Story of the Blues… Sorry Boro Bruised


STANLEY Park? Stanley knife! It is a very long time since Boro were sliced open so clinically by a razor sharp front-line.

The 3-1 defeat at Everton was a horror show that many fans back home would have watched through their fingers and from behind the settee. As a small screen slasher it should have been played after the watershed.

There must have been some confusion for armchair viewers as it clashed on the TV planner with You’ve Been Framed. Boro certainly had a few £250 clips in there of predictable slapstick laughter-tracked mishaps. Ironically it also clashed with Pointless. Boro never got as far as the head-to-head and were sent packing long before any X Factor made an appearance.

Worst still for Boro, it was another bloody repeat!


Aitor Karanka put a brave face on it in the post match press conference and gave a philosophical shrug. It was Everton. They are flying. They are a quality team. Boro kept battling.

But he will be worried that many of the damaging defensive flaws on show were re-runs of the costly cock-ups from the Crystal Palace set-back.

It will trouble Karanka that the well drilled Championship defence that was to be the bed-rock of the top flight survival strategy was dismantled with a frightening ease.

Boro lacked cohesion at the back, lacked shape and lacked discipline. They struggled with the fluid movement and the pace of high-flying Everton’s electric attack that simply scythed through the midfield shield and pierced the back-line and so easy found acres of space in the final third.

Boro wobbled and creaked then stumbled and almost fell. And then went full banana skin. 

But they started well. They were assertive from the off and created a couple of early half chances – a free-kick that both Downing and Ayala were inches away from poking home and a Negredo snapshot – then scored as the Spanish striker went all 1960s and bundled home the keeper and the ball.


But that goal stung slow starting Everton into action and as they went ominously up through the gears and the pressure mounted, Boro quickly came apart at the seams.

It was scary stuff. Everton zipped through a porous defence almost at will leaving Boro dizzy and bewildered and with those little cartoon stars and birds tweeting around their heads as they were whacked with a series of undefended knock.

Everton were good, yes. But Boro were bad. And like the previous defeat to Crystal Palace, the goals all stemmed from sloppy moments of collective collapse.

The opener came as Ashley Williams charged in on Victor Valdes with a flailing boot at throat height – anywhere else on the pitch and that is a free-kick – and the spooked keeper could only get a weak punch on it. No Boro defender reacted to the crisis and the ball fell sentimentally gift-wrapped for landmark man Gareth Barry to lash home. The  game was gone.


Should Valdes been stronger and wiped out the Everton man? Should the defence have reacted quicker to clear in the crowd? Should it have been given as a foul? Possibly. But there is no question that from that moment Boro were deep in trouble and Everton were halfway home.

The second was sloppy: statuesque stoppers stood rooted as the ball was pinged around quickly along the edge of the box before Seamus Coleman wriggled in from the right past Gibson and Ayala unchallenged to slot home a deft low shot to the near post with Valdes slow to react.

And finally Bolasie was allowed his own postcode of space wide on the right to put in a cross straight from the Palace game as Friend and Downing stood off and Lukaku came in unmarked at the far side to graze it home.

Scapegoat elect Valdes will take much of the flak – it is part of the keeper’s lot in life – but he had been left totally exposed by a rickety defence that looked like it was being held together by chewing gum and shoelaces.

The 10 minutes before the break was torrid stuff and every member of the defence plus the manager and his dug-out posse – and Steve Gibson – will sit bolt upright in bed in a cold sweat several times over the next few nights.

Boro needed to change their studs for crampons at the break because they had a mountain to climb. But the second half was better. Boro retained and recycled possession, pushed play into the Everton half but it was shadow boxing and carried no threat.


And, let’s be honest, Everton had knocked off. They had done the job and were going through the motions. They conceded possession and were happy to sit back. And you got the sense that had Boro scored the home side could easily hit the afterburners and thump home a fourth.

The Boro fans kept going though. Right to the end, full of pride and passion and determination to squeeze something out of the game. And they joined in the minute’s applause in memory of a lifelong Everton supporter. They won a lot of respect. 

It is going to be a long season and there will be other painful days like this. Boro will lose games in the Premier League. A lot of games. We’ve made a big step up and have to learn quickly. Especially at the back. 

Pre-season there was a lot of talk about how Boro would spend a lot of time working for Ellerman Beeline, parallel parking buses in the box, soaking up the pressure from stronger, sharper teams and hitting on the break.

Everton was the first test of that theory. The opening games were close fought affairs against teams in the lower half who had a cautious approach of their own. The crunch was always going to come when Boro faced a quality team up at the top who saw Boro as cannon fodder to be attacked, especially when they were at home and the onus was on them.

