Last Gasp Win Sparks Emotional Release

THE EMOTIONAL explosion on the whistle was almost orgasmic as a pent up Riverside exploded with passion.

The stoppage time winner – the best kind – sparked a pitch-side party as beaming Aitor Karanka leaped from the dug-out, roared and punched the air.

Gladiator Leo, the club’s lion killer elect, ran over to scoop him up and hug him then turned to beat his chest and point at random people in the crowd just as the rest of the bench arrived to join in the elated huddle.

1LeoAitor

And it was the same in the stands as supporters leaped, and screamed and shouted and swore and EIO-hugged their neighbours. And that was just the press box. 

There were moist-eyes and choked throats and a draining whoooosh of spontaneous release as a week of condensed angst gushed free and the enormity of the split-second dice roll that may have saved the season hit home. It was like we had qualified for a cup final. 

The sonic boom that rocked the Riverside was part the knee-jerk triumphalism of last gasp victory in a massive match: we had dented a rival, swung the stats back our way, regained an automatic promotion spot and regained some Championship escape velocity.

1goalnuge head

But the cheers were amplified by an audible sigh of relief that rang out from Ragworth of Redcar. Boro are bloody lucky. But lucky is good. Aitor Karanka is a manager blessed with good fortune. And that could just be the key ingredient in the weeks to come.

It was massively important that Boro won to draw a big bright neon line under a stormy and surreal week that threatened to derail the promotion push and puncture the entire Karanka project. That was a huge goal.

It was important to put on a show that sent out a clear message that Boro are back, they are united, and they are very much a factor in the title chase.

Boro did that. It wasn’t the most entertaining of matches. After a fairly fluid start that Boro edged – they had one cleared off the line and there were flashes of attacking intent – it fizzled out into fruitless flailing and at times fans were frustrated by some familiar flaws. Crosses invariably failed to beat the first man.

There was a touch and a pass too many. Jordan Rhodes gets little service and when he gets the ball he has perfected the art of turning to fire into a pair of shin-pads while stray passes were cut out in midfield and the back was too often disjointed and exposed and as the match wore on Hull looked the more likely – although they also looked like a side who have won just once and scored only three in seven as they hurried their shots, fired from distance and screwed efforts high and wide.

That said there were no questions about Boro’s work-rate, application, or spirit. At times the game was so scrappy that had it been weighed in it would have helped clear the national debt but Boro never stopped working.

Hull almost stole it. They arguably had the best chances – Dimi had to make a couple of good saves – and in the second half, once they tentatively started to consider actively trying to win it, they looked sharp on the break and there were real fears that Boro would get caught napping. It was a tense stuff at times.

But all that was washed away in the cleansing wave of emotion as David Nugent glanced home a red zone killer goal that ignited celebrations to make Carnival week in Rio feel like a Presbytarian church hall disco. Phew.

It had been a high-stakes and emotionally testing night after a torrid week of fevered speculation and rising fears that a season of hope was evaporating. It was draining. The “Flamingoland derby” threw fans into a rollercoaster of sickening, adrenaline splashed highs and lows and gravity defying switchback twists.

Nerves? The tangible tension before the game was incredible. You couldn’t cut it with a knife. No way. This was a job that required specialist diamond tipped machinery that would have to be put out to tender.

Stomachs were knotted, throats dry and had fans been wired up to the national grid the nervous energy would have safely powered most of Teesside for a week.

But the atmosphere was healthy and supportive. Given the political fall out in the build-up and bruising back-to-back defeats to basement battlers no-one would have been surprised by a shroud of cynicism over the crowd.

A week of twitter-tattle and rumour-fuelled intrigue left factions of fans fraught and grinding axes but little of that came through the turnstiles. The Gazette yes/no survey suggested well over 80% of fans backed the boss and that was evident from the off.

1fans

There was a great turn-out and the fans were loud and proud and in great voice long before kick-off. The surfer was out. A smoke bomb went off in the Red Faction area and the supportive singing started to take root.

Before the game a brief “get behind the lads” message from Aitor Karanka was read out by MMP (who also peppered his play list with classics like “Back For Good”) and the rallying cry sparked a rousing round of chanting of Aitor’s name and that fuelled a feisty feel to the opening period in which Boro looked assertive.

