A big club methodology for a small town in Europe

It’s no secret that Aitor Karanka is a disciple of the self-styled messiah and self-anointed ‘special one’ Jose Mourinho – in fact it is essentially the USP of the former Real Madrid number two, who spent three years as his apprentice learning the Mourinho methodology. For a club like Boro, having a manager who imitates the most successful coach in Europe is the nearest they will get to the real thing – but is it possible to get the whole package or is it even desirable to roll out a big club template on a small town in Europe?

In last Thursday’s press conference the issue of ‘Jose’ was raised and Karanka was asked if he still spoke to him regularly – at that moment the widest of smiles lit up Aitor’s face followed by a joyous sigh a nod of the head and the word ‘yes’ – he went on to say that Mourinho as always was a great help and they both share the same mentality, focusing 24 hours a day on their jobs as football managers.

There is something bordering on a cult with Mourinho and he himself has described the bond with those in his group as ‘forever is forever’ as in his eyes there’s no such thing as an ex-player as once you have played for the special one you are deemed ‘one of theirs’. This may stem from Jose’s belief in managing through charismatic leadership – something he admitted to actually working on as he often planned the performance-like nature of his touchline escapades to inspire the players and raise the supporters mood.

The Rules of the Game

One thing Karanka will have learned from his mentor is that everyone has to accept there is only one way to behave under him – his way! – And there are no exceptions.

It’s been documented that when Jose Mourinho first addresses the players after taking over at a club he will use the saying “you are either in the boat or off it”. He’s basically telling his squad you buy in totally or you are out. The rules are clear, Mourinho will promise to be direct and say what he means to their faces, gossip and leaks from the dressing room are not tolerated. It is quite likely that most managers will demand loyalty but the Mourinho template is perhaps more zealous – no doubt devotees and followers of his methodology, such as Karanka, will instill a similar regime.

This regime also extends to his staff and he will expect total devotion from his backroom staff, who it’s claimed are almost choreographed in their responses on the touchline – it’s said if Mourinho protests at a referee’s decision, they too must all protest. You can perhaps see similar things with Karanka, but he’s a little less of a showman than his former boss but having Leo on your bench probably more than makes up for that. Then your mind thinks back to ‘Higgy-gate’ who perhaps made a fatal mistake of seeing the referee’s side when he apparently apologised on Karanka’s behalf.

It may well be that Karanka has copied Jose’s style of leadership but is it imitation without the personality to carry it off? Mourinho believes in charasmatic leadership and has at his disposal all the attributes, mannerisms, humour and sharp wit and actually enjoys jousting with the press as it provides a stage to display his complete inner belief and arrogance – whereas Aitor appears to be a bit more reserved and less confident in front of the media. Perhaps he sometimes comes across as clumsy as he’s delivering his pre-planned lines in press conferences – sometimes they are just shoe-horned randomly into the conversation like he’s only there to make that point as a means of creating a distraction. The worry is that we sometimes get Jose Mourinho as manager by proxy!

Training and Tactics

In 2012, Karanka was part of a Real Madrid delegation that was giving a practical demonstration of Jose Mourinho’s methods of coaching at UCLA – it was attended by a football coach Gary Curneen on behalf on Just-Football.com, who wrote a rather interesting three part blog on his experiences. From what I previously read and heard of Karanka’s methods it pretty much appears to describe the template to which he bases his own methodology.

The selection of training exercises is always consistent with the style of play – naturally there can be no contradictions – with these training drills being carefully designed and practised over time until they become instinctive and automatic for the players. The objective is to create a “Play Culture” that is defined as players knowing exactly what their individual roles and the collective roles are within the team.

What was interesting is that training included specific exercises that practised patterns of play – such as how the team moved forward in a specific way as a unit by creating passing options – right-back to central defender to left back to advancing central defender etc – all very precise and methodical until the ball is released in the final third – sounds familiar? But perhaps it’s what happens in that final third where Boro are short on ideas and movement or indeed quality.

This to me puts into question any idea that a Karanka Boro can suddenly re-invent themselves into a more dynamic progressive team – they have presumably spent the whole season, and some cases several seasons being drilled with exercises to perform instinctively in the boss’s methodology and desired pattern of play.

For example, defensive organisation focuses on shape, marking patterns, and breaking the team into sections including how attacking players should press immediately after losing the ball. What we see emerge is how Mourinho has developed a methodology to instill into his teams the tools to think how he thinks as a tactician and strategist. It also allows other to follow his template but of course it will always be interpreted slightly differently by other coaches and the players themselves.

The natural conclusion is that players conform to the strategy and this is perhaps why we observe our forwards change their attention from looking to attack the ball and instead getting into the drilled defensive shape – perhaps this kind of training has gradually taken the instinctive edge off our forwards in terms of looking at goal opportunities and moved them to be part of a more strategic defensive structure.

The difference for Mourinho is that he generally works with world class players who have more explosive qualities and skills that can still manifest themselves within such tightly controlled structures. But I suspect for most player they simply don’t have the physical attributes or mental alertness to multitask to such degree that allows them to retain extra capacity to perform beyond the framework.

At the heart of Mourinho’s match preparation is the importance of thorough analysis of the opposition. It is something he learnt from Van Gaal, who it has been said is more obsessed by stopping the other team playing that getting his own to play. In fact Mourinho is even far more aggressive than his former mentor in that regard and has also learnt to pass this analysis on to his players in a more succinct method.

Detailed analysis, video clips, emails and even text messages are provided to individual players but they are designed to be short and sharp. At Real Madrid these were condensed down to two or three key video clips about the team they would next face and were played in a loop in the dressing room, medical room, gym and canteen during the week before the match. We know that this has also become part of Karanka’s pre-match methods for the players as every detail is carefully planned.

Darker Downside

One of the downsides to Mourinho’s approach is he prefers not to develop talent as he regards his methods are better suited to more mature players with a greater understanding of the game – though it’s possible for a big club with the riches to take that view but I suspect Karanka will have to work within his resources at Boro and also with players who are perhaps not as rounded in their development. In addition, big clubs can naughty-step good players who don’t buy in as they usually have other options, but if a club of our resources do the same they are somewhat reduced of options – plus there is also a general problem in attracting players for teams like Boro, something big clubs don’t share.

To some degree I think we’ve seen that a Mourinho methodology is also better suited to a big club who have match-winning players to bolt onto a highly organised unit – Yes Boro look organised but they lack the quality to explode in the last third or counter-attack with speed and precision. Boro don’t have either the players to deliver the quality ball or take the few half-chances that come their way – that may be so for whatever system we employ, but under Karanka a more direct approach has been frowned upon as it’s not part of the methodology – other clubs are not so fussy as a goal is still a goal.

Sitting underneath the carefully planned training sessions, tactical analysis and match preparation there is another side to the Mourinho method – a darker side. Part of the psychology is to also create controversy and stoke up tensions with the aim of making either his staff, players or even the board show that they are 100% behind him. Whilst this has shown to be an excellent short-term method of creating the desired siege mentality, which acts as a kind of energy-hit to gain that extra couple of percent when it’s needed, it does tend to gradually leave everyone mentally and physically exhausted.

Recently Fabio Capello claimed that Mourinho always “burns out” his players mentally within two years because of the intensity in his working methods. People also eventually get worn down from the constant friction created from the off-field activities and controversy. It’s not usually a problem for the Special One as his plan is usually to achieve his goals quickly and then move on to the next club – he’s always in demand as other clubs crave success at any cost. Though we saw in his last season at Chelsea what can happen once the players and staff grow tired of his games. One wonders if such an approach is particularly unsuited to a club like Boro who are looking probably for a more long-term sustainable model.

It has also been observed that such is the intensity of the training and match preparations that players eventually reach the point where they find it impossible to give the manager any more. Karanka’s solution to the current bad run appears to be that ‘we must work harder’, which comes on top of recent statements declaring that he, his staff and players are all working extremely hard. Perhaps Boro have just reached that ‘burn out’ point in the Mourinho methodology – notably our best performance recently came against Everton after a break in Benidorm – maybe we have just gone past peak Karanka-Boro and there is no more to give.

Boot or Reboot

It seems the Boro chairman has decided to give his manager more time to turn things around – but how easy will it be to change our style of play? The idea that Karanka can work on Boro playing in a more progressive manner is perhaps a tall order given how the players have been coached meticulously with session upon session to play a particular way. The Boro boss told the Telegraph recently that they had been working for 2-3 weeks on being more attacking – there has been no indication in the last two performances of this but maybe it has instead actually left the players mentally confused in the flux between their instinctive defensive template and the new more attacking version.

It’s quite possible that a new playing style will just take longer to manifest itself and require more sessions in training – but what do you think will be the tactics to face both Manchester clubs before the crucial relegation six-pointers? Yes, it’s highly unlikely we’ll try to outplay either of those teams so the next test run of Karanka-Boro Mk II will be in a month’s time. It may be that a new voice is required to change our fortunes as the players may have subconsciously and mentally shut down Karanka’s.

