Boro: Pitch Perfect?

NO EASY games… quagmire pitch … blah blah blah … crazy division…  not bad at home… blah blah… a lot of changes…. our cup final … blah blah blah.  Forget the post-match white noise. Boro can be pitch perfect on the Bloomfield Road Pleasurebeach.

blackpool pitch

Blackpool are rock bottom for a reason. They are a club in total disarray with fans and board at odds and a poor, hastily cobbled together  team on a white knuckle ride that ends up inevitably in League One and Boro need to be focussed, ruthless and at their professional best to help send them screaming through the next dark tunnel with a towering display. Life must be depressing enough for Blackpool having the hang-dog expression of one man cloud of gloom Lee Clark as a permanent feature of their landscape. Boro can make things a whole worse for them.

It is a potential pivotal night as Bournemouth plat Derby and Brentford play Watford elsewhere. It could be that the table turns decisively in our favour with results going our way.  It could be that the top is tightened again beyond belief and the pressure and stakes rise in a congested month. Boro can’t leave that to chance. They have to make sure they take charge of the one part of the equation they can control. They need to win.

For my money, they will. Boro have played on poor pitches before. Donkey hoof and divots should be no big deal. Wigan  and Reading were both cut up by egg-chasers. We’ve had hard and bobbly, sticky and soft. That shouldn’t be an issue. If the pitch is poor then it is harder to play on for technically poorer players. And if Blackpool opt to go long Ben, Ken and the returning Dani Ayala have all showed they can nod it away all night long while up front Boro now look sharp and hungry. And they will be motivated. You can be sure of that.

I’m going for a good night: fish and chips and a bracing walk beforehand, a straight-forward 3-0 win by a polished team unfazed by the surface and a nice trip home as table-toppers after results elsewhere go our way.  Bring it on.

Usual drill: give us your scorecast and predict how the game will pan out (this is where the nervous types forecast Tony McMahon to win with a worldie at the death). We can come back later an check out your prescient punditry powers. Then after the game you can be the first on your block to put your match reports up . I’ll get my own impression up ASAP but don’t expect anything tonight as I don’t expect to get home until after one.

********************   UPDATE *********

JOB done. A toe-to-toe scrap with frantic basement battlers on a ploughed pitch …. those are the games that win you promotion. Boro’s 2-1 win at Blackpool was a significant moment in completing the jigsaw. The picture is emerging.











Gerrrrrinthere: Warhorse Woody forces home the opener

Yes it is nice to turn it on and play pretty football against like minded rivals who are well drilled in a passing game and there is plenty of quality on show. Then you can see the flashes of a team with top flight aspirations. Then you get time on the ball, good players get a chance to  show what they can do, teams can zip it about and pass and probe and weave patterns. Those are the high-water mark games that people  remember and buzz about and point to as proof that a team can flourish  next season.

But half of the games in the Championship are far more no-frill and functional. Good teams have to be able to mix it too. They have to be able to deal with teams that are frantically battling for survival in the bottom half, to scrap with trapdoor dancers who have long ago abandoned any hope of playing their way out of danger and opted for hand-to- hand combat, teams  that dig in, knock it long, try to make a scrap of it, that want to bog you down 25 yards out along their rigidly prepared tactical trenches and barbed wire.

Boro showed at Blackpool they can do that.  They came to terms with what must be the worse surface in English professional football, passed as long as they could pick out patches of grass on a rapidly chewed up pitch and matched the aerial approach of the desperate opposition. They showed they had the physicality to cope with the conditions and a steely determination to bounce back from a late leveller and force their way to victory in a tense finale. Even lugubrious Lee Clark – a man who permanently look as if his dog has just died – was full of praise for the way Boro adapted to the conditions.

So often in the past Boro have cracked at that point. In previous seasons Boro would have been bullied on that surface and by that kind of street-fighting functional team.

They would have buckled under the weight of expectation and the long ball barrage.  And had they clawed ahead, they would certainly have collapsed into chaos after the being pegged back at the death. Late winner. From a corner. We all know that to be true.

But this team have shown they are made of sterner stuff mentally and physically. They have shown they can stand up to teams who want to rough them up – at Cardiff and Bolton and Blackburn.  They have shown they can resist long spells of pressure as they did at Manchester City and Brentford. And , crucially, they have showed they scrap it out of a cabbage patch when the they need too. They are all important parts of the promotion skill-set. And for this one reason, Aitor was happy. 