As the game wore on the nerves started to creep in. That was to be expected. We know that if Boro don’t score early the intensity and supremacy drops along with the chance of winning. Then as Hull pressed the tension was racked up. Things got twitchy. And bitchy. There were some isolated outbreaks of sniping over tactics and poor touches and a lack of cutting edge and a couple of individuals took some flak.

And when scapegoat elect Stewart Downing – “one of our own” – came on there was a sour sprinkling of booing among the clapping, cheering and chanting.

Booing your own player as some kind of motivational reverse psychology is something I can never get my head around. Especially when it is so clearly linked via hearsay to the unrest we have had. There is nothing to be gained by targeting individuals that are wearing the shirt. It seems like self indulgent point scoring. 

That first sign of division ushered in a spell of heightened insecurity in the crowd (although Downing worked hard, pressed, tackled, closed down and generally did well) and nerves inching towards terror… there was a fear of the inevitable… they looked dangerous… they are going to score aren’t they?… 

But then GOAAAALLLL. All the fears dissolved in joy.

What a team. Never in doubt.

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BORO fans: time for a massive show of unity.

1Overcome

We’re on the box and our promotion rivals will be gleefully watching for fissures and friction to be exploited.  They will be hoping to see Riverside rifts in the team and in the stands are a stormy and surreal week on and off the pitch. The will be hoping to see divisions that suggest that  Boro will unravel in the run-in.

And if we do crack now it would be a disaster. We are so close. It has been frustrating – infuriating – to see once commanding position fumbled. But we are still in it and a win tonight would put us back into an automatic spot.

The rest, not just Hull but Burnley and Brighton and the teams behind will be looking for weaknesses, for division, for signs of a tensions within the camp and the crowd.

So we need to show a united front.  We need to send out a clear and powerful message that Boro are still in business and still gunning for the title. And that the whole of Teesside is ready to throw their full emotional weight behind that goal.

The team must perform, must show the pride and passion lacking at Charlton and in a clinical edge missing in recent weeks. They must grab the promotion race by the jugular and show a hunger for the fight and a zealous desire to win promotion. They must provide the spark. They must ignite the Riverside. That’s the key part of the equation.

But the crowd have a crucial role too. The supporters must be right behind the team – no matter who plays – for the full 96 minutes. They must create a hostile atmosphere to make Hull hearts wilt and to inspire urgency and confidence in Boro.

1OTlights

There will be a crackling spirit at the start, we know that. And if Boro score it will explode. But it things are sticky we must stay resolute. Steve Bruce is not daft. He will know the lie of the land. He  will send his side out to “keep it tight, quieten the crowd, wait until the supporters start to get on their own players’ backs....”

We can’t allow that.  We can’t start picking out individuals in our ranks.  If we are to succeed this season we will do it as a collective, a team.  And however tempting it is, if tensions rise and the game is difficult – which it will be – we can’t start sniping.

We have all heard the lurid rumours and know the names. He said, she said. Forget that. It isn’t important now. It will all come out in the wash and enter our camp-fire folklore but for now it doesn’t matter.

All that matters is raising the bar over the next 10 cup finals and getting over the line.

And for that to happen we all have to be united.  The team have be united, reach their potential and deliver on the pitch and we have be united, to back them, trust them and stick with them if there are stumbles along the way. And there will be.

Matchday is no time for the scape-goating of individuals based on twitter tattle, point-scoring and recriminations. That is for the pub and for the internet. That is for the summer.

But for now we must rally around and roar them on to success.  Boro supporters have been fantastic in adversity this season and it is time to show that again.

You’ve rallied around the SSI workers and united in emotional circumstances after the passing of Ali Brownlee. With banners and light-shows and some truly touching moments of sensitivity and fierce emotion, Boro fans have shown themselves to be a powerful force when motivated. The crowd have done themselves proud this season.

And they have never flinched in their support. Boro have travelled in huge numbers across the country week in, week out, and shown they are loud and proud and unparalleled in their support for the team. They – you….  WE – have delivered when it mattered

We just need to keep it up for the final push.

COME ON BORO

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Usual drill: forecast the scores, how the game will pan out, the crowd and the number of reported cases of spontaneous human combustion. Then all back later to swap notes.

