Hammer Horror For Boro Fans At Sterile Stadium

BORO clocked up a string of firsts in their 1-1 draw at West Ham’s box-fresh ground but it wasn’t a game that will go down in history.

It was the first time in the Hammers’ new home, the first time  Boro had faced the use of goal-line technology and the first time Jordan Rhodes had started in the Premier League – ahead of Alvaro Negredo too.

A lot of Tees travellers, collectors with plenty of miles on the clock, will be delighted to have ticked off a new ground that has an echo of Olympic glory about it – but few will be dishing out many medals for the trip or want to return in a hurry as the day was marred by a cowardly post-match attack on innocent supporters by knucklehead West Ham ‘fans.’


The ground is a strange and dislocated construction and has a deeply unsatisfying atmosphere that may well be contributing to the repeated trouble in and around the ground so far this season. It wasn’t a great experience from the moment you walked out of Stratford tube station into Westfields,  a Metro Centre sized mall.

It is an impressive sight as it looms on the skyline and well appointed in a lot of ways inside but it doesn’t feel like a football ground and it is far from a fan-friendly experience.

The walk up is sign-posted by makeshift hoardings and stewards that funnel fans quickly through the mall, discouraging any browsing and creating an unwelcoming vibe. Poor segregation and crowd traffic flow, along with question marks over the almost invisible policing and ill-prepared stewards new to the ground, have created problems.

Approaches to and exit from the ground have created bottlenecks and flashpoints along the main route back from the game to Westfield and the tube station, and it was in that exposed area that there were some unpleasant moments after the game, a low key match that had very few moments of friction on the pitch.

Afterwards some Boro supporters were penned in and others were ushered out straight into the flow of  home fans creating unnecessary confrontation that left supporters caught up in chaos. There were reports of sporadic violent attacks on pockets of fans heading to the tube and heading back to the coaches. There were some very disturbing images on social media of what appears to be a blade brandished by one lowlife idiot and reports .

Even inside the ground there had been trouble with several Boro fans in the lower tiers hit by missiles lobbed from higher West Ham areas after the opening goal.


And that is not for the first time this season. There has been fighting among Hammers fans inside the ground and outbreaks of trouble at the Bournemouth, Watford and Southampton games, fixtures you wouldn’t naturally think of as high risk.

That needs addressing urgently by the club, the police and the outside company that supplies the stewards. The security and safety of visiting fans has to be ensured. The FA must take full responsibility for the situation and demand an immediate review of the entire match-day operation before someone is killed.

West Ham have a notorious fan-base but have somehow escaped punishment for a string of incidents. These are the fans remember that marked the exit from Upton Park by attacking the Manchester United team coach. And whose owners initially defended the thugs and yobs and suggested it was United’s fault for arriving late.

It is a powder keg situation. Boro must be a relatively low key game but old rivals Chelsea visit soon in a night game in the League Cup, will take a far bigger allocation and will be approaching not just from one direction but from all routes. And you dread to think what would happen in the shopping centre should they draw long time sparring partners Millwall in the cup.

And it is not just outside the ground that things fall short. Some strange internal architecture, dislocated crowd dynamics and a sterile sense of theme park illusion leave the distinct feeling that this is not really a football stadium.  Athletics yes. Gigs. Yes. But it doesn’t feel like the vibrant home of a football team with heart and passion and a loud proud history of intimidating visitors with noise and colour. Even the bubbles felt like an ‘on the hour, every hour’ tourist trap historical recreation.

It was strange. The innards of the ground are on show. There are wide open empty drawers of space in the prime location where the temporary front seats are supposed to tuck away in the ground’s other life as an athletics stadium.  That central band, a prime location which in most grounds is the perfect height and position, is fenced off and hidden away like a disused trampoline park.

Inside there is a temporary feel to much of the bowels of the beast. Bare concrete. Hastily knocked together signage in Olympic livery and fonts.   Everything is fine. Adequate. But it doesn’t feel engineered as a football ground. It doesn’t feel lived in or loved. It had a the feel of a one-off, like a semi-final at a neutral ground with both sets of fans strangers.

There is a sense that everyone, not just the away fans, are here for the first time, were blundering through. And that leaves an air of bewilderment. Few of them were familiar wit the lay-out. It took several attempts and a string of stewards to find the press entrance. They were over-manned in some areas and getting in each others’ way looking lost and under-staffed in places where they  were needed.

Some of that spatial confusion may have spilled onto the pitch. Boro were certainly left looking lost as tour guide Dimitri Payet – who definitely knows his way into the box – slalomed through for the goal.

Jordan Rhodes started a Premier League game for the first time. That was a first. And ahead of Negredo too. It was a shock selection but the Spaniard couldn’t argue after some ineffective and inhibited recent displays.

And Rhodes did well. He didn’t score but he brought some intelligent moves and combined well with a lively front four that was fluid and had a bit of balance about it. And he had a few chances too. He glanced a header wide and hooked an overhead effort that sailed over but was always looking for it. So that bodes well.

Boro came up trumps in another first though. When Cristhian Stuani’s header squeezed through the crowd and was hooked away from the vicinity of the line there were palpitations in the away end.

It looked over but it was chaos in there and it would be just our luck to have it ruled out but the wonders of 360 degree computer modelling gave us the goal and the edge.

It swung the mood dramatically. “You’re going down with the Mackems” taunted previously nervous Boro fans as the maths at the foot of the table sharpened.


But within minutes the away end was muted and West Ham fans were bubbling again as Payet was allowed to weave into the box past five static stoppers – Antonio Barragan, Marten de Roon, Calum Chambers, Ben Gibson and then George Friend – before cutting back to level. The speed with which Boro are leaking levellers after scoring is a worry.

And the manner. That wasn’t a first. In fact is become the norm. In the last three games now opponents have waltzed in from the flank before hammering in costly strikes. That will need to be consigned to history if we are to flourish.

So overall, it was a new ground ticked off and we won the video vote but apart from that there won’t be much to stick in the memory banks bar the post-match trouble.

An away point is always a “good point” – Aitor was happy enough – and Boro will be happy to have stopped the rot after three defeats. With away points at West Ham and West Brom and the win at Sunderland the record away at teams in the lower level mini-league is not bad. Solid but not spectacular.

But you can’t help but think that the game was there to be won with just a little bit more assertive intent, a little bit more pressure applied to a side who looked fragile at times. Mind, both bosses will be thinking that.


