Non-Bubbling Boro 1 “Typical Boro” 2

WELL, that went well. An archetypal “typical Boro” moment that probably goes straight into the top 10. Millwall’s casual 2-1 win was a real kick in the teeth for anyone naive and daft enough to have the calculators and fixture lists out plotting a path to a far-fetched sixth spot. And a shoo-in for the cynical veterans who betted against Boro.
We all know the time-honoured ingredients. And, bar he damning presence of the TV cameras, they were all in place
In-form Boro, on a roll and with something to play for. TICK
Coming off the back of a battling display in which the team showed real spirit. TICK
Build-up bubbling with people who should know better ‘daring to dream.’ TICK
At home with a decent crowd just willing to be won over. TICK.
Match played just before the season ticket deadline. TICK
Opposition in bottom three and looking vulnerable. TICK
We battered them in reverse fixture. TICK
They have a couple of players we have flogged as flops. TICK
At least Scott McDonald didn’t score. That would have really rubbed it in.

As it was, the slump to Millwall was disappointing, not least because it was almost the same team and shape that had put in such a spirited show at bubbling Burnley. The same team but nowhere near the same intensity, organisation or sharpness.
Of course, Championship team are inconsistent. Finding a way of overcoming that fatal flaw is the key to building a promotion side and we have seen enough in the past few months to suggest that process is underway, if not yet complete. But having seen that progress makes such a woeful, weak display all the more frustrating.
Boro actually clipped the post early on as Graham stabbed in a shot that was pushed aside by keeper Forde but that was as good as it got.
The defence was a shambles. The makeshift wing-backs were nowhere near as industrious, fierce or fast in closing down Millwall’s wingers and as a result crosses rained in, especially from the left where Lee Martin had Adomah on toast. It was a bit embarrassing really. Martin had a 20 minute spell where he played with the unfettered confidence or a man with diplomatic immunity. He had already put three unimpeded dangerous crosses before unmarked towering targetman Stefan nodded in the opener.
It was basic stuff and easy to cut out. But Boro didn’t cut it out and the second was a carbon copy unchallenged cross and free-header for the lanky striker. It was exactly the kind of simplistic assault that ripped apart Tony Mowbray’s team on a weekly basis and which the new more rigid Boro have worked hard to cut out.
Karanka changed the shape after that to a flat back four but the damage was done. After that Boro probably had more of the ball and created a flurry of half chances without ever looking like clawing it back – and Millwall actually looked more potent on the break.
Boro pulled one back with a superb dipping Ledesma free-kick, which you can see here – but it was too little, too late.
That torpedoes any hope of snatching a play-off spot. Not that it was anything other than far-fetched. But it was a timely dangled carrot to keep the team and fans battling through the last few games and keep the season alive. Four good wins in a row – including top six sides Burnley, Derby and Brighton – had built vital momentum and morale and started wild-eyed talk of new term’s possibilities and people renewing season tickets with enthusiasm rather than a grudging sense of duty … there is a danger now of that upsurge of optimism fizzling out. And that would be ‘typical Boro.’
Still, three games left to repair the PR damage, refocus the team’s mentality and show that the Millwall slip-up was a freak, Three games left to finish with a final flourish and show that the feel-good factor from last week has substance and that all the positives we have seen in the good run remain. Let’s not throw that away now.
Here’s what I wrote in the build-up to the game, widely blamed in some quarters for the “inevitable” defeat. Although, I think it still stands…
MILLWALL. Or M’iwaaaaaal. Whatever. After a string of generous results this could be the start of Boro’s big play-off push. We need some far fetched probability-busting permutations of results and some slap-stick slip-ups by our rivals for sixth spot. But hey.. it’s a funny old game..
Realistically Boro have to extend their perfectly timed lunge for the line to eight straight wins while the rest – Brighton, Bournemouth, Reading, Ipswich – falter in the final straight. And Boro have the bottom three to play plus the stuttering Royals on Tuesday night… it’s a crazy plan but it might just work.
However it pans out, the big plus is that normally by the stage of the season Boro have fizzled out in a dismal series of dead rubbers and grumbled recriminations. This time we have a chance to finish with a final flourish and with some excitement, momentum and heightened morale to take into the summer. It could sell some season tickets too. Who knows.
But first Boro have to get past Millwall and their clutch of former Boro “heroes.”
Millwall offers a chance to see if ruthless Aitor Karanka – who by winning a string of games in January and engineering victories to the top teams who normally spank us has already shown he has no respect for our time honoured traditions – has put “typical Boro” on the naughty step.
The loveable Lions of course signed three Boro players in August including two world beaters who had become proxy sticks to beat Tony Mowbray with whenever they were excluded from the team and placed in internal exile, no matter how poor their display when included. They got better by the week when sat in the stands.
For fans with a certain mind-set Millwall were to be feared. It meant facing three times the power of Football’s Inevitability Drive when we played them. Surely Nicky Bailey would play like Iniesta and single-handedly strangle Boro’s midfield with his box-to-box surges while over-lapping Justin Hoyte would set up Scott McDonald for a hat-trick of sublime strikes with a series of pin-point deliveries? #DaftQuid
Er…. no. Far from showing what a numpty Mogga was to let such Galacticos (Gulagticos?) go, in fact all three have barely featured at basement battling Millwall.
I spoke to the Millwall man from the South London Press in midweek – ironically quite posh, erudite, friendly and called Toby; very Deptford – and he gave me the low-down on our former anti-Mogganaut dissidents, political prisoners who spent time in the Rockliffe Gulag.
Scott McDonald, the Lions’ feared three in 31 striker, may be on the bench tomorrow. Mainly because DJ Campbell is injured and Morison is just back from sick bay. Skippy was a frustrated and isolated figure in the reverse fixture back in December when Boro won to spark their Christmas offensive and hasn’t really improved. “There’s a good player in there,” said Toby. “We just don’t see that player often enough and he’s isn’t always necessarily playing for the team.”
And the argument-in-an-empty-room merchant very quickly fell out with Ian Holloway who took over in January and tried and failed to ship him out on deadline day.
“Scott and I have had some discussions,” Holloway, told Millwall webzine News At Den in a revealing interview with some familiar themes last month. “He needs to deal with how he feels and where he is in his mind. But if he does what he thinks is right, and not what I think is right, then he won’t be here, it is as simple as that.”
Justin Hoyte meanwhile has disappeared. Literally. “He wasn’t invited along to the warm weather training camp and bonding session when Holloway first arrived and we haven’t seen him since,” said Toby. Hoyre remains listed on the BBC Millwall page as a defender but his squad number has ominously been airbrushed out..
Nicky Bailey, Boro’s one time human shield, looks set to play though the pain barrier though. Unless his bad back breaks down. The Ginja Warrior has shown a bit of bottle and battle and talks the local lingo so has fitted in well and has been bravely putting his body on the line after rushing back from a slipped disc. “He’s been one of the best players in the last month during the Lions revival and the supporters love him ,” said Toby. “But he isn’t really fit and his back could go again at any time.”
So, overcome the Iron Law of the Returning Flop to beat Millwall and then go to Reading knowing victory would overhaul them… the season is still alive!


