Boro Must Forge Success After Steel Blow

AFTER the Price of Football survey there was a lot of talk about football no longer being the people’s game.  But it is. No matter who “owns” the teams and makes the money, it is still very much a game at the heart of working class communities.

And at the Riverside Stadium today before blunt Boro’s frustrating stalemate with Fulham there were some stark reminders of that.  

Before kick-off the last of Teesside’s proud steelworkers paraded around the pitch, an act of defiance just 24 hours after the plug was pulled on the once world-leading Redcar works, an act of short-sighted economic vandalism that will have massive repercussions on Teesside in the months and years to come.

A century ago the Infant Hercules of Middlesbrough the single biggest steel producing conurbation in the world.  “Every metropolis came from Ironopolis…” as the poem puts it. We all know the history and the heritage and the imposing brutal industrial skyline that has dominated the town for generations.  Everyone on Teesside has that in their bloodline. We are a steel town. That is central to our history and identity. It is part of our DNA. 


The football team – Boro – is Teesside’s public face to the world.  It is the banner  we can rally around,  one of the few things that outsiders know about our area,  more so now than ever before now that world leading brands like British Steel and ICI have been dumped in the dustbin of history along with the donkey jackets that used to populate the Holgate.

So it was important that the club, the crowd and players marked that visibly and unconditionally. And they did.  

The cruelly discarded workers – many of who will be passionate supporters and season-ticket holders at Boro – paraded with heavy-hearts around the ground while a poignant video was also shown on the big screen showcasing the long history of steel making and some of the world landmarks stamped “Made In Teesside.” .

It was applauded sympathetically and sincere if possibly with an air resignation – and even by the Fulham fans which was a nice touch.  The applause  was  a show of respect and solidarity:  most fans, most ordinary people in an area like this where alternative employment is not easy to find will know exactly the impact unemployment will have on the individuals and the families directly affected. And the uncertainty and insecurity it will bring to others as the ripples are felt in an already fragile economy.   


Most people in Teesside will personally know someone who will suffer from this  jobs bow. And, for all their money and cocoon of privilege, that includes the players and staff at all levels of the club right up to the top.

Boro defender Ben Gibson – Teesside through and through –  like many at the Riverside and at Rockliffe, is only one step removed from the crisis and he has been explaining the impact of the Redcar closure to the overseas players, many themselves from gritty, economically challenged industrial areas.

“One of my best friends is someone who has already lost his job at Redcar,” he said in the matchday programme.  “The (overseas) players didn’t really know the ins and outs of what was going on, so I told them why it was such an important issue for this area.

“We have to show that everyone is together on Teesside.  As important as football is, we are all as one and this is affecting our town, and the people of this town are what makes this football club.”

That is an articulate and perceptive assessment of the situation and also of the important cultural role a club plays in a Northern industrial town like this. Boro is a vehicle for our collective pride and identity and is key to how we express ourselves.

Stewart Downing is from Pallister Park, an estate that when I was younger housed plenty of people who worked at Redcar and South Bank and Lackenby. He also has had personal experience of the impact.

“I;ve got a couple of friends who have lost their jobs,” said the England international this  week. “It’s devastating for the area.”

It is devastating. And that makes it all the more important for the area that Boro have a successful season. They are Teesside’s public face to the world.   We need that face to be defiant and smiling at success.

The frustrating draw with Fulham is a minor set-back. We should meet it with a steely spirit and  renewed resolve.  It is what we forge over the course of the season that matters.