159 thoughts on “A big club methodology for a small town in Europe

  1. Very good article raising a lot of pertinent points.
    It is much easier to design and sell a template for managing or coaching if you have a track record of success, a la Mourinho. It is much more difficult if you do not have that.
    I think the key to it all, is player buy in. If you can get the players to be 100% behind your philosophy and mentality to some extent you can say and do what you want.
    But if, on the other hand, you have a very set methodology and it does not achieve what you want it to then it is very hard, once the wheels have come off, to turn it around, as Mourinho himself found at Chelsea last season.
    Players don’t become bad players overnight as Chelsea have shown this season, but once players start questioning the manager, start putting in only 95% rather than 100% it soon shows in terms of performance and results.

  2. Superb review and analysis Werder, possibly in line for a gong at the end of the year!
    Change is most certainly needed. Is it easier to change AK or the tactics, SG will no doubt have his own view on that. I doubt he will change for change sake as he will then be stuck with the incoming manager come the end of the season.
    My guess is that unless he can attract the next level up on management he will stick and risk going backwards especially as he knows recruitment has failed AK.
    Reading your blog it is perhaps clear that the Mourinho style and methodology is not a great fit for a smaller less attractive club especially going into a third year. It perhaps explains some of the fall outs and behind the scenes carrying ons.

  3. Great piece, Werder. It highlights a question I’ve been asking for a little while now. That being: There is no doubt Karanka is a talented coach, but is he the right coach for Boro?

  4. Hi Werder,
    An excellent read once again. Thank you.
    I wrote a post about managers on the previous thread but I guess it’s gone to the junk folder again. If it has, could you post it here? Thanks.
    I think the general point about the suitability of the Mourinho model at a club like Boro is a good one. I have previously posted that the style of play, if not management, is not best suited to us as a sustainable strategy. Ian has also commented previously that the style needs better players such as Pochettino enjoys.
    Of course, management style and strategy is just one facet. Arguably more important is how it is applied. It may be that the Mourinho/Karanka approach is well suited but has simply not been applied well enough, this season at least.
    🔴 Yes it’s waiting in spam folder again – must have upset the spam filter again

    1. Following on from Simon’s excellent Talking Point piece last week (which post-Stoke feels even more pertinent), and with comments around whether AK should be considered a success or failure thus far, I thought I’d revisit a long-ago post on what makes a top football manager. The six steps I would consider (in no particular order) are:
      1. Hard work – researching players and opposing teams tirelessly
      2. Tactical knowledge and intelligence – understanding how the opposition are trying to hurt you and how that can be countered. Maximising your team’s strengths, minimising weaknesses
      3. Man-management/personal skills – getting your point across in a way that engages your players. Inspiring your players to be the best they can be and make the most of their skills
      4. Skills coaching – improving the abilities of your players
      5. Transfer/financial aptitude – identifying players who can enhance your team and bringing them in on budget
      6. PR/Media skills – working media channels to your team’s advantage and engaging supporters
      How does AK fare against that criteria? A mixed bag I think:
      Hard work? Yes.
      Tactics? Partly. AK has certainly made defence a strength.
      Man-management? Partly. There have been those like Leadbitter who have clearly bought into Karanka and respond to his man management. There are notable others who quite clearly have not
      Skills coaching? Again, partly. The transformation in players like Friend has been remarkable. More attacking players have almost all struggled.
      Transfers? In the new world there is diminished responsibility on the manager in this area. But with the resources that have been made available, it is hard to make a case that we have made maximised, or even come close maximising, that spending in AK’s time.
      PR/Media skills – mixed but again not great. Karanka seemed to buy into the club and the area and initially talked only about winning. It was a bright start. But there have been some ridiculous outbursts too. Is that a sign that previous endearing comments were simply a facade, or is it more that Karanka snaps under pressure? It will be interesting to see later in AK’s career if such outbursts are a personality trait, ala Mourinho, or if he manages his emotions better with experience.
      🔴 I’ve overwritten this comment with your lost post so it doesn’t get missed – although you could see it when I de-spammed it, it was awaiting approval so nobody else actually sees it – werdermouth

  5. Many thanks for the great feedback on the latest piece guys, I had the thought yesterday evening and started looking into the whole methodology and decided to sleep on it and wrote it up this morning.
    I’m concerned that by the time we know whether Karanka and the team can regroup and address the problems it will probably be too late to make any substantive changes – this methodology is perhaps too ingrained now to change radically this season, if at all, under Karanka.

  6. Werder
    Do you actually go to sleep, a top read?
    A few ideas around the topic. We know that AK and Pochettino are friends and I believe took the badges together. They have similarities in their approach but Spurs are better all over the pitch. You do things his way at Spurs. I was astonished when he sent Townsend up the road but did he fit the system at Spurs under Poch?
    Koeman has a similar approach, Barclay knows that only too well. Delafeulo (?) looked a real star for the future, bit of a maverick, out.
    I listened to a Soton player talking about the recent turnaround at the Saints. The manager had gone back to the tried and tested approach in place before he came. The previous coaches were Pochettino and Koeman. Southamton are not a huge club.
    At Chelsea, Conte is no disciple of all out attack. His players stick to the system, there is no flexibility, he also naughty stepped Costa.
    The vast majority of coaches overseas last a couple of years at a club at most. They are given the players and have to coach them. Then they leave.
    Maybe it is just that time.

  7. It’s not unusual, in fact, quite common for managers to do away with mavericks if they feel they can no longer be counted on, no matter how popular or talented they are. I point you to this quote…
    “He was a smashing lad, but too fond of the good life for the manager’s liking… He was a very good player, versatile and devastating on his day. He just wasn’t hard enough, mentally, for what was becoming a much harder business.”
    The “he” in question is Lee Sharpe – the topic is his move away from Old Trafford in 1996.

  8. Postscript.
    Many thanks, Andy, for the praise.
    Now for something I’ve also noticed, that may have stalled our momentum. Prior to Leicester and Negredo’s double, Everton was our only defeat on the road, and we had commendable performances at West Ham, City and Arsenal to build on.
    Following that late, late concession, our away form has turned upside down. W0 D1 L6 with just one goal scored.
    Were you being optimistic, you could say that our home form has somewhat elevated since – W5 D3 L2, and two of the three draws could easily have been wins but for Gaston’s wastefulness and Robles’ super save. But if you take the cup out of the equation – as you really should – it looks a lot less promising.

  9. I speak as an early supporter of AK, when he came we desperately needed organisation, fact, he gave us just that.
    I enjoyed seeing a team that delivered a product on a weekly basis
    – Did it deliver? Yes, we finally scrambled out of the champ.
    – Did I mind the occasional casualty(think Lee Tomlin) no, on balance a bit of discipline is a good thing
    So, what am I complaining for now? My reason is, I think, a good one.
    When a manager is on the rise, we as fans are entitled to take the view that he will cope well when harder tasks come along.
    So we forgave him when (three times) in the champ he picked a team off the wall, and sent out a team undercooked and unprepared for the big one, the match that is going to tell the main opposition that it’s time is up.
    This season, he has done the same. Even though the bottom fishers have realised that to play us is a rest from the hurly burly of the Prem, i.e. they can spend the afternoon attacking us, nice for their fans, the draw is there for them, plus they may(make that will) score.
    Yet still, even with that scenario, when confronted with the really desperate teams he, for no discernible reason chooses to field a team with six changes, no block defence to enrage them, no flooding the midfield, no attempt to challenge the fates, no fire in his team, just acceptance of our fate. This, combined with his rather foolish statements to the national press which reflect no credit whatsoever on us, taken together means that he must go.
    The remaining twelve games are way too valuable to be wasted on him. By the time the season is over we can be on an even keel and ready to take our place in the champ. And please do not sell Jordan, he is needed and we will not be able to sign him again.

  10. Is there an argument for AK to stay? We all learn from our mistakes and one could look at Burnley as an example of what could be done.
    It’s a huge learning curve and could AK come away from this with valuable experience that , if he leaves, we could be losing out on?

  11. According to AV on the recent video, the Jordon Rhodes deal is done and dusted, just never got finalised before the deadline so I don’t think we an cancel it.
    Come on BORO.

  12. I see Zlatan Ibrahimovic ha got a 3 match score ban and misses the BORO game, now all we have to do is worry about the other 10 lol.
    Come on BORO..