34 thoughts on “Non-Bubbling Boro 1 “Typical Boro” 2

  1. “Gulagticos”. Haha – that’s excellent.
    Millwall are in good form at the moment so we will have to be at it. Results went our way today so a win could close the gap if Ipswich falter
    I can’t quite believe that the playoffs are still any kind of possibility. To Finnish in the top six would be Jarkkovian.
    **AV writes: Suomi the money! Suomi the money!

  2. Results today have mostly gone in our favour. This is getting so bizarre you couldn’t write the script. Wigan walloped Reading 3-0, Bournemouth got beat at home by the Owls, lowly Yeovil got a draw at Blackburn and Brighton only drew at the Terriers. If Watford and Ipswich draw and Birmingham continue their good away from at Forest then we could be four points from a play off place at 5.00pm.
    Then of course there is the “Typical Boro” conundrum and the fact that the Lions are fighting for survival.
    I suspect that Aitor may play the game as though we are away from home, keep it tight at the back and play on the break. If we end the day with three games left and four points from 6th it sets up Tuesday at Reading very nicely!

  3. “Gulagticos” … very good AV.
    I think all three have found their level as squad players at a struggling Championship club. Actually I think McDonald’s level is the Scots Premier League. Maybe he could move to Kilmarnock to team up with Kris Boyd (nominated for SPL player of the year!!!). It would be Strachan’s Dream Team reunited.
    I used to get embarrass to hear some of the doyles on the phone-ins and message boars moaning that only nasty Tony Mowbray was stopping magic McDonald hitting 30 goals a season and if only we built the team around Nicky Bailey we could play like Barcelona. Both average journeymen at best. Justin Hoyte? Least said about that pea-hearted passenger the better. He was here six years and never left a trace.
    Even if we win all four game we won’t make the play-offs mind. Brighton have just as easy a run in as us and only need six points. I think they’ll easy do that.
    When we fall two points short all the arguments will start – punched goal by Forest, good goal disallowed at Sheff Wed, long goalless run, Mogga’s inept defence early doors… all ifs and buts. It doesn’t matter. Every team has them.
    Next season though….

  4. Kammy must be on the phone to Gibbo with Unbelievable every other word. The link word is probably unprintable.
    Anything is possible but unlikely is probably the best desription.
    A real shame Huddersfield conceded to allow Brighton to sneak a point.
    The reality is that a team will hold ist nerve and get the win that makes it very difficult. We have to win our last four, that is tog in any league. But, just like Moses, the waters are opening for Aitor to lead us back to the promised land.
    When Boro was in Champo land,
    let my people go;
    oppressed so hard they could not stand,
    let my people go.
    Go down, Aitor,
    way down in Campo land;
    tell old Pharaoh
    to let my people go.
    The Gibbo told Aitor what to do,
    let my people go;
    to lead the children of Boro through,
    let my people go.
    They journeyed on at his command,
    let my people go;
    and came at length to Reading’s land,
    let my people go. Refrain
    Oh, let us all from bondage flee,
    let my people go;
    and let us all in Boro be free,
    let my people go. Refrain

  5. Typical Boro or what?
    I had felt the hope return on Friday evening, only to have it sucked out again on Saturday afternoon.

  6. Well, that’s that for this season. It’s disappointing that the end has come today, at home in a game most expected us to win – typical Boro – but we were always outsiders to make it. The season is still finishing positively overall at this point.
    Meaningless though it largely is, let’s hope we can win against Reading in the week. They are a good gauge for a team with aspirations of promotion. The pressure will be off again. Perhaps that is what did for us today.