I’m going for 2-0. An early one then an excruciating 75 minutes of slowly building nervous tension and a heart-attack as they hit the bar before a late, late second.  Downing (90+1)

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208 thoughts on “Last Gasp Win Sparks Emotional Release

  1. Now we come to something I never through I would see, Easter weekend without matches.

    Just as the season gets exciting with have an interminational break. Sorry we have our national team playing friendlies, that doesn’t count.

    It is like the Grand National with a break after the first circuit. A Grand Prix where the race is stopped half way through for a days engineering work.

    Don’t play for a week then 8 games in April.

    1. I’m definitely more upset than you about the International Friendly break as I’m making my only visit during the season to the North-East this Easter.

      I hadn’t realised that there would be no Boro games to watch – and without sounding like Steve Bruce – it’s complete madness to have a two-week break at this stage of the season. Boro now have to play 8 (eight) games in 29 days instead of spreading them over 43 days.

      Compacting all these games into two-thirds of the time will only likely result in more injuries to key players that all these International teams will want for the real games in the summer – especially those involved in Champions League.

      It should have just been been a mid-week get together as even the players will be worried about getting injured in a friendly and missing out on the big club games.

  2. So many interesting comments. I thought it was nice to see Aitor’s machine once again functioning in the way we have come to recognise.

    For me Hull City appeared to be the best Championship team to have visited the Riverside this season.

    For most of the match they defended well, kept possession well and on another day might have won.

    I thought the substitutions stretched the tiring Tigers enough ….just enough to create our one decent opportunity.

    Although it’s disappointing not to have any football of note over Easter there should be the opportunity for players to get over their injuries ready to tackle the final straight.

    UTB

  3. Adam Clayton: ‘It’s all sorted out now. There’s so much love in the Boro changing room’

    Du sublime au ridicule, disait Fontenelle, il n’y a qu’un pas: de la raillerie à l’insulte il y en a encore moins.
    Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle “Pensées Nouvelles et Philosophiques”.1777

  4. People are posting about the performance against Hull and pointing to the win “only papering over the cracks”. Hull are a very strong side with a midfield of Livermore, Huddleston and Snodgrass, they boast as good as defensive record as us and are very hard to break down.

    The one thing I think people should take into consideration when judging Boro’s Friday night performance is the pressure the players would have been under, not just a top of the table clash but more so for the events of the two weeks before.

    To come through that game without losing was one thing but to get a late winner and the celebration afterwards, I think would have bonded the team and management and fans, more than anything else could have. If we had scored in the 20th minute and then hung on for 70+ minutes, it would not have had the emotional impact the goal in the dying seconds has had.

    I think that Nugent goal could be the “kick up the backside/boost/turning point of the season.

    Come on BORO.

    1. Amen to that, Exmil.

      There are times when a result, its significance and the timing of goals transcend the performance. This, I #believe, is one of those times.

  5. I’ve been away on holiday which for me usually means being offline. I do pick my times. Whilst I’ve been offline, Boro have lost two games to relegation strugglers, lost their manager, found him again and beaten Hull! Quite a fortnight.

    Way too many posts for me to even try to catch up on. I’ll count myself in amongst those that have been relieved that Aitor is still our manager. I rate him as possibly the best manager we’ve ever had (even better than Big Jack) and I hope he stays for many more seasons. I don’t get angry or upset when he makes the occasional mistake, he’s a young manager learning his trade and doing a great job so far. I’m a senior manager, have been for 25+ years, but even in my mid-fifties I still make mistakes. The trick is to move on, as a friend of mine periodically reminds me…you can’t change the past.

    Aitor reminds me very much of a young Brian Clough in his style, his forthright nature, his focus on the team rather than individuals. I remember the Forest team he built, a real team, no star players, and even when Trevor Francis arrived he was just another member of the squad. I don’t know much about Aitor’s clash with the players, but I recall Cloughie doing something similar at Leeds. He faced a bunch of players who thought they were important, challenged them and then walked out when they wouldn’t accept him. Leeds decline kicked-in shortly thereafter, barring one season under Wilko. Their loss was to be Forest’s gain.

    1. Echoed my thoughts of times past, Kookaboro! There are examples of managers who can take players previously unknown to greatness, whilst there are others who’s skills & personality are needed to augument established stars.

