Radar Love: Bearded Boro, Fashionista Favourites… Plus: Rocked by Blackpool

QUICK!  Take evasive action! Instruments indicate media missle lock on. Expect hostile incoming waffle. Pundits now have Boro in their sights.

Boro  have finally “popped up on the radar.” 

football radar

                *OFFICIAL: Boro’s progress has been picked up at Football HQ

We are now “there to be shot at.” Which is obviously very dangerous.  We don’t want to get caught up in the tabloid crossfire with papers flogging our Top Guns to “big teams” like Stoke and Hull – or Sunderland – in the run up to January’s panic buying season.

A week is a long time in football. Is it only seven days ago Boro were just the “likes of,” another anonymous provincial makeweight in The Division That Telly Forgot?  You bet. Three games ago Boro were Northern nobodies treading water well down the running order in the game’s post-midnight small screen Saturday night ghetto.

Then: Bang! Suddenly, you take a £150m Champions League side to the wire in a pulsating 31 goal televised thriller, and you are “a thing.”  Suddenly Boro are bang on trend with the fashionistas, like those full-on Mumford And Sons geography teacher beards, pumps with no socks and gaudy checked shirts and jackets. And ‘normcore’, whatever the hell that is.

Now Boro are all the rage. We’ve been spotted. All the metropolitan football hipsters are name dropping Emilio Nsue, George Friend and goal-getting ‘false seven’ Grant Leadbitter.

hipsters

                        *ON TREND: Boro’s fashionista fans ironically deconstruct 4-2-3-1

We’ve been emitting positive signals while flying high for a while but  they’ve finally been picked up and transmitted back to the media’s tracking station. Now we’ve been identified as a legitimate target, “an interesting story,” and all news outlets are now despatching their best hunter-killer hacks to get the low down.

They will be gutted that they have been out-flanked by Ian Wright though. Hyper-active emotional football jester Wright “Wrighty” Wright was ahead of the curve in spotting the Karanka bandwagon. He picked out Boro as promotion contenders on the Beeb’s big club phone-in 606, in between talking down fans of crisis clubs Arsenal and Spurs.

That followed a rampant 4-0 battering of Brentford that took Boro up to fifth so it was hardly a curve-ball but it was nice to get a mention. He added that he had seen quite a bit of Aitor Karanka’s team on the box which seems a little far-fetched. Even diehard Boro fans have struggled to see more than a jerky 42 second blipvert on normal television and even if the game is on somewhere on the net it is quite hard work to find a stable stream on Wiziwig or find more than Vines of the goals on-line. Unless we are to believe he is secret member of Middlesbrough Supporters South hunched over a laptop and a parmo most Saturdays, it was probably artistic licence but at least we got the name check.

Before that, Boro were so low profile even the players’ Mams wouldn’t have recognised them. Boro had been using story-shrouding stealth technology: being in the North; being into a sixth season of fruitless Championship labour; being stable and sane off the pitch; avoiding troubling the play-offs even once; having a level-headed manager who very rarely gives sound-bites. And for this we are happy.

Boro have been wearing a camouflage of mediocrity for years and have slipped out of the media’s consciousness.

But now…

The Anfield epic was watched by an armchair audience of millions and plucky’s Boro’s spirited show prompted well informed national paper sports desk editors everywhere to ask their scribes  “Hey, who are this lot?”

Conveniently there were plenty of big-hitters in the press box at Liverpool who raised eyebrows at well organised Boro’s gutsy display and were busy reintroducing themselves of the Teesside hackerati after the game and asking a lot of very easy to answer questions to fill in the gaps left by the cold, barren years of involuntary second shelf exile.

Then they will have looked at the league table and seen Boro’s quiet creep into the top six and into the national media’s limited field of vision. So expect a few sympathetic think pieces and soft-focus profiles of Aitor’s Spanish Revolution in the broadsheets over the next week or so. Beat Blackpool and Fulham and top flight scribes will be forced to make a trip to the frozen wastelands to interview the boss. He knows Jose Mourinho, you know.

Of course, it is always nice to have some attention, even if the tone is often patronising and the thrust predictable. Oh, do tell us about the decline of heavy industry again. (If there’s one thing worse than being talked about, its being talked about by idiots).

Meanwhile our meagre ration of screen time is being tweaked too. The Football League Show is a strange beast. It has 72 clubs to fit into a fast-forward blur over an hour and a half.  And editing action bussed in from the provinces on the hoof – and from footage that at times looks like it has been filmed on a smartphone – can’t be easy.

