Quantum Physics And The Duality of Draws

A GOOD point gained at Reading? Or two poor ones squandered? Or both.

We know from pop-star-turned Professor Brian Cox and his trendy TV brain-busting science shows that in quantum physics matter can exist in two distinct opposite forms – wave and particle – simultaneously. Maybe in football, when placed under the extremes of pressure and heat at either end of the periodic league table, there is a similar phenomena with points from draws taking on a contradictory dual existence.

Boro came away deeply disappointed and frustrated after once again dominating a game and creating a string of good chances only to finish up with a goalless draw at Reading. It was a cut-and-paste performance straight from the Blackburn template.
 aaAitor                “Aitor, Aitor give us a wave. Or particle. Or both simultaneously.”
Patrick Bamford had a rocket shot turned onto the bar, Daniel Ayala had a point blank poke blocked, a deep Tomas Kalas cross that was drifting in was nodded off the line, Adam Reach put one in the side netting and another into geo-stationary orbit and Royals keeper Adam Federici made a string of superb stops that had the Mad Stad new boss and archetypal dour Scot Steve Clarke almost forcing a begrudged post-match smile.

It certainly felt like two points dropped in the ground. Aitor Karanka said as much on the whistle – “we have not lost the game but we have lost two points” – as he mused on a flurry of spurned sitters and fine stops from yet another keeper saving his best display of the season for the visit of Boro.

Yet his industrious skipper Grant Leadbitter took an assertive opposite view of the nature of the day’s point yield. Asked if it was two dropped the Mackem midfield metronome snapped back: “No. We are a point closer to the top.”

That is undeniably, scientifically, statistically provably true. Boro have edged closer to the summit and to the automatic promotion places by banking a precious point as the top two – Bournemouth and Ipswich – slipped up.

When it was suggested Boro were having a bit of “a blip” he bristled and rejected the claim out of hand, pointing out they were unbeaten in four, had only lost one in 12 and were well placed and in touch with the leaders at the half-way stage.

Again, it is very hard to argue with the reality of the mathematics.

And yet if felt as if the game, in an abstract sense, was a set-back  That may be a reflection of the wider league table context rather than the reality of a single point: Bournemouth’s bubble of invincibility was finally popped by the sharp edges of that Manager of the Month gong handed over to Eddie Howe on Friday while home boys Ipswich lost at Portman Road for the first time since August.

 It would have been a great time to win.  Three points instead of one would have lifted Boro into a strong looking breakway group of four teams split by just two points up at the top.
As it is Boro are still four points off the automatic spots with ground to make up and with Brentford and Norwich closing in behind with wins of their own.

The maths of the day once again showed the constant state of flux at the top of the Championship. After dipping in and having a good rummage around in the big bag of football cliches we know that an away point is “always a good point.”

But is it? The draw at Reading should still be considered a “good point”. They are dramatically improved under Clarke – like Karanka a fully trained up Mourinho acolyte, they are now unbeaten in four games under him and are packed with internationals throughout the team. They are no mugs. Objectively, it was a “good point.”

But subjectively if didn’t feel great. Hot on the heels of a similar stalemate at Blackburn – Boro bossed it for long spell and created chances but were denied by a keeper having a worldie – the Reading result stung more than an isolated draw would.

By Karanka’s calculations that is four points dropped. Throw in the cut-and-paste nil-nil at home to Blackpool and he said we would be top by now,  although of course that is theoretical mathematics and part of a different module.  It is ‘true’ but is an abstract and intertwined with so many other factors – other teams results also being corrected for what should have been – and leads you into a complex world of “what ifs?”

On the other hand, Leadbitter’s Formula sees two points gained from two away games. That is true too. And more concrete. Although it is harder to sell as a positive and a gain when we have been so upbeat and the expectations – and stakes – have risen.

The good/bad point contradiction is hard to resolve. And it changes with perspective, on how other games panned out.  Maybe the notional value of a point is dependant on its relationship to other results and conditional on the position in the table or how if fits into a sequence of previous outcomes. A draw after a defeat is a poor point and the signal for hand-wringing angst and phone-in fuming. The same result, played to exactly the same game script and with the same tone of performance, after a win is lauded. Obviously.

