Talking Point: Selfishness in football and its consequence

Beneath the sustained communal triumphs and disasters of football lies something else entirely. Simon Fallaha explores the inherent individualism and egotism in “The Beautiful Game”

Let’s start with a roleplay.

You’re a centre-forward who has become accustomed to starting under a certain manager. But, most recently, things have gone awry for you.

At a time when the manager, and fans, really needed you to deliver the goods, you missed some “gilt-edged” chances in a 0-0 draw.

Despite this, you believe, quite rightly, that the dropped points weren’t entirely your fault.

You think you played as well as everyone else, and deserve a chance to put it right in the next game.

Unfortunately, you have “one of those days” at the next training session.

You miss chance after chance in training. The manager, visibly unhappy, switches you for your understudy.

The understudy, delighted to be given a chance himself, scores goal after goal, putting you to shame.

It goes without saying that the understudy and first-choice roles, as far as forwards are concerned, have been reversed by the time the next match comes around.

This is too much for you. You emotionally confront the manager about your omission.

The manager does not take kindly to being challenged. And you pay the price, remaining second choice under the manager as long as your former understudy is available for selection.

❈ ❈ ❈

How do we react to this, as fans?

Some, even most, are not inclined to be sympathetic. Especially if the manager is a hugely popular figure and the team are enjoying success as a unit, as was the case in this situation, adapted from real-life.

They will think that the centre-forward would have been better off to man up, keep schtum and deal with being benched. But how would we feel if suddenly demoted in our jobs?

Imagine your whole life having a point leading up to a certain time because a manager, or if you’re freelance, a client, depends on you, and then circumstance unexpectedly intervenes to reduce your privileges or remove them from you entirely.

The reality of football is that a player is expected to put on the appropriate face for the sake of public unity. It is common for a dropped footballer, for example, to appear as sad as everyone else after a defeat while smiling on the inside because his own chances of a recall are enhanced.

Here, the frequently promoted and celebrated myth of the team ethic trumping everything else is thoroughly debunked – it is the pursuit of personal success and greatness that drives football. That’s football’s beauty and its beast – passionate entertainment and painful egotism at once.

What we see, or what we choose to see, is all there is. If a player can’t make the transition from a small club, where he felt loved, to a better-paid but more demanding role at a bigger club, we tend not to see his personal struggles. We only see a player not succeeding like we hoped he would.

Or, in the case of Albert Adomah, not succeeding in the manner in which we wanted him to succeed. How often has an individual surrendered, or curtailed, his individuality for what, we are told, is the good of the team? Because he is not considered a big enough name or suitable enough player to lead or inspire the attack himself, he is given a clearly defined role which can be upgraded when the right time and the right player comes along.

Some would have advised him to be “professional”, to grin and bear it while Adama Traore gradually found his touch. But he had other ideas. Many will not settle for being a “commodity” just because “it is what it is” at bigger clubs, such is the value of a player enjoying his craft as well as admiring his graft. With that in mind, Adomah’s departure may have been messy, but it is understandable.

How easy it was, and I’m entirely guilty of this, for the long-distance analyst to laud the aspects of Adomah’s improving team play under Aitor Karanka, hailing the intelligent off-the-ball movement, all around commitment, organisational skills and accuracy of the passing.

How much more difficult it was for the paying fan and the player himself to have the entertainment siphoned away for the sake of professionalism.

It’s like, to another degree, comparing Romario to Andres Iniesta for their national teams. You may admire the latter’s dedication and subtly intuitive passing, but you’d have willingly paid to watch more of the former, despite his renowned laziness in training.

That is what separates the admiration of the analyst from the desires of the fan – head versus heart, rational objectivity versus emotional subjectivity. It’s what makes many a fan forum, or comments section, so interesting – multiple points of view from a series of individuals divided by opinion but united by wanting the best for their team.

The ugly side of individualism is something else entirely. Thanks to The Secret Footballer, I’ve read of instances where a manager was so much of a control freak that he wouldn’t even let the club chef cook with salt anymore. Or of a selfish captain who betrayed the rest of the squad when the club didn’t want to negotiate their bonuses, getting fully kitted out for the team photo while every other player boycotted it.

It seemed that his big moment was more important than the well being of the squad itself. They never forgave him, and as TSF said, “this lack of leadership contributed to a very tough time for the team on the pitch”.

In football, we may all want the same thing. That is to say, the best for our club and country. But we all want them in different ways. For managers regarded as cult heroes, selfishness is a common trait. If said manager resigns, or changes tactics during a game or a season, he is, in a way, admitting a weakness, because if the team’s fortunes improve, questions about why he didn’t quit or change earlier arise. It may well make him happier to stand by methods that work most of the time, so that he can be proved right and hailed as the architect of triumph. This, of course, is damaging for him. It raises insecurity and neediness. The desire to be reassured of his greatness is more important than anything. Not good.

Most seek self-assurance, not critical dissections or self-examination. And that rings true for players also. We all know that the dressing room wasn’t really a happy place to be even after the wins began to flow again at the end of 2015-16. But we needed to make it out to be, so as not to create a public veil of a mutiny not quite quelled.

❈ ❈ ❈

I started with a roleplay, so I’ll finish with one, adapted from a real-life situation and the writings of The Secret Footballer. It’s an example of how toxic the consequences of selfishness in football can be.

You are the manager. A successful manager, at that.

