Last Day Draw May Give Boro A Play Off Edge

SO, Brentford: Boro ended up with what may well turn out to be the most favourable of play-off opponents – but despite some strange dynamics and off field orchestration in the closing stages of the Brighton game,  that is more by accident than design.

A frustrating, flat final fixture saw Aitor Karanka’s team dawdle lethargically and slouch back into fourth place and as a result they are now pitted against the Championship’s real surprise package this term.

After the mounting chuntering about the lacklustre limp over the finishing line on a day when an explosive leap from the play-off launch pad was the pre-match minimum demand, being paired with the Bees was generally well received.

In fact, in the nuanced post-mortem it almost felt  like Boro had been rewarded for their failure to beat Brighton. The camp was happy. It felt as if it that was desired outcome.

In that swift reordering of new realities that fans master in their infancy, some people quickly rewired their world view to shape and articulate a scenario that the pairing had been planned and played for.

The pre-match projection of fans’ fears had focused on the need to avoid first Derby and then secondly Ipswich so being partnered with Brentford when the music stopped seemed a good result. a successful strategic silver lining hewn from a dismal grey day on the pitch.

The Bees won’t be a push-over of course.  Aitor knows that. Brentford’s achievement in sticking with the play-off pack despite dug-out turmoil (boss Mark Warburton is being harshly replaced even if he secures a second successive promotion) is more impressive in many ways than Bournemouth’s title win.

They have been organised and industrious and very hard to beat at home and showed great determination in refusing to stick to the script and fall away as the drama unfolded.

Despite that, the West London club are still widely regarded as the weakest of the top six with the smallest, least expensive and least experienced squad and the hardest task in escaping football gravity.

So, obviously, if you could pick a team to play over two legs for a place in the Wembley final, they’re the one most supporters would opt for.

And so too, it seems, would shrewd Karanka.

1Aitor

                              Hmmmmmmm.  I wonder how Ipswich are getting on?

There appeared to be a conscious change in Boro’s game plan in the closing stages that suggested the objective of the game had subtly changed.

As news came in of results elsewhere and the bench kept track of the “as it stands” table and the stopwatch, it looked as if a decision had been made to hold what we had – fourth place – and opt for Brentford rather than going flat out for the win that would take Boro back above Norwich and mean they would face Ipswich.

Skipper Grant Leadbitter was summoned over to the touchline for a quick conflab with the gaffer and then he relayed the instructions to the team.  He quickly laid a long pass back to Dimi Konstantopoulos and issued the universally recognised ‘calm down’ gesture to the centre-backs then soon after directed Emilio Nsue to take his time over a throw.

It seemed that the team had been directed from the dug-out to ease off the gas,  in itself a feat in a game that was slow so it appeared to be buffering.

Boro had never really come out of the blocks with the intensity, tempo, desire and zest we expected. They never went for the jugular. It wasn’t both barrels from the off.  It wasn’t even one barrel. The odd pot-shot yes, but hardly a barrage.  If anything Brighton started better and had a couple of half-hearted chances.

Boro did gradually lumber into control of the contest. Slwoly. Yes, play was raggy and poor, sloppy overhit or  passes were going astray with frustrating regularity – but they were still on top for most of the game  and while they lacked a cutting edge or a killer final ball they had enough possession and chances to suggest that they could probably win if only they would step up a gear and bare their teeth.

But then, instead of attacking and trying to force a breakthrough in the closing spell, Boro changed tack, and started to pass back, to recycle patient possession in No Mans’ Land and hold the ball while Brighton were happy enough to sit on their deckchairs and wait for the whistle while mentally ticking off their holiday suitcase check list.

Boro didn’t actually take it into the corners but there was a definite sense that they were running the clock down.  Frustrated fans were loudly shouting tactical advice and demanding that Boro “attack! Attack! Attack!” and urging them to hit the accelerator but instead the team were playing with the handbrake on.

When Boro won a corner Boro fans – and Brighton fans too, it must be said – screamed and gestured for Dimi to get himself up for it.  At Fulham Boro were going hell for leather and he did scramble urgently forward to join an all  out  desperate last assault. Against Brighton he settled down in his sun-lounger and chilled.

If it was worth the gamble to win the game last week, then why not this time out? There was nothing to lose in going for it as there was at Craven Cottage. Boro would stil be in a play-off place, they couldn’t drop below fourth.

It seemed quite clear that Aitor was more than happy to hold on to what he had.

To all intents and purposes in the closing stages Boro appeared to be playing for the draw, a result that would suit them just fine:  fourth place, a reasonably favourable tie in the play-off semi-final, vital energy conserved in the closing stages and, crucially,  no injuries or bookings picked up chasing a marginally improved position in the table.

