Leeds Circus Of Chaos Leaves Boro In A Spin

ONCE again Boro will come away from Elland Road nursing a sense of injustice after an entertaining and open goalless draw against lowly Leeds.

Jordan Rhodes had what looked a perfectly good goal ruled out after the linesman thought the ball was out of play before Emilio Nsue crossed in. And that was at the same end as Albert Adomah’s ruled out overhead kick last year.  The season wouldn’t be right without the annual travesty of some sort against Leeds.

And there was a the red card that has been missing for the last few clashes too. Ben Gibson joins a long list of Boro players peddled against Leeds. Nine in all now. Our most fiery fixture of them all. Aitor wasn’t happy and had a pop at the ref. 

It was a frustrating evening and naturally a very disappointing result at the end of a stuttering run of three draws and five games without a win that has somehow left Boro still in second place if flailing to stay ahead of the pack and facing a lot of flak.

1Jordan

And it will leave strained supporters pulling their hair out after more missed chances – two off the line, two a fraction wide – and another missed opportunity to claw back to the top and find some vital momentum to relaunch the promotion push. Those of a nervous disposition will be calculating doomsday scenarios but there were positives: Dael Fry and Gaston Ramirez played well, there were bright spells, chances were created, Rhodes looks a lively presence around the box and Dimi made up for last week’s fumble with two brilliant saves, one involving Go-Go-Gadget telescopic fingers.

And it was a decent game. It  was a frantic end-to-end encounter that would no doubt be entertaining for the neutral.  Although it is OK for the neutrals because they weren’t sat with knotted stomachs and in need of a defibrillator in the closing stages. And entertaining neutrals is hard to sell after a five game stumble.

Elland Road is always a difficult place to go and has been the scene of some major trauma for Boro over the years. Relegations, shock defeats, regular injustice.

But Leeds have major Elland Road trauma of their own to deal with right now.

It is a club that feels as if it is on the edge of implosion and darkness.

And if you want a symbol for the state of fallen giants Leeds there was a post-apocalyptic circus plonked outside. The rusty, paint-peeling relic up on what used to be the old training pitch – as seen in “The Damned United” – had seen far better days.

1circus

There was a bleak looking ghost train, no doubt featuring the faded spectres of a glorious past, a managerial merry-go-round set to go at breakneck speed and all the traditional attractions. Feel free to insert your own clown joke here.

Leeds did manage to light up Elland Road in their own way though.

As ‘colourful’ chairman Massimo Cellino used the match programme to outline the latest twists in his legal wrangle against the Sky Sports deal, Leeds fans stepped up their own campaign against the little loved Italian.

The Leeds owner – recently released from a ban after failing the league’s ‘fit and proper’ test – has been involved in a bitter behind the scenes battle with both the broadcaster and the Football League over the frequency of fixture changes. You may feel he has a point but his confrontational style is winning few friends inside football and Leeds fans feel he should be focused on far bigger problems closer to home.

Supporters groups had a pre-match whip-round to raise £1,200 for an eye-catching illuminated protest. and the East Stand was used to project a series of light show pre-match protests against the abrasive chairman’s erratic regime.

22Lights

Massimo: Time To Go was the central theme with slogans projected onto the stand screaming the frustrations of fans at not just the current owner but a decade of financial chaos and under-achievement going back to the Ken Bates era.

“Twelve years of false promises: enough is enough,” was one slogan. “We were here before you and still will be after you’ve gone,” said another.  A third outlined a crime sheet of 17 reasons why it is time to go including players sales, ‘tax evasion’ ‘the pie tax’ and ‘Hockaday’ – a reference to the brief dug-out cameo of Teessider Dave, in charge as Leeds’ manager of the month for Boro’s 3-0 win at the Riverside in August.

That there is such outright rebellion speaks volumes for the situation within the club and the complete collapse of relations with the supporters.  Almost every time we come to Elland Road now, the fans are revolting, against the board, against the owners, against a manager, against the world.

