Boro Stung – But Can Still Buzz To Summit Success

RIGHT…. it looks like Boro are going to have to do this the hard way. So what’s new.

Boro were left badly bruised at Vicarage Road – again – as arch-Nemesis Troy Deeney struck an opener out of the blue just as Aitor Karanka’s side appeared to be getting a grip on the game then a second half sizzler killed off any hopes of a revival.

It was a deeply disappointing day as Boro once again surrendered the initiative and squandered a chance to seize control of a crazy Championship title race by wilting away from home.  But it is not terminal. Boro haven’t been knocked out of the league.

Nailed on striker Deeney – who has has scored in the last four meetings at Watford and has just become the first Hornet’s player ever to hit 20 goals in three successive seasons – stung a sluggish defence with a cracking opener out of the blue after a promising but fruitless and frustrating spell for Boro.

The newly reshaped back-line (loanees Dwight Tiendalli and Fernando Amorebieta and were given debuts to add oomph and experience against Watford’s big units up front) took a lot of stick in cyberspace for the opener but it was the statuesque midfield  that completely failed to close down a Guedioura cross and Jonathan Woodgate – who has been imperious in his recent outings – who misjudged the flight of the ball leaving Deeney to burst through unchallenged and slam home an angled exocet.


                       Serial Nemesis Troy Deeney gets his mandatory goal

And it wasn’t the reshaped defence who failed to provide punch up front.  Boro had a few fruitless spells of sustained possession 30 yards out and a couple of half chances but they couldn’t seriously hurt Watford.  Lee Tomlin, still struggling to match the height of January hype, drilled a hurried volley straight at keeper Gomes and Grant leadbitter brought a good full length save from a free-kick but  apart from that there was little threat in the first half while Watford’s more direct approach always looked more potent.

Boro were  just starting to show again and get a foothold after the break when they were undone by a self-inflicted wound for the second. Leadbitter was caught in possession on the flank and mugged by a swarm of Hornets and with the option of hoofing it out of play he chose instead to back-heel the ball aimlessly into space and former Boro target Ben Watson whipped it away, darted forward and squared quickly for Odion Ighalo to swivel round Woodgate and ram home a rocket.

Game over. Boro huffed and puffed after that and George beavered away and at times single-handedly tried to claw a way back but it wasn’t to be.  Boro didn’t have the fire-power or the guile to salvage the situation and the game fizzled out into flaccid flapping, compounded by a cheap, indisciplined and stupid stoppage time booking for Leadbitter that will cost him a two game suspension.  Incidentally Adam Clayton was very lucky to avoid an early  caution that would have meant he joined him.


                Stung: Smarting supremo Aitor Karanka dismayed at defeat

There were a couple of half chances after the break, Albert chested a Friend cross wide, George played a neat one-two with Kike but had his shot blocked by Hoban, Kike got behind the defence to bring a decent if routine save and a few other efforts flew well wide.

Over the game as a whole Boro lacked penetration up front with Patrick Bamford (in his favoured role up front) again isolated as Tomlin drifted too deep and the conservative wide men rarely got into forward positions and the team as a whole never looked like mustering the fire-power needed to beat a well drilled Watford.

So, once again Boro have scrambled to the summit and then slipped back. After Good Friday took them top they have slipped back to fourth –  but that has been the template for this term.  And not just for Boro. It seems every side that gets to the top of this crazy division of weekly coupon-busters crumbles, stumbles and falls away.

This has been a campaign marked out not by any team waltzing away with it but by the sometimes erratic progress of a slightly tipsy dad dancer.  Two steps forward, one step back. One step on your other foot, wobble, stumble and fall. Whoops.

Or in George Friend’s case, head-long plunge over the advertising hoardings and a heavy landing on the artificial turf. Crash. Bang. Wallop.

But like George, Boro can bounce straight back up and get straight back into action.  Losing at title rivals and getting knocked off the top at Watford was a stinging blow – but it wasn’t terminal, whatever the pre-emptive doom-and-gloomers say.

It is natural to be angry. Disappointed. Frustrated. To question the line-up, tactics, tempo, team and individuals. To look for scapegoats: Tomlin was a genius in January not he is taking flak.  It’s along way back empty-handed and embarrassed. Especially when the defeat has been shown live on television. But don’t let the passionate post-mortem  cloud any sense of perspective. The season is NOT over.  The last match may still smart but the important one now is the next one:  win that and we are right back in it.

The same anguished cries that Boro were out of it “and probably wouldn’t even make the play-offs now” went up after an equally disappointing result – and far worse performance – at Bournemouth before the break –  but bizarrely after the next round of games the side found themselves back on top. How did that happen?