  13. Great piece, and on the surface, you cant question the logic. However are we really comparing Karanka and Boro to some of europes elites. We are so far behind, these and most in the premiership, it can’t be.
    I think Karanka is trying to put in place a culture which in time, can sustain a position where we might be an Everton or W. Ham, but for now there is absolutely no way we can or should.
    The tactics themselves are fine, but it depends on very skillfully players in the last third, those that can see a pass quickly or can go past defenders easily, remember Gaston’s against Bournemouth?
    We will go down because we have a squad not good enough, why? That’s up for discussion. However if the management is smart, and we make the right signings, we should have decent resources, then we can be better than were we are now.
    I can’t see someone out there I’d want as manager, instead of Karanka, if there is fair enough, but who? Most have been sacked before themselves.

    1. GT –
      There is a minor problem which occurs when someone is building a team for you using common sense and a fair amount of skill. It’s entirely possible for that person to search for hidden gems and young players with potential, and appear to be making good progress.
      But there are hidden traps for the unwary, if the team you are building turns out to be composed of medium sized players throughout, and you get to the prem. Then you will find that you struggle, because the managers in the prem. Insist that they have some very large units in their teams and that does make a difference, because push always comes to shove when the chips are down, unfortunate I know but best to face it and start collecting some very big units ourselves.
      Man utd beat us because their big unit, when all was lost resorted to heaving the ball forward and crashing into our six yard box, anyone who got in his way was trampled underfoot, it worked.
      West ham, same story, their big Unit was not even fit, made no difference, by the time he staggered off legless, the damage was done.
      Bournemouth knew what would happen when they went to Man Utd last weekend so they fielded a defender as large and strong as the home striker, with instructions to stand no nonsense and really dish it out to him, hot and strong. You saw the result, a draw, and both penalised for rough play.
      There is a lesson to be learned there, are we up for it?

  14. I wonder what happens to players who’ve been coached to play to such a strict methodology when they’re transferred to another club. Do their new managers have to work harder with them to get them to play a different way, than players from club’s who are more flexible in their coaching plans?

  15. For Dogs sake here’s hoping SG delivers AK my preferred breakfast cereal tomorrow morning.
    Not Cornflakes, Rice Crispies or Wheetabix, but Cheerios.

  16. Martin
    Look at the examples of managers I mentioned in the last post. There wont be a huge amount of difference between how they prepare the team.
    They all have analysts and recruitment teams and sports scientists and modern training grounds.
    Sean Dyche isn’t shouting attack, attack, attack, attack, attack at his players.
    They have the lowest possession stats, the highest ‘big’ chance conversion rate and the keeper with the most saves. They are also well clear of us at the moment.
    AK is wedded to his style of football, we don’t have the skill set to play as well as Spurs or Everton or even Swansea now they are back on track but their managers are schooled the same way as AK.
    The difficulty is have we the skill set to play a different way?
    I don’t know, the problem was that when we played with two holding midfield players we were overrun.
    A tricky one.

    1. Ian
      Just a quick point, unfortunately it’s a big one.
      None of the bottom fishers have, or ever will, rack up stats like ours.
      It hurts to speak them or read them.
      The never ending, no shots, no goals, no one in the box,
      This tells a dreadful tale, and foretells a worse future.
      Awful fact time, Shearer(whom god protect) very quietly, many weeks ago, spelt it out, the number of goals are a factor of the number of shots you have, and he was referring to us
      The above is and has been a result of our manager persisting in a failed tactic.
      No hard luck stories, no, ‘we will improve’, no,’ I will turn it round’
      He goes, or we go, into the champ.

  17. Hi Everyone just an update from Middlesbrough Supporters Forum for your information and consideration!!
    Quote ”
    Further to your email to attend the Middlesbrough Supporters Forum, as promised I raised the matter at our recent meeting.
    We all felt that the current Middlesbrough Supporters Forum constitutes a well-balanced organization that is truly representative of a cross section of the views of the majority of Boro fans.
    You will understand that we can’t invite everyone who contacts us to our meetings as they would become unmanageable, but you will be pleased to know that we will be launching an interactive website where you and your followers will be able to have input along with other Boro fans.
    Thank you for your interest in the MSF and please feel free to contact me if you have any substantive issues you would like the MSF to bring to the attention of Middlesbrough Football Club.
    Best wishes
    Chris Joseph
    I don’t think I need to comment on this do I !

      1. I’m going to express our disappointment of our 872 bloggers and our recent 4013 posts over the past two months representing views of Boro supporters and sponsors and advertisers in over 31 countries

    1. I suspect those with a touch of reality, within Middlesbrough Football Club, will be well able to read the contents of this Blog, and will therefore be aware of the substantive issues that arise in our discussions.

      1. I would guess they read the others and then save this until last to get a bit of a more reasoned if still unpalatable at times debate.
        I’m not so sure that there is a lot to be gained from the above forum of any real value other than a corporate tick in the box for supporter involvement.
        Have to say “well balanced” and FMTTM made me chuckle (with apologies to those who post on there who try and gave a civilised debate before the third response calls into question their parents marital status).

    2. OFB,
      I think that they have a problem with themselves already. AS wWerdermouth a polite reply to their non-reply indicating that we don’t need them to joints. We are stronger without them.

  18. A fantastic read Werder and well thought through and researched.
    It gives a interesting perspective on why AK maybe hasn’t been the best fit for Boro.
    I remember someone saying that all managers have a shelf life at a club unless they re invent themselves.
    It may be too late for AK and Boro but who knows, ever the optimist although my sensible head says not.

    1. Boro
      I fear that the club are twiddling their thumbs and hoping it will go away.
      It won’t. The failure to draw to an end this embarrassing episode is frightening, especially with a big cup tie at home coming up. What are they thinking of?
      All sorts of clubs do the necessary when these situations arise, why must we be different?

  19. Thanks once again for your responses I’ll try to reply to some of the points.
    Paul – I think one of the difficulties of changing your approach with the same group of players would be is the loss of credibility in admitting they are not working as credibility is usually the currency to which a manager retains authority – i.e. if you were wrong before maybe you are wrong now. It’s far easier just to change players and evolve than embark on revolutionary change.
    RR – Yes when it comes to deciding on the next manager, Steve Gibson will need to take on board what worked and what didn’t – going for another inexperienced manager may be a risk if their ideas don’t match what the club can deliver.
    Andy – I think it’s always important not to try and transpose a template because it worked somewhere else – you need it to work with the players at your disposal in the context of the type of club you are at. Some aspects will no doubt transfer better than others – but unless you understand the negative implication too you may be heading up a cul-de-sac.
    Ian – I agree with much of what you said – managers tend to have a shorter period these days to make it work and they share similar methods but perhaps are not too wedded to an ideal – Interestingly Pochettino is regarded as having taken Mourinho’s methods to the next level and is able to play a more expansive game with his approach.
    Captain Cook – For sure people can learn from their mistakes but Karanka will first have to realise what mistakes have been made – he still thinks the model works but it’s the application that is wrong – he may never have in his possession the players that can execute the plan to his satisfaction.
    GT – my general point is that the Mourinho methodology has only really been proven at big clubs – I wonder if Karanka has been too literal in how he has transferred it to Boro. Clubs of Boro’s size and resources can’t address the issues by buying the type of players that make that approach work in bigger clubs – we perhaps don’t get those small percentage gains that Mourinho methods are designed to create and instead become less effective through not having the right level of players to execute the plan.
    Boro Becky’s Dad – yes it may well just be that Karanka has reached the point where the players have grown tired of his voice – at some point it happens to all managers – especially when they are experiencing a downward curve. Sir Alex managed to rebuild teams and keep winning but most other managers will at some point reach their shelf life

    1. Interesting that our former Blogmeister is retweeting my tweets of your posts Werder
      Mind it was a great article !!
      @davison_robin: A big club methodology for a small town in Europe – Diasboro
      anthony vickers
      Retweeted your Tweet.
      A big club methodology for a small town in Europe – Diasboro diasboro.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/a-b…
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      Twitter, Inc. 1355 Market Street, Suite 900 San Francisco, CA 94103

  20. Plato
    Don’t confuse what I think about the general picture in football with AK in particular.
    I agree Pochettino has taken it a step further, it is probably easier with Kane, Ericson, Ali et al. Just like Jose has gone to ManU and is turning them around but he was struggling at Chelsea.
    All this though is merely a side show to ourselves. it is all academic and navel gazing. The key is we are in the drop zone.
    People shouldn’t think that if AK leaves we will suddenly become a Chelsea.
    John Harvey-Jones had a view, paraphrased, that if you change you may have got it wrong, if you don’t change you have got it wrong.

  21. Stop me if you’ve heard me say it before but it was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Now despite being told at school that he wouldn’t amount to much, he had a fair few brain cells up there!

  22. Is there a rumour of some big announcement intended by Boro tomorrow?
    I read it somewhere but now can’t find where I saw it (doing too many things at once!).
    Anyone else know about this?
    Great piece, by the way, Werder.

