Riverside Redemption Ends Seven Year Exile

BORO showed they are fit for purpose in the Premier League on an emotional day at the Riverside.  The new look team – four debutants – more than held their own against an organised and robust Stoke side that are the cliché “can you do it?” benchmark.

And they have a precious first point on the board after a solid 1-1 draw.  That they failed to hold on for the full three may have been initially frustrating, but on balance most will be happy at drawing with the side who finished ninth last season.

But the day was about more than football. It was about Boro – the club, the crowd, the community – being delivered back to the big time after a long road to redemption.  Boro are back up where we belong. That was the important thing.  And so long as Stoke didn’t turn out to be party-poopers (there is always that ‘typical Boro’ fear) it was always going to be smiles all round.

1joy

There was a carnival atmosphere long before kick off. Long before.  Plenty of tingling Teessiders never slept a wink,  full of Christmas Eve festive fidget and waiting to see what Karanka Claus would bring.  The matchday buzz started at breakfast as Twitter twitched into life and fizzed at the prospect of Boro’s return, and excited crowds were milling around the Riverside two hours earlier than usual.

There was a real crackle of glee and nerves, the new term anticipation sharpened by the sight of the Premier League livery and the feel of a box-fresh stadium with revamped concourses and, for some, new seats. 

As kick-off approached there was a swell of pride and passion at being back in the big time.  There were some brilliant new banners unveiled in a visual stereo from Boro’s dual kop: “The Club That Will Not Die” and the Ayresome Gates from the Red Faction in the South Stand, and a stirring message of “Strength in Unity” from the Twe12th Man in the North.

There was a real buzz as a plane drifted overhead trailing a crowd-funded banner with a touching tribute to much-missed microphone man Ali Brownlee declaring: “Everyone back to mine for a parmo.”

There was a sense of collective effort and civic pride from the Red Army, celebrating success after a seven year slog in the second tier.  And after a build-up that sucked the air out of loyalists’ lungs, the match started with an ear-drum bursting roar of sheer joy.

1crowd2

The team matched that intensity with a blistering start and as Boro pressed and probed, the roar turned into a resounding universal chant in praise of chairman Steve Gibson, who more than anyone can view the return from Championship exile as hard-earned and deserved reward. The team delivered. Boro turned in a top flight performance.

Aitor Karanka’s side looked confident and determined in the opening exchanges as they pressed forward with some assertive, aggressive football and an Albert Adomah dipper sent former squeeze Shay Given back-pedalling to tip over.

The fairytale debut opener for Alvaro Negredo was well-worked and ramped up the volume again just as the early hysteria was settling.  It was text-book stuff: lively Albert Adomah danced down the left and sent a deep cross sailing over the box for Gaston Ramirez to nod it back superbly into the middle and Negredo darted free – casually heading home from close range.  Get in. Scripted.

Boro relaxed and played with an impressive swagger, imposed themselves and set the tempo and tone and created chances.  But a testing spell was always going to come. Stoke are a good side and they had chances as the first phase drew to a close but Boro showed they were just as strong at the back as at the sharp end.

Ben Gibson and Antonio Barragan made crunching tackles in the box then Ramirez popped up with first a crucial header to glance away a Xherdan Shaqiri crossm before Mame Biram Diouf could connect, then nodded off the line after a bout of penalty box pinball.

1gaston

After the break Stoke clawed their way back into the game and started to apply some pressure there was a scare at the back as Stoke’s top knot targetman Arnautovic burst forward onto a weak back-pass from Barragan  but the otherwise under-employed sweeper-keeper Valdes streaked out his box to clear and soon after he flew into a diving punch to clear at the far post.

The game had slipped into the shape that most fans felt the season would see: Boro defending against an opposition pressing forward with a lot of possession, soaking it up and then hitting on the break.

Boro are not the finished article though. There was a golden chance on the counter as Albert was sent free down the flank but with Negredo and Downing bursting into the box the decisive final low cross was sloppy and cut out by the last defender.  Boro may not get many such chances to seal a game over the season and have to make them count.