Two draws on the spin has led to some nervous pencilled working out and created an anxious ripple in the Borosphere as once-bitten supporters show signs of the January jitters buried deep in our DNA. You don’t have to look back too far in history to see frightening evidence that it is possible to blow a good position at Christmas. Twice in three years under Tony Mowbray sprint sparters Boro spluttered and slithered from being promotion contenders to floundering in the final furlong.

But the two no-score draws on the bounce have to be put in a wider context. They are not just two results on the bounce that can be used to project fears onto. They are part of a long productive run that has put Boro in a strong position to make a serious title tilt.

We live in times when football has a very short memory span, when a good strike or save or result is immediately lauded by pundits as “the best EVER”, when the media’s sinister fickle finger of crisis is quick to point at any club or any manager that lose two or three games on the spins and when you really are now seen as only as good as your last game. But think back beyond Blackburn and what now seems eons ago…  it is not long since bubbling Boro were battering Nottingham Forest in front of a full house throbbing with feel-good vibes. And the home game before that saw Boro dismantle Derby on TV amid calls to abandon the fixtures and hand the trophy over as a formality .

Boro have taken five points from nine and are disappointed at what is being perceived as “a blip”. (How many games constitutes a blip these days? Was it always so few?).  But not so long ago Boro having a “blip” would have been marked by losing games like Blackburn and Reading. Probably 1-0. Probably to a late goal leaked. Probably from a corner. Now we are drawing them, bossing them and being denied by shot-stopper wonder shows.

Extend the timeline and the perspective back a bit beyond Reading and Blackburn and Boro have taken a respectable 11 points from a possible 18; they have lost just once in 12; they have not lost at home since August; they have the best defence in the division by far. All are reasons for optimism and important building blocks of a successful season.

Boro now have a zealous approach to keeping clean sheets throughout the team from front to back with every player defending, snarling and digging deep . Look at the stats and you can see more zeroes than the Japanese air force above Pearl Harbour: Four in a row, five in six, 13 in 25 league games, 25 in all in 48 games over the the last 12 months.

Boro have it spot on at one end and have become a formidable unit almost impossible to penetrate. But at the other? The current consensus is that Boro are lacking fire-power and that a lack of goals will cost us come May. But there is no need to panic.  It is not as if Boro are toothless up front. It is not like last season when the long eight goal barren run was marked by rigid defence in depth, a tactical shroud to stifle opposition  and the occasional long ball forward for Danny Graham to chase and hold and wait for reinforcements.

This team are completely different. They are playing attacking football, they push high up the  pitch, they buzz about with a high pace and intensity, snapping and hassling the opposition to force mistakes and pick and pass their way through with movement and deft distribution.  And they are creating chances. Lots of chances.

And it not as if they are not scoring goals at all. It is easy to cherry-pick the stats and say that Boro have not scored an away goal in three games as if they are flaccid up front but they have totally dominated in two of those games. And they scored five in the away game before. This is not a “Boro Nil” situation like we have have seen in the past.

They put four past top seven sides Norwich and Brentford (both who arrived at the Riverside as form sides) so it is not as it they can’t beat the top sides. They beat Derby. They beat Forest.  They are scoring goals – and with such a miserly defensive record they don’t need to get two or three to guarantee a point as they did just two years ago. 

Boro may not be Bournemouth who have scored sixes and eights in eye-catching wins but that column can not be the only criteria for weighing up the potential strengths of a team. And Boro are not shot-shy. They are the seventh top scorers in the division and are not lagging far behind most of that pack – but have by far the best defence so only two teams, the current top two,  have a better goal difference. And that is not a massive gap.

So Boro are doing well. Or not. They are well placed to push on. Or not. Depending on your perspective. Which is another contradictory thing that has a dual nature in football.


                   Smells like team spirit: Boro players show support for Rhys Williams

239 thoughts on “Quantum Physics And The Duality of Draws

  1. As another one who lives down South I get to maybe six of what you would call ‘away’ games a season and maybe two at the Riverside when I’m home visiting family. I would not for a second dream of expecting any form of advantage over a season ticket holder.

    As an outsider looking in on this debate I find it a little bit depressing. All I can see (not necessarily on here I might add) is various camps arguing for whatever system will benefit themselves and dressing it up as “fair” and “reasonable.” They are neither.

