Number-crunching Boro’s First XI… PLUS Fulham left Pig Sick


WHAT do you think of it so far? Careful now…

A two week coitus interruptus as football takes an international break gives leaden-legged Boro a chance to recharge their batteries after seven games in 22 days.  A break! Oh no! What are we going to talk about now?

With 11 games gone, unless you want to quibble over decimal places, we are have played a quarter of the season. We are legally allowed to look at the table now and there is a body of statistical evidence building up. So it is probably fair enough to start looking in depth at what has happened so far and what could happen in the weeks to come.

Here’s some stats and analysis of the season so far that I did for the old school paper and clunktastic website.  With data graphics and video and everything. I’m really rocking this “digital content across a varity of multi-media platforms” gig.

MEANWHILE …. Here’s the previous pig sick post-match Fulham flu-mix..


VIRUS ridden Boro shuffled out of quarantine and sent in-form Fulham home feeling pig-sick after raising the Riverside temperature with a sizzling second half show.

The squad were on medical alert during the week with five players going down with the dreaded lurgy that had sent Adam Clayton queasily down the tunnel midway through the first half on Tuesday. The infected quartet were isolated and sent home and training was disrupted. Three were on the bench, Patrick Bamford didn’t quite recover in time and Ayala played and had a stormer in Boro’s 2-0 Riverside win.

But while Boro looked sluggish in the first half they burst back into life in the second.

A sprint start after the break forced an opener after just 45 seconds, then with urgency and intensity restored, some incisive quick breaks – especially down the right – sliced into Fulham as Boro carved out a string of good chances.  There were two good goals, a couple of efforts scrambled away, one scooped off the line with what looked like an outstretched hand and long spells of sustained pressure right up to the final whistle.


                                           Flying winger: Albert prepares for take-off  

They were solid at the back too, with bodies thrown in the way to stop Fulham’s flurry: George Friend put his handsome face in the way of one strike; Daniel Ayala threw himself in the way of a goal-bound piledriver.  Ross McCormack was completely shackled with only the occasional outbreak of booing reminding us his presence on the pitch.  Fulham clipped the post at one point but it wasn’t an icy-hand on the heart moment, it didn’t induce nausea. By then it felt like Boro were in firmly charge. It was a good show.

But it the was archetypal game of two halves. The lack-lustre, pasty-faced first was in danger of flat-lining as both sides settled for languid, laboured shadow-boxing. It was tired. It lacked focus. There were lapses in concentration. It was drowsy. It probably shouldn’t have been handling heavy machinery. There were long spells of cagey possession that invariably broke down with wayward passes and poor decisions.

It  took a quick break from Boro to administer CPR  at one point to prevent the entire crowd slipping into comatose slumber. It was the first real attack on 12 minutes as a crisp passing move suddenly woke the stadium up, Reach squaring from the left to Kike who swivelled neatly and spread it to the right in to the path of over-lapping Ryan Fredericks to drill a low cross to the near post where Adomah stetched and stabbed against the upright. That was pretty much it for the first half.

The second? Well the second was much more like it. Boro performed like they did at Cardiff and hinted in flashes at the Brentford game too. It wasn’t quite there. It didn’t quite click. But it was good enough for long enough and they got goals at the right times, were well organised and battled non-stop to take the points against a good side.

Fulham remember were the red hot form side with three wins on the bounce after a subtle players’ mutiny got rid of Felix Magath. They arrived being spoken of as a revived Premier League side. Some Boro fans, depressed after the draw with Blackpool (which obviously registered as a defeat in some quarters) appear to have bizarrely written the game off. But Boro made them look ordinary,  stopped  them playing, set the pace and shape and got two well worked goals by getting behind the defence.  Excellent work.

Boro have now gone undefeated between the two spells of international coitus interruptus and look to be well placed: six league games undefeated (and a 2-2 draw at Liverpool);  four clean sheets; 12 goals and only at Charlton have they failed to score; they are in fifth spot (or joint second) and just a point off the top after 11 games. You’d have snatched their hands off if offered that a months ago.


After a sticky start – three defeats in the first five – this team are getting better. The squad is gelling. The shape is sticking. The downward blips are further apart. They  look solid at the back and have the ability to score. If they can keep that up it’s a good platform for a promotion push. Boro look like they are in rude health.





162 thoughts on “Number-crunching Boro’s First XI… PLUS Fulham left Pig Sick

  1. From what I’ve read, Roy Keane seems like the archetypal Chicken Runner – he wonders: “I don’t know if it’s low self-esteem. Things might be going really well, and I don’t trust it: ‘It’s not going to last,’ or ‘Why am I getting this? Why are things going so well? I’ll f**k things up a little bit, then feel better about myself.’

    Though there is some wisdom within in him – I especially liked his conclusion as a manager that he had no leaders in his team because they didn’t complain about the pre-match dressing room music played by a member of staff and seemed quite happy to get fired up to Abba’s Dancing Queen instead of shouting ‘turn this crap off’

  2. Werdermouth

    Your thingy (graviatar) makes me think of the TV series with the ‘Master’ and ‘Grasshopper’.

    Anyway just got in and England are putting San Marino pre school 11 to the sword. Are they any good?

    1. Who? England or San Marino? As has already been said this one slipped past me but from never missing an England match, live or on TV I’ve developed total disinterest in the national side.

      Pre-school eleven, love that one Ian.