  7. The formation and line up was a surprise considering Friend was fit or was he? Surely he must have been fit as Aitor has made a point of not picking players until fully recovered from injuries, one of the things that has earned him both praise and respect from the Boro faithful.
    At kick off I was amazed that the ref allowed both goalkeepers to wear the same or very similar coloured shirts as Millwall but in all honestly it didn’t matter. After 5 minutes the writing was on the wall.
    Our most eclectic and skilful player was a left wing back and a pretty ineffective one at that, our most potent striking/attacking/goal scoring threat was right Back, yes that’s correct right Back. Not only was he right back but because there was two versus one. He was so far pushed back there were fans sat in row 3 in the North Stand further forward.
    No doubt this set up had Holloway and the Lions terrified and frightened to come out of their own half? Bugger, they hadn’t read the script, they had a free for all down their left wing, Albert never had a chance, he was outgunned, outmanned outmanoeuvred and outfought.
    If you thought that was bad you had to wait to see the Panto in the middle at the back. Woody, Ken and Barbie, sorry Dimi, what on earth was going on between them? Ken and Woody looked like they had never met, Dimi was a silent observer, no shouting, no organising. Chaos, confusion, calamitous defending, letting it bounce first time every time every time (yes I know I said it twice, it was genuinely that bad, if in doubt let it bounce and bounce again) and one 6ft 5 Austrian Stefan Maierhofer (who couldn’t believe that anybody in red would either mark him nor remotely out jump him).
    The solution after five minutes was obvious. Dimi needed to start shouting at the two clowns in front of him who looked clueless and clearly needed warnings but no, he stayed silent, Woody looked lost and Ken was left looking for Barbie (and Barbie clearly wasn’t a giant Austrian). It was that bad, it was that embarrassing and it was that one sided, incompetent and sheer bloody awful to witness, the proverbial car crash in slow motion.
    It must have looked better from the touchline because at this point it was clear to 15,000 Smoggies that the tactics had to change. Albert was being ripped apart, crosses were fizzing in to the Tyrolean Terror with embarrassing ease. The answer was on the bench in the form of Varga.
    After 10 minutes I expected a gutsy hands up from Aitor that he got it badly wrong and would throw the Hungarian into the fray. Amazingly we had to sit and watch while the obvious and the inevitable happened. A cross from their left with unopposed ease after Albert was left outnumbered yet again (and for dead) and the Austrian hit man headed home with aplomb. How Graham and the Juke before him must have wished that they could have similar service ploughing their respective lonely furrows.
    OK 1-0 down but it was recoverable, it was obvious to a blind man on a galloping horse, it was even obvious to the 12 year old statues that the club employ as Ball Balls (allegedly! has anyone before ever witnessed footballers chasing the ball into and beyond the hoardings whilst ball boys sat motionless on plastic stools?). Varga simply had to come on along with George (who must be fit as Aitor is so strict on this type of fitness thing, isn’t he?).
    Three at the back wasn’t working, it was a disaster, it was like one of those Christmas Panto’s when the Kids are shouting he’s behind you except Dimi didn’t shout. Woody clearly doesn’t like to jump or turn in case he pulls a hammy and Ken just looked confused bless, full stop.
    And of course take two, a mirror image, it happened again, who would have believed it? (apart from the 15,000 frustrated Smoggies). A cross from their left, our right whilst Albert was outgunned at Right back (row 7 I think in the North stand at this point) and the Millwall version of Arnie netted again. Whoa 0-2 down and still in the first half!
    At this point I figured Aitor has to admit his incompetence and realise the error of his Mowbrayesque square pegging at its extreme. Our highest goal scorer playing as a by now disillusioned right back, our most creative player at left back, both looking like a fish out of water although in fairness Manu made a decent impression but probably because the Blue Lions couldn’t believe how easy it was to just keep pummelling our right back who was now doing an impression of a little Dutch boy with his fingers in the dyke but with 25 leaks (do the math as the Americans would say).
    Half time thankfully came and Aitor could at least restructure and reorganise and he did. But he actually managed to take square pegging way beyond Mogga’s best/Worst (depending upon perspective) he put Ken at RB, Chalobah at CB alongside Woody (old hamstrung injury prone White men can’t jump) and Manu continued somewhere at LB come wide man.
    We all expected Friend and Varga to come on and normal service resume at 46 minutes. Now I thought that Mogga was stubborn, even pigheaded to the point of self destruct but when the team took the pitch (and I use the word “team” very liberally) for the second half there were no changes, the incredible self same starting eleven.
    I rubbed my eyes, adjusted the volume on my earpiece expecting Alli or Maddo to say that there had in fact been a few personnel changes, but alas no. where was MMP at his decibel busting best when we needed him to announce Varga was coming on?
    We huffed and we puffed, and still Aitor didn’t address the question that was clearly obvious from the fifth minute. Now this is my conundrum, if the answer was Luke Willams and Curtis Main what on earth was the question?
    Butterfield was my MOM (admittedly there were not many contenders) but was subbed for Lightweight Luke, if I hadn’t witnessed it myself I wouldn’t have believed it. Curtis then came on later for the only other possible MOM contender Leadbitter and ran and ran in fact Beep Beep the Road runner would have been proud, just a shame that he never actually either won possession or contributed much in fact I’m not sure that he even touched the ball except for a shot come cross that ended up near the corner flag.
    That said Danny lasted on the pitch for the whole 90 minutes with absolutely nothing to show apart from a single first half effort. I’m not blaming Danny as his source of supply were playing as full backs which brought a new definition to the word “isolated“.
    Just a little ironic that this evening Aitor’s former mentor had a similar day against the Mackems, the amateur psychologists amongst us might delve deeper! At one stage in the second half Albert broke down the right and held the ball up and waited, then sat down, lit a cigarette, passed around those chocolate sweets that Ambassadors allegedly enjoy and then indulged in a conversation with a groundsman about what type of phostrogen he uses on the pitch to get such lush green grass on the Riverside turf.
    Meanwhile Millwall defenders had gathered around him, snarling, tackling, kettling, call it what you will but Albert just lit up one of those 1970’s cigars and waited until a red shirt crossed the half way line. Eventually he got bored and hit the ball of a blue sock and won a throw in. If you were there you will know I’m not kidding!
    Millwall displayed the sort of fight and application that fans expect from their Players especially when struggling but oh so rarely see and full credit and respect to them and Ian Holloway. They wanted it and they got it and they thoroughly deserved it.
    Even their Pantomime villain Forde in goal who was subjected to a torrent of abuse from the North Stand after a tete a tete with Tomlin which ended with Lily being booked had a good game and it has to be acknowledged that his time wasting and gamesmanship was exemplary and no less than I would have hoped from a Boro keeper in the same predicament.
    At the final whistle he knew it and had clearly enjoyed the by then ironic banter with the North Stand who had steadfastly booed, jeered, hissed and whistled whenever he went near the ball, if only the Boro bench had shown half the passion, hunger and desire to win.
    Very disappointing, very obvious, very preventable and very annoying, tactical paralysis and blatant sheer bloody minded Coaching denial. More importantly was the opportunity for another few thousand Season Ticket sales had the dream lived on, commercial suicide and professional pride before a fall.
    At least to us oldies it all feels too familiar, “Typical Boro”. Lets hope Aitor learns a Championship lesson, he who dares wins and he who hesitates……………!