Not everyone agrees with your methods. Not everyone likes your manner. But, in bringing consistent success to a club starved of it for years, you have rightly earned something representing cult status in the area.

Things, however, have fallen off the rails in recent weeks. After being in control of your destiny for so long, a combination of rigid tactics and executive meddling, including the arrival of a player who doesn’t fit in with your plans, has broken the momentum of the collective you created.

Where you once seemed invincible, you are now vulnerable, and this has affected the confidence of yourself and the team. Nonetheless, you do enough to stay in touch with your end-of-season goal.

At least until it all comes to a head in an away match you are favoured to win, and dominate, but end up undeservedly losing.

An achievement that once looked a mere formality is now out of your hands.

On the surface, your lips are sealed. But inside, petulant anger is bubbling and boiling, waiting to explode in the dressing room.

There, you lay into forward-thinking players who failed to convert their chances and defenders whose positional play let you down.

You’re giving them one of the worst messages imaginable: it’s not my fault. It can’t be. If all of you had done the jobs that your huge wage packets paid you to do, we’d still be in control of our destiny.

One player is brave enough to pipe up and suggest that the strategy ought to be a bit more flexible.

Except you’re too proud to admit that you’re wrong.

So you spit your dummy out. You throw a giant wobbly. And you give the players another awful message: if that’s how you all feel, and none of you want to stand by the man who worked so hard to build the foundations for the success you’re enjoying, then I’m out of here. If all of you think managing a team is so easy, why don’t you try it?

Everyone can see you ranting childishly. But that’s what you want them to see. What you’re implying, as TSF puts it, is that “you care so much that you don’t care anymore”.

You storm out of the dressing room and find a hotel room for the night while the shell-shocked players travel back on the team coach, without you.

This wasn’t what you had in mind. You wanted the player who spoke to come running after you and tell you that he’s sorry. That it wasn’t really your fault, and that he shouldn’t have undermined your authority.

But it didn’t happen. And, as a result, you get more than a little paranoid. Your thoughts are no longer about the club, but about what the players, the staff and most importantly the chairman must now be thinking about you. The nature of the event ensures a sleepless night.

The next morning you return to the wife and kids. But the devastation, confusion and betrayal that everyone at the club who isn’t you must be feeling still isn’t a priority. Instead, you desperately wait for someone to call or text with an apology, telling you that they understood the pressure you were under. It doesn’t come.

Not for a few days anyway. By that stage, the panic, depression and frustration subside and the chairman chooses to pay a visit.

He convinces you that you must return to the training ground, and lead the team again, as we’ve all still got an important goal to reach. It doesn’t take a minute for you to shake his hand enthusiastically and tell him you’ll be right there, first thing in the morning.

Tellingly, he hasn’t apologised to you, nor has he said anything about the players feeling remorseful. All he’s said is that he wants you back.

But back at the training ground, that’s the last thing on your mind as you set out on your new mission: to remind everyone at the club of how important you are and to lead the team to their ultimate goal.

It doesn’t matter if the players are still talking about your temper tantrum, because you’re too focused on proving that if they’d kept quiet, rode the storm of your critique and accepted that wobbles happen at all clubs anyway, or something like that, all would be well.

Except things are still not well.

The team are ignoring you when they should be listening to you.

And why is this? Because, rightly, they still feel very hurt by the manner in which you deserted them after the unjust defeat. You expected apologies from them, but they’ve never heard an apology from you. Now, suddenly, you need them again? They won’t be your lackeys.

That’s their message. That becoming part of the club again must be earned. Before the previous game, for all the ups and downs, they had come to accept you as one of them. Now they can’t rely on you anymore. Your selfishness has been painfully exposed. Not understood as the momentary overreaction of a troubled soul under pressure, but as the explosive rant of someone who found that he wasn’t going to have things all his own way after all. A guy who wanted respect from everyone but respected no one.

In the direct aftermath, you do absolutely everything to make amends. The team start winning games again, you work extra hard in the office and when training, and you’re ultra nice to people and staff. You and the team achieve your ultimate goal for the season – but no one congratulates you or applauds your “recovery”, because what you’ve done since the dreaded dummy spit is everything that was expected of you as a professional anyway.

That is arguably the boundary and the price of the selfishness inherent in football.

78 thoughts on “Talking Point: Selfishness in football and its consequence

  1. I liked it when we had selfish managers like Brian Clough, Jock Stein, Bob Paisley amd our own Jack Charlton.

    No players ever questioned why they weren’t in the team but then the managers didn’t have 11 millionaires to try and get some action from.

    Nice piece Simon

  2. I took the liberty of flipping this comment from the last thread across onto the new thread. Partly because I was very curious to know people’s thoughts on the Academy side of the club and partly because the idea of selfishness and it’s partner self-importance in sport in general is a big issue and fits in perfectly with the events in Cape Town as orchestrated by Australian of the Year Steve Smith. He did actually get that title from one of the major newspapers.

    My point is the following. We seem to have reached a state in the world in general that says that people who are talented in one area, let’s say film/TV or sport or music, somehow achieve a magical status that allows them to become a commentator on life in general. I’m not bothering to argue whether this is a good or bad thing but rather that the fact of it happening gives them a very skewed view of the world. They note that people allow them to express their views and, as a result of this, make the assumption that they are very important and need to be in a position to continue giving their thoughts to the world. That needs them to be successful. I think that this is part of what happened in the latest ball-tampering incident. The Australian cricket team have become so ‘untouchable’ that the leading group seem to have believed that they had the right to do anything to safeguard their position. This, in many ways , plays into the selfishness idea that Simon is writing about because often the ability to be massively selfish comes from a sense that you are too important to fail.

