Pace Sparks Spirit As Battered Boro Find Fight

SPIRIT is hard to quantify. It is transient. Ephemeral. It is a special ingredient in any collective endeavour – battle, labour or sport.  And we saw in the 2-1 defeat to Spurs how a sudden change of state in that psychic fuel can transform a game in a flash.

Adama Traore electrified Middlesbrough, the game and the Riverside crowd and suddenly a sluggish season burst into life. Suddenly Boro had zest, zip and some spirit.

Sprint king Traore added quicksilver footwork and attacking intent and his pace petrified the Spurs defence. It pegged them back, pushed play 15 yards further up the pitch and relieved pressure on a midfield that had been minced.

Suddenly Boro were allowed to play, to keep the ball, look up, probe and to pick a progressive pass. They could attack. Game on. Suddenly they looked like a team again.  . They had spirit and purpose. They had a spark. Suddenly they had a chance.


That magical moment brought hope. It isn’t a silver bullet of course. It didn’t win the game or even a point and it certainly didn’t repair the damage of a nightmare first hour. But it offered hope for the big games to come. It turned the volume of the season up. It showed Boro have something in their armoury that can hurt teams and be a catalyst on the pitch. And that they have spirit, which was in doubt for an hour.

Traore and dug-out exile Jordan Rhodes came on just before the hour mark with the game and all that August optimism gurgling down the drain.  Within seconds they had ignited the crowd – fantastic throughout, patient and united and at one point early in the second half a clear man of the match – and their introduction swung the balance of play.

The former Aston Villa man hit the afterburners and wriggled forward from the edge of the Boro box in a balletic swerving run then put in a pass behind the previously underemployed Spurs defence to send Rhodes into the box.

The pass was too heavy and the keeper was out to quickly collect off his toes but that wasn’t the point: Boro had swung a punch. They had offered resistance. They had attacked. Quickly. And that snarl generated something precious. Belief. Spirit.

Soon after Ben Gibson rammed home a goal as the balance of play switched dramatically and a Spurs team that should have been out of sight were suddenly holding on.


The goal brought resurgent hope and patched up what had been a tattered and blood stained rag of morale used used to bandage deep wounds.

Because, make no mistake, silky Spurs had butchered Boro in the first half. There was a yawning quality gap that bewildered Boro slithered through. They scored two. They could easily have had two more. And a penalty. Valdes made two good point blank saves after the defence creaked and fell open. Alli put another good chance over after robbing Chambers. With every easy attack they sliced brittle Boro wide open. It was awful. Even Aitor Karanka was quick to admit that.

The midfield were stretched out in rigid, static  lack-lustre lines with the dynamism of a table-football formation. The defence were in disarray, pierced by pace and movement.

It isn’t a division where novices like Boro can be anything short of fully focused and fired up. If they fall short they will be punished. And, as at Everton, they were.  Collectively, Boro weren’t closing down, weren’t getting tackles in or clearing loose balls in and around the box and were parting like the Red Sea as Spurs swept into the penalty area.

Both goals were loud klaxons: this was a team that not only lacked organisation and cohesion but, it seemed, also belief. Heads had gone down. They were slow to react. They gave up the chase. The basic building blocks broke down. There were signs of internal friction as Valdes and Clayton growled at each other. It was frightening.

Boro were rightly booed off. Not for losing. Most fans accept that will happen plenty in the Premier League. They were booed for failing to put up a fight.

Yes, Spurs were serious title contenders until the death last season and have started this term with the same momentum so were always going to be a tough test. But the yawning gap in performance between the sides was scary and Boro were nowhere near bridging it.

Spurs were faster in feet and thought, were physically stronger, zipped the ball around with pace and purpose and when they attacked it was with cold-eyed intent.

There wasn’t just a quality gap. There was a physical gap: Boro left space all over the pitch to be exploited ruthlessly.  They struggled to get a grips with the slick movement of the Spurs midfield and gave time for them to pick passes into the wide open spaces being left along and between a nervous and rigid back-line.


Frustrated fans were angry at a shapeless, heartless, statuesque first half show in which they seemed to have accepted defeat. Boro were slow. At the back. And in the middle. And up front. Ponderous to react in their own box. Glacial going forward.

You have to feel sorry for Alvaro Negredo. He battled like a Trojan but was isolated and lacked support or service from a flaccid and flat-footed three behind him.

There was a moment early in the second half when Negredo, Ramirez and Barragan tried to pick forward manfully while 30 yards behind them a regimented midfield were dug into a tactical trench strung across the pitch with no attempt to get forward to support the attack.  No movement at all. They were just waiting for the next wave to come at them. That timid approach sees teams relegated.

But if the first hour was a sobering and frightening experience the last 30 minutes were far more encouraging.  If Boro can bring that battle, spirit, pace and willingness to attack into every game then they can flourish in a division where there are plenty of teams down in the lower reaches that have problems and weaknesses of their own.

They need to demand higher pace, tempo and intensity from each other and sustain if for the full 90 minutes and the results will come. We’ve seen it in flashes: 20 minutes here, 20 there. Boro need to keep their focus and fitness and punch for whole games.


And if they show the spirit and attacking intent they did in the last half hour then they will carry the crowd with them. The way the Riverside supporters responded so passionately to the change in the dynamics on the pitch showed that.