And for all our historic friction with our cousins to the South, it is always sad to see the agonies of supporters when a once proud club is reduced to such a pitiful state.

Some Boro fans may want to take the opportunity twist the knife and the dysfunctional ownership and institutional upheaval of a decade has been excellent ammunition over the banter barricades in the borderlands beyond Stokesley and I understand that.

But whatever the colour of their shirts, supporters of every club are essentially the same. They make the same emotional investment and feel the same joys and pain as we do and we should empathise with. We’ve been there.

1LightsLeeds

And Leeds – the club and the fans – were respectful to Boro’s tributes to Ali Brownlee. His picture was up on the big screen before the game and was backed up with a pre-match announcement to explain Boro’s black arm-bands. And when the poignant phone app light show  and ‘One Ali Brownlee’ chanting  started early in the second half a lot of Leeds fans joined in with the torches and with generous applause while his picture was once again displayed. That was a nice touch and was much appreciated.

Whatever we say when goading them, Leeds remain a massive club and a genuine sleeping giant. And the state of listing disrepair they find themselves in stark contrast to the off the pitch stability and feeling of ambition and possibility we have enjoyed of late.  For Boro the season is just a spark away from an upturn and good times are within reach.

For Leeds they need far more than that and the future is far more troubled.

1Gibbo

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What we said before the games

LEEDS. You know my position on this –  it’s not “a derby” but it used to be – as a cultural thing.  As a more specific strategic thing, tonight is game of vast strategic importance. In term’s of the maths it is not a “must win” but in terms of the terrace politics it may be.

Despite being incredibly well placed – a point off top, a point ahead of third with two games n hand –  the atmosphere among fans is fragile and febrile: a contagious crisis of faith has swept across Planet Boro with what feels now a significant vocal minority poised to pounce armed with a simmering bucket of tactical told-you-sos. Sometimes it feels like we are our own worse enemies. Sometimes you have to dig in and work through it.

1Leeds

                                   Happy days: The 3-0 Riverside win in August

Leeds are a patchy side riven by internal political division and as usual, we go there at a time when the fans are revolting against the latest boardroom chaos. The match is only going ahead after the Football League took out an injunction against “colourful” owner Massimo Cellino who was poised to pull the plug as part of his on-going battle with Sky Sports. And the legal department has been busy: Cellino is also trying to sue fans who had a whipround to buy a billboard outside Elland Road slating the owner.

So they are in turmoil off the pitch and are not in great shape on it. We battered them 3-0 at the Riverside in quite casual fashion when the sun was shining on Teesside. Now in a far harsher climate Boro go there needing to win – and well – to kick-start the season after a spluttering and unconvincing run but buoyed by the thought that “Jason” Rhodes may finally be unleashed. In his two cameos he has added zip in and around the bit and currently has a one every 37 minutes goal ratio.

And they all know what is at stake. A win will take Boro back to the top and open a gap over third again. And tomorrow table-topping Hull play Brighton in fourth. It is a big “moment” in the narrative of the promotion chase. It is time for an assertive Boro to seize control and start to write their own strip. Come on Boro. Shape the story.

Usual drill. I think Rhodes will get Boro off the mark and we’ll battle to a tense win getting a late second to seal it. Now you predict the score and how the game will pan out. And who will get sent off. We haven’t had one for a few games. And then we’ll meet back here later on for debriefing and recriminations.

 

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345 thoughts on “Leeds Circus Of Chaos Leaves Boro In A Spin

  1. AK’s “presser” wasn’t one .

    80% of it taken up by tame and largely irrelevant questions from… whom? A press officer?

    The future of Jose and the coin throwing incident at Reading were time fillers, of little relevance to the Boro’s immediate concerns.

    But, if you insist on raising such peripheral issues, at least make yourself as informed as the average man-in-the-street, who could have told the hapless questioner that Brunt was the victim of his own, rather than the opposition’s, supporters.

    A waste of everyone’s time, and the Gazette reporters’ petrol.

    No repeats, please.

