Boro aim to be an attractive proposition at the top

Championship 2018-19: Week 5

Tue 28 Aug – 19:45: Boro v Rochdale (EFL Cup)
Fri 31 Aug – 17:00: Transfer Loan Window Closes
Fri 31 Aug – 19:45: Leeds v Boro

Werdermouth looks ahead to the week before the international break…

Having pushed his players to the top of the mountain in an attempt to gain the potential energy required to achieve peak fitness, Tony Pulis’s team have now shaken off any apparent pre-season legginess in their limbs and are now seemingly on a roll as they start to gather momentum in the embryonic promotion race. As yet no signs of the Boro hardened promotion stone gathering any of that Monk moss that lead to repeated fluffing of lines as the progress up the table was hindered. It seems the sum of the compact squad’s re-invigorated parts have so far added up to something a whole lot greater than many had anticipated following key departures – especially if the supposedly unmovable obstacle waiting in our path in West Yorkshire can also be negotiated ahead of the international break.

With Boro dropping just two points from their first five games, it’s got the statisticians trawling through the records to measure the achievement in the prerequisite ‘best since’ bracket – with the counter currently standing at best since 1994-95, when the club also managed 13 points at this stage. You may recall that season was Bryan Robson’s first in charge as Boro’s player-manager and he opened with four straight wins against Burnley, Southend, Bolton and Derby, before drawing at Watford. A 2-2 draw against Sunderland was then followed by victory over West Brom before the first defeat of the season away at Port Vale, which was the only loss in the opening ten games as Boro sat on 23 points at the first significant milestone. The omens may be good as Boro went up as champions that season – though it was with the relatively low total of just 80 points. That was just one point ahead of Reading in second, who missed out in the play-offs as only one automatic slot was made available when the Premier League was reduced to 20 teams from 22. In the end, despite only losing one of their last ten games, Boro just managed to hang on to top spot after drawing four of the last five games.

Nearly a quarter of a century later, Boro are still facing the age-old problem of how to attract players to the club. Perhaps the main reason Steve Gibson chose the untested former Manchester United and England captain, Bryan Robson, as manager was to add some glamour and pulling power to Teesside. After joining the club, Robbo brought with him Viv Anderson and Clayton Blackmore from Old Trafford – also arriving was cult hero Uwe Fuchs from Germany and then later in March (in those nostalgic pre-transfer window days) came Jan Åge Fjørtoft for £1.3m to score some vital late goals. Of course not all the glamour came from abroad and big clubs like Man Utd, some of it was home grown too and perhaps the epitome of it was in the shape of Jamie Pollock, who emulated Gary Lineker as he went on to play in La Liga on his strict regime of Tudor crisps – albeit in the second tier in Pamplona for a couple of outings before returning to wet and windy Wednesday evenings with the Trotters after failing to take the bull by the horns in Navarre. Nevertheless, Robson’s arrival that season heralded the start of the transformation of Boro from an unglamorous club in a remote corner of England to an unglamorous destination for some of the biggest names in the game.

Unfortunately, the game has moved on and Steve Gibson’s financial clout is nothing more than a clip round the ear in today’s game dominated by billionaires and super-agents. The model developed back then is no longer viable for a small Brexit town in Europe who are now currently looking for value for money and the club have instead reverted to the no-nonsense common-sense approach of veteran manager Tony Pulis. The Boro faithful on Teesside don’t expect to be competing for the signatures of those who play regularly for the big Champions League clubs any time soon. In fact, this transfer window has shown that unless Boro decide to throw money around, they have to wait orderly in the queue until the likes of Villa have finished trying to impress our potential targets with their past glories.

Having said that, the irony is that it’s self-styled ‘big clubs’ trading on former glories signing players who are also trading on the past when they were going to be the next big thing. Yannick Bolasie turned down Boro after declaring “I looked around both Villa Park and the training ground, and me and my family just said, ‘wow’. It’s Premier League everywhere you look.” – though presumably they neglected to look at the fixture list on the wall that said loud and clear that the West Midlands club are still most definitely a Championship outfit and have been for the last three seasons. Incidentally, Stewart Downing is still Villa’s second biggest signing at £12m after moving from Boro back in 2009 – he sits behind Darren Bent who apparently cost somewhere between £18-24m from Sunderland and managed just 20 goals in four seasons before heading off on loan to Fulham, Derby and Brighton. You would suspect that the price of returning to challenge at the top of the pyramid is going to take very serious investment indeed before they can once again be taken serious as a ‘big club’.

At least Tony Pulis finally persuaded Mo Besic that his future in the short term lay on Teesside – though perhaps in the end both parties knew the best financial package on offer would need to include a contribution from the deeper pockets of Everton if the player wasn’t going to have to take a pay cut. Whether his agent did indeed ask for around a couple of million quid at the last minute to seal the deal doesn’t seemed to have affected the move. It may have even been a tactic designed to push it beyond the permanent move deadline – or at worse pocket a huge wad from a club desperate enough to pay.