The fans were fantastic. They were patient when the pressure was on, righting critical at the break then turned it up to create a sonic boom in the second half. Even Pochetinno was moved to mention in post-match. The crowd started the fightback before the team did.

We will need more of that in the games to come too. October is a massive month with games against West Ham, Watford and Bournemouth looming. Teams that are not ‘out of our league’ but very much our rivals. Huge games.  We need the team and crowd united.


And here’s my “you’ve been too harsh”/”you’ve been too soft” player ratings. I know you love them. He may have come off the bench and put in a few wayward balls but I gave Traore a 7 for his dramatic impression on the game. You can see how your favourites/scapegoat elect got on here…   














272 thoughts on “Pace Sparks Spirit As Battered Boro Find Fight

  1. Having seen the way this season’s shaped up so far I would say that we could quite possibly end up with 0 points against the top 7 teams, home and away. The gulf is that big, and we haven’t even played the really good teams yet!

    The good news is that still leaves another 12 teams to pick up our 40 points against. Though that means winning our home games and dawing away to most of those teams.

    According to my reckoning that leaves us 3 points short so far, but we can make 2 up by beating West Ham away. Keep the faith.


  2. SteveH

    Absolutely right in that the Manchelskiarespool games will likely leave us with nil points.

    That means that when we do get a whiff of an opportunity in this league like we did against WBA we cannot afford the luxury of keeping it tight.

    Had we beaten Stoke, bagged another two points against the Baggies and not been so sloppy against Palace things would look a lot rosier. Fine margins and all that but hopefully now we have learnt “when to hold em and when to fold em”.

  3. Sat in my office at work, I have the league table on the wall and before the Everton game we were 9th, after tonight’s result we are 16th.Nothing remarkable about that, but to me it highlights the need for wins rather than draws in this league.

    We all know and accept that we are going to lose more than our fair share of games this season, it’s the results in the games we don’t lose that are going to count and the ratio between wins and draws in those unbeaten games. My fear is we are going to draw ourselves into the relegation zone.

    The next two games against West Ham and Watford will tell us a lot about our intent going forward, nobody can guarantee wins but we need to see more attacking intent in these games than we have to date. As AK has stated, these two teams are in our mini league and so we should be set up accordingly, over to you Aitor.

  4. GHW

    You are incorrigible!

    A man of your experience and intelligence surely knows that when the least expected things are dismissed as impossible, then that’s the time when they are most likely to occur.

    10 years ago the Tories were in disarray. They thought they were looking at political oblivion – Blair and Brown had conquered the centre ground. The Tories couldn’t find a leader that was capable of doing the washing up never mind lead their party. Yet now you have silly people saying they are going to be in power for the next 20 years – I nearly wet myself laughing.

    Now you have people calling ordinary Labour members Trotsky scum and a mob. Corbyn will never be PM and Labour will disappear up its own backside. But what people fail to appreciate is the unknown and the unexpected. How stable is the new Tory government? What would happen if they implode over Brexit? T May says she’s the be all and end all of says in what comes out of the Brexit negotiation – really? How will that fare with her acolytes on the back benches? Cameron knew the dangers and has fallen on his sword whilst trying to keep his party in one piece. Corbyn can bide his time, he’s a patient man. The Tories have a paper thin majority.

    The time will come when it is ready.

    Ecclesiastes 3:2


    1. I think a “spin doctored” Corbyn could find himself PM. Therein lies his biggest challenge, sticking to principles especially divisive ones like Trident could cost him and yesterday’s events just confirmed that. A Leader of a party is one thing but a Dictator of a party is something else. Maggie managed it of course but politically she didn’t start as far back on the starting grid.

      Someone needs to have a word explaining that getting into power and achieving 70% of his ideals is better than holding onto all his principles and achieving nothing. His Socialist values if elected could ease pain and suffering and help those in Society in greatest need. Not getting elected would be a greater disservice to them surely than getting hung up on Trident as an example. He doesn’t have to condone or agree with Trident but he is immeasurably stupid if he loses everything he passionately cares about because of one or two strongly held personal beliefs.

      If he truly wants Social justice then he has to learn that in life it is never all or nothing, you have to nibble away a little bit at a time. Tony Blair was perhaps the greatest exponent of doing and saying exactly what was required at the right time to get elected. Arguably its not very honourable but its politics. If Jeremy wants to rewrite the rules he needs to find another sport. If its OK to allegedly “Doctor” fellow MP’s scripts then he is half way there, just a case of knowing what, when, where and how. Yesterday was a brilliant case of how not to do it and at exactly the wrong time.

      1. ‘Yesterday was a brilliant case of how not to do it and at exactly the wrong time.’

        In mitigation it was done and not necessarily by Corbyn. Therefore, it meets your criteria of flexibility of principles to gain the power required to achieve change, RR.

        What does AV like to call it? Ah, yes, a work in progress or some such 🙂

        Happy Socialist Days


  5. Meanwhile in a small Town on Teesside Aitor has been apparently saying “We have one week to choose and decide what kind of team we want to be”. I just hope its a Team that tackles and puts in challenges as that would be a great place to start. Watching that Everton goal and the Spurs goals again shocking doesn’t even begin to describe how woeful our defending was.