That was when the Karankista solidity would be really put under sustained pressure, when the rigid rearguard that had shut up shop so superbly in the Championship would have its top flight credentials tested to destruction. We knew that.

On the evidence of this televised trauma there is still a lot of work to do. But while it is a disappointment and a set-back it is not a disaster. It is not fatal. It is early days. It is a long season. And Boro are still mid-table.

Meanwhile over on BBC2 they were showing Dad’s Army…. Don’t panic! 


And here’s my “what game were you at Vickers?” player ratings…


322 thoughts on “Story of the Blues… Sorry Boro Bruised

  1. What’s this fixation with YCC. Anyone would think Middlesbrough was part of Yorkshire the way you lot are going on….

    1. Jeremy Corbyn is an affiliated member 🙂

      Well if not he should be coz he has a Geoffrey Boycottesque persistence about him.*




      * I think it’ll peter out to a draw. May even be the same result as against Spurs (if we’re lucky) and of course the draw is the new win so we can all celebrate.

    1. They’ll need 200 ahead before declaring just before tea. So that’d be about 4 hrs of play to seal the championship title for either one of them. Maybe 250.

      1. Cricket Spartak! Say it ain’t so….

        **AV writes: Everyone is getting swept up in it. It’ll be forgotten next week. It is the winter Olympics curling-mania all over again.

  2. GHW

    AV is a closet cricket fan, he would have put another thread up by now if he was anti cricket but he has taken a day of work to watch the match on SkySports. I half expected a mention on the podcast.

    Spartak has posted about cricket before.

    Good to see Jarkko on the link he posted, I noticed he wasn’t wearing the latest shirt he thinks is so smart!!

    1. Played for the regiment and Teesside Probation Service when I worked in the hostels at Linthorpe and South Bank in the 90’s – bowled a hat-trick in one over & much to the chagrin of the Assistant Chief Probation Officer, bowled him out second ball. 🙂 It’s the Yorkshire tea that’s the secret – all the way from Ceylon.


  3. Just on board flight to Geneva, so will miss following the thrills and spills of untypical Boro twinned with heading let… Hope news is better from lords when I can switch the phone back on


  4. Think you’re right Spartak. They’ll want to set a target of at least 250. We shall see how sporting they are.

    Got to thank AV for letting us have our day. You may be right Ian, reckon he could be a closet fan or has finally seen the light. Speaking of light, what’s the forecast for down south. Would be ironic if the weather scuppered us. Anxiously finding jobs to do to take my mind off it.

    **AV writes: I’m just indulging the older residents as they play bingo and talk about the war…. anyway, does anyone know where I can get a fez?

  5. Steely

    Middlesex have hardly been busting a gut but seemed to have upped the tempo and Lyth is on for some buffer bowling.

    It looks like an arrangement has been made but they will have to be careful because if they set something really silly the danger is Yorkshire say sod it and take their ball home.

  6. Is this turming to a cricet blog? Biy, we have Sputs coming up next, Ladies and Gents.

    I am at the Headland, Pools. Not seen any monkeys yet. Up the Boro!

  7. Sorry Jarkko, this is a matter of pride for us Yorkshire folk. It’s also THE sports story of the day.
    I promise we’ll all be back on board the Boro bus immediately following close of play.

  8. Back on line in Switzerland now. Exciting finish in prospect at lords now. Can’t decide whether it has swung Middlesex’s way or not. Running out of nails here and there is still the Spurs match to get anxious about too this weekend. COY and COB

    1. I feel this had swung Middlesex’s way as the sixth wicket falls. Shame, Somerset were my preferred other winner too. Ah well, nearly in Chamonix now, so time to get into party mode to celebrate a brave effort. Could do with an unexpected win for Boro tomorrow now.

      Have a good weekend all and I hope Jarkko is well rewarded for his dedication tomorrow.

  9. Grudging congratulations to Middlesex. Unbeaten all season and did what they had to do today.
    Bowler with posh name man of the match. Music to AV’s ears.
    Back to the footie and fingers crossed for a good performance from Boro heralding a point or three.

  10. Steely and Powmill

    Well done Middlesex, hard luck Somerset.

    Now for football. Tomorrow I am in North London at my son’s before a short break to celebrate my birthday.

    Depending on when we leave my daughter’s place in Nottingham, the two ladies of my life will be wondering why I may be driving at a strategic speed tuned to radio 5.

    At this point I think it will be a bit of a struggle, wouldn’t be disappointed with a draw.