And here’s my ever popular “what game were you watching Vickers you blind get?” player rating from the West Ham game….




241 thoughts on “Hammer Horror For Boro Fans At Sterile Stadium

  1. There are several positives.

    A valuable point. We have now got results against three of the four teams below us, including two away, and also at West Brom. Hull and Burnley are only just above us. We are alive and competitive in our mini-league. We have lost to three of the top eight.

    Hull and Burnley have not made as many changes as us to their Championship squad, and they have Prem experience from the season before last, and so far this has given them enough of a base to put seven points on the board, but will those squads be strong enough as the season progresses?

    Our players are gaining more experience of the Prem and of playing with each other, and will need to build on that and become incrementally more effective. The Payets of the Prem will occasionally be brilliant, we just have to stay determined and resilient even when sheer quality intervenes. We have brought more players into the side as the games have progressed – De Roon, Fischer and Rhodes now have some reasonable game time under their belts and Traore has shown promise in cameos. There are increasing options going forward, though it still may not be enough without adding a quality attacking midfielder in January.

    Forshaw and Stewy have generally looked capable at this level and Ben is probably managing the transition the best of the defensive players.

    A good performance and win against Watford and we will be on course again, but if we can’t achieve that then the season does look like a struggle.

  2. “More than once now we have been caught out straight after we have scored. We need to work on keeping focussed and disciplined at that key point in a match.”

    Well put, Powmill. Everton and West Ham are the obvious cases in point, and the optimistic will put that down to Ashley Williams’ impedement and a wonder strike, though we know it’s more complicated than that. Though I suppose you could also include Palace… exactly nine minutes (plus stoppage time) of game time after Ayala’s equaliser, Zaha restored their lead.

    Going back to last season, even, you could point to our inability to hold on to our lead at Burnley and Birmingham. (At Brum we were ahead for all of eleven minutes.)

    It’s said clean sheets don’t win games, but considering we’ve scored in every game bar one…

  3. I think that we have a problem with the ‘over the top’ celebration’s after scoring, it looks silly and probably is silly. We are disorganised, the other team watches us and thinks, ‘ now is our best chance of scoring’, and they are right. A better policy would be to rush back to the restart and keep them feeling wobbly .

  4. Another solid point; must admit I feared the worst going into the game considering West Ham’s recent record. Again, I think we’ve shown we don’t look out of place in the Prem and we are accumulating points, albeit slowly. Stuani continues to get plenty of stick, but he has a knack of finding the net.

    Massive two home games coming up, after three games in a row where we would have been happy to get anything, we now have two in three where we are surely targeting wins.

    1. In my case its not Stuani per se that gets the stick its where his Manager plays him. Playing wide right for Uruguay against the likes of Ecuador, Venezuela, Paraguay, Bolivia and Chile and for Boro in the Championship is one thing but playing there in the toughest league in the world is another matter entirely.

      When Stuani arrived in the Summer of 2015 I put £20 on him finishing as the Championships top scorer but that was before AK played him as a Wide player when I had mistakenly assumed that he was going to be played as a Striker.

      For me Stuani is by far the best Striker at the club, better than Rhodes, Nugent and Negredo but he wasn’t and isn’t the best wide right player for us even when we were in the Championship. Its one of those annoying aspects to AK where he seems determined to do something (like playing Mejias where the points dropped in those games could have seen us promoted a Season sooner) to prove a point to himself rather than see and accede to the obvious.

      Stuani isn’t a natural winger, he can’t dribble past defenders, his crosses are worse than Albert’s and his tracking back and defending leaves a lot to be desired positionally. Based on those observations he does get stick, based upon his striking prowess however he is the best at the club in my opinion.

  5. Obvious, yet I disagree with you and AK and the coaches presumably do too. I’m assuming there are others (though I do wonder sometimes!) The role Stuani plays allows us to effectively play two strikers whilst having the solidity of the 4-2-3-1 system.

    Yes, he isn’t a natural winger. But he isn’t playing as a winger.

    Just to check – you aren’t saying that AK thinks Stuani is better through the middle but doesn’t want to move him there to prove a point?

    (I love how you dismiss Paraguay and South American champions Chile as being rubbish by the way – and no mention of course of him playing in La Liga there)

    I hope he keeps getting the stick and keeps scoring the goals. I did read somewhere else something along the lines of ‘what does he do, apart from score’. That does seem a pretty ludicrous argument.

  6. I’m saying that like Mejias AK will not move him from the wide right position to prove a stubborn point. I’m not dismissing Paraguay or any other South American side in much the same way I wouldn’t dismiss Wales, its a good standard but they hardly set World football alight. The Premiership however attracts the best Players in the world and there is a significant difference between the quality of opponents week in week out.

    With 4231 Stuani restricts us at this level on the Right but he does very well as an additional Striker but doesn’t that just reinforce the story that most Boro fans seem to be able to see? It does allow us to play two Strikers but definitely not “effectively” as the main supposed Striker gets starved of credible delivery as Stauni has shown he doesn’t create but can certainly finish.

    Like I said the stick isn’t directed at Stuani, its directed at him being played in a position that exposes our defence, provides no speed, trickery, creativity or delivery for the Striker in the middle. Stuani is a good Striker and Finisher I doubt any Boro fan would or is arguing with that but as a wide player it has a limiting effect on at least two other positions. He doesn’t link up with the other Striker in a partnership in the way of a traditional front two nor does he link up with the defender behind him in the way that Adomah and Nsue did. That is the cause of angst and concern.

  7. Stuani scored two against Sunderland (one a very good goal) and one against West Ham. Both of these teams are in the relegation zone and over the past few weeks have been described as having particular issues – in effect it could be said that any striker of sufficient prowess would be able to score against them. As for ‘he’s not a natural winger’ – he’s not in any way shape or form any type of winger just as Valdes wouldn’t be considered any type of centre back. Therefore. you miss completely RR’s point about where he should play to be most effective – perhaps intentionally?

    In fact, BoroPhil, now that I consider the whole of the parts of your post it appears to me as a construction of hyperbole.


  8. There is no “natural winger” in a 4231 formation. The width is provided by the full backs. Their cover is provided by the 2 defensive midfielders. In the 3 you need players with a goal threat. Thomas Müller plays on the right of the 3 for Germany, for example. That’s why Ramirez is so much better in the central role than Downing. Quite simply, Ramirez gets into the box more.

    If Stuani was playing wide right instead of up front in a 442, I could understand the criticism.