It happened because, whatever the pain caused by defeat and whatever the frustrations at the flaws in the team, Boro remain firmly enmeshed in the four way (Five way? Six way?) scrum at the top against equally uncertain and inconsistent sides.  And that means despite the dismay in the aftermath of the Watford woe, we are still in with a shout.  Aitor remains upbeat about his side and proud of what they have already achieved this season. He believes they are still in with a shout.

Why not? Boro remain two points off a promotion place with five games to go. We’d all love to be 12 points clear in a Charltonesque procession but the reality is that this team – no team – has never been good enough  to grab the division by the throat.

But  Boro remain a good side. Especially at home.  They remain in the mix. And we have a five game sprint now that will be tense and tourniquet tight but still holds out the tangible possibility of glory. And it starts with two games at the Riverside.

What we know of this league is that there are twists and turns every week. Anyone who has ruled Boro out on the basis of Watford really hasn’t been paying attention. Four wins would probably see Boro promoted.   The big prize is still there.  Let’s have out gripes now, get it out of our system and come back fired up ready for Rotherham


Here’s what I said before the game. The maths have changed. The sentiment still stands.


A SIX POINT summit showdown with Watford. A televised top of the table tussle.  League leaders Boro against third placed Watford. Fantastic. This is exactly what we wanted.

I can’t be doing with all these faint-hearts and habitual nay-sayers who keep telling us that all the other sides are better than Boro. All the rest of our rivals score more, or play better football, or are mentally stronger and won’t wobble, or have easier fixtures. Or that Boro can’t defend, can’t score, have injuries mounting up and have been ‘found out’ by opposition coaches and at some point will implode.

Jeez. Look at the table:  BORO ARE TOP.   We have more points. All these other “better” team are below. That’s objective evidence.  All your fears are just that. Your fears. Don’t project them onto the team. And don’t let them spoil an historic  moment. Get behind Aitor’s Army and enjoy our first serious promotion push for almost 20 years.  This is what we wanted. Yes it is tense. Yes  there are nerves. Yes, the stakes are high and it could go wrong and kick us in the teeth but that is the nature of the beat.  Nothing ventured… This season so far has been FANTASTIC. And it could be about to get better.


                     ‘OWWWAY!  Let’s Fight every inch of the way through the last six games  

“But our form is rubbish.”  Boro have won three out of four.  Including major dents inflicted on Ipswich and Derby. Now we have  a chance to dent Watford too. A chance to open up a five point gaps that would mean they would have to win two more games than Boro in the remaining five fixtures. And as Boro kick off early a win would pile the pressure on the other to win or lose ground. This is a golden opportunity to seize control of the division.

Boro have every chance now to take up residence in the automatic places. Yes, Boro lost at Bournemouth and it was a woeful and morale-bruising display but it was one match and it came at the end of a strength sapping #fixturebomb of nine games in 29 days. That one game did not wipe out he good work of the season up to that point.  And it did not happen in isolation and while Teessiders only see their own team’s flaws and fragilities, they all have injuries, all the other sides are wobbling and cracking and stuttering too.

And it did not even drag Boro away from the summit. Watford, who kicked off later, failed to take advantage. The Hornets got to the top for the first time and got a nosebleed. That has been a feature of this season. Derby have got to the top and gone into a nosedive. Bournemouth have got to the top several times then slipped away. They made a habit of it. No of these teams are superhuman. Let’s not be scared by bogeymen of our own creation. Let’s not scare each other.  Boro have been in a four way share of the top. Then a three way split. Then two. And then there was one.  A win tomorrow would leave them clear.

Of course it *could* go wrong. Boro *might* slip back. But that wouldn’t be the end of the world.  There are plenty of of pre-emptive pessimists who “wouldn’t fancy Boro in the play-offs against any of this lot”.  WHY?  “Because Boro struggle against the top teams.” Look at the teams behind us that we *could* come up against. Derby? We beat them home and away.  Brentford. We beat them home and away. Ipswich, we  lost down there but battered them here and won on aggregate.  Watford?  So far honours are even.

But Boro have a golden chance to change that and seize control of their own destiny at Vicarage Road.  They have a chance to torpedo the Hornets too and take a massive step towards automatic promotion. Exciting isn’t it.  The season is coming to a climax and we are in  a great position.  Boro are top on merit.  And they are in good form.


We have the best defence in the division (Bournemouth aside Boro have leaked ONE goal in the last three), we have a well balanced squad, a system everyone understands, good players and great manager. All the ingredients are there. We are top of the table with six games to go.  Everything is in our own hands. It is a brilliant position to be in.

Yes, we have a couple of  very difficult away games against rivals –  and not losing at Watford and Norwich could be crucial – but  we also have three games and that could be even more significant. Boro have lost ONCE at the Riverside since August.  That form could be decisive.  And apart from Wolves our visitors have little to play for.  Three wins would give Boro 84 points. That will take Boro to the verge of promotion.  Just two or three points from the three games on the may be enough so don’t panic if we don’t win at Watford .

