Cherry Bombed: Bum Note Boro Implode

I WAS going to write tonight but I’m knackered, I’ve got a cold and I’ve just spent six hours in a car, much of it listening to overgrown infant Matt Dawson screeching like a buffoon about egg-chasing in full Question of Sport “banter”  mode. Then I got home and opened twitter to find a swathe of kneejerk comments from combustible fans who clearly believe that you are only as good as your last game and the world is ending.

It seems  that the previous games in the Week of Destiny, the points tally and the position going into the last seven games count for nothing and that the spirited sweat soaked team who were heroes of Tuesday are now suddenly a feckless, spineless bunch of talentless wasters who chose deliberately to lose because they “didn’t fancy it.”

There are always two teams on the pitch. Some days you are the best one. Some days you are the worst. Sometimes it is a  finely balanced battled between two. Sometimes there is a gulf  and the battle for success is finding systems, shapes, mentalities and players that ensure you are on the right side of that divided often enough to win.

You don’t have to win every game to succeed,  just more than you lose.  A fortnight ago Bournemouth looked out of it. They had “gone”. But now they are back above Boro. That is a boost for them and a set-back for us but neither position is fixed yet. Both coaches know that. Both sets of players know that. Most fans should know that too.

That is the nature of any competitive team game. In a division like this there are wild fluctuations between those states and even the teams at the top suffer from that inconsistency. Two steps forward, one step back.  It is the nature of the beast. Everyone sagely nods and accepts that you can’t win every game – until it actually happens and suddenly all hell breaks loose and people unload their angst and pronounce the team a busted flush.

On balance, Boro have had a good week that ended on a bum note.  They have taken six points from three games (that magic two points a game ratio) in very tough fixtures, they have badly dented two of their automatic promotion rivals and been boosted as others have squandered points….  but they then been given a good thrashing by a good Bournemouth side whose boss after the game said it was their best display of the season.


                            Heads down: Dejected Leads and Reachy trudge off  

Yes, Boro were poor. They were sluggish, shapeless and lacked zest and never got to grips with the pace and movement of the the Cherries. They were given the run around by a team that played crisp, high tempo passing football of the sort Boro have aspired to (and often achieved) this term.  They were repeatedly carved open and were forced into conceding an early spot-kick (and conned into giving away a second) by the trickery and movement around the box. So, no excuses. Boro were beaten by a better side

Aitor Karanka was quick to admit it was a substandard, error strewn show. And it was a painful set back, as much because of the damp squib of missed opportunity (they kicked off top and could have opened a five point gap over the Cherries) after a week of raised hopes and emotions. It hurt. It was a bitter disappointment. It was a football lesson.

But  nothing has been decided today. Boro haven’t become a poor side any more than Bournemouth did when they lost a few a fortnight ago.  Boro lost but remain well placed going into the last seven and what felt like a major blow on the whistle was mitigated within hour as Watford, top for the first time,  cracked under the pressure and lost. Brentford could only draw with Millwall. And last night Derby lost at Wolves.  One point off the top, seven games to go: there is everything to play for.

The next round of matches includes Ipswich v Bournemouth and Derby v Watford  on Good Friday while Boro take on Wigan – before going to Watford on the Monday.  Who can predict what the outcome of that batch will be?  There’s along way to go yet. Keep the faith.

Anyway, I’m not going to write tonight.  Lemsip.  Whiskey.  Bed


WEEK of Destiny: Act III:

At the start of this Titanic trio of top of the table tussles I had budgeted for five points: A win over Ipswich and draws at  Derby and Bournemouth. We are ahead of schedule on that projected tally so this game represents a free hit, the chance of a bonus that could leave us two or even four ahead of what I had pencilled in… and for this one thing I am happy.

So far in the Week of Destiny Boro have holed Ipswich below the waterline and badly dented Steve McClaren’s fast fading Derby and opened up commanding gaps over both. Dare we dream of a third successive game changing victory? Why the hell not.

