A Football Fairytale. Will We Get A Happy Ending?

ROY of the Rovers. Jumpers for goalposts. Everyone loves a football fairytale. And there were two to enjoy in the Boro’s slightly stodgy Championship curtain raiser at Deepdale.

The performance and result at Preston may have been disappointing. Given the summer spending you would expect the title favourites to beat a newly promoted side no matter how well organised and spirited.

Aitor wasn’t happy. But at least frustrated fans could relish two heart-warming stories of local lads from opposite ends of the career path and profile spectrum wearing the shirt of their home town club with pride.

Prodigal play-maker Stewart Downing was making his much anticipated second debut for the club after return from a six year exile in the elite. 

And teenage tackler Dael Fry, the latest centre-back to roll off the Hurworth Academy production, line was also making his bow as his fast track development found him in the first team well ahead of schedule.

Downing was the big ticket purchase of the summer. His is a narrative that combines a degree of sentiment with cash. He is the archetypal Teesside who wanted to come home but Boro had to bridge the yawning financial gap between the second tier and the top flight to make it happen. It speaks of ambition and risk, the need for a spark and the need for a totem.

1stewy

                                     One of our own:  prodigal playmaker makes second bow

Downing will get a lot of attention this term. Firstly from the outside national media; he is the one Boro player the national pundits will recognise. His surprising Sky Sports Boro man of the match nomination despite not being the best will no doubt be the first of many.

But he will also be the focus of the hopes and expectations of the Boro fans. He is the bums-on-seats merchant, the shirt selling face of an ambitious new project. He is the quarter-back, the match-winner elect that if if all goes to plan will be hailed as the catalyst for a famous promotion.

There is the slightest hint of Arthurian legend in the mix with our hero returning to save the Boro nation at a time of need, what with Juninho not being available. The one time slightly meek match-winner is an unlikely  leader but if he can inspire the team, if he can pull the strings and orchestrate the victories that pile on the points his legend will grow. 

Certainly the ingredients are there for him to be a hero. Supporters want him to succeed and be the galvanising presence in a famous campaign. The first loud chorus of “one of our own” saluted him after just two minutes. Hopefully that will be part of the soundtrack of the season.

Stewart Dowing is an important symbolic signing. He personifies the return of the good times. Six years after leaving in a £12m Aston Villa bound post-relegation escape pod after relegation, Downing returning to take up the challenge of taking his home town club back to the big time speaks of a new age of ambition and spending. New horizons. New possibilities

His exit in the summer of 2009 was the start of a new Dark Age for Boro. After years of unprecedented spending, glamour and success the club embarked on a period of belt-tightening. The first team was filleted of big names and big earners and after relegation suffered a financial toxic shop, a cultural dislocation and took up frustrating residence on the second shelf. It has been a long, fruitless, cold purgatory of prudence so the return of Downing offers the prospect of rebooting Boro as big time. 

But also making his senior bow at the other end of the football life cycle was Dael Fry, a strapping 17-year-old defender who has come out of nowhere over the summer to seize a shirt. 

Fry has been outstanding in the treble winning Academy Under-21 side. He also was the key player in the Under-18s team that won their national title. Last summer he won the U17 European Championships with England.

1dael

                             One of our own: Ayazz. Dael Fry takes one for the team.

That trajectory impressed Aitor Karanka and the boss took the stopper to Marbella with the first team squad in July where he more than matched the muscle of the men in training and on the pitch.

Fry stepped up another gear in pre-season and has been solid, composed and fearless at the back in the friendlies – but even he must have been stunned to be in the team for the opener.

You need a bit of luck sometimes. First the post-European Under-21 Championship absence then the unfortunate hamstring injury to Ben Gibson at Barnsley opened the door for Dael – the phonetic Teesside spelling – and suddenly he was the only realistic  choice alongside Daniel  Ayala at the back for the Getafe game. And he took his opportunity.  