Other teams are scared of us.  Seriously.  Beyond Teesside Boro are seen as the real deal. Rival managers, fans and the national pundits all believe Boro are in pole position for one of the promotion spots. It is time for Boro fans to start to believe it too. Believe it and articulate it.  Get behind the team. This is the moment we have waited for since relegation,. It may be our best and only chance.  And fans have a role to play here. We can’t squander an epoch-defining moment by waiting cynically or sceptically to see how we are going into the Brighton game on the final  day.

There are six games left. Let’s enjoy every single minute of every one of them.



Right, usual drill: you can predict the score and how the game will pan out here now and then we’ll all gather later and laugh at your naivety or applaud your prescient punditry. Then be the first on your block to get your post-match reports/gripes up while I do my work and drive home and I’ll get my own impressions up ASAP.



263 thoughts on “Boro Stung – But Can Still Buzz To Summit Success

  1. Redcar Red –

    Naughty, very naughty. Are you suggesting the team should just lie down?

    Do not selectively choose the words from others posts, we were discussing the need to be more agressive, that isnt kicking the opposition, it is about being on the front foot, pressing the opposition, playing with tempo. There is niggle there, there has to be otherwise you will get bullied.

    I mentioned some top players who played for great teams who had some devil in them, no devil and we wont go up.

    One worry is the fact that for the first time I have gird my loins to listen to the post Watford interviews. Aitor sounded a bit like that we should be pleased where we are, true enough but he sounded almost resigned to the play offs.

  2. Ian –

    I think you have taken my comment too seriously, it was meant to be tongue in cheek.

    I agree we need to be more aggressive (cites Vossen’s recent collection of bloody shirts as testimony to what happens when we lack a Bremner or Chopper Harris) but I have no problem in calling it kicking for want of better PC terminology. We used to call it clogging in my younger days!

    We have a soft underbelly which is too reliant on Grant Legbiter. His recent displays aimed at avoiding cards has laid this bare.

    Bamford was accused of being too soft and has recently got “stuck in” and has started scoring more goals by coincidence.

    I’m the last person to suggest we just lie down.

  3. I’m am sick of hearing quotes from players,media,fans

    “In August we would have taken being two points of top with X amount of games to go”

    “We only expected the play offs let alone X number of points from top”

    And always after a defeat where we could have pushed on and we bottled it.

    It’s a kop out trying to dress up a defeat,so what if other teams are doing the same thing.

    After the opportunities we have had to cement a place in the top two I would say the play offs would be a disappointment not a celebration and so should Bournemouth and Derby having been in good positions themselves.

    Watford and Norwich made a late surge into the top six and can be satisfied with their end to the season.

  4. During the run of victories, we weren’t on telly as much as we are now but I did see the games against Man City and Derby and we were pressing very hard when not in possession and then playing at speed going forward.

    We seem to have lost that edge whether through design or tiredness. Now, it’s the other teams such as Bournemouth who do it to us and we we play slower and squarer as a result and look vulnerable. When somebody like Friend ups the tempo and takes risks going forward, the difference is noticeable.

    I think that Forshaw and Wildschutt must be aching to have a go and I hope that we see them unleashed against Rotherham. If we play a higher game at pace we may find out that it is less important who is in the opposing box as against the number of bodies that we are placing there and the speed with which it all happens.

    I believe that this is the moment for adventure not caution and would love to see us come out all guns blazing.

    1. Selwynoz –

      Bang on, and with more bodies in and around the oppositions box we’ll make more chances. Well you’d think so because we’d give their defence more to think about. Please no more windscreen wiper football.



  5. As is the way with these things, Carayol pops up with increasing frequency as a saviour to our current ‘woes’.

    I just don’t get it. Carayol has started 36 games for us in three years and scored 11 goals in that time, nothing to fill us with confidence. It’s not his fault he has been injured but it is a reality, to offer something you have to be fit otherwise there’s no point.

    He is not a quality or consistent player and will be jettisoned if we are promoted. AK doesn’t rate him hence the Brighton deal.

    Just because he hasn’t been playing doesn’t make him a better player than the ones who have taken us this far. When he has played, for us, it’s been in a poor Boro team, he won’t make the leap to a better quality now. His CV shows he has never played on the big stage and at 26 it won’t happen.

    We can add Ledesma, another lower tier player with flashes that shadow the overall contribution.

    Both players have been well paid by the Boro with little end product. It doesn’t matter what the excuses are, they haven’t produced.

    They may well be first rate people but anyone good enough would have forced themselves into the first 11. We need to think bigger, as AK well knows.