    Anyway, this note was partly in answer to a question about the response down here.

    Cricket Australia have been hugely embarrassed by the whole episode and need to be seen to be doing something serious. The Aussie commentators have all been pretty unanimous in condemning the actions of their cricketers. The thing that I found the strangest aspect was Smith saying ‘yes, I did it but I still think that I am the best person to be captain’. Doesn’t he realise that he has just categorically demonstrated why he is exactly the wrong person to be captain. Given that the Aussie sportsmen, particularly the cricket team, are generally pretty arrogant when they win this is a pretty perfect example of nemesis striking.

    Anyway, Australia fell apart. All out for 107. Everything else is getting a bit crazy. Apparently the umpires are supposed to have told the SA fielders not to deliberately bounce the ball when throwing it back to the wicketkeeper.

    Moving on, has anyone noticed how, miraculously, the EG website suddenly has a long interview with a Boro-linked media personality. Isn’t it impressive how they suddenly come up with these ideas.

    Finally, with no first team football to follow, I’ve been catching up with the youth teams, courtesy of Liverpool TV! Our under 18s were hammered 6-0 by Gerard’s Liverpool team but I did think that’s the final scoreline was a bit unfair. We had a very strong forward line – O’Neill, Brahmini and Walker – and the defence wasn’t that bad but Liverpool were very strong in midfield and we didn’t match them, particularly when we were defending. Following on from that game, Walker got a match for England U-18s and scored twice. Nice to see some good forwards coming through and that doesn’t include Tavernier and maybe others who are out on loan.

    Then Boro U23s played Liverpool in the premiere league cup and beat them 3-1. I saw the highlights. Our goalie looked good. Another forward Mitchell Curry scored twice and then blasted a penalty high over the bar. I can guess who his hero is. Anyway, the team looked pretty good but it made me think just how good our true ‘best U-23’ team would be. I’m thinking of Wing, Cooke, Tavernier, Miller, Fry, Traore, Chapman, Soisalo and others who I have forgotten plus Fryer and Pears as two more keepers without even mentioning Ripley. Quite a production line. We seem to have some really solid players coming through the Academy system.

    Does anyone on here keep in touch with the youth side. It looks as if we might actually have some real prospects. Are people saying the same thing locally?

    Best to all


    1. I used to see the lads play when my grandson played against them and as players from his team were recruited by the Boro.

      Sadly I don’t see them now but I know we do have some lads playing for Boro who are highly thought of.

      The biggest transition is moving from academy then junior football to the senior team.

      We have quite a few junior players out on loan but not everyone of them will be retained.

      There does appear to be a gap between the juniors and the first team and filling that will be the key to getting more players like Fry playing first team football.

      I think the league lost a lot of continuity when they scrapped the reserve sides. It provided a mixture of hardened seasoned pros getting back from injury or seeing out their contracts by helping the young lads along and passing on their knowledge and tricks of the game.

      Looking forward to Friday !


      1. OFB, the reserve matches used to be very important as you said. For getting fit after an injury, for the bench warmers and juniors to play with men.

        Perhaps now the squad are about the same site but we have about six subs – in the past a team had just one sub and the players out of the starting eleven needed game time.

        I would like to see reserve matches again, but there must be reasons why they do not have a league anymore. Perhaps the calendars are too full nowadays?

        Up the Boro!

    2. The Gazette having interviews with high profile personalities with an affinity to the Boro?

      What a great idea why didn’t we think of that ?


  3. Selwyn,

    Australians in sport are so arrogant that I honestly can’t watch them perform, nor can I listen to the dross spewed out by their media following. “Winners are grinners” as the saying goes, they also get massive column inches and air time when they do, but failures here in Oz don’t even get the displeasure of being slaughtered by the media, they’re just dropped like the proverbial brick.

    Their arrogance in this situation is such that their disappointment is not the fact that hey were/are cheats, but the fact that they were actually caught doing it. Hence Smith the whinging worm arrogantly stating that he won’t resign as captain, but there again he shouldn’t have to should he, he should just be sacked along with his line management and the most hated cricketer on the planet, his vice captain!

    I thought that the underarm ball called for and bowled by the Chappel brothers was about as low as any sportsman cold get, but the Aussies keep on taking bigger biscuits, thankfully.

  4. I agree PPinP. Australia are the worst winners in the world. At least the underarm ball was more or less within the laws even if indefensible. I read an interesting article that said that, when he saw what Trevor Chappell was about to do, Rod Marsh screamed out “No, don’t do it!”. Solid bloke.

  5. Sadly Selwyn, there are too few like Rodney Marsh that wear the green and gold. Reading up on that game the odds were so much stacked against the Kiwi’s, they wouldn’t have won even if JC (the holy fella) was playing for them. The underarm ball was just the tip of the iceberg.

  6. Several years ago I bumped in to a South African rugby supporter at Reading station – he had been to Twickers and was wearing his replica shirt. Asked him the score and we had a chinwag.

    He then posed a question ‘What is the difference between a jet engine and an Ausssie?’