Bournemouth will be tough. They are a good side who play attacking passing football at pace and score a lot of goals. But they have wobbled of late and leaked a lot. And the pressure is on them not to lose. God they can’t afford to lose.  That has got to present resurgent Boro with hope and opportunity. A win would open a five point gap with seven to go and leave the Cherries needing to win two more games that us.  A draw will leave the status quo with them still two points behind with time running out. If Boro lose – I am legally obliged to admit it as a possibility  – then the top tightens once.

As with every game for about three months, this is MASSIVE, a high stakes showdown and possibly a pivotal point of a pulsating season.   And I’d be more than happy with a draw.  It will be hard work. It will be tense. It will require organisation, industry , hunger, concentration, bottle and maybe a bit of luck. Boro will need to be at their best.  There is not question they are up for it and focused and know what the prize is.

I’m going for a 1-1 draw. And I’d be happy as Larry driving home with that. What say you? Usual drill: get your pundit’s scruffy jeans and maroon jumper on and predict the score and how the game will pan out and we can and stare in awe at your prescience. Then be the first on your block to put up your post-match reports and impression. I’ll do my bit as soon as possible. Probably about 10pm. Unless we stop off at the Whaler. And possibly a pub to celebrate.





173 thoughts on “Cherry Bombed: Bum Note Boro Implode

  1. Personally, I know chuff all about him so cant comment but first off the mark with comments that may appear in posts about the loan deal

    1 Spanish
    2 Centre half who cant get in to a relegation threatened team.
    3 Does he know Mendes?

    There’s a few to be going on with, lets see what turns up.


    1. Ian –

      Indubitably you are correct in your 3 points.

      In defence (although I know your points were purely rhetorical) being Spanish means a zero communication barrier with AK plus having been in the UK with Fulham for over a year he probably has a decent level of “Footballing English” as a minimum (if not fluent) so “push out”, “Keeper” etc. shouldn’t be a hardship. Ultimately being from the Basque region I’m pretty sure AK knows exactly what he is getting and more importantly what he can do with him.

      The Relegation threatened team is also the Team that broke the bank for our much coveted and now much maligned Mr McCormack for what good its done him and them. I doubt Ross has suddenly become a terrible Striker but clearly he has joined a Club in free-fall and relative disarray. Perhaps the fact that Amorebieta hasn’t been playing that much in such an awful defence means that we shouldn’t tar him with the same brush. I also think he has been played out of position in his few appearances at LB (but could be wrong). Indeed our very own Ayala was deemed surplus by the Canaries and is probably now the best CB in the Championship. Lest we forget George Friend arrived from a relegated side and has done OK for us and again arguably the best LB in the division.

      No idea if he knows Mendes, wouldn’t be surprised but giving the locality of the bulk of his footballing career in Bilbao my guess is that AK knows him firstly and foremost. My hunch is that AK is the one that put his name forward after Saturday. I think AK knows what he wants from his footballers in each position and what attributes they have to have to be effective in in carrying out his instructions. Those attributes are probably 90% of the criteria for bringing a player in, the rest is organisational and ability to follow AK’s meticulous instruction and game plans.

      AK knew that he needed an experienced CB and one that he could get going with immediately with no time left to acclimatise and get to know strengths and weaknesses. Invariably that means a player he was familiar and happy with, how many other 6ft 4″ Basque CB’s are available with experience of the English game and available?

      I suspect that this could be a Season defining signing up there with the best of them, the one that got us over the line!

  2. Pedro –

    I think the thoughts are that Husband isn’t quite ready to fill George’s boots yet and his spell at Fulham gives him a chance to get some game time under his belt and for AK and the Coaches to assess him.

    If George does get crocked it presents a problem but we could go to three at the back or press an emergency LB (like Mr Utility, Dean Whitehead) with instructions to keep it tight and don’t roam forward. Reach has played there before and would be competent to do a job and perhaps it may even be a better fit for him.