    Or are you cricising 4231 and saying we should go 442?

    1. SteveH

      We had a similar debate on Stuani versus Adomah last season where we pretty much agreed that Albert played wide right tending to hug the line more and cutting in whilst Stuani played more inside and not as far out wide. If 4231 relies on full backs for width why buy Barragan and then why sign Traore and de Pena and Fischer?

      George provides width on the left as did Nsue on the right, both with a bit of pace and drive. Albert linked up well with Nsue as does Stewy with George. With Barragan the width is a bit slow and predictable, with Stauni in front it just seems clunky and not a good marriage of skills, they don’t compliment one another.

      We are lacking creativity and supply in the final third whether that comes from overlapping full backs or “inside rights” or “inside lefts” or a front three. For me Stuani isn’t the answer to creativity but a great finisher. If so then who supplies Stuani or like Tomlin against Derby do we have to listen about that one goal at Sunderland for the next twelve months as evidence of how AK’s system works?

  9. I think the arguement that Stuani shouldn’t be playing on the right wing because he isn’t a winger misses the point. It has been common enough over the years for managers to play a striker in the right wing position, Cruyff played Lineker there for Barcelona for example.
    It’s a common enough tactic and as Borophil points out it is designed to allow a 4231 formation to be played while allowing two strikers to be on the pitch.
    The fact Stuani had scored three times this season suggests so far it is working reasonably well.

    The idea that AK is playing Stuani out on the right out of stubbornness seems unlikely to me, AK is a manager who wants to succeed, his aim surely is to put out a team with the best chance of winning?

    1. Sorry Nigel, but did you miss this bit?

      ‘Stuani scored two against Sunderland (one a very good goal) and one against West Ham. Both of these teams are in the relegation zone and over the past few weeks have been described as having particular issues – in effect it could be said that any striker of sufficient prowess would be able to score against them.’

      So. it has, if that is AK’s aim, worked in that Stuani has scored 3 goals in 2 games, against two teams in the relegation zone, out of seven played. I don’t believe anyone would consider that to be prolific or warrant a outstanding review.

      We are 16th, two places above the relegation zone having failed to beat two teams in it, with or without AK playing Stuani as a winger, or is that a striker in the right wing position.

      The table and the results are irrefutable. One goal for Stuani in the last 5 games does not IMHO give credence to AK’s positional acumen. And as said the goal against West Ham, although always nice to have, isn’t the 4 goals that West Brom scored against them

    2. Nigel


      “AK is a manager who wants to succeed, his aim surely is to put out a team with the best chance of winning”?


      “AK is a manager who wants to succeed, his aim surely is to put out a team with the best chance of not conceding”? and I would fully agree.

  10. “If 4231 relies on full backs for width why buy Barragan and then why sign Traore and de Pena and Fischer?”

    Barragan has been brought in to play in our system. I know you have your own concerns about how effective he can be, but as I’ve said previously he seems to be playing the same role as previous RBs and has been in and around the box a lot.

    de Pena and Fischer are both wide players who are comfortable coming inside, similar to Downing (and Adomah). Traore, who knows what system he is most comfortable with yet, but at this stage he seems more a plan B than anything.

    Expecting Stuani to be some sort of creative force to me just totally misunderstands the point of why he is in the team. (not intentionally I’m sure…!)

    RR – just to be clear, what point do you think AK is trying to prove by playing him on the right?

  11. Spartak, I didn’t miss it, enough said?

    Redcar, to win a game of football the first step is to not concede, it’s what all the best managers set out to do.

    I agree that AK’s natural instinct seems to lead to a cautious approach, our most successful manager ever followed a similar philosophy. I’m afraid a team of below average premiership ability such as Boro would be rapidly annihilated if ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ tactics were employed.

    My feeling is AK’s cautious approach is going to be better suited to premiership football for Boro than it was in the championship. In fact I think from day one AK has employed his philosophy with the ultimate aim of premiership success.

    When I was sat watching the match yesterday, I didn’t think Boro were over cautious, they often had five players in the box, the front line often consisted of three players, we did build slowly from the back on numerous occasions, but for an away team to have 60% possession is good I think as it gives a large degree of control. It meant we weren’t under constant pressure as we were against Everton and Spurs, which made watching much more of a pleasurable experience.

    What we do need to work on though, as others have said, is holding onto a lead, if a team can hold a lead for ten minutes after taking it they are far more likely to hold it for the rest of the game.

    I’m sure AK will work on that.

    Personally, I don’t expect Boro to be a free scoring team this season, we don’t have the quality of strikers to do that.

    1. ‘I’m afraid a team of below average premiership ability such as Boro would be rapidly annihilated if ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ tactics were employed.’

      Low expectations and hyperbole!


      Just sayin like


      1. Sparta

        Charge of the light brigade? ometimes memory is useful for more than putting on the kettle.

        scene! Away at Arsenal, the decision had been made to go at them, something like ‘the charge of the light brigade’. It worked! Three goals in no time, scribes busy writing up the story of the latest young managerial lion. Gareth (for it was he) sat there, basking in the glory to come.

        The final score was Arsenal 5 Boro 3 , d’oh.

  12. I don’t expect Stuani to be a creative force but to have him in the side (on the right be it inside or wide) puts a greater reliance on someone else to provide which I don’t think currently exists which I guess is the source of frustration rather than with Stuani himself.

    I don’t think we signed the quality of players required to play AK’s system on the right side of the pitch. Its arguable that we haven’t done well enough on the left either although Fabio and Fischer may in time prove otherwise because they at least look to have the skill sets required.

    My point is I have no idea what point AK is trying to prove by playing him on the right. Stuani is a good player but out there and with Barragan behind we lose synergy in much the same way as I think we have lost it with Valdes in goal behind the back four.

    1. ‘We have 6 points,’

      Indeed GHW – by my calculations that’s 2 points above the relegation zone and 15 points dropped.

      Glass just a little more than half empty I would have thought.


      1. I was actually making a point about Stuani’s goals, but yes indeed 2 points above the relegation zone. I’ll take that come the end of the season.