      On a local level we have seen the Aitor succeed last season with players who could be described as low profile. Yet, now the profile has changed somewhat with the introduction of players who’s transfer fees are top of any spending in comparison to the direct competitors.

      They have a different mentality and require a different approach, hence AV’s article on Aitor’s need to put his man management skills. Not one to put a dampener on the salubrious joi de vie currently pulsing through many a Ra Ra’s veins, but perhaps some rational thought ought to be applied about where we are and where we hope to be in a season or three’s time.

      Juste dire comme (as they say in Margate)

      UTB

      1. Ah, my old nemesis! Have you returned to haunt me in my familiar paths, like! (I see you could resist it not)

        Winning? Enjoyment? I’d have thought you would have known, a man of your maturity, that life is bigger than these two pretenders to the throne. Perhaps I assumed wrongly and in fact you are still green in years Nigel!

        Rationality! I may recommend it for others but it doesn’t mean I do not undrstand that there are other ways and means in which to see life and take judgement thereof.

        Just sayin like!

        😉

  6. It wasn’t me who posted it but I think the “papering over the cracks” reactions are a little out of context.

    The full extract from the poster was “Fantastic result bearing in mind the last two or three weeks, but a papering over of the cracks”. I think the “bearing in mind the last two or three weeks” is the qualifying part of the statement.

    Euphoria is all well and good and nobody was screaming and punching the air more than me in the North Stand as Nugent’s header hit the net but lets not become delusional because of one solitary win albeit a critical 6 pointer.

    Have the last few weeks been normal behaviour for a professional football club and do we really believe everything is suddenly now rosy and all fissures have miraculously healed themselves in such a short period? According to Clayts harmony and brotherly love has broken out again in the dressing room and I hope he is right but relationships are complex at the best of times and it doesn’t take much for a throwaway comment or a disparaging remark to end the cease fire be it in a living room, board room or dressing room.

    The result rather than the performance was massive for all sorts of reasons. the manner of it with a dying seconds sickener was perfect in terms of helping to heal rifts and finished the night on a far healthier note than at KO remembering that some fans were actually booing one of our own before and during the game.

    It was a fantastic end to Friday evening, the victory, the points and the league position are looking good though they could and should have been so much better had it not been for the internal wrangling (wrangling a euphemism for cracks?) over the previous week or so and probably longer.

    We shall see over the next nine games if the divisions and rifts are put to one side or if they rear their ugly and unprofessional head again. I hope they don’t.

  7. As for the issue of the ‘cracks’, that’s simple, keep winning and they’ll close up completely, contine to lose/underperform and they will open wide.

    Such is football.

  8. Lovely affectionate piece from AV’s archive on reclaiming Brian Clough.(See his recent tweets.)

    Cloughie was my boyhood local hero well before his managerial exploits, and I used to love watching him in the Reserves a couple of years before he made his first team debut.

    As a skint student I managed to scrape enough together to see both of his international games at Cardiff and Wembley. Playing alongside him on both occasions was Boro’s Eddie Holiday. Remarkable that, even as a Second Division club, we possessed two of England’s finest forwards.

    **AV writes: That Cloughie bit is here: http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/sport/sport-opinion/anthony-vickers-brian-clough-typical-7777958

      1. NR –

        it’s difficult to remember that they fielded a forward line of four English internationals away to Liverpool, Clough, Peacock, Day, and Holliday, all young men. I need hardly say the match was a festival of brilliant forward play, (no, I can’t remember the score) I think four each or similar. The club were too dumb to realise that two time served, veteran defenders would have got promotion doing hand stands.

      2. Nigel

        I suspect that Cloughie at the time was as frustrated as Rav was during his time with us regarding goals conceded.

  9. Congratulations to Jonathon Taylor, by the way, for a really well-handled pre-match interview in difficult circumstances on Sky last Friday.

    **AV writes: Difficult circumstances = background noise and jostling from scribe scrum as pre-match lasagne arrived.

  10. Nigel

    SrAlex’s ManU was based on the premise we can always score one more than the opposition.

    I heard there were question marks over the defence in Cloughies days, a case of we can concede more than the forward line can score. I will go no further than that, I am sure Len is in a better position to comment.

  11. I seem to have been watching a different game to most folks. Neither side exactly worried the goalkeepers, in fact Dimi had practically nothing to do.