It was a massive night for Boro. And not just because they banked the points when rivals stumbled. It was a night they settled some nerves among supporters and showed they had everything that it takes to get out of this division.

It was a scrap. It was tense. It was frantic. It was nerve-shredding and at times the away fans were yelping with anxiety as it seemed it would never come. They were already in a state of turmoil after a tactical and personnel curve-ball from Aitor on a high-stakes evening with the top two in action elsewhere. With the crowd knowing Bournemouth and Derby were drawing and top spot was up for grabs things were taut.

The team were booed off at half-time by a large section of the crowd which was harsh. They may not have been winning but they were working their nads off in difficult circumstances and always looked the better side. The substitution of Vossen was booed too by a section, presumably because they would rather Kike or Reach had gone off. The nerves were showing on the crowd in the closing spell.

But the players never showed signs of the unbearable tension. They stuck to the task, kept plugging away and tried to stretch Blackpool out of shape and put pressure on, they kept the tempo up and they kept pushing for the win.

Skipper Jonathan Woodgate got the goal his display deserved. He was making his first appearance since August on an unforgiving pitch must have hammered his veteran muscles but stayed composed throughout and put in a masterful display.

Then after Ben Gibson’s unfortunate intervention Kike head home the winner, in off the  post – another deserved goal. He was getting stick but he never stopped working on a culture-shock surface he must never have seen before in Spain.

Job done. A pivotal night. Boro are defusing the #fixturebomb deftly so far. Of course “the week of doom” is looming in March… but we’ll be six points clear by then.



189 thoughts on “Boro: Pitch Perfect?

  1. Having read a couple of the reports from people who attended the match, I find it quite incredible that there was booing at half time…albeit clearly from a small minority. After all the progress we’ve made this season and the magnificent position we find ourselves in after so many years of stagnation, I’m at a complete loss to explain it.

  2. Well done GHW, subject to Vic’s confirmation you get a star!!

    **AV writes: I was out when the barrier was broken. I trust you lot to reach a consensus on who takes the glory.

  3. I wonder which selection idea for the Blackpool game came first for Karanka – playing 3-5-2 or making wholesale changes in personnel.

    If he first decided to play 3-5-2 to counter the pitch and the tangerine tactics, then deciding who to play in this formation may have been a deciding factor in some of the selections. He may then have felt there was an opportunity to have players like Leadbitter and Bamford, on the bench as they’ve generally played most games of late.

    It was a gamble, maybe a calculated gamble and a strategy to minimise long-term injuries to key players – but it was a brave call as he knew the fingers would be pointed if the opportunity of three points were lost.

    **AV Writes: He said after the game he had decided on the shape as soon as he started thing about the game. Which was probably about three weeks ago. The wing backs were to stop Blackpool getting wide to put crosses in, probably their most dangerous and only realistic option.

  4. GHW –

    Karanka moving on is as inevitable as night following day. Very few managers ‘retire’.

    Just as with players, so with managers, we will be a stepping stone. Whilst we protest it is different to other careers, people will want to progress, many who post are scattered around the globe because of work, taking opportunities that arise.

    Get promoted and Bamford will probably be back, do well for a time and he will be looking to get a place in the Chelsea starting squad.

    A good season in the top flight will see a bigger club in for Gibson.

    Do well and Agnew will be looking to be a no1 either elsewhere or when Aitor heads off to a bigger club.

    They all want to operate at the highest level possible, that’s why they play football. No different to anyone else. Players at Darlo would love to in the same league as Pools, Pools want to be playing the likes of MK Dons who want to be playing Blackburn who think they should be back in the top flight playing ManU who think they should be in the champions league.

    Aitor will want to manage in the Premiership, same as anyone else. His success will take us forward. I cant see him choosing a club which would limit him in his career. He doesn’t want to stall, moving to a club our sort of size struggling in the top flight wont be progress.

    My son reckons that at some point he will be Arsenal manager, I suspect a Spanish team will come calling, Bilboa, Deportivo, Sevilla would provide a springboard towards Real.

    Aitor is no different to anyone else, he wants to manage at the top.