  8. Reading RR’s report it certainly appears AK got it somewhat wrong.
    The biggest disappointment was the lost opportunity to win additional Season Ticketers.
    Although the win against Burnley was a fantastic team performance, the two wing backs did not work and Boro were lucky to a degree.
    We will certainly need proper cover at RB and LB next season.

  9. Back down to earth with a bump or should I say crash landing
    With most results going our way on Friday there was hope and everything to play for yesterday but unfortunately the players didn’t see it that way.
    I think what puzzled everyone was Karanka has played the same formation every week apart from seventy minutes at Burnley for obvious reasons and has stubbornly kept to it no matter what the results, Today he could have reverted back to it having Varga and Friend on the bench and it was glaringly obvious after 20 minutes the system needed changing.
    Same with his substitutions,they left us all scratching our heads too,as for bringing Friend on with five minutes to go,what was the point in that?
    If his idea was to save Friend for the Reading game expecting us to beat Millwall then it was foolish judgement which i am sure he will regret now. Millwall was the important game to make sure we got the three points to keep the season alive. Had we won yesterday we would have been within three points of the play-offs.
    The whole season has been a season of ifs and buts, If only we hadn’t conceded late in games early on in the season, if only Gibson had sacked Mowbray earlier, if only we hadn’t gone on the winless and scoreless run, if only the games against Sheffield Wed,Forest and QPR didn’t conspire against us.
    Truth is over the season we haven’t been good enough to deserve a play off place. Over the last couple of months we have improved to give us hope for next season that with a few changes to the squad we can go one better and at least make the play-offs. After the season we have had it was good although very brief to think we did have a chance to make the play-offs. Karanka was more honest in his radio interview last night when he said we had been playing above our level.
    Lets hope we can play the last three games with pride and passion and gain as many points as possible

  10. By the way I blame Jarkko for this defeat, he’s a jinx.
    He came over last season for the Derby game on New Years Day when we lost 3.1 and missed the opportunity to go second, then we only won three games during the rest of the season.
    Thank goodness there are only three games left!
    Only joking Jarkko!!

  11. They say you learn more from your defeats than your victories. If so, AK must have received a masters-level education yesterday.

  12. Redcar Red –
    Probably the best post of the season. Couldn’t make the game due to work commitments , when I saw the team I feared the worst, all the previous three weeks good work undone in 90 minutes. Obviously in the spanish speaking world of football the phrases “nothing to lose” or “lets go for it lads”, do not exist. At least a thousand potential red book applications wiped out in one Moggaesque nightmare.

  13. That’s football. We lost to a lowly team who were fighting for their lives because our lot aren’t world-beaters, had an awkward shape and had an off day. It’s not the end of the world. It happens. Ask Chelsea.
    It stings for a while but it doesn’t change the progress made in the last few months under Karanka. It doesn’t wipe out the things in the credit column from Brighton, Derby, Bolton etc. Boro are a team in progress and will have ups and down. After Derby and Bunrley they weren’t the best team in the league and now they aren’t the worse.
    Anyone who suddenly thinks Karanka is a tactical muppet and the club is suddenly in crisis knows nothing. Last week he was a shoo-in for manager of the month and we were certs for next year’s title. But Boro fans do love to swing from one extreme to another… see also claims that one result has wiped out 1,000s of potential season ticket holders. It’s not true.
    Some people will use it as an excuse but had Boro beat Millwall they would have found another excuse not to renew somewhere along the line. The new strip would be the wrong shade of red or when we didn’t use the Spanish contacts to sign Messi they would say it “proved Gibbo has no ambition.”
    I know the club needs the money but honestly we can do without those kind of fickle whingers. They would only be moaning after the first bad result anyway.

