during the minutes silence should be ashamed of themselves. This led to a section of fans clapping and singing for the 96 to drown them out but in the end that came across as disrespectful too however well meaning it was and blackened the good name for the majority of travelling fans.
    Scenes at the end weren’t good either with a large section of Burnley fans trying to get at fans on the coaches, there was a large steward presence but not a policeman in sight to diffuse a situation that could have got out of hand. Slightly marred which otherwise was a great day out!
    **AV writes: It is fair to say that in some ways Burnley is like a trip to the 80’s. It seems that after such a visible and assertive police presence before hand they weren’t there when needed.

  10. It looked like Tomlin’s goal last week did him the world of good. He seemed more confident and assertive yesterday and gave us some some insight into what AK intended from him.
    At Burnley he was as strong as an ox and determined. On a couple of occasions he practically carried a couple of Clarets defenders while holding onto the ball and still managed to lay it off neatly and effectively.
    It’s clear that AK is basing his system on defending in depth and swift counter-attacks. The latter has taken a while to emerge but we’re starting to see it in the last few games.
    However, if the majority of the attackers have to make up ground in a any counter, it is crucial to have a player up front who can hold onto the ball long enough for them to catch up and join in. That role looks like it’s Tomlin in the main, backed up by Graham covering the ground up front to create openings.
    Remember the strikerless Spain team that won the 2012 Euros? Centre forwards are traditionally chosen for their finishing, pace or aerial ability. Fabregas had none of those attributes. With Del Bosque’s insistence on possession and control, Cesc was there for his ability to hold onto the ball and for his excellence at passing. His purpose was to be the focus of attacks and bring colleagues into the attack.
    Albeit more akin to a traditional striker (and much less talented than Fabregas), it looks to me as if Tomlin is intended for a similar role. When Whitehead hoofed the long ball out of defence, Lee quickly wrestled his way towards it, latched limpet-like onto the ball and (almost literally) carried all before him before laying off the ball to Butterfield.
    If he can continue in that vein and add more goals to those attributes, Tomlin has a pivotal role to play in the developing set-up.

  11. Not too long ago at the end of Moggas tenure, I was of the opinion the Boro defenders were useless. I was convinced Friend had flattered to deceive when he first arrived and in fact wasn’t up to the job and had to go. I was sure Woody had simply passed his sell by date. Now, those same players are part of the (arguably) best defence in the league.
    Friend is a revelation, defensively solid and when opportunity presents back to his attacking best. Woody when he plays is as reliable as ever, always in the right place at the right time. In addition we have Varga, Gibson et al making a defence as solid as a rock. All down to Karanka’s back to basics well organised approach.
    Then more recently we had what felt like a long period of mediocrity, game after game of 0-0’s, the season felt like a grind, nothing to get excited about.
    Then, we started scoring and winning, now posters report signing up for season tickets, everyone is starting to look forward to what next season might bring and I suspect that we’re all praying that somehow miracles can happen and by the close of play after Yeovil we’ll somehow have settled into sixth place.
    What it all adds up to is a feel good factor brought on by a team which has now combined resilience with a cutting edge.
    It’s been a funny old season, I haven’t been to a match where Boro have scored , let alone won yet, but I’ll be at the Millwall game………

  12. Nigel Reeve –
    I’m not sure that our defenders are that much better than under Mogga nor that they are in reality all that good individually. It’s the defence as a unit that has been developed (and very quickly) to become good.
    Our defensive attributes owe more to quantity than to quality. In particular, AK’s high pressing tactic has the team defending from the front – not so much a back four as a back 10. There are still too many errors, too little discipline, far, far too many red cards and some of the defending is harum-scarum stuff. So we’re some way from the poised, smooth defensive style that can be considered quality.
    AK has organised them and got them concentrating on the must-haves with any attacking prowess as a nice-to-have secondary consideration. Friend has especially benefitted from this new view of the priorities.
    It was always surprising and bitterly disappointing that, given his background, TM was so unable to inculcate this into mostly these same players during his watch. Looking back on Mogga’s reign, much of our defending was depressingly chaotic. He seemed totally incapable of drilling even the basics (corners, crosses, etc) into them.
    In contrast, AK has already made more progress than TM did in three years. He is clearly imprinting a system into the players to be the instinctive default pattern when a match doesn’t work out. If we can’t play as intended and can’t attack as planned, at least we can defend in depth, keep them at bay and look to grind out a point.