And while Karanka has signed Jack Stephens on loan as centre-back cover the boss likes players to assimilate his “philosophy and methodology” so Fry got the nod for the opener. And what a display. He and not Downing should have been the one taking home the bubbly.

He showed he was more than up to the no-quarters given physical challenge of competitive clashes against battle-scarred veterans with his robust running battle with feisty Joe Garner, a seething striker who seemed to be channelling one man riot Paul Dickov.

After just four minutes he almost took the niggley Preston frontman’s head-off as he took a mighty swing with a high boot at a bouncing ball and whacked him full in the chops. That showed he had a ruthless streak and would not flinch in the heat of battle and deserved a quick chorus of “one of our own” too. Or “Teesside Aggro.” It was a good start. 

There followed  90 enthralling minutes of hand-to-hand combat: pushing and pulling, barging in from behind in crunch aerial challenges, bony elbows, scything tackles and snarling scraps around the box. 

1feisty

              Bubbling Boro: tempers bubble over as the midfield get to grips with the game.

As the sometimes feisty game unfolded Fry was right in the thick of the action and never looked out of place. He’s 17. He’s a machine. I really enjoyed watching him. He could turn out to be good ‘un. 

The two players are separated in footballing terms by a generation and a massive cultural gap – but geographically they are a keeper’s kick apart.

Downing is from Pallister Park. Fry from Berwick Hills. They both probably cut their teeth playing on the Old Vic pitches. Both are living the dream.

Alright, the fairytale didn’t end up happy ever after. It was a sticky start with a frustrating goalless draw. But it is May when we need the happy ending.

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143 thoughts on “A Football Fairytale. Will We Get A Happy Ending?

  1. I must say I do not agree with this “AK doesn’t learn” trend. SG seems to have taken on board that this is a long term project hence the contract.

    First year [half season] – make the best of what we have and the result was an immediate tightening up at the back and a more disciplined hard to beat team.

    Second year was building up from the back and developing the hardest team in the league and as a result into the play offs and luckily getting Brentford not Norwich or Ipswich.

    This year looks like injection into midfield creativity without affecting the back, the result well I am sure playoffs but you never know promotion should be a reality.

    Strikers and goals can only come when all else is in place if we want to win matches. Score one more than them is the objective not 3-3 draws.

    A few seasons ago Preston would have scored from a silly late corner or free kick in the dying minutes. It doesn’t seem probable anymore, and now with the next level in place I can see more hope building.

    I had a great time last season and didn’t feel so bad post Wembley, and I relish this season in much the same way.

    Cant wait for tomorrow nights match.

    1. Very logical analysis Allan. It doesn’t mention however the fact that AK, the main man, wasn’t at all impressed with the performance at Preston and rightly identified the lack of Boro goals scored.

      There appears to be a gap between the level which AK is expecting his team to perform and that which they are producing. The question is why? The answer we may never know, but AK is not a happy Spanish bunny & has promised a shake up, so look forward I suppose to some radical change. As Ian would say ‘We will see!’

  2. ‘Journalism is dangerous!’

    ln amongst our consiberations of all things Boro, which I’m sure all who read and contribute to this erstwhile and lauded blog, excellentIy facilitated and monitored free of charge by AV. Can l draw to your attention the very recent death of an Azerbaijani journalist, who has died due to injuries he recieved after being beaten by 6 men. Apparently he had the termacity to critice a national team football player. His name was Rasim Aliyev.

    Here on this blog we can have major disagreements on all facets of performance of MFC- long may we continue to be able to express those differences in a civilised and safe fashion.

    1. Certainly puts our debates over Tactics, Nugent, Rhodes and co into perspective, Very sad day for sport in Azerbaijan.

  3. If the object of the game is promotion then Peter Crouch on a PL wage with a transfer fee of a few million sounds far better value than either Nugent or Jordan Rhodes – he’ll probably score plenty in the Championship just from Downing corners – Though I’d guess a fair few PL sides would probably be in for him too.