He had already rested top scorer Patrick Bamford and right-back Ryan Fredericks, key men carrying knocks but who would surely have been patched up and played through the pain barrier had victory been crucial.

That all makes sense going into two Titanic games now.

We know that Aitor is meticulous and pragmatic and will do whatever is needed to achieve the long-term object for the team, which is promotion. For him everything is geared to the big picture, winning the war rather than the battle. We wouldn’t expect anything less.

So in terms of the changing shape of the table and the tedious strait-jacket constraining the game at hand, can it be seen as a masterstoke of micro-management? Possibly.

There is a hint of mentor Mourinho about that kind of cynical in-game management. But it can only have been decided in the heat of battle, in real time as a reaction to the shifting sands of the summit shake-up.  It can’t possibly have been planned in advance.

1Finaltab

It was another crazy afternoon of flux at the top of the Championship table with the battle for the last two play-offs spots ebbing and flowing all afternoon. Again.

Over the course of the  90 minutes of the Brighton game Boro were facing three different opponents in two different time-slots as results twisted and turned and anyone stood by the computer trying to steal a march on booking hotels or train tickets would have been left tearing their hair out.

At kick-off the table had Boro facing Derby – a prospect that seemed to scare many Boro fans – but their four month self-inflicted slo-mo implosion went to its logical conclusion.

We have beaten Derby convincingly twice this term but battle-scarred Teessiders remained wary because of the “typical Boro” factor and the fear of Steve McClaren.  But they have unravelled in recent months since Steve McClaren “had his world turned upside down” after being courted by Newcastle – again – and potential divisive new faces were added to the dressing room mix in January.  At the death a  brittle team lacking cohesion and belief cracked at home to a Reading side wearing sombreros.

The Rams leaked early, missed a penalty and then folded and in the end the long time title favourites finished up in only eighth place and “on their holidays.”

Then Norwich scored as they geared up for a resounding  4-2 win over a Fulham side safe and sunshine bound and quickly the Canaries had clawed into third spot and Boro were suddenly looking set to play Ipswich on a Saturday.

Veteran Boro fans groaned. Yes, we battered Ipswich 4-1 here earlier this term but there is a time honoured contractual obligation to lose at Portman Road – often heavily – and Tractorboys targetman Daryl Murphy is fast approaching Arch-Nemesis status.

Aitor hasn’t been at the club very long but he knows this to be an institutional hoodoo.  Plus, whatever else you want to say about wily old dug-out ‘by hook or by crook’ merchant Mick McCarthy, he is a specialist in getting teams out of the Championship and you wouldn’t want to go nose-to-nose with him. How confusing would that be. Ipswich are the utilitarian street-fighters of the six sides left.  No one wanted them.

But late in the game on the dynamics changed again as Ipswich leaked away at Blackburn with Boro striking target Jordan Rhodes (“he’s one of our own”) doing the damage – and then soon after Brentford turned the screw against relegated Wigan and climbed above the Tractorboys on goal difference and they became our potential opponents.

So then it was time for Aitor to make a decision: Stick or twist.  Go for broke and chase third place and a trip to Ipswich or kill the game and plan for Brentford?

1Brighton

  Brighton but not breezy: Boro put the hand-brake on.  

Boro have won home and away against the Bees but the bonus was that the way the fixtures were shaping up going into the final 10 minutes favoured Boro in other ways too.

Not only would they play Brentford and avoid a hoodoo ground but potential Wembley opponents Norwich and Ipswich would meet. The duo would be thrown into a bitter bout of passionate pitchfork waving in what is always a fiercely competitive “Old Farm” derby.

Given the high-stakes, the history of animosity off the field, the hysterical atmosphere over two legs in those heated encounters, there was a decent to high chance the sides would kick lumps out of each other in battles that may leave them emotionally drained and suffering with bumps and bruises – and possibly even Wembley bans.

There is also the possible faint hint of  Aitor being aware of Boro’s fragility on the lunch-time kick-offs. He has mentioned it before now. Boro lost home and away to Leeds at lunchtime, froze completely at Bournemouth and Watford and  snoozed at home to Brighton.  Even away at Brentford – a 1-0 win – they were second  best for most of the game and forced into a frantic rearguard action  in a televised mugging.

In contrast Boro have been far better in evening matches.  Of their 11 games under floodlights Karanka’s times have lost just one – away at Wolves – and their season-shaping wins have included the gritty victories at Derby and Norwich.  Now that may just be a coincidence but it is a productive one and you can see how it would be seized on by a coach acutely aware of the nuances of game management.

They all may be almost imperceptible factors in the big scheme of things – but tight games are decided by fine margins; an extra yard of pace here, a few percentage points in the battery there, a lick of paintwork, a  player having the edge over an opponent in previous game sewing a seed of doubt. very advantage, no matter how small, could prove decisive.