    He says he will make changes when we visit the Taxpayers Stadium of Bubbles this Saturday.

    “Now I can’t say what I will change because I have one week to prepare and to analyse what happened against Tottenham but I will once again try to put the best 11 on the pitch”.

    I’m just a bit worried that what he thought was the best 11 in the first half on Saturday returned to the pitch unchanged for the second half. There again I suppose he didn’t have the luxury of 11 Subs so we wait with baited breath.

    I hope he doesn’t go ultra defensive against a side who are mentally fragile at their new freebie Stadium. Rip into them from the off and I reckon they will collapse like a deck of cards. Deep down though I fear another head shaking WBA display (the term “display” of course used very loosely) with dreary, dirge like defending and an isolated Striker.

    Will he bring back Nsue at RB if he doesn’t start with Traore to provide some pace to the right? I’m guessing that Gibson is a nailed on starter but suspect that Ayala may be back providing the night feeds are not disrupting his sleep pattern too much. Centrally I suspect it may be Clayts and Forshaw with instructions to provide cover the way Clayts and Grant did thereby limiting Forshaw to keeping it tight to allow Nsue and George to get up without being so exposed. de Roon looks like he can maybe time a tackle (although the evidence of the last two games suggests nobody likes to tackle) but he seems to be out of kilter with the rest of his team mates in respect to organisational duties and responsibilities so I think he will be benched.

    Pairing Negredo and Rhodes to me makes far more sense than persisting with a lack lustre Ramirez. Stuani wide right has always been a subject for debate which probably answers its own question. I doubt he will start with Traore so Fischer could get the nod with Downing and him constantly switching flanks. Perhaps playing Negredo as a “No.10” to win knock downs and let Rhodes feed off him slightly more forward is the way it will be described to us. Whatever changes he makes I think it imperative that he gets Negredo and Rhodes on the same pitch at the same time however he dresses it up.

    In goal we know AK will stick with Valdes despite an obvious disconnect with his defence, worse case he may bring in Guzan. I think he will alter some things, only a fool wouldn’t.

    Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, Friend
    Clayton, Forshaw
    Fischer, Negredo, Rhodes, Downing.

    Subs: Guzan, Ramirez, de Roon, Stuani, Traore, Nugent, Barragan

    On a positive note de Pena scored for the under 23’s last night. Not sure what value that adds to AK’s squad but every little bit helps I suppose and we live in hope.

  6. Got to my sons at half time on Saturday and the boys from North London had well over 60% possession, Jeremy had set the tone earlier and Spurs followed suit.

    By the sound of it Jeremy had sterner opposition than Spurs had in the first half.

    Judith and Emma talks about what we would be doing in our mini break, Alex and I just sat their glum but sparked to life as Gibbo gave us false hope.

    Back now and we are fifth bottom, I will have a good read through the posts.

    At least it is West Ham away, they are in a dire state at the moment. Something has got to give but a twenty minute spell at 2-0 down does nothing for the points total.

    As Spartak would say ‘beware the Ides of October’ or something like that.
    West ham A
    Watford H
    Arsenal A
    Bournemouth H

    Our historic return from those matches would be two points. I think we will need more than that.

    1. Three wins and a draw at Arsenal gives us 10pts & a Boro renaissance – Urraahhh!!!!!

      See big Nige ‘I can take care of meself’ Pearson has been tapped up for the England job so Derby have given him the night off for contractual discussions – out of the frying pan into the fire I say. What’s the conversation going to be like when he has to drop Rooney Spooney? Nevermind, big Nige can take care of himself.

      Aitor4England – you know it makes sense.


  7. Although we started the Spurs game 4 points behind where I thought/hoped we’d be, the good news is we ended the game only four points behind where I though we’d be.

    Also, I had us down as getting nul point at Karren Khan’s stately funded Bubbledome. But with the ‘Ammers being in disarray, it could be fertile ground and assuming we kick off on the front foot, our points deficit may have decreased by full time. One point would be good, three would be better.

  8. Was that a lucky escape that Big Nige did not replace AK following “meltdown”?

    Getting a bit worried that some on here are expecting us to take advantage of West Ham’s “woes”. Our track record against teams in trouble is not great. Time for that to change, perhaps. I sincerely hope so.

    **AV writes: There was never the slightest shred of truth in the Pearson story. It was lazy tabloid fiction.

  9. Steely

    “Our track record against teams in trouble is not great”. That being the case then we are in big trouble because judging by Everton and Spurs the record isn’t looking too good against those sides who are not in trouble. 🙂

  10. Now that Sam has gone I wonder if they will turn to Southgate, initially in a temporary role as caretaker and see how he does. Ticks a lot of the FA’s boxes in terms of being Gentlemanly and unlikely to get involved in scandal or bring them into disrepute.

  11. Steely

    We tend to agree on many things West ham need something to kick start their season and along come Boro.

    What could go wrong, ask Big Sam.

  12. I am worried that West Ham might have bottomed out in the defeat to Southampton. I hope it wasn’t a watershed moment for them. I would have preferred to them to have lost 1-0.

  13. Ian,
    Exactly, what could possibly go wrong? See Andy R’s comment.
    See also RR’s observation at 6.52pm.
    Shall we slit our wrists now?