  13. Well, I watched the game live on Saturday night and to be honest I was pretty disappointed with our approach. It doesn’t matter who plays up front, Negredo or Rhodes, they are just peripheral to everything that is going on. We are so slow and pedestrian when we move the ball around, there is absolutely no enjoyment watching this team, I watched Charlton’s team and that was based on a solid defence but when they attacked, they attacked with pace and with numbers, this is like watching paint dry. None of the new signings look to be any better than what we had last year, which begs the question, is it the players or the system?
    I fully understand that we have to get a foothold in this league, but what little attacking intent we had last year seems to have eroded away completely.
    Forshaw, who only got his game due to injury is head and shoulders our best midfielder, yet he never got a look in last year, what does that tell you about our coaching staff.
    We look like a team that is set out not to lose, rather than going for the win.
    Massive pressure now on the home games against Watford and Bournemouth.

  14. Over the ton already. Must have missed something? Did we loose to the Hammer heads?

    Stuani again excellent after a couple of quiet games. But that happens with strikers.

    A desent away point. Could have won but we need to defend better with a typical Boro goal conceded again. But I trust AK will sort the defense out soon.

    We will be OK this season. When the defense sorted we will next see improvement in midfield. de Roon needs some time more.

    Enjoying the sesdon. Up the Boro!

    1. ‘Enjoying the sesdon. Up the Boro!’

      Good on you Jarkko, keep enjoying. However, I think you may find yourself increasingly in the ever diminishing minority as weeks go by. But I have no doubt that your clarion call of ‘just needs some time more’ will still be heard as the AK posse is driving away from Rockcliffe with bags well packed and secured in the boots of their rather expensive motors.


  15. Nigel

    I think the quality issue goes through the squad and though it may sound a criticism of the players it isn’t.

    The squad is one capable of getting out of the Championship topped up with players with points to prove and projects. That is where we are in the food chain, we should improve as the season progresses.

    If we keep out of the drop zone we should be able to prepare for a step up in recruitment and performance. We do need more pace in the team and certainly need better passing and movement.

    Stuani is a conundrum, he doesn’t add much to the performance but he scores goals. Tricky.

  16. I must admit I’m still in ‘wait-and-see’ mode this season – it feels like we’re still nervously waiting for takeoff after our budget airline was delayed due to a technical fault.

    Though I guess like the team, followers of Boro are still adjusting to the PL landscape – it’s really now all about unexpected wins as opposed to another expected three points in the bag that we got used to over the last couple of seasons.

    Although we’ve looked pretty average so far, another couple of points gained (Stoke, WBA, West Ham?) would have seen us more or less top of our mini-league in 11th – so you could say we’re just about where we may have expected to be.

    The good thing is that other than Everton, we’ve generally remained competitive and in with a chance of at least a point – though it seems a mixture of defensive errors and indecisive forward play are costing us the points.

    But given that almost all of our signing are unproven in the PL and a few are somewhat of a gamble, then AK is probably looking for steady progress rather than instant glory.

    He’s probably still finding out who can do a job at this level and his thinking with a cautious approach may be based on being hammered early season could permanently dent confidence.

    So it’s low-risk functional football for the foreseeable future I suspect as we just don’t have the power and pace that most of the opposition possess.

    Anyway, another win would be nice pretty soonish as I wouldn’t want us to drop into the bottom three if at all possible!

    1. Sorry, just rechecked, mine was in the sports section titled Sullivan defiant after anger and arrests, it probably has little very more about the football than the one you mentioned.

  17. Played 11, won 1, drew 7, lost 3

    conclusion – SACKED!

    My god, do they have no patience????

    Roberto Di Matteo, bags packed, in the boot of the car!


  18. Ian – I agree with you entirely regarding the quality of the squad.

    Stuani is an interesting one, I think while he’s scoring the debate as to whether or not he should be in the team playing as part of the ‘three’ will be relatively quiet. Things will hot up if he stops scoring like he did for a significant part of last season.

    We have three new players in particular who are under the spotlight, Valdes, de Roon and Negredo.

    From what I’ve seen Valdes has been steady, although his place in the team vexes Redcar somewhat, most people seem happy with de Roon, but I thought he had a shocker on Saturday, AV was obviously watching a different game to me as he gave him a ‘7’! Negredo has been quiet despite Spartak hoping he was going to be the Holy Grail.

    It’s all very early yet, new players need to settle in, championship players need to adapt. The manager needs to tweak his tactics.

    Overall though the performances to date suggest we can hold our own in the bottom third mini league.

    1. ‘Negredo has been quiet despite Spartak hoping he was going to be the Holy Grail.’

      You played up front in the main striker role at all Nigel? Well, yes no doubt you guessed it, I have. It may not have been in the EPL but I gave it all I got and was ok for my level. But here’s the thing – if you play the loan striker role then it’s pretty simples, you hold the ball up on or about the half way line awaiting the three or five seconds until you gets the support of your midfield dynamos who upon the receipt of the ball rush through the defense and cause havoc and hopefully score goals.

      Now to teach me granny how to suck egges – if you ain’t got no midfield dynamos to cause havoc coz everyone else is soooo concerned with defending coz the boss said he’d grill their sensitive parts on a barbeque if they don’t, chances are the striker is going to end up ploughing a distinctly lone furrow of his own no matter how good he is.

      I still rate Negredo as a super class striker but football (you may have noticed) is a team game and the manager tells the team how to play.



    2. When our “bromance” started with Shay it was because when he arrived there was an air of calmness, trust, and confidence bestowed almost at once in our 18 yard box. We still lost games of course but the belief from the stands and from our back line was united in trusting Given.

      With Valdes I think we were entitled to have expected the same as a minimum bearing in mind he is more decorated than John Wayne. I personally didn’t expect that as I have never particularly rated him and feel that he was extremely fortunate to be playing behind the best team in the world at that point in his career. I accept that is just my opinion and it can be argued that the Barca team was the best in the world at the time because of his contributions.

      What I have observed is a Keeper who doesn’t command his box, is worse than Mejias and Brad Jones at crosses but very agile in Hollywood dives and relatively quick reactions and is a great shot stopper but overall I don’t think he is any better than Dimi (who I think we needed an upgrade on to at least compete) or Jason Steele. Valdes makes me nervous and very uncomfortable at set pieces and I think that Ayala, Barragan, Friend, Gibson and now Chambers all feel the same.

      Synergy is one of the things that differentiate great sides from mediocre or poor sides. That unwritten understanding and intuitive gut instinct between players whether its in attacking and anticipating a ball to the far post or whether its defending a cross. Maybe Valdes doesn’t rate his defenders and thinks they are all woeful, constantly defending too deep hence opponents having the opportunity to dribble right through them because they daren’t put a tackle in on them inside the box. I wouldn’t disagree with that but my guess is that they are defending so deep under instructions and fear of pace.