    **AV writes: he’s just signed a new two year £60k a week contract at Stoke.

  4. So, NBC have swelled the pot for the TV rights. 5.1 Billion for domestic rights and now an “estimated” 2 Billion for overseas rights over the next 3 seasons. The pissing the league quote has never been more important.

  5. We didn’t play 4231. It was 451 with the emphasis on not getting beat at all costs.

    First game of the season against a newly promoted side was a typical Boro Banana Skin that was dodged.

    Long way to go yet, just hope we don’t start rummaging in the Bargain Bin for a striker. We need to start creating chances first. If we had strikers that were missing sitters then I would be worried.

    Let’s start making chances for the present incumbents first and take it from there.

    1. Although well created and although not a striker, I would put Leadbitters chance in the sitter category and judging by the hands on head body language of the players, so did they.

  6. GHW

    The other consideration is whether the targets want to come here. If they are in the top flight at the moment they are a bad injury away or loss of form from being involved.

    They may prefer to sit tight and get top dollar in the belief they have the talent to change the pecking order or that a top flight club comes in for them.

    Who knows where the agents are touting them, not everyone in the football world has the same devotion to Boro we have.

    1. I think Skybet, Paddy Power and Bet Victor would have us down as favourites to sign Shergar at the minute!

      Who knows what our destiny may have been had we signed Hooper the first time around from Scunny instead of the great Jocktification?

      I note that AK is reported as saying that we didn’t offer £14m for Rhodes……………………just hope it wasn’t £16m 🙂

      **AV writes: As teh Gazette have said from day one, there has been one offer made which is a big initial fee (over several years) with add-ons that come close to Blackburn’s £12m valuation.

      1. 1/ Shergar was sausage, couldn’t score a goal if he tried (eerrrrr! – yes I know!)
        2/ I thought the transfer fee offer for Rhodes was already out there at 2 shillings and sixpence with 12 squillion in add-ons – mock if you wish!

      2. Don’t wish to be critical AV, BUT who in their right mind would seriously believe Venkeys would let their prize playing asset go to a direct competitor for a deal that in effect made them wait an extraordinary amount of time to get the bulk of the money they believed he was worth? Not only that but ( there’s more) a great chunk of the fee was dependent on the same competitor getting promoted using their player? To make things worse the ‘one and only offer’ was rejected yet reports consistently suggested that MFC were vigorously pursuing the said same player over weeks. Yet more, the same transfer target had been pursued in the last transfer window on the same basis with the same end result- unbelievable!!!

        **AV Writes: Believe it or not, that is how most deals are structured these days with payments over two or three years so the actual model is the norm in the game. As to this specific deal, whatever the entrenched public positions of both clubs, Boro must have reason to believe that there could be or will be movement before the deadline.

  7. AV –

    You might answer this, you might not. How much is a Northern League player on these days?

    I’m sure some just expenses but teams with a following, players must do OK.

    **AV writes: I’m out of the loop these days but I think there is a massive spread depending on how ‘ambitious’ a club is. Maybe 20 years ago there was decent money in the league with higher crowds and better sponsorship and for the best players the gap between NL and Conference wages wasn’t massive. In some cases you could turn down pro clubs because NL wages plus a full-time job added up to more. And was more secure. That’s all changed. Some clubs round here either don’t pay or pay a token figure as expenses. Clubs aiming to put together a team capable of promotion or having a crack at the Vase who have a good backer can maybe afford to throw a bit of cash around for a year or so and maybe good players get £200 a game or so.

    When millionaire backed Celtic Nation embarked on their folly of getting into the Football League a few years ago they were signing players from league clubs – Adam Boyd for instance – and paying a reputed £600 plus a game. That didn’t last long. I think they’ve gone tits up now.

    1. Thanks for that.

      I know back in the day,60s/70s, Sunday morning club teams, the ones who won leagues every season, were dropping a few bob to certain players. Beer money you might say.

  8. So far only Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool and Newcastle have spent over £12m on a single player. With an equivalent fee, I’m not convinced the value of Jordan Rhodes to Boro is the same as that of Bastanien Schweinsteiger to Man Utd – plus will he have the same impact on games?