    1. I think we are better than we have shown so far. Tactically we have looked a bit strangled which hasn’t helped. I suspect the reins will loosen somewhat in an effort to stave off our defensive malaise and we will see some more goals at the right end.

  14. Allardyce signed his own P45 and I have zero sympathy for him.

    Some time ago I said that one day Southgate would manage England. It may be an appointment via the back door but it’s on his resume now.

    I think he’ll do a great job.

    1. GHW

      I agree with that, older and much wiser I think he could end up as a permanent fixture. He has been successful with the young un’s in a tournament and has had a few years now to get his badges and learn. Probably not what he had planned but sometimes these things are thrust upon us in life. I think he may surprise us.

  15. How am I doing with the predictions? 🙂

    Not so well eh! Well every seer has to have a bad patch every so often. I heard that the influential at the FA had seen prediction on big fat greedy Sam and decided to spite me – I believe they’re Conservative voters.

    Prediction for Saturday’s game against the Bubbles- 0-0. You can’t keep a good seer down.

    Big Nige must be upset about GS1 getting the England job. He’s done all the hard graft in the leagues & GS1 gets the plum job after swanning around with the under 21s. They’re ain’t no justice.


  16. Just as Christmas comes earlier each year so does the sacking season.

    Big cheque Sam has already left the building, big Nige suspended, de Matteo told to get a minimum four points this week, Guidelin under threat at Swansea.

  17. So Sam Araldite has come unstuck but the real story is that it seems English football is awash with corruption – If true, I can’t say I would be surprised.

    Drop hundreds of millions of pounds from the sky, then throw in a group of wide-boys (sorry agents) to egotistical desperate clients and make the financing of all the deals very complex so that the final figure is impossible for anyone to pin down, then finally allow them all to be undisclosed!

    It must be so easy to circumnavigate any rules under these conditions – the fact that Big Sam was comfortable discussing this with complete strangers probably indicates that it’s probably commonplace and nobody is worried in the slightest of getting punished.

    It’s now up to the world governing body to ensure probity in football – oh, that will be FIFA’s job then – OK carry on everyone…

  18. Werdermouth

    Add governments, local and national. UEFA, come to that governing bodies of all sports, EU and the UN.

    Anywhere there is money then people get their trotters in the troughs. It wasn’t that long ago that the NUM stopped paying Arthur Scargill’s rent for his London flat.

    Ken Livingstone complained about Silverjet when the air traffic controllers delayed his flight. The aircraft was a business class only 767 with about 100 seats. He was flying to New York with two colleagues for a global warming conference. The irony made me chuckle.

    Why do global warming conference always take place in swish resorts? What is wrong with teleconferencing?

    Why do the draws for World Cups and European Championships need such luxury?

    Come to think of it why do we need political party conferences where everyone turns up with prepared speeches and entrenched positions.

    Closer to home, how many journalists do we need to cover Boro?

    On to the BBC, if we are a commentary match the BBC will have two commentators and a summariser, BBC Tees will have it’s own team so will BBC Solent or whoever.

    For a test match in Sydney it is like Whickers Island

    Why is it when there is a disaster all these journalists can get to the site but food and water cant find helicopters or vehicles to bring it in?

    Just a general grump.

    1. Quite a fair grump though.

      I would also warn people that if you see Kate Adie in the vicinity, a disaster is just about to happen. She has a track record of getting there so soon, she must have known in advance.

  19. The Big Sam sacking is curious. I mean, he was absolutely stupid to allow himself to get into a position where a few K bandied around for speaking engagements loosened his tongue enough to start talking to some random Asian businessmen about rule breaking, but what did he actually say?

    He basically made a mockery of the rules, but mocking them appears to be the limit to what he did. More likely, the FA (which is a bit of a closed shop anyway) took umbridge with his criticism of the Wembley rebuild and other comments he made about them.

    The bottom line though is that he put himself into a position that made the outcome inevitable. Egotism, narcissism and England manager do not good bedfellows make.

    As for Southgate, my theory is this. His credit with England fans is probably low, they will know about his documented failure with Boro, and that penalty miss of course. However, should he name his first England squad and exclude current media pariah Mr Wayne Rooney, then his stock will rise considerably before the first ball is kicked. So, if Gareth reads untypicalboro (and he’d be foolish not to given the level of debate), then there it is – my gift to you: don’t pick Rooney for your first squad and you’ll be well on your way to Russia 2018.

  20. Ian
    With you on that lot, although you might be skating on thin ice re- Boro journalists!
    Is there anybody in public life who is squeaky clean?
    At least us bloggers are model citizens, aren’t we?

  21. I think what annoys me most about many of the people involved in football is their sense of entitlement to receive vast sums of money- even though it’s purely through an accident of an over-hyped skewed market in media coverage that has given them the opportunity to feel like they never have enough.

    Perhaps if JC ever became PM he could bring football clubs back into public ownership and introduce transparency of how a club’s employees are renumerated.

    1. For me the biggest problem is that they think they are above the normal moral and responsible behaviour that everyone else has to adhere to.