  13. Never Give Up –
    I very nearly got caught up in the mayhem near the coaches after the game. Stewards and a few police were trying to keep the two sets of fans apart, mostly with success.
    The incident may have been sparked by Burnley morons, as you say, but from my perspective – very much too close for comfort – Boro fans were at least as much to blame, as they tried to break through the defensive lines of stewards to attack the Burnley idiots. Then “our lot” started throwing coins and plastic bottles. I beat a hasty retreat as reinforcement police vans started to arrive en masse.
    Add that to the disgraceful behaviour of what I guess was no more than five loud-mouthed yobbos during the minute’s silence – I was just a few terraces up from them – and it all adds up to my being ashamed to be associated yesterday with sections of our fan base.
    All of which is very sad, because in every other respect it was a great day to be a Boro fan. Generally magnificent support from the huge Parmo Army throughout the game. A tremendous, battling performance from Boro on every level, typified by virtually all the team throwing their bodies in front of shots left, right and centre, including, and I kid you not, Ledesma!
    Tremendous defending from all concerned, with a great performance from Woody; truly on his day, he is a fabulous defender. A great goal. Brilliant saves from Dimi. Let’s not forget, too, that despite intense Burnley pressure we played our own part in what was a very entertaining game, and for 15 minutes at the end of the first half we had them on the ropes!
    We were playing a very good Burnley side, who actually played very well and did everything but score. They look destined for promotion, yet we are the only side this season to do the double over them.
    True, it felt like the Alamo at times yesterday, especially for most of the second half, but Boro dug deep and held on brilliantly. Aitor and all the players (even dim-witted Ayala) thoroughly deserved the ovation we gave them at the end.

  14. I read somewhere that Dyche said it was probably their best performance of the season,
    A new song for the fans ala The Beatles: “Its getting better all the time”

  15. Nikeboro –
    ‘In contrast, AK has already made more progress than TM did in three years. He is clearly imprinting a system into the players to be the instinctive default pattern when a match doesn’t work out. If we can’t play as intended and can’t attack as planned, at least we can defend in depth, keep them at bay and look to grind out a point.’
    That is exactly why through a large part of Mogga’s tenure we were posting to play a settled way. Too often at home we were undone as Mogga tinkered to match up against limited teams who came and played like they did week in and week out.
    As we become better at playing with the same system we we will become more attacking because the default position will become ingrained. That is what Nige has done at Leicester over a few of seasons.
    There will be times such as on Saturday when system change is forced on you by circumstances.

  16. Nikeboro –
    We went on a similar winning run at the end of Mowbray’s first season. The hope and optimism for next season was perhaps even greater then than it is now so we shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves.
    In comparing AK and TM we should perhaps also remember that TM was severely cost cutting for the most part yet still had us competing at the top end of the table for half his reign, albeit in fits and starts.
    Like Mac at Derby, I think AK has inherited a club that was ready to move forward but that doesn’t take anything away from his impressive achievements so far. The current winning run feels like it is built on more solid foundations than Mowbray’s was so I’m hopeful that, with sensible recruitment in the summer, we can have a real go at it next year.

  17. Clive –
    Too many times you go to an away match and there are fans who stand at 45 degrees to the pitch hurling profanities at fans in the home section standing at 45 degrees to the pitch hurling profanities back.
    They may as well keep the money for the ticket plus travel costs, get a carry-out from ASDA (other supermarkets are available), neck half a dozen cans and just stand in front of a mirror and hurl foul mouthed insults at the moron in front of them.

  18. Shay who? Fantastic display by Dimi, and an impressive rearguard action by the team. I can say the team now, because at last we are looking like a unit; a fused, solid unit, welded together with the sole aim of success.
    This could bode well for next campaign, as, alas, we will run out of games in this current campaign, but certainly it appears, not steam.

  19. Short listed for blog of the year! No surprise there – many congrats from this dedicated reader (if a somewhat lazy contributor). It would be a travesty if you did not get it AV. Your offerings are to put it simply, head and shoulders above anything else I read n the world of football. Phil Mcnulty etc don’t even get close.
    As for our team, four more wins please, a minor miracle with the five teams above us and see you all at the playoffs (well maybe).