Then Boro were punished for that lack of a killer touch as Stoke levelled on 67 minutes, Shaqiri dipping a harshly awarded 25 yard free-kick over the wall that Valdes got a hand to but glanced in off the foot of the far post.

The game became scrappy and peppered with fouls but Stoke increasingly had the edge forcing a tiring Boro into some desperate defending but they held out. They still chances too but the early zip, poise, shape and intensity had gone in a ragged final phase.

1crowd1

In the end a draw was a fair result in what was a solid top flight return. There were some very promising signs of a team that can more than hold its own and despite hard work they were undone by a harshly awarded to sublimely executed free-kick.

And it was an entertaining game on a memorable day that had most of those leaving the stadium beaming. Aitor was happy enough. So were the players.  They took positives and confidence from the game.  Albert walked quietly past the press pack, stopped, turned and punched the air and roared: “Yes! We smashed it!” then headed off happily homewards.

And red hot Ramirez was Will Griggs-like and on fire all day. So much so that I’m blaming him for the brief post-match evacuation of the West Stand.  

That left the suited and booted – including the chairman – mingling with the smiling shirts still outside and swapping notes on a bright start to the season.

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144 thoughts on “Riverside Redemption Ends Seven Year Exile

  1. Glad to see the Gazette guys are rising to the challenge of player performance marks out of 10. Once again we see the big step-up there is to exacting Premiership standards (compared with the lower-league simplicity of only grappling with three stars).

    Apparently they’ve been in intensive pre-season training with a local primary school teacher to get their Maths up to speed, and AV’s gymnast son has been helping them with the hand-eye co-ordination they’ll need for using both hands for counting.

    My suspicion is that by the time AV has done the calculations for the defence there will need to be a tactical substitution, even in the era of Sports Science it’s just too much to expect one journalist to have the stamina to go through a full eleven players (a total of 110 possible marks!) and have anything left in the tank for rational comment on the game.

  2. Great game, think we can be happy with the performance. Shame about the free kick and goal. I have see some reports criticizing Valdes but that wasnt my memory, hoping to catch it again soon. I thought it came off the inside of the post and was a peach of a free kick.

    Just looking back with out anger – I have a Brighton fan in the office. They have played twice plus a cup game and play again tonight. If we were still doing that Ayala would have been out for 4 games or nearly 10% of the season, already!!…Premier League (Massive Smiley Face)))))

  3. BoroDoug

    It is easy to blame one person for the goal.

    The reality is Clayton gave away a soft free kick.

    The ref played a decent advantage, they got in to a promising position and lost the ball, the ref still called it back. In rugby that is normal, in football people get twitchy.

    The wall lined up but didn’t all jump.

    Valdes made a bit of a step to the right and couldn’t get back across to the ball.

    A left footed player would normally go for right hand side of the goal – Valdes thought so as well, but he went for the opposite corner instead.

    Hit the inside of the far post and went in.

    A series of events that led to a goal. It depends who you want blame.

    People who think we should have kept Butterfield can blame Clayton.

    We can all blame the ref and the stupid rules

    Adomah was at the end of the wall, he was bought by Mogga so you can blame him or not.

    Valdes is fair game because he is Spanish, bought by Aitor and was playing instead of Dimi. Multiple charge sheet there.

    You can blame the Stoke player for going for the wrong corner.

    There is rarely one person who can take total responsibility.

    1. Adomah was rooted to the spot . For the money these guys get, the occasional ball in the mush is a small price to pay.

    2. yes – the Clayton, by the way I’m here, charge/push I can remember. Tis what it is. Great game, hope for the future.

      It’s not like we have lost our first 2 games in the league like some of our friends who play in binary colours!

  4. Scapegoating’s too easy. I try to avoid it.

    **AV writes: I blame scapegoating on Stewie Downing. Or Jonathan Greening.

  5. Just as a complete aside…

    I just read an article about how online companies are trying to push customers into last-minute sales before the UK ban on the selling of so called ‘Zombie knives’ and other leathal weapons comes into force.