    2. Werda
      Please stop making me laugh, football clubs in public ownership?
      I can see it now, the minister rises to his feet. “I’m sick and tired of idiots screaming abuse at me, I am giving Arsenal fifty million for transfers because it is in Britain’s interest to have a strong arsenal, it must be bad to see them out of Europe and the tourists like to go to the Emirates for the football, this brings in a lot of money for me(delete that, it just slipped out) for the nation, for the nation.
      furthermore, in the interest of fairness, I am making available one million pounds for the first club from the bottom half of the league to win the treble plus the champions league. You know it makes sense’

  22. The Big Fat Sam story leaves a bitter taste but with the Daily Telegraph resorting to News of the World tactics I wonder where it will end, I can certainly see the game pushing back on media involvement as a form of self preservation.

    I would rather read the content of this blog than the manipulations of the gutter press…

    Rant over..

    1. Gutter tabloid journalism which creates news rather than reports it based around the entrapment of others is not exactly praiseworthy. There again the avarice and arrogance of those snared makes them gullible and easy prey. My thoughts on the situation is that they deserve each other with the behaviour of both thoroughly obnoxious.

    2. Jed
      now the panic has caused all to lose their heads, we can see that there was nothing in the story. Had sam gone to a top legal he would have laughed it out of court, it was conversation, period, a clear case of entrapment, which failed, badly, nothing was said which hasn’t been said on the box openly.

      Time I think to take a bit of revenge on our glorious press. W cannot have them deciding which manager shall manage England, these people have lived off the money flowing into the game, but I think the game should freeze them out, and I reckon it could do it, starting with the scumbags who pulled this stunt. A ban from all grounds would certainly cause trouble.

      **AV writes: They were news reporters. As were the ones who used the same techniques to uncover the FIFA corruption and were slagged off for being ‘unpatriotic.’

      1. You’re missing the point. The fact that he was prepared to meet this people and discuss a deal was what sealed his fate.

        1. GHW
          not true, now it’s too late, we find that he said, ‘ it will have to be o.k.’d by the FA’
          if he had been a billionaire and rushed them into court it would have been settled instantly and cost them a packet’.

      2. AV

        It’s not news when you manufacture it. These people would not have entrapped the head of the FA, or Wenger. Lets not forget that these whole bunch of idiots stood and watched as West Ham saved themselves from relegation by fielding an illegal player, owned by a third party. The team sent down by this whole charade, took them to court, won millions in damages, but they are still in the Champ.

        So lets not heap too much praise on this bunch of luvvies, all they are doing is having fun in the sun, only with carefully selected victims, strange how they love their charades, playing Arabs or some such. Still it beats reading the weather forecast.

  23. Werdermouth

    What makes you think public ownership would make things any better? Cronyism is rife in every walk of life, I cant recall any transparency in any public owned venture nor any accountability for that matter.

    If the people who own it, run it and oversee it, then you have cover ups, back scratching and organisations run for their own purpose.

    At least you can vote with your feet.

    There again, if Boro were in public ownership or by someone with local links maybe the Riverside would have been built with British Steel.

  24. Hi Mark.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if you did, but in my view it would be a horribly misguided step.

    The catch is that Big Sam isn’t able to connect with a club in the manner that Robbo (to a point), Gate, Mogga and AK have done. AK’s ways, for better or worse, are entrenched in Boro and require adaptation, not drastic change.

    Since leaving Bolton, Big Sam has essentially become a “stabiliser for hire”. Contrast with Southgate, Mogga and AK, who have all set out a model to aspire towards, whether or not they succeed or fail.

    Therein lies the rub with Big Sam, and arguably AK’s mentor, who seems to not last more than three years at every club he manages. It’s less about what they can do for the club and more about what the club can do for them. Although judging by United’s early exciting attacking football (!) I may be wrong about Mourinho. This time.

    1. Horribly misguided? If the club (or any other for that matter)are struggling to stave off relegation come January, then Allardyce would be top of the list to be drafted in.

        1. Long term strategy and stability versus short term fix.

          In Football (and indeed now in the Commercial world) short term fixes are becoming more commonplace. Certain individuals have the ability to achieve responses and results way above the mean over a short period, Allardyce, Pardew, Pulis, Harry and even the likes of Holloway to an extent seem to be able to rescue situations that are spiralling out of control. Premiership survival is seen as paramount but if the club is eternally hovering over the trapdoor then the inevitability factor will ultimately decree anyway with gravity taking its hold.

          The “hovering” happens because like our candy striped neighbours there is no long term plan and therefore by default no lasting solution, a self fulfilling prophecy. The inevitability of it all then is merely delayed. I would like to think that AK doesn’t let things get so far gone that we find ourselves accepting of the inevitable and that he balances the short term requirements of survival over the long term strategy which of course is the more desirable.

          Ranieri at Leicester has often mentioned the foundations he inherited at the club in reference to Pearson as we do likewise praising Mogga for the bedrock of the Championship side that seen us promoted under AK. Building something for the longer term is great but if you get truncated in the short term then it is of little benefit. In all things balance!

  25. GHW

    Sometimes it is the hand you are dealt. One of the things Big Sacked Sam always said is that if you are working with average players at an average club you get average results.

    Pep has gone to Man City and what has he done? Did he throw the shackles off and say go and play like Barca? No, he put the shackles on and made them more disciplined and effective.