    ‘The jet engine stops whining when it lands in Sydney!’

    1. , football has always been about blending the individual talents to the needs of the group. Getting the balance is hard.

      Like everyone on the blog we blend the individual talents and Werder balances it to get the resultant superb Diasboro

      Great Article Si


  7. What is Sport? We talk and write about Sporting Behaviour. Whilst what the Aussies did in ball tampering is reprehensible, cheating has always been endemic in most sports. It rarely occurs in golf or snooker, but those to sports are not completely immune to gamesmanship which in my opinion is a form of cheating. When someone uses underhand tactics in sport or in life generally, one often used to hear the saying ‘that’s not cricket, old boy’. Yet the Aussies were the first to introduce sledging into Cricket, but isn’t that a form of racial abuse which today’s society abhors? It isn’t confined to Cricket though, is it? It certainly happens in other team sports such as Football and Rugby.

    We often hear the term in football when a foul is committed that ‘he took one for the team’. Isn’t that a form of cheating also? It used to be said that Football was a game for gentlemen played by hooligans, Rugby Union a game for hooligans played by gentlemen, but Rugby League was a game for hooligans played by hooligans. Today one finds it hard to differentiate between a so-called gentlemen and a so-called hooligan.

    Simon makes a good point that most sports players are selfish. To a certain extent that is true. I’ve often wondered how our ‘athletes’ when participating in the Olympic Games are called Team Great Britain. Most Olympic Sports are for individual competitors; they’re not trying to win medals for their ‘team’ but for themselves even though they might support their British competitors. Can you imagine, for example, that Steve Ovett and Seb Coe we’re competing for a British team. I have often thought that the ideal of the Olympic Games was lost when professional ‘athletes’ were allowed to compete. Why play the National Anthem of the winner on a podium, or publish Medal Tables? Pure propaganda! Why have the Olympic Games at all when most sports have their World Championships anyway?

    Cricket like football are team sports, but are made up of individual players who are selfish at heart. Yorkshire CCC no longer are made up of players born in the County, and when did you last see a football team made up of local lads? Boro at Fulham in a meaningless final fixture in the last century! Or a footballer playing his whole career at one club like Pompey’s Jimmy Dickinson who made 764 appearances for his home town club between 1946 and 1965? Football particularly is made up of ambitious players and that’s understandable. Also every player wants to be playing every match, and hates to be on the bench even if his team is winning. That too is understandable. I sympathise with the likes of Assombalonga. He’s probably happy his team is now on a winning streak, but I bet he’s seething underneath that he only makes short cameo appearances from the bench.

    A good article Simon, and a lot of truth in it.

  8. Little did I know when I suggested that we defer to cricket to fill the International break that it would provide us with a talking point which eclipsed England’s sorry performance.
    Back to Football now and thanks Simon for another excellent read.

  9. I used to do Appreciations of past players for the EG. Later on, after my writings for them had dried up, they would publish a series of “On Reflection” pieces on past players.


    1. Just no appreciation by them was there?

      We appreciate your work Si the only trouble is we don’t pay for it !

      I suppose you can always gather them together and publish them as a volume for sale ?


    1. True. Though when I finally write a book I will remember to acknowledge my sources.

      The above piece owes a lot to the writings and reflections of Tony Cascarino, David O’Leary, Colin Young, Daniel Kahneman, Eamon Dunphy (namely “Only A Game?”, Jared Browne, The Secret Footballer and Len Masterman.

      1. It was Kahneman who coined the acronym WYSIATI, ie, “What you see is all there is”.

        What he was implying is that decision-making is not entirely based on rational thought. Kahneman found, in his research, that many decisions rely on automatic or knee-jerk reactions, rather than deliberative thought. And that these knee-jerk decisions are easy and comfortable, but they can also be wrong.

        (Source: Jeffrey Saltzman.)

        This brings me back to one of the greatest comments I’ve ever read on DiasBoro, from a certain Paul.

        Where is he now? I often disagreed with him, because of his repeatedly vented anger at a former Basque hero of mine. But his views were never anything other than interesting. And his comment here, from around February last year, I think, was an absolute gem.

        I’ll pass you on to Paul’s thoughts in the next comment.

  10. Ken

    Comparisons between rugby and cricket are interesting, especially for younger players.

    The school football team may have a superstar in it and the game can revolve around them beating all and sundry to regularly dominate matches.

    In rugby it is more difficult because there so many team facets to the game. There are the same skilled types in rugby but get yourself isolated and there are enough players to make you pay for ‘showboating’. It is possibly more so in rugby union because you cant hang on to the ball once tackled, once isolated the ball is either turned over or a penalty awarded for not releasing.

    It is a personal view but rugby is a better game for developing team ethics and the opportunity for different shapes and sizes to play

    1. Ian, I was always led to believe that rugby was invented so that the fat kids could join in as well instead of being put in goal. Was that statement PC or am I naughty stepped?

  11. Continued from above…

    Paul implied that for all the anger he’d vented at AK, he acknowledged that 2014-17 had, essentially, seen an upward trend.

    That is to say, wobbly or not, foundations laid, a promotion near-miss, a promotion success, and until November 2016, around a point a game in the PL, something a lot of people would gladly take on paper.

    Paul also acknowledged that the balance sheet was a lot healthier than when AK took over. As we now know, it provided a lot of money for Monk, and now Pulis, to work with. And Pulis is certainly profiting heavily from two of the players initially brought in by AK, not to mention the strengthened foundations of Ayala, Gibson, Friend and Leadbitter/Clayton.