      Whoever is right or wrong our Premiership defending is very poor and they look anything but a cohesive joined up unit. I’m sure Valdes is a smashing bloke but to me he looks like the wrong Keeper at the wrong Club at the wrong time. Valdes has spent his entire career playing at a club who take the initiative and are usually in the ascendancy rather than scrapping, trying to keep the opposition out. The challenges he faced for a decade or so are entirely different to the one he now faces. Teams that had limited opportunities, snapping at half chances interspersed with the odd rare well taken goal.

      Given on the other hand has played for decent sides but not always sides that were running away with titles overpowering all before them. Indeed he has often played with a defence for example with the Republic of Ireland where he didn’t have the best or most polished unit in front of him but he always shouted, organised and commanded. They trusted him.

      Shay is well past his best but when he returned Dimi came in and done a pretty decent job in keeping up appearances. Dimi isn’t the greatest of Keepers but he understood what was in front of him and likewise they of him. When a Corner came in they knew the big Greek was like as not going to rise in the middle of the melee and get his hands or at least a fist to it. Being able to use your hands in those situations is a massive advantage, not being able to reach is not a desirable trait at all let alone being pushed and crowded out of the way.

      Acrobatic saves and its Valdes all the way, Dimi always looked to me like he had arthritis he took so long to get down sometimes but out of the two of them there was greater trust and understanding with Dimi. On paper and on Xboxes and Playstations the world over Dimi probably isn’t the best Keeper but for continuity and synergy he is head and shoulders literally above Valdes and Guzan.

      **AV writes: I think the main factor in the keeping situation is the different division we are playing in now. The different level of opposition. Whovever plays in goal now is behind a defence that is under a lot more pressure and making a lot more mistakes. When Given first came he was in a similar situation and he let in five goals in his first three games. He didn’t suddenly acquire superhuman properties after that, it was the tactical and mental changes the manager imposed to tighten up the defence in front of him.

      I understand people’s need to personalise what they perceive as problems because it then offers up straight-forward solutions: just change player X and everything will be better. If we played Dimi we’d have more clean sheets. If we played Rhodes we’d score more goals. If we kept Albert we wouldn’t have a problem on the right. I’m not sure it is ever that simple or the manager – any manager – would just do it.

  19. Unfortunately a lot of our fans just won’t be happy with Boro ‘holding our own’. They want us to be playing at least as well as the best Boro team they ever saw, being competitive with established top-half Prem teams (the best teams in the best league in the world) or it’s seen as us dropping points.

    I got the impression we all hoped Boro might finish 15th this year, and if so it would be a massive achievement and something we could build upon. We’re just about exactly where all of us hoped we’d be. We’re staying competitive in most of our games, we’re getting punished for sloppy errors as we learn the hard way (it’s a massive step up for these players) but there’s miles to go and I think they’re on track.

    I don’t see us scoring a lot of goals, but they’re managing to score in most games. But I never expected us to score a lot of goals. I expected us to build from the back, look hard to beat and nick the odd game here and there. We never walked over teams in the Champ, so how we’re expecting to suddenly start now is beyond me.

    There’s a lot to work on, and despite howls about our defensive set-up, that’s where we need to start. AK is right to worry about conceding goals first, that’s where he’s focussed over the summer and I’m sure that’s where he’s focussing in training.

    I’m expecting every game to be difficult, I’m taking nothing for granted. It’s going to be a long hard season but this is the reward for seven years of waiting. Stick behind them, stop criticising every little thing you don’t agree with, give them a chance to find their feet. If we can nick a win in the next couple of games it will all look different again.

    We look pretty average I totally agree, but there are a lot of average Prem teams in the prem and if we can stay with them I’ll be over the moon.

    **AV writes: I agree. That’s how I see it. Big step up. Learning curve. Long hard season. We have to enjoy it for what it is, not torture ourselves for what it isn’t. Next year we can raise the bar, this season we just have to stay up.

  20. Thank you for that Smoglodyte.

    Demanding that new signings leave the club before they’ve properly found their feet or even been given a chance is absolutely mystifying. We’re not even a quarter of the way through the season yet.

    One more thing… we currently have six points from our first seven, Keane’s Sunderland had eight points from their opening ten following promotion.

    They stayed up with two games to spare.

    1. High expectations there, Simon 🙂

      I hope you’re not getting too carried away.

      If it’s two games left to play to ensure survival you do know that the last two games will be against Southampton (h) and Liverpool (a). The two preceding that will be Chelsea (a) and Man City (h).

      Maybe someone could also inform the local A & E’s about the possible heart attack victims attending as we get closer to those last four games.

      Meanwhile our next four games are Watford (h), Arsenal (a), Bournemouth (h) and Man City (a).

      I think we should start a lottery predicting how many times AK is going to shrug his shoulders and say that the opposition team is not in OUR league. I must admit it’s a different approach to Mogga’s ‘lessons learnt’.

      Btw. not sure I read anywhere about new signings leaving before they properly find their feet. Perhaps you could provide a link or a reference?


  21. Just out of interest:

    Sunderland have played: Man City, Boro, Southampton, Everton, Spurs, Palace, WBA

    Stoke have played: Boro, Man City, Everton, Spurs, Palace, WBA, Man Utd

    West ham have played: Chelsea, Bournemouth, Man City, Watford, WBA, Southampton, Boro

    Swansea have played: Burnley, Hull, Leicester, Chelsea, Southampton, Man City, Liverpool

    Boro have played: Stoke, Sunderland, WBA, Palace, Everton, Spurs, West Ham

    Hull have played: Leicester, Swansea, Man Utd, Burnley, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea

    Burnley have played: Swansea, Liverpool, Chelsea, Hull, Leicester, Watford, Arsenal

    Bournemouth have played: Man Utd, West Ham, Palace, WBA, Man City, Everton, Watford

    In my opinion its very likely that three from these eight team will be going down next May.

    In contrast I think its also likely that the top six teams in no particular order will be the two Manchester sides, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool plus Spurs. I think Everton and Leicester may nick one of those top 6 spaces or at least occupy 7th and 8th position.

    Looking at the bottom 8 versus the top 8 to date quite a few of our mini league competitors have had a tough start or conversely got a lot of the top sides out of the way early. Stoke have played 4 out of my top 8, Sunderland played 3, West Ham played 2, Swansea played 4, Boro played 2, Hull played 5, Burnley played 4 and Bournemouth 3 of them.