But the day had an ironic sting in the tail. as the other results came in. Had Boro forced the late winner at Fulham then the Brighton game, instead of being a dead rubber, could have been the promotion decider it was scripted as when tickets were snapped up in a frenzy.

Watford slipped up on the final day and could only draw at home to Sheffield Wednesday, a result that taunted Teesside.  Had Boro delivered and won at Craven Cottage then three points at home to Brighton would have been taken them to an impress 90 – enough to claw them above the Hornets. Although naturally in those conditions the Hornets would have been going hell for leather to win. It may have prodded them to the  title

Fine margins….

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54 thoughts on “Last Day Draw May Give Boro A Play Off Edge

  1. Believe me, AK WAS pulling the strings to the team, with an eye on the team we would be playing first in the Play-Offs, depending on the results elsewhere. Winning the game on Saturday was not on his “to-do list”.

  2. Now there is a conspiracy theory Boro stage managed throughout the game to get the right opponent in the play offs. How easily that could back fire even from Brentford, haven’t we learned anything from this season there just aren’t any easy opponents and sooner or later you have to face the toughest.

    But nobody fancies playing Norwich over 2 legs so you never know……….

    I have an inclination towards what I said earlier and what John Powls writes in his column, maybe making the play offs was an end in itself. Just too bad nobody mentioned that to the 33,000+ who spent good money.

    There were better ways to spend a freezing cold Saturday afternoon than a nonentity of a soccer match.

    Hopefully I will be proved wrong, hopefully

  3. Could AK have deliberately played the Brighton game with a background statistician equipped with a Radio giving him soundbites?

    At the start we had avoided Norwich which was probably the strongest of the three potential play off sides. As the early afternoon wore on Derby and Ipswich were in and out with Brentford entering the reckoning. Ipswich especially with Big Mick’s savvy would be a handful as would Wolves I suspect with a physical presence not best suited to our style of football.

    It looked a distinct possibility that Ipswich would be 6th as the games progressed especially in the latter stages. We all seen Grant telling them to calm things and pass it back when we were urging them to attack. At that point Norwich had overtaken us and Ipswich were desperately hanging by their fingernails onto 6th with Brentford in 4th.

    Out of the permutations Brentford or Derby would have been my first choices with probably Wolves and Ipswich second and Norwich last on my preferred list. As it turned out we got the side I would have chosen given the choice of the final three end options. I would also have hoped for the Farmboys battering the living daylights out of each other with no quarter given.

    The Brighton game was a massive flop as an an entertainment spectacle and as a fan retention opportunity but tactically was AK really operating at a level way beyond those 90 minutes?

    1. WARNING beware what you wish for THE BEES ARE GOING TO STING YAH

      **AV writes: Welcome Brentford fan. We currently lead 5-0 on aggregate. Are you nervous? I think most Boro fans are.

  4. Play off contenders last six matches going into the play offs

    Norwich. W 4 D 1 L 1. GS 11 GA. 5. Pts 13
    Boro. W 3 D 1 L 2. GS. 8. GA 7. Pts. 10
    Ipswich. W 3 D 1 L 2. GS. 12. GA 10 Pts. 10
    Brentford. W 2 D. 3 L 1 GS. 10. GA. 6 Pts. 9

    Take your pick!!

    Norwich look favourites unless we start taking our chances and bang some goals in.

  5. The picture painted is one of gross arrogance and contempt of the opposition that is just not good enough to grace the same pitch as the mighty Boro and a group with an inflated overconfidence is now kicking back in the sun before the inevitable Boro victory.

    The truth is different of course because Boro were not good enough to earn an automatic promotion over the season, nor were the other three teams in the playoffs. If this attitude continues into the matches against Brentford next season Boro and all its fans will be watching from the Championship, envious of a Brentford team in the Premier League.

    Respect for the opposition is a vital ingredient for success in knock out football.

  6. Just read the Gazette where AK says he and the players have no experience of the play offs, this is a new experiance to him and the team but others at the club have so this will help out. Nothing to worry about there then.

    Now I may not have the nous as regards tactics, team selection, managing a game to get the “right” opponent in a play off or indeed have the previous professional footballer experiance. But I do watch a lot of football.

    And perhaps I am or can be a tad cynical but as they say this really isn’t rocket science; we play a team away and at home, we need to at least and fingers crossed draw the away game and with a packed house win the return game there by qualifying for the final which we want to win to gain promotion.

    And this is against a team who we all fancy to do well against because of the previous home and away League performances, and of course we managed the previous home game to make sure they would be our opponents..

    All seems straight forward enough to me.

    The only little niggle playing in my head is this other team; who will be beyond being fired up at home.