With still a few days to go in the loan market, we may be about to enter a frenetic stage of transfer activity with some incomings leading to possible outgoings. The fact that loan deals can have buy-on clauses inserted that get triggered in January only makes a nonsense of the system. It will make little difference to the clubs once their accountants have sliced up the spending on the playing assets and spread them over the contract duration or added loan fees. Clubs will buy if they have the opportunity or means to do so, otherwise it will be a matter of making the numbers work for all parties with a loan deal. Joe Hart made the point that older players favour a permanent deal over loans as they are looking to settle in a club rather than move their families around – whereas younger players are looking for a chance to impress and get regular football. However, for the club paying for a player, they would most likely prefer the opposite – buying an older player with limited sell-on value and wanting a bigger contract is an expensive risk but young talent offers the possibility of profits down the line. Both sides will no doubt have to settle for something in the middle.

The Boro manager indicated last week that he owed it to his chairman to try and bring in players at the right age who would be assets for the club. By which he probably means ones in their mid-twenties rather than those looking for their last contract. There are reports that Boro are getting close to persuading Millwall to part with George Saville to add to their increasing row of midfielders. Hopefully he’s the tailor-made box-to-box midfielder that will be well suited to Tony Pullis’s new pressing style of play. Saville has spent 18 months at the Den and scored 10 goals last season – which is something the Boro engine room has lacked in recent seasons. We are also told he can play as a false number ten, which may have a few people who have been waiting for a real number ten wondering what that actually means. Apparently a false number ten lines up behind the striker but moves out wide when receiving the ball to overload the wings with a regular wide player or full-back. There are even discussions of how a false number ten can play with a false number nine but it may require more chalk and arrows than my virtual blackboard can cope with. The main issue at Boro is having teams with false dawns. Incidentally, Saville was also at the Chelsea academy before being sold to Wolves for £1m – with many on the message boards claiming they were “done” by Chelsea at that  modest price.

Tony Pulis’s effective tactical variations have seemingly been foisted upon him by his limited options and recently claimed of the 3-5-2 formation: “It’s a system that we are playing at the moment because we haven’t got the wide players that we would like to have. If we can get a couple of wide players then we can be adaptable.” all of which may make some wonder whether Boro’s better than expected standing in the table was an accident that could have been avoided. Though the switch to a kind of 3-4-3 against West Brom certainly stopped the Baggies scoring spree in its tracks – though that came at the expense of dropping Lewis Wing and playing Downing in a more central playmaker role – actually similar to the one he enjoyed at West Ham. It seems Pulis still wants those wide players and the usual suspects of Sheyi Ojo and Robert Snodgrass are still being linked. Though latest reports suggest Ojo is to trade his number 54 Liverpool shirt for a loan to Belgium – with Snodgrass being challenged by Pellegrini to resurrect his or indeed both of their careers at the rock-bottom West Ham and has turned down a call-up by Scotland to focus on retaining his place at the Hammers.

Perhaps the biggest factor in Boro’s improvement is that the process of de-Karankifaction of the midfield mindset looks to be almost complete as the team now moves forward with purpose rather than reluctance. It appears that purpose is no longer focused on simply retaining possession by playing the ball in areas that the opposition are happy to let Boro boost their pass completion stats in. Thankfully, Boro now play with just one holding midfielder instead of three and even Clayton in that holding role has improved his distribution with Howson suddenly looking like the player he was sold as in a full-energy driving role. It may well be that with this extreme pressing game, Boro will need to have a couple of central midfielders available on the bench to freshen up tiring limbs in the final 20-30 minutes – especially with regular midweek games.

There are also suggestions that Boro still lack a goal scorer who can put away the chances that make automatic promotion a real possibility and it may be an outside chance we get a surprise striker before Friday. It will no doubt mean a couple will be heading for a Riverside exit – with interest in Fletcher and Gestede being muted from former Boro managers at Birmingham and Forest. Also expected to leave are those on the fringes like Marvin Johnson, who is wanted by the Blades and Julian De Sart, who has become less visible than the invisible man on Teesside.

Tuesday sees the second round of the Caraboa Cup, with Rochdale riding into town to take on Boro’s young guns. For many of the youngsters the prospect of being part of the senior squad seems to be slipping away with each signing and one hopes their enthusiasm to impress won’t be diminished as a result. Perhaps we’ll see a young defence again but with the likes of Leadbitter, McNair and Besic needing some pitch time it could be an experienced midfield. Up front Gestede, Hugill and Fletcher may also get an outing with Tavernier and Wing offering the pace.

