Basic Stuff: High Flying Boro Crush Canaries

DEFLATED Norwich boss and Lee Mack lookalike  [insert your own “Not Going Up” joke here]  Neil Adams spent most of his post-match press conference saying he was “not taking anything away from Boro but…”

He chuntered a bit about his own side not quite being on song, said it was the most disappointing display of the season and concluded that there was nothing in the game, nothing between the teams  but Boro “just did the basics better.” Hmmmmm.

Boro dismantled Norwich 4-0 with a clinical professionalism that should send out a frightening message to the rest of the division. It was billed as the first big test of Boro’s credentials. They passed it easily.  It finished as a one-sided procession. It was a massive statement of intent from a reshaped side only just now finding its feet.

Boro strangled the Canaries tactically, out-thought them and when needed out-fought them too. And they scored goals. Four of them. And had chances for more while Norwich brought one save from Dimi and slowly shrivelled as the game wore on. Whatever  the visitor’s manger thought some of the Norwich fans were more frank in their assessment that the Canaries barely ruffled a feather.

Adams/Mack was right though: Boro did “do the basics better.”  They closed Norwich down, denied them space, stopped their front men making runs, grabbed control of the middle and  cut out crosses. In midfield Clayton and Leadbitter imposed themselves and grabbed the game by the throat. Again. At the back Gibbo and Ayala quickly got the measure of the Norwich front men.  On the offensive Boro  used the flanks well, zipped the ball around and picked their way through a static defence to create chances.


                                                   Grant and Patrick: Doing the basics well.         

Boro probably weren’t at their best in the first half. They were solid but not spectacular. Norwich had a lot of the ball 30 yards out but did little with it while Boro looked sharp going forward but the system – the full-backs bombing on as against Watford – wasn’t working with the fluency the gaffer wanted and he was to change it at the break.

Nevertheless the stooped header opener for Patrick Bamford was finely crafted as Adomah’s ball was perfectly delivered and the striker darted through a lumbering defence. The penalty was clear-cut (although the ref took an age to think about it) and resulted from a sublime Kike back-heel that again carved a sluggish defence open. Grant Leadbitter slammed home his eighth of the season and his fifth penalty. Game over.

The second half was a stroll. Boro stepped up a gear with Lee Tomlin sparking into life and linking everything up and Norwich simply failed to live with them.   Leadbitter got a second with a looping back header  then goal-a-game Flying Dutchman Yanic Wildschut – who again tore into the opposition with his searing pace – back-heeled the fourth after the keeper fumbled to claim his second goal in successive games. Easy.

That is all three of the relegated sides – “full of Premier League quality” – that Boro have polished off now. That is one defeat in 12. That is seven goals in two games after responding in style to the Wolves set-back.  That is five unbeaten at home.  That is one goal conceded in three games. That is a side in great form. Boro are joint top with Bournemouth – who share the summit – who are the visitors at the Riverside on Saturday.

Well I don’t know about you but I’m excited. Seriously. You can feel the buzz. The atmosphere was fantastic (again) because fans are starting to believe. Yes, “we’ve been here before” … but this SQUAD is far stronger than the one that went top for 24 hours under Mogga two years ago with a win over Sheffield Wednesday. Then Boro had a strong first XI but beyond that looked a bit shaky. Now Boro have one of the best squads in the fdivision and a very, very strong bench. The manager has options. And he’s not scared to shale it about. And a few changes doesn’t make the team less coherent or potent.

And there is a real sense of unity and purpose about the squad now and a almost tangible belief within the camp. They have all bought into “the philosophy and methodology” and are all totally focussed on the unspoken  target: promotion. Look at the squad celebrating. Everyone is pulling together now. It is fantastic to see.

Karanka stressed the collective in his post-match comments:  “We don’t have anybody above the team, not the manager, not the striker, not the keeper, we are all the same importance, from the chairman to the kitman, we are a team,” he said. And you can see it.

