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.
Continue reading Pace Sparks Spirit As Battered Boro Find Fight
STANLEY Park? Stanley knife! It is a very long time since Boro were sliced open so clinically by a razor sharp front-line.
The 3-1 defeat at Everton was a horror show that many fans back home would have watched through their fingers and from behind the settee. As a small screen slasher it should have been played after the watershed.
There must have been some confusion for armchair viewers as it clashed on the TV planner with You’ve Been Framed. Boro certainly had a few £250 clips in there of predictable slapstick laughter-tracked mishaps. Ironically it also clashed with Pointless. Boro never got as far as the head-to-head and were sent packing long before any X Factor made an appearance.
Worst still for Boro, it was another bloody repeat!
Continue reading Story of the Blues… Sorry Boro Bruised
AS THE referee skulked off the Riverside pitch amid a sonic boom of high-pitch whistling and booing it was hard to hear the alarm bells. But they were there.
Boro officials and fans – and Aitor Karanka – will come away from the reality check of a 2-1 defeat to a well drilled but unremarkable Palace pointing an accusing finger at the officials after two deafening but unrewarded shouts for what looked like obvious handballs. And to be fair, ‘you’ve seen them given.’
And had George Friend – who looked to be ring-rusty after his spell out injured – been a single stride faster at the death there could have been a third spot-kick shout with no grey areas as he was skittled over millimetres outside the box
Supporters may go away simmering at the standard of refereeing and the two missed moments that could have swung the game. Welcome to the Premier League.
Continue reading Palace Penalty Shouts Can’t Mask Alarm Bells
You may have been left slightly underwhelmed by the final day. You may be frustrated that Boro didn’t sign a Galactico after all the tabloid title tattle. The sole deadline day arrival was former Barcelona winger Adam Traore from Aston Villa.
But Boro have had a shrewd and successful transfer window: they have signed 11 senior players, have got value for money and, in the main, got them in early.
Look at the crazed closing hours trolley dash at the soccer supermarket and the hyper-inflated prices for average players you have barely heard of and think how much Boro saved by doing their business early.
Continue reading No Deadline Daze: Boro Did Good Business Early
COMATOSE neutrals across the nation snoozed on sofas. Affronted “purists” stormed out of the living room slamming doors behind as they went to find their hipster Ajax 74 Total Football DVD collection. And pundits with fear in their eyes groaned at the thought of digging out the “highlights” from 94 minutes of functional, glamour free grind.
Meanwhile metal merchants everywhere must have been surveying the screen avidly because if it was weighed in for scrap this match had hit pay dirt.
Welcome to the ‘Greatest League In The World’ and the start of yet another sizzling small screen soaraway Super Sunday subscription spectacular.
Continue reading Goalless Grind No Classic But Plenty Of Positives
Is it a derby then? Of course it is. It is from our end of the A19 hotbed corridor anyway.
And a famous one too: Boro’s first win on their return to the Premier League, against the neighbours and marked by two superb goals that have sizzled into folklore.
Smarting Sunderland fans are frantically spinning the “weez not bothered” line but it will hurt them to have been turned over in a superb battling Boro away day display.
Continue reading Mackem Weep: Derby Days Back With A Bang
Is the Sunderland game a derby? Only if we win.
A victory either way will prompt metaphorical jubilant hand gestures from an open – topped banter bus parade along the A19 on one side and furiously feigned *meh* “just another game” indifference on the other.
If either team take the three points it will spark either bouts of gleeful triumphalism or a series of history and geography lessons proving conclusively the result is irrelevant.
We all know the script, the scoreline just determines who plays which part.
Continue reading The Sunderland “Derby”… Another Cultural Cocktail
BORO showed they are fit for purpose in the Premier League on an emotional day at the Riverside. The new look team – four debutants – more than held their own against an organised and robust Stoke side that are the cliché “can you do it?” benchmark.
And they have a precious first point on the board after a solid 1-1 draw. That they failed to hold on for the full three may have been initially frustrating, but on balance most will be happy at drawing with the side who finished ninth last season.
But the day was about more than football. It was about Boro – the club, the crowd, the community – being delivered back to the big time after a long road to redemption. Boro are back up where we belong. That was the important thing. And so long as Stoke didn’t turn out to be party-poopers (there is always that ‘typical Boro’ fear) it was always going to be smiles all round.
Continue reading Riverside Redemption Ends Seven Year Exile
Aitor Karanka has admitted he would be happy with a 17th place finish next term. Ben Gibson would too. So would I – and I am routinely branded the spin-king of the ra-ras!
In truth the majority of Boro fans would probably willingly take a first season scrambled survival right now. That shows how quickly we are collectively rewiring ourselves for what will be a very testing Premier baptism of fire.
The Championship promotion pressure cooker was demanding and draining for fans, a gruelling emotional assault course with no let up that was excruciating for the final few months. Next season may prove to be just as psychologically intense but fought out at the opposite end of the table and in a very different mental landscape.
Boro – the manager, the players, the club and the supporters – will need to quickly bridge a culture gap and adjust to some harsh new realities.
Last term was spent trying to win every week. Next season will be about trying not to lose.
Continue reading Riverside Rewired Ready For The Next Big Step
TEESSIDERS know how to nurse a grudge, to feed and water it regularly and to nurture it until it sinks deep roots in a dense jungle of historic animosities.
Barely a day goes by without something rustling in the undergrowth, some seemingly remote movement tugging away at trailing tendrils that quickly connect to still smarting scars of grievance. A brief mention of Rick Parry on Sky Sports Premier League Years can make the hackles rise for instance. The dog hides if it hears a passing reference to Christian Ziege. Or, for some, Peter Beagrie in the studio for a televised Boro game can send them racing through the emotional gears. And that was 30 years ago.
So the news that Sunderland had growled at the FA over the approach to Sam Allardyce had some Teessiders swiftly simmering with retro-anger.
Continue reading Big Mac, Fat Sam and the FA Dug-out Handgrenade