Rigid Rearguard Are Rattling Up Records

BORO 1 [Your Name Here] 0

Aitor Karanka’s clean sheet kings are absolutely awesome.
The defence – the back four, five, seven, and sometimes all ten outfield players in a orchestrated display of toe-to-toe street fighting – have created a rock solid foundation on which a Premier League promotion push can be built.
Boro went back to the top of the table temporarily by beating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0  – Derby are yet to play – in yet another “narrow “yet ultimately comfortable victory as the rigid rear guard once more proved to be completely inpenetrable.
Boro scored in seconds flat and could have wrapped up in a blistering start before losing some fizz but for all the nerves in the second half as the Owls gave it a decent crack, Boro were barely troubled. Dani, Dani Ayale headed one off the line – that’s what he does – and Dimi caught a long range effort without breaking sweat. And that was it.  Another Plain Jane game and another three points in the bag. Standard.
          If Boro score they win. Here Cristhian Stuani scores after 43 seconds.
I’m starting to really enjoy the way Boro put a strait-jacket around games leaving the opposition to wriggle and sweat and scream to no avail as our heroes tighten their grip and shroud all attacking intent with a relentless, mechanical, high-energy blur of closing, tackling, blocking – and when needed, strategically fouling 30 yards out on the rare occasions the victims manage to get an arm free. And when the Owls were chasing the game Aitor put on foul magnet Diego Fabbrini to break up play. Absolutely ruthless.
The well drilled team have put together an incredible binary sequence that has taken them into the automatic promotion places leaving eye-catching statistics and the pundits’ superlatives scattered in their wake.
At the Riverside Stadium the last few league results have been 1-0, 1-0, 0-0, 1-0, 1-0 and before that, spoiling the mathematical base two beauty 3-0, 0-0 and 3-0.
There was a blip midway through that as Boro lost 2-0 at home to Everton but that was in the Capital One Cup and we don’t talk about that. Besides, Dimi wasn’t in goal for that one and it was a much changed side  so we can put that safely to one side. And the results since then have shown that Boro shrugged that set-back off with barely a second thought.
Only promotion counts this term and that will come through by-hook-or-by-crook victories over our Championship peers.
In the Championship Boro’s current hermetically sealed streak is now eight games, 637 minutes, TWELVE AND A HALF HOURS… stretching back to September 15 and a 3-1 win over Brentford.
That equals Boro’s all time record of eight consecutive home clean sheets in the league.
That shut-out sequence came between November 1986 and February 1987 in the 1986-87 campaign when Steve Pears  proved to be a cult hero.
The safe-hands shot-stopper was a fixture in Bruce Rioch’s first full season as Boro burst out of the liquidation coffin and cruised to promotion from old division three.
That run started with a 4-0 Ayresome Park win over title rivals and eventual champions Bournemouth and included wins over Bolton, Doncaster, Bristols Rovers and City, Fulham, Newport and Rotherham.   Four of those were 1-0s and two more goalless, before people with dodgy memories weave a narrative about that side being far more prolific.
For most of that run Brucie’s Boro were in top spot with occasional slips in away games that saw them drop back to second and once even third.
The Boro defence from 30 years ago was an amazing collection of mainly young and local talent and from that group Colin Cooper and Gary Pallister played for England while both Tony Mowbray and Brian Laws made £1m moves at a time when that meant something.
This side though are playing at a higher level and look stronger.  And if they can keep up the current trajectory they can win promotion, build a bond with the crowd and become legends for a generation in the way that the Class of 86 did.
Boro’s defence have proved to be the most important component of this season’s success so far – and the one that has proved the toughest tactical nut for opponents to crack.
                No Paseran! Our Spanish stopper marshalls a massed defence.
All the focus is on Dimi Kontstantopoulos as the man with the gloves but ironically, as Boro battled to the record mark against Sheffield Wednesday,  the Greek keeper barely had a touch. In the first half he was limited to a casual catches from hopeful punts forward  and taking a few goal-kicks and a free-kick.