  6. Richard –

    I don’t agree with you on Carayol’s quality. To me he is a dynamic and direct winger of the sort that could have made a useful contribution for us had he been fit enough.

    What he propably isn’t, is a good fit within the current set up. Had he been available I expect his contribution would largely have been from the bench.

  7. I don’t agree with a few of you on Carayol’s quality. Personally he’s my favourite player, the only one in our squad who constantly runs at the full back and gets the crowd on the edge of their seats. He’s probably our best attacking winger we have at the club and that includes Adomah.

    With all his qualities he does have many flaws though, he doesn’t track back as hard as Adomah or Reach and doesn’t seem to put in enough effort for Karanka.
    But I also think if he had of been fit this season he would have contributed considerably. We have struggled this season when we have been chasing the game and this would have been when Karanka would have turned to Carayol on the bench. His goal per game ratio for last season was better than that of Adomah. I think he would have been a player in and out of the team depending on opposition but would have always made the match day squad.

    I think Karanka knows this and that’s why he’s sent him out on loan to Brighton, to get his match fitness up so if we require him in the play-offs he’s fit and ready to contribute, probably from the bench.

    If we don’t go up this season a fit Carayol will be a massive player for us next.

  8. Redcar Red –

    That was why I said naughty! We do know Rotherham will be up for the fight but I think we will just have to see what happens from now to the end of the season.

    I dont think the players know why they are up for it one week and not the next. That doesnt just mean ours, the vast majority of players try but sometimes the edge isnt there. They are no different to us.

  9. It will soon be time for Scapegoat and Young Scapegoat of the season as well as the ‘he is useless so it is just as well he does lots of work in the community’ award.

    Nominations are now being invited, each must be supported by a well reasoned and totally unfounded argument.

  10. Agnew is mentioned as the forgotten man on here, and up he pops on the Gazette website…..just saying like.

  11. Just a thought on the Reach debate

    Main gripe with him is his lack of attacking play,beating his man getting a cross in scoring goals etc but admit he does his defensive duties ok so on the basis of that most people argue that he warrants his place in the team.

    Then we have suggestions that Ledesma should be given a try again at left wing. He loves to attack,takes a man on,crosses a ball,scores a few goals and takes a decent free kick but on the negative side lacks defensive duties so on that basis view by most he shouldn’t get a game.

    Based on that which is the right player for the team?

    My view is we are lacking a goal threat which has been our downfall lately and a attacking player is what we need. With a keeper,four defenders and two defensive Central midfielders in the team it should be enough especially against Rotherham,Fulham and Brighton.

    I think in these last five games we have to be more positive,attack minded and go for it. There’s too much at stake,we have more or less made the play offs anyway,we need to push that bit more for automatic. The play offs are a lottery

  12. Never Give Up

    I think a lot of it is down to not having a go. Even against Watford and Bournemouth we showed that if when upped the tempo we were at least posing questions.

    Elsewhere I note that Bournemouth are responding to allegations of what Ali said about Jinky Johnson, he commented he had his short studs in today.

    The problem is that if you almost boast about getting players sent off, then in two televised matches are seen to succumb to gravity and vertigo, then even dim fans start to notice.

    Sad really because they play some super football.

  13. For me we need a forward who is prepared to get stuck into opposition defenders and “take a hit or two” for the team that guy and our only contender is Vossen while Bamford and or Kike are ready to capitalize.

    Tomlin right now is a luxury we can do without most of the game as he has lost his bite and edge with defence splitting passes, Man City was his last game of any note. Reach is another (again my opinion) who promises a lot but rarely delivers, Wild man Wildchut has to be given a run out, surely.

    The defence is sorted and I think Forshaw will do a good job in Legbiter’s place.

    I would not rest Clayton however.

    Reading AK’s comments I also thought he seemed resigned to the play offs, or maybe like all of us just generally gutted and fed up after the defeat and the manner in which we played, I agree we seem to have lost the pace that Watford and Bournemouth displayed.
    That used to be us……..

  14. As for Bournemouth and their penalty’s is it just a coincidence that their Manager requested a meeting with the Championship Referees Association as earlier on in the season he was concerned that Bournemouth were not getting the rub of the green regarding fouls and penalty decisions. It was in the papers

    Like I suggest maybe just a coincidence regarding their tally of penalty decisions going their way now……

  15. I’ve noticed over the years teams that have come to our place later in the season and are top, look confident attack with ease ,create chances,all in all are not scared.

    Right now we looked a scared team,we are not taking chances, our passes are telegraphed, we are scared to make a mistake, none of our midfielders want to get forward or confident enough to run with the ball at defences. Most centre backs in this league look like the house by the side of the road,all you need is one guy in the team who could go past them through the middle and you would create all kinds of problems.

    My concern is ,if its the play offs, we would end up on penalties in a game or even get hammered.