Much will depend on Pulis’s plans for the main event on Friday as Boro will be looking to go into the International break in good spirits. Avoiding defeat against Leeds in the first 32Red derby of the season is probably the preference for most Boro followers. The prospect of having to wait two weeks to get it out of our system will perhaps leave many by day 11 predicting relegation as the likely impact of this setback. Of course win and we won’t want the break to end as staring at the top of the table becomes the pass-time of choice on Teesside – with some possibly opting for cutting out as many newspaper copies as they can find to fill in the hours of the international snooze-fest. At least the worst-case scenario is that only Bolton can equal our points total providing they win at Preston. In addition, with only four clubs on nine points, two of whom play each other in Sheffield United and Villa, plus Derby and Blackburn play away too – then three points on Friday holds the intriguing prospect of opening up a five point gap on third spot for the winners.

We know Tony Pulis has confessed to preferring not to lose over winning, so it’s possible he’ll employ similar tactics to those on show against West Brom last Friday. Although, he has tended towards a back four when playing away from home and has gone for the extra midfielder instead. Leeds are the Championship’s top scorers and perhaps that will drive his thinking on tactics – though Boro have the meanest defence and have not conceded for over 400 minutes. It will be the biggest test so far but we shouldn’t overlook that if either Sheffield United, Bristol City or West Brom had beaten us then they would be sitting one place above us in second spot. It should be a good encounter between the Championship form sides and perhaps not for the faint-hearted. Let’s hope the cracks don’t appear on Boro’s free-wheeling promotion stone as it continues to keep on rolling!

514 thoughts on “Boro aim to be an attractive proposition at the top

    1. Thanks Allan, I thought it was interesting that Pulis has only switched to what has become quite an effective formation for Boro because he’s waiting for wide players. Sometimes managers stumble on their best team or formation but I’d be worried if he reverted back to how we played last season and then Boro were less effective overall. I think the back three has worked well and even Shotton looks like a new signing playing as a wing-back.

  1. Werder

    I fine read having been away for the Bank Holiday in London.

    Young Frankenstein was every good as expected. For those who have seen the film try and get to see the show if in London. For those who haven’t seem the film then try and get o see the show.

    Hope the kids do themselves proud tonight.

    1. Thanks Borobrie, yes the last few weeks have been extremely busy with projects and visitors – I only got a chance to sit down and write at 10am on Tuesday morning. Thankfully the international break will hopefully allow me to regroup and organise a few things that are still outstanding.

      I’m looking forward to the Leeds game, though not sure if main man Bamford will play a major part as he played the full 90 minutes in the Caraboa Cup.

  2. A cynic might suggest Boro have plenty of experience simultaneously fielding a false number 9 and false number 10.
    I would very much enjoy seeing us win tonight. League placing are temporary but trophys are forever.
    Strong performances from Wing and Tav would put pressure on the first team, no bad thing with the Dirties to play at the weekend.
    2.1 to us this evening.

  3. Continual great articles Werder. As with Steely, loved the invisible, invisible reference.

    Hoping for a win tonight and some good performances from the young ones.

    Just cannot see why we would be interested in Saville after loaning Besic. That would mean probably three Mid-fielders clogging up the bench and not all of them happy. McNair seems to have slipped already and with another coming in? That we probably mean Taviener and possibly Wing leaving. Chapman looks to be on his way also?
    Still not enough pace and still no rumoured cover at FB.

    1. McNair played R wing back first half tonight and was our best player.

      He can do a job for us there so not particularly worried about that position


    2. Thanks Pedro, I suspect Saville is being eyed more for his attacking option and may be used behind a lone striker instead of Braithwaite or Downing. He can apparently play left-back too, so could be classed as a utility player. Whether he’s just a player who had one good season and struggles to reproduce that form is hard to say – Wolves paid Chelsea £1m before selling him on to Millwall for just £350k after loaning him out to the Lions. He’s now being valued at £5m by Millwall but Wolves supporters claimed he wasn’t good enough to make their team.

  4. Looked at some of the stats and comments about performances,

    The team that Jack built was based on attacking with the ball and defending without it. This side appears similar, it is not like Burnley have been where they defended if they dont have the ball and defend if they were in possession.

    Sideways passing is pointless. The best proponents of the Barca style of football play with intent. Pep Guardiola stated the purpose was to get an overload and not possession for possession sakes.

  5. It sounded as if Pulis wanted to give the youngsters a go but needed some senior players to either get game time in their legs or show what they can do in a particular position. He took some risks with the subs and only just got away with it but i admire him for taking the risk. The young players will have certainly learned a lot. I’d be interested to know from those who were at the match; which of the youngsters look like they can do a job in the first team squad. I’m guessing Tavernier and Chapman – unless he heads off for another year with Mogga – and then maybe Mahmutovic. How about the rest? It would be good to get a view from our Brains Trust.