  20. I love this blog. I hope you win AV.
    I love the Boro too and, not for the first time in my life, I feel excited about the way things are going at the moment. The problem is that I am getting too (I won’t say old) experienced to allow my hopes to be raised too far.
    As has already been pointed out we had a great run under Mogga at the end of his first season only to see the following season fizzle out and then his demise which still pains me to think of. AK looks great on paper. He has sorted our defensive frailties and now looks to have worked wonders on our attack although we all worried about whether he was right for us during the record breaking “Boro nil” run.
    We approach the end of another season on a high, we look really good at the moment, but who knows who will be in the team next year. If we buy or loan lots of new players there are no guarantees they will bed in or gel in the same way. What we do know is that the current group we have now could do very well together if they were given the time and the opportunity. We won’t have who we have now next season.
    So I will enjoy this run and the performances that go with it. I will be there next season regardless and as always will hope for the best, expect the worst, and take what comes.
    Up the Boro!

  21. Can only echo David in Dubai. This is the best and most entertaining football writing anywhere – and you’re pretty good as well AV.
    I was lucky enough to get a live broadcast of the Burnley game here in Sydney and it was great to see the teamwork and the increased confidence on the ball. All that comes from good man management as well as good coaching and then it’s helpful to have a bit of luck to get the result.
    As for the playoffs, it will be a bit more than a minor miracle but the ‘wavefront’ just got two points nearer. Thank you Leicester. It’s certainly adding extra interest for us faraway dreamers.

  22. So the players are beginning to show that they have the mental toughness to get results against the odds, which is something that was thought to be missing and the reason for past implosions under Mowbray.
    If the season was a little longer you would probably now fancy Boro’s chances for a playoff spot – though if Gibson has re-employed the UEFA cup script writers then should we win our next two games and Brighton and Ipswich lose one of theirs, we may be going into the last two games with a 50-50 chance of the playoffs.
    But whatever happens it looks like Boro are now capable of holding their own next season and staying with the pace from the off.
    OK we don’t know how the squad will look after the summer’s dealings but enough has been learnt to ensure the players will have confidence in their ability to win games regularly. Plus by all accounts the team spirit is very good, which is also a major factor in successful teams.
    I just hope we’re not training up Danny Graham as an effective Championship striker and rebuilding his confidence for Sunderland’s promotion campaign next year.
    Anyway we should keep quiet about this play-off thing in case the players are listening – we don’t want to give the impression that there’s any pressure until about the last two minutes at Yeovil when news that Boro lie in sixth spot on goal difference filters through.

  23. A great win. I hope it will be followed up by win for AV, too.
    So four wins in a row and I will fly over to the UK tomorrow. I hope to see a couple of wins and it could be really interesting to see the game at Reading. Let’s see how close to them we can get.
    It’s nice to be a Boro supporter for a change. Up the Boro!

  24. Well done AV for at least reaching your playoffs. Hope you go on and knock the opposition into touch. As our team seems to be doing now.
    I say team because now they are playing like one not disjointed and square pegs.
    It will be interesting in the new season as we will be trying new players again. At least AK now knows what type of players he needs to get us off to a flyer.
    Looking forward to a good finish and the new season.

  25. I’m of the opinion that next season could be a really enjoyable one at the right end of the Championship for a change, winning more games and grinding out more results when required.
    No doubt there will be some comings and goings in the summer, some will not surprise any of us but there may be one or even more outgoing surprises to boost the coffers.
    Whatever happens I will be confident that Aitor will have a better squad starting next season than the one he finishes with this season. As things stand there are players in this current squad that are getting better as time with Aitor and his coaches goes by, we all know the list of “improvee’s” but the competitive edge in keeping their place is helping to boost application, concentration and effort.
    The way that Chalobah and Omeruo had to wait for their chance was refreshing, the same went for Tomlin and even Woody who found that reputation doesn’t guarantee a start. That alone must make a huge difference to morale. Those who are in the side know that they are fallible and those on the bench or on the fringe know that work hard and take your chance if a suspension, injury or dip in a colleagues firm occurs and you can grab your opportunity.
    So for me a strong finish for now but I’m looking forward with confident optimism to next season. The confidence has a deeper conviction than of recent years, granted we have had false dawns before but this time the optimism feels less emotive and more pragmatic.
    Whilst qualifying for the play offs would be amazing and promotion via them nothing short of incredible (and if we did make the play offs I think we could beat anyone) I don’t think we have evolved and developed enough for a premature Premier promotion. If we did go up I think we would struggle and perhaps knock back our progress rather than advance it. Much better to miss out narrowly and enjoy Boro steaming ahead at the top of the Championship next Year.