    Like I said we are a scared team not only on the field but off.

    Come on Boro prove me wrong

    **AV writes: I don’t think it is the team who are scared of the coming games.

  16. I keep looking at the table and fixtures for some sign of optimism but it’s very difficult.

    Due to our GD we need to take 3 points more than Bournemouth from the remaining games to overtake them. Looking at their opponents compared to ours, that’s unlikely to happen.

    If we lose to Norwich we need 5 points more than them from the other 4 fixtures to overtake them. That’s very unlikely as well.

    We’ll need 2 points more than Watford to overtake them. That’s not impossible.

    But, realistically, we have to win both our next two home games and get at least a point at Norwich to even stand chance of achieving automatic promotion.

    1. Sounds right to me. But I think that’s doable.

      You don’t want to have to rely on others slipping up but in The Championship unexpectedly dropped points seems to be the norm.

  17. People who are saying Ledesma should replace Reach obviously have never been to a Boro match. Reach is a left winger, Ledesma is a left footed right winger. He doesn’t beat his man, he likes to cut inside from the right and cross/shoot with his left. Ledesma won’t get in the team as a right winger because Adomah is playing well at the moment and if Karanka was to play Adomah on the left it would probably be to accommodate Bamford on the right supporting a lone striker. So in my opinion the only person I could foresee replacing Reach is Wildshutt who isn’t even making the bench at the moment, therefore I expect to see Reach in the starting line up on Saturday.

  18. I see that Ayala is close to fitness. Do we need to risk him against Rotherham? Why not play Gibson and Amorebieta and keep him available for Wolves and particularly Norwich.

  19. Forgot to mention watched Vancouver v Columbus last night, Kamara scored a couple but he is probably at his level. As usual he took a lot of shifts off. Vancouver have a kid up front though he’s a little raw but lightenening fast and can play a little. He is in the Jamaican squad, he trained at Bournemouth last summer, Darren Mattocks is his name. Worth a look Boro scouts.

  20. If we could clone George Friend’s passion, belief, never say die attitude and 100% effort even into the 96th minute a lot of our current “challenges” for the run in would be solved.

  21. It is not over, but the fat lady needs to be quick with the gargling, or it will soon be too late. I agree with a few comments above. Boro didn’t seem to offer much threat against the top teams we have played recently away, Ipswich, Bournemouth, and Watford – I exclude Derby as it would now appear they are a team whose form is/was in serious decline.

    Let’s draw a boxing analogy. Unless you are truly exceptional like, say, Muhammad Ali, you can’t afford to stay on the ropes taking punches from quality fighters in the hope they will tire and that it will be possible then to land a knockout blow on the opponent. Inevitably a quality fighter will get some punches through the defence and, if one catches the chin on the button, even the a really good boxer will go down. In boxing terms, and at our level, Boro represents a good contender but not an Ali, and Bournemouth, Watford etc have a serious “dig” in them.

    It is necessary to throw a few punches of your own not only in the hope of knocking the opponent down but, at a lower level, of at least keeping the opponent on his toes, discouraging him and “keeping him honest”. If you don’t throw any punches the opponent doesn’t have to worry about his own defence but can concentrate entirely on his own attacking fight plan.

    We should be trying to land our own punches. Goals win games and we don’t score enough of them. They also help with goal difference, and ours is a long way from the best in comparison to our table-topping competitors.

    When Bournemouth went 2 down against Birmingham I was delighted but it was still early in the game and I still suspected Bournemouth would come back into the game. Bournemouth players must have believed it too because, having scored one to get back into the game they overpowered Birmingham to win 4-2. Does anyone here believe that, if Boro had been 2-0 down, we would have won? We certainly didn’t do that in the recent games against the first 3 teams I mentioned in the initial paragraph, above.

    It is still possible to get automatic promotion but obviously the team will have to step up its performance. It isn’t just the defeats – the Wigan victory was poor fare, too, and there have been others. We rarely take a team apart, even teams struggling against relegation like Wigan (and our next opposition is Rotherham….). We don’t score enough goals to do that. Even if we score,we are all worried about the other team getting a goal back after we have missed (or failed to create) further opportunities.

    I hope the players and ,manager are confident. Many of the people who sit near me at the Riverside are hopeful, but not exactly confident. If we only had a Merson (well, we wouldn’t be in this position if we had – we’d be well clear of the opposition by now).

  22. I couldn’t agree more. Sending the side out to attack like crazy against Rotherham isn’t a real risk because we are good enough to make it work and if it comes off it would be exactly the psychological turnaround that we need after some solid results but uninspiring performances mixed in with some defeats.

  23. Some folk seem to be dropping back to the Play Offs as a default mode.

    Well I can assure you, that is not a foregone conclusion yet.