    Some particularly short-sighted people have suggested that if you go to a lot of away games and make an investment of time and effort and money (into other clubs, coach forms and public houses en route) then even if you are not a ST holder you should have priority over people who are. The unspoken implication being that those fuddy-duddy home fans who don’t go to away games are somehow lesser supporters. I’ve read people say ST holders excited by the season who may now decide they fancy going to away games are “glory hunters” and “big game Johnnies.” Have these people heard themselves?

    Season ticket holders are the lifeblood of the club financially. They have stuck by Boro through a couple of very dull years and I hope they are rewarded by a generous discount next season after promotion,. They deserve whatever the club feels it can afford or reasonably administer in terms of a benefits package for being ST holders. One of those benefit has always been priority for prestigious games where ticket numbers are limited and even if they have never been to a single game before in their lives they deserve and have earned a fair and equal chance to get a ticket should they decide they fancy it. No ifs or buts.

    There should be no complex points system weighted and designed to protect and reinforce a relatively small group of away game regulars (who will almost always get tickets anyway). Yes, respect to them for the miles they put in during the lean years but other season ticket holders should never be made to feel they are lesser fans just because they haven’t been to Plymouth or Yeovil because they are too young, or don’t always have the money or time or flexibility or because they have family or work commitments.

    We don’t want an elite. We don’t want an points aristocracy setting the agenda on ticket distribution and arguing that other fans don’t deserve tickets as much. If Boro are to grow as a club then we are all in this together. Everyone should be equal and take their chances on tickets. If you lose out once in a while, well that’s unfortunate but sometimes the numbers just don’t stack up and why should a chosen few be given a guarantee?

    It is fantastic to see travelling away in numbers and showing lots of passion and making a lot of noise is back with a bang (it reminds me of 1987-88-89). It shows the club is vibrant and on the up and can only be a good thing. But it is sad to see see self righteous super-fans sneering at others and fearing the masses may get in on the act.

    Sorry this is so long. I haven’t written for a while and wasn’t sure if I had accumulated enough points to merit posting alongside regular bloggers who deserve their places more

    1. Excellent response, though as an expat I always managed to get a home ticket from the Club directly by calling them in advance and telling them when I would be home, sometimes all that was available was restaurant tickets but nevertheless the club was very helpful. I was always prepared to miss the game and didn’t expect any favours, I’m sure MSS have had the same experience.

      Season tickets are the life blood of the club and they should have preference every time – there’s always the internet and the TV.

  2. Tees Exile –

    It is an almost impossible situation for the club. I have no solution, they can only make it as fair as possible.



  3. Sorry to see Veljkovic go. He will become a top player and I’ll watch his progress with interest. I guess Whitehead’s recent displays convinced Aitor that he had good cover in this area.

  4. Len –

    Veljkovic provided good cover because he could play at the back, I suppose Kalas being able to play on the right and centre back helped end his loan, like Blackman there was no point him staying if he was spending most of his time in the development squad. Good luck to him in the future.

    Hopefully the likes of Morris can feature more often in the match day squad.

  5. Nose bleed for box to box toiler.

    AV writes: Er ist eine Trabbi tor! 200! I don’t know how the lay-out looks in the shop window (with replies etc) but under the bonnet I make this one the barrier breaker.

  6. Good post TE, but you may need to prepare for incoming.

    My own view is that the current system is probably the least worst option. In a world where government, employers and all major institutions are unable to develop perfect systems that suit everyone perfectly, expecting a middling football club to do so seems unrealistic.

  7. Interesting that whenever a defensive problem arises Aitor is able to find an immediate and more than competent replacement ( see the recent example of Kalas’s recruitment.) In fact I’m not sure how critical the right-back position is. Kenneth has, of course, played for his country with some distinction at right -back? The videos confirm that he is very capable going forward as well as defending. And at the moment he seems to be surplus to requirements as a central defender. I’m surprised that he was not slotted in, even ahead of Nsue.

    On the other hand the lack of a creative midfielder to supplement the somewhat erratic recent form of Tomlin is a problem that continues to be unaddressed. Strange, but as clear an indication as you could wish for of Aitor’s priorities. Or obsessions.