Naturally every club will feel like they are hard done by as the show’s editors try to follow the story shaping up in each division and Boro haven’t been a story for some years now, I think we all have to accept that. Nevertheless, a touch of Boronoia has crept in over the years as the club has slipped down the running order.

The Brentford game for instance had four goals and pushed Boro up into a creditable fifth place – but was still relegated to the dawn chorus segment at the tail end of the show. After showing action from games featuring the Championship top four a pattern seemed to be emerging – but then the programme meandered about geographically and in terms of position before coming to Boro, third last out of 12.

And they crammed the four goals – some beauties too – into an action packed one minute dead with half as much again being allocated for such vital footage as the teams getting off coaches and shaking hands. Then they tagged on 22 seconds of interviews with both bosses so heavily cut as to be worthless.

Call me sad but I actually cynically time these things (although to be fair, I am “working” which is some mitigation. Some people are angrily wielding a stopwatch in their own time). The shortest ‘highlights’ we’ve had was the 42 seconds shown after losing 1-0 at home to Reading. And to be fair they did well to find that.

Fast forward to the Brave New World of post-Liverpool sexiness and Boro’s were ushered beyond the red silk rope into the VIP area and were shown third and even with got an extra second for a goalless draw… although they still missed the obligatory Bikey elbow.

But it is progress I supposed. Who knows we may even be designated a “featured match” and get the full four minutes plus a visit from Clem soon.

It is not just the media radar that Boro have suddenly popped up on. The bookies – and the punters – have locked on too.  As Boro gave Liverpool an almighty fright, their odds were tumbling on the Championship promotion and title markets.

Yes, some of that may have been euphoric and drunk daft quid-merchants in pubs in Teesside, full of beer and bravado and egged on by mates hammering their betting apps as the game wore on and Boro more than matched their hosts.

Some may have come from shrewder, more sober gamblers across the country impressed by a well-drilled and highly motivated side and seeing decent value in backing them to reproduce that form in what can be poor and erratic division.

But the bookies aren’t daft. The odds had been shortening for weeks. They probably have better anttena than the media. Or at least, are not wearing big club blinkers.

Back in early August you could get 20 or 22/1 for Boro to win the title. I know a few foam fingered types and habitual wild eyed optimists who put a ritual tenner on that, even if they didn’t really believe it a likely outcome. It is a demonstration of faith. Just think of the kudos and bragging rights – and beer – that would buy if it came off.

Now any cautious faint-hearts looking for a slice of the Aitor open-top coach action would be lucky to get 10/1 with most places pricing bubbling Boro at 8/1.

Before the big kick-off Boro were between 10 and 12/1 to be promoted, including through the play-offs. Now that has been slashed right back to around about 5/2. That’s not worth backing… although you can still get a hefty 50/1 for Grant as top scorer if you want to have a little VFM dabble.

Of course, the odds shifting is a much about Boro’s recent league form as being squeezed out 14-13 on penalties after a 2-2 draw at Liverpool: four unbeaten, three wins on the spin before a draw with unbeaten Charlton, three crisp clean sheets in a row pegged out proudly, showing which way the wind is blowing.

So not only must Boro now deal with the raised expectations of a higher media profile, they also have to deal with an easy tabloid tag: “… among the promotion favourites.”

To be honest, I preferred it when we were under the radar.

******

BEARING mind the extended debates on Boro’s scouting and recruitment model on here over the summer, it is worth reading Aitor Karanka’s comments in today Gazette. 

******

BLACKPOOL? Boro crumbled under pier pressure in a less than illuminating display.  The 1-1 draw was lacklustre and  laboured. They looked  tired – mentally as well as physically – in their sixth game in 18 days.

They started well and got the opener but after  the basement boys pegged them back quickly (Big Ish, naturally , Football Inevitability Drive fans) they gradually lost their shape, tempo and direction in a disappointing show.  There were some poor individual performances and the team didn’t click. It wasn’t great. It was  Very frustrating. But not quite “typical Boro”… they didn’t lose. Tony McMahon didn’t score.

That said, it was a strange night in the Championship and Norwich, Forest and Ipswich all stuttered too. Bizarrely, Boro slipped a place but gained a point on the top three. Boro dropped points but stretched the unbeaten run to five league games. Two draws on the bounce have made it feel like a loss of momentum but a win on Saturday against Fulham will make the run between the two international breaks look very productive.

So, frustrating (especially that Boro have stuttered through the home fixtures) but far from a disaster. Promotion is built on unbeaten runs and Boro, even looking jaded and faded, have kept that going. We are still well placed. And that dropping points hurts and is seen as a major deflating disappointment says a lot about the collective expectation.