  23. Werder
    Twitter has gone mad about your post you’ve really hit a nerve
    Apart from being retweeted by Jarkko and Anthony Vickers it’s been liked by loads and retweeted even more!!!
    Expect some people registering to the site
    Well done

    1. Yes, I saw too that AV retweeted the link. Well done to Werder!
      BTW, chatted with AV a couple of weeks ago. He told that he visits here only occasionally. He told he was 24/7 in the social media with Boro for over ten years. So he was physically getting done by it all. While he enjoyed it, it also become a burden for him and his family.
      Up the Boro!

  24. Ian….6.21. You say that when we only used two MFielders we were overrun. I think you will find that we won more points with two than three in the midfield.
    Goals scored has been the biggest problem. How many have we scored in the last ten or since Xmas or whenever?

  25. Sat in Germany tonight watching the Arsenal/Bayern game and during the first half when Arsenal had their tails up my German colleague remarked why Arsenal didnt play like that before in the first leg.
    Even the riches that Wenger has isn’t enough for them to turn up every game and be consistent so no wonder Boro swing from mediocre to bleedin awful.
    Then of course the second half was an unrecognisable Arsenal and an unrecognisable Munich. Granted the sending off tipped the balance but it was interesting how Munich after being under pressure all first half changed tactics and defended from the front literally.
    They chased, harried, hassled and closed down the Arsenal defence as they were trying to play the ball out and inevitably started panicking and making mistakes and were picked off and picked apart.
    I was just thinking how enjoyable it would be for AK to radically change his game plan and defend with 7 players in the opposition half!
    From 1-0 down to winning 5-1. Great for the neutral to watch and all achieved by defending from the front, no wonder we are last on MOD.

  26. Gt said
    ‘The tactics themselves are fine, but it depends on very skillfully players in the last third, those that can see a pass quickly or can go past defenders easily, remember Gaston’s against Bournemouth?’
    Surely if the tactics are fine and yet you don’t have the correct players to implement the tactic then by logic the tactics need to change!!
    I watched Everton vs spurs the other day. Everton started with a 4-3-2-1 to try and stifle Tottenham. It was a tight game till Tottenham scored and then Koeman quickly realised he needed a greater attacking threat as 4-3-2-1 was great for suffocating a game but not when you’re behind.
    He hauled off a midfielder and put another attacking midfielder on and lo and behold they started creating more chances. AK doesn’t even change personnel till at least the 75th minute let alone his formation!!

  27. Its great to see how Diasboro moves from strength to strength. The level of debate is high, the comments informative and we seem, by and large, to be free of the petty insults that dog so many other blogs (sorry mr Parker – no offence intended). The latest article perfectly encapsulates the problem between trying to impose best practice without realising exactly or at least having available what is needed by way of personnel to implement the philipsophy.
    I was heading in a slightly different but similar direction by comparing Boro in a three five two set up and Chelsea in the way that they set up. You could argue that our back three stands up fairly well and Friend and Fabio could make strong wingbacks. You could even suggest that Negredo is a poor mans Costa. Then you would suggest that De Roon was bought to be Konte and that’s when things start to go wrong. We just don’t have Hazard, Pedro, Willian , Fabregas or even Matic to create. Thus, our whole structure falls apart because we can’t score. This seems completely self evident and the big failing this season is the January window. From that point on, it’s been a disaster.
    Anyway, it looks as if I and a number of others who suggested that Steve Gibson will wait before acting may be right. Is there any hint of a mentor on the horizon and who that could be? Arsene Wenger may be available sooner than people thought. But seriously, what qualities would such a person need?

    1. As far as I could glean from whispers and nudge nudge, the plan A I previously mentioned was to bring in an experienced manager with knowledge of the Premier League until the end of the season.
      But, as have posted previously as time has gone on that has been deemed unworkable due to the number of games left and the probability that it is best to remain as status quo.
      Rockliffe all over the world !

  28. My word, Werder, what a wonderful post.
    To spin it on a different direction, what would we do in Steve Gibson’s shoes?
    Specifically, we have some bloggers with experience of management, some of higher management. Having no experience of that myself, I’m curious and interested to know, how they would solve the problem of Karanka?
    OFB – re: the previous thread. Loved the Dad’s Army and The Kelly’s Heroes reference.

    1. Chris, I have run companies of a reasonable size over the years with responsibility for well over a thousand people in several of them.
      Many times managers have come to me to discuss members of their own management team or their staff who they feel are not performing and thereby impacting the performance of their unit as a whole. My advice was always that if the situation has deteriorated to the point where the manager in question felt it needed to be escalated to me then the only solution was to let the non-performing individual go.
      Often the manager would insist that the individual should be given another chance or several chances partly because nobody likes sacking anyone (and rightly so) and partly because they truly believed that the individual’s performance could improve.
      Alas, this is invariably not what happens. In nine times out of ten, the manager struggles on with the non-performing individual for months or even years until eventually comes to the point where it is completely obvious that the decision has to be finally taken to remove him or her.
      In the interim, the impact of retaining the non-performer has seriously and negatively affected the performance of the department or team involved and prevented them from achieving their goals.
      Sound familiar?

  29. I imagine footballers like the rest of us want to feel satisfaction in their jobs and if their creativity is stifled by being over regimented and nervous about not following the bosses rules and regulations to the letter, then you eventually just become demotivated and go through the motions or rebel and risk getting the chop.
    Boro’s woes are very similar to the Rugby league club I follow in Sydney, won the competition in 2010 under a strong disciplined coach (but an exceptional man manager). He left in 2011 replaced by the assistant coach, who was a disaster, the club even announced at half time in a game (where we were getting flogged) that they had extended his contract. Eventually after the fans showed their displeasure he was sacked.
    Replaced by another novice coach (ex-player) who relied on defence above anything, this worked for a while but the players could not keep up the intensity and we played the most boring structured game and we couldn’t score for love or money. Fans screaming blue murder again and wanting the coach to be sacked at the end of last season. The club announced that a review of all football matters would be carried out. The result? a committee would oversee all facets of the team and rumours are that he had six weeks of the new season to get his act together.
    The first game of the new season saw us play the team who are favourites to win the title, while we are tipped by many experts to finish last. The result we won 42-10, seven tries to two (last season we averaged 1.47 tries per game and if the other team scored more than 2 tries then we were no chance). The team started like men possessed, no structure, played ad-lib football and reacted to any opportunities, fast pacy punchy football, glorious to watch. Even the coach who last season blamed all and sundry for the teams misfortunes and had a permanent scowl was smiling !
    Sorry for the drawn out story but just shows what can happen when the shackles are released.

  30. AK and Boro hit a barrel run of not scoring a goal for several matches during his first year in charge. As I cannot recall the details, how did we come out of the that? Did we change the formation or what? Please remind.
    Up the Boro!

    1. Jarkko
      As. Fellow twitter user I would suggest you use Twitter and search for Borostats
      All you need to do is tweet a question and they tweet the answer back.
      It’s great

  31. Chris
    A quick reply before I head to work. I have some limited experience of management and been fortunate to have been on some very good training courses on the subject.
    Not so relevant as to what SGs predicament is but general management, more at AKnlevel perhaps?
    So, I have a few observations as to what I have done. Part of it is playing to strengths and managing different people in different ways. Some want micro management, others don’t, a bit like Cloughie. Either an arm around the shoulder or a telling off. Even both as required!
    Don’t try and make people do things your way if what they do works and brings results – as long as it is ethical and meets company policy.
    Don’t think that you have all the answers, ask the guys on the front line what they think about an issue, they are closer.
    As a riule, I tried not to ask or tell, them to do do something that I wasn’t prepared to do or had done.
    Praise in public, castigate in private.
    Maybe AK does some of things, However, I suspect not, which is why he appears to have lost the players support.
    As for SG, in business you need to make tough decisions that don’t please people. I suspect his tough decision is that keeping AK is better option despite the fans not being happy. However, I would that he has made it very clear to AK what he expects.
    Football is a funny business where the manager gets large rewards for failure and getting sacked!

  32. Many thanks to OFB, Jarkko and AV for tweeting the link to the article – as a result we nearly doubled our visitors for an average day and had the most people coming to the site since launch day – and thanks again to everyone for their appreciative comments – so no pressure for the next one then…
    The real bad news is that Arsenal failed spectacularly in their bid to overturn their 4-0 deficit in the Champions League, so I will miss out on my planned Boro game when I’m over at Easter to visit now it’s confirmed on Monday evening – In the words of Jose ‘I’ll be in the boat’ and on my way back home.
    Seriously 10-2 was not even remotely close – so that probably rules Wenger out of being the next Boro manager 🙂 Incidentally Bayern managed as many goals in their tie against Arsenal as Boro have managed to score in all their 17 PL games since they last faced Man City way back on Bonfire night – we could certainly do with some fireworks now though!