  14. Thats football.
    Hindsight tells us that was a blast from the past, Typical Boro. Truth is results like that were why we were still in touch with the play off contenders. Fans of Reading, Forest, Brighton would recognise the same sort of game.
    Plenty to ponder for Aitor, his staff and the players not least the folly of silly red cards. Throw in setting out in an unfamiliar formation, odd substitutions and square pegging and you have the ingredients for a disjointed performance.
    **AV writes: We know the players and the team are inconsistent. That’s why we and they are in the Championship. The Millwall match was a predictable set-back and, as you say, par for the course in this division. It is not a huge watershed.

  15. In my opinion the formation at Burnley didn’t work, but it was forced upon Karanka and he/we got lucky. Very lucky.
    Karanka should have built on that luck and returned to the tried and tested formation with Varga and Friend. He messed up, and we got what we deserved.
    Still, I do believe we’ve made progress and having renewed, I’m looking forward to the challenge of a top six place next season.

  16. Another good jury-swaying piece AV and I suppose we should add you to the list of those responsible for causing the defeat. Personally I’m normally responsible for nil-nil games so Barnsley end of term party-goers beware!
    As for the deflated play-off balloon of a game on Saturday, well, following the Burnley win I speculated that it may no longer be the case that the players could be regarded as mentally weak. However, this is now the conclusion returned to by Karanka after the Millwall defeat.
    He argued as soon as any realistic talk of the play-offs is raised the players lose focus. A six point gap seems to be the point at which this malaise creeps in – as was the case with our last decent run earlier in the year.
    Perhaps a larger contributing factor was playing with the new back three system with wing-backs. The point of rigidly adhering to the 4-2-3-1 system was to ingrain it into the players mindset so that they could perform under pressure.
    One can only assume that Karanka felt Friend wasn’t ready for 90 minutes and they had probably trained with the new system this week. I think getting a result at Burnley may have masked the fact that they had 27 attempts at goal, which doesn’t convince as it being a particularly solid system.
    Redcar Red has maybe also reminded us that Karanka is still learning his trade and still possibly lacks the confidence or boldness of his mentor to make early tactical changes in the game when it’s not going to plan.
    But ultimately many of the supporters were probably hoping for a bit too much – teams don’t realistically win their last eight games to qualify for the play-offs on goal difference. We’ve seen that in the Championship that the norm is inconsistency.
    That’s why sixth spot had seemed to have been attainable as no team does actually win all the time but they just stutter along and try not to give their fans an easy ride – it [football] is what it is.

  17. Mr Average –
    I don’t think anyone is denying Aitor Karanka the plaudits for what he has achieved since his arrival. When he arrived we looked like heading to where Blackpool, Millwall and Barnsley etc. are now.
    What he has achieved and how he has achieved it is superb testimony to him. Credit where credit is due. We had a bit of a goalless blip which broke a unwanted club record unfortunately but still from the start of his tenure to now has been a gradual if not exactly spectacular rise in results.
    Saturday was an opportunity to keep the momentum going. There was unrealistic dreams of maybe nicking a play-off spot. I don’t think any of us really believed it would happen this year but after Friday’s results it was starting to look comically possible. Indeed had we won it would have looked less comedic and more a distinct possibility. We didn’t, we lost and some may say it was better to put us out of our misery.
    You are right of course in that upsetting results happen is sport and we (even Boro fans) realise and accept that, lord knows we are well used to them unlike a generation of some Mancunians.
    On Saturday there was a huge opportunity to get Boro fans past and present and more importantly the lapsed ones to think just maybe that they were missing out on something big. Much the same way as I seem to seeing Liverpool shirts everywhere around the country just recently and far fewer Man Utd shirts.
    Taking that one sole, solitary game in total isolation and Aitor got his tactics wrong. Not just a bit wrong but very wrong, it happens.The key though is in identifying what is wrong and why and then addressing it, even if it is too late and irrecoverable. That is the cause of the Boro supporters angst at the weekend, it was obvious what was wrong, what was even more annoying was that the solution was sat two feet away from him.
    Perhaps Friend wasn’t fully fit but Varga was and as he shuffled his pack anyway surely putting on Varga and switching Whitehead or Chalobah to LB would have been more sensible. Putting Luke and Curtis belatedly into things was puzzling in the extreme never mind putting George on for the dying minutes when the damage was done. I would stop short at the use of the term “tactical muppet” but your possible subliminal thought goes pretty close for what I witnessed in the opening 15 minutes and then had to endure for the next 75.
    With regards to season ticket sales an exciting swashbuckling season’s end and just missing out or even bizarrely making but losing out in the play-offs would swell season ticket sales (actually making it through the play-offs is a no brainer in terms of sales). It would certainly have a more positive effect than mid table mediocrity. By how many bums on seats is debatable and subjective but in these days of FFP a Club cannot afford to not take the wider commercial picture into perspective.
    Almost exactly two years ago in 2012 AV done a number crunching blog blog about tickets, pricing and attendances. The crux of the matter was the subject of the £10 ticket and some fans were whining on about how MFC should do it to fill the Stadium. Powmill gave an excellent piece of analysis during the debate:
    “Average attendances at Boro by different breakdowns over the years ….
    Overall Average Attendance 19,712
    Top Division 22,052
    Second Division 16,410
    Third Division 13,880
    1900s 12,162
    1910s 13,686
    1920s 19,348
    1930s 17,569
    1940s 34,702
    1950s 26,376
    1960s 17,925
    1970s 20,066
    1980s 12,315
    1990s 21,814
    2000s 29,736
    2010s 18,109
    So it looks like our current level of support is about par for the course for us in the 2nd Division”.
    When Mogga came we got about an extra 1,000 fans swelling the ranks which proves an attraction does increase attendance, sadly as the novelty wore off and reality sank in they soon departed again along with some more disaffected.
    Alarmingly Powmill in 2012 reflected that our gates where about par for the 2nd tier. Look again at his figures for the third tier of 13,880, that is nearer to where we are today attendance wise in only two years! Of greater concern is that our gates are actually heading to nearer the 1980’s figures of 12,315. Despite Aitor’s mini revival it has not halted declining attendances dramatically, ironically we had a good few extra hundred home support on Saturday and probably nearer to 1,000 at that considering the away attendance was so low.
    I stand by my claim that a barnstorming (albeit probably ultimately resulting in a 7th place finish) could very realistically add an extra 1,000 or more in ST sales. Of course the season isn’t over yet but MFC cannot afford the luxury of Mourinho type eccentricity on the touchline, we are operating on fine margins as it is. Every opportunity has to be exploited.
    Fair play by the way to Woody who held his hands up and said he probably would have booed himself off. A little honesty and straightforwardness goes a long way at times.
    **AV writes: The attendance figures for the Third Division are statistical anomlies and you can’t draw too much from them. They were both single, isolated promotion years. In both gates started well below average and finished well above.