Karanka wasn’t happy with the display and some individuals who “played for themselves rather than for the team.” We will all have our own ideas of who he was simmering about. The team as a whole will get a rocket tomorrow and some who failed to deliver could find themselves on the naughty step.  Ledesma was lively for 15 minutes then faded, Reach had little end product, Bamford and Kike failed to help each other…  up front it didn’t click. It wasn’t all bad though. Fredericks was excellent, Husband was very promising and Dimi made a superb first half save just after the goal.

Now Boro need to respond and improve markedly against Fulham on Saturday to stay on trajectory for the top and to give the Riverside fans something to cheer.

More later….

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106 thoughts on “Radar Love: Bearded Boro, Fashionista Favourites… Plus: Rocked by Blackpool

  1. Ian’s comment yesterday that, for we exiles, this blog is our pub after the match was very insightful. I’d never thought of it that way but it resonated.

    I sometimes feel a little embarassed when it’s pointed out how intense I can become on the blog and, in particular, the manic-depressive swings as we lurch from bad to good results. But Ian’s right: for us, this blog is it, this is our only outlet.

    Most people have aired their false hopes, prejudices, ambitions and anxieties amongst each other and, only following that catharsis, they can then come on the blog with a more considered and balanced point of view.

    For many years my son & I used to chew the cud about Boro. However he’s now in foreign climes bombing the bejeezus out of ISIS so, apart from occasional phone calls, that out;et is denied to me. I’d get more joy discussing the Boro with the cat than with my beloved wife or daughter.

    So we non-Teessiders have to make those emotive outpourings via the blog. Deal with it – it’s a social service.

  2. Thanks, Nikeboro. When I started to blog here as part of my community service sentence I really didn’t think an old lag could make that much difference.

  3. Nikeboro

    My son is now in London and we communicate by text and the weekly phone call.

    When he lived at home he used to say he wasn’t going to drive 140 miles to watch garbage, on the way back he would chunter ‘don’t talk me in to going to another match, its a waste of money’. My money by the way!

    Anyway, a few weeks later we would be sat in the car ‘don’t talk…..’, you get the drift!

    It is a miserable trip back if we haven’t won, worse on your own. £40+ on diesel, £26 on the ticket, a pint in the Navi, something in the ground, a programme. Roughly, five trips is the same cost as a season ticket!

    I get pitying looks from my wife and daughter but that is better than ‘you should know better by now’ or ‘that’s good but enjoy it while you can, they always lose after Xmas’.

    I have to be careful because I took my wife to Ayresome Park a few times. Once, shortly after we were married. Micky Burns scored against Southampton and I leaped up cheering, Mrs G asked ‘has something happened?’. It had, my wedding ring had fallen off and disappeared in to the depths of the Clive Road stand. I tried to find it after the match with no joy. On the Monday I got a call from the club to say they had found it.

    1. Before we were married I took my wife (a Warrington Rugby League supporter) once to Ayresome. It was a match against Man City and Colin Bell was attempting his ill-fated comeback after his knee injury.

      City weren’t that good but we were dreadful and they beat us 2-0. In a loud whisper that any thespian would have been proud of, my wife asked: ‘Why do the ones in red keep giving the ball to the ones in blue?’ It was an accurate reflection of the game but, as you can imagine, went down like a lead balloon with those around us, as was amply evidenced by the thousand dagger-like stares she received, utterly oblivious.

      I still married the lass but, a very happy 35 years later, she’s never been to another match.

  4. PP: I thought that Karanka had learned a basic lesson in management when he moved on from publicly blaming his players after poor performances to suggesting that the fans should blame him and not Mejias after the goalie’s disappointing displays. Not so apparently. This principle, it seems, applies only to Tomas. A pity. Any half decent manager would take ownership of any problems arising within an organisation, and deal with them internally. The public outing of those below you in the hierarchy who cannot answer back is a sure sign not of strength but of weak and insecure management. No good can come of it.

  5. Like Nikeboro, I used to take my wife to Ayresome before we were married. I thought she enjoyed it but discovered the truth once the wedding ring was on. By coincidence, we’ve also clocked up 35 years. She has said a weekend in London would be welcome if we make the Play off final but she still has no desire to accompany me to the game. Funny creatures women, aren’t they, bless ’em?

  6. ps. Forgot to mention Saturday. A bit concerned that Fulham have hit a bit of form recently but, hopefully, our lads have something to prove after Tuesday. UTB.