    Anyway, the big positives seem to have been Ayala and Hugill getting good game time – and a goal for JH – plus McNair and Johnson showing that they can definitely function as wingbacks which gives us a bit of cover.

    On to Friday night. Does Hugill start instead of Britt?


    1. Hugill not match fit yet but will be on the bench

      As for the lads last night Tavernier was playing in a more withdrawn role and doesn’t seem ready for the first team yet

      Harry chapman was hit and miss and again not ready

      Mahutomic was steady but not spectacular and I do like the look of him

      Wing didn’t play and wonder if he’s injured or going to go on loan?

      So to answer your question no we don’t have any lads ready to go straight into the team now


      I like the look of the 18 years old french winger B B with the “hair “ I think he could be a star in the future

      Fletcher missed a couple of chances and I don’t think he was interested much

  6. Hugill instead of Britt, no way although he scored he did not impress, I will allow that he is not match fit but he is not up to the standard.

    There were a few youngsters that did there cause no harm, especially Brahimi, Mahmucotic and Spence.

    A comfortable game up until about the 85th minute then it all seemed to fall apart under pressure, it could have been like the pre season friendly, 2 – 0 up and lose 3 – 2 but the youngsters would have learnt a lot tonight, especially after the likes of Besic, Ayala and Hugill going off.

    Come on BORO.

  7. A win is a win. Listened to a live commentary and got a feeling we were in control of the game until Rochdale scored and then a bit of panic.

    The deal to sign Millwall’s George Saville is an interesting one. Makes sence if we sell both De Sart AND Leadbitter. The former will leave anyway before Friday but could Sunderland be able to finance Leads is another matter. And Leads and Cattermole in the same team?

    Looks like finding a winger is more difficult than we ever thought. I hope we find one good enough anyway.

    I am already looking forward to seeing the Friday match on TV. Up the Boro!

    1. I think Wing was the casualty of Pulis’s change of formation for the West Brom game – the fact that he didn’t play last night may indicate he’s being considered for a start on Friday. Pulis has so far played with a back four away from home with three central midfielders. If he goes with the same again then Wing has got a good chance of playing but Besic is now also here.

      1. Cheers. I also realised now that Lewis Wing was on the bench vs. West Brom – so not injured as you say. I was just thinking he jad not played fot teo matchis. I jope to see him at Leeds again.

        Up the Boro!

  8. Many thanks to RR on an interesting match report with some good observations – whilst the game itself seemed to have been treated more like a pre-season friendly to get a few players fitter and try out others in different positions. I was intersted to hear from RR that Tavernier was getting a lot of attention from Pulis. I wonder if he’s actually considering him as his new project now Adama has left – hopefully with the same end result.

    I have to admit I was listening to the radio commentary while on kitchen duties but after sitting on the sofa for the second half I dropped off with Boro coasting only to wake up in added time with Rochdale just missing an equaliser. I missed their first goal and wondered what had happened – thankfully we didn’t need penalties this time.

  9. Well done Werder and RR.
    The Nick Powell rumor is interesting as he is, in my view the most likely replacement for MB.
    OFB, has this rumor got any legs?

  10. Wow Werder! That was a marathon of a prelude with well over 200 lines. Hope it wasn’t too much of an ‘imposition’ but although belated certainly worth waiting for. Some interesting observations about Lewis Wing being saved for Friday. With the proposed signing of George Saville it does appear that Paddy McNair might spend some time at fullback. Also Le Sart, Leadbitter and Johnson might be on their way. I’m a bit concerned though about Braithwaite’s situation unless TP has other irons in the fire.
    Thanks also to Redcar Red, our Rolls Royce of reporters.

    1. Thanks Ken, since I had a visit from the Spanish Imposition I couldn’t spend my usual Sunday relaxed in front of the laptop meandering off-topic and pondering over what to write – it was instead a bit more intensive and focused. Though it was good to have a long weekend with some old friends over to visit but it leaves no time for anything else when you’re entertaining guests.

  11. Brilliant stuff, yet again, from both Werder and RR. No need to go scratching around the press to find out what is happening. First- rate service.

    I especially liked the idea that in today’s game Steve Gibson’s financial clout is no more than a clip round the ear. Werder doesn’t merely use metaphors. He breathes new life into stale taken-for-granted cliches, makes us see them afresh, turns them on their heads and makes them funny. It’s proper writing. George Orwell would be proud.

    1. Absolutely agree with your comments on Werder and RR. They are both masters of their craft and their dedication to this forum is amazing. Werder’s pieces are my journalistic highlight of the week and knock spots off the efforts of the “professional” local and national press and RR’s match reports would grace any reputable sports publication. Long may they continue!!

