The Play-Offs Are Great – From The Outside

LET’S see what you could have won…

As a neutral and eager observer I’m enjoying the Sky Sports trailers for the looming Championship play-offs: four top teams in a tense tussle for the ultimate prize. High-stakes home-and-away encounters leading to a winner-takes-all £170m shoot-out under the iconic Arch.  It looks like a brilliant cut-throat competition full of action, and drama and colour and heightened emotion.

Thank god we are not in it.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved Wembley. As an experience it was something we had never done as a club. We’d been up through the play-offs by beating Bradford and Chelsea in 1988 in a different format but we’d never done it at Wembley.  As a ‘got, got… need’ completist I fancied ticking that one off.  Just think: Winning at Wembley… 


And the whole package was exciting. Remember the Boro Snake; the logistics of 40,000 people marching on the capital from all points of the compass against the background of  a looming rail strike; the Instagram filtered super senses sight of the boozy basecamp at Trafalgar Square; the star-studded MSS party; seeing red shirts absolutely EVERYWHERE but barely a glimpse of yellow; the feeling of mounting cultural power; the sense of inevitability of the coming victory;  video evangelism;  #Believe….

It was all fantastic until the traffic delayed frozen, stuttering start and the soul-sapping slow-mo salvo from the Canaries and the resulting dental damage and shards of broken dreams. Then came the numbed silence watching powerless as Boro laboured through the game and the long painful, heartbroken and empty-handed retreat from the national stadium. Again.  

No-one wants to go through that again. God no.


Of course, had the result gone badly against Brighton we would now be down on our hands and knees looking through the debris and desperately trying to piece together bits of shattered morale.

 We would all be trying somehow to emotionally rewire ourselves ready to travel to a baying, packed Hillsborough on Friday night with Wednesday hungry to restore the Hillsborough hoodoo and Boro trying to regain some momentum after four without a win.

Morale would not have been high in the crowd – I know plenty of people who had vowed that if it came to it, they were not going to Wembley – and the players have looked spent after super-human efforts in the past few weeks.

That nightmare scenario doesn’t bear thinking about. So we won’t.

We can kick back and watch on the box. We can put that to bed.  Yesterday we had the annual office ceremony to formally cancel the Wembley hotel bookings. That’s it, the season is officially over.

Do we care about who wins the play-offs? Not really. *Meh*

The main concern for most will be logistical rather than any deep partisan passions. Just somewhere in the north we can get to if the game is shunted off into Sky coveted contractual obligation Monday night slot.

Until Saturday there seemed to be a lot of goodwill on Teesside towards Brighton. It’s a friendly club, a great away trip, we usually win and there isn’t any great historical grudge to be patiently nurtured.   And promotion would be a great story following years playing at their version of Clairville Common after near terminal chaos under a chancer owner.

Some of the reactions from within their camp in the aftermath may well have changed that and a lot of Teesside’s proxy support may get behind the Owls.

As to the other game, I’d prefer Derby – a “proper” football club – to succeed rather than Hull, the second – or even third! – team in their own town and the plaything of yet another arrogant overseas owner who doesn’t respect the traditions of the game or the emotional stakeholder of supporters.  

Pride Park is always a great place to go, there’s a cracking atmosphere and we’ve had some great games there.  Hull always feels to be a chore, going to a second cousin’s wedding you barely know out of a sense of obligation.

Whatever, I’m not bothered. We’ve done our bit. Boro are in the big league and I don’t begrudge anyone else joining us. 

It will just be nice to watch the play-offs without palpitations.


605 thoughts on “The Play-Offs Are Great – From The Outside

  1. Based on their historical track records perhaps attending a public school should automatically disbar somebody from either standing as an MP or being employed in the security services.

    It’s not as if the poor dears would struggle to find something else to do with their time.

  2. It’s a pity the whole debate about in or out has become based on the personalities of the so-called leaders of the various factions and not the facts. Paradoxically we know nothing of the faceless bureaucrats in the EU or if they’ve even got personalities.

    If I read or hear one more ‘we could’, ‘we probably’, ‘there may be’, ‘3 million unemployed’ I’ll scream and generally have a tantrum. cameron and co have never worried about people being out of work, redundant and jobless but suddenly they are because it suits them.