I hope the layers of lapsed loyalists who have grown  estranged from the club after false dawns and shrivelled seasons can see it too and rally round the club and play their part. Yes, there are people who can’t afford it. But there are just as many  who can but who have opted out because “they don’t feel the club’s ambitions match their own.”

If Boro keep winning games convincingly, if they keep passing tests, if they stay at the summit and look like realistic contenders then those people can be won back. If Boro can maintain their momentum then the half-season ticket can be THE red hot Christmas present of choice on Teesside.

There is a fledgling feel-good buzz about Boro but it remains fragile. Cynics remain to be convinced.  But they want to believe, they want to be cajoled back aboard the bandwagon. The team and the club are doing their best to do just that.

Bournemouth next. Another massive test. Bring it on. I’m loving this season.



MEANWHILE…  here’s a pre-match read for you: this week’s Big Picture column in the old-fashioned paper Gazette:

Increased Card Count Is Part of New Look #Nails Boro’s Skill Set.








180 thoughts on “Basic Stuff: High Flying Boro Crush Canaries

  1. Just read an interesting piece from Eddie Howe on how Bournemouth frustrate teams into making rash challenges, often resulting in their opponents having a player sent off. This has worked well in their last two games, both times Birmingham and Sheff Wed were reduced to 10 men allowing Bournemouth to dominate with their passing style of play. Hope we ready and the players keep cool heads, think we may need to be patient….

    1. Great spot, ady, Karanka should be directed to this, AV.

      **AV writes: I’m sure they are well aware. They will have watched the last half dozen games and will have a plan to counter the situation. #CalmDowm

      There were two penalties conceded in the first 12 minutes in the game last year but I think thatwas more down to Boro’s advanced defensive carthorsery than Bournemouth’s passing and pressing game.

  2. Reading Harry Pearson’s blog about the 1966 world cup and the following lines about Ayresome Park made me chuckle.

    ‘Indeed, one Boro director, Charles Amer, described it as being in ‘a state of total disrepair’. Luckily Mr Amer owned a building firm and they were more than happy to take on the task of bringing the dilapidated old ground up to the mark.’

    1. Ha ha, luckilly not Ian. Working on Saturday night and can’t get the annual leave. Was tempted to pull a sickie but decided if I did that we would lose and I would be around £100 lighter after ticket/fuel costs. I try and get to the midlands away games if I can but I might try and go back up north for the Blackburn home game.

      Really hope we get something out of Saturday’s match but think a different approach to the Norwich game might be needed. Due to my worrying nature have a vision of Bournemouth keeping the ball for the first 30 minutes, a large home crowd screaming for Boro to get stuck in as we are not 1-0 up already, and Ayala or another seeing red. Hope I am wrong (I usually am). Come on Boro!!!!!

  3. Adymac –

    You wouldn’t have had to shoulder the blame if things go pear shaped on Saturday as the old elements of big crowd and TV exposure are usually enough to cause the “typical Boro” scenario. Let’s hope that we defy the odds and do ourseleves justice. Like AV says, if we don’t get 20 thousand on Saturday, God knows what will bring people back, other than actually being in the PL. UTB.

  4. Good to see Stewie Downing back in the England squad, I must admit I thought his international days were behind him.

  5. When you say 14000 tickets sold for Saturdays game,is that on top of season tickets?

    No, that is the total so far. ST base is about 12,000 so 2,500 walk-up so far. There will probably be the same again an more tomorrow then a rush on Saturday morning. I think we are doing regular updates on the website tomorrow.

  6. Powmill –

    They will probably big up anywhere thats very, er acceptable, to the luvvies in Broadcasting House. Gosh my granmama went on holiday near Bournemouth, very civilised, I do hope they wont catch something horrid up there!

    It could be Teesmouth sounds a bit like Bournemouth.

    Anyway Mrs G has told me she has some research to do so she needs me well out of the way. Better check M&S website to see if any sales are on!!!