    **AV writes: I think after a success at Boro Aitor will go to Bilbao and then on to Real Madrid.

    1. Ian,

      I think that is bang-on assessment. If we get to the Premiership we’ll get two seasons out of him, maybe three as he proves himself at a higher level. I don’t know when his contract expires but if Boro succeed the big clubs will be sniffing around.

      Coincidentally the other half and I think Arsenal if he moves in the Premiership but I reckon promotion, a good season in the Premiership, and cup are targets for the CV.

      But if we got into Europe… Who knows?



  5. I don’t think Karanka gambles. He just picks the team and the tactics he thinks will succeed against what he expects to face. Sooner or later we are going to be undone by factors such as Karanka getting it wrong, individual brilliance, or bad luck.

    What’s particularly impressed me has been the absence of dips in form. So far Karanka seems to have eliminated the roller coaster we know so well, of abject defeat immediately following a great win. Part of this has to be down to his intelligent use of his squad.

    I am not particularly anxious about having to face some teams near the top at the run-in. This provides opportunities to inflict damage on our rivals.

    I might become interested in the FA Cup if we beat Arsenal and if we are still top by 6th round day. After all a combination of promotion and European qualification would be an interesting prospect.

    Again the nature of the squad and Karanka’s readiness to use it will discourage any temptation for a player to ease off in a league game to save themselves for the cup.

  6. Jarsue

    As AV says Bilboa must be favourites, I included them as the first of the Spanish teams because of his background.

    I don’t think he will be as overtly move seeking as Schteve when he was with us. It looks like he believes in the rewards of hard work whereas our magnificient former manager seemed to always be looking over the hedge.

    I don’t think he is as much like it now, like Aitor I don’t think he will jump at the first chance. Why go from Derby to Hull or Leicester when he has so much going for him at the moment.

    1. Ian,

      A good point but I do think he’ll make his name with us and I’m sure as this team develops we’ll see what a good manager he is. If he achieves a good level of continuity as new players come in that will really show his man management credentials.

      As for move seeking I see his character as being a person who will let the the move come to him when he is good and ready rather using Schteve semaphore method to let people know he could be available. I think the word I’m hunting for is integrity.



  7. I’m not sure I buy the line that AK changed the shape in order to nullify Blackpool. That certainly doesn’t sound like him.

    Just as well we won because changing tactics to nullify limited opposition has been a cardinal sin in the past. “Let them worry about us” has been the cry. And we are more worrisome to play against these days.

    Perhaps the pitch was a major concern but I think the most likely reason for the changes was because AK felt, correctly as it proved, that he didn’t need his strongest XI to win and he wanted to save some legs for our more glamourous appointment at the weekend.

    **AV writes: that’s what he said and up to now he has always been very honest in his post-match interviews. It will not be to nullify Blackpool but to mitigate the only logical tactics on that pitch, irrespective of the opposition.

  8. I would be amazed if Karanka is still here at the start of the 2016/17 season.

    If we fail to go up he may well go this summer, if the right club came along. He won’t want to be here to administer the cutbacks caused by this season’s overspend. He’s no Mogga, he doesn’t do austerity.

    If we do go up I suspect Agent Mendes will be weighing up his client’s options in La Liga from the close season onwards. His ideal scenario is probably a mid-table premier league finish with plenty of credit to him and a move in the summer of 2016.

    This isn’t a dig at Karanka – he’s talented and ambitious and those types rarely hang around Teesside for long. This diasboratic blog is proof of that.

    **AV writes: I agree with the medium term timetable but I think if we don’t go up Karanka is committed to one more crack and Gibbo will back him.

    1. Sorry don’t agree that AK will go next season or season after. In my opinion he has a set programme for his career and has bought into the programme philosophy set by Steve Gibson and Boro management.

      He will only go when he has won a trophy and built a team that can go on and develop . Look how Swansea and Soithampton have used the model and seamlessly changed managers.

      I also think Karanka is an honourable man and will see the project through
      Fat bob

  9. Paulista –

    There are very few like Eddie Howe who wanted to go back to Bournemouth but if Southampton rather than Burnley came knocking that might tempt his resolve.

    We don’t know what Aitor intends to do, some would have had us believe we would be the youth section of Real Madrid rather than manage his own club in his own way.