    The EU is a project for the few and gravy train for a few (a lot) more. The Common Market was a great idea and General de Gaulle kept us out for long enough in period when we could have had an effect policy within the club but the EU as it stands, no thanks. I bet they’ve got a room 101 in both Brussels and Strasbourg, there are plenty of rats in there anyway. Then there are the Bilderberg, I think that’s how you spell it, crew pulling strings too.

    Let’s have some football news even if it’s just the colour of the new Addidas designed corner flags.



    1. The Bilderberg Group are indeed an interesting bunch ( and probably a conspiracy theorist’s worst nightmare.

      Rather interestingly they’ve recently been reported as saying ‘Donald Trump must be stopped at all costs’ and some watchers have claimed that a well known American newspaper has published an indication that he will be stopped from becoming President with a reference to a plot in the Steven King novel ‘The Dead Zone’.

      All complete nonsense I’m sure but Trump’s campaign manager apparently tweeted recently that the presidential candidate has started wearing a bullet-proof vest at political rallies – who could possibly want to shoot a man with so few enemies in a country where five-year-olds readily get hold of guns?

      Anyway, sounds like one for David Icke to investigate – who recently appeared the political late night chat show ‘This Week’ to talk about conspiracies – Iraq war and 9/11 mainly.

      Afterwards Andrew Neil then asked whether he still thought the Royal Family were shape-shifting lizards, the Mr Icke said: “Yes I do.”

      Mr Neil said that this undermined his arguments but Icke denied this saying: “If you deliver it in one line, the world’s run by reptiles, you go ‘that’s crazy’ – “But when you see the back story and the evidence to support this in a completely different context.”

      Mr Icke is a believer of a conspiracy theory that 13 historical families, including the royals, were shape-shifters who run the world’s finances, politics, and religion.

      So now I have no idea anymore who’s pulling the strings and running the world…

  3. Ah, but it’s the unknown unknowns that will be important Jarsue

    Looking at the early history of MFC it looks as if the directors of the failed Ironopolis club staged a take over of MFC. The personnel had a lot in common and the club colours changed to red shortly afterwards.

    That’s significant because Ironopolis’ home shirt before liquidation was red with a white diagonal sash.

    I would argue therefore that our team is Ironopolis’ in all but name.

    This leads me to make the modest proposal that MFC should be renamed Middlesbrough Ironopolis’. Doing so would be a defiant reminder of our industrial and sporting heritage. It would also give the club an intriguing identity that might lead outsiders to want to investigate a little more.

    1. Werner

      Do not like the word defiant. It has connotations of inferiority. I think contempt is a better word, after all if you hold someone in contempt it is their problem and it will certainly get right up their nose.

      Very few of he rulers of football have covered themselves with glory in recent years, setting out their unfortunate “accidents” would take a lifetime. Without even trying, lets start with the great scandal of nations buying the world cup. We know that it could not happen because it would mean that some small country composed only of barren desert with temperatures of 45 degrees would eventually host the World Cup and that is never going to happen. Or at least if it did it would mean an army of police crawling all over the headquarters of FIFA.

  4. I would be seriously concerned about the rationality and sanity of anyone who believes Boris, Farage, Gove, Dave or George. I wouldn’t trust any of them let alone believe them. The controlled and manipulative British media may have elected them as so called leaders of in or out but I would hope the voters have greater intelligence than all of them put together.

    This mornings scare story from the “impartial” media is another two years of austerity if we vote out now it’s perhaps just me but are we not already in austere times. I’m not for one second blaming the EU for our current austerity but with no publicly declared end date George will have to forgive me if I don’t believe a word he utters.

    Earlier in the week we were warned that clothing prices will go up if we leave. As most clothing is traded in US Dollars and sourced from China, India, Pakistan, Turkey and Bangladesh then I would love to hear the facts of that claim. Of course high fashion designer gear (£3,000 suits and £2,000 hand bags) are sourced (allegedly) from France and Italy which may of course mean a price hike for some but not many on Teesside.

    Germany sends far more stuff into the UK than we send in their direction so I guess when we leave we may see a huge upsurge of those Hillman Imps making a comeback. If only we had some Steel to make them with, oh that’s right we couldn’t save our steel industry like the Italians and the Germans did because of EU legislation, strange that one!