    **AV writes: That is not our presser. That is the TVs. After that the written press have their go. Then he goes upstairs and does BBC Tees. But yes, most of the TV questions are bland.

  2. I hadn’t realised there were no Easter fixtures in the league because of international friendlies until I looked to find one for my lad and I to go to. Another fortnight off followed by 8 games in April.

  3. I was interested in the debate between Redcar Red and Nigel Reeve about what would constitute success for Karanka this season and next.

    Surely promotion is the only acceptable outcome for this season. If he failed this season I think the knives would be out quickly, after the first dodgy spell we would see the reminders about how we can’t trust the team to be consistent, how we threw away a golden opportunity and how Karanka hasn’t got the tactical acumen required to mentally prepare players for a full promotion campaign. Failure this season and I think he would be on borrowed time.

    Promotion this season then means he is a rooky Premier League manager with the associated honeymoon period. The euphoria of promotion should mean the team play well at first with the test coming in late autumn/early winter. People won’t expect Boro to do much better than 15th so provided we aren’t in the relegation zone anything else would be a huge bonus. If we were relegated the fans may well turn on him but he would be judged by Boro fans and other potential future employers in a different way because he would have achieved something significant and have PL experience.

    Either way he simply must get Boro promoted this season. The stakes are high for him.

    I am an optimist and I think he will do it. We are in a difficult period but I am sure we will come out of it. I think we will win tomorrow, probably 2 or 3-0.

  4. Gibson has already said or implied that promotion isn’t a necessity hasn’t he? I think they would have had a 3-year plan with promotion by the end of next season at the latest. We arguably over-achieved last season which has raised the bar. It would be a massive disappointment if we didn’t hit top 2 this year, but if we did fail to go up I reckon AK would get one more chance before we had to move on.

    1. If you lose the mojo it’s difficult, though not impossible, to get it back. This is why I think the style of play tomorrow night is soooo crucial. If we get a GOOD win then we’re back in RA RA territory and upbeat. However, a disappointing draw means 4 points in what 6 games and another place or two down the league potentially. Any type of win would be three points and at least breathing space.

      The honeymoon for AK is truly well and gone. He needs his/our team to now produce the goods (following on from what AV has already said). I honestly don’t think he has the slack to believe he should have more time.

      I’ve said it before it’s all down to results.*

      Just for the doubters, I’d like to see the Boro plunder a 4-0 win tomorrow and get us back to the autopromo track.

  5. Borophil

    Boro invested in the summer of 2014, they added to business already done in the previous window. I thought play offs but not automatic as did many.

    We got close to automatic and got to the play off final. Sadly we didn’t win but that is not over achieving.

    We have invested heavily in the summer and in the January window. In early January we were well clear plus a game in hand. We have been heavy favourites for a good part of the season. Over achievement would be finishing 17th in the premiership!! We cant do that but automatic promotion is the benchmark.

    If we fail I don’t think AK will be sacked, he will sack himself! He will walk away and not ask for a penny – just like Strachan.

    He will go back to Spain and walk in to a job, a good post, possibly in La Liga. Personally I hope we bear Cardiff in style and we head off on another run.

    Good grief, Spartak and I in agreement. Arrggggh!

  6. Without a shred of a doubt, anything but promotion this season, with this squad and the money that’s been invested, would be failure.

  7. We tend to look at ourselves in isolation and ignore other clubs.

    Purely looking at ourselves then anything other than automatic promotion is failure – fourth last year with the top three going up and then two windows of heavy investment.

    Taking a wider view though, I think Hull, Burnley and, until recently, Derby would feel the same.

    Hull and Burnley have come down and kept most of their squads together under managers who have been promoted before. Derby invested in the summer as we did. All three would have felt that the top two was their benchmark. Other clubs like Brighton have surprised and possibly overachieved.

    I don’t think we can overachieve this season. Top would be fantastic but not a massive surprise. But equally I don’t think we have any right to a top two slot. I don’t think we have greater ambitions or resources than the others and I therefore don’t think a third or fourth place finish would be much of a failure (although with Derby slipping back it is perhaps now about top three).