    Everything I have seen or heard tells me he is a man of integrity.

    Oddly, so was Strachan, when things went wrong I believe he went without a bean, he left for the benefit of the club. He may have been a pants manager but he didn’t sit out his contract.

    I know I will be abused for the Strachan comment but it doesn’t matter, the truth is the truth. No snide comments about he didn’t deserve paying, I believe he waived any payment. Anyone else who refused their notice payment can comment.

    AV can confirm if the arrangement was as I thought. If I am wrong I will post that I was.

    Back to Aitor, when he leaves, the club will be in a better state than when he found it, same as Mogga did for the finances. He will do the right thing

  10. paulistapark –

    I can’t see that arguement, if we don’t go up this season there will be no cutbacks to administer. We haven’t overspent. In addition gates are up and we’ve had two FA cup ties away to City and Arsenal worth £1million each? What’s more the Championship FFP rules are more relaxed next season.

    In order for Karanka to progress his career he needs Boro to be promoted, if we dont do it this year he’ll be here for at least one more year.

  11. Villa fans want Karanka? Why would any manager of a top six Championship club want to move to a bottom six Premiership club at this stage of the season?

  12. We’ve barely been top of the league for 48 hours and the talk seems to be moving onto the Karexit strategy – is this a manifestation of the chicken runners philosophy? i.e. things are going well at moment but surely it won’t last.

    I don’t see much mileage in Karanka’s career path with a move to Athletico Bilbao in the near future as they’re just an average La Liga team who won’t realistically challenge for European spots – so I wouldn’t see that as a stepping stone to Real Madrid who normally appoint big names with a proven Champions League record.

    If Boro get promoted and can carefully upgrade their squad then they could easily emulate teams like Southampton in the over-hyped PL where splashing cash has left many a team less than a sum of their expensive parts.

    Building on his solid Boro model with the ultimate supportive chairman gives him the best chance of catching the eye of a genuine Champions League team – he’s still in his apprenticeship as a manager and fairly young so should be in no rush to try a new league just yet.

    He may even be touted as the next Man Utd boss in a couple of years if they get bored of watching Jose finish way ahead of them.

  13. Honour ? Integrity? They have nothing to do with how long Karanka will stay here. As AV has stated on numerous occasions the guy is absolutely ruthless and driven. He will stay with Boro as long as it suits his career plan and no longer.

    If it a better option comes up in the summer, he will want to go. That’s the reality of modern football and I’m fine with it. The key is to run the club so you’ve got a long term plan that can survive the disruption of a sudden managerial departure. AV keeps telling us we have so we should have no worries when Karanka jumps ship.

  14. I really cannot see Karanka leaving a club like Boro for the next three or four years. Why? Where would he find a better club and a better chairman. He is not stupid enough to go soon.

    It’s totally different where he will be in ten years’ time. How old is he? He is 41 now and still has over 20 to 25 years left in management. He will manage a top club one year – but that is 10 years away from now. He will leave only after winning an award with Boro.

    In Karanka we trust. Up the Boro!

  15. There is no such thing now as manager. There is a head coach and his staff whose job it is to look after the playing side of things.
    I think Agnew has been promised the job,if Karanka moves on,easier transition than a whole new philosophy

  16. Paulista –

    People do have integrity, I believe Aitor has integrity, just as Mogga, Gate and Strachan had integrity.

    I am sure he and Gibbo will have discussed the future.

    The problem is how you define integrity, all I ask is that they do what they say they will do. If something comes up that Gibbo sanctions fair enough, I just don’t think he is actively seeking a move.

    I don’t have a problem with people progressing.

  17. Ian’s right regarding the issue of integrity. Karanka moving in the summer because Real Madrid want him would be very different to a previous manager who may have put his name out to ‘big’ Northern teams who were perceived as a better bet, such as Leeds!! LOL.

    To my mind Karanka staying with Boro for another two or three years after this one makes sense to both club and manager, providing of course we continue to progress.

    Diverting slightly someone wrote recently, not sure where it was, that they saw the upcoming big games in March not as a threat but as an opportunity to inflict damage on the opposition.

    I agree totally, bring it on.

  18. Thought for today.

    Villa are in a mess because they couldnt score goals.

    Lambert sent a proven goalscorer, Bent, in to internal exile.