  12. RR,

    Thank you for the report, excellent as always, it sounded like a disjointed game yesterday evening in fact it seemed rather like an old Boro Second Division game from years back. Never mind a win is a win and it will be interesting to see what the squad looks like for the next round.

    The door is slowly closing…



  13. Been incommunicado overnight flying back for some R & R so was pleased to log on and find another hurdle overcome.

    Thanks for the report RR, seems that although we probably have the better individual players they didn’t play as a team for the full 90.

    Nice to see Hugill get on the score sheet even though he has already been written off as not up to standard.

    Passed Peterborough and just had my first porcine delicacy for 10 weeks. Mmm bacon!

  14. Interesting that Leeds made many changes for their game against Preston.

    I did not realise Preston played with ten men for an hour but still won 2-0. Leeds had 26 shots with 8 on target yet still contrived to draw a blank. Sounds familiar.

    It wont have much relevance come Friday but I do believe it is beneficial for your second string to keep inning however it comes about.

    I always find Lee Dixon speaks common sense and his view is that if you take games lightly and lose because of it there is an effect on the squad, you cannot just brush the result under the carpet.

  15. Is it me or does anyone else feel like this whole transfer saga could have been a masterclass in tomfoolery. With TP as Clouseau and NB as Kato?

    I thought all 3 outgoings were great deals. Neither will play big roles for the signing clubs and were overrated IMO.

    I think we will be sitting back on Saturday top of the league and with £’s in the bank feeling very smug

  16. I think that TP is giving a masterclass in football management at a middle to upper middle level for anybody who wants to watch. Not everything works but he seems to always be making realistic plans and a lot of them are working out.


  17. Thanks for your comprehensive report RR which is much appreciated as I was unable to listen to the game due to attending a friend’s birthday dinner.

    From your report it did not sound as if it was particularly riveting but another useful excercise for the youngsters and those seniors needing game time.

    Let’s hope for a good home draw in the next round and a full house cheering on the first team.

    Much more pressing matters on Friday when I shall be glued to the TV.

    CoB 😎

  18. Another great amusing and informative piece thank you Werder.

    You learn something new every day – a false No 10 – a new one on me. I wonder how you set up to mark false players, it’s difficult enough marking true ones!

    Tough match Friday and I will stick with my prediction of 0-0 and expect us to draw.

    I think it will be a tight and tense game with us reverting to a flat back four and two holding midfielders. TP will try and blunt Leeds attacking prowess and hit them on the break.

    Just hope no one gets sent off – Ayala is my favourite for that if he keeps grappling with attackers when he is defending corners and free kicks.

    CoB make it a happy international break for us all! 😎

  19. The George Saville rumour still persists but now at £7M.

    A decent Championship player no doubt but for me at this level £7M is for Players that stand out, stick in your mind or at least immediately come to the fore when someone mentions, best Championship Strikers or best Defenders or in this case best Midfielders surely?

    It seems an awful lot of cash for a Player that hasn’t been a stand out performer for me at this level. £3M maybe but if true £7M seems extortionate, in fact bordering on daylight robbery especially for a position that we seem already overloaded in.

    We need left sided players in defence and on the wing not more midfielders surely?

    1. RR,
      I agree and I am a little frustrated that all seems quiet regarding wingers, creative players, players with pace and cover for full backs.
      Surely now its too late as any player deemed suitable will wait 48 hours to see if Villa come in for him, if that doesn’t happen there is still a medical and terms to negotiate.
      I will be surprised if anyone of pedigree comes in at this late stage.
      I predict a couple of journeymen that will become bench warmers.
      Hope I am wrong and we pull a couple of rabbits out of TP’s baseball cap.

  20. I see that’s McGinley has gone on loan to Forest Green. According to MFC its a loan until January but according to the FG site it then turns into an 18 month contract. I’m not sure why we would dump a young left footed full back/centre half.


  21. When I saw the main headline on the MFC website that ‘McGinley joins Forest ‘ at first I thought I was in a time warp. Until I read the whole article I took it to mean that Bob McKinlay had joined Nottingham Forest. Silly me. Older bloggers may recall that McKinlay was a long serving centre half who captained Forest to their FA Cup win in 1959. Strange how misreading a headline can bring back memories.

  22. Agree RR, MFC appear to be getting a little desperate? We are overloaded with midfielders and have not been linked with any decent FB’s or wide men since Bolasie turned us down.

    TP must see the midfield as the be all and end all. It is the fulcrum but Saville at 7mil has to be a joke. Nick Powell would possibly be a decent punt at that over priced figure.

  23. You’d expect to see some players arriving today if Boro are going to get their business done before Friday’s 5pm deadline – especially as Pulis will be no doubt concentrating on the game at Leeds.