    Maybe that kind of money would be better spent on another top class midfielder who drives the team forward – surely if Boro create enough chances one of our current strikers could bang a fair few of them in.

  9. Fair point but we need someone in the box with more savvy, able to make something from very little, Bamford did that regularly, Vossen didn’t, Nugent will, so will Rhodes but not sure about Hooper, get Crouch on a loan a good Plan B for the aerial assault.

    As AK keeps banging on the team isn’t completed just yet. Problem now is everyone knows what we need so to the selling club it’s a case of how much can we get from them. We’ve only played the one game against a very switched on defensively set up Preston

    One game so far and the way it is now you could be mistaken for thinking that game has defined our destiny for this season.

    1. Ron –

      We could have Ronaldo and Messi in the box but unless we actually pass the ball forwards, run at defenders and put the ball into the said aforementioned box then it matters not one iota.

      Kike could be that 25 goals a Season striker for all we know but the way we were set up at Deepdale makes me think that the Players confused the name of the Stadium with AK’s tactics talk. As a consequence they all kept it very deep indeed with Dael.

      1. RR agreed on one point but not on Kike being a potential 20+ goal merchant no matter how good the service……..
        The way we played reminded me of too many games last season, how can we loose this game then smack the late goal strikes

  10. AV –

    l recall reading of one manager’s experience when dealing with Cloughie. He was shown into a darkened officer. Suddenly a bright desk lamp shone its light into his eyes nigh on blinding him. From behind the light Cloughie’s voice sounded ‘What the hell do you want?’ Said manager replied ‘Wanted to ask for a fixture change.’ BC replied ‘Bugger off you!’ Manager persists ‘ But it’s in both our interests to change the fixture.’ BC ‘Bugger off you!’ Manager turned around and left via door shaken head.

    I’m left shaken my head at the very fact that MFC even botherd to get on the phone to Venkeys.

    Happy Days!!!

    **AV writes: Asterisk eh? Very clever. I’m going to have to tweak the swear filter I think.

    1. Twerk & l mean tweek away AV as is your right – l was simply quoting the great man verbatim. l hold him in high esteem and as such l would ever hessitate to do otherwise – was one of our own you know & lMHO the greatest manager England ever produced. A one off, a genius of footballing success both on & off the field.

  11. I see in other football news that Jose’ has demoted his two Physio’s Jon Fearns and Eva Carneiro for treating Hazard on the pitch on Saturday. They were already down to ten men after the ludicrous challenge from Courtois (which they then ridiculously appealed). From what I can gather Mourinho was incensed that they went onto the pitch to give treatment to Hazard instead of leaving him laid there which meant that he had to come off the pitch and effectively reducing them to nine men momentarily.

    I struggle to see why JM didn’t think for just a second that perhaps it was all the fault of his player’s gamesmanship rather than Physio’s looking after a multi million pound Club investment?

    I’m guessing that JM has a far bigger naughty step than even AK does!

    1. Red

      Amazing how Chelsea (and others) get away with obviously ridiculous appeals, isn’t it? Yet when we tried it after Aliadiere had gently brushed his hand across some Liverpool player’s forehead ( I forget who), the FA decides it’s frivolous and increases his ban by a further game!

      Call this Boronoia, but I sense we often get (or used to get) the rough end of the deal in these affairs.

      1. Clive

        The offending player was Mascherano, he grabbed Aliadierre by the throat. My scouse mate said it was ok because he had a cheeky smile. The offending ref was Lee Mason – yet another of the new boys officiating Boro matches. The prevailing view was that Gate’s team were a soft touch, not far wrong.

        At the same time a Chelsea player physically assaulted a footballer – I think it was Mikkel. They appealed and he wasn’t given an extra match.

        Boronoia it is not, it existed.

    2. Demote Eva!! I would have sat next to me……Hazard milked the tackle, JM has made much of how his star man is a target now so what could you do let is amateur dramatics play out or make sure he really was okay.