  18. We didn’t lose because Karanka is daft or because of this ridiculous ‘typical Boro’ notion (every club has that, we are not special in out failure). Don’t overthink it.
    We lost because we had no left back and the defence was shifted to deal with that and this week our wing-backs didn’t work and the centre-backs didn’t have a ladder to cope with crosses aimed at a seven foot striker.
    No magic. Just circumstances. We’re still a decent team getting better.

  19. Well results continue to go our way so it’s only fair to assume this unexpected sequence of results will now continue until the end of the season.
    So here is the current table with how the results for each team in the play-off race will continue (and they are all possible given the remaining fixtures)
    06 – Brighton – 66 – LL
    07 – Ipswich – 65 – LD
    08 – Reading – 64 – LLD
    09 – Blackburn – 64 – LW
    10 – Bournemouth – 63 – WL
    11 – Forest – 62 – DLW
    12 – Watford – 60 – LLW
    13 – Boro – 58 – WWW
    And here’s the final table, which clearly shows Boro making the play-offs on goal difference – what could possibly go wrong?
    06 – Boro – 67
    07 – Blackburn – 67
    08 – Brighton – 66
    09 – Ipswich – 66
    10 – Bournemouth – 66
    11 – Forest – 66
    12 – Reading – 65
    13 – Watford – 63
    **AV writes: Well that’s me persuaded.. #DaftQuid

  20. Mr Average –
    Best post since the Millwall defeat. Just imagine if AK had changed formation from the Burnley game and had lost! Redcar Red and others would have been straight on here astounded that he had changed a winning formation !!!!
    Yes, it was a shocking performance and Woodgate is right he did not turn up along with some others but let us keep it in perspective. Ask Man Utd fans about their season, ask Chelsea fans about the Sunderland game, ask Man city owner about the money he has spent this season.
    Boro are not the only team not to turn up at a particular match, and to be fair there has been a few by Boro but we have got the players we can afford, we are a club going through a complete change, and for those that have not noticed, we have been since McClaren left.
    Saying that I think we are over the worst and are at last starting to see that we are progressing, yes I agree it is slow going and it is not going to change overnight. MFC have not got, or will get, a large boost of funds so the rebuild will have to be done carefully but most importantly it has to be sustainable. Throwing money at players, like the Robson/McClaren era, will result in bankruptcy.
    For those who are expecting a big change of players in the summer I think are going to be disappointed, I would not be surprised at more going out and at most three or four coming in, of which none will be big names.
    AK has been in charge five months and I like what I see, yes he does make mistakes, he is in a new country, new culture, new type of game and trying to learn a new language. I like his methods, I like his discipline, I like his strong mind and beliefs. I think, manager wise we are better off than either the Mackem’s or Geordie’s.
    Everyone is entitled to their opinion and that is mine.
    Come on BORO.

  21. Redcar Red –
    Spot on again
    Mr Average –
    Unfortunately a lot of our potential fans are fickle but that is a sign of the times. Cast your mind back to the opening season at the Riverside back in 95 . (Jump
    in AV if my figures are inaccurate)
    Start of the season 15k – 20k season ticket holders, we sign Juninho and suddenly 5k -10k decide to join the Robson Revolution . We then had 25k -28k
    season ticket holders , some people would say those fans were fickle , I doubt whether 10% of them still go to the games now but the fact is they were going to matches for the next 10years , and played their part in a great atmosphere.
    I think Gibson and Karanka massively underestimated the importance of the Millwall game. Why no ticket offers? Try and get 25k in the ground. Karanka should have been banging on in the press about how we going to go out all guns blazing as we had nothing to lose. What do we get a damp squib that was wetter than a fishes wet bits.
    I’m starting to believe the conspiracy theorists who think Gibson doesn’t want us to go up!
    **AV writes: Well, no offence, but you are a bit daft then. He is putting £1m a month in – the same as n the glory days – so I think he is still pretty serious about it. If he was happy to tread water he wouldn’t have sacked Mowbray. Or Strachan. Or Southgate. And he certainly wouldn’t be funding big wages and transfers.