    I noticed Jason Puncheon’s name came up again yesterday as he’s not in Roy Hodgson’s plans at Palace and he’d like him to go on loan to gain match fitness. The problem for Tony Pulis is how he can himself play those who are in need of games to get them sharp – it’s hard to see Puncheon becoming a starter if he needs game time first.

    Saville looks like the most likely on a loan-to-buy deal but if reports from RR that the price has been hiked to £7m are close to the mark it would represent a 2000 per cent increase in 12 months after paying Wolves just £350k last season.

    There’s still West Ham to go shopping at and while Snodgrass looks to be staying, there’s still Antonio as a possible wide player.

    Personally, I would be tempted to put in a bid for the scorer of the goal that sealed Forest’s win over Newcastle in last night’s Caraboa Cup – as Dias is surely meant to be with Boro…

  24. I can’t believe any player coming in today or tomorrow will feature against Leeds, therefore MFC have over a fortnight to get them integrated into the team.

    Latest rumour is Robson Kanu.

    Come on BORO.

  25. Simon says…

    A Twister in the Boro Game Of Life as Guess Who wants to leave our good Battleship?


    So let’s re-Connect Four a new Hero Quest, and Go For Broke to win the league. While (hopefully) avoiding any Mouse Traps.

  26. The news about Braithwaite is disappointing but sadly predictable. On a positive at least he has tried to play his way to a move rather than do what Gaston done and before that Yakubu. His body language and lack of response to the fans when being subbed recently indicated that his loyalty and commitment was perhaps lacking. We have to move on and look elsewhere which perhaps now explains the continued Saville link. Whether the Northern Ireland International is the ideal replacement for the Spain bound Danish International is perhaps questionable.

    1. Yes, RR, the lack of loyalty and commitment is now commonplace in the modern game and players use it as a tool to get a move if it suits them. Braithwaite is the latest example at the Boro.

      It is now at the stage that whenever a new player who has no links with the North East (especially those from overseas) joins Boro there is always a concern in my mind about his commitment to the club and future loyalty. Contracts seem to be close to worthless these days and clubs rarely enforce them on the grounds that they don’t want players who don’t want to play for the club.

      Maybe sometimes the want-away player should be told that the club is going to hold him to his contract and he will be consigned to the reserves until he demonstrates that he is going to buckle down and fight for a place in the first team. A contract is a contract and should not be something a player can seek to have terminated just because he has decided he would prefer to be somewhere else.

      Or will clubs continue to put up with the tail wagging the dog?

  27. Harold Moukoudi (Le Harve centre back) we were after is now at Villa for a medical, another one bites the dust.

    Apparently West Brom have rejected our bid for Robson Kanu.

    Come on BORO.

  28. Indeed, RR.

    I will be happy if Saville arrives, of course, being Northern Irish and all.

    There are some things you just never forget as a Boro fan, and one of them will be my first sighting of Bilal Brahimi (“Who is this frizzy-haired speedster?”, I thought) and what he could do. That being, the run and pull back that almost lead to a goal by Chapman.

    As I once said, near misses never count for nothing if you learn from them and build on what you’ve got.

  29. With regards to tomorrow night I think we will see Besic slotted into the Braithwaite role which shouldn’t weaken anything and in fact may even throw a bit of a curved ball into Bielsa’s preparations.

    Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Flint, Fry, Friend, Clayton, Downing, Howson, Besic, Assombalonga

  30. Much as I, surprisingly, admire much of what TP is doing right now, I do think he has it wrong when keeping players who want to leave. While a bad egg can spoilt it for everyone clearly, it means that any player on a good run can stick his hand up and ask to you and will be allowed to do so. It makes a mockery of any contract and does not allow for uninterrupted team building.

    Martin Braithwaite that said has been appalling in his outlook and attitude since arriving at the club. Treacherous, self serving, deceitful, weak and a waste of space.

    We don’t really know what his skills are like because he is so unwilling/unable to commit to the physical side of the game here which, when you are being paid a fortune, is disgraceful.

    From missing a sitter of a header on his debut at Wolves he has been mentally and physically frail and will not hold up for any length of time. That he has shown his true/Judas colours by turning it on a bit pre transfer window just belies a staggeringly shallow nature. How long has he been at the Boro in total. Six months? Pathetic. Has there ever been a less committed player?

    I just pray that he is not allowed to leave on loan, doing so just reduces he is eventual sale value and he is not wanted back in France for instance. If we are a couple of million short on the sale price wanted, then make MB cough up if he wants a move that badly. This was an appalling buy with no due diligence done on character whatsoever. I hope he gets his move, flops badly and gets relegated. Shameful.