      JM you gotta like him but he does go on

  12. Redcar Red

    I doubt Jose has a naughty step, more a sweeping grand staircase typically found leeding up to a stately home. There again they could be evicted out of the servants entrance out the back

    Spartak

    How do we know what goes on in the murky world of transfers? What is more it is nothing new. We dont know who has spoken to who and when, we dont know what the agents have been told by the player or either club, we dont know what goes on between player and agent.

    All we can do is sit and wait.

    1. Ian – How can you know what goes on in the murky world of Jose M? Does he really have a naughty step or staircase? Does he smack the legs errant players? Does John T cry copiously if he loses at tiddley winks?
      What we do know is what AV tells us. What we do know is what AK says in his interviews. What we do know is who buys who & when stated for how much. We also know when.
      So l prefer to put the information l have together with the record of past performences ie Higgy, Tomlin etc., & draw a reasonable conclusion based on inference.
      l like to think my conclusions are nearer the mark than Simplistic statements inferring that some people in positions of major responsibility are ‘professional & hardworking’ without a shred of evidence to the fact.
      l like to think l give respect & encouragement to those who deserve it and criticise those who equally deserve it for poor performance.
      l am a life long Boro supporter. l love the club & team. l want success for the club & players. lf smth is questionable l will call it out & l don’t give a fiddler’s ‘bugger’ to anyone who would rather be in denial to maintain an inept status quo.
      l thank you!

      1. Spartak

        No problem, the difficulty is sorting the wheat from the chaff. My comment was that we just don’t know what goes on.

        As you say, you can only work on the evidence in front of you. In the end we just have to wait and see.

  13. I think because of our great relationship, we should invite North Korea to sponsor the stadium and throw I don’t know maybe £100m at it.

    The North Korean Riverside Revolution has a ring to it.

    1. Are you prepare to stand in freezing cold muddy water up to the knees all day whilst living off a crust of mangy bread to pay for said North Korean revolutionary contribution?

  14. Let’s hope the Nugent deal doesn’t materialise.

    He is out of form and favour at Leicester and at 30, will not have the running or probably willing to run required of AK’s sides. He career goal record, predominantly lower league, is nearer one in four than one in three games That’s not good enough.

    It smacks of desperation on our part, which is sad and surprising.

    His wages a year ago, if we believe 20 grand a week, are farcical and a building base for division and discontent and something for the fans to beat him with if he fails.

    He will not be a part of any Boro team if we do go up as he has been a flop at that level.
    The Gazette Boro homepage yesterday trailed the signing of Mido eight year ago and this smacks of the same stupidity.

    In hindsight only, we should perhaps not have let Tomlin (different positions I know) go until another forward face arrived.

    But signing Nugent would compound the folly only and set in trail the mediocre and complacent feel of Strachan’s time.

    Surely the club didn’t undergo the cost cutting of Mowbray’s time just to splash it out speculatively on a signing common sense tells us will likely be a donkey.

    There is an adage that clubs should never buy a player who feels he is doing them a favour by signing.

    Nugent in a nutshell.

    1. Richard… my thoughts to a tee. This whole scenario over our need for a striker is getting disturbing and as you say smacks of deseparation. We have not even seen how Stuani performs yet and AK says he knows him well, so he will do the business just like he said Kike would.

      As most of us bang on about, the main problem I believe is not the striker(s) whoever he/they may but the make up of the team. Playing as we do we will continue to struggle to score the goals we require to be top six.

      People blame Kike, but you would think he had a personal problem, nobody will go anywhere near him. Nugent at 4 mil on a three year deal at 20 grand or whatever is ludicrous. Mr Gibson trying hard and letting his heart rule his head..

    2. Spot on! I’m in complete agreement. The one really good season he has had was playing for a side that walked the league and created a hatful of chances every game. Even then he was only 3rd/4th top scorer. For the boro with our current setup I think double figures would be an achievement and with no sell on value and huge wages to even contemplate it seems ridiculous. I hope I’m proven wrong.