    **AV writes: Both Kalas and Amorebieta have played left-back in senior games. The new boy played there for Fulham against us this season. Wouldn’t be a first choice but just pointing out that can.

    1. AV –

      At this stage I don’t think it would be fair to Kalas to play LB unless really desperate. I’m not so sure that its Amorebieta’s best position either unless as part of a back three. Ultimately AK will have his own thoughts but personally I would prefer Reach. Whoever would have to fill in would struggle by comparison to meet Friend’s standards regardless but Reach is most likely to cause the least disruption even though I hate making two changes to fix one problem..

  3. I think we should not lose at Watford. Then a four wins will do.

    A draw at Norwich will help, too. But that can be the defeat.

    Looks like Karana has read this blog. We have now signed a experienced CB from Fulham as RR had heard of already earlier.

    Now we should go unbeaten for the rest of the season, like.


  4. AV – What’s the story with Ayala, is his injury worse than the club has reported or is the man from Fulham just an insurance policy?

    As for Ken, what is going on there, he was a colossus last season?

    **AV writes: Yes, Ken seems to have lost his way.

  5. You have to laugh, there are actually some on this blog who just might think AK may read it looking for advice!

    Think this addition to the central defence is just the ticket, 6′ 4″ tall and likes to get stuck in, my kind of defender and what we miss with Ayala injured and Woody needing longer to recuperate from games, too bad Ken has lost his way…

  6. With just seven games to go, I would think that one of the most prominent criterions for a new signing would be, “how quickly can he slot in?”.

    With a year at Fulham and at 29 years of age, Amorebieta should have both the footballing and life experience to make a speedy adaptation. That he is of the same Basque heritage as our manager is a further bonus. As is the fact that he’s an Ayala-esque 6″4′.

    How good he is, I don’t know. How well he will do, no one knows. But he ticks enough of the right boxes for me. More satisfyingly shrewd, and stealthy, work from the club on recruitment.

    I hope the Venky’s come back affirmative next.

  7. RR

    I think Aitor will have done his homework on our new addition and there are two weeks to bed him in. Hopefully it will be at the Riverside with instructions along the line of ‘ball, row z, launch’

    As Andy R says, shrewd and stealthy.

    We will see, the purgatory of an international break to get through first.

  8. Perhaps Amorebieta has been signed more for his presence at corners rather than his defending – especially given that Leadbitter seems to have forgotten we pose no aerial threat without Ayala and reverted back to lobbing them to the edge of the six-yard box against Bournemouth.

  9. Utter crap at the weekend, but in the end it could have been worse.

    The bottom line is this – win against Wigan and we go top of the league again. The onus will then be on Bournemouth and Watford to dethrone us. This league is absolutely mental, it’s going to be twist upon turn between now and May. You would be tempted to have a punt on Ipswich vs. Bournemouth and Derby vs. Watford ending all square, so what odds we do end up top of the league come Good Friday?

    Infact, with a bit of time off you’d be hoping that Schteve could kick the Hornet’s nest, and that the Tractor Boys can enjoy a fine cherry harvest, which might even put us clear of the pack! (That’s on the assumption that we turn over Wigan – which, given Boro, is not a guarantee).

    I’m keeping the teeth gnashing and wailing buttoned up until Easter Monday. One thing is for sure though – I can’t be doing with these humiliating reverses in the early kick-offs, it leaves me in a foul mood for much more of the day. Please let’s try not to get turned over at Watford, I don’t think I can bear another full afternoon of full on sulking.

  10. Brief comment before I enter Purdha. No, it’s not because of the impending General Election, but because the BT router at my home has gone Kaput, so no access to internet at home.

    I am too busy at work to spend time putting much stuff on the Blog from my office desk and sending Blog pieces by my steam-driven BlackBerry is too time consuming and annoying to make it a viable propositiion. It will be about 2 April before access is restored ande a new souper-duper router is organised..