    1. I think the Germans decided to save their Steel industry by building thousands of wind turbines at a loss.

    2. If they were the originals restored to earlier glory they’d be exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty, or, in old money Road Tax. Less money for the Treasury and Government to waste.



  5. Werner Heisenberg @ 8h29: “…MFC should be renamed Middlesbrough Ironopolis’. Doing so would be a defiant reminder of our industrial and sporting heritage. It would also give the club an intriguing identity that might lead outsiders to want to investigate…”

    I rather like that idea.

  6. RR, IIRC Hillman Imps were made using Aluminium.

    Thought I would share a Danish friend’s assessment of Viktor Fischer:

    “Very skilful but I doubt he has the fighting spirit required to compete in the Premier League.”

    That reminds me of Gaston Ramirez’s reputation before he arrived on loan. I expect a similar AK inspired apparent transformation in Viktor Fischer. Something to look forward to.

    **AV writes: We’ve spoken to Dutch journalists who think he has more of the attributes needed for the PL than most players in Dutch football. Opinions eh?

    1. Werner

      I was going to say no problem with the Aluminium Imp but the Smelters up in Blyth went the same way as our Steel works!

  7. Wonder kid Victor Fischer to sign on a four year contract after a stringent medical due to a bad hamstring injury he suffered in 2014.

    Apparently we have tracked him for five years so it seems he’s another Mowbray “find” and we will have him to thank if he’s a success.

    Interestingly he’s a left winger and is costing almost the same as De Pena. What does that mean for him? And Carayol,Reach and Downing too unless Ramirez doesn’t return?

  8. I wonder if it will be Downing that we will be parting company with, especially since his (influential?) brother in law has been taken off the payroll.

  9. Just a thought. But if we do end up with BREXIT after June 23rd, that might throw a spanner in the works for us (and a lot of clubs) as we will have a significant proportion of our first team squad that will need to have work permits all of a sudden. Currently people from other EU countries have the right to live and work here without any such permit.

    Though I suppose making it difficult for Johnny Foreigner to come and ply his footballing trade in Blighty will go some way to solving the immigration problem and in the longer term improving the stock of locally produced talent to supply the four home nations international sides.

    1. Powmill-Naemore

      It wouldn’t quite be ‘all of a sudden’, a Brexit would take at least five years to implement. So plenty of time for clubs to adjust to needing work permits for European players. But then if we follow the Norwegian model after a Brexit then there would still be free movement of people between the UK and Europe.

  10. I see Ian Gibson has gone to the big changies in the Sky. He was my first footballing hero. RIP.

  11. GHW

    I remember Ian Gibson though my big hero was Jim Irvine.

    If my memory serves me right, Gibson played in a Saturday demolition of Wolves 3-0 and under lights against Pompey when we won 5-2, I am sure we were trailing in the latter.

  12. Ian Gibson a fantastic little bandy legged inside forward who could go past people and could knock it short or long. He was a bright light when Boro were absolutely abysmal. At the time they signed anyone who could sometimes kick a ball up the field, including a goalie Eddie Connachan who I think was about 5ft 5 in. In a good team would have been a top name.

  13. Loved Ian Gibson,and had the pleasure of a conversation with him at the re-union dinner last season on the eve of the Brighton game.

    It turned out to be a true meeting of minds.

    I said to him that he was in my Best Ever Boro Xl that we posted on this blog 3 or 4 years ago.

    I had him alongside Mannion, TLF and Souness in a peerless midfield four. Precise formation totally irrelevant.

    He paid me the gracious compliment of telling me that I obviously knew a great deal about football, and that he entirely agreed with me.

    I went on to say that if we had someone of his quality playing for us at no.10 now,then we would be well clear at the top of the league and going into the Premier League rather than the play-offs.

    He said that i was one of the most perceptive and intelligent people he had ever met, and that he could not have put it better himself.

    In short, we got on like a house on fire, and bought each other a couple of pints.

    And to those on the blog who may sometimes consider my views to be quirky, off the wall, or just plain lunatic, I offer that testimonial by one of the finest footballers ever to pull on a Boro shirt.

    A great player, a lovely man, and a discriminating judge of the opinions of lesser mortals.

    He left thousands of Boro fans with some wonderful memories, in what was a particularly dark period for the club.

    He will be greatly missed.

