Big Mac, Fat Sam and the FA Dug-out Handgrenade

TEESSIDERS know how to nurse a grudge, to feed and water it regularly and to nurture it until it sinks deep roots in a dense jungle of historic animosities.

Barely a day goes by without something rustling in the undergrowth, some seemingly remote movement tugging away at trailing tendrils that quickly connect to still smarting scars of grievance.  A brief mention of Rick Parry on Sky Sports Premier League Years can make the hackles rise for instance.  The dog hides if it hears a passing reference to Christian Ziege.  Or, for some, Peter Beagrie in the studio for a televised Boro game can send them racing through the emotional gears. And that was 30 years ago.

So the news that Sunderland had growled at the FA over the approach to Sam Allardyce had some Teessiders swiftly simmering with retro-anger.


A Sunderland statement said: “The on-going speculation over Sam’s position is extremely damaging to Sunderland AFC, particularly at this crucial time of the season and we urge the FA to respect the disruption that this process is causing and bring about a swift resolution to the matter.”

Extremely damaging? A crucial time? The disruption this process is causing?
That’s nothing compared to the FA revealing your manager will be the next England boss six days before a major European cup final.  Which is what England did when it was confirmed Steve McClaren would leave Boro to take over the poisoned chalice.

That was unforgivable. And unnecessary. They could have easily held off announcing it for a week. They should have. They have a duty to protect their member clubs, especially at such an important moment.

Yes, they were under intense media pressure having bungled their bid to recruit Big Phil Scolari.  And yes, the England job is of massive public interest. But for them to make it public when they did to deflect that pressure was symptomatic of their institutional weakness and showed a total disregard for our club at an historic moment.

It rolled a hand-grenade into the Boro camp as they built up to the UEFA Cup silverware showdown with Sevilla.  We can’t say it led to defeat because we will never know and the Spanish were great on the night. But it was a massive distraction and hugely disruptive.

The players – the entire club – should have been focussed on the game but instead thoughts were on the exit of the manager and what changes the new man may usher in.
Boro were preparing for a famous first footing in a European final and that fairytale should have dominated the back pages and news headlines.

Instead the England succession was the story and, for the media, Boro were a sideshow.
Was the manager’s mind elsewhere? How could in not be? Were the players spooked by the situation? How could it be otherwise.

Was it necessary? No it bloody wasn’t. Am I still angry? Yes I bloody am. Will I forget? No chance.  I’ll be nursing that one for a long time to come.



594 thoughts on “Big Mac, Fat Sam and the FA Dug-out Handgrenade

  1. Powmill,

    Sorry to hear about your Dad. And full respect to him.

    I was a regular patron of Hill’s bakery, and a grateful consumer of their cakes,buns and bread over many years. Loved them.

    Along with Sparks’ afternoon teas, and Newhouse cafe’s toasted buns they formed some of my earliest and most fondly recalled culinary memories in an era when the town scarcely had a place that we would now consider to be a proper restaurant.

    1. There was a cake shop in Linthorpe Village called Merediths, on the corner of Clive Road(?) opposite The Assembley Rooms. Great cakes there but Hills Custard Slices were the best.

      Sorry to hear about your Dad Powmill.



  2. Powmill

    So sorry to hear about your loss. I lost my Dad 30 years ago. As the years and decades have passed the memories last becoming sharper if anything, more treasured and valuable from teaching me to ride a bike to taking me to my first Boro match.

    Your Dad sounds a great bloke who has left you the legacy of many happy and proud memories plus of course the “Typical Boro” sense of humour. Thoughts are with you and your family.

  3. Sorry Jarsue159, Sparks’ vanilla slices from BHS were the best, both sadly gone.

    Sorry to hear about your loss Powmill, very sad. With a throwing arm like that and from the same distance, I take it you can’t play darts either?

  4. AV

    Very acute predictive piece on the new season, and one I very much agree with.

    I think that we are set up and organised enough to provide a few surprises away from home, particularly against the bigger beasts when we are unfancied.

    We may well lose a few at home, too.

    The main problem may be in not having the quality and creativity to win enough of our home games.

    It may be the home draws that kill us rather than the defeats.

    The consolation is that to survive we only need to average a point a game, so that every point won actively contributes to our objective. The opposite was the case last year, when every draw, apart from the final one, represented a point less than we needed to go up.

    I agree with Ben Gibson. I would take finishing 17th now if it were offered. To achieve that, however, we will probably need to win at least half of our home games.

    That could constitute the most important challenge for the coming season, and reinforces my own view that we need another Ramirez type creator, who is able to unlock Premier League defences, in order to achieve that objective.

    **AV writes: I’m going to move this onto a new thread now I’m back.

  5. Hi Len

    I’ll never agree with you on Boro’s supposed lack of creativity. Even the Sunday Times said we weren’t short of attacking options. Both Negredo and Rhodes look hungry, Downing will feel more at home at this level. De Pena may even do a Ricard. (Not in goal-scoring, but in performance. In proving people wrong.)

    As an aside: a stodgier, older side than Karanka’s broke the fifty-point barrier and finished ninth after being promoted back in the late 1990s. Different times, I know, but still.

  6. I find myself thinking differently about next season.

    Throughout the last 2 years, I have always held little hope for retaining our PL status, as and when it was achieved. I’ve always settled for a double bounce. I previously thought we would inevitably be relegated, happily collect our top flight windfall, put it to good use to reinforce the team and come back up that much stronger. Then we might have a chance of PL consolidation.

    However, very unlike me (pessimists are rarely disappointed) , I’m starting to feel a bit more confident (I know, not good for a Boro fan). By 5 tomorrow it will all probably evaporate like dew in the morning sun but, at the moment, I fancy us to survive.

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