In the second half Boro were under more pressure as the Owls rallied and gave it a go but all Dimi really had to do was clasp a harmless long range Barry Bannan effort to his chest.
It was Dani, Dani Ayala that took the plaudits once more as the Spanish stopper cleared the Owls one real chance off the line to maintain the run.
Ayala has grown in stature this season to become arguably head-and-shoulders the best defender in the division and one who could easily step up a level.
He is physically strong and excellent in the air but his main asset is his spatial awareness.
The combination of his  positional play and his ability to read the flight of the ball and the movement of the man he is marking is incredible.  In all the games Boro have played against top flight teams in the past year or so he has never looked out of place.
He can mix it if necessary but he is silky smooth for long spells,  a well oiled defensive machine that rarely looks flustered.  The number of times he simply stepped in from of an opponent to cut out a dangerous Wednesday ball into the box was gob-smacking.
It is all a far cry from the fledgling player at the start of last season who seemed to have a mistake and/or a booking in him every game. He has come on leaps and bounds under Aitor Karanka and has dragged the rest of the back four with him.
Certainly he has brought the best out of his brother-in-arms Ben Gibson. The Teessider look a far more solid prospect when along side Ayala.  Last term their stats were incredible. Boro only lost once in the regular season when the pair played together – and that was in the final away day madness at Fulham. And Wembley. But we don’t talk about that.
But this season they have moved up a gear and no matter what the other personnel of the defence is the dynamic duo look calm and commanding, read each other superbly and are never bullied.  The brittle Boro backline breeched so frequently only a few years ago is now a thing of the past.
But it is not just the defence; the whole team pursue the collective goal of the clean sheet with a religious zealotry that would shame the Jesuits. They are water-tight. If Boro’s back-line was in charge of  national flood defences there would be a hosepipe ban in Lancashire and York right now.
And it is fantastic to watch.  Such consciously drilled and meticulously organised collective defending  – Karankanaccio – is an art form that is woefully under-rated in England but which Boro are perfecting in front of our eyes . And the miserly run is producing tangible results. Boro are top – but just as importantly the pack is thinning out behind them as the underlying trends start to be reflected in the table.
           Gravitationally challenged foul magnet Diego Fabbrini in a familiar pose.
Boro are now five points clear of third placed Hull  – who lost 1-0 at Preston – with a game in hand.  And there is a yawning 13 point gap to seventh. Compare that to last season’s summit squeeze when at times the top six was covered by two or three points.
The table has a very healthy look to it: top; joint best goal difference; fewest goals conceded; only second placed Derby have scored more – by one – in the top six… things are looking good.
Obviously, there is a long way to go yet and we’ve been here before and slithered away so there is no room for complacency as Aitor was quick to point out.   But this team looks better balanced and mentally stronger than last year and is almost unrecognisable from the thin and fragile Tony Mowbray that were twice well placed at Christmas.
Boro are strong, well drilled, have strength in depth, and they are very difficult to score against and so to beat and those are important ingredients of the promotion skill set.
The statistics are all pointing in one direction.
Beyond the mechanics of the league some eye-catching if ultimately irrelevant stats have also been floating around that shows Boro in a very good light alongside the elite.
Boro’s win over Wednesday took their total points haul in 2015 to 91 and puts them joint top with Barcelona in a table compiled by bookies Labrokes from all Europe’s professional leagues. Boro are just behind Barca in the most wins column with 29 in 2015, just ahead of Real Madrid on 28, Bayern on 27 and Manchester City on 22.
And – I don’t know who digs all these stats out – in the last 100 games Boro have kept a whopping 50 clean sheets under Aitor while Barca are just behind on 49 and leaky Real Madrid are way behind on 39.  Obviously none of these things mean anything. We don’t get a trophy, not even an engraved plaque. But it does give a glimpse of the performance levels Boro are operating at now and it does give a bit of a Ready Brek glow.
Mighty Middlesbrough:  today the Owls – tomorrow the world!