THERE’s always intense scientific talk of the nuances of measuring time on a Saturday. Well it is Doctor Who night.
Every football fan could astound Dr Stephen Hawking when it comes to explaining how time has the ability to accelerate or slow down in a stadium relative to the observer.
We all know that when you are chasing a game and searching for a leveller that the stopwatch starts spinning around like the dateline on the dashboard of the Tardis.  And when you are digging deep and holding on to defend a narrow one goal lead, time stretches out painfully slowly and becomes almost glacial.
There is probably a team of soccerlogical boffins on loan from NASA working on very complex mathematical formula to explain exactly the nature of the phenomenon as we speak. But in the meantime we amateurs are left to question its effect weekly.
                       Aitor Karanka considers relativity and the nature of time
After Boro’s frustrating fixture with Fulham it was no different as the two bosses rigorously
debated football relativity and the changeable speed of the unfolding game.
Angry Aitor Karanka accused rival Kit Symons of interfering with the natural pattern of play, breaking up the spectral passage of the dynamics of the game, of playing fast and loose with the fourth dimension: of time-wasting.
“They came here to stop my side playing. They were wasting time from the first second,” he simmered, clearly disappointed that Boro could not “play in our style and our way.”
And that was possibly true. Probably true even. There were a very high number of stoppages from very early in the game that stretched the normal speed of events to breaking point.  Fulham took an age over dead balls, tieing shoelaces, ambling into position for set-play and they pushed the referee’s patience to the limit in dithering who was going to take throws and corners.
That added to the mounting frustration of the already tetchy crowd with tempers boiling over after an injury to their keeper that led to a break for treatment longer than most box sets  before he was slowly replaced.
Evil Time Lord Kit Symons slowly shrugged off Aitor’s accusation of tampering with the natural order.  “Am I bothered?” Mused Symons. “Not particularly.  They were having a bit of a grumble during the first half, but it’s not something we set out to do.
“And if they’d have been one-nil up I don’t think they’d have been rushing particularly.”
And that is a killer blow. Because it is true. What is often euphemistically called “game management” is frustrating for the opposition and for fans of the side that are trailing but it is a key part of the skill-set of any side.
It is a strategically deployed element of football’s Dark Arts.
It may not always seem ethical or desirable and you certainly wouldn’t want your ganme plan built around it every week, but you need the option when the pressure is on.
“They’d do it….”  well, of course we would. We do. And we do it well.
Remember how boiling Brentford were over Boro’s speed to slow the game down in the away leg of the play-offs?  Keeping possession, playing it backwards and  sidewards and   taking it in the corner, playing the second 45 on 33?  Remember how their fans whistled  and their players whined after the game and the days that followed.
Remember the steaming fans’ fury at Carrow Road as Boro broke the game up with niggling strategic fouls and suffered innocuous injuries that required lengthy medical intervention?  That’s good “game management”.  Taking the sting out of the game. Deflating the hyper-inflated atmosphere. Changing the tempo. Time wasting. It became a polished feature of Boro shutting out games last season.
“I think Dimi’s going to start to feel that injury any minute now,” we’d joke with Boro a goal up, under pressure and with five minutes on the clock.
When he went down the opposition crowd and the rivals dug-out would be incandescent with rage pointing to their watches and screaming: “Time!”
These things are all relative.


92 thoughts on “Boro Must Forge Success After Steel Blow

  1. I have read many times this season that we are just “waiting to click”.

    Does anyone have an idea when it is likely to happen because I can’t see the evidence? We are a quarter of the season in now and still no sign.

    What I have seen is a team unable to express themselves due, in my opinion, to managerial constraint and that will not be changing anytime soon. Our significant victories this season have come against teams that have pressed the self destruct button. Players who might provide a spark are given the clear message fit in or clear off. I have no problem with the formation, we have the players to make it work. My concern remains that the pursuit of dogma prevents the manager using them to best advantage.

    Relying on a tight defence to ruin a game and win it one-nil late on is fraught with danger as was proven against Bristol City and very nearly was against both MK Dons and on Saturday against Fulham. If Church’s effort against the post for MK before Stewie’s goal and McCormack’s late sitter gone in, the table would have a very different look about it. Fine margins indeed, but it seems our intention to keep them fine rather than creating a bit of breathing space.

    I’m now going to cheer myself up by contemplating the Cellini-Evans dream team.

    Catch their act while you can, they won’t be here for long but it will be hugely entertaining!

  2. Spent 60 clem taking me and the lad to the game on Saturday.

    Here’s my match report.

    The referee gets the game underway.

    75 mins. Fulham keeper freezes to death and is substituted.

    The referee blows for full time .

    Called in at the supermarket on the way home . Noticed that 60 quid would bought me 40 bottles of Old Speckled Hen.

    What a weekend I could have had .

      1. Ian –

        San Miguel. That’s just Spanish Foster’s isn’t it?
        It’s good, but it’s not a hen.

        **AV writes: Hobgoblin is available at same knockdown loss-leading price at same supermarket in Acklam. Rude not to…

  3. Well, it seems that most people agree with my statement on Saturday that we have to find a way to combat the negative tactics we face (which we also employ when it suits us).

    Unfortunately, we don’t have the answer but, let’s face it, promoted teams DO find a way, because negative tactics are not a recent innovation. I’d assume that training does include the relevant coaching, i.e. half the squad play like Fulham and the other half work on breaking them down.

    We may be panicking unnecessarily but we can’t afford too many repeats of the last two games if we are to be serious automatic promotion candidates. The next few games will give us a good idea as to whether it’s top two or play offs.


    **AV writes: Just about every team this season has tried to shut up shop and Boro found a way to break them down on the vast majority of occasions. Even the defeat against Bristol Boro found a way to prise them open, they jjust couldn’t get the goal/ Arguably against Fulham to. They had three or four good chances but couldn’t squeeze it in. Fine margins.