  15. Mr.Gibson & his acolytes not succeeding where they should, more like. And there’s a pattern & lots of people raising objections, if you say so. Which leads me to the quote ‘ Perhaps the lady doth protest too much!’

  16. It sounds like Sunderland maybe contemplating a move for Jordan Rhodes so perhaps Boro have already moved on to other targets.

    Nugent is looking likely to be a done deal this week but whether he’s ready to go is debatable – Big Nige said he needs a manager who makes him feel wanted and although AK is apparently ruthless in his determination, there is a good team spirit in the squad that would help him settle quickly.

    Overall, I think Boro have goals in the team if we find the right balance. Perhaps it is harder for our established players to shift their mindset from ensuring shut-outs to a more expansive method of play. Leadbitter and Clayton have been the rock of ‘they shall not pass’ for most of Karanka’s time so suddenly expecting them to ping the ball around is a bit naive – as is the tracking back first ingrained into the wide players.

    One of the two central midfielders needs to drive forward when switching from defence into attack but you still need players to pass to who can retain possession to avoid getting caught out.

    Anyway, who wasn’t aware of Karanka’s desire to avoid conceding goals as a platform away from home – it will be a few months of evolution before that changes I’d wager (if at all).

    We only lost out on automatic promotion by a few points and a few missed chances – so I’m not expecting a radical switch in tactics from AK.

    Preston was only one game, so no reason to get nervous yet – Boro are perhaps a bit rusty and need to get their passing and tempo up to speed before we can judge.

    BTW I’m predicting a top three finish so a 66% chance of automatic promotion.

  17. I can understand the theory that if we had a 25 goals a season striker last season then we would have gone up automatically and so if we throw silly money at one now then that will secure promotion this season.

    As has been pointed out we have been here before with Boro and Mogga had to shovel out the stables afterwards.

    My concerns are several. The first being that if Billy big bucks arrives (insert one of half a dozen names now) then it could be divisive and break the team spirit (cites departed Whitehead in the stands at Preston with the Boro fans proving how good it is). Downing is a unique case, local lad, England International who could have stayed in the Prem but wanted to join the cause.

    Secondly we are being quoted prices that are nothing short of ludicrous with little to no likelihood of getting anything like the same amount should we resale which is great if we go up but a huge millstone if we don’t. Boro have previous when it comes to big name strikers on huge salaries and a drought of goals.

    The third but most worrying aspect are the self inflicted avoidable wounds we suffered last Season. Starting and persevering with Mejias who was out of his depth then Wednesday away, Blackpool home etc.

    My fourth worry is the big tests. Consider Watford away when Watford leapfrogged us to go top and we threw new starters Tiendalli and Amorebeita into the side. Then Bournemouth away when we failed to register a single shot on target as this time Bournemouth leapfrogged us to go top. Then Norwich away which we actually ground out and won but needlessly played with 10 men for over an hour and effectively finished Bamford’s season along with our hopes as it turned out. And then there is the Play Off final itself when we couldn’t even get to the Stadium on time let alone tactics.

    And as we have just been mentioning there is as we jokingly call it the “naughty step” and the mystery of Steele, Muzzy, Higgy etc.

    Throw in the tactical display still only hours old at Preston into the debate and I’m not comfortable. I desperately want to be but I’m not getting that tingle of belief that lessons have been truly learned.

    If we address our internal failings then I would even question if a “trophy” striker is required. AK went very close last season but in my opinion we were masters of our own downfall on several occasions and Sunday was same old, same old for me unfortunately.

    1. How have you the termerity to doubt RR? Everything is/ will be fine? Have some faith my good man. Do not forget we have ‘professionals’ at the club who are ‘ hardworking’. In Aitor we trust and is not everything working as it should like a well oiled machine ready to ‘piss’ this league.

      Be patient SG has a ‘Moneyball’ machine in his back office constantly searching out previously unrecognised qualty at a snip of a price and if that doesn’t work he has deep pockets to buy the very best money can buy. Then again, if it does’t work there’s always next season with the added advantage of last seasons lessons learnt.