    I have a son who seems to spend half his life asleep and the other half needing access to the web in order to feed his online obsession with killing aliens from another universe, conversing with mates and powering his smart TVs (both rather larger than the one in our living room) and their various applications. It will be annoying for me. For him, it will be like having an amputation. Could be interesting viewing.

    I doubt we’ll see Kalas at CB in the near future. There will have been quite a lot of video watching of the Bournemouth game today – AK spends more time on the opposition and Aggers spends more time analysing our own players’ efforts. Not the best viewing this week. But the team is still confident of promotion automatically (though hopefully not over-confident). That was the proverbial bad day at the office. It will be put right.

    1. Forever Dormo –

      “I have a son who seems to spend half his life asleep and the other half needing access to the web in order to feed his online obsession with killing aliens from another universe, conversing with mates and powering his smart TVs (both rather larger than the one in our living room) and their various applications. It will be annoying for me. For him, it will be like having an amputation. Could be interesting viewing”

      I think we must live in a parallel universe, you have just described my two sons to a Tee!

  11. smoggy in exile –

    Lunchtime kick offs certainly impact upon relationships, my wife accused me of being distracted, so much so she spent some money without me frowning. Bugger, every Boro match should come with a government wealth warning.

    Looks like the Rhodes closed so that will be a bit of a diversion. The longer we were parked in the traffic jam with no movement the less likely we were going to get him in.

    Back to the debate I started about Tomlin and Bamford. We need Kike/Vossen paired with Bamford and that probably means Reach gets the hook.

    Only another 11 days to go.

  12. Is Amorebieta perhaps being considered as a long term addition? Woodgate can’t have many games in him for next season whichever league we will be in and we will need to have someone to partner Gibson or Ayala whenever one or the other is unavailable.

    1. Powmill –

      I think that is probably up to Amorebieta himself, impress and AK will be keen to keep him I would think especially as he joined Fulham to play in the Prem originally.

      Arsenal and Everton were both sniffing around him at the same time as Fulham and that was only just over a year or so ago.

  13. I agree with Smoggy in Exile, that was a early AM kick off for me and I put in an epic sulk of a day and I had to contend with my in-law for most of the afternoon. The causal reader will not appreciate what a big ask that was and so I need that Watford win. So Friday then, the Wigan match is I believe our biggest match of the season another must win, they are getting bigger by the week and I am a bit more edgy by the week. UTB !!!

  14. So do we think that Omerou has no future at Boro past this season? That is hard to believe, surely whatever his problem is will be resolved? At the start of this season I thought he was the best footballer at the club.

  15. Ken will do well to come back from here. In fact, if you look at the evolution of our centre-back pairing (and indeed the back four) this season it has been quite incredible.

    v Reading on 30 August 2014

    40 Mejias Osorio
    02 Abella Perez
    15 Hines
    22 Omeruo
    03 Friend

    and on the bench:

    04 Ayala
    06 Gibson
    13 Konstantopoulos

    Ken has gone from first choice, to what, 6th? Maybe even 7th if Seb returned.

    **AV Writes: My column tomorrow number-crunches all the results with all the centre-back pairings with some very interesting nuggets thrown up. Ben & Ayala undisputably the best pairing but Ben & Ken seems to work too – although not Ken and Ayala.

  16. AV –

    It could get pretty complicated. Does it change if we are at home or playing away and does it vary with the kind of team that we are playing and the style of play and front men that they are facing.

    Also, has Ken lost the confidence to play well when the stakes are high. Maybe experience comes into it at this stage of the season and Ben, Ken and Kalas are all very young.

    **AV writes: I don’t have the time, resources or data capabilities to factor in all those variables (although I mention them.)