  24. Karanka- “When we went to Bournemouth, the stadium was full, it’s true that it’s not big, but it was full. When we went to Derby, the stadium was full. When we went to Watford, the stadium was full. For this reason I can’t understand it. Everyone is excited about the club, how they are to get promotion, to go to the game and there are just 17,000 people.”

    I’m not sure why he wants more fans in the ground, in two of those games he mentioned the full stadiums had a negative effect on the team. Is it because the players can feel the burden of expectation? Does an attendance have any impact on performance? I would suggest that if the players had turned up during the recent key games that the fans would support them wholeheartedly….

  25. GHW

    I think there is an element of deflection going on, comments about the miraculous season, pleased with where we are, now the comment about the 17,000.

    Possibly designed to take the pressure off the team, maybe off himself. All managers do it, try to manage expectations. The main danger is anything that hints at a go at the fans.

    Personally I would be pleased with three points on Saturday and take things from there. Secure a play off spot then look at the next target.

  26. worryingly yes AK seems to be getting prepared for (hopefully) the play offs should the auto mode slot fail to materialize

  27. Karanka’s mini-dig at the fans is another Mourinho tactic. His mentor had a similar pop, though typically more vicious, at both Real Madrid and earlier this season at Chelsea.

    That isn’t to say he doesn’t have a point. Negativity has and does envelope the Teesside terrace psyche as well all know.

    Can we have another match now please?

  28. Andy R –

    It is a fine line between discussing and being negative, I believe we stay on the constructive side on this blog because it is a discussion forum and the points are considered and reasoned.

    Even when someone says he thinks it will be the play offs rather than automatic promotion it isn’t because they are chicken runners, there is reason behind judgements. I don’t think anyone doesn’t want automatic promotion or wishes the team to fall short.

    I cant comment on the other word bite forums because I don’t use them, see the odd comment Vic retweets or on Gazette page but that is it.

    As I said, lets beat Rotherham and move on.

  29. It grates me when excuses like this are made, I’d rather he concentrated on the real reason the team have choked in massive games at Bournemouth and Watford. I think our team has the talent but that mental cracks are showing. Maybe its just we are the 4th best team in the division. Watford seemed very similar to us but have the equivalent of three clinical strikers to our one in Bamford. Bournemouth are more aggressive & faster. Norwich like Watford have some very good strikers to call upon…

    Really hope we get back on track, as people have often said it’s the hope that gets you. That’s probably why many including myself are feeling negative, plus the bet I put on for us to win the title….

  30. 94% agree that Karanka is right. That’s overwhelming.

    It’s true that boro fans do have a tendency to moan and see things negatively.

    1. 94% seems an almost unbelievable “too good to be true figure” or perhaps its just me and my negativity. Good spin though even if it was a bit Jeremy Clarksonish!

      Oh well lets hope all those well off individuals on the Tilery take time off from their “Benefits Street” filming schedule and their agents manage to get them a few tickets for tomorrows game to pack out the Riverside. I think someone perhaps also needs to point out that its Southbank bordering Riverside Road not Sandbanks, easy mistake to make I suppose in translation!

      Alternatively if we close the top of the West Stand upper and force the prawn sandwich brigade into the cheap seats in the South East corner (a free glass of bubbly and a parmo in a bun instead of a pint to entice them from their Corporate excesses) instead of rattling their Jewellery in rarefied isolation we may get some “compact” atmosphere in the ground just like the Clubs with 12,000 or 17,000 capacity.

  31. One way of expressing the fact that Karanka’s amazing success this season has been based on the primacy of a tightly disciplined defence (often at the expense of the team’s attacking prowess), and the zero tolerance of individual errors, is to say that this is an essentially negative approach. Indeed Karanka’s emphasis upon defence is almost fetishistic. We have 5 centre-backs on the books, but one gets injured so we draft in another. We have three good holding midfield players, so we spend a couple of precious millions on another one. And one who can’t get a game. We have a great attacking winger who can get us a dozen goals a season and we turn him into (an admittedly excellent) defensively minded wing- back. Etc, etc, etc.

    Meanwhile the crying lack of midfield creativity, apparent since the start of the season, goes unaddressed (we have no back up to the flickering performances of Tomlin. Or to Reach for that matter.)

    Watch Bournemouth tonight and, you will see a side who, in spite of it being a derby match, will play without fear, who will make mistakes, but who will try to play on the front foot and with the kind of creativity and movement that we have not simply not matched, but have rarely even aspired to. A team with a completely different mindset to our own. Because the fact is that a fear of failure, of making mistakes is death to any kind of creativity.

    So it’s a bit rich for Karanka to accuse the fans of negativity. Boro have played poorly in most of the away games I have seen this season in spite of magnificent support. And if there has been a negative atmosphere at some home games this has not been reflected in our home results. Indeed there seems to be something of a negative correlation between positive support and the Boro’s results.