    After the start we’ve had and all the investment, I would be disappointed with missing out on automatic promotion. It would be a great opportunity spurned. But it isn’t all about us an third won’t be underachievement for me.

    I still think it will be first or second.

  8. I waa going to suggest both you Ian and Steve to go and have a lie down, but I’m that much in shock I’ve ordered meself to have a lie down instead 🙂

  9. Spartak

    It smacks of being guilty of assume and as they say it makes an ass of u and me.

    I went to an interview process many years ago which had all the trick cyclist questions. As part of the process the young thing commented that you seem caring but task focussed, how do you reconcile those two standpoints.

    I said I can be a caring manager but I have to manage, the best part of the job is giving people an opportunity, the worst part is taking it away. You do not have to enjoy the nasty bits. The look on their face suggested they didn’t get it.

    That is probably why I sometimes don’t get the assumption that Aitor is the spawn of the devil.

    The same goes for his job as a manager, it is not the most permanent post in the world. It isn’t forever. All mangers have a shelf life.

    If we don’t go up he and Gibbo will discuss the situation. My belief is that Aitor will decide if he cant take the club any further. He has stated if we don’t go up it is his fault, he will take that on the chin and if he decides he cant do any more or someone else needs to come in he will walk away.

    I believe he is a man of honour, oddly so was Strachan who didn’t go on gardening leave. Whatever anyone says about his tenure (a lot is hindsight including AV with his eulogies at the time) he walked away without a penny.

    I will leave others to sneer.

  10. The way things are looking right now, with our predictable post-New Year dip in form and current slump [a pretty damned poor return of 3 points from 15], I always felt that we were only seeing the inevitable fallout from being over confident about our automatic promotion chances a few short weeks ago when we were cruising around Xmas …..we all pondered on the very scenario that is happening right now, namely “if Boro start to concede goals again and start to lose or draw and not win a few, how will they be able to pull themselves out of that rut and turn things around to start winning games again like they used to?” And as we can see, it’s virtually staring us all in the face yet again!

    Our goalscoring record leaves a lot to be desired, as it seems to be an almost annual problem, whereby of the top 6 or even 8, we always score the fewest goals. We may defend better and keep more clean sheets but playing defensively will not guarantee you wins nor get you promoted!

    Losing our key central defenders Ayala, Friend and Gibson to injury or suspension will surely test the true mettle of this current squad, regardless of whether or not our new boys make any impression. The last three draws were dispiriting, soul-sapping affairs and such insipid performances hardly give us any optimism for future games being won by 4-0, 4-1 or even 5-1 scorelines because it appears we are totally incapable of scoring more than 3 right now, whereas at least every season previous we have somehow managed to see one or two results with those scorelines. Of course any Boro win by a 4-0 scorleine will flatter us and at least boost morale, but can you see that happening in the next six games – tellingly all with some of our most perennially awkward and hard-to-beat opponents?

    Without being a doom monger / pessimist, I can’t see us finishing in the top two – it will be Hull and Burnley, with us, Brighton and Derby or Wednesday vying for third and fourth spots. We are just too lightweight in attack as always and THAT is what will govern our final position in the league and our promotion prospects, not how many consecutive clean sheets or 0-0 draws we keep. Isn’t it funny how all those headline-grabbing stories a couple of months ago mean so little right now eh?

    1. Oh…and I can’t see the game with Cardiff tonight being anything other than a true struggle to see exactly which side will make the breakthrough first, and which will capitalise on it ….. my money is on them nicking it and / or doing what Blackburn and MK Dons did already…… Bore draw? Maybe. Home win? Maybe not. Away win….. now you’re talking…and if you are, then we should start worring for real.

  11. I think Cardiff will be tough, really tough. But that said, we seem to be able to beat the top teams this season.

    We owe a win today. If only for the great Ali Brownlee. So more than worrying about the opposition I am worried how Boro perform.

    Who are the back four tonight?

    Let’s hope for a win. For Ali with a 1-0 win and Rhodes scoring.