    However, he also implied – and I’m paraphrasing slightly here – that you can’t judge even an achievement like that “on paper” and “in isolation”. You have to bring your own personal (“selfish”? – Si) opinion and your view on football into it.

    He continued: “At times, the football we play has been the antithesis of what I think the beautiful game should be”, adding that this was why he had been so strongly critical of the manager and had been in no mood to be fair.

    “If I let my head rule my heart, AK would be one of the best managers we’ve ever had. But it’s my heart that watches my team. And that often doesn’t allow me to take a step back, analyse and be objective.

    “I can accept glorious failure. I could handle relegation, if we made a fist of it. I can’t stand wars of attrition and 1-0 defeats!

    “Not when you have players who can excite and frustrate in equal measure stuck on the bench because they occasionally give the ball away.”

    There you have it.

    1. Simon
      Where to start?
      ” I can accept glorious failure, I can accept relegation, if we made a fist of it,”
      Nope, sorry, does not compute.
      A crowd of thirty four thousand was deliberately introduced to managed destruction of a premier league club.
      It took three years, it was observable by any sensible supporter,( in slow motion)
      It was denied as it was happening, by the club, and the chairman.
      And I quote, ” we did not, just escape relegation”. Yeah, right, second last match of the season, twice in a row, same statement.
      They did not escape the third time.
      If you can accept failure, then, logically, you can accept it the next season, you are now in div one.
      What next? Div two?
      And after that, non league?
      All clubs flourish with someone in charge.
      And all clubs collapse with the players calling the shots, as we did.
      When players get uppity, they are moved out of your club, at once, without mercy.
      Just a final observation, Nottingham Forest have given up conceding goals, it’s a bad habit and it leads to an awful lot of defeats.
      Their fans seem very happy about their future, and he has not bought any new players yet, watch this space next season.

  12. BTW, there is a full round of fixtures on Good Friday. But why are the matches played on four different times? Starting at 13H00 until at 19H45 …

    Are any of the matches broadcast on TV and can we see Boro on iFollow, too? Just asking, like.

    Up the Boro!

    1. Jarkko

      The Boro match against Wolves is not on iFOLLOW as it is being shown live on Sky Sports.

      The game at 19.45 is also on Sky between Derby and Sunderland so will also not be available on iFOLLOW.

      The Millwall game at 13.00 may be at that time to avoid clashing with Brentford who are also at home that day.

    2. Jarkko, as the match is on SKY, there will be plenty of internet streams available. Not sure if Wolves do iFollow.

      I hope to watching on SKY after having an early dinner. Match strarts 8.45 here.

  13. Similarly.

    In Jack Charlton’s one season as Newcastle boss, he stabilised them without a lot of money to spend. He kept them up, put them on a better financial footing and kick-started Paul Gascoigne’s professional career.

    Not that all that washed with fans who wanted exciting football in the moment. Those who wanted Big Jack to go out and buy another big name, regardless of debt.

    When they turned on him, he walked out – and *that* was what they never forgot, rather than his good work.

    All that, I think, ties in with Kahneman’s theory and self-preservation.

    1. Big Jack actually came back to us for a short while after the Newcastle job to help out Willie Maddren before moving on to Sheff Wed


    2. Simon
      Note carefully the long running, slow motion disaster endured by Newcastle in their attempt to evade organisation and planning. In favour of win a one lose a one football. And this is a big club with a great reputation in the game.

      1. If a Magpie fan heard you say that, he’d say, entertainment is entertainment is entertainment.

        KeeganToon may have won nothing, but they were and still are beloved by the romantics.

  14. You sure about that, Bob? I remember reading that Mike McCullagh gave Jack the call to help out in March 1984, and that he managed Sheff Wed from 1977-83. His one season at Newcastle, I think, was from 1984-5. Let me check…

    Yep. ’77 to ’83 at Wednesday, ’84 at Boro, and ’84 to ’85 at Newcastle. Then in early 1986 he took the Ireland job.

  15. I’ll repost a video that I shared once, around the time of Big Jack’s resignation from Newcastle.

    Notable quotes…

    “He’s done nothing for the club at all… the team’s boring.”
    — Fan 1

    “He’s the type of person that doesn’t believe in star players.”
    — Fan 2

    “I’m looking forward to getting somebody in who will spend a bit of money.”
    — Fan 3

    “They’ve been used to five or six players a month coming into this club, and it’s not going to happen with me. I’m here to build a team, which I will do, gradually, steadily, over a period of time. And when we’ve got it right they might have something to be proud of but they won’t notice a change if it’s done properly… I’m certainly not going to be dashing in to buy players for the sake of buying them.”
    — The man himself

  16. Simon, thank you for another different but brilliant article filling the void admirably until Friday night.

    Lots of talking points including the introduction of cricket. I have not followed or watched it for a number of years. May try again when Yorkshire or England are doing ok and jump on the band wagon.

  17. Thanks for that piece Simon. A thought provoking and entertaining read.

    Give it a couple of months and the Gazette will no doubt have something not too dissimilar in the sports section!

  18. Thank you kindly, Powmill, FAA and Pedro.

    Now for some notes on what inspired this piece.

