CHRISTMAS… a time to settle down on the sofa and revisit some old favourites, to take another chance to savour the classics with your Santa hat on and a glass of something strong in your hand. Or as we call the: repeats. So here’s a quick dip in the Yuletide archives. Here’s a close textual analysis of the original Quantrains that proves Nostradamus was a Boro fan! Enjoy….
PLUS! Now with added Steve Agnew thoughts…
FORGET two World Wars, Hitler and the Twin Towers… did Nostradamus really predict the rise and fall of mighty Boro as a major European power?
Could it be that the French poet-seer really foretold the arrival of Steve Gibson to guide the club from liquidation to the heights of Eindhoven? Did the much mistranslated medieval Mystic Meg see Boro’s move to a the Riverside, the arrival of Juninho, the Carling Cup triumph at Cardiff and the spectacular UEFA Cup campaigns?
It sounds crazy. After all, not even the wildest imaginations of the most drunken and delusional ra-ra optimists could ever have conjured up such lunatic flights of fancy when we were collectively trapped in the dream crushing harsh reality of the Holgate, let alone a stand-up pre-destination pedalling populist from the 16th Century .
Yet, there is a persuasive radical new reading of the predictive powers of the centuries old Quantrains that suggest a revealing insight into the recent turbulent history of the club..
Of course, the shifting sands of opinion on the frequently mistranslated manuscripts don’t stand up well to scientific scrutiny. They are vague, open to all manner of subjective retrospective reading to give myriad interpretations.
They are very light on details of date and place but heavy on poetic, occult, astrological and apocalytptic Biblical illusion to plagues and disasters and wars that sceptics and academics have rubbished time and again.
Let’s be honest, it could all mean anything you want and unless you squint a bit, suspend disbelief and have a PhD level working knowledge of the nuances of post-Renaissence colloloquial latin it all comes down to the same heady alchemic cocktail of gullibility and wishful thinking that makes advertising work and ensures the prolific annual sales of Olde Scrofula’s Almanac.
That said, it is hard not to recognise a chilling kernel of truth in some of the 500 year old verses. Some of them seem very close to home. If you know your Boro history.
Take the quantrain that first slashed through my cloak of cynicism with a dagger of plausibility as I flicked through satellite’s documentary channel ghetto on a rare night when it wasn’t occupied by Nazi-porn of UFO conspiracies:
“The soldier’s son will lead a young battalion
From the dark abyss of death and defeat
Through two leagues of battle’s roar
To unite the people of the lion in glory”
My ears pricked up. That’s Bruce Rioch surely!
The boring boffin on the box argued the verse foretold the Duke of Marlborough’s victory in the battle of Minden when he marched a rag-tag column of child soldiers through six miles under musket fire to defeat three crack French cavalry regiments and establish English (the lion) military power on the continent.
Nonsense. It is clearly about Rioch – son of a sergeant major – and his legendary marshalling of a group of iconic local lads who took Boro (the lion!) from the brink bankruptcy to successive promotions, rallied the crowds and established a new momentum that was to be the engine of the Riverside Revolution.
And there’s more. Take this earlier pair of quatrains:
“When gates of iron are chained in penury
The old gate fortress will fall
But the lion will rise again
By the course of steel serpent
“An alchemist of humble birth
Shall transport base elements
And turn rust and ruins
Into an age of gold and glory”
Now, it might be just me stretching it a bit but come on; ‘gates of iron chained’… if that is not the liquidator’s padlocks on the Warwick Street entrance in 1986 I’ll get a mackem tatttoo on my bum.
And ‘Old gate’ is of course the pre-workhouse farm on the site of Ayresome; the lion is clearly Boro and the steel serpent the lifeblood of the Ironopolis, the river Tees on which the new ground is built; ‘transport base elements?’ … and what exactly does humble Park End raised Steve Gibson’s company do again? Spooky.
So far so tenuous. But this is where it gets uncanny.
At the time Nostradamus was writing America had just been discovered. It was barely 50 years since Columbus’s first footfall and it was still a wild and primitive continent dismissed as a factor in future European politics .
The following two quatrains divide Nostradamaticians – yes, that’s a thing – who think variously it is about the USA joining in two World Wars, Napoleon’s serial small man syndrome attempts to smash the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a Biblical End of Days Armageddon sparked by fundamentalists in the White House.
For me it is clearly about Juninho.
“From the New World,
Three times a king shall come,
Stature small but giant heart,
To lead painful march on Two Towers
“Then after retreat and exile,
And fruitless false dawns many,
The king shall return in glory
To seal famous quest for silver.”
You’re ahead of me now aren’t you? New World… three times… Little Fella, big heart… double heart-ache at Wembley’s Twin Towers… return in glory to lift the League Cup? How much evidence do you want?
And talking of the League Cup….
“When the waking lion roars
In the land of the dragon,
The roof of the dome
Will rip asunder in exultation.”
The experts, mainly deranged swivel eyed conspiracists and people who have book collections with an unhealthy emphasis on positive views on witchcraft and graphic historics of medieval torture techniques, insist this predicts a new crusade led by English troops to destroy the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and unleash the second coming.
Pah! What do they know? It’s about Boro winning the Carling Cup in Cardiff – ‘the land of the dragon’ – when they closed the roof and we blew it off on the whistle.