IT’S NOT fair! So says the boss of weary Wednesday as his leaden-legged lads come to the Riverside having barely had time to shower. And they face a Boro side who have had a relaxing nine day spa break to fully recharge their batteries.

He added that would be fair to move the game back 24 hours… not to the near 30,000 fans who have made arrangements for the original fixture it wouldn’t.  Including Wednesday fans. And you can’t imagine Sky Sports would think it a suitable arrangement either.

It is an unfortunate set of circumstances but I’m not sure it is “not fair.”  That implies some level or morality or injustice or machination. It is not a situation of Boro’s creation. We were all left frustrated it by it. It is just football. And you just have to get on with it. Like you do with fixture changes because of TV or cup replays. Boro have wasted two days on a frustrating and fruitless trip to Blackburn-by-the-Sea and now have to fit in a midweek game that they hadn’t budgeted for but you can’t moan. You just have to deal with it.

Carlos Carvalhal has created an interesting mental landscape for the Owls going into the game, flagging up that they will be tired and at a disadvantage (and possibly getting his excuses in early) in a way the echoes they way Steve McClaren talked down the prospect of playing Thursday-Sunday as if it was a quantum leap from Wednesday-Saturday.  That may affect his players. It may be attempted mind games. We’ll see.

But if it is a con, Aitor won’t fall for it.  The Owls always knew they had two games in three days and will have planned accordingly, managing their playing resources through recent matches with one eye on the trip to Boro, just as Karanka did, because until 10am on Boxing Day he too was preparing for the quick-fire fixtures.


  Jinx-busting Cristhian Stuani celebrates the end of the Hillsborough Hoodoo

Yes, it gives five bars Boro an advantage in terms of energy terms but Wednesday are a good team, they are professional athletes so will be fit enough and they will be as motivated and organised as any side in the league. It won’t be easy.  And Boro won’t expect it to be.  We won down there in quite casual fashion and smashed an ancient hoodoo but Wednesday they have improved dramatically since then so Boro will have to be at their best. As always.

They will be raring to go and determined to make up the ground they lost in the tidal wash at Ewood Park. Derby took the opportunity to nudge a point ahead but Boro can hit back against Wednesday and pile on the pressure as the Rams – away at Leeds – don’t play until Tuesday night (which is “unfair” as it gives them and extra days preparation over some of their rivals… see where this can lead you?)

Boro could actually be down to third before kick-off as Hull go to Preston and a win against a side who are tight at the back could squeeze them into second. That gives Boro – who have lost just once and leaked just twice in the league this term – a great incentive.

That and  a bumper holiday crowd can drive them on to victory.  Boro are flying right now and have shown in recent games that the team is growing into the pre-season mantel of promotion favourites. We need that potential to continue to be realised.

A win – especially an emphatic one – would pile the pressure on Derby who are at the Riverside next Saturday. Bring it on.

All season I’ve been backing 2-0 and 3-0 and up to now I’m quids in. I see now reason to change that optimistic outlook and flutter pattern. Boro should remain rigid at the rear and have too much up front for Wednesday to contain. Karanka’s team probe and stretch defences and recycle the ball effectively and the make the opposition work to wear them down so if fatigue is a factor then I expect Boro to be ruthless and take advantage.

Now, over to you. Usual drill: predict the score and how the game will pan out and then every back here later to swap notes. I’m taking the Vickers clan  to our traditional busman’s holiday ‘Boxing Day’ beano so I’m in the restaurant (it’s our version of the family trip to the panto only with more booing and worse jokes) but I’ll still be tweeting and stuff.


174 thoughts on “Rigid Rearguard Are Rattling Up Records

  1. It’s all about ‘penetration’ says Derby Manager Clement (ohhh errr Mrs!) about the big match at the Riverside tomorrow.

    Sounds riskque to me AV, but I don’t think our defensive record breakers are going to allow Derby to breach the defensive wall so easily- many have tried and many have failed. Question is will Derby be true to the manager’s word and put on a positive display or will it be a load of woolly nonsense and they’ll try to park the bus hopin for a draw.

    Time will tell


    Oh, and a Happy New Year to one and all from the depths of a cold but clear Central Europe -8C this morning 🙂
    Happy Chilly Days

  2. Sparta

    loved the doubtful language of the derby boss, it does my heart good to know that someone else can commit social suicide beside me.

    1. Simply quotin direct from the lamb source via their club website Plato! I wouldn’t want it to be said I was puttin words into the sheep’s mouth and endin up deep in the dip.