    I’m not being critical of Karanka. His philosophy and system has worked far better than I would have envisaged. It has brought us all the success we have enjoyed this season.

    But when I saw Bournemouth take Fulham apart a few weeks ago, going on to score a hat-fuIl of goals rather than defending their early lead, I couldn’t help the heretical wish that we played that way. And I wasn’t surprised when Bournemouth hammered us. That was no “bad day at the office”, but a reflection of the comparative form of the two teams.

    I still harbour hopes that we will finish second, but I think that not simply Bournemouth, but also both Watford and Norwich (and given the return of Martin, and the threat carried by Ince, Bent and Russell) even Derby,carry a greater attacking threat and make them more likely prospects for the Premier League than we are.

    So I suppose that I agree with Karanka that as the season reaches its climax a prevailing negativity may prove to be our undoing. But I wouldn’t entirely blame the fans for that.

  32. Len –

    The problem is that if you have a go at some of the fans they will have a go back.

    Like myself, you come on here and discuss the way we are playing, the ups and downs as the season progresses, we (the collective we) may not always be in agreement but we post about it, have a bit of fun and try and sneak the Trabbies.

    I suspect a lot of the Gazette stuff isn’t necessarily aimed at us as the target market, we are only a relatively insignificant sector of that market.

    We might think it a bit risky to have a pop at the fans, I am sure there are fans who will take affront, come to think of it, some of his comments looked to have journalists on the list as well.

    AS PT said, it looks to have been planned rather than off the cuff.

    The poor shows at Watford, Bournemouth, Forest, Wednesday – you can throw in Blackpool, Brum, Brentford even though we gained points, make it a tricky topic.

    It is also risky. If it is a grim first half it wont take many who didn’t like his comments to reciprocate. It says 84% of people who responded agreed with him, 16% of 20,000 who are miffed is a chunterable minority.

    It all deflects from what we should be discussing, the problem is if you raise the topic expect it to be discussed.

  33. To paraphrase – ‘The teams alright, I’m alright, the away supports alright, but it’s you, YOU! You are the problem- always!’

    Oh, dear!

    Cue song – ‘Under pressure, pushin down on me’.

    And then someone has the gall to say Aitor’s comments are carefully thought through – l don’t think so, cause if they thought about it maybe they wouldn’t be uttered.

    What’s behind this little outburst AV? Are the cracks beginning to show? Is Higgygate coming back to haunt Aitor? Is there in fact fissures in the changing room marked ‘Home Team’ at the Riverside. Has any concientious EG reporter been in touch with St. Lukes to enquire about advance bookings or reservations.

    Strange this comment comes just a day after Bernies comment about Aitor earning his corn & mine about his earning his salt.


    **AV writes: I think he is just trying to come to terms with his first serious brush with the “typical Boro” mentality. He and the players all consider themselves still very well placed in the promotion mix but are puzzled as to why so many fans seems to have decided the season is over. And a failure to boot. I think the last few away games to rivals – Derby, Bournemouth and Watford – he has been quite struck by how intense and unconditional the support of the home crowd has been and the contrast with the nervous, twitchy air at the Riverside for Wigan.

    1. Point taken AV, but something is whispering in my shell-like that there’s more to this than simply ‘gettin to know you, gettin to know all about you!’

      Is it by chance an expression of Aitor’s character. Is he expecting all and sundry to adhere to the Aitor way or else ship-out Higgyesque and that includes any ‘negative fans’.

      Do we have by chance a ‘Controller’ on our hands who calls the tune and you dance or you are on your way.

      After all, was it not your very good self who said he’s the Gaffer and he gets what he wants?

      Only problem with the controller type is that they can be combustable and chuck in the towel when it’s not going their way and then they blame others for their own inadaquacies.

      ‘Chucking in the towel.’ Now where did l read that phrase just recently.

  34. Len –

    Great post as always.

    I wouldn’t call Forshaw a defensive midfielder. He looks to be a bit of a dribbler to me and more progressive than Leadbitter and especially Clayton and Whitehead.

    If I’m right then that could be more worrisome because, like a younger, more expensive Butterfield, I can’t see how he fits in. So far, it appears that Karanka can’t see it either.

    I hope he can be brought through because he seems to have a creative edge that we have perhaps been lacking.

    I agree with the general thrust of your comment, though. Results are all that seem to matter these days. Ours have been better than expected whilst the football has been better than I personally feared as well.

    You can’t have everything and I’m very happy overall. Karanka will go a long way in the game.

    Ian –

    I don’t think there is a great deal of negativity here. I agree that most comments are reasoned and realistic. I’m not sure that AV’s patrons, though growing by the week, are a fair cross-section of our support.