Look at the very next verse:
“Stone jowls will quiver
In fury and false mitigation
As the Dutch privateer twice
Inflicts a sore penalty.”
What’s that got to do with an armed incursion into the Holy Land? Nothing! The so-called ‘experts’ can’t explain it or how it relates to the previous verse. They are plucking things out of the air. They waffle on about Netherlands Antilles flagged pirates causing diplomatic incident and Mount Rushmore as a simile for American military might.
Poppycock! It is obviously about Fat Sam Allardyce spitting his dummy in over Bolo Zenden’s ‘two bootiful’ spot-kick.
As predicted: Dutch privateer Bolo Zenden inflicts sore penalty
And what about Boro’s UEFA Cup run? If Nostradamus can bother himself to tune in the crystal ball and act as a pre-emptive pools panel over a provincial club’s big day out in Wales, surely he must have set his mystic Sky Plus for a series link?
Well, take a look at this, often seen by the erudite cranks as aluding obliquely to the Papal bloc uniting against protestant England in the Dutch wars of succession:
“Four Spanish banners will fly
over the lion’s corpse
when Rome takes revenge
in a Low Country field”.
Sevilla 4 Boro 0 in Eindhoven. Say no more.
**Next week: Maccarone, McClaren and the Mayan 2012 Prophesies.
Feel free to “research” some telling quantrains of your own. Maybe you know a verse predicting Boro’s purchase of Alves or the arrival of a flame haired Caledonian warrior? Or the return of an Ayresome icon with lunar exploration ambitions? Or maybe you want to dish out a few Christmas notional Secret Santa presents to Boro players? Or each other? Anything but talk about the football.
That’s another fantastic bit of business. Aggers will be a great fit with Aitor Karanka’s “philosophy and methodology” and technocratic approach. It is solid and progressive planning, a far-sighted strategic bit of recruitment and another sign that Boro are raising the bar in every department.
When Craig Hignett left Karanka insisted that the ‘native No 2’ role he played for Jose at Real was important and that Higgy would be replaced with an English coach that knew the club and knew the league and everyone jumped to the conclusion it would be a former player. There were some ludicrous names thrown about: Juninho (no managerial experience whatsoever but with plenty of demi-god cult of the personality appeal), Doriva (upwardly mobile in Brazilian management ) and Mendieta (no experience, only recently done his badges after several years indulging his DJ hobby) and also a couple of more sensible ones like Curtis Fleming (who I thought would get the gig).
Karanka was delighted to get the man he insisted was his first choice replacement. And the move to bring back former Boro man Agnew, influential coach and then assistant manager under Southgate, is out of the blue and quite a coup. Not least because to head-hunt a well respected figure from a Premier League dug-out – even a struggling one, second bottom and with off the field niggles – sends out a strong message to football. For Agnew to judge that Project Karanka is a better long term prospect than staying at Hull shouts that he thinks something special is happening here.
Of course there could be other factors. His family still live here. He is close to some people at the club – he started in management at Gateshead as Gary Gill’s assistant, worked closely with Dave Parnaby as he cut his coaching teeth and Steve Gibson tried very hard to keep him when he was lured away by Hull. And there may be more pragmatic factors: Steve Bruce is under pressure at Hull and there may be fears of the axe and if he goes then his backroom staff could go too. Yes, he’d get a pay-off but once you fall off the merry-go-round who knows what the future holds.
Nevertheless, Agnew is a great signing. He fulfils all the basic requirements of the “Higgy job” … he knows the strengths, styles and rhythm of the Championship clubs, he knows the DNA of the club and the fans, he can add that unique nuanced English perspective to the Spanish world view, he has good people skills and dressing room banter … but he can also add a very impressive coaching CV, has dug-out experience at every level – Gateshead Hartlepool, Leeds, Boro and Hull takes him from Conference to the summit – he shares a technocratic immersion in tactics, has creative coaching drills and a comprehensive knowledge of the Premier League too. That could come in handy next year.
Aggers is a fully badged up, a respected coach and shrewd tactician, is fully in tune with the appliance of science approach favoured by Karanka and was always well liked by the players. Here and at Hull. He ticks all the boxes and adds a few extra qualities too.
For me, that shows Karanka is always looking to improve. The episode has been harsh on fans’ favourite Higgy who has been ruthlessly discarded after a solid year in which he had a vital input at a crucial time. But if the change in the dug-out improves the matchday mix and game management, adds to training ground variety and expertise, if it improves overall team performance and results and helps secure promotion and prepare for life in the Premier League then it is a good thing.
Plenty of people have reacted with surprise, scepticism or even some hostility. But what were they expecting? A big name celebrity assistant? A high-profile former player to act as a glorified mascot? An internal appointment for convenience and cost reasons? Boro have brought in a Premier League coach. It is not the cheap option. It shows ambition.
Some people will criticise. But then, that is their default. They will say for whatever reason – Hull are second bottom, he’s a Mackem, he’s bald, whatever – he is not good enough for Boro. But the same people said the same of Karanka himself. Of Kike. Bamford. Clayton and the rest. Given the progress in every department in a year and the impact on performance, position and results of the players and staff he has brought in so far I think we should trust the gaffer’s judgement. Let’s see how it works out and decide in a year.