  7. I think once the scores started filtering through there is nothing wrong with managing the game. If we were winning would we have let them score?

    I still think it was an odd line up.

  8. Most of the tickets for the Brighton game were snapped up after the Norwich game and performance.
    Supporters new and old start reading about “possibly” managing a game and they won’t make that mistake again, they’ll hang back, think twice before commiting.

    Too bad it was a bad day at the office , AK’s words, at least they are getting a tan right now while a good few of the 33,000 are regretting being sucked in once again for a very typical Boro display….

  9. Well if they have come for warm weather traning they are going to be disappointed. It’s freezing this morning.

  10. Having wavered about making the 360 mile round trip to attend the Brighton match I am glad I did. Decisive was the realisation it was to be a celebration of MIddlesbrough FC in general and of Steve Gibson in particular. I also wanted to enjoy the experience of a full Riverside. I just didn’t think the match was that important. The outcome didn’t leave me feeling cheated, nor was I particularly disappointed. Judging from the reception the team got at full time I was not alone in feeling like that. For a typical Boro kick in the sensitive parts, compare and contrast with the 0-2 at home match to Leicester in 88, when a draw would have been enough.

    Now, at last it’s 3 games to go. Our next opponents have had a great season, can play very good football and will not be treated lightly. They are perfectly capable of beating us over 2 legs if we let them. Warburton has had 2 defeats to learn from.

    Whatever the result in the first leg, it will be a red hot atmosphere at the Riverside, and I am really looking forward to it. It would of course be a very exciting night if we had to make a Steaua like come back, but I think most of us would be content with a lower key path to Wembley.

    BTW, in the concourse before the Brighton match I spotted a Boro supporter carrying a foam finger. Does that mean Spring has arrived on Teesside?

    Now, where is the light function on this smart phone?…………

  11. Anybody who is silly enough to write Brentford off over the two legs is taling a huge risk. I don’t subscribe to the idea that you have beaten us twice so you have an advantage. You beat us 4-0 in one of our 1st games in the division, when the players were like deers in the headlights, then 1-0 at our place when we played you off the park. Be very careful what you wish for.

    **AV writes: No offence, but being scared of going to Ipswich is in our DNA. We lose there ever year. We haven’t lost against Brentford in the league since before the war.

  12. JimboUpNorth

    I don’t think any of us are writing you off, like all fans we look at omens in the way that suits us.

    If you had taken six points off us you would be coming on here saying you fancied your chances.

    The reality is that it is a two leg cup match. Anything can happen, Any combination of results is possible. Playing away first is an advantage as long as we do a job on you.

  13. Brentford –

    I can see that their fans would read through some of this blog and see a sort of arrogance on our behalf that we managed to draw them and not Ipswich. However, I don’t think that’s arrogance – I simply think that Ipswich would have been a far harder game. They have the league’s top goal scorer, always beat us at Portman Road, and have a manager who ALWAYS qualifies for the play-offs.

    Who would you rather play, a team that is seeking a second successive promotion, to whom this is probably beyond their pre-season expectations, or a team with the league’s top goal scorer who were the early season front-runners and have a battle-hardened second tier manager? That’s no disrespect to Brentford – it’s just a simple preference.

    Ipswich or Norwich at Wembley is a different kettle of fish to going down to Carrow/Portman Road and taking them on at their own patch. I’d fancy any team to beat any other in a one-off game at Wembley in the play offs, there really isn’t much to choose between any of the teams, but in a 2-leg home and away, I’m pleased with our draw, as I’m sure Brentford are with getting Boro.

    But make no mistake – if we don’t treat Brentford with respect we could be blown away inside the first 45mins at Griffin Park. Boro need to play their best game, get their noses in front and then do what we do best. If AK has even countenanced playing for a draw down there then we might as well forget promotion now – we’ll get beat and then be playing catch up. We have to play to win.

    Not long to go now and then the talking stops.

  14. Jimbo –

    As AV said above we always lose away to Ipswich, its a bogey ground for us. Norwich have a squad full of Premiership Players. All four teams are there on merit over a full season, nobody reaches the play-off’s by fluke or accident.

    All four sides are capable of beating each other but based on our woeful history with Ipswich and their particular style of play and Norwich now being on a strong run with a new manager after imploding in the Autumn, Brentford is the side we seem least likely (on paper at least) to have reason to fear. Its not a reflection on Brentford just a comparison with two other sides who we have more misgivings about. Its not even because we won both games against Brentford this season as we done the same against Norwich.

    Traditionally the play-off’s cause upsets and the team that sneaks in at the 11th hour on the final day of the season often go on to win the final and reach the Premiership. That alone proves that historically in this competition no single side is better or worse than the other three.