  33. Werdermouth,
    That is a frightening statistic! Going back to a previous post if you don’t shoot you have no chance of scoring. If you don’t get into a position where you can shoot you have no chance at all.
    We need to have go, that phrase again, play the odds like Burnley.
    Great article/thesis/essay Werdermouth. Well in advance of local ‘reporting or insight’

  34. Paul
    I know what de Broyne would have done with the passes over the top de Roon ,had on Saturday or the last minute chance at Spurs he had, those misses weren’t tactics .

  35. Great piece Werder and shame about the Arsenal result just make sure you look at the fixtures for your next visit and pick a weekend when the game is unlikely to be moved. Home to Fleetwood should be a safe bet 😉
    As for Karanka when you have a manager who is so set in his ways with shape and tactics and is unable to change things mid match when it’s all going wrong then I cannot see him suddenly doing a U turn and have us playing a different way and more attacking. What we’ve seen in the last 3 years is what you get,hes chopped and changed the squad with a huge turnover of players to try and get his system to work. You could argue it worked last season,just,against poorer opposition but in the Premiership it and him have spectacularly failed.
    I was really surprised SG didn’t part company the Karanka and his gang on Monday after the last two shocking displays. Will only relegation seal their fate?
    If we go down there is no guarantee we will go straight back up look at Norwich and Villa this season.
    SG is taking a big risk,the next two games cup Man City and league Man Utd are likely to be losses then we have the three most important games of our season away to Swansea Hull and home to Burnley. Had SG sacked Karanka the new guy could have had a couple of weeks to work with the squad before the crucial games!
    SG Kenyon and Bausor were all down at Rockcliffe last Wednesday all day and at the game on Saturday. Surely they can’t all be blind and deaf as to what is going on,the fans increasing discontent,the players performances getting worse under Karanka and the man himself looking clueless on the touch line and his ridiculous post match statements in interviews!
    Parachute payments aside surely SG can’t be happy at the prospect of relegation plus making no fight of it and being ridiculed by every commentator and media analyst for our negative performances!!

    1. I guess my hopes of a PL Riverside visit may well have gone for a Burton – which coincidentally may be may be our next opponents come my next half-term visit at the beginning of October.
      I think the club may be over-relying on your record watching Boro when on crutches to see us safe this season 🙂

    1. Thanks John, I’m quite into doing the graphics but it does mean I’ve created a bit of extra work for myself (as usual) – though sometimes they can actually inspire the writing process while I’m looking for an approach. That was actually graphic number 30 – so time seems to have soon rattled by since we got up and running.

  36. Pedro
    You can break the season down in to 3 parts.
    In the first 8 games we got 6 points and conceded 11 goals largely with two in midfield.
    The next 9 we got 12 points conceding 8 goals largely three in midfield.
    The subsequent ten games have yielded 4 points, the rot set in when we only got 1 point over Xmas.
    It is in January that Gaston left the building mentally, George was injured.
    Was it us getting used to the top flight then them sussing us out?
    Is it post Xmas slump? AK’s rigid philosophy? Is it lack of recruitment? Imbalance in the squad?
    It is likely to be a blend of those and many more. That is why I raise these issues, I don’t want the debate just to degenerate in to AK bashing, we need to look at the wider picture because AK may leave but the other issues will still be there.
    It is likely it is a blend of all those. AK leaving may well invigorate the team, it isn’t guaranteed.
    Leicester dispensed with Ranieri but they still had Vardy and Mahrez and a title winning squad who had done well in the Champions League.
    Swans sacked Bradley and brought in Clements who made a bit of a pigs ear at Derby but they had a good premiership squad.
    Palace brought in Sam but they had a premiership squad including the likes of Townsend, Zaha, Benteke.
    Personally I think it looks like it is time for Gibbo to give it serious thought. I thought it may have happened on Monday then had a rethink.

    1. The timing is as good as it gets as we only have one league game left this month. As I have said before for me the FA Cup is a distraction and like as not our interest in it will end on Saturday

  37. +1 for the excellent post and debate.
    I also thought the decision was “sure” to come on Monday. We can forget the cup game, and a new boss would have a good lead in period to work with the team prior to the 3 crucial games. Plus any new manager bounce may have seen us pull off an upset against Man Utd.
    My concern with AKBoro and Boro in general is that we have a frequent history of going missing in big games, especially those away from home. Whilst AK has at times turned us into untypical boro, there are games that stand out (Bournemouth away in their promotion year, Norwich play off final, Palace/Stoke this season) where we simply didn’t turn up. 3 crucial games, away at rivals? Will the players be mentally ready? Are they too fatigued by AKBoro? Is a change the only way to unlock the enthusiasm once more?
    Questions questions questions. And yet from Boro and SG, silence.

  38. Cup game now goes to extra time and penalties and the use of a fourth sub in extra time.
    That’ll be us 1.0 down and Karanka will bring a defender on in the 119th minute 😉

  39. Right everybody, I’m struggling to keep up with reading all these fabulous posts, never mind trying to contribute. Go away for a day or so and there is a lot to catch up on.
    A few weeks ago, I asked Werder if he ever relaxes and he replied that this was his relaxation but the effort he puts into relaxing is phenomenal. His input is always detailed and thought provoking.
    I struggle to put a few lines together so I take my hat off to him and all the regulars who post match reports (thanks RR) and eloquent, reasoned arguments or discussion points.
    I’ll try and keep up with you all and continue to throw in the odd thought as and when my chaotic domestic arrangements allow.

  40. Werder, be careful. After three years you could be treated like AK! Even NGUOB can turn against you.
    Just joking. Keep up the good work. Up the Boro!

  41. Just on the wider issue of a point that has been made by many people, which is based on what Karanka has previously done for Boro he doesn’t deserve to be dismissed – it’s also a similar point made about Ranieri at Leicester.
    I think in general nearly all managers work extremely hard doing their best for their clubs and I would say very few have actually done something that could be construed as deserving the sack (to give it the more emotive description).
    So I think the thought of whether a manager deserves to stay or be dismissed should be avoided as making an emotional decision is probably not going to be the best decision – unless you have problems living with the decision yourself.
    The chairman should only decide what is the best course of action for the club given the likely outcomes – which no doubt is not that simple to decide as it’s not possible to know what will actually happen in the future one way or the other.
    Any decision made will only be vindicated (or not) retrospectively but if you keep waiting until the decision is either made for you or the circumstances that you have sought to avoid have happened then you’ve failed as a decision maker.
    Clearly Steve Gibson is the one person who truly is in possession of all the facts to make that decision – the rest of us just put forward our personal take from someone looking in.

  42. Werder
    I agree with that, it is a matter of not what AK has done in the past but what he can do over the coming weeks.
    I am very wary of crediting one person for everything be it good or evil. As far as I am concerned the only thing that matters is what is best to keep us up.
    I had a listen again at a podcast on the other place and they debated the squad and Ramirez.
    Phil T was adamant that in December the squad was good enough to finish 16th/17th, Ramirez had four or five cameos that got us enough points.
    If he could do the same second half of the season we would be fine.
    That is the flaw in Phil’s argument. The problem is Gaston has left the building so you are not going to get those cameos, we didn’t bring in anyone who could.
    You cant just go out and get them in the window and in any case that has passed but that doesn’t help our current position.
    Who is going to provide the spark? Or do we need to be more like Burnley with two banks of four?
    Have we got the wherewithal to play 4141 with the four pushing on to support Negredo?
    We are running out of chances to try something, at least Saturday is the cup.

  43. Ian
    You’re right. We’re running out of chances to try anything or anyone else to provide a spark.
    Just a constant reminder of what Len, RR and myself observed at the close of the Summer window, that we were stuffed if something happened to Ramirez.
    I hope AK can come up with something.

  44. This site deserves some sort of literary award. Our fantastic contributors have raised this site from the ashes of Untypical Boro to something even better. Our main contributors inspire the rest of us mere mortals to raise our contributions.
    In short we should all be immensely proud of the great camaraderie and the Boro worldwide family we belong to.
    Long may it flourish and grow in stature.(unlike the Gazette which is a shadow of its former self )
    Ladies and Gentlemen I salute you. 🍺🍺🍺
    Lets hope the Boro can inspire us also.🏆

  45. Steely
    I must admit I didn’t say without Ramirez we would be stuffed but certainly my views on that window are well known, shortage of creativity, not overly impressed with the business done. It amounts to the same thing.

  46. Most people were convinced that Gaston was the glue between midfield and attack last season and it was probably he more than anyone who transformed a team that to be fair struggled in the last third before his arrival – his arrival was even the catalyst for Albert to show some of his best form and he subsequently gained an extra yard of pace.
    That is what we lacked this season in the January window – someone who came in to give the team a lift – with all due respect to Gestede, Bamford and Guedioura – they arrived as essentially squad players. Let’s not forget Rhodes also arrived in the same window as Ramirez – so we got a huge kick forward from those signings.
    Instead this season we got the Gaston transfer request, Downing being told he could leave and all of Karanka’s main targets fall through – on top of that was attack-gate and the continued slump.
    It was probably only the FA Cup games that have kept the crowd from turning earlier – two league goals this year in eight games and none since January has been nothing short of a disaster. You can’t just let the message of ‘this is where I expected Boro to be’ stand unchallenged – it almost says ‘I expected my team to have this eight game run’ it’s just nonsense.