  26. We beat Millwall on Saturday. Our rivals win their next home game and lose their next away game. We then go to Reading next Tuesday knowing that a win would take us to within three points of the play offs with two games to go. Our season is far from over.
    COME ON BORO!!!!
    **AV writes: What, ALL of our rivals lose their next away game? There are seven teams in the mix for fifth and sixth. It would take a hell of a string of results. It is a funny old game though.

  27. Funny old game it is indeed AV.
    Looking at the fixtures, I think Brighton look to be favorites. I reckon they will finish 6th with 71 points. But 7th is a real possibility for us(as you were predicting several weeks ago!)
    But stranger things have happened …
    For what it is worth I have
    71 Brighton
    70 Boro
    69 Bournemouth
    68 Reading
    68 Ipswich
    68 Blackburn
    67 Watford
    66 Nottm F
    Congratulations to you again and good luck at the awards. Like so many here I really appreciate the effort you put in out of your own time, the great writing and the intelligent contributions of regular and occasional posters. A credit to the Borosphere.

  28. Without checking the records, I seem to remember the ’66 and ’86 promotions being very much unexpected, resulting from a dramtic upturn. However I don’t think they were anything like this late.
    The nearest equivalent was one of our relegations. The dementia’s got a grip today, so I can’t recall which one, but I do remember a late implosion leading to us being in the relegation position for the first time on the final day of the season. Lennie’s or Todd’s Boro?
    However, as you say AV, to emulate that (upwards this time!) would require a remarkable set of results elsewhere, let alone a long winning run from Boro.
    No, it’s Wigan who have succesfully made the traditional late run to the top 6 this year. If we were going to make it we would have needed to avoid the goalless slump after our earlier winning run. Anyway, although one can never pick and choose when to get promoted, I do think RR is correct: it’s too early in this team’s development and would only set us back – the influx of PL money notwithstanding.
    Having wavered during all the 0-0s, I still think AK is on the right track and starting to bear fruit. I feel confident that it will all come together over the next couple of seasons and we’ll go up on a sound basis and with something to build on.

  29. Redcar Red – I don’t think there’s ever a bad time to get promoted to the PL as the club finishing bottom still gets £60m prize money plus £60m in parachute payments spread over four years.
    Compare that with a budget of around £10m that we’ll start next season with under FFP.
    Personally I think the concept of FFP is badly flawed – it’s basically a return to the pre-Sky days where the club’s with the biggest stadiums and fan base will be able to out-spend their rivals.
    A better system would have been to set a cap on the overall wages and transfers that a club can spend (e.g. around £15-20m) and if owners wants to put in their own money to reach this cap, then so be it.
    As long clubs are not being put into debt I don’t see the problem – especially given the huge financial gulf between PL relegated clubs and the rest – plus the different standard of living of the supporters across the country that effects ticket prices.
    It basically means that Championship clubs are now priced out of obtaining any player that has made a PL squad and it will ultimately make the step up to the PL an even more difficult proposition for promoted clubs.

  30. Steveh,
    That’s the Boro addiction you have there. Never give up hope whilst there is still a chance…….
    Skeptic as I am, I also have a funny feeling about this and am getting fixed up with my VPN this week!!

  31. Indeed not! In my scenario Ipswsich have to lose away to Watford and Brighton have to lose away to Huddersfield. Get your rose tinted glasses on!

  32. If you think we have a shot at the play-offs this season then I have a proposition for you.
    Just send me £30,000 in used tenners and I will arrange for a luxury holiday for you and your family in Dubai!
    May I add my congratulations at the nomination, the only one the Gazette received I believe. Of the other nominees I doubt there are any who received their nomination on the back of work done for nothing, entirely in their own time.
    Keep up the excellent work.

  33. I agree with Powmill, Brighton have the easiest run in on paper and have a decent GD so I’d make them favourites for 6th.
    Considering our GD and the fact we play Reading, I reckon if we won 4 in a row we could finish 7th, but 6th is asking too much.
    But it is the Championship. 66/1 to go up apparently…

  34. Redcar Red –
    Sorry but your last long (and very complimentary) post has just been zapped into the ether during some engineering work.
    The blog has been up on blocks for the last 24 hours or so with your post stuck on my desk-top. While the geekonauts have been poking about with cyber-spanners and whatnot to free the moving parts it looks your post has been deleted (or possibly moved somewhere I can’t find). It was great too.
    If you have a copy could you repost it?