    Given the very limited choice however, Brentford is the side we would prefer to play and also to have Norwich and Ipswich kicking lumps out of each other in a local derby. It in no way implies that we expect two easy games against Brentford, quite the opposite. These two games will be tougher than any League game this season for both sides.

  15. Jimbo –

    PS I suspect Brentford fans wont be unhappy at what has been pointed out already about the Old Farm Derby.

    Whilst they will be two matches where the ball will probably be thrown away after half an hour I suspect our two games will be football.

  16. No such thing as favourites in the play offs, form and previous results against each other all goes out of the window.

    If Karanka has tried and succeeded to play Brentford its a risk. I don’t think they are the weakest team, especially at home.

    It’s more about how we play and if we play like we did at Bournemouth, Watford, first half at Fulham and the last game against Brighton then it will be all over in the first leg. So come Friiday evening I hope and expect the players to be fired up and not still laid on the sun loungers in Marbella!

    I’m sure Brentford will be fired up, no team talk needed by Mark Warburton. All he has to do is pin the Gazette articles on the changing room walls and that should be enough for them.

    **AV writes: If they are so distracted that they are scouring the away team’s local rag and need firing up in that way that is good for us I’d say. It’s only touchy fans looking for imagined insults who are bothered about that kind of thing.

  17. **AV writes: If they are so distracted that they are scouring the away team’s local rag and need firing up in that way that is good for us I’d say. It’s only touchy fans looking for imagined insults who are bothered about that kind of thing.

    A bit like Leeds, Toon and Mackem fans coming on here and telling us the games are not important

  18. AV –

    There’s a difference between confidence and arrogance and I think the latter is the best way to describe what’s coming out in all media outlets at the moment towards the Brenford game.

    With the way the team blows hot and cold at the moment I would think apprehensive would be the best way to describe most fans feelings

  19. I think our “preference” for Brentford was more based upon our own insecurities than arrogance towards the Bees. As Never Give Up says “apprehensive” is a better description.

    If all our Players turn up and play their “A” game then I am confident but my greatest fear is that they do what they done at Bournemouth, Fulham and Watford. That of course is excluding the other imponderable, the possibility for a tinkering exercise which hopefully will not even remotely be considered at this stage of the Season but deep down for me it is a worry.

  20. I don’t think anyone on Teesside is complacent about playing Brentford, we all know how tough the away game was, but as AV has pointed out we always loose at Ipswich, so given the choice obviously we prefer Brentford. There’s nothing cocky or indeed logical about it.

  21. I agree with a lot that’s been said on here. Great write up by AV, Redcar(d) Red, Ron and IG. What a brilliant place for views and opinions on our team: Here’s mine for what it’s worth:

    1. Brentford on paper is DEF the most desirable team to play; this is a relative position, though – we will not be going for any park walks – so no illusions please.

    2. “Getting” Brentford in the play offs shows Karanka’s pragmatism – something he’s obviously picked up from Jose. It’s going to be nervy, I don’t doubt that for a second, not just for the fans, but the players will, I suspect be a bit cagey at the outset especially in the away leg (hopefully I’m proven wrong).

    3. Did anyone want to go though the 70 minutes of backs to the wall agony we went through v Norwich again – this time over 180 minutes? I know I would not deal well with that. It may still be on the cards for Wembley, but let’s cross that bridge later.

    4. My prediction at the start of the season was Automatic promotion. – OK, we’re not quite there but I still think we will get over the line, by hook or by crook. In that vein, I’m going for a simple little 4-0 first leg victory over Brentford (Bamford Brace, then Ayala /Gibson header and Vossen to put the tie to bed), with a defensive masterclass at the Riverside on the return fixture.

    5. We’ve done it once, and we can do it again. Foam galore, Up the Boro – COME ON!! Let’s get behind AK’s army!!

  22. Schteve has said he is staying but the view of many Rams fans is that he has torched a lot of goodwill.

    There is a sort of grumpy acceptance of the situation but little trust. Many think he should go, he will jump ship given the chance and it was only the chaos at Toon that stopped him joining them.

    Sound like the chap we know and love?

    **AV writes: It’s like that time at Boro when had sneakily agreed to join Leeds but then Gibbo found out and up rang up and threatened to get all Teesside on their ass and the offer was withdrawn. He never really regained his position of trust after that.

    1. Ian –

      He may well go to the barcodes but after a week he’ll be training his binoculars on the horizon for the next opportunity. However I am looking forward to hearing the Teesside come Netherlands come Geordie accent in the press conferences on the FLS.

      There’s always comedy to look forward to at Sid James’ Park and Tyneside it’s not even pantomime season yet.