      Oh happy days!

  18. Redcar Red

    It is an oft repeated debate about the strikers, formation etc.

    As you know my view is that the system is irrelevant, it is the tempo, movement and passing that are crucial. To do that we need to start with our central pair pushing us up the pitch. The likes of Adomah and Downing receiving the ball in the last third gives opportunities but only if it is quick ball.

    Passing it across the midfield for the sake of it allows the opposition to settle in to defensive mode. Guardiola was asked about the Barca style and he said he didn’t want passing for the sake of it. He wanted the ball moved quickly to create overloads and get people in to space.

    Of course it is easy to say and type but much harder on the pitch, the opposition will disrupt what you do. You can also throw in the skills set of the players we have. No disparagement intended, they are what they are.

  19. Redcar Red

    I must admit to a few seeds of doubt myself. I feel like a knee-jerker for saying so but I do wonder if lessons have been learned.

    In all honesty, it is far too early to say. Karanka knows that we didn’t score enough goals last season (away from home) and must surely have a plan. Perhaps he feels that as his squad isn’t yet complete, he needs to keep things tight and simple just now. Perhaps he has plans to push Downing back into central midfield once Fabrinni is fully up to speed (I doubt that, though).

    Like you, I am concerned that that plan is simply to sign another striker. With just Kike and Fewster we are a striker light but we will need a more attack minded, freer approach if we are to significantly improve our goals return.

    I hope that Karanka and those around him recognise that. Failure to do so will leave our strikers starved of chances to score and too desperate to convert when the chances do come.

    The world’s top strikers have conversion rates of about 33%. Kike is not one of the world’s top strikers. How many games will it take for him to get the five or so chances (more if his confidence is shot as it was by the end of last season) he needs to score?

    The change needs to be as much about mindset as personnel, though there is room for both. And it doesn’t need to be radical, just a subtle shift in the emphasis of the midfield – that they are there to support the attack as well as the defence.

    I agree with Richard on Nugent. Whilst we are all desperate for success, it must be built, not chased.

    1. But to where? Time is pressing. What happened to the great 12 squillion transfer of the season? Well there’s always the January window.

  20. Ian

    Fully agree on the Tempo thing. One of my biggest bugbears is our lack of movement off the ball when in possession. I realise these are Championship players but standing wanting to receive the ball and looking for a static player in a red shirt to pass to drives me mental.

    Tomlin was never one of my favourites but he could pick out a killer pass into space that if another Boro player was tuned in on the same wavelength (cue Bamford) could carve open the tightest of defences.

    Watching Arsenal when in full flow (or indeed even the Hammers against them this weekend) or Citeh against the Baggies with slick fast paced passing and delicious balls splayed out wide to pacey wingers had me salivating. Contrast that with our “to me to you” in our own half against Preston and its painful.

    The pre-packaged excuse is always “well what do you expect from the Championship, if they were that good they would be playing week in week out in the Premiership”. Fair point but the opposition is also Championship level.

    Adam Reach used to charge forwards and even had the odd shot in him from 30 yards. Muzzy and Albert could rip a new derrière in most of the Championship defences. Downing can play those Tomlin type killer balls and Kike I am certain is much better than we have seen to date. I wish that AK would believe more in himself and his charges (Mejias aside) and take the handbrake off, they don’t need stabilizers any more. Wildschutt I’m convinced would terrorise defenders pushing up the park. We can be defensive but we don’t need 11 defenders when at this level 8 defenders would do surely.

  21. Redcar Red

    The players we have can do it, we saw it many times last season.

    It may be that our midfield duo are too comfortable and instinctively are playing sideways rather than forwards.

    Clearly there is a time to play square and a time to be progressive, the balance is the difficulty. The killer ball is never to feet, often it can be a short pass but it is in to space. That is what Tomlin was good at, it is the strength of Arsenal at their best. They are constantly playing balls in to space, it is the pace and movement of other players that makes the pass look so good.

    I am sure we have enough attacking skills for this division, utilising them is the key.