  35. I’m not surprised Redcar reds post has caused a problem as it would appear there are several Redcar reds posting on here?
    **AV writes: Oh no! It’s the Paul Bells incident all over again!

  36. It is great to see Richard Smallwood has been given another year at least with MFC, I still think this lad could do a job for Boro.
    Lets take one game at a time and see where we end up but it is good to read so many more positive posts. I only hope that even if we finish 7th that it will inspire more “fans” to gamble on a season ticket for next season. Two home games left, lets hope we can get decent size crowds to finish the season.
    AV when is the play off final, just so I can have a glance at what shift I may be on and test the water about getting leave if required.
    Come on BORO
    AV writes: May 24th.

  37. I don’t actually think we will make the play offs. I personally think 73 points are needed and we can obviously only make 70. But although it’s unlikely, it’s far from impossible. Beat Millwall and we still retain our small chance. Win at Reading and we can take it to the last game of the season.
    COME ON BORO!!!!

  38. Yes, well done AV. The blog deserves some kind of award. But don’t get too cocky, This season isn’t over yet. We can’t take our eye off the ball.

  39. Unfortunately I didn’t keep a copy of my original post AV, I reckon it was a rival Journo indulging in subterfuge of alleged Crystal Palace/ Cardiff proportions. I will try and recall the various points I was trying to make.
    In response to Werdermouth I was opining about whilst it would be nice to achieve the dream this season and the cash windfall it would bring I am concerned that psychologically it could do longer term damage.
    Returning supporters to witness the glory of the Prem again could be disillusioned very quickly if we got trounced each week and the inevitable drop back down even with the cash could see us continuing to plummet suffering the from some sort of post Premiership stress. Much better to let Aitor continue his and the club’s progress at the current rate.
    Having said that if we did achieve the impossible come May then I will not be wringing my hands in angst but instead be EIOing with the best of them.I think I read or heard somewhere this week that if the Season had started when Aitor took over Boro would be 5th now.
    Steveh’s play off hopes are perhaps a tad optimistic but if we beat Millwall and the rest of the results do fortuitously go our way then it sets up the remaining three games very nicely. Who would have thought Pulis could have saved Palace from the drop or that Sunderland could go to the Emirates and not get stuffed? It’s a funny old game and stranger things have happened.
    In trying to figure out the possible permutations I noticed that the BBC have ended their Championship Predictor to “improve” the site for football fans. Clearly a decision taken by a Manchelsearsepool Utd fan or a website design geek who has probably never attended a sporting event in their lifetime.
    Its probably just as well they removed it as raising hope with such a blunt instrument could probably cause severe damage on Teesside. Just a shame that the Beeb are out of touch with what real football fans with concerns other than European qualification accessed the BBC Football site for.
    Our recent upturn as Tim pointed out sadly seems to have coincided with Pools fall from grace. The two are invariably linked but provides more evidence of the collective value that the entire coaching staff are now bringing to the club in goalkeeping, defensive and attacking areas in support of the Head Coach.
    Switching attention to this site and the forthcoming awards this is without doubt the best football blog on the internet.
    Obviously I am biased though as it focuses on my main vice which is the Boro. It is unique in that it allows intelligent debate and disagreement without denigrating to the Neanderthal name calling levels so evident in other areas of the internet. AV manages to keep the quality of the content whilst allowing for open discussion and often conflicting exchanges but always within Queensbury rules.
    The quality of AV’s match reports and blog subjects are second to none, journalism at its highest level. The contributions make the site compelling reading but remarkable when you consider that the views expressed are at times very emotive and hard hitting even bordering on controversial.
    For MFC the blog has no doubt occasionally been a very painful source of annoyance. What is clear however is that the club do read it and has in the past even been referenced albeit veiled sometimes in after match and pre match comments from Staff and Players alike. The benefit to the club is immeasurable, no Marketing exercise could ever get the quality and depth of genuine, insightful and analytical viewpoints from their target customer audience that AV elicits here.
    It would be easy for AV to temper things for fear of the wrath of the club and many years ago predating AV the older ones amongst us will recall that things between club and Gazette have been frosty to put it mildly. To be able to balance the needs of his job in being close to the club yet be a catalyst for some strongly voiced views and opinions, positive and negative critiques of that same club takes skill and way beyond that of an average journalist.
    A lot of credit must also simultaneously go to the Gazette in supporting “Untypical Boro” and also to Steve Gibson’s endurance in being man enough to take it and also I suspect at times heed it during some difficult times whilst also refraining from throwing his toys out of the pram. Not many football club chairmen or newspaper editors would be bold or brave enough.
    For anyone in doubt AV’s blog report on this Seasons away game at Forest in September is probably the most enjoyable and finest piece of sporting journalism I have read . “Billy Fury Fuels Forest Fire” captured the mood of the moment and was almost intoxicating, even Forest fans revelled in it and it in Journalistic terms for me was the equivalent of the 1914 “Christmas truce” where football parlance unified opposing sides albeit briefly in mutual appreciation. Throw in that all of this is an unpaid labour of love makes it all the more remarkable. Take a bow AV!
    And for the avoidance of Masham’s doubt this is the real genuine bona fide Redcar Red.