      Reminds me of the friendly rivalry I used to know with the wooly backs of Guisborough 🙂

  3. This is a special time to be a Boro fan and it could be a 2016 to match some of the great years at the club.

    We can only hope that this time next year AK and Steve Gibson will be masterminding an assault on the Prem. All the Prem clubs will be big financial hitters in Europe, and the lovely TV money would finance some top quality additions to join the strong squad we already have.

    My own personal resolution for the year is to try to remember the words of the great philosopher Sir Karl Popper, who wrote that arguing with nonsense is like seeing your greatest enemy sinking in quicksand, and jumping in after them with a knife.

    Once a dispute has become sterile, it’s best for us all to move on…

  4. Hopefully OFB’s ‘rumour’ had legs’ I think McCormack would be a great signing. He’s certainly more prolific than any of our current forwards, whether he would play as no. 9 or 10, not bothered. I’m hoping the rumour is true.

    1. Rumour came from ex Boro player who is still in football and was with last night which is why I am excited but we all know until the deal is done it’s not done !!


  5. Bringing players in January is fraught with danger, how quickly will they settle – generally is the end of the month before they arrive. Are they up to full game fitness? Do they need time to rebuild confidence? It could well be March before they are integrated.

    Will they disrupt the team dynamic? Derby were a case in point last year.

    Providing cover and increasing squad depth is easier than bringing in players to start games.

    It can work if you get it right but there are reasons why many managers don’t like brining anyone in.

  6. Happy New Year to all contributors, readers and supporters of this wonderful blog.

    You have been a source of enlightenment, entertainment, solidarity and good humour every single day of this year. For which, my heartfelt appreciation and thanks.

    This is a blog with hinterland. Yes, we have had the best debates to be found anywhere on AK’s tactics, the team’s week-by-week progress, tinkering, the balance between defence and attack etc, to say nothing of the best match reports by fans, which provide an invaluable complement to AV’s peerless journalism.

    But the discussions here on everything from man- management, regional Spanish dialects, the Government’s policies on the steel industry, the bombing of Syria and much, much more are a tribute to the collective wisdom and international experience which the blog gives us access to.

    The quality I prize most of all however is the general awareness that exists on here that, however strongly we feel about any aspect of the Boro, that we may well be wrong. Our judgments are always provisional because they tend to be based on the partial evidence of what we see on match days. We are not privy to the kind of key day-to –day information necessary for more definitive opinions: who is carrying an injury, who is going through a personal crisis, who is slacking or producing the goods in training, how finances are panning out etc etc.

    One common response to this is to tell us that we all ought to shut up and trust Aitor. But where’s the fun in that. I find the discussions on here enriching, well informed and reflective of years of experience of playing, watching and coaching the game. And modest in its claims.

    Last year Joan Collins was in the New Year’s Honours list. That inspired me to produce my own. This year it’s Barbara Windsor and that woman from Anne Summers. So I’ll have another shot.

    It’s a tribute to the things on the blog that I found most interesting,memorable,inspiring or funny in 2015. It carries not an iota of authority or status. It makes no claims beyond being a personal take, reflective of my own taste and biases. I invite others to give us theirs.

    I have included references which can be checked out via AV’s archive for those who are interested.

    Principal gong on any personal New Year’s Honours list has to go to AV for another outstanding year of reporting on the Boro. He is the reason we are all here, and he sets a standard for quality and commitment that is a challenge to us all. He keeps us all honest.

    1. My Event of the Year: The exmil challenge. A selfless piece of organisation by exmil and a game that kept many of us engaged and interested for the entire second half of last season. What really raised this whole exercise to another level was the profuse apology offered by exmil when he fell slightly behind in reporting some of the results. He had just had a heart attack. But he did promise to get us all up-to-date as soon as he was able to. That promise was well kept. And it moved us all.

    2. Match Report of the Year: The match reports are, for me, one of the blog’s most important features. Invaluable when you can’t get to the game yourself. So a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time and trouble to file them for everyone else’s benefit throughout the year.

    A special mention to Redcar Red whose reports are both prompt and detailed. His report on the home game against Wolves last season (posted at 12.25 on April 15th) caught the excitement and breathlessness of a pulsating game so well that it is my selection for Match Report of the Year.