  8. Len

    Ok, how about descends with dignity and grace?

    Wiggy’s Mate

    Hard luck, if I am passing I will give you a lift in the Trabant on the way to queue for cup final tickets.

    You are right, ticketing is making the best you can out of the situation.

    1. Now we know how Ian gets tickets for a cup away game. He let’s the Trabi to idle near the ticket office. The blue smoke and CO2 emissions will keep other supporters in distance. A clever smoggie!

      Up the Boro!

  9. Long time no post but since the arrival of my twins life has changed dramatically!!! ( we didn’t order 2 but I wouldn’t change them for anything!) anyway thought I’d pop in a thought about who should get tickets. From a purely unselfish point of view, I think the first 500 tickets should be decided by those who will travel the furthest to make the game. The rest should be by ballot. Absolutely unbiased opinion but I’m sure everyone would agree…. Discuss.

    Ps I have boro 66, Ipswich 67, Bournemouth 62, derby 67, can anyone really predict this league? AV any news on crowd for Saturday yet? Btw happy new year everyone and I’m going to take this opportunity to send my valentines wishes too as it may be March before I get chance to comment again!!

    1. Brisbane your scores are noted make sure you at least ead the blog around 2 March to see how close your scores were and to be ready to enter the 2nd part of the trioligy for the penultimate 6 games.

      Come on BORO

  10. Brisbane Phil –

    They’ll keep you busy, I was sat having a haircut many years ago – hair and years ago go together, the young lady was pregnant so I asked if it was her first one.

    Yes she replied, I asked if she knew whether it was a boy or a girl, she wasn’t bothered, healthy was the main thing. Unlike her friends, they had four girls and decided to try one more time for a boy. It wasn’t a boy, no it was a girl, it wasn’t twin girls, it was triplets all of the non male variety.

    Hey Ho!

    had a quick gander and the stadium map, at this stage it doesn’t look like a 20,000 is likely but as AV posted before they sell a good number on the day of the match.

    **AV writes: It was 15,600 at start of play today. Steady rather than brisk but generally a lot sold 5-6pm Friday and then the the big rush is Saturday morning.

  11. Seems I’m getting shot down in flames for my suggestion that a small proportion of regular away attenders who arnt season ticket holders have a fair crack at getting a ticket when it’s likely the tickets will be sold out to season ticket holders only.

    Wasn’t for my benefit being a season ticket holder myself. My main gripe was season ticket holders give away or use other ticket holders cards to obtain tickets for non holders anyway.

    It’s all about opinions and you are never going to get a unanimous agreement.

    Maybe we should be looking at why the away games now have a higher percentage increase in fans wanting to go than wanting to go to the home games. Apart from the Forest game attendances at the Riverside are around the average 17,000 despite the team being consistently in the play offs and havnt lost since 30th August

  12. If somebody goes to every away game then he would have went to support the Boro if we’d been drawn against the likes of Rochdale or Cambridge. It would seem a bit unfair to me if he missed out on a ticket just because popular demand has risen due to the fact that we are playing a “big” team. But that’s just my opinion. I wouldn’t criticise anyone for having a different one.

    **AV writes: I would be staggered if someone who went to every away game WASN’T also a season ticket holder.

  13. Never Give Up –

    It must be very difficult as a season card holder if asked by friend or family to get them a ticket (or in the old days their ticket stubs).

    You would be hard pushed to say no because other people had been to matches but weren’t season card/ticket holders.

    As a non card holder (I do have a Pride card), if someone offered me a ticket would I have the moral fibre to turn it down so someone else could benefit? That is asking a lot.

  14. Ian –

    I agree,I would do the same if someone wanted to go with me if my son couldn’t go.

    Just stating how it is and how the system is flawed but it’s impossible to stop.

    I had a few hopefuls contacting me to use my ticket because they thought I wouldn’t be going after my op. Mind you when my tickets arrived I’m on row P so I may need carrying up the steps haha

  15. I see the Ipswich game is being brought forward to a 12.15 kick off for those nice TV people to show live. No thought given at all to the travelling Tractor fans facing one of the longest treks in the League.