    Lambert loaned Bent to Derby.

    Bent scores goals at Derby.

    Villa in even bigger mess because they still cant score goals.

    Lambert sacked because Villa are in a relegation place.

    “Me going back to Aston Villa is out of my hands,” added Bent. “I am a Derby County player at the moment and I am enjoying my time here.”

    Anyone think of a suitable line to conclude the above?

  19. I’m not suggesting that AK’s departure is imminent, I for one would be more than happy for him to stay for the foreseeable future, however you don’t have to be Mystic Meg to know that inevitably he will move on.

    As I have said befor Steve Agnew must have been offered some very encouraging prospects by the Chairman to come to the club. Likewise, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jonathan Woodgate become part of the coaching team befor too long.

    It all seems part of a structure that has been well mapped out and I think Neil Bausor must take a lot of the credit. Dare I say it the previous Chief Executive may have been a bit of a dinosaur.

    Hopefully as a club we have learnt the lessons of having no replacement ready when McClaren departed, the unseemly rush to appoint Gareth Southgate, despite a lack of qualifications resulted in our “wilderness” years. Southgate may well go on to being a successful manager and his time at The Riverside will stand him in good stead. He did an exceptional job in keeping us in the Premiership, but ultimately he paid the price for our unpreparedness for relegation.

    With the correct structure in place, which is becoming all too evident, I see nothing but success for The Boro, and a return to the top division and a new golden age for us. EG, a la Southampton and Swansea as opposed to being a Yo Yo club.

  20. I don’t think that AK’s Boro future is in any doubt. He is a very methodical thinker and planner. I’m now realising that he is actually plotting how Boro will win the Cup rather than just compete in it. He is also fully focussed on how he will win the Championship. That is the measure of the bloke, I doubt he has a negative bone or thought in his body.

    His managerial career is presently ahead of schedule, he will be only too aware of that and also knows that he will make errors of judgement from time to time (as he did just the early days of this Season) and there are much tougher tasks ahead that he needs to test himself against. Liverpool, Man City and now Arsenal allow him to do just that but his ideal will be to compete every week against them and outsmart, outmanoeuvre and outwit them consistently. To do that with Boro is the ideal platform.

    As our first foreign coach he has had to build trust and now has the support of the club in its entirety fully behind him, Chairman, Directors, Coaches, Players and Fans. It was just a very short time ago that the doubters were still giving negative or mixed reviews (I remember myself being a tad perplexed as he set an unwanted record goalless run this time last year lest I/we forget).

    Promotion with Boro and a successful season in the Premiership where he can once more build a team in his own image but at a higher level on a much grander scale with full support and belief of the club is a perfect development stage for any manager. I believe in time he will prove to be better than Mourinho (I suspect that Jose’ himself may even support that theory). My reasoning is that he seems to have the ability to plan and organise a squad of players and opponents in much the same way as his former mentor but seems to have a calmer and more down to earth personality which I believe will take him further.

    When AK does depart it won’t be to a half baked Prem outfit clinging to a 1950’s retro Big Club mentality. Real Madrid via Chelsea, Man Utd or Arsenal will be his progress, worse case Liverpool (oh the frustrating irony) but I suspect when he does go he will depart the Riverside with a glinting Trophy Cabinet.

  21. The words of Blackpool’s taciturn manager, \lee Clarke

    “If we tried to relay the pitch now it wouldn’t set in time.

    Of course he is right. You would end up with divots, poor footing and injuries. Doh!

  22. I pretty much agree with Redcar Red’s assessment on AK.

    What is interesting is that we’re all taking plotting what he does whenever he leaves, rather than what Boro do.

  23. Andy R

    It will be what it will be but our success and Aitor’s are not mutually exclusive even if he doesnt come from Saltburn.

  24. Let’s enjoy the ride with Aitor….I hope it has more ups than downs though.

    And after tomorrow’s work we can turn our thoughts to the game on Sunday. I will be watching it from the “Murdered Crow”, where I know there will be a roaring open fire and a very enthusiastic Boro support. There is a tame Arsenal fan in the pub and I suspect he may be in to watch, though he is a season ticket holder at the Emirates. Eye-watering amounts for his ticket – I think about £1100 a year. I have a feeling he can’t get there on Sunday for some reason, but we will ensure he doesn’t feel lonely.