    The spokesman speaking out against how the glorification of knives encourages violence was none other than The National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for knife-enabled crime – Chief Constable Alfred Hitchcock – I’m really hoping his ringtone on his mobile is the theme tune to Psycho…

    BTW is it just me or did Roy Hodgson sound like he’s doing an Alfred Hitchcock impression every time he appeared in a post match interview? Anyway, he certainly turned out to be ‘The Wrong Man’ to manage England!

  6. Simon

    To do it really well needs some creativity. Just picking on an easy target is not good enough. Strachan is a good example, fair play to the bloke he made it too easy.

    The problems start when the scapegoat gets blamed for everything and you miss the underlying problems.

  7. Ian, good post. The ‘blame’ for the goal cant be laid at anyone individuals door. Presumably the lead up to the goal will be analysed and discussed with the players.

    There’ll be plenty of errors this season, hopefully a minimal number of which will be ‘unforced’.

    **AV writes: Data analysis of where moves break down, where decisions could/should have been made, errors in tackles, marking or failure to track are all part and parcel of working week. It is primarily to avoid repetition rather than apportion blame but imagine if that software got into the wrong hands?

  8. AV

    The infamous equaliser at Derby where the midfielder wasn’t closed down so had too much time to cross, a not very good challenge by Ayala, Adomah didn’t close down Russell, Dimi let the shot through his legs.

    Our goal on Saturday. Albert allowed time and space to turn back on to his right foot and cross, Gaston unmarked at the far post, Negredo outmuscling two giant centre backs, Given doing a Steele star jump.

    It only takes a moment of lost concentration, they are only human.

  9. Yes Ian, I seem to remember an uncomplimentary chant about George Kinnell which hinged on his surname rhyming with ‘smell’… His previous time with Sunderland didn’t help his case.

    1. In Cluedo style it was the centre half with handball in the box that did it. Derby on Boxing Day that did for him.

      2-1 up in the top two clash and an arm shoots in to the air. 2-2, then 2-3.

      Derby go on to the title and we drift of the race.

      1. Ian – I was at that match and I wonder if we were both on the same bus as the whole way back the song was that “we paid £20,000 paid £20,000 paid £20,000 for Kinnell, for Kinnell.”

  10. I blame AITOR!!!

    Well, he’s the manager who picks the team. He’s the manager who tells em how to organise or at least appoints the coaches who’s job it is to organise. He’s the manager who decides who he keeps and who he doesn’t.

    All in all the buck stops with him. And last season he said himself that if we had’nt been promoted he was responsibubble.

    Just sayin like again.

    1. I blame Mr Gibson. He appointed the manager. But it really was Mr Amer who built the infamous sports hall. And got Mr Gibson in.

      One could also blame Big Jack. Had he invested in the team after promotion, we would have won the League and never got into trouble in the first place. But then we can …

      Up the Boro!

  11. “The problems start when the scapegoat gets blamed for everything and you miss the underlying problems.”

    Thank you, Ian. Best way of putting it.

      1. No, it was the awful defence we had during the time when Cloughie was scoring for fun. And do you remember the era just before the war? So it is really Adolf Hitler to blame because ..

        Relax, Spartak 😃

        UTB!

  12. Jarkko

    Simon committed the ultimate sin. he agreed with one of my posts, that puts him on the list come the revolution.

    1. The Spanish Inquisition is already back, with all those shiny new and heated Comfy Chairs that the (potentially) substituted are being threatened with on the bench now …

  13. And the journo’s.

    Prime seats with TV feed, probably great scran, possibly have slaves to file their copy though the nationals have written theirs already.

    A quick question for AV, how do the Gazette cover the match in terms of who does what?

  14. Spartak, if we’d moved the goalposts the ball wouldn’t have gone in the net, then this blamestorming wouldn’t have started.

    1. New innovation, Peaseudin – I like it!

      Moveable goalposts, four or five inches left or right as the case maybe. Adds to the excitement of the game I’d say.