    Yes Hull kept us chance and goalless free until the death, but they didn’t offer any danger up front and the defence was more than comfortable, but let’s not forget Bristol City went one better. Does that make them better?

    I think like most I was happy to settle for a draw, therefore Nugent’s winner was like manna from heaven. Perhaps the football gods have taken a shine to us again.

    We shall find out at QPR. Personally I think we can still get automatic promotion but there’s a lot of football to be played until then.

    The results against Burnley and Brighton will define our season. Fingers crossed that the last game of the season will be more of a celebration than a must win.

    **AV writes: I thought Boro edged a tight game in terms of possession and setting the shape but Hull looked sharp on the break. Boro had one cleared off the line, Hull wasted their one clear chance (Snodgrass at the far post) but apart from that I thought they lacked confidence in front of goal (as a team that had scored three in eight would) and their shots were weak, hurried and straight at Dimi. He made one good save, tipping over. Apart from that the nerves in the game were more generated by our own fears rather than Hull building up a head of steam.

  12. GHW

    As you said little of note and neither keeper was stretched. The few saves Dimi made were collecting the ball.

    Two organised sides cancelled each other out until we struck. We shaded the first half, Hull the better side until we brought Downing on and then we improved.

    That was because we stretched them more with Adomah and Nsue one side, Downing and Friend on the other.

    To be truthful Nsue’s final balls were shocking for someone who is supposed to be an attacking midfielder by trade.

    **AV writes: Yes, some very poor deliveries. The only good one all night led to the goal.

  13. Nigel, RR….my second game at the Boro, my first had been a 2 all draw against Bury some years previous, 1953/54 possibly, was against Brighton, first match of the season, Brighton newly promoted. 9 nil to Boro, Clough scoring 5.

    In the years that followed, as Ian said, there were some questions about the defence. I remember 5 all and 6all draws, against Charlton I think and lots of other high scoring ones.

    Of course the forwards did not defend in those times.

    1. Pedro Boro v Brighton was my first ever. How it lives in the memory. I thought it would always be like that. With regard to the defence, if memory serves me correctly, wasn’t there match fixing allegations around this time?

  14. Just been on the Boro ticket site to buy my QPR tickets and saw Brighton at home were on sale, so grabbed those to. I suspect, unlike last season, everything is going to ride on that game.

    I’ve never seen Boro win at QPR……..

    Can’t wait.

    1. In an ordinary season I would have advised you to prepare for a long wait Nigel This season, however, Aitor seems to have made a habit of smashing hoodoos so you might be in an enjoyable evening after all.

  15. Spartak –

    I agree life is bigger as a rule, but I make an exception for my support of the Boro, I revel it when they win, suffer when they lose (but only for a short while) and I always look forward to the next game.

    As for my maturity, I’m a bit younger than Ian, (sorry Ian!) but sadly not young enough to be classed as ‘green’, those days are long gone I’m afraid.

    I saw my neighbour after the Hull game who is a Fulham supporter, he said Boro won then? I asked if he’d watched it, he said no I heard you and your son shouting! He may be a southerner but he understands.

  16. The Boro’s defence for much of the 50s used to let in goals as fast as Cloughie and co were scoring them at the other end.

    No match fixing allegations relating to the Boro were ever proven, but three Boro defenders were later convicted and served time for fixing matches when with other clubs. So the suspicion that they were up to their tricks in Cloughie’s time is rather well founded.

    And yes we did draw 6-6 against Charlton.

    I was at an important away cup-tie in the 50s after which rumours were rife all over Teesside that one of our forwards had thrown the game, so abject was his performance.

    And one of our longest-serving and most popular keepers was sent to Coventry by the rest of the team who were convinced that he threw one match.

    The sad situation was not without a certain grim humour. Ken Thompson, a craggy and formidable centre-half, ended up at Hartlepool, where he was jailed for betting against his own team. He pleaded guilty, but claimed that the team would have lost anyway.

    His own performance had not been affected and he produced newspaper cuttings confirming that he had been man of the match.

  17. Len

    Thanks for that, it was there in my memory but wasn’t quite certain.

    We certainly had a keeper whose displays were a contradiction of his name. I believe he went to his brothers wedding and never came back.