    1. My father said that being relegated in that season wasn’t the biggest tragedy, he said that the inevitable departure of Ian Gibson afterwards was.

  14. Werner wrote

    Based on their historical track records perhaps attending a public school should automatically disbar somebody from either standing as an MP or being employed in the security services.

    It’s not as if the poor dears would struggle to find something else to do with their time.

    Like Jeremy Corbyn, Harriet Harman, Tony Blair, Ed Balls……

    Just saying like.

    1. You make a good point Ian. British and indeed European politics being dominated by an elite is why so many throughout the UK and Europe are utterly cheesed off with politics and politicians.

    2. Yes, all of them Ian. I bet you could name one post war prime minister who would not have been disqualified.

      **AV writes: Harold Wilson. And Ted Heath too. Grammar school boys. Back in that brief window of social mobility and meritocracy.

      1. Was Margaret Thatcher not also a Grammar school graduate?

        **AV writes: I think she won a scholarship to quite a posh second tier public school.

      2. Kesteven and Grantham Grammar, where Hilda was head girl, wasn’t a public school.

        She arguably caused more havoc than all of the public schoolboys combined since the war.

    3. Yes, I think meritocracy is exactly is the answer to the question why disqualify the public school alumni? Another answer might be Boris Johnson or Tony Blair.

      I used to think Thatcher’s legacy was entirely negative. Now I think it was a mixed bag. Generally bad for the North of course but also a thorough_going dose of modernisation and efficiency that was badly needed for the country as a whole. She was prepared to do what she thought was the right thing even if that went contrary to conventional wisdom. In the process she also had a good hack at privileges and vested interests of the elite as much as the unions. It was also a good thing to have a prime minister from a scientific background who would always prefer to make decisions based on logic and facts rather than sentiment and gut feeling. Her main weakness seemed to be a lack of compassion.

      Now, based on my understanding of the views of some of the most erudite contributors to this blog, I should prepare for incoming…

      1. Arguably, Frankenstein’s monster also came from a scientific background 🙂

        Though I would say Thatcher’s main weakness was probably that she admitted to only sleeping four hours a night and it’s well known that sleep deprivation totally messes up the body and mind and impairs your judgement – just ask any parent with small children – though it’s not clear if she actively chose not to sleep or whether she just couldn’t sleep following her decisions.

  15. The Boro get a good hammering on here from time to time on their Marketing “approach”. I watched in astonishment as Steve Rowe the new (ish) M&S Chief Exec today announce that they needed to win back “Mrs M&S, their loyal army of women clothes shoppers aged 50 and over” or words to that effect.

    Talk about negative stereotyping and killing off your customer base. Their traditional older woman styling was the cause of their original decline in the first place that they have never really recovered from. The problem with older people is they die more frequently and dead people stop buying clothes as remarkable as that might seem.

    So its not just the Boro that shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to marketing and as bad as our home shirts may (or may not be depending on opinion) be that gaffe today will be standard text book reference for decades to come and may even be a few nails in the M&S coffin along with those old dears over 50.

    50 isn’t old I hear you all think, correct 50 is the new 40 (ahem). Problem is that 50 year old women don’t want to be made to feel or look 50 so you can pretty much guarantee that the M&S charm “offensive” will now appeal to those women aged over 60. Pensioners buy less clothes and what they do buy lasts them a lot longer than 30 or 40 somethings. Poor Steve Rowe, M&S will now get the customers it can’t offend or at least just before they hit the nursing homes!

  16. I know nothing about the new signing, but on the brief video of him, one thing I noticed was something your born with and that’s the ability to sprint pass players with ease over the first ten yards,he also looks balanced in his body movement, hope so

  17. RR;

    Spot on.

    Rowe has almost done a Ratner.

    Poor Gerald knocked £500 million off the value of his company with his few well chosen words.

    Can’t see Rowe lasting long after this gaffe.

  18. Indeed RR – the 50-year-olds of today were probably the teenage punks and the inventors of DIY fashion – maybe they should put Vivienne Westwood in charge of M&S instead…

    1. Scary thought indeed for the great majority of the population that are broadly conservative (with a small “c”) in dress sense.

      **AV writes: Yes, you don’t see many blokes wearing sarongs on Linthorpe Road.

  19. It depends RR on who actually heard those remarks.

    If he manages to introduce stylish clothing that also looks good on his target market he will succeed.