  7. Len, I assume that you are saying that AK is not a half decent manager.

    I could say, what do you expect in the Championship. After all we only have half decent players if that.

    Do you only get decent players in the Premiership?? I think not.

  8. It isnt just wives who can embarass you.

    My production manager in Wigan was an Everton season ticket holder as was his son. They had been thrashed by Liverpool 5 0 on the Saturday but were their for the next match the following Tuesday.

    They were sat in the supporters club. His son was one side of he room sat with his young son, grandad was sat the other side.

    The little lad had heard a joke at school and shouted across the room ‘grandad, grandad’

    The room went quiet, grandad replied ‘yes, son?’

    ‘What time is it in Liverpool?’

    ‘I dont know son, what time is it in Liverpool’

    ‘5 past Everton grandad!’

    Out of the mouths.

    Went to Brum to watch the first match in the top flight under big Jack. Stood in a pub speaking in whisoers when one of us said ‘do you think Souness will be fit?’ Deathly silence but nothing happened, we were all Boro fans!

  9. Len – your comparison of Miller and Kike is interesting, I wonder which of them has scored the most goals this season? I’m not sure a players performance in any one game tells us anything.

  10. On taking wives to games: when we first met took her to the friendly against Benficawith the great Eusabio playing. She never went to many more games after but she still tells everyone when football conversation comes up.she has seen Pele play. Ha ha, I of course never correct her.

    1. AV writes:

      I took the now Mrs V on our first date to Whitby. She got her fish and chips and walk along the harbour front on a sun kissed JUly evening … and then up West Cliff and along to the Turnbull Ground for a tasty North Riding Cup clash between the Seasiders and a very strong Boro reserves side. It was Toddy’s first full season so it was possibly Robbie Mustoe’s debut. How we laughed….

      Luckily she was a big Boro fan and a Holgate regular (she went with her brothers) so it wasn’t too much of a culture shock. But it put down a marker.

  11. Yes, I will be married for 27 years this month. My wife was a Man Utdd supporter when we met. To test her, I took her to the Ayresome Park and Victoria Ground a few times before marrying, though. Both cases we drove an old Ford Fiesta mark I all the way down from Finland to the UK. So some test I would say.

    So she was in the home match at Hartlepool in 1986 and as a converted Boro fan now, we both enjoy visiting Boro around once a year now. She might skip Navi before the match but likes to join me at Riverside every time. We have never visited Old Trafford and I am happy with having three Boro fans in the family. My son has been a few times to Riverside, too but my doughters have no interest in Boro, unfortunately. Only the younger one of my doughters have been to Riverside but she enjoyed the atmosphere, though. So no nasty comments from her.

    I don’t think it will be so tricky against Fulham on Saturday. The London club are on a good run now but I think Typical Boro applies now. We will win by 2-0 with Kike and Albert scoring. Up the Boro!

  12. I took a girl friend to see the Boro in the 60s. Her comment on hearing the alternating cheers and boos was, “Christ, it’s like the Saturday morning pictures”.

    An outsider’s insight: football as a modern Morality Play. In contemporary culture serving much the same function as traditional Westerns in providing easily identifiable heroes and villains for us to idolise or despise. So much simpler than in real life.

    And dangerous too. Many Americans want to know in any international conflict,”Who are the good guys?” And when politicians with serious power like Reagan and Bush begin to use it as the basis for their political judgments, we should be sending in the men in the white coats.

  13. The latest news will have PP and Len on Karanka’s case as the Boro headline shows

    ‘Aitor warns Boro players to stop picking up silly cards.’

    He’s even telling them what to get from Clinton Cards, Higgie will be assigned to ensure the players stick to the designs discussed in training.

    **AV writes: It’s a new era of micro-management.

  14. Not so new, AV. Didn’t Strachan say when he’d fully assessed and analysed the strengths and weaknesses of his new Boro squad that he was mainly concerned that it contained so many single lads. Most of the old fashioned managers liked to see their lads safely married, of course.

  15. By the way. Just 57 posts after the draw at Charlton but well over 80 already after not winning at home to the bottom team. Bad news sell better than good news.

    Let’s hope we’ll have a quiet blog on Sunday….

    Up the Boro!

  16. The fraudsters who sold £80m of fake detectors have been jailed. It begs the question how they managed to get away with for so long? Plus the fools who were parted from their money.

    There again we have been signing fake strikers who cant find the net for years, wonder if they knew Alves?