    I am sure, one way or another, we will all find an excuse to support the brewers in their toil.

  25. The psyche of the “typical ” Boro supporter is surely a one off. Here we are top of the Championship, odds on to at the very least make the play offs, an inexperienced Manager in only his second season in the English League who is proving he is definitely our chosen one.

    And this blog spirals downwards into when will he leave, we don’t deserve him, best offer to come and he’ll be off, what will we do, who will take his place, was Steve Agnew offered a sweetner to come here from where!! Oh yes Hull who are really setting the Premiership on fire…..

    Give me a break, go and have a pint, make some tea, drink some exotic wine and get the heads back on straight.

    Of course sooner or later he’ll (possibly) move on. Doesn’t everyone these days after all in any line of work money talks.

    When! who cares, Carp Diem and all that, enjoy this moment. Let’s face it we as fans deserve it right now, we have served our time as the if only’s…..

    Let’s just live for the moment and enjoy his and his teams success which is bringing sunshine into all our lives right now.

    And so to Sunday, the Gunners await. I’ve said it before the result is not important to me just let’s give a good account of ourselves. I don’t expect many Arsenal reserves to be playing out of respect to Boro plus this is their only chance of a Cup this season while we also have the Championship title to aim for

    **AV writes: It is in the Boro DNA to look ahead to where the wheels will come off.

  26. Ron –

    I agree, football moves on, we have a good manager who even got a page to himself in the Daily Telegraph, if and when he leaves we will still be Boro fans.

    Sunday, same wishes as for Citeh, good performance, no cards, no injuries and no replays. I will only relent on one if needs must, at a push I will take a replay.

  27. **AV writes: It is in the Boro DNA to look ahead to where the wheels will come off.

    That’s exactly right AV, and that is why it is so important to get the club right from top to bottom.

    Who remembers this quote? “We didn’t see it coming”

    We have a chance here to cement the clubs future and it can’t be left to chance. The new PL television deal is mind boggling and we want/need to get a piece of it. That means a prolonged stay at the top level. To do that we need a business plan and thankfully we are seeing signs that the club is finally putting everything in place to achieve that.

    Southampton knew Pochettino would move on, as would a lot of their star players. They saw that coming and had everything in place to compensate for it.

    Us old timers are not looking on the black side, we have seen plenty of that, we are just aware of what needs to be done to ensure a bright future.

    Everton, Tottenham, Aston Villa all regulars at the top level, are they any bigger than us? I don’t think so, why shouldn’t we be there for many years to come?

    1. GHW:

      Correct. Promotion is a must, the top priority, and we have to play our strongest team for league games. I think we should be following the Eddie Howe example and playing our shadow squad in the Cup. Bournemouth did that against Villa, lost with honour, gave their fringe players a run out, and can now give their fullest attention to the league. They are a big danger to our promotion hopes, are playing well, and show little sign of falling away.

      I’m an optimist. We have a strong squad, an excellent coach, a great chairman, and we should get promoted and have reasonable prospects of developing further next year.

      But we should not commit the cardinal sin in any sport of getting ahead of ourselves. Amidst all the talk of a cupboard full of trophies, competing in Europe, AK being better than Mourinho etc etc, we need to remind ourselves that we have won nowt yet. And the level of performance we produced in our most recent away games against Brentford and Blackpool will have to improve dramatically if we are not to drop vital points at Bournemouth, Derby, Watford, and Norwich, to say nothing of the likes of Birmingham, Sheff. W., Forest and Fulham.

      Brilliant as we were against City, and however well we do against Arsenal (and I think we will acquit ourselves well), I am less confident than I should be that we will defeat Birmingham, or even turn out a full-strength squad against them next Wednesday. It could be disastrous if we allow Cup-ties to distract us from the main event.

      Of one thing we can be certain: Bournemouth will be turning out their best side, and lacking nothing in intensity, focus and concentration for all of their remaining fixtures. We have to match them every inch of the way.

  28. GHW,

    Sorry pal, but you’ve been in the shed for too long pal, all you can see are the baubles of the new EPL deal dangled in front of your eyes, you’ve got your feet well and truly planted in the trough. I am, as a long standing Boro lad, enjoying this season and the to’s and fro’s, if we get notoriety, great, if not, what a bloody ride! AK is here and in his job for as long as he wants to be, same as myself, really, unless I get a “Lambert”.