      UTB,

      John

    2. Well, the chap we know, at least…….

      And, he has only said he will not go there with 3 games left this season. He hasn’t said he won’t go there in the summer. I mean, who’d want the millstone of relegation around their neck within weeks of getting feet under the desk? He can always look at the situation again when he knows which division they will be playing in next season.

      I had been looking forward to Schteve’s adopted Geordie tones which would be sure to develop by about October….

      Aye, Marra, Ah woz born in Byekaa, meesell,,.. like……

      Oh, the fun we’d have! It’s the simple pleasures in life that count for so much.

  23. This weeks ” I still want know question ”
    Who made the decision to not sign Matic when it was all set up?

    **AV writes: No-one made a decision “not to sign him”. Boro were really keen, he was really keen and a deal had been agreed after a trail here. But then an injury to someone in the Serbian national squad led to him being called up, he went back, played and was brilliant. That caught the eye of Chelsea who moved in, his agent pushed for that move and it turned his head and obviously Kosice though they would get more money and stopped taking Boro’s calls. Routine football story but no cock-up.

  24. Life is full of the “it’s easy to be wise after the event” questions.

    At this point I should come clean. I have just deleted a lot of stuff about the Test team’s selections in the West Indies then realised this a football blog. It’s not the Merlot, honestly.

    I’ll keep it short – Lyth should have opened the batting in all 3 Tests and we’d already have a good idea whether he can step up to international class against NZ and the Aussies this summer. Now we have to throw him in the deep end because of the attempt to rehabilitate Trott (which MIGHT have succeeded, given more time and the sense not to put him in as an opening batsman). And who thought it was a good idea to play M Ali as the front-line spinner with Joe Root (a part-timer at the very best) as his back up, on a pitch that was clearly going to turn, when we had Adil Rashid in the squad? Beyond stupid.

    Some decisions are easy to make after the event. Some are just as easy before it. But people still make those bad decisions and they are sometimes people who go on to make a good career in the game of their choice. Maybe some players don’t seem quite so good when younger, or maybe they looked poor in the 3 games they were watched but looked outstanding in the next 3 games? Imagine you are a 19 year-old full back put onto the field in a trial game against a 17 year old Ryan Giggs? Beaten 3 times in the first half and the young spotty weedy-looking winger scored a couple? Or you are put out there to mark a young Gareth Bale? Whose heard of him? You don’t play well…..

    “Beardsley? Nah! Not good enough!”. He sets off for Canada as clearly he’s never going to make a living in English football. Say no more…..

    **AV writes: When Alan Shearer had his trial game at Newcastle one of the other lads hadn’t turned up so he was put in goal.

  25. Forever –

    Probably the best bit was Cook having a go at the incoming cricket supremo, Colin Graves, calling him just a Yorkshireman who can talk a good game.

    The situation at Derby and Toon is just as bizarre. Schteve saying he turned down the Toon job for the last three games. Why did anyone say anything. I dont know which is dafter Derby making a statement or Newcastle confirming John carver for the last three games.

    It also allows Schteve to thank the magnificient fans on the website statement. I dont know what made me laugh more the use of magnificient a couple of times or the grovelling lower than a snakes belly.

    It all brings Friday night a tad closer.

    **AV writes: It had to come out because of the very public “meeting” that Carver had been summoned to. The local press up there had been told that Carver was out and now Derby’s season was over, McClaren would be appointed. That may have contributed to Carver’s bridge-burning both barrels attack on his own players. The McClaren deal seemed to have been agreed but he has clearly got cold feet after the weekend results because – quite sensibly – he doesn’t want a relegation on his CV. That forced Newcastle into a red-faced public u-turn on Carver which has compounded the chaos. Soap opera stuff.

    And I’m definitely adding “cricket” to the swear filter.

    1. AV

      Very much the view around here, it is an uneasy truce. Meetings are going on with all the players, Schteve will be trying to use the situation to his advantage – cant blame him.

      How long it will last we don’t know, the fact he was leaving doesn’t seem in doubt.

  26. I’m sure Schteve will be installed as Newcastle manager on July 1st as long as their Premier League status is preserved!

  27. C****** stories on this blog!!! Hells Teeth man
    Must be a few here who are into watching paint dry

  28. Ian –

    “I dont know what made me laugh more the use of magnificent a couple of times or the grovelling lower than a snakes belly”.

    Surely his statement used the word “character” at least half a dozen times too.

    Also, has he whitened his teeth recently, in light of this potential appointment to a “massive” club? If not, Steve, it’s time to see your dental hygienist.

  29. Ron –

    There were 33,000 on Saturday who would happily have watched paint dry. They certainly watched the grass grow around the feet of the players.

    A draw at cricket would have been more entertaining.