  7. For those that cannot get to the match………there is more than a good chance it will be available for streaming on the internet.

    wiziwig has been quite good lately, or vipbox, or

    Hope I am not breaking the rules AV

  8. Enjoyed Harry Pearson’s bit about Midget Gems, what’s your match day choice? For me it was always Fruit Polo’s. They seem to be disappearing now, like a lot of the things I used to always associate with going to the match.

    A bottle of Lowcock’s Dandelion and Burdock anyone?

  9. Ian

    3 punts would be a very fruitful day’s work and the cherry on the icing of the cake of a great week. Let’s hope we can pip them to top spot.

    Defeat in front of the cameras and hopefully a big crowd would leave some sour grapes.

  10. Andy R

    The Cherries may unveil their new defender from Inter, Morello – a bit of a sour character, an acquired taste by all accounts.

    Their Croation midfielder, Cerise Libjejice may be on the bench, a bit tasty from what I have read.

    Maybe it will turn out to pie in the sky, but for Len, the proof of the pudding…… Lets hope we get our just deserts.

  11. Thanks to all those who gave the heads up on Harry Pearson’s new blog. I spent a very happy hour catching up on it this morning. Very funny and nostalgic for all Boro fans. Highly recommended, as is his excellent The Far Corner, on non-league north-east football.

  12. AV

    Any news on tickets, I am getting mine when I get there but checking the online system they seem to have sold a fair few so far today

  13. Around 16500 plus one, I will get mine tomorrow.

    Looking at the figures that is around 2500 more than yesterday with half a day to go Saturday, then there is tomorrow morning and walk ups. Must get close to 20,000 Boro fans.

  14. As wIth Norwich, I’m not going to predict the result. Having said it was hard to call, it produced a fabulous outcome – so why change a winning formula?

    There are lots of reasons why we’ll flop.
    1. Two excellent wins means there can’t be a third.
    2. Likely record attendance for the season – possibly 20K.
    3. Despite rumours, we DON’T want to be Bournemouth.
    4. For the first time since 1902, the telly is there.

    Right, if that doesn’t ensure a win, nothing will.

  15. Both history and current form suggest only one possible result tomorrow.

    Historically,ever since league football began, it has been true that if we couldn’t beat Bournemouth then we should do the honourable thing and shoot ourselves.

    By ‘current form’ I am, of course, referring to my own as an tipster. As the only person on this blog not to be taken by surprise by the Norwich result and to have correctly predicted the score (because that dodgy penalty should never have been awarded), I see no reason for a different result tomorrow.

    3-0. Or, pending the generosity of a homer ref, 4-0.


  16. Read the cherries blog piece. Is your daft quid on a 1-1 or was that for Cherry based consumption?

    **AV writes: NO, although had I said we’d batter them four nowt it would have led to a “arrogant” backlash. I think both coaches will try and stop the opposition and both wpuld be happy with a draw. And after two wins in a week, I’d settle for a point.

  17. Thanks for the tips on the books GHW and Len, I’m ordering a bumper package for when I get back to Perth for Christmas. “Slipless in Settle” is a must after reading the excerpt about “a batsman being banned for a month for wearing a fireman’s helmet when going out to face Joel Garner”, absolutely priceless!

  18. I’m still fuelled by foam so I’m going for a 2-0 Boro win and a revised crowd estimated upwards from my earlier in the week pre Norwich game of 17,927 to 19,463.

    I don’t think we will hit 20,000 just yet although will be delighted to be proved wrong. We had crowds of around 28,000 in the Prem days and have lost 40 to 45% of them. It seems the “walk up” price is the recurring reason given for those who will not attend.

    Undoubtedly Teesside like the rest of the UK has been hit by economic hard times and a percentage of support will be unable to afford much in the way of surplus income generally especially now that mortgages with interest rates are rumoured to be going up and belts will be tightened in readiness.