    1. Spartakboro :
      Horlicks ? I’ll prefer to go for morelicks 🐕
      Or maybe Hot Chocolate as we say to the opposition : ‘So you win again’.
      Ian Gill :
      Since the gastric band we haven’t the stomach for the fight.
      It’s certainly giving me indigestion & in my best Scottish accent :
      I kidney agree more, our season is going belly-up.

    1. Re caption :
      JM : “Hey AK I’ve a itchy nose”.
      AK : “What a coincidence ’cause so have I”.
      🔴 Just a reminder that house rules discourage even the dyslexic use of the f-word as it’s still read in the same way in the end – Werdermouth

  47. The club’s a shambles, the team a pathetic excuse, the manager a bioptic control freak. We haven’t won a single game in 10 in the EPL and the best we can say is ‘I don’t like to shirt!’
    You couldn’t make it up!
    Horlicks anyone???

    1. Spartakboro :
      Horlicks ? I’ll prefer to go for morelicks 🐕
      Ian Gill :
      Since the gastric band we haven’t the stomach for the fight.
      It’s certainly giving me indigestion & in my best Scottish accent :
      I kidney agree more, our season is going belly-up.

  48. Boro are a lot of things, but they are no shambles. The situation’s not irreparable.
    The question is, who’s going to repair it?
    The time for our Nugent moment is now – whoops, he’s at Derby. Over to you, er, Rudy…

    1. Bless yer heart, Simon, but a shambles IS what a shambles does.
      If it looks like a shambles, is managed like a shambles & and the team are a pathetic shambles, then guess what?
      Yes, it’s a SHAMBLES!
      Then Jarkko might disagree – lol

      1. Well, you made me laugh Spartak, I’ll give you that. In all seriousness, something must change, but to not appreciate how far we’ve come under AK at all – as some on here have done – is ludicrous.

  49. If I were to single out “posts that summed up our season so far”, one of the nominees would definitely be RR’s comment following the defeat to West Ham.
    He said that we’d played some lovely football at times (we have, though I must emphasise “at times”) and some of the passing was superb. (Yes, some of it has been.)
    But then he added… and there is a bit of paraphrasing here…
    “The problem for me, put simply, is… ‘then what’?
    “I’m sick of watching windscreen wiper passing paralysis, side to side, ‘to me, to you’ balls that then go backwards to go sideways again, when you just know that absolutely nothing is going to come of it.
    “If all the nice build up play went somewhere, then great, but it always fizzles out in abject disappointment, so I can’t even enjoy the fruitless build up to nothing.
    “It was pretty to watch, but what’s the point? We don’t get any points for artistic impression. Goals, along with clean sheets, will keep us up…
    “The structures (AK) has put in place around the club and the professionalism is excellent. We owe him a massive debt of gratitude for that. But thanks to his efforts we are now playing at a far higher level than when he arrived. Do we accept that he appears to be out of his depth at this level, like Lennie and Robbo, and say thank you, before moving on? Or do we stick with him in the hope that something clicks?
    “For all our gratitude, no club sticks with a manager once the results dry up. Swansea and Hull certainly haven’t and there will be others* before the season ends.”
    *Like Leicester and Palace.

    1. I mentioned before that no one person or game is the be all and end all of failure or success. It’s the gesalt that ultimately counts. And our club is serverely lacking from the Chairman/Owner to the manager, to the team, playing individuals & some would say even the shirts.
      I reckon SG doesn’t want a supporters rep on the board coz the club would be a laughin stock when word got out how useless they are.

  50. Another nominee would be this gem from “Smoggy In The Heed”.
    I haven’t seen him post again. And it’s such a pity. Because in these (slightly paraphrased) words he arguably summed up not just 2016-17, but the Zen Of AKBoro in general.
    “For much of Karanka’s time in charge, we have heard about fine margins and how one chance taken could be the difference in these kind of games.
    “Ifs and maybes.
    “And then we reflect on those situations where the final ball could be better. Adama Traore immediately comes to mind.
    “The reality, to me, is that these ‘fine margins’ often mean feeding off scraps, hoping that the same patterns of play lead to something breaking in the box.
    “If the chance gets taken, we go home happy, having played a clever, strategic game resulting in three points.
    “But if nothing breaks, or the one glaring chance goes begging, we are left to reflect on what actually got us off our seat. The crowd buzzing, sensing something building. There aren’t many of those moments.
    “We definitely win, lose and defend as a team, but we don’t attack as a team. At least not in this system. And we are often showing ourselves up as dull and predictable.”
    🔴 Just noticed Simon that was actually the 4000th comment since we started – werdermouth

    1. That’s really nice of you Simon – your memory is something to behold!
      I’m very much here thoroughly enjoying the banter and the opinions but as I don’t get to as many matches as I’d like to, I don’t feel like I can add much. Plus, I feel a bit like the match of the day pundits (or any other) – we all can see the issues and the brand of (some would say anti) football that is served up and the inherent failings of the tactics/squad/recruitment so what I feel has been very well addressed by so many others.
      Having said that, this article puts a very good spin and a focused eye on what Karanka’s methods could have led to. Absolutely top drawer! Thanks Werder.

  51. Just on a selfish note……if we get the big R, then lots of DiasBoro posters will lose being able to watch the Boro games and comment on same.

  52. Pedro,
    It will be back to BeIn sports here in Oz and their limited Championship coverage.
    I just finished watching the Barcelona comeback. 6-1 with three goals in the last ten minutes. You couldnt write it.
    I’m trying to get my head around the argument that AV suggests elsewhere that separates the club organisation from Karanka himself but still somehow sees that as a reason for not changing manager. I’d have argued it the other way. The facilities, medical work and sports science approach seem to be top class with the club having won awards for this. There’s no reason to assume that this is all based on AK. Similarly he claims that the scientific approach to recruitment is not something to be thrown out. However, in that case, how do we explain the debacle in January when nobody who could add creativity was signed by the club. Anyway, either way, it doesn’t seem to me to really stop Gibson from changing manager if he feels that the time is right. It just makes it important to find someone who fits with the actual way that the club is being run.
    Finally, am I alone in wanting to consign Ramirez to the bottom circle of hell for his attitude. As part of the solution to our problems, does the club need him functioning for the rest of the season and is that even possible.
    All of the turmoil leaves me a bit confused about how to approach the cup game. Is it a chance to go for broke and try out new tactics agains a team that also couldn’t score against Stoke. Alternatively, is it an unnecessary distraction with its awful echoes of another cup final season linked with relegation. Personally, I take the longer view. If we’re relegated then we’ll pick ourselves up and come back but why not have the fun of a cup run to remember.

  53. I agree with you Selwynoz. Firstly, I would consign Ramirez to the dustbin of history, unless he has somehow miraculously proved in training that he is up for the fight and will give his all till the end of the season. AK used to say a lot that players who did well in training would earn their chance (he hasn’t said it for a while – is that significant?) Well, he must see Ramirez training. Is he seeing any signs of effort and will to win? If not, tell him to pack his bags pronto.
    Secondly, I think this Saturday’s cup game is the perfect opportunity to try out something new or just to get players playing further up the pitch. We all know City can be vulnerable at the back. Surely, we have to have a real go at them? I know we want to win, so we can’t be too gung-ho, but I really don’t want to see us sitting back defending at all costs. I want to see us creating chances, shooting at every opportunity and putting tons of crosses into the box, where hopefully 3 players in glorious red shirts will be waiting for them! Even if we lose, that could create some optimism and perhaps lift the belief amongst the players. Do I think that’s the way Karanka will play? Well, as I write, a pig flew past the window.

  54. Ok Saturday, how about we throw a curve ball at City and start with Traore and Gestede in the middle and Downing on the left.

  55. The team should pull their shorts right up to cover the’gastric band’. Sorry Spartak but they are desperate days.
    Seriously though we just need to score some goals in a game. There, I said it.
    Retires to darkened room.

  56. Really looking forward to Saturday now. City had a tough game last night and pretty much played a full strength team. With their CL game v Monaco next week it will be fascinating to see what team they put out against us – could be a massive opportunity.

  57. ‘Bloudy shambles, I’d say!’
    Jack Russel with a ball at his nose could score more goals in five bloudy minutes.
    Holds head in hands.

  58. Boroexile
    Thanks for your reply, and to others who have responded.
    How does one identify who is underperforming? Be it the individual team member(s) or the team leader (read manager).
    Arguably at Boro, the sides are pointing at each other. How would one resolve this?