  30. Mentioned sometime ago that I was amazed, yes amazed, that bodies in charge of multimillion pound operations appeared by actions not to have a clue about crucial management appointments, that do have critical impacts on the success of those clubs (don’t call them businesses).

    John Carver, no doubt a loyal Geordie and great servant of the Barcodes, but if you actually sat down and thought it through who in their right mind would give an untried man a job running said multi-million pound club given their circumstances. It just goes to show, they really don’t know what they’re doing- nor, I believe, do they care.

    Now as to our very own Aitor. All and sundry would agree he’s on the learning curve and that those ‘learning opportunities’ have been expensive in that we are now taking the scenic route, with all the added financial and emotional expense that entails for the fans.

    Do you change him now, get rid? Hell no, although I’d consider it if things go downhill next season and have someone in my sights ready to replace if necessary. Why give someone the opportunity to pick him up when we’ve paid for the experiential training. Still, where’s his coach, where’s his guide and mentor? What he doesn’t have one? Oh! Well what about a learned number two? Oh, he sacked the last one. Right, well perhaps someone can get a grip and facilitate a training programme where said manager isn’t left in the position of a dictator where you get the push if you don’t agree with him – sounds like common sense to me.

    And finally, perhaps the executive could get themselves some training on how to spot, attract and sign a good quality manager in the event that one is required without a visit to a motorway service station and a meeting with lady luck.

    Extrapolate as you wish – still in conclusion with regards to managerial competency at football clubs (you have to feel for Portsmouth, Blackpool, Wigan etc, etc.,), I am reminded of a story that described how one CEO met up with a managerial candidate in a motorway service station by chance and the next thing you know he’s the manager of the club. I wake up sweating in the night to think these ‘experts’ run football – one S Blatter anyone?

    Finally, AV, standards in the press? When was the last time that happened? The press is the greatest benefit for a free society and also it’s greatest risk when put into the hands of the ‘wolves’. Always has been and always will be. Question – I’ve not heard it reported anywhere where someone has asked any politico what is there estimate in terms of how many food-banks there’ll be in the UK by 2020 and how many people will take their own lives because they have no help available when they so desperately need it?

    UTB

    **AV writes: Don’t be silly. The press – owned by non-doms, tax avoiders and vested interests – don’t report things like that. Just bread and circuses reality TV and the “millions” of zero hours apprentice barristas created inside the orbit of London’s super-heated economic bubble. And sandwich eating techniques.

    1. A bit like when Steve Gibson appointed an untried manager in The Premier League namely Southgate instead of going for experience!

      No need to go there again though!!

      **AV writes: Some of the names on Boro’s list of rookie managers: Anderson, Charlton, Rioch, Robson, McClaren.

      1. ‘You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment!’

        One of my favourites of all time and apt given tomorrow’s event in the UK

      2. AV

        But we hadn’t just reached a European Cup Final and needed a big named experienced manager to push on instead we got a rookie who took us ……

        Well like I said we won’t go there again!!

  31. Well back in northern Germany catching up on the Blog after the 24 hour journey home – managed to dodge the tornadoes and the Chapter of Hell’s Angels that were trying to sleep in the adjacent cabins on the ferry after my four-year old decided to wake everyone up at 4:30am – happily Satan’s Slaves vs Little Satan was a no contest.

    Looking back on the Brighton match, the no-show appears to be explained by AK’s tactics of deliberately playing a 0-0 as long as possible so he could decide late in the game how many points he wanted to get his pick of the playoff teams. Sound judgement maybe but definitely poor PR for the 33,000 who turned up – though if we get to Wembley then nobody will be talking about the Brighton anymore.

    Having said that, I agree with JimboUpNorth that Brentford played us off the park at their place and we managed to steal all the points – I expect a similar game on Friday and keeping it tight will be the order of the day I suspect.

    Though I also noticed that the contrived 0-0 cost me the title in the Exmil challenge – but well done Len you got the top four pretty much spot on – whereas I only dropped two points on places 5-8 so sneaked into the second automatic spot.

  32. Newcastle: the club – or was it the fans? – that got rid of Jack Charlton and Bobby Robson. Talk about disfunctional.

    **AV writes: And Sam Allardyce.

  33. Werdermouth –

    I am in the play offs but didn’t go for warm weather training, sat looking at the wind and rain out of the window and have a stack of paperwork to do.

    I always post if I have paperwork pending, that shows how much paper, real and virtual, that gets shifted.

    I keep giving a thought to the last leg of the Exmil challenge but one question springs to mind, if I get promoted what does that mean for the next set of challenges. Will we have table with promotion and relegation?

    Will there be parachute payments, have we a TV deal?

  34. Thanks to Exmil for all of his dedication and hard work.

    Ian: How is it possible to get promoted from the world’s top blog?