    Koeman, Klopp, Pochettini all make their teams more disciplined and effective. Koeman gave Barclay the hook because he was losing the ball and not helping the team, next match he gave us a tough time.

    They all demand high work rates and discipline. Talking of which Jose worked wonders with Joe Cole.

    The sad truth is our players are not as good but I hope Traore gets a run out at West Ham.

      1. GHW

        Pep makes his players work hard and do their jobs, players can move safe in the knowledge that they will be covered.

        Just because his teams play brilliant football don’t forget they can do that because they are organised. The forward players work their socks off to press high up the pitch.

        His teams make it look easy because they are good on the ball and don’t give it away.

        He has tightened City up and made them work harder, that is why they have won all their matches. City have conceded five goals in six league matches, last season they conceded 41 so are on course to concede less but are scoring 3 per game.

        Spurs have conceded 3 in six compared to 41 last season as Pochettini gets his message across. Everton conceded 55 last season and 4 in six this time around.

        Liverpool are still leaking so a fly in the ointment.

          1. “One of the things Big Sacked Sam always said is that if you are working with average players at an average club you get average results.”

            Bit like Cloughie at Forest and Derby then…

  26. “Long term strategy and stability versus short term fix.”

    Fantastic response, RR.

    You later mentioned our candystriped neighbours, which reminded me of this quote.

    “I still think I should be the manager of Sunderland. I really liked the club, and I liked the people.”

    That was Roy Keane, six years after leaving the Mackems, being manager of Ipswich and assistant manager of both Ireland (he still is) and Villa.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if, having grown attached to the first club he ever managed, he genuinely had a long-term strategy in place at one point – from what I’ve read he had a good working relationship with the Drumaville consortium – but then it all fell apart once Ellis Short came to town.

    You could, naturally, argue that Keane was dramatising things in his autobiography, but that Sunderland are already on their eighth manager since Keane (caretakers not included) says something about their literally Short-term fixes.

    Of all their post-Keane managers, only Steve Bruce managed to start a third season in charge.

    1. Ian

      History repeating itself although in this case I think he has more mitigating circumstances. He was doing great with Cov up until the New Year and then it was a repeat of the Season here when we just went into freefall. We had a Root and Branch investigation during the Summer and sadly the new Season didn’t see any improvement and so AK arrived in the October.

      Cov have started this Season much the way they finished last although his playing squad appears to be weaker in fairness. The Club is a bit of a basket case and any success that he could have had would have been in spite of rather than because of.

      I doubt its workable but for me I would employ him in a heartbeat in a recruitment/scouting role. He has a good knack of spotting decent players at bargain prices before their stock rises. Given the current choice between Orta and Gill or Mogga its a no brainer for me.

      1. Seriously… Faris Haroun, Malory Martin, Tarmo Kink etc and that’s not mentioning the “German CB”. Plus some exceedingly poor loan signings.

        1. Seriously….Grant Leadbitter, Dimi Konstantopoulis, Daniel Ayala, George Friend, Albert Adomah then there was Ben Gibson being given his chance. Thats 6 nailed on first team starters on AK’s promotion side last season. Even Muzzy was doing OK under AK until his injury finished him with us.

          With regards to the poor loanees and poor signings he had buttons to spend and zero backroom structure in place. Strachan had spent everything and anything that was left after relegation.

          Mowbray inherited the great Jocktification disaster and had to undo and get rid of players who were clearly out of their depth but whose salaries were way beyond anything they had ever earned in their life so were not going to shift easily. We couldn’t afford to pay them and Mogga couldn’t afford to play them they were that bad in some cases.

          To assemble a squad he literally went round clubs with a begging bowl. Josh McEachran, Ameobi, Haroun, Kink and Martin etc. were there because all we had were the likes of Curtis Main and Seb Hines plus had zero funds to spend.

          His time at WBA also left them with a few decent players who cost them next to nothing.

            1. Its not a Mowbray love in or anything remotely close to one. I slated him on here at the time for his blinkered state and cited similar problems from his time at Celtic where he was accused of leaving the Players totally confused on the training ground. I also slated SG for his supposed Root and Branch summer overhaul at the time that resulted in diddly squat in terms of findings and outcomes other than Mogga’s inevitable and predictable sacking 8 months too late.

              As a Manager, no thanks, as an Assisatant Coach, possibly, but as a Talent Scout definitely, especially right now as he has up to date knowledge of lower league players. One or two players costing a few hundred thousand now that in a couple of years can be resold for upwards of £5M or even £10M makes good commercial sense for any club especially one like Boro even with Premiership money.

            1. If SG let alone Mogga had the funding to sign Premier level players then we wouldn’t have spent 7 years in the wilderness.

              Right now its debatable if any of our current squad players are Premier Level but is Dimi worse than Valdes or Guzan? Ayala may or may not be, Gibson is being courted by Chelsea and England, Friend is struggling but may yet make the grade and Leadbitter has played at that level previously.

              On Albert I suspect he is better than what we currently have available on the right but we will never know if he could have cut it at this level. Probably not quite good enough but as with all of them they were never signed for the Premiership they were signed in an era of great Championship austerity for buttons.

            2. He wasn’t signing Premier league players, that wasn’t his brief at the time. I’m not sure what your point is GHW?

  27. Up to speed now though in my case it was never very fast.

    We must not write off results against top of the table sides, my much loved points from unexpected sources applies to all teams.