  22. Exmil –
    I was working and unable to attend the Burnley game but by all accounts it resembled the Alamo but somehow we kept a battling clean sheet and scored on the break. Our defence options that day were limited and pretty much all we had available and selection understandable to a degree although Varga’s omission was a strange one for me.
    Aitor gambled and went for three at the back and somehow we got lucky despite all the stats showing that Burnley had the majority of play, possession and chances. Whilst we won I don’t know of a single Boro fan who had belief or confidence in the Burnley formation.
    On Saturday we had a full compliment of midfielders our preferred lone striker fit and well, our new preferred keeper fit and three out of four defenders available (Varga, Woody, Ken) with one “questionably fit” preferred defender (Friend) OK for the bench.
    We had one singular position in the entire starting 11 that needed addressing, a Left Back yet Aitor changed the entire team around to facilitate one positional absence despite being under the cosh the previous game utilising the same tactics. That was his choice but I would seriously question if any Boro fan would advocate we went the same again as Turf Moor after the pummelling we took despite getting the points.
    The omens were glaringly obvious before ten minutes were up on Saturday yet intransigence from the coach for reasons only known to himself didn’t give us a chance in the game. Boro players were confused and looked lost positionally, Holloway played route one football exposing our frailties on the flank that Varga and Adomah have been very successful in for several months.
    Aitor should have reverted to a back line of 4 and not dropped Varga in my opinion but that’s his choice and that is what he gets paid for but once it was found to be so woeful and inept he should have taken remedial action. He did have alternatives available to him but he chose to ignore them and indeed appeared to be in denial after the halftime break further compounded by the Williams and Main Substitutions. It will be interesting to see what he sets up like against Reading but I doubt we will see three at the back.
    **AV writes: Karanka didn’t “change the entire team around” for Millwall. He stuck with the shape and the team (bar one enforced change) that had won at Burnley. He has persistently and consistently said that is his philosophy. And for most of the season has been praised for that … ‘not a tinkerman’… ‘players know where they stand’ … ‘good management’ etc. You can’t then complain when it goes wrong once that the entire strategy .is flawed.
    It is football. Sometimes the team doesn’t function. Especially at this level when it is staffed with players who are flawed, either technically or mentally. It was a kick in the teeth and bad timing but in the grand scheme of things just a minor blip.

  23. Come on AV , I know Gibson wants this club back in the Premier ASAP, and of course the last thing he wants is this club to fail , I was just venting my frustration at a missed opportunity.
    But believe me I heard enough people voice the opinion both last season and the season before when the wheels fell off who actually think Gibson doesn’t want the club to go up. I think you call it bad PR
    **AV writes:It’s not bad PR at all. It is the mentality of a certain group of our fans. There are people in the world who faced with a reality that doesn’t fit their world view invent a mental landscape that does. Even if is easily exposed by simple facts. That is how conspiracy theories work.
    Some people can’t accept that sometimes things just go wrong – results, players failing, poor recruitment (by accident not design) – and instead seem to think that everything is orchestrated to some dark plot . If they don’t understand something then they assume unexplained sinister forces must be at work.
    The club stress at every opportunity that they are funding to the max, The figures are available. Compare them to other clubs. It is clear that Gibson is pumping in fortunes and that is only for one thing: to try to get promoted.
    But there is a basic inability – or refusal – of some people to understand that you don’t always get what you want, that no matter how hard and sincerely you try that you may fail. It is the nature of sport. Other teams are also trying hard (and some spending more) and unless everything is right you fall short. There are no guarantees. Some people seem to struggle to accept that.
    They think they have a right to success (that is the mentality fostered by the Premier League glory years). They think that because Gibbo funded success 15 years ago and it all seemed easy that somehow it is automatic if only he stumped up more. If only he WANTED to. .And if he doesn’t he must have some underhand reason. So blame him rather than the new financially reality. It is easier I suppose.

  24. They say its devastating for clubs to get relegated from the Premiership,
    I think we all know now that is clearly ridiculous. In fact getting relegated from our division is much worse.not only financially but right now,we are one exceptional season from gong back to the promised land,eh,( Burnley),
    So fans should realise, this is a slog. No club is guaranteed ,and that’s why I keep harping on about physical endurance,
    Im sure within the next few weeks we will get our chance on this blog,to state what we all feel is needed next season. I have and I believe some players who may think
    are dead certs to stay,are just not up to it including a loanee or two,
    interesting times

  25. OK, the match against Millwall wasn’t what I expected. Having travelled over 1 000 miles to see the match, the defending was awful. But then again, Friend was not fully fit to play TWO matches so soon. Hopefully he is OK to start at Reading tonight.
    Never Give Up Boro –
    it is just football. Some used to say I am bringing the luck during my previous visits I have made. These thing just happens. Let’s see how we do at Reading tonight. I hope to see an improvement in defending.
    By the way, perhaps we all get more positive the further away we live from Riverside. But Werdermouth must be the only one banking on play-offs this year. A real foam hander!!!
    Still, who are coming to the Navi before the Barnsley match at 1:30 PM? I hope AV can have a quick pint there, too. All the regulars and Nikeboro, Dormo and Werdermouth? I will have a camera and a name label.
    A 0-1 win at Reading today. Graham on the 23rd minute. Be there. Up the Boro!

  26. How great it is to support Boro. I came back to the B&B with my wife on Sunday after visiting Helmsley and a walk to the Riveleux Abbey. We went to a small restautrant for dinner and quess who was sitting in the table next to us? Aitor Karanka was there with his family including his son and daughter.
    Fascinating. How small is the world. Up the Boro!