  17. Interesting article on Boro’s home form in today’s EG. What was a suprise was the number of teams that gained automatic promotion despite losing 4 home games and a couple who had lost as many as 6. However I’m far from surprised that we’ve won well under half our home games since relegation and lost a quarter of them.

    Speaking as somebody who mainly gets to away games, I am always shocked at the difference when I make it to my 1 or 2 homes a season. The support is more lukewarm and much quicker to get on the back of the team. However, all too often, the team are poorer at home than I’m accustomed to seeing away so the crowd’s negativity shouldn’t be a surprise.

    Perhaps it’s the difference in expectations: away I’m anticipating that the opposition will make the running and, most of the time, anything better than a defeat is welcome. The bottom line is that an enthusiastic following is only developed by good performances and results over years and Boro have let down their home supporters too often for too long.

    Tomorrow would be a good time to start developing a fervent following!

  18. Nikeboro

    Like you I tend to see more away matches as one of the Parmo Army with it’s brilliant atmosphere. United against the world but there is patience as the game is played out.

    At home it is up the home team to take control. As Ben Gibson said, they didn’t go out and play with tempo and press as the manager wanted them too.

    The fans will get behind them, on Tuesday in the second half the crowd got involved, thinking back it almost seemed Blackpool were responsible due to some disgraceful time wasting in the first quarter of an hour after the break. As soon as Boro got the ball the fans were behind them.

    The problem is historic, under Gareth it was wimpgate, Strachan is like my nether regions – best covered up, then Mogga deliberately sent his players out to wait and see.

    If the players get stuck in from the off the fans will respond. It doesn’t have to be headless chicken just with tempo and purpose.

    I think we will see that tomorrow

  19. I think tomorrow the performance from the off will be crucial. A lifeless or worse, headless display will displease the majority of the 17,000 or so in attendance and delight the 300 or so Cottagers. Surely AK has to play his best 11 in the best way and no compromise. No experimenting and no overthought, fanciful technical tinkering or selections.

    That means either Bamford OR Kike, Dimi in goal, no square pegging in central midfield and delivery of balls into the box from the wide men that actually get past the first defender (sorry no Reach) and get Red shirts running into the box to receive it.

    Its pretty simple after that really, all we need is to actually strike the ball towards the goal, not lay it off for someone else to take responsibility. Not pass backwards or sideways, just hit the flaming thing goalwards. If it doesn’t go in who knows it may take a deflection, just so long as I don’t have to stomach the profligate attacking dross on display on Tuesday.

  20. Given what’s been said about how playing six games in 18 days leaves little time for the coaching staff to prepare the team as comprehensively as they would like – I would also imagine that having a manager who likes to tinker may exacerbate the situation in the short term.

    The fixture congestion must favour managers who have a simpler approach to tactics that focus on doing what the team does best against worrying about the strengths of the opposition – it’s maybe why Mogga ended up overthinking himself into a corner as his limited squad was so often square-pegged to nullify imagined threats.

    Also, if Karanka selects the team based on who performs best in training, then having only one day to train between matches kind of makes this method an unreliable way of determining who is on form and whether players who lacked intensity were just taking it a bit easier in order to recover better

    However, in the longer term it may prove a more effective strategy if the squad learns to play and switch between different systems and it then shouldn’t be too difficult to communicate the game plan once they’ve done it several times.

    But at this stage I think Boro’s best chance of picking up three points on Saturday would be to concentrate on our strengths and try just to perform better than the opposition in all areas of the pitch.

  21. I think the selection on Tuesday wasn’t relevant nor is tomorrow’s. The key is the attititude.

    Press and impose ourselves is the way to play, do that and if Fulham are better good luck to them.

  22. Uncle Eric?

    **AV writes: Looks over his shoulder for am offside flag which doesn’t come…. it’s a one-on-none!

  23. Booooooo, that’s not playing the team game Ian. AK won’t like that playing for yourself.

    **AV writes: Yes, some people are playing for themselves and not for the team. And for this one thing we are not happy.

    1. AK has some very Victorian attitiudes. What’s this about us not being effective on Tuesday because some of the team were playing with themselves? I must have missed that but it should guarantee a big gate today.

  24. Pedro
    I have been doing a Robbie Mustoe post to post for so long, leaving the glory to other posters surely I deserve the odd Vic ‘just look at his face!’

    There again Vic has the ultimate airbrush.

  25. Pedro

    I am going to take my lead from Keke Rosberg and apolgise for the 100 posting. And just like Rosberg didnt hand the 18 points back I am keeping the Trabant!

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