    1. Chris, it is a very good question.
      In a goal-oriented company (and surely a football club must be one of those) it is clear when a team is not performing because they are nowhere close to reaching the targets set and agreed with them before the fiscal year started (or the season started in the case of a football club). Whether the problem leading to the failure to achieve targets is due to the manager or the team is what senior management has to decide.
      In my experience it is very unusual for a team as a whole to underperform because of individual team members. There are usually enough team members with the right attitude and ability to outweigh the influence of one or two disruptive elements. When a team underperforms it is almost always because the manager is not up to the job and at the end of the day the manager is the person responsible for the performance of his or her team.
      There have been occasions in my senior management career where a team has been struggling and the cause was unclear. On every occasion the team eventually appointed a spokesperson to come to me and explain quietly and objectively that the team was not fulfilling its potential because the manager of the team was doing a very poor job. The team did this because they had pride in their own performance and felt he manager was negatively impacting their chance of achieveing their targets. On further detailed investigation it became clear that the team was right, the manager was removed and performance almost immediately picked up.
      Sound familiar?

  59. My quote of the day comes from a reviewer on the IMDb who I frequently disagree with, but have learned so much from.
    “An artist’s misfires are often very revealing.
    “When the story doesn’t work, the characters don’t connect or the images don’t sear, we find ourselves gazing at a kind of naked wreckage; the broken wheels inside the machine.
    “This broken machinery is often what the director’s cinema is about, you just don’t notice it when the ride’s working.”
    Kind of relates to AKBoro at the moment, doesn’t it?

  60. Chris
    The problem with performance is that we all know of times when we try our best but nothing goes right.
    I go fly fishing occasionally, at times it feels like the rod, line and fly are just an extension of my arm. I put in very little effort and the line lands nicely on the water in a straight line with the fly straight ahead.
    The next time you end up thrashing the water in to foam, put flies up every tree and spend your time making up new lengths of nylon to replace tangles.
    You are trying as hard but it all looks wrong.
    It doesn’t take much to take the edge off your performance.
    We can say they should the past behind them but that is easier said than done.
    How to resolve it? Apart from stone, scissors, paper I am at a loss as someone outside the situation.
    Chelsea did so by removing Jose.

  61. As a little light relief before we start getting down to predicting the team for Saturday , here’s the second part of A Boro Lad
    Boro Lad (Part 2) The Middle Years
    As I’ve said I’m simply a Boro lad, just your average typical smoggie
    Remember I werk at Dorman, but not for Long and I was born in Doggy
    Got the bus to werk, no car for me, or sometimes had a Croggy
    Some beers at night, so when I went to werk, I was usually feeling groggy
    I was good at werk as I learned the ropes. even though a cuddy whifter
    Me boss, he was a proppa man, with a trilby for a tifter
    On the draffie board sat next to me, was old Fred, a proddy dog
    He’d spend his time picking racing bets, whilst skiving on the bog
    Drawing lines of steel on a blue paper reel, tied up with a laggy band
    Me new mate Pete wasn’t as good as me, coz he had a real cack hand
    We laughed and played and worked and learned, he really was my buddy
    He smoked a lot but I didn’t touch the fags, just went through packs of
    Now Pete he usually made mistakes and often dropped a clanger
    But that was pretty typical for, a Hartlepool monkey hangar
    When he passed his test he bought a car a really rubbish banger
    We all squashed in, all arms and legs, it really was a crammer
    We used to go out drinking, a pint touch our usual brew
    Scally Joe, Snidey Alf, Pete and me, we were a motley crew
    Got the Trackless to the Boro, to the action we all flew
    Down our necks to all get ratted, a lot of paralytic pints we threw
    The Astoria allus buzzin the place was generally heavin
    Across the border to the Bongo, painted women and heavy breathin
    Saw the strippers on the dim lit stage, to us it was quite revealing
    Then pooled our money for some supper, before any thoughts of leaving
    To the Europa for a parmo, pork cutlet sauce and cheese
    Served up with greasy chunky chips and some bright green garden peas
    Defo to have just have one of them, or youse end up on your knees
    A big boobed waitress allus served us lads, a lot older but still a tease
    Offen Walked the wilderness to Stockton and to Tito’s, it was mint.
    Scally Joe he had an angle said here’s a useful hint
    Save money hiding Vodka in our jackets, because we’re allus skint
    Or as snidey Alf used to tell us we were really just pink lint
    I met a girl from eston she worked in the local coop
    Took her to the pictures and the dances for a bop
    Found out she was pregnant it caught me on the hop
    Her mother chased me down their street, with a big long handled mop
    So A white wedding in a church we had, a really touch of class
    Then to the Pov in Normanby, with my new family and our Bonny lass
    We moved right Posh upter Maaaton that sounds like it’s got 3 AAahs
    But our lass she goes out to work now and half the mortgage pays
    But I offen thought about the Bongo they were real right happy days
    Saturday night to go clubbing and on Sunday lie and laze
    The steelwerks gone and left us and werk it did get bad
    So I studied with computers and now I’m using CAD
    So I’m still a Boro lad and got two young uns of me own
    So I can say to one and all of you, they’re Boro and home grown

  62. I look upon the Cup as an irksome distraction, a bit like one of those Jack Russell’s tugging at your trouser leg.
    With the injuries we currently have the extra games in the Cup are the last luxury we can afford. I hope AK plays those who are not critical to the survival fight. The playing of Chambers previously was unnecessary and profoundly poor management.
    Survival is of greater long term importance to the club than the extravagance of the Cup. Saturday is the time to rest anyone with niggles. Friend could probably do with the game time if not suffering any recurrence of his calf. I’d also surprisingly play Ramirez with the instruction that if he wants a glamorous summer transfer then here is the stage, time and place to showboat his talent otherwise he could up out on loan at Grimsby. Playing him at least protects and preserves someone willing to fight for survival.
    An opportunity for AK to experiment for me with nothing to lose. I would rather witness evidence of fresh thinking than the same old dirge. Ultimately I’d rather see us out than have yet another cup weekend fixture to squeeze in when we can least afford it.
    You can just picture the injustice of Boro having to play 3 critical league games in something stupid like 5 days so we can continue with the”Typical Boro” and the FA lament.
    Points not Cup runs please.

    1. RR
      I,m afraid the chance to use a bit of blackmail on a player who is dodgy at best was missed in the run up to the window. As stated on here, he should have been informed that, if we got three wins before the window closed then. he would be playing Champions league for Leicester in the spring(he would, of course be playing in every match until he left us)
      I do not agree with playing him now, as already seen he is disinterested, and when you team leader says publicly that the team has not tried, then you have a big problem.
      In the middle of the uproar it is easy to miss the fact that we played Everton off the field(it was by the grace of god that they got a draw)
      We need to answer the question, why the bizarre difference in performance?, why the complete shambles of a team selection twice in a row?

  63. Off up to Teesside with my lad to see the Boro beat City, cant wait as ever!
    A win wouldn’t do any harm to boost the teams confidence a little and to give us fans something to cheer and a trip to Wembley to look forward to.
    Who knows, we might beat City’s reserves.

  64. After a few days abroad on business, I would like to put two positive things on here:
    It’s approaching a sell-out vs Man City with only a handful of tickets left for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final.
    Meanwhile, Boro’s Premier League match against Manchester United next Sunday has completely sold out.
    I don’t think we had any matches sold-out during the Strachan era. Perhaps it was not so good when he was down here as manager. Perhaps Ak has done something good, though.
    Up the Boro!

  65. What’s the similarities between AK and an AK aeroplane? (Like the Easyjet one that flew me home from London in October.)
    The journey can be a bit bumpy. Reaching the destination can take longer than expected. But they get there in the end.
    What’s the difference between the two?
    You’re guaranteed two up front in the latter.

  66. As a side note, RR…
    Statistics are deceptive. The 1998-99 title race was hugely exciting, and that Arsenal team were a big part of it. Once they had Kanu in tow they hit us for six at the Riverside.

    1. I was there for that game. If memory serves me well we had a LB whose name I have since erased from my memory in fear of flashbacks
      He was either 7 years old or someone who doubled as a vertically challenged pantomime chappie with Snow White. Another incredulous Boro signing with a Villa connection.

  67. OFB……great rhyming, and one that I can relate to.
    For me it was about the Outlook, the Scene, Jazz Club, Red Lion in Redcar then onto the Kirk. Saw you great groups before they became really big.