    Personally I struggle with the way M&S Jeans are cut. I don’t want a dropped crotch, nor, despite the fact I keep trim, do I want to expose my cleavage when bending forward.

  20. Werner

    The “dropped crotch” is a throwback shall we say to older styled trousers and jeans for the more mature gent who were used to loose fitting dropped crotches in the 50’s. Fine when those young bucks from the 50’s grew into middle and old age in the 80’s and 90’s and their fit grew old with them but not ideal for young bucks from the 60’s and 70’s who appreciated a tighter fitting around the nether regions.

    As it is menswear and therefore not for discerning ladies of a certain maturity unfortunately it seems nobody from M&S has thought to get hold of a few of the current market leader jeans, unpick them to compare the patterns and see what the differences are in fit.

    If they had you wouldn’t be suffering from dropped crotch syndrome, have a much improved fit with minimal cleavage on display or at least just enough to put a sparkle in the eye of a few blue rinses down at the bowls club. It could be worse just be grateful they haven’t got a white gastric band on them!

  21. No drop ctotch in my day, that man in Burton’s with a funny lisp, was a real dab hand at measuring the inside leg, trouble was you always had to go back for a refit.

  22. As an ‘old dear over 50’ ,over 60 actually I was sharpening my knitting needles for an attack on RR for his M&S comments but the final paragraph has got you off the hook RR

    You are actually spot on about us old dears not wanting to look like old dears, well not yet as far as your truly is concerned. No, I don’t go in for mini skirts and exposed cleavage

    Would love to comment more but I have to be elsewhere.

    No idea how I found time to go to work!

    Careful though lads I will be watching.

  23. Ladyboro

    There used to be an old saying “you’re as young as you feel” but unfortunately in today’s world with the behaviour of certain footballers it now has slightly different connotations.Or there again maybe the saying was “you’re as old as you feel” but again with the behaviour of other high profile footballers (or should that be singular) it now has slightly different connotations.

    Anyway, age is just a number, in my head I’m still 25 (until I take a look in the mirror at least). We should all hope to grow old disgracefully and not in an old folks home with an M&S Cardie and Slippers on.

  24. The main reason I used to go to M&S was for the delicious food – which was always a cut above other supermarkets – plus I used to be into their cool-looking black polar-neck jumpers back in the day.

    Though I seem to recall back then that their trousers range used to stop at a 32 inch inside leg (I am 34 inch) so it was pointless looking – I wonder when someone in management realised people appeared to be getting taller.

  25. Would you take Ballotelli, I know he’s a little cookie but what if you could get his head into it, certainly send a tickle up the back end of the media.

  26. I am not a lover of M&S though my wife is.

    Some time ago I remember a programme about them that we used for marketing students and what was apparent was the disconnect between senior management and staff.

    The management claimed they were unaware that the stores brought in extra staff when they were visiting even though they had been in store management themselves and that had been common practice for decades.

    I suppose they are no different to anyone else.

    On the clothing front, my wife will walk round when the new season comes in predicting what will go in to the sale.

  27. She drives us barmy some times. I keep checking the bank account to see where all this money is that she has saved us.

    When I did some lecturing in marketing at Derby Uni I came up with the Iceberg theory of retailing.

    If you find a new shirt on the bed for yourself, just like an iceberg is mostly submerged, there are another 8 items hidden away in the house somewhere.

  28. Ian

    “If you find a new shirt on the bed for yourself, just like an iceberg is mostly submerged, there are another 8 items hidden away”

    -Not unlike some Boro transfer deals in the past!

    Hint, check the shoe rack (or racks or more likely) for the ones with the price sticker still on the sole.

  29. Redcar Red

    The academic rigour of the theory involves thorough research in to all aspects of retail therapy. That includes wardrobes, shoe racks and other places where goods can be stored.

    I tried sniffer dogs but the courts said that was an invasion of privacy, the actual ruling was ‘who do you think you are, a journalist?’.

    The biggest problem is when your daughter and wife have the same shoe size, like the same style of hand bags and jewellery.

    You are led a merry dance, not mine it is Emma’s, it’s mums.

    Congrats to Phil.

  30. Listening to the latest Tripe Supper , Phil T has lost all credibility ,he just basically said if he didn’t get in for nowt he wouldn’t go to games.

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