    Moving on, while George Saville’s spell at Millwall last season shows him to be the right stuff on the pitch perhaps, surely he is not the best of buys for the Boro? A massively inflated price and in the middle of Feb he could well decide that as a south Londoner kept out of the first team by a strong central midfield, the north-east is not for him. What made Wolves get rid of him that makes him a good buy for us?

    Bloody transfer windows…

  31. Braithwaites imminent departure is a shame but if he’d rather not be here then let him go. No point in having a want away player in the squad as far as I’m concerned. That said the way he has played so far says a lot about his character compared to many of the mercenaries we’ve had over the years. Playing for a move maybe, but at least he was professional about it giving 100%when he played.

  32. Besic as no. 10? Good shout Redcar, hadn’t though of that.

    Disappointed to see Braithwaite on his way despite it being a high probability all summer, but TP seems to have forged a ‘team’, so losing one player may not be a disaster. I just hope they have the energy collectively to maintain his style and tactics through to May.

    Looking forward to the Leeds match.

  33. Sam McQueen joins Boro, from Southampton (not Steve) a left sided player who can play at left back or further forward, on a season long loan.

    Come on BORO.

  34. MFC announce Sam McQueen on season long loan from Southampton.

    Don’t know him so will be interested on others views. Seems to plug a hole on the left side.

  35. We may not have got to see the best of Braithwaite at Boro – especially his hair as a photo from his days at Toulouse shows. He looked very lively in pre-season after he was signed for £9m by Monk. Though in the end he started just 17 games for Boro last season after getting injured following the opening game against Wolves, which meant he missed the next 8 league games before coming on as sub against Norwich in late September. The arrival of Tony Pulis saw him looking to move on as he was subbed in his only two starts under the new manager and didn’t get onto the pitch in the last two league games before heading off to Bordeaux on loan.

    Martin Braithwaite

    He scored 5 goals and made 2 assists in his 19 league appearances last season and has already managed 3 goals this season. Interestingly when Pulis was first asked about Braithwaite a few weeks ago, he said the player was welcome to stay [at Boro] if he wanted to. Whether that meant he wasn’t expecting him to remain is not clear but at today’s press conference he said that Braithwaite had told him a Spanish club was interested in signing him and he wanted to go. Normally, you would expect suitors of players to approach the club first – unless he had been told he could look for a new club by Boro. It was also mentioned that Braithwaite was by far the club’s highest paid player – perhaps this was another factor in seemingly allowing him to leave. Still, unless the club can get something close to the money we paid, the proposed deal may in the end not materialise – if so then maybe it will be another loan out.

  36. The arrival of the 23-year old Sam McQueen from Southampton sounds like he’s been brought in as cover for left-back/wing-back. He hasn’t featured this season and only made 6 appearances last season for the Saints, so must be short on game time. Whether he’ll get selected over Friend is not clear but could easily be one of those players who arrives on loan but is rarely seen.

  37. I am disappointed that MB wishes to leave given his contribution towards our positive start to the season. There again it is what it is and we don’t want players who don’t want to be part of the MFC journey.

    I do agree, however, that MFC should not take a hit on the deal and if the buying club are not meeting MFC’s valuation then MB should meet the shortfall if he is desperate to move on.

  38. Okay then. Martin Braithwaite.

    I think with time I’ve learned to judge our signings more on a relative financial prism rather than a relative statistical prism. Take a recently retired Aussie striker called Scott D. McDonald. Stats show that his goal average for Boro was roughly one in three – pretty similar to that of Alen Boksic. And in his final season he netted 12 in 32 (I think). Not too bad.

    Braithwaite? Exactly 1 in 3, 8 in 24 appearances, with injury to take into account. Again, not too bad, and both McDonald and Braithwaite were playing for Boro during a heavy transition period.

    But with transfer fees and wages like theirs you expect more than “not too bad”.

    That said, if a player’s not happy I see no point in him staying. So if we can at least break even on him (as we did with Rhodes and De Roon) and continue our good form with a cheaper, more suitable alternative, let’s take it.

    I bear no grudges towards MB10. Turning it on at transfer time, or when your contract is running out, is far from uncommon. Viduka (seven goals in his last seven games) did it. Rochemback (a great showing capped off by a wonderful free kick in the 8-1 over City) did it. Huth (once he disappeared, so too did our clean sheets and unbeaten start) did it. Emerson (one mighty fine half season before the window opened in Spain) did it.

    As for loyalty… well, to be frank, every player is looking out for themselves in this business. I think more are reluctant to settle in the area of their club today because everything can change so quickly in football. Alternatively some may feel that if they don’t move, their career will stagnate, and that’s an entirely reasonable stance to take.

  39. I think we’re being a little bit harsh on Martin Braithwaite. Let’s not forget he was brought into the club with the mantra, “we want to smash the league”.