    1. Played at all those venues in a local group from Stockton called the Sattellites.
      Also South Bank Sporting Club The Fiesta The Normanby and dances right up Durham and Northumberland
      I earned four times the money in the band than I did as a trainee!
      Met my wife in the Red Lion when we were playing a gig and she turned up with a lot of other girls who used to follow us around
      Happy Daze !!
      Sorry Happy Days

  68. Memories OFB
    Many a time I’ve walked home or hitchhiked from Redcar Red Lion ,
    What was the name of the other disco on the front?
    Yes,Titos ,Electric Onion, The Excell , The Kirk,others I can’t remember.
    On a another note,I was fortunate as a young lad to play for teams that won trophy’s and I’ve shook hands and recieve medals from
    Raich Carter
    Eddie Connachan ( Boro goalie)
    Wilf Mannion
    Harold Shephardson
    I once bumped into Charlie Williams ( Golden Shot fame) in a club and had drink and a laugh,
    I once played golf in front of a group ,which included actor Micky Rooney, little fella he was ,
    Anyway that’s my claim to fame,on a slow day.

    1. GT
      For Electric Onion read Purple Onion just at the end of Baker Street next to the Scene which was a former British Gas Showroom
      The purple onion was owned by John McCoy who was also lead singer for the Crawdaddies with Ken Thwaites on keyboards
      John later owned the KirK Country club and was the first manager of Chris Rhea. He also signed Jimi Hendrix to play at the Kirk whilst still unknown
      John latet established a restaurant also called the Purple Onion in town know for its avant guard style
      Johns brother Eugene had s band at the time called 16 strings then went on to be a cordon blue chef amd opened the Cleveland Tontine with his brother John
      And that’s my potted history for the day

        1. Allan
          Lawrie Pigg
          Now there’s a name I played In a band backing David Whitfield who was doing a gig for Lawrie when he was the manager of the Excel Bowling Alley in Middlesbrough

  69. Andy R
    I think you are correct but I don’t think it was in the 6-1 game, it was early season.
    A left wing back, he joined on a free and played a couple of games – two being accurate. The game against Arsenal was early season, first home game. It was not as embarrassing as 6-1, it was only 4-0!
    Left in October.
    Don’t worry, Simon will correct me and Spartak will post ‘nonsense, if Aitor hadn’t signed him we would have won..

  70. Ian is absolutely right! Dean Gordon was ever present in the league at left-back for Boro in 1998-99. Then Ziege and injuries intervened.
    Alan Wright only played a handful of games during a very, very dodgy spell for Boro. I think he was signed as cover for Queudrue, who’d been handed a five-match ban for suspensions in 2002-03, which took immediate effect at the start of 2003-04.
    Robbed also of Maccarone, Ricketts, Job, Greening and Ehiogu through injury, and with neither Mills nor Mendieta cleared to play yet, we were forced to watch the invincibles stroll past us or hear Alan Green laugh at us (take your pick) on a dismal Sunday afternoon. Yes, the score was 4-0 to them. I remember it all too well.
    Once French Franck and Job returned, and Mills, Mendieta and Zenden had settled in, we began to win and the season officially got going.

  71. I’m with Jarkko.
    We were hovering pretty close, but not precariously close, to the League One relegation places with very bad attendances despite goals galore (3-3? 4-1?). Now we’re in the Premier League and have been regularly commanding large audiences for, say, just under a year, so AK must have done something right. I think the biggest Strachan attendance was during a surprisingly entertaining Tees-Tyne Derby which finished 2-2. Around 27,000.
    So what makes it worse than the Strachan era in some people’s eyes? Well… we can talk about a dour style of play to kingdom come, yet I don’t entirely buy that. When things have clicked under AK, they’ve really clicked. Some are rightly annoyed by the overall intent, but the brief was surely to prioritise the right results ahead of aesthetics. To get into the Premier League. Which Boro did.
    Those who say that they scraped over the line with vast resources – let me remind you Manchester United and Manchester City did the exact same thing with very good or great teams and not one person appears to lament that. In fact, the Nou Camp in ’99 and “Aguerooooo” are forever treasured by fans of both clubs and most neutrals. It’s appreciating what was rather than lamenting what wasn’t. I know that Hull (H) last season was a tetchy game and that Brighton (H) kept us on the edge, but I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. It’s football.
    But I digress.
    I think the problem is not so much that it is worse, but that it feels worse. The larger sums of money being thrown about amplify the issues, but so too does the greater media coverage. In the days of struggling in the Championship you could draw a veil on the whole thing safe in the knowledge that a tiny slot on the Football League Show/Tonight was all you’d get and no one would care if you failed.
    Now we’re in the limelight, on Match Of The Day and Sky, and our weaknesses are being frequently shown up in the eyes of the nation and the highest-profile coaches and pundits. Large public exposure of failings is always going to hurt more than small, largely overlooked exposure. As Garfield (yes, the fat cat) said once: “It’s bad enough (to make) fools of ourselves on a local station. Now we’ve won the right to do it in front of the whole country!”
    Ah well. Maybe things will work out. Maybe they won’t? Who knows. I’ve argued we need a change in direction already, but for now we’ll just have to sit back and, here’s those words again, wait and see.

    1. Yes, there’s all of that, Simon. But I don’t really care what Lawrenson thinks, or Shearer, or the armchair fans who’ve probably gone to bed by the time Boro appear on MOTD.
      Why I’m upset is because I can’t see where the next goal is coming from, never mind the next win. We see other Prem sides having a go, creating chances, scoring goals. Even the Watfords and the Burnleys. But we don’t. We never do. It’s heartbreaking and it’s depressing.
      And what makes it worse is the obvious threat of relegation. I’m always optimistic, but my gut feeling this year is that we will go down. No doubt we will keep on fighting and pick up the odd win here and there that keeps us in with a chance. But it’s the hope that kills you.

  72. And the last post from me for the day
    I tweeted our former Blogmeister and thanked him for retweeting Werders excellent post this week. Here is his response
    Quote ”
    @untypicalboro No problem. Nice to see you are flourishing and all playing nice.

  73. My own final post of the day is some night time tuneage which I find rather therapeutic in the midst of our struggles. It’s the sole standout on an otherwise disappointing album from my favourite singer, who, like me, was born in Derry-Londonderry.
    So many heartbreaks, so little time
    Too many tragedies, too many crimes
    Put on your body armour, prepare your alibis
    ‘Cause there is no one else (who’s) going to put it right.
    To the rescue…

  74. Hope is strange. In the league when fighting against the drop, it is hard.
    But in the Cup it is marvelous. We won’t be favourites tomorrow, but we can win. This can still turn out to be our most successful season EVER.
    Last season AK has surprised us a few times like winning at Forest, etc. Let’s hope he can stop the Wembley hoo-doo, too.
    Last season was great as we often won in places where we were not expected to get a result.
    Let’s hope we get some AK magic back in the League, too. We need to get the confidence back for the players.
    In AK we (or at least me) trust. Up the Boro!

  75. Werder, brilliant piece and definitely worthy of a Masterman if ever there was a nominee, every bit as good (if not better considering your lack of insider information compared to AV) as our old site’s discussion leaders.
    Just as an aside, I was reminded the other day about the old joke where Sean Connery with his speech impediment in regards to the letter “S”, becomes extremely disappointed when he requests someone of the female gender to reside on his dial. Now, if he’d taken up an occupation as a John Motson and was commentating on say, a Man City game where they were 8-0 up, how would he have got away with saying that “City were now out of sight”.
    If this doesn’t get past muster I’ll fully understand Werder, but hopefully just trying to lighten the mood like.

  76. Boroexile
    Thanks again for more excellent insight. One last question. Was a team leader ever given a brief but not a reasonable level of support and/or resources to accomplish it?
    Your stats are awesome but this sentence is terribly woolly.
    ‘In fact, the Nou Camp in ’99 and “Aguerooooo” are forever treasured by fans of both clubs and most neutrals.’
    It’s not a fact.
    I’m not aware of any neutrals treasuring either moment. Not beyond the final whistle and putting the kettle on.
    I don’t subscribe to the theory football fans are ultimately one big happy family. It’s a myth perpetuated by marketeers and PR persons.
    I don’t celebrate when big clubs win big trophys. I celebrate Wigan poking City in the eye. Then a minute later I’m back fretting about the Boro.

    1. Chris, yes, sometimes.
      A team leader worth his salt on these occasions would flag very early in the process of the goals being set that he or her didn’t have the resources to accomplish the brief assigned. It is then for the team leader and his manager to sit down and agree what resources are lacking to achieve the targets set. Once that is agreed the options are either that the manager commits to provide the resources and the objectives set stand or the manager concedes that providing the resources required is not possible in the timeframe and the objectives set out in the brief are changed to reflect the actual resource level and mutually agreed.
      It is difficult to tell which option is in effect at MFC.

    2. Apologies Chris. My wording could have been better.
      Football, usually, loves dramatic comebacks, late drama and high scoring games. At the time though they can have an uncomfortable effect on blood pressure for the fans emotionally involved.

      1. Boroexile
        Thank you again for another excellent reply. I suspect there are failings and problems in all three areas team/leader/upper management. Obviously the team leader is the easiest one to change, though We may to wait some time. Thanks again for your insight.
        No need to apologise. I disagreed with something you wrote. We’ll not be falling out over it.

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