      🙂

      UTB

      Bet on Corbyn4PM – it’s a dead cert to occur, ask any establishment figure. 🙂

  15. Who has the remote control for the goalposts?

    Does the bar move up and down as well? We could make Valdes look taller.

    🙂

  16. Don’t give the remote to Mejias, he’d more than likely drop it!

    I’d sooner make Valdes look better than taller.

    1. I lived in Leeds when Gary Sprake was their goalie. The older amongst us will remember him throwing the ball in to his own net at Anfield, they played careless hands over the tannoy at half time.

      He got so fed up at his cock ups he threw himself in front of a bus on the Headrow. He was mortified when it slipped under his body.

      1. Nice one. I remember the incident, amongst many others, very well. I used to look forward to MOTD on a Saturday night to see what he’s got up to next, imagine the stick he’s get these days with the access to media outlets that we have

      2. Gary Sprake and Pat Jennings are my two default Keeper benchmarks although I nearly bumped Sprake on a number of occasions for Messrs Turnbull and Jones. The thought of recalibration was the only reason I left Sprake in place, then along came Mejias!

      3. Didn’t the Bournemouth keeper throw the ball to his own goal this summer, too? OK, I know it was pre-season but on TV. It was quite funny and hope it will happen when we play them. Difficult to see Valdes commiting a similar thing. Hart perhaps but not Valdes nor Dimi.

        Up the Boro!

  17. Concerning the Gazette guys, Ian, I believe their modus operandi is well established.

    They have a live feed to home where their wives watch the game and write the reports, while at the ground our heroes have a rota for going down to the bar to get the beer and parmos (all expenses paid of course).

    If anyone is reasonably sober by the end of the game they do the interviews, otherwise they phone AK and the players on Sunday.

    **AV writes: Sounds like a plan…

  18. Thr Gazette wrote: “Each Premier League team must register a maximum of 25 players over the age of 21 for that season’s first-team league games, with the squad list to be submitted within 24 hours of the summer transfer window closing.”

    So far clear. But I remember reading somewhere that the 25 players limit is for out-field players only. So goalies are not counted in the 25 player list. Like the under 21-year olds are not.

    Do I remember incorrectly?

    Up the Boro!

    **AV writes: Goal-keepers are counted in the 25. The only special provision for keepers is the possibility of a short term emergency loan outside the transfer window if you have ‘exceptional circumstances’ such as two crocked.

    1. Hi Jarkko. Here’s a summary of what I think the rules are:

      – squad of up to 25 players, but must include a minimum of 8 ‘home-grown’ players, at the end of each transfer window. (Home-grown players are defined as those who “irrespective of nationality or age, have been affiliated to the FA or Welsh FA for a period of three seasons or 36 months prior to 21st birthday”)

      – 25-man squad can be supplemented with unlimited players under the age of 21.

      – 25-man squad can only be changed during official transfer windows. However, in exceptional circumstances (e.g. goalkeeping injury crisis) moves could be allowed.

      – squad players loaned out to Football League clubs cannot be replaced, although they can regain their place in the squad on return to parent club.

      – the Premier League squad rules only apply to Premier League matches and not any European, FA Cup or League Cup matches.

      So to answer your question: goalkeepers are counted in the 25-man squad, but a club could bring in a keeper in a genuine emergency, even if that did break the 25-man limit.

      Corbeille 4 waste paper – just sayin’ like

  19. AV: I don’t know if I have missed it or not but what is the news on the de Roon injury.

    Come on BORO.

    **AV writes: Karanka said after the game that he feared it could be up to a month but it would be assessed properly and scanned once any swelling/bruising had gone down.

  20. Cheers all. Perhaps I was hoping to have more players in our squad. And anyway one can read incorrect info in the net.

    So thanks for clarifying the situ. Up the Boro!