    Honourable mentions to Never Give Up.. whose reports are always illuminating, and carry the authority of one who has 100% attendance at Boro games. And to Clive Hurren. His report on the Man U match, to which he took his grandchildren for their first game, sitting amongst Man U supporters,carried an emotional dimension that professional reporting cannot emulate (Oct 29th at 10.10).

    3. Favourite Rant of the Year goes to Linthorpe Lad (April 11th at 12.14 am) for his diatribe against negative Boro supporters. Written after midnight, and perhaps fuelled by a wee dram, it was something that he just had to get off his chest, and it struck a chord with many other bloggers. It also provoked a good response later that morning from Nikeboro on the right to moan. (April 11th at 11.30 am).

    I also appreciated Yorkshire Red’s post (March 9th at 1.18 pm) on the importance of enjoying the experience of last season’s promotional run-in. A sort of anti-rant.

    4. Best Collective Blog of the Year, for me, was on the night of the vital away match at Norwich on April 17th, when the excitement of the occasion was enhanced by the enthusiasm of the Diasboro from across the world and which ended in the most satisfying possible way in a famous and euphoric victory.

    Everyone pitched in. There were so many contributions from every continent that a virtual world map was suggested on which bloggers were invited to put a red dot. It was an inspirational coming together, encapsulated by

    5. The Exchange of the Year between jp and Werdermouth (April 17th at 10.06 pm onwards) in which the traumatic experience of the game almost overshadowed the drama of the birth of jp’s son, little Aitor, at Kuala Lumpur’s Maternity Hospital.

    jp later reported that he ( and presumably his wife and son) was ensconced somewhere in China, attempting to access the blog from behind the Great Firewall.

    6.Laureate of the Year goes jointly to a hospitalised Original Fat Bob for his Untypical Boro ode, which managed to reference an astonishing number of contributors, and to Powmill for his original version of 12 Days of a Boro Christmas, the most creative way that anyone has yet devised of winning a Trabbie. Terrific efforts both.

    7. Debate of the Year, for me, was on the merits or otherwise of ‘tinkering’, an excellent and, at times, impassioned discussion informed, on both sides, not only by careful arguments, but also by detailed research. My Debaters of the Year then are the principal discussants, BoroPhil , Redcar Red, Paul and Nigel,along with many other participants in what remains a lively ongoing debate.

    8. Tipster of the Year (pace AV’s 2-0, 3-0 run on the bookies) has to be Cassandra for his miraculous bit of soothsaying on 23rd Sept. when he not only predicted the correct score of the Wolves game, but also got to within 11 of predicting the size of the crowd. And who is to say that that was less accurate than the ‘official ‘ figure?

    9. Fan of the Year has to be Jarkko. This is a blog whose participants sometimes travel hundreds and even thousands of miles at great expense to see their beloved team. Hats off to you all.

    But the heart of everyone on the blog surely went out to Jarkko and Mrs Jarkko when their long awaited Xmas trip to see his beloved Boro, via a lengthy trip from Finland to Manchester, and onward car journey to Blackburn on a wet and dismal Boxing Day ended even more dismally with the game’s postponement. I hope they get to see a great win against Derby . They deserve nothing less.

    10. The Robbie Mustoe Award for thread-to- thread consistency throughout the year. A first-to-arrive-and-last-to-finish attitude to training with goals, gems, puns and Trabbies thrown in on a regular basis, goes to Ian Gill.

    11. Best Links Award goes to GHW- master of the succinct and witty response- for his generous sharing of an amazing range of articles, visual materials and other resources most of them Boro related, which I would otherwise have missed. Thanks too for all the jokes.

    12. Deb of the Year. For me the most promising debut this year has been by Jed M who has been excellent in his analysis of AK’s strategic and tactical thinking over the past few threads. He is a real acquisition.

    13. Most Provocative Bloggers, from opposite ends of the skeptical-committed spectrum, were Spartakboro and BoroPhil. They are what every blog needs: contributors who are capable of arguing their case persuasively, and if needs be, against the prevailing tide. Not always, of course. More often than not they go with the flow. But it’s right that their courage in sometimes standing almost alone in challenging prevailing orthodoxies should be honoured.

    14. Wit of the Year is Werdermouth who flavoured often seriously argued points with a wide range of parodies, pastiches, and gags. He is our funniest ,as well as one of our most serious contributors. I’m still laughing at his tea-in-carnation and Rooney’s follicles jokes.(Oct 13th at 7.09pm, and 29th Oct, respectively).