    My take on that is that Boro and the Hammers have had the easiest starts with Stoke, Swansea, Hull and Burnley the toughest starts. My guess is that as the fixtures balance out Stoke, Swansea, Hull and Burnley will improve on their points per game ratio which will put the squeeze onto us. Of course there is always the likelihood and chance of points from unexpected places as Stoke showed and Burnley nearly showed yesterday.

    Looking at our end of Season run in we need to be racking up points well before then because in our last 10 games we play Man Utd, Arsenal, Man City at Home and Chelsea and Liverpool Away. Those sides are likely to be more focused and chasing Champions League placings at least. Of course the pressure may start to crack them but either way its better to make hay while the sun is still shining.

  22. Redcar Red

    Interesting fixture lists but pre season I would have had Stoke and West Ham as games outside our mini league, in a months time the two draws may be seen as decent results. You could argue that before the season Palace and Watford would have been in there instead.

    The real downer was the defeat at home to Palace.

    1. Looks like they did a Strachan, sorting out his replacement well in advance. Unfair and unjust, though this is football, after all…

  23. Me, get carried away? Never, Spartak! Lol.

    Re: the whole new signings thing, it was a minor overreaction to this, from Richard: “We’re getting a lot of money to be in the PL, so use some of it to pay AK and his poor players off. It would be the only positive action we have seen this season.”

    I then vaguely remembered him already wanting Valdes and Guzan out the door. Already. I could be mistaken, mind, and if so, I apologise, but that’s what I remember.

    I definitely remember him writing off Fabio before he’d even kicked a ball, and downplaying the qualities of NI’s own “United outcast” Jonny Evans.

    The same Jonny Evans who more than held his own alongside Nemanja Vidic and who was “worth every penny” to Roy Keane as his Sunderland clocked up vital results on the road to survival. The concrete evidence of this is there for all to see in black and white. So why aren’t the more cynical among us a little more open-minded?

    I am not saying that the likes of Richard and yourself don’t make valid points. You do. It’s just the extremes to which they are made, you know.

    ‘Twas the case with Mogga, as Mr Average said sometime ago – a year after his exit, objective views on his tenure were hard to find. It felt like a large gap between two extremes: some angry at him for twice tinkering and messing up after good starts, others upset at seeing a beloved local hero being handed a poisoned chalice, having his hands tied and betrayed.

    Similarly, with Albert, it seemed to be either improvement into a better all around team player or talent and fun stifled by orthodoxy. Never in between.

    1. ‘It was a minor over-reaction!’

      Lol – no problem Simon, carry on 🙂

      Your point about peoples reactions/viewpoints being somewhat of the opposite extremes. If you go back to that Guardian link I made yesterday, there’s a comment on the very same topic. The ‘laudable’ expert talks about peoples polar perspectives when faced with identical evidence to that of others. We’re a curious race!


  24. So, the positives. If Spurs can beat Man City 2-0, but only managed to beat us 2-1, that makes us better than City, right?

    I was pleased to see Rhodes get a run out, and hopefully he will continue to do so post-international break. Ideally as a foil to Negredo, but we can all dream of the impossible. If we end up in a repeat of the last break, with Ramirez and Stuani flying half way around the world, then I hope AK has Traore doing fitness work in the next two weeks to get himself up to speed.

    As for all the negativity, well, it’s ridiculous that Guidolin has been sacked already (looks like they’ve been waiting for an excuse since the beginning of the season), and it’s ridiculous to expect us to be mid-table in our first season back in the big time. AK Boro are, and always will be, a solid outfit who quietly do our business. We’re not a flashy promoted team who storm up to 5th, only to tail away dramatically in the business end, we’re a solid team who score a few, concede a few, and at the end of it end up finishing 14th (ahem, ahem).

    For the AK refusniks amongst you, I ask you honestly, who would you have instead, and how to you think they would fare? “Big Sam”? “Big Nige”? Big Nige hasn’t so much as blotted his copy book but stared it down, backed it into a corner and flecked it with so much spittle and bile that it disintegrates before his very eyes. Big Sam? Well, his copy book comes with suspicions of manila envelopes and spends 20mins searching for hidden microphones before it relaxes.

    I’m not saying AK is doing the most top-notch job, but given that he knows the fabric of the players and the club as close as he does, I’m not sure somebody else would do better coming in at this time. Let’s give it time and see what January brings.

  25. Simon

    It is so black and white I am surprised we don’t borrow Toon’s kit.

    There is never a simple solution unless you have a ready made scapegoat available.

    The sloppy goals from dribbles stem in part because the attackers are cleverer than those our defenders are use to. Last season they could shepherd players away from the goal, now the have jinks, dummies, drag backs etc and are harder to mark.

    Our defensive strength was not allowing shots on target, probably the lowest in all the divisions which meant Dimi had fewer saves (and mistakes) to make and hence conceded fewer goals.

    The opposition are also stronger hence the fact George has been shrugged off the ball several times, why Barclay could plough through de Roon and Forshaw.

    It goes for the opposition defenders as well, they are fitter, faster, stronger and more skilled than we normally have faced.

  26. PS

    I saw a list last year about international call ups at each club at an international break. The relegated clubs had the lowest number of active internationals at six each. Couldn’t easily find any data for the current season.

    It may be coincidence but it is a useful red herring.

  27. I was sat in front of West Ham supporters on Saturday who as far as I could tell were all moaning about West Ham pretty much the whole way through the game. However it appears that moaning/complaining takes different forms as the said fans then started to argue amongst themselves because one fan clearly thought another’s moaning style was out of order.

    It appears it is not just Boro who have Chicken Runners and Ra Ra’s.

  28. Good post Ian.

    Now, there is a counter-argument to extreme views. That being, while we may disagree with them, they are enjoyable to read or listen to, and they can stimulate no end of ideas.

    It may be why I keep reading and listening to Eamon Dunphy. (I’ve met him as well – he was as civil as they come!)

    Here’s Dunphy at his best, arguably from 4.44 onwards.

    (The presenter is the late, legendary Bill O’Herlihy, who sadly died on the morning of the 2015 play-off final.)

    1. Great clip Simon. I like, and agree with, Dunphy’s point of view but think Brady and Giles come across better here.
      The real point is that they, I assume, all want the best for Ireland, as equally we all do for the Boro.