    I sometimes wonder about the sanity of the Football League computer (Norwich at the Riverside midweek, Boro at Cardiff midweek) but if that’s not bad enough Sky then exacerbate things and tinker with Brentford v Boro and now Boro v Ipswich.

    Football fans once again being treated like dirt instead of the heart and soul of the game.

    1. Well said Redcar Red, the simple fact is they don’t care.

      Back to the conversation, the Chelsea chairman, (Bates?) had with a fan who was complaining the tickets were too expensive, he just said ‘get a Sky subscription and watch at home’.

      Being married to a Geordie we often say about the Monday Premiership matches that those games, and early kick-offs, kill it for the travelling fans who for me are the bedrock of the fan base.

      We have to be thankful it isn’t Torquay or Plymouth.



  16. For the televised home game v Ipswich I suggest a price of adult at £30 a and with that you get another seat free at a future game where available

  17. Never give up…

    It is interesting that our away support seems to have (a) been more robust since relegation and didn’t seem to have declined at the same rate as the home support, and (b) seems to have recovered more quickly and grown strongly compared with a stubborn lack of growth in home attendences. Anyone got any smart ideas about why that might be?

    How does it match the argument that Teesside is a depressed area and fans can’t afford to go to the match? Surely it’s a lot more expensive to go to an away match than a home match? Or is our away support made up of a lot of exiles taking the opportunity to see their club in their local neighbourhood?

    **AV writes: New grounds; relative cheap (compared to Prem); atmosphere; good day out; large groups can ‘sit’ together… but those ingredients were all there in the in first few tears too and Boro were only taking a couple of hundred to most places. Results and a good team and a sense that something is happening have made the difference and now away games are “a thing.”

  18. Kookaboro –

    I suppose there are a number of reasons for the away support holding up.

    I think the really big away crowds have seen tickets sell out rapidly with few on general sale so that is largely season ticket and Boro Pride I guess. So that is the hard core of fans. They can afford to go the Riverside therefore they can afford to travel.

    The away experience is different in any case with fans all in one area rather than all over the Riverside – the red faction moving diminished the effect in the New Holgate but all groupings come together at away grounds.

    There are a number of exiles who go to away games, I do the midland ones, there is the southern supporters grouping.

    I doubt there are many who only go to away games, the concept of not travelling a few miles to the Riverside but going to Brentford doesn’t seem likely, the sheer commitment required suggests they go to away matches as does the comments on ticket sales above.

    I don’t think whether fans can afford to go to the match at the Riverside is related to away support, many of the people who travel look to be the same people who go to the Riverside plus exiles.

    My guess is the issues are unrelated.

  19. The atmosphere is better at away games.

    I started going regularly away during Southgates reign(not the best time to start I know). In those days when supporters travelled in hundreds rather than thousands they went because they wanted to be there and not because they have paid upfront for a season ticket and felt they had to go. It didn’t matter whether we won,drew or lost everyone was united in their support no matter what the result. There was rarely any vocal negativity like you get at the home games,sometimes at home we would have barely kicked off before the barracking and booing started.

    Obviously since AK’s arrival and especially with the teams improvement this season there is more optimism and the likely hood of seeing a good game,goals and a win and this has brought the fans back again which is a big positive.

    Now all we need to do is convince the extra 15/16000 that came to the Forest game to start putting their faith in the club again and at least getting 20k plus regularly through the turnstiles.

  20. And the Huddersfield match has sneaked up on us with us comtemplating our away ticket navel.

    The terriers are on a bit of a run and three points wont be given over without a battle – I don’t mean a pitched battle but a battle on the pitch. Our thoughts may focus on the battle between our two old testament named Jacob and Adam, lets hope history is correct and Adam gets to Eve happier.

    Like all sides in this division, give them a chance to get a foothold in the game and they will cause problems, any team that gives Watford a tough team are not to be ignored.

    We certainly don’t want a trip up in this one.

    Ignoring the bumper Boxing day crowd, you would hope 19,000 plus might be achievable.

  21. I was once runner up in the European golden boot competition, one point behind Roma’s Francisco Totti. I’m well known by Middlesbrough’s fans, who am I?