      John R

  3. Aitor is safe for another month!

    Tough on Ipswich. I like AV’s description, the man with the multi directional nose. Cruel but apt.

  4. This guy Karanka is good, not only has he got the team warming up nicley, he’s avoided the MotM award, class.

    **AV writes: Let’s hope he narrowly avoids it next month too

  5. Since the criteria for winning Manager of the Month is generally awarded to those who are the most successful in that period – then surely managers of teams that get promoted will end up winning more MotM awards than teams that finish outside the top six. In fact it must be impossible to get promoted without winning several MotM awards during a season.

    It’s all superstitious nonsense as I suspect the curse only relates to teams who are only capable of having a good month or two during the season and were not genuine contenders – though having said that, I don’t fancy Ipswich will finish in the top six.

  6. werdermouth

    I have to disagree most strongly, the MotM award is proof that ‘typical Boro’ is a genuine phenomenon. Not to be taken lightly or dismiised as ‘superstitious nonsense’!

  7. Nigel

    You cant argue with a man whose gravitar looks like the Master from Kung Foo. Grasshopper will be round to sort you out.

    Werdermouth say ‘man who wins MOTM twice has big cojones’

    Yes master.

    1. I know AV recently re-tweeted a message from the @GaryParkyTrust. Apparently Gary has more than 7,000 followers now. I’ve just read in today’s New Scientist about the development of a ‘Brain-computer interface’ in America. Seems it can enable people with locked-in syndrome to communicate, and an initial trial has been successful. A man was able ‘to thank his wife for her hard work, and to give thoughts on gift purchases for his children’. Now this seems to have required a lot of training, and creating the message took him an hour, but it sounds promising. I guess it will be a while before it is available, but hopefully it might be of help to Gary at some point in the future.

      On the subject of local bus services, I think it’s worth a shout out for the sadly defunct Saltburn Motor Services, taken over by Cleveland Transit in 1974, but with a history apparently going back to 1920. Before the takeover, they used to run a coach from Saltburn to Guisborough driven by Frank, the prince of the road, a real character and law unto himself. Unlike today, there was no cab round the driver or notice not to disturb him, and Frank would pursue running banter with his passengers on any matters which took his interest, and there were plenty…

    1. PP: Nice clip. There’s a great Cloughie one on there too. What he has to say about referees is even more pertinent today.

  8. The origin of the expression Kung Fu lay in that TV series that you reference, Ian. You may remember that the title sequence has David Carradine dodging spears etc. One of the extras decided to try out Carradine’s real skills by hurling a spear at him when the shooting had ended. The spear went into one side of the actor’s cheek and out of the other. Looking around him Carradine yelled, “What Kung Fu that.?”

    Carradine died some years later of auto- eroticism.

    **AV writes: Hmmmmmmmmm…

    1. Very good Len and clear warning to all those who love their car too much – I guess he should have stuck to small talk about buses…

  9. Does hopping aboard the Karankanaut count as auto-eroticism?

    Interesting piece from Phil re the new signings. Two months is not an adequate timeframe to judge the success of a new signing but fromwhat we’ve seen so far I think he’s got it right. I would personally move Bamford down a peg to “Jury’s Out”, though I expect him, Vossen and Nsue to kick on as the season trundles towards it’s conclusion.

    If we do manage to get promoted, I wonder how many new signings we’ll be judging at this point next year.

  10. Hell’s teeth, Kung fu and auto erotiicism. What is going on here? Think we’d better call a halt to these International Breaks lest we sink to the depths of depravity.

  11. Slaggy Islander

    The international break is a good chance for coaches and managers to catch their breath. Pop away for just a couple of days and maybe catch an international match somewhere.

    I suppose you could call it a busman’s holiday.

  12. I see AV has tweeted he’s taking the Missus out tomorrow night, the things you have to do when there’s no footie….
    I’ll be taking my daughter ice skating tomorrow morning, PM I’ll take the dog for a long walk, but I expect ‘cold turkey’ to set in around 4:30pm. Nightmare.

    **AV writes: I might “live tweet” an imaginary game. (KO 3pm)

  13. From the BBC website

    AC Milan director Umberto Gandini believes Champions League wildcards should be introduced to ensure some of Europe’s biggest clubs do not miss out.

    Even the Italians are worried about missing the bus or should that be the gravy train?


    For years I have tried to train my wife that Saturdays are for sport and shopping is not a sport. Tomorrow is a black hole, no cricket either. F1 qualifying?

  14. Len and Ian. Sorry for the delay. Had to lie down in a darkened room for a couple of hours. Think you’re right Len, we may already have crossed the line. Ian: getting a breather is ok but when it turns into heavy breathing I worry. For those bloggers, like me, who aren’t too fussed about Football outside of Boro, we need a healthy alternative. The Devil makes work for idle hands! Only a week to go. UTB

  15. Ian

    I agree that tomorrow is a problem, my wife gave up on trying to persuade me to shop because whenever I went with her I found a pub to visit. I thought it was the perfect solution, but she didn’t see it that way!

    I suppose I could get the subbuteo out tomorrow.

  16. Nigel

    My wife decided a day out with her and the daughter would be good bonding for the family. My son was away so I agreed without reservation, I love my family to bits – my daughter describes me as the glue, genuinely proud of them all.

    My function was to drive the car to Nottingham, park up, pay for lunch then stand outside shops for four hours.

    As the saying goes, be reasonable, do it my way. A wonderful day was had by all, nearly.

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