    It must be remembered that in those days the players were paid very little for a short career and in essence were tied labour of the clubs who held their contracts.

  18. Ian,

    Yes, that was Arthur Lightening, one of the most colourful characters ever to play for the Boro.

    He came from Coventry, rather than being sent to it.

    We paid quite a bit of money for him, and in his first game he let in 6 at Newcastle in 1962.

    He was then arrested for receiving stolen booze at his hotel room in Redcar.

    The judge must have been a Boro fan because he was found guilty, but allowed to walk free, the judge describing him as honest, truthful and manly.

    I remember him as being a scruffy character, but not a bad keeper, though his record for us was even scruffier than he was.

    He let in an average of 2.5 goals per game in the time he was with us.

    He was given permission to go to his brother’s wedding in South Africa, but he booked a one-way ticket as was never seen again.

    I believe he died in South Africa about 10 years ago.

    A short career with us, less than a full season. But one which left some indelible memories.

  19. Great stuff Len – your personal take on our club history creates a very readable style that brings to life Boro characters of the past with your amusing anecdotal recollections – I think it would make for a great column in the Gazette should you wish to indulge.

    1. I’ll second that Werdemouth. I had not heard the story of Arthur Lightening who pre-dates me as regular at Ayresome Park by some ten years or a little more. It is important to record these snippets of recollection from those witnessing things at the time otherwise a part of the truth about our town and our team will be lost.

      1. Me too Len, I’d heard of Arthur Lightening but had no idea of how “interesting” a character he was, Typical Boro!

  20. I knew a little about Lightening having seen in goal a few times. I saw him let in a penalty where he moved as much as Ricketts, that is why it was a great name for him.

    Following Lens infill of detailed I googled the aforesaid custodian. Apparently, after the 1-6 debut the headlines were Lightening Thunder Struck.

    It should be remembered there were lots of players fingered by the law early sixties.

    1. In those days players wages were more in line with everyday wages so a quick flutter on something that they could “influence” was too good an opportunity (or temptation) in those more austere (or seemingly more austere at least) times. Injuries like Cloughie’s meant that they could be washed up and finished with little to no source of income in many cases or certainly not one as cushy as playing Football for a living.

      I’m sure there were many more wagers that went undetected. Even in today’s games there are the odd enquiries into Far East betting syndicates plus of course Septic Bladder. It was ever thus I’m afraid and I’m pretty sure watching some games now it is still rife, suicidal back passes, fumbled crosses, penalty misses, open goal gaping. Faux frustration and anger at oneself for missing a “sitter” whilst counting inwardly, £10K, £20K, £30K plus.

      I would like to think most Players only bet for a bit of fun but we all know of Players who have got themselves into huge debt and that’s without getting into those Players with little to no loyalties to clubs, fans let alone their own pride. It is so difficult to prove yet so easy to engineer especially to players down in the lower leagues whose careers are coming to an inauspicious end and still with a Mortgage and Wag to fund.

      When the very awarding of World Cups come under scrutiny it is little wonder that fans have little interest in International Breaks. It is all part of the same slippery slope that continues to this day in all sports be it Athletics or Tennis. No surprise really that the greed is good league has prospered.

  21. The borefest that is the International break inexcusably, irresponsibly and incompetently scheduled for the Easter holidays could have been much worse for Boro in terms of losing players. As it stands only Nsue and Stuani who could be considered first teamers are away on duty whilst de Saart and Fry who are squad members (accepting that arguably Fry is now a first teamer) are also missing. Of the youngsters Maloney, Jakupovic and Morris are away.

    In terms of disruption to our starting eleven at Loftus Road Nsue could be replaced by de Laet which I think wouldn’t be a problem. If Ayala recovers and gets back to training I doubt he would be thrown in as a starter at QPR which means we would still need Kalas (who hasn’t been called up by the Czech Republic) for CB alongside Ben.

    Stuani could be replaced on the right by Albert (who hasn’t been called up by Ghana) with Stewy on the left. All in all those few changes wouldn’t concern me unduly and arguably it may even be a stronger starting eleven with Albert on the right from the off. I think we have seen enough of de Laet to recognise that he not only deserves a starting opportunity but it is healthy to have some genuine pressure on Emilio and George.