    The season we had three points deducted saw Coventry win at Liverpool on the day we drew at Wembley with Leicester. Shortly after season ticket gate we beat Chelsea 3-0.

    I don’t expect a bucket full of points but we will get a few. Will it be enough to offset results like at home to Palace.? That is a different matter.

  28. I was one of those doubters referred to in AV’s piece on Ince but he won me over. Just shows how wrong we can be in pre-judging player acquisitions.

  29. Sadly Mogga does have a history of teams going belly up after a time. West Brom – though he got promotion before they were relegated behind us, if they hadn’t played us twice they would have been well adrift.

    Celtic was a disaster unless you are a Rangers fan.

    He helped turn Boro round before the disastrous slum. Coventry has been similar.

    It is a shame because he seems a decent chap and is a hero on Teesside. Maybe a roll other than manager might suit him, maybe he needs more luck.

    **AV writes: It is an occupational hazard of a jobbing manager that, outside the top half dozen or so, there are more ‘failures’ than ‘successes’ on your CV.

      1. Cynic!

        Think of the sleepless nights, the stress, criticisms, death threats etc., ecetera.

        Forget the bungs, the hols to far away places, the smell of bovril and horse linament, the roar of the crowd and the season ticket slapped in yer chops as yer take yer ease in the dugout 🙂

        I was tasked with taking over a youth coaching project in Cambridge some years back after the coaching team at Cambridge United did a bunk coz they said they had pre-season to do. Btw. I got to see two of their first team ‘prospects’being put through their physical paces, coz they’d gotten the interest of a Championship side. Reminded me of horse race horses training – hmmmm!

        Well, I got the lads together and stuck one of them in goal. ‘This is how you take a free kick says I.’ Whereupon, I put the ball down 20 or so yards out, left of centre and took a few steps back. Yes, I know what yer thinkin – Spartak balloons it and becomes a laughin stock, but no I struck it sweet as you like, the ball sailed through the air and right into the top right angle of the goal. To my complete surprise all the young lads burst into a round of applause. From that moment on they all called me ‘Coach’. At first I was shocked but thereafter I was walking on air.

        I can understand how Big Fat Greedy Sam did what he did (and there are so many others) and I can’t say I wouldn’t have me head turned in similar circumstances. Still, the absolute bliss to be involved in the game you love is something no amount of money could buy – the England job being the ultimate for all English men who care. What a loss to have your ego snatch that away from you.

      2. That will be why he wrote off a six figure sum from Celtic to get out of his contract to take up the Boro post and why he has walked away from Coventry today without taking a penny saying “they can reinvest the money I currently earn as a football manager”.

          1. So every other Football Manager works for free?

            Wenger, Mourinho, Guardiola and Ranieri do it purely for the love of the game. All those sacked Man City and Chelsea managers didn’t have millions? Apart from Strachan I don’t know how many other Managers walked away from clubs for nothing.

            Mogga was a questionable Manager for Celtic and Boro fans although Hibs, Baggies and ironically even today Coventry fans see him as a decent Manager. My original point however isn’t that he is a great Manager, (in my eyes he is very lacking) but he is good at spotting talent at an early stage and for that his work at Hibs, West Brom and half of our Championship promotion team is testimony to that.

            Maybe he was just really lucky at all three clubs?

            1. Of course they don’t work for free. But they get very lucrative salaries which enables them to be altruistic at times. All credit to him and Gordon Strachan, but they are hardly likely to have to take their families to a food bank as a result.

    1. Ian
      I thought we were getting away from this idea that any and every local hero should have a job of whatever kind at the club.
      the club is not a lifeboat to be used to rescue lost souls.

  30. I see Bilic is being questioned about why he allegedly asked Mark Noble to take the Hammers playing staff out on a “bonding session” on Monday night and why Carroll and Randolph were still “allegedly” three sheets to the wind on the Tuesday. Bilic quite rightly protests that the pair are innocent until proven guilty (or sobered up more likely) but their internal investigation” will take place after the Boro game.

    The new Stadium clearly isn’t beneficial, I’m guessing due to its soulless atmosphere. Their Summer signings have apparently struggled to settle in and produce and they have the likes of Carroll, Ayew and Cresswell out injured since the start of the season (can anyone remember a month when Carroll was actually fit?).

    They have Sakho apparently naughty stepped, Zaza doing a creditable Alves impersonation, Arbeloa looking suspect at LB, Nordtveit a midfielder square pegged at RB and Noble himself off the boil. Will we sit back and take advantage and rip into their fragile psyche from the off or play it safe passing it from side to side hoping not to get beat?

    I hope we start where we finished off last Saturday, then keep it tight with a few goals advantage!

  31. Ghw, I love Mogga to bits
    A desent bloke and a hero for me as a player. Like Willie Maddren was. Both were excellent players but very unlucky when the took over as a boss.

    Mogga was the samr for AK what Anderson wad to Big Jack.

    And definately a smashing chap. Up the Boro!

  32. As you’ve observed before Ian, most managers have a limited shelf life. Hero to zero is quite normal.
    History is littered with managers with similar records to Mogga but there aren’t many who walk away without taking their “severance pay”.