  21. Official Complaint from Mrs Vickers

    I wish to object to the ludicrous entry by one of the pea-brained low-life’s on my husband’s blog, suggesting that I write the match reports for hubby and send them to the Gazette office for publication. I must stress that this is categorically not the case. In actual fact AV insists on doing what he calls a ‘professional edit’ before he himself sends the reports in, and that is where all the spelling and grammar mistakes in the articles come from.

    The clown who wrote the entry is the same individual who suggested that the Gazette writers needed Maths lessons so that they could produce the new player ratings out of 10, and once again this is completely misinformed. I would give extreme emphasis to the point that there is no way on earth the partners of buffoons like hubby, Phil and Dom would let them anywhere near a technical feature such as the player ratings.

    Indeed, the only reason we arranged the Maths lessons was to keep the four of them out of the pub for a couple of hours a day, which worked well until the teacher commented that she would have more success teaching Chinese to a marshmallow, and we found out that the others were bullying Jono for being ‘Teacher’s Pet’.

    To be fair to Jono, he is a nice lad who means well and we do let him supply information such as the match attendance, and score how well Roary and Mark Page performed, so that he feels useful.

    A further ridiculous implication of the post is that the Boro journalists rely completely on their partners for interpretation of the technical aspects of the game. Again, I must insist that this is totally inaccurate and misleading – a few months ago they forced Jono to hack Louise Taylor’s phone, and now they pinch a lot of their tactical understanding from her.

  22. Mark,

    I sometimes still wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night .

    Recalling the occasion, a few years ago, when I innocently and inadvertently managed to offend Mrs Vickers by (I thought) gently satirising her lovely husband.

    Be afraid.

    Be very afraid.

    1. Len

      Valid point.

      Often we are different persona in public than we are at home.

      Vic lauds himself as a tub thumping rabble rouser, wonder what he is like at home? I have seen him in shirts on the videos, never seen who wears the trousers.

      Why should he be different to the rest of us?

  23. So I had a brief twitter chat with AV regarding the Gazette moving over to the 1-10 rating system. He suggested a 0 scoring performance had never been witnessed, particularly by a Boro player. I opined the Yak’s on pitch no-show was worthy of nul point. AV countered, there were exceptional circumstances and Yak was on strike.

    I disagreed, it was late and that was that. I hope I’m not misrepresenting AV’s position, he did say he had already considered that (non) performance.

    So I was wondering what your thoughts were…

    When people go on strike they don’t generally turn up at their desk and get in everyone’s way. Pickets stand outside the workplace, they don’t sit at the workstation and prevent non-strikers working. Yak could have refused to play and fled to the Netherlands like the Tricky Trees player did in the 1990’s. Instead Yak pulled on a shirt and took to the pitch, endangering our chance of victory. Had he refused to play we could have picked a player willing to put a shift in.

    It was however, one of the most effective strike actions this country has seen in the last twenty years. Still a 0 score though.

    As an aside. When Michael Owen scored a hat-trick against Germany in Germany during a World Cup qualifier, he was awarded a 9/10. This caused one commentator to ask what on earth Owen had to do to score a 10.

    **AV writes: “He suggested a 0 scoring performance had never been witnessed, particularly by a Boro player.” I never actually said that. Or believe it. There will always be the odd Ali Dia moment. I just said I can’t recall one. So yes, I think you probably have misrepresented me.

    On the Yakubu display, after the game everyone was fuming and there was a lot of talk about him being ‘chinned’ on the team bus on the way home, but I’ve been back through the match report to check and there is no outrage about his performance, no mention flagging up a particular disgraceful display from him. There is just a throw away line about him “looking laboured up front and not chasing down opposition defenders” in a blistering scathing of the entire team bar George Boeteng, Tuncay and Downing.

    I remember slating him from the press box for being a lardarse and everyone knew he wanted away but I’m not sure the tone or tempo of the team changed too much once he went off and Lee Dong Gook came on. It would be interesting to see what mark Eric would have given him.

    1. Chris

      Working to rule or a go slow was the term often used.