    I also greatly enjoyed BrisbanePhil’s account of the note he sent to his son’s teacher for arriving late for school after we knocked out Man U. (‘ He had to learn an important lesson in loyalty and history’).

    15. Post of the Year for me in an outstanding field was Forever Dormo’s 12 point analysis of the issues and questions arising from the game against Bristol City. Cutting through the knee-jerk responses, claims and counter-claims, it presented in an admirably cool, moderate and rational form the key concerns and issues that needed to be addressed by the coach and the club. Written in the early hours of the morning, it typified, in the time and trouble obviously devoted to it, everything that is good about this blog. (Aug 24th at 1.30am)

    16. My Blogger of the Year is Redcar Red. There are a large number of bloggers who produce work of outstanding quality, but RR somehow manages to do so on a weekly, and sometimes even a daily basis, demonstrating an intelligence and commitment from which, whether you always agree with his views or not, the whole blog benefits. Many thanks to him.

    It goes without saying that the real glory of the blog lies in the sheer range and variety of experiences that it has given a voice to. Thanks to all who have contributed throughout the year.


    **AV writes: This may be a good place to drop in a few stats from the annual report I got this week from WordPress…

    In 2015, there were 86 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 1,039 posts.
    Views: 441,483; Visitors: 80,610; Views per visitor: 5.48

    These are the posts that got the most views in 2015.

    1 No 10: Downing. Sweet 541 COMMENTS July 2015
    2 City: Dare To Dream 408 COMMENTS January 2015
    3 Deadline Day: Live… Flight Of The Condor 284 COMMENTS September 2015
    4 Boro Are Back! Brilliant. But How Will They Do? 213 COMMENTS August 2015
    5 Exciting Summer Revamp Beckons For Buzzing Boro 239 COMMENTSJuly 2015

    (Global map coloured in with shades of red, more red, more visitors)… That’s 137 countries in all! Most visitors came from United Kingdom. Australia & The United States were not far behind. [Also views from Myanmar, Angola, Taiwan, St Kitts and Nevis and Rwanda… which sounds like a very low scoring round on Pointless]

    These were your 5 most active commenters:

    1 Ian Gill1736 COMMENTS
    2 Redcar Red767 COMMENTS
    3 Spartakboro646 COMMENTS
    4 Nigel Reeve 629 COMMENTS
    5 originalfatbob496 COMMENTS

    (The rest of you, get your act together)

    Total activity on WordPress (July 2014)
    POSTS: 115 VIEWS: 711,876 UIP VISITORS: 139,611 BEST DAILY VIEWS EVER: 12,565

    Plus some other techy stuff

    So, not a bad year, bit like Boro, 2016 is going to be fantastic.

    1. And a big mention must go to your good self Len for penning this excellent end of year appraisal. Not only does it capture that which went before but sets up the anticipation for the forthcoming year – well done!

      For myself I’m both proud and honoured to stand shoulder to shoulder with borophil in that we have both been awarded the presdigeous title of MPB 2015. I for one will now be adding the letters to any and all blog corrospondence.

      Happy Days indeed!

      This is Spartakboro MPB signing off for the day in a chilly Central Europe where it’s just snowed (a good sign for the coming year)


    2. Great review, Len. I wouldn’t disagree with any of your choices for this year’s Mastermans though you selflessly ignore your own much valued contributions.

      Happy New Year to all.

      1. And may I add my thanks, too, Len? Regardless of the ‘winners’ in your list, this was yet another fine contribution from yourself.

        Happy New Year one and all, and let’s all hope Boro make it a special one, too!

  7. A great post len , I think you’ve got that spot on.

    I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and to add my thanks to everyone, without exception, who posts on here. It’s a fantastic blog, it brightens my day every day.

    A special thanks to AV, who is a genius.

  8. Thanks Len, I will wear my Robbie Mustoe badge with pride. Wonder if I can get a personalised number plate for one of the Trabbies?

    1. Good news for me!

      Eldest son Bought me a ticket for tomorrow getting dropped off at the door and thermals on should be ok

      Oh yes….,.