  29. Guidolin- pack bags, into boot of expensive car.

    Curious one perhaps given only 7 games gone but only 1 win and a draw to talk of. The Yank owners have had this in mind since beginning of season – crap start bring in yer buddy.

    SG has brought in favorites before and just as a co-incidence I have recently suggested he have a managerial plan B in place, just in case.

    It all boils down to your ambitions and expectations of course and the reason why we see much discussion amongst ourselves on differing opinions with the same evidence.

    Happy sacking days*


    *Funny coz I would have thought Moyes would be most likely to go first but it seems ambitions are somewhat low at the Mackems.

  30. As with any team you start at the back, so I can undestand the anguish with Valdes. I doubt any poster could honestly say he commands the six yard box with for me is a must, especially in the PL.

    Unfortunately despite all the defensive signings the back line do look a little fragile, even though some may point to our goal difference. Chambers looks nothing like 16mill purchase, Friend has been found wanting, but to be fair to him he will continue to try harder and harder and hopefully will improve. AK, please ask him to stop trying to cut inside, everybody has cottoned on.

    Forshaw has been a revelation to date, de Roon very incosistant, is he really going to be a 12mill buy?

    Stuani can score goals that is a fact, probably more so than Negrado or Rhodes, but for me his inclusion weakens the side down the right giving Barrangan and the right CB more to deal with.

    We are always going to leak goals, therefore we need to make sure we score a few more than we are doing at present. That will mean a slight change in tactics.

    The biggest disappointment has been with the recruitment, too many foreign may be OK’s and not enough PL proven experience.

  31. Going back to Smoggies last comment regarding who would replace AK if god forbid he were to leave.

    It seems this issue comes up just about the time that there are doubts as to the manager’s suitability when the positive point accumulation problem arises. Swings and roundabouts, ups and downs. As surely as the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, there it comes. ‘But there’s nobody else available who’s better!’ Followed by a slight dissing of available feet to fill the shoes.

    I have to agree with AV to a certain extent that one change may not solve the overall challenge of improving team performance. However, there’s nowt like a jolly good enema of the management level to put a fresh spring in the step of both squad and fans alike.

    Now just to be a little provokative, I am going to suggest one N Pearson as a main contender again for the non vacancy. I think he would not only put some well deserved rockets up some necessary jacksies but he also has 110% overt enthusiasm for the cause into which he belongs. I think if needs be he would still be a positive alternative.

    Oh, and I’d simply love to be a fly on the wall at the pressers conferences.

    ‘Oi, you, AV, are you an ostrich!’ Lol



    **AV writes: Unless a club is performing markedly below realistic expectations I’m not sure changing managers is always productive. There is some academic research that backs that up I think. An annual enema hasn’t helped Sunderland for instance. There is nothing to suggest anyone around Boro thinks they are markedly below expectations. And while some fans have high expectation, today’s Gazette poll had well over 60% of respondents sayong they thought Boro were “about par for the course.”

    1. Would that be the same N Pearson who’s doing such a fantastic job at Derby? Or the one who nearly got Leicester relegated, only to perform a last-gasp great escape?

      Oh, and you may say that this N Pearson did manage to keep Leicester in the PL, and for that reason would be a good fit for Boro. However, his successor managed to guide the same team to the title one season later, which somewhat diminishes Mr Pearson’s achievements.

      If N Pearson is the answer, then please don’t ask the question.

      1. As I mentioned Smoggy, horses for courses. In project management I believe instead of having a singular manager to cover the beginning,middle and end of a project, a company could think out of the box and contract a specialist to start it off, then one to keep it running, then yet another specialist to close it down.

        This all of course would require a certain acumen and intelligence on behalf of the employer, which on too many occasions is sadly missing to the extreme.

        But then it’s not my problem 🙂

  32. I think Nigel Pearson’s reputation was on the up having gained some reflective glory for what Leicester did last season and also for their great escape the previous season.

    Once he was suspended by Derby, I think his career crashed and burned, too much controversy.

  33. I’m also “old school” as I prefer a tall keeper who commands the box and can deal effectively with crosses but they appear to be a dying breed.
    Such keepers transmit confidence throughout the team. This plus having good movement and pace is where Big Jack’s team differ from our current squad.
    Can we improve? Time will tell.

  34. “For me, the three best goalkeepers in the world are Casillas, Buffon, and Valdes.”

    — Former German international Bodo Illgner, 2013.

    1. Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona!

      Fairly safe and obvious claim there from Bodo. I would point out that was when Valdes was still playing for Barca, before his injury and subsequent obscurity with Man Utd and Standard Liege.

      Paul Gascoigne, Michael Reiziger and Ray Parlour were also arguably amongst the best in their respective positions before coming to Boro, as they say in the Financial world, past performance etc……….

  35. “We are in the position I thought we would be in,” Aitor Karanka told the Gazette, “fighting hard, knowing that every single point is going to be tough.

    “We need to be calmer on the pitch and have the consistency that we had last season and two seasons ago but to achieve that we need more experience.

    “We will get that experience by playing games and we have only played seven games in the Premier League so we have to keep going.

    “The foundations are good and we need to keep trusting this group of players.”

    Absolutely nothing to add in there. But I don’t like the international break. Even if Gareth is there to follow.

    Up the Boro!

  36. I see that lovely Cheeky Chappie Club from the East End has had a break-in into their luverrly Stadium, been accused of Sex Discrimination by their Ladies Football Team, warned by the Met about their fans behaviour and racist language for their forthcoming game at White Hart lane and their Stewards have walked out in protest at treatment from the Stadium owners LS185 leaving just 56 Stewards from 350 at the end of last season at Upton Park. All that in the last 48 hours.

    The Club and its new Stadium is now descending into farce, good job its not a Northern Club and that the FA love them for Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and of course Trevor Brooking. Still the Met Police say no injuries occurred on Saturday, so all can be ignored and swept under the plush FA carpets just like Tevez. I still remeber ‘Arry sticking his impartial oar into the 3 points debacle. Looking forward to the Telegraph getting stuck into this pile of dirt masquerading as a Sporting Club.

  37. The taxpayers bubbledome is a lovely athletics stadium and I feel sorry for the West Ham fans being forced to relocate to such an inappropriate footballing venue. Drinking among the Hammers fans before and after the game, they are fairly downcast about their owners and league position, but what can they do? They suggested a contributory factor to the absence of atmosphere on match day was all their pre-match rituals have had to be reinvented en masse and from scratch. I.e. everyone has had to find new prematch pubs and the available ones nearest the ground are branded, soulless spaces in the shopping centre.