    Again, delving into TSF’s writings, I found that we do feel better about ourselves when we convince ourselves that someone only reached the top because they possessed the right talent, or the right connections, and didn’t work for it.

    In other words – having something we don’t. A fan once said that anyone could do the Real Madrid assistant’s job, and our former Basque boss only got where he did because of connections to Jorge Mendes.

    The truth, in almost every case, is that endurance, perseverance, work ethic and passion is what separates the most successful from the rest. If a manager is lucky, he makes his own luck. “The harder I work, the luckier I get”, said Gary Player.

    This brings us to what AK almost certainly possesses: The C. Ronaldo complex. Narcissistic. Arrogant. Selfish. Easy to dislike. The complete opposite of boy-next-door Jordan Rhodes or likeable, cheeky chappie Albert Adomah. But no one can doubt how hard he worked with us, or is surely now working at Forest. Or how hard Ronaldo works.

    It’s not working and thinking you’ve done enough that gets you, or ought to get you, into trouble. Look at Mario Balotelli.

    On the other hand. There is the “talent as an excuse for unprofessionalism” complex.

    If a player isn’t pulling his weight off the pitch – turning up late for training and not apologising, snapping back at the manager while everyone else accepts the criticism and deals with it – can all that be forgiven if he’s delivering the goods on it?

    Ipswich fans, for example, loved Pablo Counago while Roy Keane was manager there. Roy Keane didn’t. In his words: “No club was interested in taking him – and I was happy to tell him that. I just found him dead lazy.”

    Later Counago would respond to a criticism by asking Keane how Ipswich were going to win anything while the Irishman was in charge. Allegedly Keane nearly physically attacked him.

    Counago’s since responded by calling Keane a coward.

    Points of view.

  19. I can confirm that Boro v Wolves is on BeIn here in Australia – 3.30am kick-off Saturday morning Sydney time. I might just set the record and watch it when I wake up. Anyway, that suggests that it is likely to be on all the usual channels that pick up that feed.

    Thanks OFB for your thoughts on the Academy/youth set-up. I’d like to think that, with so many players out on proper loan and a few internationals as well across the ages. we might have four or five kids who can really make a difference to the first team in time and some others who can pull in a reasonable fee.

    Are you still on for your SG/TP big night? Good luck with the questions.

    I think that the ‘c’ word has become OK for the moment as it gives everyone a chance to have ago at the Aussies.

    1. Thanks for the comments

      Yes I’m off to the Riverside tonight with Mrs OFB and apparently will be meeting all the coaching staff including the Juniors and U-18, 21 and U23 coaches so will try to have a chat with them about the young players that they have.

      Harry Chapman one of the bright prospects who had been on loan with Blackburn under Mogga has suffered a series of injuries which has prevented his development.

      No doubt we will hear of others in the squad. I shall also be talking to the marketing and IT departments and asking why Boro don’t screen live games do overseas fans.

      Unfortunately the menu looks brilliant which doesn’t help my new found diet plans and I shall have to suffer for the cause that is Diasboro.


  20. Yes early bird today I’m actually working on the questions for the coaching team that we’ve put together as a group.

    I don’t think I will be allowed to ask more than one but if other guests get tongue tied I’ll jump in with a few more.

    It will be interesting to see TP In the flesh as his Press Conferences give the appearance of a man in complete control.

    Looking forward to Friday !


  21. Not that many days and it will be Friday. Luckily we have had Si and OFB to fill the gap between the fixtures.

    And it is spring time and soon summer. I hope we can have a happy summer break with Boro going unbeaten until the beginning of the next season!

    BTW, does anyone remember how well honed the team always was after a longer break during AK’s tenature? He honed and
    practised the team and we always came back running on all cylinders.

    Only three nights. Up the Boro!

  22. Si really enjoyable read and very deserving of a far wider audience than Diasboro.

    Have to admit to being relieved to read something about football during this International bore fest that wasn’t hooligan or the C……t word related!

  23. Must be a very small room as the c…..t isn’t the biggest of creatures. Should I be informing the RSPCA or are you fitting it in a humane way?

  24. Simon,

    Thank you for a thought provoking and thoughtful article, very well done. No bullet point journalism in there and certainly relieved the sheer tedium of that wonderful invention ‘The International Break’, what bore it is and nothing to do with football.

    DiasBoro’s star and standard continues to rise.

    I hope OFB manages to survive tonight’s foray and foraging.



  25. Thanks everyone. The positive responses mean a lot.

    Busy at the moment, so I’ll simply post some Secret Footballer extracts for you, which include the full story of the “selfish captain” I spoke of in my piece. Here goes.

    “It’s amazing how a little armband can make you push your chest out with pride and feel a foot taller. As much as players pretend they don’t care, secretly, deep down, almost everybody wants to be captain.”

    “A captain should be the player above all others in whom one can absolutely confide. He acts as the link between the dressing room and the manager, but where there may be tensions between the squad and the club’s hierarchy he will always act in the interests of the players and represent them in any disputes. From negotiating bonuses and player fines to club functions and time off, a captain has to be the one player who concerns himself with the off-field politics of a football club.”

    “I played under one captain who had the armband by default after an injury to the manager’s first choice. He accepted it in name only and set about commissioning the kit man to produce a personalised hybrid version… The new armband spanned the entire length of his upper arm. Some players are like that: they want everybody to know they are captain while pretending it’s no big deal. He lost a lot of respect after that stunt, mainly from me.”