  17. Ben and his drop off in form, who knows why but just maybe the bright lights of Teesside have done him in, whatever the reason AK has not dawdled after Saturday’s defensive disaster and has recruited reinforcements. Would think Nsue has been schooled in the art of backing up the CB also

    Thing is believe it or not Boro are seen as the team to beat and Saturday was Bournemouths Cup Final, unfortunately they faced Boro after a tough week. This break is perfect given the two games a week schedule , i said earlier every game from now is a Cup Final and I am totally confident Boro will bounce right back , and who can fear Watford now after Ipswich did them in.

    Roll on Good Friday

    **AV writes: I think Ben’s slip in form is due to:

    1) the absence of Ayala – the stats show that pairing together are Boro’s best and they seem to compliment each other well
    2) the rest of the team is not functioning as it was, so the defence from the front is not as tenacious and complete as it was.

  18. My exmil prediction for the final round shows Boro Brentford and Norwich getting 3 points, Brentford getting the Quantum 2 points and rest 1 point a piece.

    So we will be top after the Wigan round.

    I’m keeping that happy feeling for the next week and a bit. . . .

  19. Allan –

    My Exmil has us looking rather good as well.

    If we win against Wigan that will put us top at teatime on Good Friday then Ipswich host Bournemouth and Derby host Watford.

    We have to remember that super Bournemouth are only one point ahead of us and that is because they have dropped points in the past, same goes for Ipswich, Watford and Derby, Norwich, Brentford, us.

    Ipswich looked good in the first half against us and won at Watford, their physicality may be more suitable for getting the better of Bournemouth or not.

    At some point Derby must be due a good result, maybe against Watford.

    All we can do is get our noses in front and see what happens. If someone goes unbeaten to season’s end and opens up a gap good luck to them because they will deserve to go up, I include us in that group of teams.

  20. Wigan, Rotherham and Fulham are all in a dog fight to survive and Brighton may well be pulled down into it by the time we play them. In order to help avoid “survival instincts” against Rotherham, Fulham and Brighton we need to stuff Wigan. It would mean only 6 games left and Wigan would still be 5 points (or if Rotherham get a point or more at Birmingham 6 or 8 points adrift).

    Conversely of course if they are all struggling to survive then they will need to go for a victory, play more open football and therefore easier to pick off. Its starting to get to me and trying hard not to over think the whole thing.

    Who on earth thought of an International break in the first place? Its just dragging the whole thing out but there again Woody’s broken toe might be OK with two weeks rest (and a cortisone injection or two) or perhaps Ayala’s thigh may have healed so maybe its a blessing in disguise?

    The games against Wolves, Norwich and Watford actually seem more straightforward now as we know that all three of them will be going for the win. If we keep a clean sheet in those games I think that would be a result in itself. Bournemouth having to go to Ipswich will be tough as the Tractor boys are back in it after their Watford win and McCarthy will have his charges fired up. Derby cannot keep imploding, the break might just be what they needed to take some pressure off, regroup and get some players back fit for the Hornets. If they get beat by the Rams Watford may be starting their “wobble” which seems obligatory in this division with every team that gets to top spot.

    I see Ledesma’s loan spell is up with Brighton, is it worth bringing him back north with some game time now under his belt in case we need reinforcements for the run in? Indeed should we not now be definitely hanging onto Muzzy now that we face a Rhodeblock? Or should we be looking to bring in another striker on loan as Norwich seem to be doing with Akpom from Arsenal? If so what strikers would be available and would they be worth considering or are we now a bit more confident with Bamford coming into a scoring streak?

  21. Redcar Red –

    I think it is easier to integrate a defender than a new attacker. Defenders can resort to safety first and somewhere close to row Z, attackers have to blend in to the movements and passing of fellow attackers and midfield player.

    Recent goals such as the ones set up by Vossen and Tomlin for Bamford are the result of understanding, Bamford got on his bike early expecting the passes to be made. Even the second against Ipswich was the result of anticipating the ball.

    Defenders priority is to clean sheets, our new centre back can make his debut and if keeps clearing everything will be recognised as a good piece of business. A new striker who doesn’t get on the end of anything or makes the wrong pass or run becomes a waste of money. seven games left makes it harder.