    I’m not budging, TV deals or not.

  35. As promised here is the table consisting of the results from exmil challenges 2 & 3, I have not got the time or inclination to trawl through to separate people with the same number of points therefore you will have to accept that you are joint what ever position listed in alphabetical oreder:

    =1. Jarkko 63 + 63 = 126

    =1. Werdermouth 59 + 67 = 126

    3. Len Masterman 57 + 68 = 125

    4. AV 63 + 61 = 124

    =5. Allan in Saudi 58 + 62 = 120

    =5. Ian Gill 57 + 63 = 120

    =5. Nigel Reeve 63 + 57 = 120

    =5. Simbar 62 + 58 = 120

    =9. Never give up on Boro 58 + 61 =119

    =9. Redcar Red 62 + 57 = 119

    =11. Clive Hurran 59 + 58 = 117

    =11. Grovehill Wallah 57 + 60 = 117

    =11. Stephenh 55 + 62 = 117

    14. Andy R 54 + 62 = 116

    =15. Brisbane Phil 54 + 61 = 115

    =15. Exmil 57 + 58 = 115

    =15. Selwynoz 61 + 54 = 115

    18. Ron in Delta 61 + 52 = 113

    19. Powmill 53 + 56 = 109

    =20. Pedro de Espana 49 + 58 = 107

    =20. Vanteis 53 + 54 = 107

    22. Jarsue159 52 + DNE = 52

    23. Smoggy in exile 49 + DNE = 49

    Well folks I hope that gives you something to discuss/argue about until Friday and its good day from him.

    Come on BORO.

    P.S.

    I read somewhere that when the team come back from Spain, on Thursday, they will stay and train in London, I wonder at which club that will be at ?

    Come on BORO.

    **AV writes: Oooooh. Tight at the top. And right down to the wire. Just like the real thing

  36. Ian, I thought the whole purpose of c****** was as an excuse for sitting in the sun in front of a nice green lawn drinking beer from noon until sunset…

    1. Test matches were the invention of early Christians to give the native population some conception of Eternity.

  37. Werner

    As opposed to driving hundreds of miles, fighting for a pint in the Navi then sitting watching street sculptures and getting bored witless in the cold.

  38. Oops, me and Werder at the top. Shows that you don’t need to see all the matches live. I have been only to the Brighton match this season.

    Perhaps luck have something to do if we beat Len or AV, for example

    BTW I met Bernie Slaven twice and Jim Plat three times (as well as Len) last week-end. A great stay over at the Boro. And yes, the Navvy was crowded but luckily I saw a few friends over there.

    Let’s hope for a good result on Friday.

    Up the Boro!

  39. Here’s a question for the team, well the DiasBoro. I, like a few others will be coming to London Bank Holiday weekend – no matter the cost. [My 2 day return ticket costs a fortune from the Middle East]

    But how would we get tickets for the Play Off final. In theory there will be 40,000 each side which is more than Riverside total capacity so at least some should be available.

    The cost of a ticket is minimal when added to Air Fares, hotel costs, car hire 3 days wages deducted etc.so location in the ground is not a limiting factor but getting a ticket when living overseas is a nightmare.

    Does the club ever make arrangements for loyal expats, is the Boro Pride scheme even available for expats even at this late stage?

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    BTW the good thing about Friday is we wont be worrying too much about the election results!!!

    **AV writes: They will go on general sale. I would suggest you contact the ticket office via the website and drop them an e-mail explaining the situation, leaving your credit card details. I’m sure they have a list of like minded individuals.

    1. I got two gold tickets for the Eindhoven earthquake final by logging onto the UEFA site and entering their competition for their allocation. Prime seats costing ouddles.

      The FA Wembley site might be worth a visit- just sayin like!

      BTW got a ticket for the FA Cup Final 1984 given to me by a bloke in a lift in a club in London. He’d been called back to his unit that morning. Cost nought!!!

      Sometimes the gods are with us, sometimes they aren’t!!

      UTB

  40. Magnificent! Top six was always the target before the Exmil Challenge started this season so very pleased to be joint top – However, I’ve no plans to leave the Blog in search of a new challenge this summer.

    Though Jarkko, I suspect you beat me on goal difference as I only had one maximum 10 in the first round – but if Exmil is happy to avoid a massive number crunching task then I’m happy to share the glory. Obviously looking at the Championship at a distance has given us the advantage of perspective – though it’s possible it could have been just luck?

    So many thanks for organising the challenge Exmil – above and beyond the call of duty given your heart scare a few weeks back and hopefully you are now well on the road to recovery (nerve shredding playoffs permitting of course!)

    I’ll view the Exmil playoff contenders with interest – though AV’s probably the favourite given his inside knowledge…

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