      In Michael Ricketts case it was difficult to ascertain whether that was his normal mode of operation or not. At a Villa away match the fans had a collection for him because he showed as much life as the statues in front of the Riverside. Even street artists move more.

      At least he scored the penalty that made it 2-0.

  24. If you had scored an own goal last weekend. Then, in the Wednesday evening match, you scored TWO own goals, had a yellow card, and then another in injury time for “kicking the ball against an opponent”, so the colour becomes red and you are sent off in injury time…….so your team (Blackburn) loses 2-1 to Cardiff City and remains rooted at the bottom of the Championship table.

    THAT, I think, justifies a NIL score on any system.

    Take a bow, Shane Duffy. But also take a bow the Birmingham manager. The lad was obviously having the sort of game that powers nightmares. When I heard via Twitter that Duffy had scored the 2 own goals (in the 14th and 20th minutes) and had been booked, I remarked to my son that it would be sensible to take him off because the 2nd yellow card was an inevitability. The player couldn’t do anything right on the night and it would have been sensible to protect him, and the team, by substituting him.

    Incidentally the comments by Owen Coyle on the BBC Sport website suggest that Duffy was one of a couple of players whose minds might have “been turned” by people whispering in their ears, clubs having made offers for them which had been rejected. In other words the players’ minds were not on the game.

    So a NIL score for the player AND for the manager who failed to grasp what was going on until after the full time whistle.

    1. Defo a nul point for the Birmingham manager if he didn’t sub the Blackburn player.

      On another note maybe we can call a nil score a Duffy from now on, seems approproate

  25. Hmm, I think you might have made a mistake with ditching the 3*2*1* but let’s see. Do you have a record of the player of the year on the Gazette points anywhere?

    I always remember the Gazette reports used to have a one line summary of each player, but the most critical it got was something like ‘average’ or some other mediocre word. I’m sure there was a game in the 2nd half of the 93-94 season where we got beat 4-0 or 4-1 (it might have been Bolton looking at wiki) where pretty much everyone got ‘average’ which really meant ‘absolutely awful’.

    They might have even been ditched at the end of that season or my mind could be completely playing tricks on me.

    As for ratings out of 10, I always like the Match/Shoot guidelines, 6 was average, 4 was as low as it usually got unless it was really dreadful and 10 was pretty much unattainable.

  26. Woodgate’s Real Madrid debut can’t have been far away from a Duffy (I think that might stick, Ian – I hope so!)

  27. Andy & Forever, when I started reading that description of Duffy’s performance I immediately thought of Woody’s Madrid debut. Only thing is, memory suggests he was applauded from the field.

    Ian, I used to play five a side with a bunch of sports subs from a variety of national papers. They all talked a good game. The union at one paper had suggested as an initial tactic they should work to rule. This idea was dismissed as it would have involved working much harder..

    As for Yak, his performance verged on industrial sabotage.

  28. Thanks for the heads-up, Len. Hopefully no-one will take offence from a piece so obviously written by someone with too much time on his hands and in urgent need of psychiatric help. Although I do still get threatening phone calls from Joey Barton’s agent and Robbie Savage’s grandmother…

    I’ll dig the false beard and dark glasses out of the wardrobe just to be on the safe side.

    **AV writes: If I were you I’d be checking the brakepipes on the car.

    1. By the sounds of it, if I were you I’d be buying a villa in back of beyond Spain.

      Me and me mates were just talking about the other halves, in that you can spend months, sometimes years in building up a healthy bank acount of brownie points by carrying out good deeds for those that wear the trousers yet, make one single mistake, no matter how small, and they’re all blown away.

      Women, you can’t live with them and they won’t let you live without them.

  29. Bugger! Just blown my brownie points away, I’vet been informed in no uncertain terms that I should have used the phrase “better halves”. Looks like I’m in the spare room again tonight.

  30. It is the way that the sullen sulk of youth turns in to those death ray stares that worries you.

    The ancient reprise of ‘what have I said now?’.

    ‘You know!’

    And you haven’t a clue.

    Then there is ‘what do you think of this?’

    ‘It is nice?’