    “Strangely, the most successful side I played in had the most unappreciated captain. He was everything that players detest – selfish, and occasionally weak when we needed him most. On one occasion our club did not want to negotiate our bonuses. We had exhausted most of our bargaining power, and on the day that we were due to sign, we only had one option left: boycott the team photo. This may sound like a fairly hollow threat, but from a sponsorship and political point of view, it is a huge deal. On the morning of the photo shoot, we refused to change into the new kit. The chief executive pleaded with us, but we stood firm. All except one. Outside on the pitch, alone, stood our captain, in full kit and ready to go. At a time when we needed a leader he had sold us down the river. He was never forgiven, and from that moment, he was shunned by the squad. Anything he tried to organise fell on deaf ears, and any time he needed a favour, he didn’t get it.”

    “The ideal captain can scream at his team-mates, disagree with the manager and still maintain a flawless relationship with each and every one (of them), thanks to the respect in which he is held. A friend that played for Manchester United under Roy Keane once told me: ‘When I was a young pro, I was having a really tough time with my contract. I didn’t have an agent and didn’t know what to do. Keane went in to see (Sir Alex) Ferguson with me and sorted everything out for no other reason than he was the captain of the football club. The next day he was swearing at me for misplacing a pass out on the training pitch.'”

  26. After what seems an interminable wait since Boro’s last match we’re now only 3 days away from the visit of Wolves. Up until the early 70s clubs used to play on both Good Friday as well as the following Saturday followed sometimes by a midweek fixture. The last time Boro played 3 matches in 4 days over Easter was in 1966 although the matches were played on the Saturday, Easter Monday and Tuesday. It was usual to play home and away against the same team over the Easter period but Good Friday is sometimes a working day in West Yorkshire whereas the Tuesday is usually a Bank Holiday which accounted for some clubs opting for that day.

    The 50s of course was one of the halcyon eras in English club football. Wolves, having finished runners up in the two seasons prior to the Second World War under the managership of Major Frank Buckley who had been mainly responsible for their promotion in 1932 following 26 years in the doldrums, continued under his managership after the war but didn’t win their first Division One title until 1954. Nevertheless they were one of the strongest teams in England in the late 40s and early 50s and perhaps became the pioneers for European football in England because two years later Manchester United were allowed to compete as Champions in the first season of the European Cup.

    As Champions Wolves played two friendly matches against foreign opposition which were both televised by the BBC which I recall watching on a black and white 12 inch television set. The first match in November 1954 they beat Spartak Moscow 4-0, and a month later they entertained Budapest Honvéd. The Hungarians had inflicted a 6-3 thrashing on England at Wembley the previous year, and 7-1 in the return fixture in Budapest the following May prior to the World Cup in Switzerland.

    Hungary were considered to be potential World Cup Champions especially after beating West Germany 8-3 in their qualifying group, yet their 2-3-3-2 formation was sometimes subject to defensive flaws, and true enough the team dubbed the Mighty Magyars despite leading 2-0 after only eight minutes, showed their defensive frailties in losing 3-2 to West Germany in the final. Nevertheless the Honvéd side included six of the Hungarian national team with the likes of Lóránt, Bozsik, Budai, Kocsis, Czibor and the legendary Ferenc Puskás, whereas Wolves only had the one current international player, captain Billy Wright. Once again though after taking a two goal lead after only 14 minutes a Hungarian team’s all out attacking style proved its undoing. Johnny Hancock, a winger with the hardest shot I can recall at that time, scored from the penalty spot four minutes into the second half, and two Roy Swinbourne goals in two minutes late in the match sealed the Hungarian team’s fate before a reported crowd of 55,000.

    Of course the English press overplayed the occasion christening Wolves as World Club Champions. In fact Wolves only finished runners up to Chelsea that season in the league, but after England’s two humiliating defeats to the Hungarian national team and its 4-2 exit to Uruguay in the World Cup, I suppose they needed something to eulogise about. Under Stan Cullis Wolves were again Champions in 1958 and 1959, runners up in 1960, and third in 1960 since when they have never really been in contention again.

    Boro have a good record against Wolves having won 15 and drawn 8 of their last 23 home league meetings since the 1-2 defeat in April 1951. Typically the season when Wolves were Champions in 1954 Boro drew 3-3 away to them, and later won 4-2 at home in the season we were relegated.

    I hope I haven’t stolen some of Werdermouth’s thunder, but I’m sure he’ll be able to add some salient facts in his excellent inimitable way, but I thought bloggers might be interested in my reminiscing. It’s a habit I get into at my age. In the meantime a happy Easter to all bloggers which six points over the two matches should ensure.

  27. Thanks Simon, that was an very interesting piece that perhaps tries to highlight that many people are actually striving for individual recognition, while almost pretending that the most important thing is the collective success.

    Plus it demonstrates how players have had to sacrifice individual expression, which has a tendency to manifest itself in most as a collection of highs and lows when something either works and appears brilliant or doesn’t and is derided as poor. It seems the work and team ethic has tended to iron out the highs and lows to a more consistent plain good or above average. However, the supporters tend to remember those brilliant highs and forgive the instances where it didn’t come off – it’s probably why most people watch football to see players who do something magic that sticks in the memory.