  22. ManU are watching Dael Fry, I suppose they are watching him washing up as well.

    Out of interest, what is the position about recruiting young kids from other teams academies?

    1. Ian –

      Ref Man U and Fry they would have to pay an agreed compensation fee for an academy graduate but would be surprised if Boro hadn’t already got a pro contract ready for him to sign up for next 3 years

      Fat Bob

      1. Dael is local and hopefully wants to stay with the Boro at least for the time being. I’m sure he realises that if he was enticed by Old Trafford he would simply become a number, lost and forgotten amongst their ranks.

        Boro’s Academy is one of the best in Europe and he has already had his opportunity for first team football. There is nowhere else his career would progress better or quicker. He also has the benefit of learning from the likes of AK and Woody which matches if not betters any CB instruction expertise and experience that Manure, Arsenal or Chelski could provide.

        The very fact that he is being named nationally and has caught the eye of United at only 17 years old is indication that he is making excellent progress where he is currently in his career.

        If he sticks with Boro it is entirely possible that he could become a first team regular by the end of the season and who knows if we can start attacking teams he may even be playing in the Premiership next season!

      2. Manure whipped Pally out from under our noses. When’s the Boro going to build on home grown talent instead of letting others reap the benefit?

        And no, l have no time for arguements about ‘the player’s chance at the big time’ or ‘ afterall Boro is a business’ BS. Matt Le Tissier didn’t need to leave Soton and l’m pretty sure he’s got a nice house and a nest egg.

  23. 6M, 24 year old Dwight Gayle or 4M, 30 year old David Nugent. I know which one I would go for. If the figures are to be believed of course.

    1. I am praying, please not Nugent. Emily Nugent would do a better job ! I would still pursue Rhodes.

      **AV writes: Nugent is one of a small group of people who have scored better than one in three in this division over a sustained period. Most of the others are either in the Premier League or (in Jordan Rhodes case) Boro have made a bid for them. Any Boro fans who groan and say they “don’t want him” need a reality check.

      1. I don’t think Nugent is a bad player just not better than the players we already have. For me he is a much of a muchness, quite good. When he has done well in his career is for teams that play on the front foot he is certainly not a player to create something out of nothing. Based on that is 4mil good value for money? Does it improve our squad significantly? I’d say no to both of those. As other people have already said our current forwards may very well have the potential to get goals it is our set up that stops them with a lone isolated striker.

    2. Mike –

      Regarding fees 4 mill or 6 mill we could of course just be playing a game of chicken toile sure we go down the right Rhodes?

  24. If we released the handbrake on Albert, play Muzzy, bring in Fabbrini or Forshaw instead of Clayton or Leadbitter to play alongside Stewy further up the middle then Emily Nugent herself would score goals, in fact I’d put money on it that Ena Sharples would score!

    Apparently Sunderland are now in talks with Blackburn with a £12m Rhodes bid. Oh the irony if we go up, the Mackems come down and Blackburn are facing him in the Championship after all. Mind you Rovers would need to avoid being relegated into League 1 for that to happen. At £12m, no thanks, for that I’d rather go with Nugent or Hooper but I would prefer we chase and landed Antonio from Forest.

  25. Ian,

    Regarding us recruiting youngsters from other teams, specifically Premier League teams, I’m all for it.

    I know we need to give our youth team a chance to prove themselves and show what they’ve got, however sometimes throwing them into a Championship game or an entire season is unfair on them. I love to see our youngsters go out on loan, and play a lot of games…this way they come back stronger and more mentally prepared for the challenge.

    The new lad from Southampton is a prime example for me. He went out on loan and played 53 times (I stand corrected) last year, so he’ll probably be better prepared than Johnny Burns, hence Burns to go out on loan this year.

    The downside is that they aren’t our player and we are nurturing talent for another team, but then we do the same for teams lower down the leagues. I think this is how we get young talent coming through.

    Dael Fry is a complete anomaly though, we couldn’t have expected him to perform so well on debut.

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