  35. Karanka’s style of football is based on that of his Portugese mentor – it’s a low risk strategy that first attempts to limit the chances of the opposition, but whilst it has been effective at home it requires more clinical strikers away from home – something we don’t have the budget for at Championship level unfortunately.

    Bournemouth play with more freedom and subsequently score more goals but generally concede more – but perhaps the fact that your strikers are regularly scoring goals probably means that they retain their confidence and belief in front of goal. Needing to score from fewer chances will ultimately put more pressure on our forwards and make them less likely to hit the target.

    Though if 94% agree with Karanka’s methods, then the other 16% of Boro fans will demand the team gives 110% every game.

  36. I don’t think it particularly well judged of AK to have a go at having empty seats in a sporting leisure arena in an area that regularly features in the UK’s unwanted top two or three places with the highest unemployment, lowest life expectancy, drug abuse, poverty levels, asylum seekers, unhealthy high streets, declining property values etc. (I could go on and on) having just gone through (and in this area still going through) the worst recession in a lifetime. “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”.

    I couldn’t picture Cloughie having a go at “missing fans” during the Miner’s strike. Still at least all the Offshore jobs are secure, the local Steelworks booming, no outside cheap labour on the Wilton site and jobs and apprenticeships are plentiful on Teesside.

    Maybe the Clubs Press Officer should read the first 5 or 6 pages of the Gazette every night (should say morning now, force of habit), list the negative stories and then list the positive one (and good luck in finding one) and feedback to the Manager before reflecting on the fans and the area’s negativity. If a dog gets kicked often enough it expects to be kicked so what harm is another kicking going to do?

    And all this from someone who is neither a socialist or a Labour voter!

  37. You’re forgetting, all the management and players think Yarm is Middlesbrough. They wouldn’t recognize this picture you paint.

    1. GHW

      You have a valid point there. Perhaps clearing dog turds off the pitch before training or a jog along Redcar beach may enlighten a few of them!

  38. I’ve a horrible feeling that this might backfire on AK, especially if all does not go according to plan tomorrow. We on here have always acknowledged the progress made since he arrived, notwithstanding our concerns about our poor goals return, etc. but we still back him and his team to the hilt. As with results, fine margins can apply to criticism of the support. We can berate non attenders but it’s a brave manager or player who dares to come out and say the same.

  39. GHW

    That percentage was extrapolated on to a 20,000 crowd. The problem is how accurate those figures are, I seem to remember somewhere that you get a bigger response from those that agree with the proposition.

    What is intriguing is that despite some great away support it is away from the Riverside that we have been flaccid.

  40. I’m quite surprised by the comments from AK to be honest. As a Tees-exile, I’m insulated from the general mood quite a lot, however it only takes one visit back to Teesside to visit family to see a general mood of despondency. That is not the ingrained psyche of the populace, but the result of years, decades of under-investment and being sidelined by the political elite. We half joke about it, but the news reports, and indeed match reports, that start with the pictures of the ICI smokestacks indicate an arrogance of the press and the political elite that we are just a crappy industrial town in an unattractive part of the country. They don’t do the same for other areas, so I don’t know why we are picked on more than other places, but the fact of the matter is we were, before the football team sank to irrelevance.

    What does this mean for the fans? Well, it’s hard to shake the moaning that comes with the territory. I get it in the neck of the wife for being a pessimist, but I lived in Teesside for 18 years – I am who I am. The football is for some an escape, for others a chance to vent. It is ever thus, there are plenty of articles that describe the chicken run through the ages.

    When I was a regular at Ayresome, and then the Riverside, what I enjoyed was attacking football, high-tempo, with players giving it a go. Not the passive, tactical encounters, unless it was against Lazio or Man Utd, but the games when we just went at it, the Steaeu’s, the Basel’s. Those were the great games, the games when you couldn’t believe what you’ve seen.

    I guess what I’m saying is that if AK wants to moan about negativity, that’s up to him, but he has to look at the style of football we play. Teessiders are already pragmatic people, they don’t pay 20 quid a week to watch 11 elaborately remunerated lads kick a ball from side to side. They pay to be excited, distracted, to have something to shout about.

    In other words – if we come out on Saturday and launch at Rotherham from the first second, rain shots on goal and pass the ball FORWARDS, especially down the flanks, then I’m sure any negativity will go away. Just don’t sit back and defend a 1-0 lead, go for it!

  41. Just watching the National News and apparently the SE of the UK is in crisis due to pollution blowing in from the Continent and Dust from the Sahara. Its double the recommended maximum health limits. I bet that’s only about 25% of the daily Dormanstown/Grangetown levels on a good day but because its Teesside there won’t be anyone running around with Camera Crews and air quality meters.

    Anyway hope we don’t need it as an excuse tomorrow against the Millers!

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