    1. And arguably, Fulham had the better chances overall.

      **AV writes: I agree, they did. But you can’t say Boro didn’t have chances, or spells of intense pressure, or go for it and throw bodies forward, which they did. There is an iodea abroad that somehow if Boro fail to score it is because they have set out not to, or they are tactically inhibited, or they not creating chances because Aitor wants them all dug into foxholes on the half way line but it is simply not true. Against Bristol Boro had 30 odd shots. They didn’t lose because of some inherent tactical flaw, they lost because on the day they weren’t good enough to make it count. It happens. To all teams.

      We must be guard against persuading ourselves that we are not good enough and doomed to failure because that will feed into the matchday psyche and we will quickly be back to that atmosphere where a layer of fans are just waiting for a mistake on the pitch so they can unload their own angst on the team. It is almost as if supporters (and this is not exclusive to Boro, just listen to 606, have forgotten the reality that sometimes their team will lose. It is not a disaster. It is just part of the natural landscape of football.

      1. AV, I can agree with all that you have said. It is just that I am a little concerned that we are not full-filling our true potential, and may suffer at the hands of the better teams.

        **AV writes: Well nothing is ever a given. We’ll be fine.

  4. Interesting to see the regretful sighs over Friend’s charges forward. I think this week will see the confirmation of AK’s determination to field a side that does not concede goals, for good or ill. Just as an after thought, friends forays into the box very rarely brought a goal. In fact if he had scored, once in the box, with any regularity, he would not be with us now, he would be with a Champions League side.

  5. Friend attacking? Hasn’t he got nearly as many assists this season as last already?

    Maybe some prefer the Bikey/Friend axis on the left side of defence.

  6. borocol

    I am not a lover of San Miguel and I must admit the same goes for Hen and Hobgoblin. I will drink them as it would be rude not too if they were available.

    As always a big game coming up as is the visit to Wolves. In a play off place come 5pm Saturday wouldn’t be a bad week. Two wins would be brilliant, four points would be great.

  7. Whatever your outlook on whether Boro’s current goal-scoring ability is something to be concerned about (or not), I’d prefer to start with our best finishers playing in the number 9 and 10 positions – i.e. Nugent and Stuani.

    The decision then becomes which forwards play on the left and right – and that also seems quite straightforward to me as Boro probably have the best wide right player in the league in Adomah and the best left foot in the division in Downing.

    I doubt Karanka is unsure of what his best attacking options are but I think he’s fallen into the trap of thinking they can play better in a position that are not their main strength. If they are being selected to upset the oppositions plans then it’s not really had the desired effect in the last three games so maybe it’s time to play to our strengths.

    In fact, playing our best forwards in their best positions is probably the last thing opposition managers will now be expecting. So let’s give it a go this evening and see where it gets us – tactical changes can always be made during the game and I believe you’d get a better initial tempo and fluidity with players in their preferred positions as they won’t be thinking about what to do and where to run.

  8. Werdermouth

    I think Stuani is unfit so my guess will be Nugent up top with Adomah, Downing and Fabrini as the three.

    I suspect Adomah left on the basis that it has never been tried before so we don’t know if it will work or not. Coughs discreetly, tricky with tongue in cheek.

    Downing right and Diego in the middle though I do have a sneaking feeling Forshaw may get to play just in front of Clayts and Leadbelter with Diego on the bench..

    1. If Stuani is unfit then I’d prefer Kike instead of Fabrini, who seemingly hasn’t had his best games on the road – whether Forshaw could play in the midfield two for a change (now that we are in to two games a week and apparently squad rotation is supposed to be there to give players a rest to avoid injuries) is anybody’s guess – but playing him as a number 10 from the off sounds less likely to offer a greater goal threat but probably make us even more solid.

      1. werder

        Forshaw started at Burton and he played in front of Stephens and Leadbitter but the attack was iffy. It wasn’t until Downing came on that we took the game by the scruff of the neck.

  9. PS


    I know it is 300 miles to Wales but I do expect to have a full new blog up by the time I get up tomorrow morning. No pressure.

  10. Like many other’s I saw AK’s complaints about time wasting as a cop out. Fulham implemented a plan that other’s have and will continue to do.

    AK’s evolution of Boro as an attacking force appears at this stage to be as you were last season but with better players. He needs to be bolder in order to break down stubborn opposition. I remarked after the MK Dons game that they had set a template of how to play against us & what happens when Downing doesn’t produce a moment of magic? Saturday happens.

    The choice of a clearly still to settle De Pena over AA was baffling, as was the shuffling of Downing to the right wing to accomodate him. It is pointed out that we have players that can play in a number of positions but the question should be “where are they most effective”? This will give us a better chance of breaking down the opposition. Following the debate on the Gazette, it’s AA – RW, SD – LW, Stuani – no. 10 for me. I won’t bother repeating my Leads & Clayton at home complaint again.

    A result tonight will settle us all down again but for me AK needs to rethink how we approach home games.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s