  22. Bingo Martin. I happened to look up his bio wondering what the heck had he done since leaving. its amazing how some players can just go from the top tier to nothing in such a short period of time. I’ve known one game wonders to one season wonders. Any others we can think of?

    **AV writes: Its all about mentality.

  23. Well hot on the heels of the Ipswich fans being defecated on from a great height from the TV men now Boro’s game at Bournemouth has been switched to a 12.15 kick off. Good job its not far to travel so shouldn’t inconvenience the travelling supporters, oh wait who cares? Stuff the fans.

    Its almost as if Sky and the FA form a committee sitting there looking at fixtures, Forest v Derby, nah its way too close, how about getting the two furthest and/or most extreme parts of the UK and getting them to play midweek. If for a bizarre reason the fixture computer actually has them playing on a Saturday at 3.00 lets see if we can maximise the supporters inconvenience by bringing the game forward by almost 3 hours to shaft the imbeciles making a 6 hour journey.

    Things were better under the Radar thats for sure!

    **AV writes: It’s the price of success. The TV people paid a lot of money for football’s soul and expect their pound of flesh. Those two games were obvious picks. They would have had Derby away too but it is midweek. And I wouldn’t make too many detailed travel plans for Watford or Norwich away either. The TV people have another batch of ‘picks’ at the back end of Febuary. If we are still up at the top then there’s a decent chance they could be on telly too. But yes, stuff the fans, bottom of football’s food chain.

  24. Talking of food chains. like many I sat and shook my head in agreement with Vic’s comments about the cost of Defoe being £70,000 per week at Sunderland £12.5m’ish over 3.5 years,

    Then I started thinking following gt’s mini quiz about the Golden Boot. Here is a multiple choice quiz, please dont argue about the exact figures, no account of inflation.

    Best value? Please Rank

    A Defoe, aged 32, with a decent scoring record in the premiership at £70k per week over three and a half years.

    B Boksic at £63,000 a week plus £2.5m in transfer fee at age 30 with a poor injury record, 290 games in 13 years before joing Boro.

    C Alves, £13.5m signed in euros before the pound dropped, plus wages, age uncertain alledgedly now 33, good scorer in Sweden and Holland.

    D Dong Goal Less, on a free.


  25. Ian –

    Your question is skewed. It depends what these players where signed for. Defoe has been signed to help Sunderland to stay in the Premiership. If they do,then he would be considered worth it. I still don’t know what the point of signing the others was for us, was it to get us into Europe ?

    By the way Defoe is not the player he was. He was being fazed out at Spurs two years ago. He also depends on good midfielders and they don’t have them up the road

    1. But if Defoe don’t keep them up, the finaces will be a mess. That’s why they have new bigger parashute windfall – to incourage clubs to act stupidly and spend more money.

      One of the crazest transfers since Alves ….

      Up the Boro!

  26. GT

    I dont suppose there really is a right answer.

    I suppose the shear money currently in the top flight makes the Defoe deal less daft than we all think it.

    when we look back we all think Strachan wasted money until you realise all his signings cost two thirds of Alves or Mido and Digard, barry Robson alone contributed more than all those put together, I will draw a veil over some of the others.

    1. Fill in the blanks…..Appearances and Goals scored in the Dutch Eredivisie

      —- — ——— 139 Apps 91 Goals
      —- —— 167 Apps 92 Goals
      —— —– 39 Apps 45 Goals

    2. I think on paper Defoe looks the better gamble by far out of the three but we are basing that on impression and assumption formed before he has actually delivered. If he propels Sunderland up the league it will be a masterstroke. If they go down then he will forever be an Albatross in Makem history.

  27. The atmosphere at away games is better as everybody can sit together. It’s as near as you can get to the old days when you used to meet up all your mates in the holgate.

    1. That’s frightening, and proof that statistics, whilst not necessarily lying, might not tell the whole story. On the basis of those figures Alves wipes the floor with the other two strikers, and that would not be a fluke arrived at after only a handful of games. But we all know the truth: two world class goalscorers and one who shone very briefly in a foreign league but didn’t have the character or commitment to show he was even an adequate (let alone world class) Premier player.

  28. The original Ronaldo was……46 Apps 42 Goals.

    Just goes to show that if the Boro fell in the proverbial barrel of ****, they would come out sucking their thumb!

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