    From my seat above where the bottle throwing was going on, unless the stewarding and policing improve it’s only a matter of time before there is a really serious incident. Although as an away fan it is customary to wail about being kept behind until the home fans disperse, this sensible practice would have been welcome instead of having to suffer the gauntlet of angry home fans held back by the flimsiest of thin blue lines.

    As for the game, well one point is one more than I’d pencilled in and I’d have taken it before kick off. In other words, we’re now only three points rather than four behind where I’d anticipated us being at this point of the season.

    However whenever we showed ambition and pushed forward West Ham seemed to wilt and though they hit the post, I felt with a little bit less caution we could have deservedly taken all three points home.

    Downing, George and Ben were solid. Stuani would be more effective be played through the middle with Rhodes/Negredo. Valdes’ dead ball delivery is atrocious. And apart from the corner that lead to our goal, so is that of the rest of the team.

    Although we’ve squandered some potential points, individually and as a team we seem to be improving. I’m cautiously optimistic.

  38. It seems that every home game that West Ham have played this season has had issues with trouble in one form or another and then you can add to that their previous history. With that as the backdrop I was staggered when I read tonight’s Gazette and read that parents have taken their 8 year old daughter to the game. I know you should be able to take kids to games, but I am sure not many people on this blog would have taken kids to this fixture.

    **AV writes: There are two entire generations of fans who have only experienced football as a family fun day out and it wouldn’t even cross their mind that going to a game – any game – could be a high risk activity. And that is how it should be. It is for the game’s authorities to quickly stamp out any sign of the knuckle-draggers’ return with massive fines and forcing teams to play behind closed doors, and if there are repeated offences, by points deductions.

  39. Decent point on Saturday. Thought if we’d shown a bit more ambition three points were there for the taking.

    Disappointed with the like for like substitutions when if we’d been a bit more adventurous we could have won the game. And before anyone suggests that if we’d opened the game up we may have lost id like to counter with the fact the substitutions appeared to lose any offensive cohesion we had and actually invited more pressure on to us. Attack being the best form of defence and all that!

    What I really wanted to talk about was the shambles after the game. The police, having to think on their feet rather than having a coherent plan. One line of police away from what would have been a massacre. The right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing. Leading all the fans to a train station where another load of West Ham fans were waiting to get them. All this while young children hugged their dads legs crying as grown men (I use the term men loosely) hurled obscenities at them and police men wrestled supposed fans to the floor in front of them.

    I was so upset. It shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Not least when it’s happened in pretty much every home game West Ham have had thus far.

    Imagine my shock then when I read the West Ham chairman claim that what had happened was normal and that things had been blown out of all proportion. If that’s not condoning the violence then I don’t know what is. For his comments alone he should be fined/banned for bringing the game into disrepute. Let him speak to the father of the six/seven year old boy who I saw sobbing his heart out with fear and tell me that what happened was fine.

    Absolutely disgusting!

  40. Gentlemen,

    The future does not bode well for us I’m afraid, unless we have a dramatic change. According to my chart we have dropped four points already [West Ham and Stoke] and we are destined statistically speaking to a total of 32!!

    In Division A – the big boys 7 teams , we are on target with no points.
    In Division B – the ICZ of the league 6 teams we are one up and one down so theorectically on target
    In Division C – the drop zone 7 teams including us, we have dropped four already.

    Our target was predicably 36 points with room for improvement however we are down to 32 already.

    Realistically our position belies the statistics and I would expect, based on current performances, that we will lose ground to those beneath us and suffer a slow painful exit from this glamour league over the next 6 months.

    The only thing that could change this point of view would be a steady change over the next 6 games, which was predicited only to bring us 2 points [the home games against Watford and Bournemouth]. To be on track for 36 points we would need to get 6 points from these 6 games a tall order indeed.

    Is it the manager, the squad or possibly the spread of fixures…. I dont have the answer nor an opinion, but we are indeed woefully unprepared for this league and it is going to be a painful ride.

    Conclusion? Maybe we build our squad knowing we will go down and then prepare for a bounce back of epic proportions with a 100+ points.

    Anyhow the spread sheet only tells it as it is, . . what is going to be depends the club itself.


  41. More thoughts on the controversy of appointing Nigel Person to non-vacancy at the Boro.

    No more controversial than when Cloughie got the boot after what was it 44 days. No more controversial that GS1 getting the push when his Boro team was ONE point off the top of the Championship and now of course the fates deem it necessary to put him in charge of the England senior squad and if I’m correct he’s won absolutely nothing with ANY team he’s managed – still it was reported that A Wenger said he was quite capable of managing the England senior team back in December 2007.

    Bye the bye, it was the decision to sack GS1 ‘in the best interests of the club’ by SG, that led to the club wandering 7 seasons up and down the country to Championship clubs’ stadium in often difficult weather conditions (ask AV and Len, they’ll tell you).

    Looks like some people at the top of the club are slow learners because we in effect lost a future England manager because of pyss poor management at the top.

    Cash seemed to be King! Planning was for others:

    SG: ‘Okay, this morning we’re going to look at the situation as to what we’ll do if the totally unexpected occurs – that is relegation!’

    Aschlock: ‘Oh, we’ll never get relegated SG (whimpering sucking up crawling sycophant speaks from slavering lips) You’re too great to be in charge of such a catastrophe.


    Administrative Controller: ‘Silence!!!’ – coz he’s CLUELESS!

    SG ‘Well chaps, whatdaya think????’

    Room descends into incomprehensible muttering.

    SG ‘ Hmmmmm! Time for a coffee, eh!’

    Repeat above ad infinitum when planning or change of any sort is called for.


    1. Sparta
      I keep telling you. Remember GS got us relegated, it wasn’t one of the cleaners, or maybe a ball boy, it was Gareth. Just to add insult to injury, every fan was sat there with his hands over his eyes for the last eight matches, with the wrecking ball coming our way. Five points from those eight, no, that’s not what we got, it’s what would have saved us, and we never got near five points.
      I hope and pray that he is the most successful England manager for many years, but consider the following. Very few managers start off rubbish, then astound the world with their brilliance. Life’s not that fair, they normally walk into their first club and shoot the lights out, get poached by a big club, and you can write the rest of the script yourself.

  42. Sam Allardyce renamed the wi-fi connection in his St George’s Park base ‘Big Sam’s office’ during his short reign as England manager.

    Says a lot.

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