  33. Mogga’s stubbornness and unwillingness to deviate his tactical methodology was his undoing at Boro and Celtic. For some reason its a situation a lot of Managers ultimately find themselves in and pay the price for it. Conversely its probably down to that dogged determination and self belief that carries them through the good times. There have been times where AK has bordered on the same and at the moment he may even be committing the same act of self destruction.

    Sven, Ranieri, Mancini, Pelligrini, Mourinho etc. have fallen foul of it as has Wenger and our very own Magnificent Schteeeve so the less well known Managers are in good company. It seems to be a unique occupational trait whether they are Managing in the Conference or the Champions League. Ultimately unless they retire like Fergie did at the right time they all come a cropper to it. As Joe Mercer once said “you are only as good as your last result”.

    **AV writes: I don’t understand why people get fixated on ‘stubborness’ and try to use it as a stick to beat any manager. Mogga, Aitor, Fergie, Mourinho. Warnock. Howe. Whoever. All managers from Herbert Chapman to Pep Guardiola have a distinct approach, style, philosophy on the best way to organise a team and get a result and barring moments of desperation – the Steaua game say – they will not deviate from it. That style has got them where they are and is probably the reason they were employed and given a lot of money to implement it. They are not just winging it.

    The rare managers who do try to switch from game to game invariably confuse their team (and fans) and come unstuck far more often than they pull off an amazing result by tactically bamboozling the opposition. Demanding change and calling them stubborn or arrogant just sets people up for frustration. Not accepting the tactical landscape marks *them* out as stubborn.

    1. When it works and things are going fine then the punters are happy. When things are not going so well and they see the same methodology repeated to negative effect then Managers are labelled as stubborn. It all depends on the time and situation.

      Contrast Ranieri and his “Tinkerman” title with his reputation last season.

    2. RR
      it seems to me that without power and speed any team will struggle in the premiership.
      For an example watch Leicester this week. Played with power and pace, met muscle with muscle, good to watch, good football, and, would have been beaten if they had shown any weakness.
      so, get going boro.

  34. I think Mogga was in the confuse the team category. That was the message from his Celtic stay and certainly was in regular evidence at Boro.

    Baggies fans complained about him being rigid and dogmantic, certainly he adhered to a 433 at West Brom.

    We got split strikers, 433, 442, 451.

  35. I remember us going to Forest and we actually drew 0-0.

    Mystic Mog came up with a stunning line up. Split strikers with Scottie out left and Juke put right, the man charged with being the no 10 was Grant. Shocking display.

    Mind you we got a point unlike the 3-0 defeat at Brum.

    ‘The early goal gave Blues a much-needed confidence boost and Middlesbrough’s unusual 3-2-4-1 formation was allowing the hosts plenty of room in dangerous areas. Jutkiewicz should have levelled after 20 minutes but horribly miscued his effort from just eight yards out after Justin Hoyte had done superbly to cross from the right.’

    That is from the Birmingham Post. The truth is we packed midfield with ponderous platers, yes that is deliberate, who were over run. We had Juke up front with Hammill linking between our flat back 8 and the lone ‘striker’. Sadly it wasn’t the Hammill from Star Wars and there was little evidence of the Force.

  36. Interesting that de Pena was given the chance to leave in the summer but decided to stay. Not a great surprise because we do have Leo, Stuani and Ramirez at the club along with other Spanish speakers. Possibly feels there is more chance here than elsewhere, possibly on a better package but like most footballers will want to play.

    It would be no hardship if he did get himself in to the reckoning.

    Also other players had a chance to leave but didn’t. That may be why we have four keepers!!

  37. I would imagine De Pena wouldn’t get a better deal elsewhere, in fact probably a lot worse as he hasn’t seen his stock rise since arriving. An easy decision to stay.

    Another one to put in the EFL bargain loan bin.

    1. Come January I reckon that de Pena, de Sart, Husband and Mejias will all be sent out somewhere on loan and any of them that feels they would like to stay and fight for a place will be told that its not optional. I would also guess that Chambers will be heading back to Arsenal with Subotic arriving permanently after his Op has healed.

      That would leave a gap of four places which hopefully Gill and Orta have already identified Premiership class replacements that will walk potentially into the team as oppose to “projects” or “peripherals”.

      Of course Chambers may settle and become a revelation alongside Ben but my guess is that Ayala or Espinosa will claim that spot or maybe even Barragan with Nsue drafted back in at RB for some pace. Husband may get a lucky break if Fabio struggles for fitness and do a Forshaw but I suspect AK’s mind was already made up and his shoulder injury just delayed the inevitable which is a shame for the lad as he is better than just a squad member and certainly capable of a good job at Championship level.

      Out of all of them de Sart is the only one I think may break through but he seems to be a tad more forward thinking and so unlikely to be tried unless we are in the ascendancy in games which is probably very unlikely in the Premiership at the present moment.

      With de Pena I think he would be better returning to S. America or Spain/Italy. He seems too lightweight in stature for Premiership football and his skill set is still questionable even at Championship level. What the Scouting network saw in him at 24 years old is beyond me, at 16 or 18 years I could maybe fathom the gamble but he is older than Adam Reach who we considered too old to remain a development or project any longer.

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