    Having said that I know that the guys that used to go regularly with me have stopped going and not returned for a variety of different reasons but none of them are financial hardship. Some never got the true Boro bug and when the Premiership was over the fayre served up was unappealing so they spent their cash elsewhere and now continue to do so, new interests, hobbies and routines. Some moved away with work and some plain and simply state “I’m not paying hard earned cash to watch that shower”.

    Only one of them is showing flickering intermittent signs of interest, not yet reborn but may come good longer term. Of my two sons who I have tried to coerce, persuade, even bribe at times, one attends occasionally (Sheff Weds this Season just about finished him) and the other just isn’t interested remotely in football (much to my shame and embarrassment), he just tells me to get a life!

    Many of the missing 12,000 or so have done just that and got a life. In the intervening period of the Premiership until now some young lads will have got hitched or settled down and like as not with Kids and they haven’t got a remote chance of affording a young family, a home and a hobby costing around £500 a year (I couldn’t and didn’t attend when I first settled down with a mortgage). By the same token however others will have moved on in their careers with more disposable income. Some who were almost indoctrinated pre 2009 fell away never to develop OCD on all things Boro. Some will have sadly passed away or ill health and the ageing process renders them unable to attend.

    It will take time to rebuild a lost generation of fans which is why the Family Zone is a masterclass in long term forward thinking. The arguments about £29 for a walk up ticket are valid to a point but a Season Ticket reduced that cost significantly for those fans who (like Steve Gibson) were and are prepared to follow and bankroll the Boro through thick and thin. Should the season ticket holders have been forced to cough up more up front to support the price of the non attenders?.

    For others like myself who can never be sure where or when work will take them a Boro Pride card was the best option. It cost £10 up front and saves me £2 a game meaning that in only 5 games I have broke even and over a season I can save more than enough for the equivalent of a free game and some beers or three and still have change in my pocket.

    Is £29 too much for a seat at a Championship game, I think it is but then I also think that despite recent falls, Petrol and Diesel is too expensive, I also think Gas and Electricity are extortionate and thank God for discount food retailers sticking it to the big 4. It would be nice to see a similar thing to discount food retailers happen in Football but until (and if) it ever does then the price is the going rate. To anyone who can’t afford to go then simply go to one game and then alternatively miss one that way its half the monthly outlay or go halves and share a Season Ticket (as many do).

    £29 is a lot of money but true fans paid for their season tickets (I’m not one remember) and stood by the club through thick and thin. Their contribution has helped keep the club afloat, the same club that some begrudgingly think owes them some discount for their lack of emotional and financial investment over the previous five Seasons (yet they still expected the club to survive without their patronage).

    There is an old saying, “use it or lose it”, we should be grateful that despite 40% walking away in the clubs darkest hours since ’86, 60% stayed to fight the good fight and keep the club alive. If most of the 40% had kept the faith pricing would be nowhere near the £29 it is today but there again thats all The Boro’s, Steve Gibson’s, Keith Lamb’s fault. Indeed hasn’t Keith Lamb’s premonition been repeatedly misquoted on this very subject way before the event had occurred.

    Where are the thousands of complainers when they couldn’t get Cardiff or Eindhoven tickets (couldn’t possibly be the same complainant’s now could it). Now is the time to get behind the club even if it is for only 50% of the games but I suspect that isn’t going to happen until there is more than a strong whiff of success then in spite of the £29 the ground will be bouncing once again.

    I do not for one second begrudge Family Zone or Season Ticket holders watching football for under £20 a game and by the same token I don’t expect the club to grant me (despite a Boro Pride holder and my £10 up front) special dispensation on pricing to remotely come close to that price. I was and still am in it for the long term, Boro is for life not just for Christmas (or the Premiership).

    **AV writes: There are a lot of complexities, nuances and individual circumstances around crowd levels and it is not all to do with price. I have ggreat sympathy with people who genuinely want to go but can’t afford it. Society – not just football – has effectively excluded them.