  11. Reckon we’d all take a point if offered now but 3 would be a great Birthday present for you Ian. Whatever happens, the vino will no doubt be flowing freely.

  12. Steely

    Thanks, I hope so but I suspect it will be dad’ll as usual.

    Mrs G will say, don’t worry dad’ll pay for that! Don’t you just love kids!

    What baffles me is she who must be obeyed gives me earache about the kids, stand on their own two feet. Do that and I am an unfeeling, uncaring parent.

    Such is life.

  13. Not quite sure what to make of this….

    **AV writes: While his comments were horrible and he comes from a very colourful gang background that doesn’t share many cultural norms with the FA blazers (or indeed mainstream society) retro-punishment throws up a lot of legal/ethical questions. And to punish Burnley for offences committed years before he joined them seems almost perverse.

    1. I will try this for the second time…..

      Three things; firstly if the Premier League season is half as exciting as this year’s County Cricket Championship, it will be the best ever. With about 7 overs to go, there were still 3 possible winners of the title. Some great bowling and fielding performances but some fairly average batting performances for Yorkshire throughout the season, and we had to go to the well, expecting the lower order to produce the runs the top order had failed to do, one time too many. Middlesex deserved the title in the end, having beaten the champion county twice this season. They are Yorkshire’s bogey team. And wasn’t Bresnan immense? There should be a statue built for him.

      Secondly, the penalty for Andre Grey is ridiculous. As AV points out, to fine and ban a player for things done years ago, when he wasn’t even playing for Burnley at the time……how does that work? I think it a shame Burnley accepted this. It should have been challenged. Natural Justice? I think not.

      It would have been much better for the player to have issued a statement along the lines of: “I regret having made those comments, when I was much younger and less mature. Those comments do not reflect the views I now hold and I regret any upset they may have caused. They will not be repeated. I have donated £XXX to YYY Charity to to assist in the work being carried out to reduce prejudice in society.” And for the Club simply to say; “The Club has made it clear to the player that the expression of similar views now would be considered very serious and contrary to the work the club carries out in the community. The Club does not expect there to be any repetition and is looking for opportunities to include the player in its anti-discriminatory work carried out by the Club.”

      Thirdly, I am looking forward now to spending some time concentrating on the Boro. I’d love 3 points tomorrow against Spurs but if God offered me a draw now, I’d take it. If we had to draw, on balance I’d prefer 3-3 to 0-0 as, whatever happens at the back, it would be good to get the strikers onto the score sheet and full of confidence. We need to create and score more goals.

    2. In no way am I condoning Gray’s reprehensible comments but if Gray was playing for Manchelskiarsepool I suspect the punishment the FA meted out for something that occurred 4 years ago would have been very different and certainly not involved a ban with Manchelskiarsepool. Still Burnley are lucky they didn’t have three points deducted as well.

  14. Well hopefully “Untypical Cricket” has now ended, if not I’ve got a few more tins of gloss and emulsion in the garage I can watch dry. What next “Untypical Origami” or “Untypical Daisy Chains”?

    Moving onto real men’s sport I see AK has said in the Gazette ” I hope Victor Valdes can rediscover his Barcelona form at Middlesbrough.” So do I but in the interim can he please play Dimi or if he must go with Valdes can we sign Iniesta, Henry, Puyol, Pique, Messi, Dani Alves, Xavi, Eto’o, Marquez etc. for him to play behind to help him discover his Barca form as I suspect (ever so slightly) that their involvement may just have been coincidental in his Barca form?

    **AV writes: I suspect that AK thinks Dimi’s form may have just been coincidental with him playing behind the strongest defence in the Championship. But yes, I agree with you about the cricket.

  15. **AV writes: I suspect that AK thinks Dimi’s form may have just been coincidental with him playing behind the strongest defence in the Championship.

    I don’t disagree but Dimi’s form was a few months ago not a few years ago and that Strongest Championship defence is still present at the club whereas Messi, Puyol, Iniesta etc. most definitely aren’t. On the positive I’m grateful that Guzan’s defence from Villa didn’t come with him either, every cloud and all that.

  16. Sorry folks, I did not realize it was the last day of cricket yesterday as the game is not played in the Nordics. Just realised it when Dormo told me that.

    BTW, he took to me to Dormanstown, naturally. And had a nice dinner in Whitny. So Yorkshire is one of the best places in the world.

    Mind you, I support Ingleby Greenhow CC unlike some glory hunters in here…

    Hope to see a point taken today by the mighty Boro. Or three, we usually play well against Spurs, don’t we. So I will go for 1-0 win as I said earlier on

    Even the wearher is good in here. Does is ever rain over here?

    Up the Boro!

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