    Obviously, it isn’t that clear cut but it makes the point.

  22. Just checked ticket situation and noticed it costs £35 for a ticket for the Norwich match, clearly that must include a four course meal from Delia!!

    For a 7.45 kick off on a Friday night live on TV!

    Over five hours in the car? Goodness knows when the coaches need to set off!


    1. Think there will be a lot of sickies or half days on the Friday. Coaches would need to leave about mid day absolute latest and hope for no delays en route. The £35 obviously intended to deter the away support as much as possible. Its almost as if Sky blatantly look to see where the longest distances are in terms of miles and hours spent travelling are between sides and then pick those games deliberately.

  23. Ryan Mason in England squad,another top class outstanding player from the Capital, Why are they concerned about the world cup in some sand dunes? We probably won’t even qualify anyway.

    Unbelievable Jeff

  24. Interesting stats from the pairings, but stats can be made to say all sorts of things I guess.

    There have probably been more problems with the RB position, often that is where the weakness has been, especially since Fredericks injuries.

  25. The drive to Norwich will be a horror. If you are driving don’t take the A17 from the A1 at Newark towards Kings Lynn it is an awful road, unless you like following lorries. Continue to Peterborough. In fact they are all awful : A47, A14 and A11. It’s an hour to Norwich for me from West Norfolk, then you have to find your way into the city and park. Some good pubs though… Lack of investment in the area just like the North East. It’s probably quicker by sea.

    Amazingly it’ll be easier coming from the south but still not great. Still, Islington and Kensington etc., have to get to their weekend cottages on the North Norfolk coast.

    If the results pan out as we hope and pray the journey will be nothing.



  26. Redcar Red –

    It is £35 for the vast majority of seats in the stadium, the exceptions are £45!

    I believe the rule is you cant charge away fans more than home fans for similar seats unless there is one the limited number of promotions a club cam have for home games.

    The match against Derby was £40 but part of the ticket price went to charity.

  27. There is a report in “The Sun” this morning that MFC have gone back in for Jordan Rhodes, only this time instead of “we buy him if we get promoted” this time it is “we get him on loan now but we will buy him in the summer, no matter what”. Yes I know it is the “Sun”, that is why I am a bit skeptical about the quoted £12m price. Nevertheless it would make sense especially if we were going to go back for him in the summer anyway.

    Come on BORO.

  28. AV:

    Thanks for making available Paul Thompson’s fine and evocative pics of Ayresome Park. Great stuff.


    Reminds me of a classic exchange in Porridge:

    Lenny Godber: Do you want to look at the paper, Fletch?

    Fletch: Nah, pass me a copy of the Sun.

  29. Prices for Ipswich and Norwich are always higher than the rest of the league,can’t ever remember paying less than £33/£34 for Ipswich and that’s going back a few years. Maybe that’s due to location and no other top tier league clubs for miles,Nottingham and Leicester the closest and too far to travel to support another decent club?

    As for the Rhodes situation I’d leave well alone. £12m if we were in the Championship still? No chance and £12m if we are promoted? Think we would have more choice available to us if we were in the Premiership and the £12m could be invested better on someone with Premiership experience. Rhodes has banged in a few goals in the championship,but hasn’t featured much this season until recently,he has no premiership experience and would be an overpriced gamble!!

  30. Never Give Up –

    I tend to agree about the Rhodesblock. If they don’t want to tango on terms we thought reasonable then so be it.

    Oddly he would be worth more to us if we didn’t go up. From what I have seen he is like Bamford in that he operates better with someone around him. If we go up I guess we will almost certainly get Bamford either on loan or permanently.

    Unless of course Bamford is really struggling with his niggle and needs serious rest.

    The other alternative is that the Sun have just realised we were after him in the first place and are just late with the story.

    But, it could happen, never say never.

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