    Ron, great post, and it’s about time that we as a group grew a pair and dropped our vocal chords, we recently as a group portray a very sorry group and a sad support to our manager!

    I sincerely hipe that for the last few days he’s been too busy to drop in, he must really wonder what the hall makes us lot tick!

    1. Ahh! The dark days of the Shed. This is the thing PPP, that is exactly why I want us to capitalise on this opportunity.

      I don’t want the occasional seat at the top table getting scraps. I don’t want to be standing with my cap compressed in my hand touching my forelock. The Chairman can’t keep bailing us out. What happens when he no longer bankrolls the club. It’s the long term future I am concerned about. You may well be enjoying this season and the attitude that we should, enjoy it while we can, is the reason why it doesn’t come along that often. whats wrong with being in the “trough” we would be in good company.

      I sometimes think that there is a tendency to wear the areas history and deprivation as some kind of badge of honour. The same as the “small” club up against the big boys.

      The days of past glories and history determining who is or isn’t a top club are long gone. The ones with the best business plans, academy’s and scouting networks will be the successful teams.

      When you have sound foundations the rest follows.

  29. GHW

    I tried pasting the link when I mentioned the article but it didn’t work.

    What may be worth a listen is Adrian Durham tonight when he does his Daily Arsenal. I don’t listen to Talksport much but sat waiting for Mrs G I always have a chuckle.

  30. GHW –

    I suspect we will get a bit on Sunday Supplement as well because Matt Lawton is often on and he did the background bit on Tomlin, Flying Pig 2, in the Mail.

    Pre season and early doors, (marks for use of cliché), I opined the view that Tomlin could be like Foggon, the man who did something different, the spark.

    It is only the stirrings but he does seem to be getting his act together and shedding his bad boy image along with surplus bulk. Lets hope it continues.

    Just thought, AV will start censoring if we keep mentioning such rags as the Mail and Torygraph. Cant anyone find something in the Grauniad or Socialist non Worker?

  31. Ian,

    These pseudo- events in the media are Instruments of Mass Distraction and we should treat them as such. Our 15 minutes of fame this week-end is trivial compared to what will be the major, but media-neglected, event of the Birmingham game.

    1. PS You won’t find much in the nationals which has not been covered with far more insight and much more knowledgeably by AV. Or indeed by contributors to this blog, including your good self.

  32. Len –

    I know where you are coming from but the articles about Tomlin and Aitor plus the blog from the Charlton fan are exceptions to the ill informed normal cut and paste we are normally subjected to (along with other clubs I may add).

    They are certainly better than putting up Boro highlights from other clubs on the Gazette site. It is better than twitter and Facebook.

    If pieces are well written and don’t start with ‘looking out over smoke and chimneys under leaden skies’ in the middle of a heat wave then they should be welcomed. especially when they show the club and area in a good light.

    Will we make 200?

  33. Len

    Just to make fools of both of us there goes the gazette cutting and pasting from The Mail article about Tomlin.

    Guffaw, guffaw!!!!! Every time I post some fool types.

  34. Ron in the Delta – –

    spot on indeed. Always remember Brian the Great being asked how he coped with the highs and lows of life as a manager…..”enjoy the highs” was his response “…because if you can’t enjoy the ups, how the hell will you survive the downs!” (Or near enough). That old Yorkshire phrase “hope for the best, expect the worst, and take what comes” springs ever so to mind……and in my mind part of the unsaid bit is ‘prepare for what you can, and deal with what you can’t’.

    The worst part of being a Boro lad is this desire to talk ourselves down when we might dare to dream, and get increasingly speculative about stuff we can’t possibly know. Interesting that it’s mainly those of us ‘in exile’ who tend to point out this trait, usually and predictably to be ‘shushed’ by the local lads because ‘we like being miserable’ ?? I jest of course, we don’t dare to dream because (effing Wembley 97 being one among many) we’ve been slapped before. I feel it’s different this time. I don’t care about Sunday provided we play well on the day and don’t get a replay……I really don’t. The big match is next week, bring it on!