  40. I must admit I am not Redcar Red.
    The forest blog about Bill Davies was circulated amongst Derby and Forest fans and all enjoyed it. If Carling did blogs….
    As the season draws to a close I am quite pleased with Aitor. Like many I had concerns because he was an unknown quantity not because he didn’t come from Saltburn.
    I have wittered about us having a recognisable way of playing and he has introduced that.
    Some thought he would be a patsy for dark extrenal forces. He has shown no favouritism at all and it appears everyone gets a chance. I like the idea that players have to put 100% in to training as well as playing. No train, no play.

  41. Reading have a tough game today at Wigan and Ipswich are also away. If they both lost and we won tomorrow wouldn’t things get interesting? That’s when we would see who can keep their nerve. Who will blink first? Squeeky bum time for those who are 6th and 7th.

  42. I do like the way AK talks and the attitudes that lies behind his pronouncements.
    No favourites. No train, no play. Everybody has a chance. Play badly, let the side down in some way and you’ll be dropped. There’s time for everybody to prove themselves and grab a contract. Players have to do their job – my way or the highway.
    It’s firm, it’s clear, it’s consistent and it’s fair.
    P.S. I am Spartacus – sorry, I mean Redcar Red.

  43. Congratulations on your nomination AV. It’s thoroughly deserved. For several years now this blog has been my first and most frequent port of call whenever I browse the web.
    I agree with Ian and Nikeboro in their comments on AK and stand by my view of a few months ago that our latest manager has the whiff of someone who will go onto big things in the game.
    My only criticism has been what I’ve seen as negative tactics for much of his tenure so far but even that has largely passed now. The last few games have been generally more entertaining even with our backs to the wall at Turf Moor.
    I hope 2014 can be as good as 2012 was, without the collapse of the following year.

  44. Ian Gill said ‘I must admit I am not Redcar Red.’
    To be fair, how many of us are?
    After many years of trying to replicate the achievement of writing Catch 22, it was suggested to the author Joseph Heller that he had never written a novel as good. His response was ‘nobody else had either.’
    I am quietly, stupidly daydreaming that we may scrape into the play-offs. As AV wrote, the time to be promoted is always now.
    Congratulations on being shortlisted AV, fingers crossed for you, arms and legs crossed for the Boro.

  45. Jarkko –
    Yeees!!! I’m OK to meet up for the Barnsley match. I’ll come up Saturday morning. If I make an early start I can be there before 1.00. What time are you meeting up in the Navi? I’ll probably book a hotel for the night.
    To the best of my knowledge Finns in their 50s don’t have two heads – should we all wear carnations? I need to buy a match seat – any chance of us sitting together?

  46. Nikeboro –
    I am the only blond haired gentleman and 6 ft 3in tall. You cannot miss me in Navi. But I bet Kev B and the rest sit on the left side when entering the building. First room and back corner around one hour before. I wear a Boro shirt 😉
    Just arrived in Yarm after spending the whole day at the Dales. Did the Tour de France there, 1st stage – but in a rented Fiesta. Fabulous weather and scenery.
    Hope to see CarltonP tomorrow and then the best thing of the journey – a Boro home win 😉
    Up the Boro and Yorkshire!

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