  9. Are we in a situation where its a if we don’t Derby will and that’s the idea of signing new players. Meaning do you give your rivals a chance to strengthen, or do you nip it the bud and jump in first? Considering promotion would generate something like £120m in revenue for the club do you stick or twist

    HNY all

  10. gt

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    Just heard an interesting comment by the summariser for the Brighton v Wolves match, basically saying they are not playing as badly as their results.

    He didn’t think there was a three goal difference between Brighton and Boro, we were just better in both 18 yard boxes.

    Correct me if I am wrong, those are rather crucial factors in deciding a football match. I am sure the idea is to score goals and stop the opposition doing the same. To do that you have to be more creative, pass the ball well and defend resolutely.

  11. My little boy wore his Boro track suit this afternoon. Disturbed the universe and Brighton Lost!!! Get in!!


  12. The results elsewhere are going so well that it seems greedy to ask for one more, tomorrow.

    This Derby game is growing to monstrous proportions and I will not complain if it ends even. The run we are on without even putting on our boots is so dazzling that only a fool would back poor old Hull tonight. In a word they are doomed, doomed I tell you. Ah, nice to get that off my chest, I hate triumphalism.

    Now, what’s the team for tomorrow? Any surprises? Thought not. one choice is easy to make, the defence, en block, simples really. I will settle for ak’s choice of the front end, he hasn’t done too badly up to now. If all goes well tomorrow the table will be a sight to behold.

  13. Very good recollections Len of what has been all in all quite a roller-coaster of a year and reminds us of how the blog has covered not only all things Boro but often organically heads off on other tangents from serious world issues to the lives of our fellow posters.

    I think what always comes across in your posts Len is your genuine enjoyment of what others have posted and your sense of fun and general joie de vivre – I’ll happily place my Masterman on my virtual mantelpiece with pride.

    And of course many thanks to AV for making it all happen and well done to all the other contributors that have made the blog something unique.

    BTW Did Joan Collins co-host the awards ceremony with you last year? though hopefully the awards themselves weren’t inspired from anything sold in Ann Summers…

    Anyway, I’ve got a feeling that 2016 could be one of the best years yet more the Diasboro!

    1. Not sure what happened in the last sentence as it should have said ‘for the Diasboro’ – basically there should have been f in more

  14. I love the New Year’s honours Len and agree with you all the way (though humbly in respect of my share in the Boro-laureate award). I’m quite flattered to be remembered along with so many worthy contributors and especially by one of the most thoughtful of the regular quality contributors in A.V.’s universe and who should really be remembered in the honors list himself.

    So to tomorrow and the first fixture in 2016. I have a feeling that Derby will be the first to breach the Boro goal in a very long time, but see us running out winners by 3 goals to 1. Downing, Friend and Nugent all on goal scoring duty. Attendance 33,333.

  15. Great post len (though I feel I should be true to form and disagree with it all in a provocative manner) and great stats AV! Ian needs to get out more…!

    Almost a perfect pair of results today, looks like it could be a 3-horse race.

  16. In the holiday spirit I share this joke from the times today, and congratulate the Juno who penned it. ” I see Barbara Windsor received an award in the honours list, she should have received one years ago for being the queen of innuendo. Nice to see some one is finally giving her one”

  17. Len

    “Blogger of the year”!

    That is some accolade and a very humbling one especially coming from yourself who is without doubt the most eloquent and articulate blogger.

    A very Happy Smoggie New Year to you all and lets hope that AK goes one better than Leicester in 2016 by having Sky Sports extol the virtues of Boro being the first side to be top of the Championship one Christmas and the top of the Premiership next Christmas!

  18. Av and all bloggers, including those who will undoubtedly join in this year as the fun starts. Best wishes to all, and, of course, for a certain football club, who, we all hope, prove that our collective judgement is spot on, at least when it comes to football.

    Glad that we are granted a period of grace to wallow in the pleasure of being at the pinnacle of the championship. Wonder what changes AK will make to the side for the cup, I would guess about three. Not to sure about the transfer scramble, hope it doesn’t disturb the amazing team spirit in our camp.

    Just a thought on the cup tie, wonder if AK might get our young prodigy on the pitch at some point in the game.

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