    ‘what do you mean by nice?’

    or

    ‘Does this make me look fat’

    ‘It isn’t as nice as the blue one’

    ‘So you think I am fat!’

    It doesn’t get any easier

    The problem is the solution is another pair of shoes, a handbag, a frock or a haircut. Or worse, all four.

    1. Ian, don’t even contemplate choosing the shoes, handbag or frock, because as a man you have no taste or dimension understanding. As for haircuts, I was once told that I hadn’t mentioned anything about the commander in chief’s latest visit to the coiffure establishment, to which I replied “I didn’t know you’d been”.

      It was tricky and a close run thing, but there was just enough of the grip sticking out for the doctors to retrieve my three wood without any lasting damage. I learned a very valuable lesson that day I can tell you.

  31. First woman in space:

    “Houston, we have a problem.”
    What?
    “Never mind.”
    What’s the problem?
    “Nothing.”
    Please tell us.
    “I’m fine, and if you really cared you would know what it is”

  32. GHW

    Just shown that to the office down stairs.

    Five people laughed, three people didn’t.

    As it is A level day here is the question, how many are male and how many are female

  33. To gauge whether or not Boro are on track throughout the season I thought it would be helpful to have a weekly points total reference point in mind, as such I studied last seasons’ results, home and away records and final table position. After a mind numbing amount of number crunching, and a comprehensive conclusion which would have made Alan Turing wince, a few trends emerged relating to probable relegation which I think will stand true this season and be far easier to relate to.

    The average home records of last seasons’ survivors showed W6, D5, L8 and average away records of W5, D6, L8 . . . surprisingly similar and giving 44 points, comfortably enough to stay-up.
    Making assumptions and based on the above you could say we can afford to lose home and away to the top 8 teams, draw home and away to the middle 6 teams and beat the bottom 5 teams (e.g. Burnley, Hull, S’Land, B’mouth and W Brom) home and away. This will give us 42 points.

    So against the big boys we can relax, enjoy the big occasion and any points are a bonus. Against the middling teams we can be nervous, but not alarmed if we draw and we might even snatch a bonus winner. But, we must aim to beat the bottom teams’ home and away to avoid having to up the ante in the other more difficult scenarios. The average goals scored to achieve all of this in most cases is 1.2 goals a game, the downfall of the relegated teams was to leak too many at the other end particularly away from home.

    The good news is with our well-practiced defensive set-up, familiar organisation and personnel I think we are ideally suited to most of those scenarios and it’s not absolutely imperative that we flood the “goals for” column as long as we balance that with being tight at the back, which is how we like it. However, it’s a very fine balancing act which if we had one or two more potent tools would tilt our way even further. I believe Aitor knows this and is working on it.

    Looking at this month’s start, to stay on track we needed to draw with Stoke and beat both S’Land and W Brom . . . so, off to a good start but now need to up our game.

    1. The trick is knowing in advance who will be the teams in each section… So you wouldn’t have had Leicester in the top 8 at the start of the season as one example. At what point in the season do you begin to allocate the required points from a team? The model looks good if you know the positions at the end of the season whenever you play a team. So, because we don’t there is still room for subjective predicting of likely relegation fodder etc. What would be realy good is if you can correlate the points won from the opposition based on where they were in the league on the date the games were actually played…. Don’t do it, it would take you l season to research it 😉

  34. It is a Derby. But it’s not a real one, in the sense that it is an important game, but not more important than the season. For many Schalke fans, beating Dortmund twice is more important than where they finish in the league.

    **AV writes: That is an interesting test. It does appear that for Newcastle and Sunderland beating the other is more important than/compensates for being enmeshed in the relegation zone.

  35. Who cares about Sunderland?

    They are just another Premiership team to beat. Derby? what have they got to do with it? If the ‘deck chairs’ go on about it’s not a derby they’re ready to lose, excuses in place, devalue the importance and all that.

    They don’t like it up them Mr Mannering, I hope George is right and we do them early doors.

    UTB,

    John

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