    Up the Boro!

  12. Whilst worrying about our back four let us remember it is difficult for the opposition to score in their own half.

    Tonight I will be happy with a win however we get it.

  13. After the window Aitor made an interesting statement, he said ” Some players wanted to leave” he didn’t say ” Some players were leaving” wich may suggest one or two are unhappy with their situation,
    I hope their egos are not getting in the way.

  14. “We may defend better and keep more clean sheets but playing defensively will not guarantee you wins nor get you promoted!”

    No, but it will get you a long way towards it. With our defensive record, we don’t need to score 3, 4 or 5 goals a game to win a match. We only need 2 and a lot of the time just the one.

    Goal difference is the key stat (as I’m sure many highlighted last season) and ours is right up there.

  15. Will AK stick tonight with his now faltering and spluttering of late 4231 or start with how he has been finishing of late and go with 2 up top. With injuries, suspensions and a weak back line maybe now is the opportunity to go with where we have strength and riches in depth and that is at the sharp end.

    Something has to break and soon if we are to get back in the race. Sticking to your principles and beliefs, holding your nerve and riding the storm is all well and good but it hasn’t worked for a few games now and with his selection headaches I don’t see any reason for optimism short term.

    I posted yesterday about Obe Mikel and Mourinho, are their signs of similar unease with some of our under performing players playing below or within themselves constricted by dictat?

  16. gt

    I think we can read too much in to what people say.

    From my experience in Derby any strife would be in the public domain, someone would know about it. This isn’t meant to sound clever but because of who I know I was aware of the problems in the Derby camp a month or so before it came to be general knowledge. I didn’t blab at the time because I don’t blab. The information leaked out eventually.

    Not everyone would take the same stance so the fact there we haven’t heard anything tends to make me think there is no great problem in the camp.

    I am however 140 miles away and there are possibly people on the blog who know something but are keeping schtum. Maybe the likes of Vic or PT have knowledge that they cant divulge

    On to tonight’s line up. Vic has gone for a curve ball with an adventurous 4411 with Gaston replacing Clayton, Albert and Stewie wide, Nugent just be hind Rhodes.

    I don’t think we will be that adventurous because they will swamp midfield and play without a normal striker.

    Forshaw alongside Leadbelter, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stuani on the right but I would like to see Albert , Nugent and Stewie behind Rhodes.

    I think we will see Stuani/Albert, Gaston and Stewie backing Rhodes.

  17. I’d love to see Nugent in behind Rhodes, in our usual formation. He’s more a no.10 than a main striker anyway so he should be able to play the role comfortably.

    What I expect though is Forshaw to play and Adomah to come in for Stuani with the rest unchanged.

    I don’t think there are any signs the players are unhappy with the system, the message seems to be ‘stick with us, we’ll get through it’, Dimi the latest yesterday. I think they’ve got enough credit in the bag to deserve that.

    There isn’t much comparison to a team that is where it wanted to be at the start of the season and a team that won the league last year yet ended up nearly in a relegation battle.

    1. I think Downing needs to start justifying his big fee, he’s hardly set the Championship alight.

      I see his best position on the left, whipping balls across from a deeper position, a bit like Beckham used too. You don’t need to get to the byline to put decent crosses in.

      1. There’s a rye comment to be added to the ‘bodies in the box’ but I can’t for the life of me think one up at the moment!

        Sawney Bean and his mates come to mind but they ate their victims for the most part!

        Sounds like something the Tories would do if they could get away with it!

      2. How’s about ‘Cameron’s Bullington Bores Bury Boris’ Body in a Box in the Basement!’

        Topical and a nice link to GHW’s bodies in the box.

  18. “What do you thus rail at me, as if I had done such an heinous act, contrary to the nature of man? I tell you that if you did but know how pleasant the taste of man’s flesh was, none of you all would forbear to eat it;”

    The above was quoted from a young woman burned to death in Scotland, 15thC I believe.

    See what happens when you abolish the benefits system!

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