  35. I’m looking forward to the Arsenal game and I’m somewhat glad that Karanka is taking it seriously – and why shouldn’t he? He strikes me as the kind of guy who doesn’t have it in his blood to not take every game seriously.

    Once you prepare a damage limitation game plan it is surely a recipe for disaster as it would feed down to the players that he doesn’t expect them to win and it would become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Far better to challenge his players with a game plan to win the game and instill yet more self-belief into them – If the manager is giving the impression the team can win the game then you are generally halfway there.

    So forget about only concentrating on the league – the mantra has always been concentrate on the next game with 100 percent expected by all. That’s why AK has turned the club around in such a short time as the players know that only their best is good enough.

    I think it’s no coincidence that our best run has coincided with our cup run – the players are not hiding behind the ready-made excuse of we are not expected to win – so long may the cup run continue!

    1. Werdermouth:

      Don’t disagree with any of that. Yes, let’s try and win every game. But if we are rotating, I’d rather we put out our best teams for the league games and make 7 changes for the cup, rather than the other way around.

      We are having a good run at the moment in terms of results. On my own predictor I fancied us to win 7 and draw 3 for the exmil challenge. But that prediction had little to do with our cup run and everything to do with what looked like a comparatively easy run of fixtures over these 10 games.

      So some good results. But few would disagree with Leadbitter’s comment that we were poor at Brentford. And against Blackpool there was little to separate us on the pitch from a team of spare parts and misfits who are certainties for relegation, and seemingly on the slide to oblivion.

      Our league form on the road at the moment leaves no room for complacency. It’s a decided risk to rest key players so that they can be fresh and ready to go for the cup-ties. I hope it will be resisted.

  36. Our Ref for Sunday is Michael Dean who appears to be a bit of a bogeyman for Arsenal (they have lost their last three cup games with him in charge), and all of them to lower league sides. The 2011 League Cup final against Birmingham, the League Cup fifth round against Bradford and the FA Cup fifth round against Blackburn both in 2013. Apparently he rarely gives out cards so they are concerned we may rough them up a bit with him letting us get away with all sorts.

    Maybe its just me but as the week wears on I get the distinct impression that Arsenal are not exactly relishing the prospect of facing Boro. I would go further and say that their nerves are starting to jangle and the myth of AK’s Boro is starting to grow horns, we are now apparently a better side than Leicester according to one of their Gooner blog sites. If the nationals continue their newly discovered love in with us the bookies will start making us favourites at this rate.

  37. Len

    I know what you mean but please go to the fridge and top up up your glass. I am doing the same and looking forward to my first trip to the Emirates sitting on my hands.

    JP has given me lessons in Wotcha and similar, peculiar North London speak.

    **AV writes: If you want to blend in at Arsenal just look and act like a tourist.

  38. RR:

    Good news if it’s Mike Dean. He’s a bit arrogant but the best ref in the country in my book. He was never phased by Fergie, and was one of the few prepared to stand up to his attempted bullying. He’s less likely than most to favour Arsenal, just because they are Arsenal.

    He’s not afraid to give pens, so we need to be precise with the tackles, and keep our arms out of the way. He might well have given a pen against Ayala in the City game.

    He’ll probably have a stinker.

  39. AV

    I had mrs G sewing sequins on my shirt and I was practising walking with cockney arthritis, elbows akimbo etc.

    Maybe it is better not to respond to the chants as the home stand red army. Or how about not seeing anything or chanting Wenger out whatever the score?

    **AV writes: At any given match 10% of the crowd is made up of Japanese, German, US, Russian tourists and out-of-town Gooners with all manner of accents. Just throw a camera round you neck and take pictures of everything and the home fans will regard you as a day-tripper or one of their own plastics.

  40. What a sad pair

    I dont who is dafter. Me for posing a daft question or you for answering it at this time on a Friday. What I can guess is that Mrs G&V would exchanges glances bordering on pity.

    We could plead history after so many years.

    **AV writes: Strict rules in this house: Friday Night Is Music Night… I retreat to the other room with headphones, lappy, bottle of red and all manner of musical digression. So far tonight I’ve listened to French/German art/noir electro poppers Stereo Total, a bit of hipster flavour of the month Royal Blood, a dip into John Coltrane and now I’m all over Beethoven. That’s not sad, that is essential recharging of cultural batteries.

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