    The only positive with this break is that it possibly gives Ayala a bit more recovery time, that is assuming that we will see him in a Boro shirt again this season.

    1. It will be interesting RR, if anything concrete comes out with regards to Ayalas “progress”. If not rumours will persist as to the “injury???”

  22. Thanks for your kind comments, gents. Much appreciated.

    I’ll gratefully accept the Gazette job you offered, Werder.

    Hadn’t realised that it was in your gift.

    Cheque’s in the post.

  23. Thanks, Len. It’s nice to reminded of former players. Especially the more forgotten ones.

    BTW, Boro has played 37 matches and has 70 points. So we are still behind our target of two points per match (we’d have 74 now). Our average is about 1,891891891891892 points per game for the time being.

    We need to get more than 2 points from the next four matches. Which is not easy but possible as three matches are at home.

    Up the Boro!

  24. Where exactly is Ayala?

    Is he training?

    Is he still completely fit but in pain?

    Has the manager made a decision about him?

    Is there a time line for his return?

    Or is the player just doing what he wants?

    He seems to be as elusive as George Osborne after Budget Day.

    There was an episode at Blackpool last season that struck me as being most peculiar at the time.

    Woodie had made a surprise return and Boro played three at the back. This meant that Ayala was deposed from his normal central position and spent much of the game playing in the left back spot.

    He looked uneasy there and did not play particularly well.

    In the second half he went down injured, and when he eventually got to his feet he walked straight off.

    He had made no attempt to run off his injury. And he certainly had not been instructed to come off.

    He walked straight past Karanka, without any eye contact, leaving the manager to shrug his shoulders and make a what-the-hell-is going-on palms- upward hands gesture that signified to me that AK’s authoritarian style was cutting little ice with this particular player.

    AK’s recent comments on Ayala’s fitness have been in a similar vein. He seems to be leaving it to the player to make the decision on if and when he plays.

    To echo Donald Trump’s most profound intellectual question: ” What the hell is going on?”

    **AV writes: He has been assessed and repeatedly scanned by the club and independent experts who can find no sign of an obvious injury but the player insists when he runs he feels pain. Several attempts at a return to training have been cut short by complaints of discomfort. The club are obviously frustrated at the situation but clearly the player knows his body better than anyone. Last season he came back early and limped out again on his return and missed 12 games in all.

    Before any conspiracists try to spin some discord between him and the manager, he has history. In five of the last six seasons he has suffered very similar ankle injuries in February and that is at three different clubs. That suggests there is a physiological reason.

    Maybe like Robert Huth or Jonathan Woodgate his body isn’t designed for heavy wear and tear for more than six or seven months. Maybe he needs to be better managed through the season or Boro need a bio-mechanical assessment. Boro repaired Robert Huth by computer analysis of his running action, a few remedial tweaks and getting him to redistribute his weight a bit. We rebuilt him. Then sold him. I think he has been pretty much injury free since then.

  25. That’s a very good question Len.

    It seems that we may all be living in a strange world where reality is not allowed to interfere. According to Nugent the players have always supported the manager, Clayton tells us that the dressing room is full of love and Karamka says that there was never a problem with the players.

    Did the bizarre events of the weekend of the Charlton game never happen then? Have we all imagined it? Or has the club and press spin machine decided to ignore the problems that prompted the bust up and insist that all is hunky dory?

    I suspect that all supporters know that something was very wrong in the club. Hopefully the mediation done by Steve Gibson and the Hull result will have done enough to give the team a chance of getting enough points over the rest of the season to finish in an automatic promotion place.

    I’m sure that the fans will get right behind the team for the rest of the season but we are not idiots and articles about how wonderful things are and have always been just don’t ring true. At some point the truth will out and the fans deserve to be told.

  26. Exile –

    I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one. Nobody is going to spill the beans for a long while yet. All we can hope for is that differences have been set aside, albeit temporarily perhaps, so that we can expect total commitment in the remaining games, with or without Ayala.
    UTB

  27. I’m as nervous and puzzled about Dani Ayala as all of you but I am not willing to jump to conclusions without knowing what actually happened. Wait and see, as I always say…

  28. That said. There are three ways to look at it.

    A) He is still feeling pain. I believe his fiancee once tweeted something about him trying to recover as soon as possible. This “pain” thing is not uncommon either, given his injury history. Taking that into consideration, we just have to wait and hope.