    The last section of your piece sounds like Karanka to a tee, though maybe it could be any number of managers or coaches. The problem for many coaches is that they need to control every detail as ultimately it is they who get judged by the the failures of their players. Control freakery is an obsession that will only eat away at people and it probably stems from a perfectionist streak that can never be satisfied as something could always be done better. Perhaps the best managers are the ones who can accept that once the players cross the white line their influence is limited and they must instead only learn which players can cope with the pressure.

    1. It was a great Post from Si this blog has thought provoking comments and ideals.

      It’s not just a sound off or whipping boy place for those of lesser intellect. It’s the best place to be.

      Well just returned from the Riverside. No Tony Pulis no Steve Gibson.

      But we had Curtis Fleming and Woody and Mark Ellis the COO.

      Interesting points from Peter Hood the Deputy Academy Manager who lives breathes and loves all things Boro.

      I’ll write it all up for a post


    2. What came over loud and clear tonight was that Karanka was not liked by a lot of people behind the scenes at the club.

      All the coaches and back room staff were enthusing about Tony Pulis who is not only a great coach but also a hell of a nice guy.


  28. Everyone loved the In2View with Doug Weatherall and said it was the best one yet!

    I’m sure that mainly it was down to Werder and Doug but it did get me thinking.

    After getting the mod from Werder ive been in tough with Doug and we are proposing to do a series of specialist subject In2Views with Doug. Provisionally called Doug’s Diaries.

    We will ask him questions on Brian Clough, media Coverage etc but more in depth than just a global q&a session.

    So Doug is up for it and if everyone could think of what they would like to ask Doug or have him reminisce about (Ken Smith I’ll be waiting for your input!) it will actually educate us all about stories that we never knew about. Like getting Clougie to manage Sunderland.

    So have a think about it no rush and I’ll talk to Doug about it.


  29. Oh and I can off my diet !

    The food was too good !

    The things I have to suffer for my art of upholding the standards of this blog set by Werder RR and Si !


  30. For those of you (like myself) who are “enjoying” the slow motion new digital “Typical Boro” car crash of an MFC website here are some helpful tips if you are trying to gain access and renew your Season cards:

    When you have finished reading that and no doubt like myself no wiser and will end up having to travel in person to the ticket office ask yourself what well run and organised commercial enterprise would change and screw up things at such a pivotal time?

    Maybe I expect too much but why on earth would any organisation dependant upon repeat sales make life so difficult for its loyal customers?

    Whether it is kits debacles or ticket debacles a serious rocket needs firing up smug complacent derrières. If it isn’t broke don’t fix it and if it needs fixing don’t pay for it until it is up and running and offering the hoped for improvements otherwise you are having your eyes poked out and the proverbial taken whilst smoke is blown up SG’s backside telling him its exaggerated by keyboard warriors and works fine, the statistics and algorithms don’t lie!

    Only Typical Boro could take a new digital age supposedly technologically advanced website back to the 1970’s.

  31. Another lesson learned from Karanka?

    The harder you try to be liked *along with* being “the boss”, the more doomed you are to failure.

    Here’s quotes from “Special K”, extracted from a Martin Hardy interview in November 2014.

    “I couldn’t have chosen a better place to work for the first time in my career.

    “When I came here I found the club amazing. There are many amazing people working here who care so much for the club and the town. It reminded me of Bilbao. It is a family here.”

    “We love to travel. We love to embrace the lifestyle, the same things the people from here do. We like to go to Whitby and eat fish and chips, to Leeds or Newcastle or Edinburgh.”

    There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence going around that Karanka was really a decent bloke.

    But we can’t ignore – and I’ll borrow Len’s words about Sir Alex Ferguson here – the damning evidence of behaviour that would put a small child to shame. A stage of maturity, and development, worthy of a four-year-old.

    Yet another lesson learned… regardless of results, achievements, and memories, you can’t respect behaviour that, or give in to it. You treat it with the contempt it deserves and refuse to indulge it.

    As the players, and chairman, in my second role play (yes, it was partly based on Karanka!) quite rightly did.

    At the time of Ferguson’s retirement, when many a newspaper or even neutral fan were all too happy to join in with the eulogies, Len correctly raised the “bristling animosity that Ferguson displayed towards anyone who asked him a question”, likening it to “the stance of the schoolyard bully who threatens to resolve any dispute with his fists”.

    As Kevin Moran said, the manager’s got to answer the hard questions as well. He can’t just be uncritically worshipped because he wins a lot. However tempting to fall for all that may be.

    Having fallen for it myself in the past, I know about it all too well.

  32. I shall shortly be embarking on a 24 hour journey or so for our Easter break, so before I head off I’ll post up the match preview for the Good Friday early evening game with table-toppers Wolves.

    I’ve actually got THREE articles for you this week after my research for the Wolves game filled some of the extra time available and it became too extensive for one single article.

    Firstly, here is the Wolves Match Preview…

    Secondly, here is an in-depth feature I’ve put together on the man currently pulling the strings for Wolves, Jorge Mendes – that looks at his rise and influence in the game and some of the related issues that have arisen in football…

    Finally, during my research I was looking at how the historical Anglo-Portuguese relations began with a succession dispute between rival camps for the throne – so ended up making it into a short article…

    1. Good stuff from you, though I don’t want to sound surprised as this is becoming something of a habit, Werder.

      And I should mention the recent stuff from Si and from OFB. Good reading even if I have been unable to post for various reasons. Not bad for free, is it?

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