    To some extent the club is paying the price for a decade of sell-outs after the new ground opened – that effectively excluded a generation of teenagers and gangs of lads from the estates who never got into the habit of going to the game because they couldn’t get four or six together and by the time the seats were available the moment had gone and they had other interests. Then there are the post-Sky generation who think interaction with football is done through a screen: either watching live games in the pub or via a laptop. It is hard to drag them away from Champions League or Premier League big boys live to the Riverside on a rainy night. Most of them can afford it but have just never learned it is live sport.

    The bulk of those who have walked away after relegation, or during Strachan, or at various points of despair while we have been labouring under the long shadow of Eindhoven have done so because they have seen no ambition, have not been entertained by Championship grind and have found the flat atmosphere corrosive and depressing, The whole package has not excited and it has not offered value for money. Only season tickets are cost effective but if the experience is not pleasurable why would they buy one.

    But personally, I think all those factors are starting to change. The team is better and the football brighter, the atmosphere is improving, success is within reach. A few more wins and the excitement will grow, more fans will find their voice and going to a game could be fun again. That is is what will bring people back, being part of something that is exciting.

    1. As a Boro Pride member myself it has proved almost as good as having a season ticket in fact I still sit on my old seat that I have had since the Riverside opened and that I used as a season ticket holder. It’s certainly a good way to see the Boro and would encourage all the walk up fans to consider buying one.

      To say I can’t wait for tomorrow is an understatement and it is a mixture of excitement and trepidation! I won’t go further than to predict 1-1 and hope the Boro are aware of all the red cards that teams who face the Cherries seem to accrue “beware legbiter and Ayala.”

      Hope we get 20k plus and win then can settle down for the next two weeks.

      Really enjoying reading these blogs. Wwe are not alone!!!

      UTB Up The Blog
      Fat Bob

    2. I agree with all that AV. Sadly football is no longer a working man’s game and the internet and TV have now become the main means of access. In fairness £70 quid gives them a good dose of Sky which the entire family can benefit from 24/7 plus other even lower cost means of accessing non free to air channels.

      Just seen in the EG, Half Season Tickets being launched after the Bournemouth game tomorrow from £248 for an adult in the North/South Stand. If it applies for all the remaining 14 home games then thats under £18 a game. Granted finding £248 in one hit will be a struggle for many but there are also plenty on Teesside who can comfortably afford it. Ironically though the ones who can stump up £248 probably don’t blink at £29. Conversely 14 games at a walk up price is £406 so £248 offers a huge saving of £158 even on a credit card (a little over £41 a month on an interest free card over 6 months). Lets hope it attracts a few more punters willing to speculate on the Boro and help towards FFP.

      **AV writes: They are doing finance packages on them so you can pay in instalments but I don’t know how much they will charge for that.

      1. And it might be that, if we win tomorrow, some people will want to get half-season tickets in order to ensure that next year, if promoted, they can guarantee the seat of their choice seat in the part of the ground they want, in every game we play. If they make the necessary choice now, then at the end of the season when the renewals are sent out, they will have first dibs on the seat they have chosen.

        I am happy for as many people to come to the games as we can get in the ground. We can moan about how long it takes to get served at the WSU food/drinks counters, and how it takes longer to get away from the ground after the game, but everyone around me would rather have a full noisy stadium than a quiet lonely library. Selling half-season tickets when we are top, or near top, of the league is an opportunity the club can’t afford to miss.

        Getting a little excited, now…..

        **AV writes: A little? There is NO chance of me sleeping tonight.

  19. Boro is for life… I second that. I hope its on telly here in the Middle East, will be taking my 4 year old to see it fully kitted up together with his Rory.

    There’s no Man U shirts in this house!!

  20. Redcar Red –

    I have said many times it is the fuel that kills it for long distance fans.

    I cant commit to a season ticket because of time and money commitments, I spend over a season ticket in any case because I live 140 miles away. If I lived in Boro I would have one, me wife would probably buy it to stop me moping around – amazingly we are always back home by 2.59 on a Saturday unless it is a family day out.

    Crowd for tomorrow. I must admit to being sad, having looked for availability earlier I decided to do a controlled seatwatch, sadly without Kate Humble or Michaela Strachan.