    B) There was a rumour going round (on the Twitterwaves, and nowhere else, mind) that it had something to do with a new contract. If so, I hope there’s not much in it and it can be resolved.

    C) Your theory, Len, that him and AK aren’t always on good terms. I’d be tempted to go along with it except the way he bounced back following his post-Blackpool recovery suggests otherwise. I always thought you read too much into that game, anyway… dwelling on nearly throwing the points away and saving our best players for Arsenal. Bottom line is, you know, we won.

    Easy though it would seem to come down on the player’s side during Ayalagate (if it exists!) it takes two to tango. There’s always more than one side to a story. At times like these I refer you to my column on Albertgate, from last August… my beliefs from there still hold firm.

    1. It’s a difficult one… but I recall Kevin Thomson getting the bad mouth treatment from Mowbray… the poor guy was feeling pain, club docs said he was fine.. he had a fractured shin bone.

      Let’s wait and see…

  29. Players and manager don’t need to get on to forge a good professional relationship, maybe Ayala and Karanka don’t get on, so what? One thing I do know is that Ayala is 10x the player now than before AK arrived, so something is working.

    Willie Maddren and Jackie Charlton didn’t get on, Stuart Ripley and Brucie weren’t best mates, it’s irrelevant.

  30. Typical Boro scepticism Len. I am not surprised especially because you lived through the period when conspiracy theories such as “the players are deliberately throwing games” proved to be true.

    More recent conspiracy theories that still ring in my ears include “the club doesn’t want to get promoted”. A golden oldie that made an unexpected come back recently.

    Then there is the national conspiracy of referees against MFC to which my mother subscribes, (bless her).

    Human nature being what it is I tend to prefer to wield Occam’s razor and so finish with accidents, coincidence and misunderstandings.

    In the case of Daniel Ayala there is probably less than meets the eye. Perhaps his injury has healed but he is still in pain. I hope he will be back in time to participate in the run-in.

  31. Is it just me , but watching the Man U , bench is Ryan Giggs totally ignoring LVG , there seems to be very little communication between them.
    I’ve even seen Van Gaule lean over and speak ,but Giggs just looks into space.

  32. AV:

    Thanks for your very full response to the questions I raised about Ayala.

    That all makes sense. What you have done – and not for the first time- is to fill the vacuum about these issues, that has been created by the silence of the club.

    Just another of the invaluable services offered by this blog.

    1. About 18 months to two years ago I injured my left wrist and had it strapped up for weeks. It is supposedly healed now but I still get severe shooting pains twisting or turning it and without any warning.

      If I’m not careful it can mean I can drop whatever it is I was carrying or holding as it goes weak at the same time as the pain. Its not too debilitating but even though I’m “healed” I still get that odd burst of intense pain.

      I’m guessing that an ankle is not unlike a wrist in terms of bones, muscles and ligaments etc so although Dani’s doctors may say he is fine I can relate to his injury if he is experiencing a similar set back.

  33. So now you have to answer questions to view articles on the gazette website. One of the worlds most difficult sites to view just got even more of a pain.

    That’s me done with it.

    1. Here, here. I agree with my honourable friend. The site is a pain and I’m with you GHW.

      While we’re having a grizzle which plonker arranged internationals on Easter Weekend? Obviously the fans of the clubs don’t matter. Have they never heard of a year planner?

      UTB,

      John

      1. I’m not having any issues – nothing seems to have changed for me.

        For the record in case it helps, I use Google Chrome. No issues with pop-ups, ads or questionnaires.

      2. I use Google chrome and adblocker and am not experiencing pop ups or questionnaires but the pages do generally take an eternity to load. I sometimes get fed up waiting and just simply close them down rather than wait and look for the news story elsewhere.

        I guess there is a balance to promoting and advertising that doesn’t impact on the reader too adversely in which case they will return and indeed may even look at some of the ads and click on ones of interest as oppose to bogging down and clogging up the experience to the point that readers either block them entirely or simply no longer bother. No doubt there will be a piece of software that tells those that need to know how much traffic they are generating and ultimately that will decide its fate.

        Less is more generally as the saying goes.

        **AV writes: Those annoying bits are paying an increasing proportion of my wages.

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