  27. If deliberately avoiding promotion is all part of some master plan then there seems to be quite a few clubs who are a lot better at it than us at the moment.
    The disappointing thing about the Millwall game is that it’s now beginning to look like 70 points may have been enough for sixth spot.

  28. The Millwall match may not have been the worst Boro performance I’ve seen this season but without a doubt it was the most disapointing.
    While its undoubtedly true that Boro are a flawed side and therefore such performances and results are going to happen, I do strongly believe it may have been different if Karanka had played four at the back even with Friend absent.
    I wonder if Karanka had mis-read the lucky result at Burnley for something else? The second half at Burnley was an ‘Alamo’ situation and it was down to luck that we didn’t concede. Millwall took full advantage of our wing backs who on Saturday seemed incapable of either attacking or defending. So while the players need to take responsibility for a shocking performance the manager needs to take some for setting up the team in such a way which made the result more likely than otherwise would have been the case.
    I didn’t realy expect Boro to hit 6th place after the Yeovil match but I didn’t expect the dream to die against Millwall. Loosing to Millwall but more importantly the performance against Millwall really was Typical Boro.
    The absence of Friend and Carayol with no obvious decent replacements for them show that the squad is nor robust enough for a top six challenge, the poor performance against Millwall shows that some of the first eleven aren’t up to a top six campaign either.
    **AV writes: I think the manager is well aware of that and is already well ahead with his planning for next season.

  29. Great stuff Jarkko.
    What can you tell us about Karanka’s tactics for his lunch? Did he set out with a rigid starter-main-dessert formation? Did he go for traditional, no-frills British fayre or did he order some cheap, foreign meats recommended by head chef Peter Kenyon? How many of his kids were sent to the naughty step?

  30. AV –
    I’m not going to claim that the Burnley set up and team selection was unprecedented but there was certainly a high level of dictation with the causation largely outside of Aitors control. We literally got lucky that day and got away with a smash and grab raid thanks to Dimi. Nine times out of ten we would have lost that game by 2 or 3 goals. It was anything but a tactical master class.
    As you say for Millwall he stuck with the shape and the team (bar one enforced change) that had won at Burnley. That one Burnley game was a complete change in set up and tactics to the shape and formation he rigidly and successfully stuck to all season.
    I believe on Saturday he did tinker by repeating that tenuous formation. Add in the frailties of the squad not functioning which may be down to them being flawed or not technically good enough or because they didn’t understand or were simply not good enough to operate that system but these are all the considerations that a manager has to make.
    His dithering as oppose to overt tinkering then continued throughout the Millwall game by not addressing the obvious impending disaster after 10 or even 20 minutes and then when the horses had already bolted compounded things by shoving Ken out to RB, bringing Chalobah in from midfield to play CB alongside Woody and pegging Ledesma into a straightforward full back role instead of a wing back instead of simply bringing on Varga and restoring our right side to normality and losing a central midfield player who were being bypassed in any case as all the activity was on our right wing.
    Add the substitutions into the conundrum and we were staggered in the North Stand as to what the tactics were supposed to be for the remainder of the game.
    In your own match report you mentioned “Martin” 7 times from just the 10 minute to 30 minute period alone, that included the two identical goals and an identical warning just before they actually scored when Martin crossed and the big Austrian headed into the side netting. The solution was simple put on Varga immediately, stop Martin and their supply was cut off. Albert would then have been further up the pitch to turn the tables where he is a real threat (our biggest threat) and Ken, Woody and Dimi would have had breathing space.
    I’m sorry but Saturday wasn’t continuity, it was Aitor’s deviation from his own very successful strategy that caused our downfall and was the reason our players didn’t know where they stood. The only positive is that we all learn from our mistakes and that hopefully in future he will either avoid tactically playing players out of their comfort zone or act immediately if his tactics are failing regardless.
    **AV writes: I’m not disputing that it was a poor performance or that the players did not show the same application, energy or determination as they had at Burnley, just pointing out that it was consistent with the manager’s philosophy. All managers have their own approach and trying to second guess them, argue with them, get irate about offering alternatives is fruitless and will leave you frustrated,
    At root the problem is that .Boro do not have adequate cover at left-back. That forced his hand at Burnley, it wasn’t a tactical affectation. The problem remained for the Millwall game as Friend was nowhere near fit enough to start. Hence he opted to use the same solution.
    It went wrong. I don’t have a problem with that. All managers get it wrong sometimes and a as a rule I don’t argue tactics with managers because I don’t feel anywhere near qualified for that. As long as they learn from it, don’t keep repeating the same mistakes, get it right more often than they get it wrong and the team is generally making progress then I’m happy to let them manage

  31. Jarkko –
    I hope Aitor picked up the tab for you and Mrs Jarkko in recognition of your unswerving long distant support !
    RR –
    Its nice to be remembered – even if I don’t get to post very regularly!
    AV is right about the averages for the two Div 3 seasons. A sample of two does not make for very revealing statistics. My hunch is that if we ever were to have an extended spell in what is now League One (ie Div 3) our average attendances would be more in the order of 6000-7500, possibly worse if we are not playing well at that level.
    However, we are not and hopefully never will be. Things are definitely looking up now and next season could be the most exciting for quite a few years. If all of our optimism for next season is well place, then I expect we see attendances gradually grow closer to 18/19/20k mark.

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