    Block 31A had 76 seats available at 2.00pm, 45 available at 3.45pm. Block 58 had 98 and 64 respectively.

    I was not sad enough to look at all the blocks (I do have some work to do) but seats are selling, must be approaching 18,000 by close of business today.

    **AV writes: I was told by someone very high up that it was just under 17,800 at 5pm and that they are braced for a rush tomorrow morning. The vast majority of Saturday sales are over the phone between 9-10am and most walk-ups buy between 11am-Noon. They are “very hopeful” of selling 20,000k.

  21. AV

    I am being moderated!!!!!

    **AV writes: Yes, I noticed. Are you posting from a new device? Either that or your IP address has changed.

    1. Moderation in all things – not always bad.

      I REALLY hope for a 20K plus crowd and a good game. Perhaps greedy to seek a win, to secure top spot, but let’s be greedy.

      Mrs Dormo is accompanying me to the match. My Riverside neighbours suggest that she has been a bit of a Jonah on the games she has attended this year but I cleave to the hope that it is the players on the pitch that determine the result, not whether my wife turns up. I just hope I am right. Might have to dig out the lucky underpants though….

  22. Great piece RR.

    Although as I had said before, graded prices would help I believe. However not tomorrow, as this would be a grade one, so top price, 29 pounds or whatever, depending where you sit.

    I am going to dip out of the score, but did say I would be happy with 4points. Crowd upgraded to 19627.

  23. Personally I think access to the stadium is also a problem. A large part of the Ayresome Park crowd would walk to the ground. In the advent of The Riverside, the affluent fans would drive to the ground and park up. Is there any way the local bus company could run a service on match days from several locations and routes? It’s like a moonscape around the ground and now the dark nights are here accessibility is a problem.

    1. GHW –

      At the end of the matches now we recently (since the clocks went back ironically) have club stewards erecting metal fence barriers across Dockside Road (where the old railway siding lines are in the road for those heading East) closing half the width of the road which results in the crowd being bottlenecked at an area where the road notoriously and regularly floods several inches deep in winter and over the most uneven and dangerous surface around the ground and with very poor street lighting.

      The rationale is to “let the cars out of the car park quicker” apparently. I remember when in the Premiership the Police actually closed that entire section of road to traffic altogether for crowd safety to allow safe egress and passage from the Stadium. Now it seems as our crowds are beginning to grow again the clubs H&S committee have had an unbelievable aberration. Risk assessment doesn’t even begin to explain how ludicrous it is. I hope that common sense prevails before there is an inevitable serious trip or fall caused by the stupidity.

  24. AV –

    Same computer and IP address as the post 1 minute before but good news on the ticket news. Does 17,800 equate to nearly 18,000, if so I may get a job on election night!

    Redcar Red and GHW –

    Many years ago there was an international fishing match in Germany and because of the concerns of stressing the fish all fish caught had to be killed.

    Dont tell the stewards or we could have the approach roads littered

  25. Watching Warrington v Exeter in the FA CUP with Warrington winning 1-0. Warrington managed by Peter Reid lookalike, no surprise it is his brother.

    My favourite bit is that you can see leaves on the nearside of the pitch. Real Harry Pearson stuff.

    1. Watching the same game with the Boss and we commented on that too. How about the height of the covered end behind the Warrington goal. A shot went in there and it was like a ping pong ball in a box. Great stuff. Sorry got to get back to the game the Boss is getting excited.


      John R

    1. It is getting very hard for AV to obtain Trabants these days. Despite finding as secret stash hiding in North Korea, in view of the limited supply, the fabled “prize” is now issued only when the big 500 is reached. Still, if we carry on as we have been doing recently, the numbers will go up. People will flood back to the Riverside and we will hear people swearing blind that they never went away: “For a few years I had to get a ticket at another part of the ground, to go with a friend whose seat was over there. I’m not a glory hunter – I’ve been here throughout…”

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