    I imagine that went quite a long way to persuade him to come in the first place. Talk of assembling a team that would storm its way in to the Premiership and all the financial benefits that could bring, for both club and player.

    Well, we all know how that went. When TP arrived it wasn’t long before MB was told he wasn’t wanted, so rather than him being unhappy and wanting away, it was the club forcing him out. I would hazard a guess that he was told if he got his head down it would be an opportunity to parade himself in order to get a good deal away from the club.

    At no time has TP praised him or stated he wanted him to stay. MB has kept his side of the bargain and helped the club to an excellent, though totally unexpected start to the season, and for that we should thank him and wish him well in the future.

  40. Picking up Ian’s reference about not living in Teesside, I was on the Gazette website and the usual questionnaire popped up before I could read the article. First question, ‘who do you support?’, multi-choice answer included Boro, no problem. Second question, ‘where do you live?’ Multi-choice answers include Teesside and other NE regions, the only other options were ‘outside of UK’ & ‘rather not say’, did the numpty who put the survey together not think there were Boro supporters in the UK not living in the North-East?

    Interesting comment from TP in said article, he says the players we’re currently bringing in were not his first choices. Sounds like its been a challenging transfer window for Boro, I wonder if having to settle for 2nd/3rd best will effect our chances of promotion?

    1. Yes, I also thought it hardly sounded like a ringing endorsement when he said the players now being targeted weren’t his first preferences – he has probably just accepted that he’s not getting the ones who went to Villa instead.

  41. I’m surprised Pulis would say something like that. It hardly gives incoming players a vote of confidence from the manager. It could also be a backhanded criticism to the recruitment dept, IE, if I was in charge my first choices would have been landed.

    It smacks of getting your excuses in first.

  42. I was just reading the profile of Sam McQueen in the Gazette, who presented him as perhaps a more important player at the Saints than he was. Mentioned as left-sided player from their academy in the tradition of Gareth Bale and Luke Shaw – with Claude Puel converting him into a left back from a left winger.

    In truth McQueen has hardly featured at all at Southampton in the last 18 months. Although he made 13 league appearances in 2016-17, he had only one start since Jan 2017 and three late sub appearances in April 2017. That season he only started 6 games with a run of 4 games from late December to end of January that ended with a 5-0 defeat at home to Arsenal – most appearances were as late subs. Last year he made 7 league appearance but again only one start against Man Utd with the other six appearances being as late subs (86, 74, 87, 77, 83, 81 minute).

    He may well be a decent player, but at 23 and little match-time under his belt he’s probably looking to get an opportunity to play regular football – perhaps Pulis plans to re-convert back to a winger but I suspect he’s been brought in as patient cover for George Friend at left-back/wing-back. Incidentally, one of his few times he played 90 minutes was in the 1-0 win over Boro in our ill-fated Premier League season.

    1. I seem to remember Tottenham offering a Southampton “project” to Boro when they wanted Stewart Downing. ………

      Gareth Bale.

      Whatever happened to him?

      1. I haven’t seen him in the PL for quite a while so he probably didn’t amount to much…

        Though as he joined Spurs at 18 in 2008, and since Downing left for Villa in 2009, then Bale was probably offered to Boro as a 19-year old – McQueen is now 23 with his career seemingly stalled and no doubt quite regularly compared to Bale and Shaw to make him feel even worse.

  43. As long as Pulis doesn’t use the “not enough money”, “not enough players”, “not enough money to buy players” or “not the players I want” excuses, then I’ll be happy.

    Right now he has no need to. We’re unbeaten and have a good thing going.

  44. If I recall correctly, Braithwaite was the captain of Bordeaux (was it?) when we signed him and character was thought to be one of his strengths. In fairness to him, he hasn’t “downed tools” or attempted to get away via his agent. He has spoken directly to the manager in light of interest from Spain.

    He doesn’t want to be here. Fair enough. Let him go at a decent price. The main dissappontment for me is that it probably rules him out of the game tomorrow, when we could have done with him. With that in mind, I’m surprised that Pulis has outed him in his press conference. Pulis didn’t need to say anything. Braithwaite could have played tomorrow night then slipped away with the truth coming out later.

    Similarly, I’m also surprised at TP’s comments that any new additions aren’t his real targets. Points for honesty, yes, but I think we could read between the lines and I’m not sure what’s been gained by being so candid.

    Anyway, onto to tomorrow’s game. I’m not sure about Besic at no. 10. To me, his best contributions are when he’s getting on the ball and dictating our passing. I’m not sure we’d make the best use of him further forward.

    The midfield has been working quite well without him and, much as I like Besic, I think Pulis would be wise to keep him waiting and reward those who’ve done so well so far. There are other options such as Fletcher and Hugill who could partner Britt up front, though Werder might be right in that we go to a back four.

    1. Technically you’re right that Braithwaite could have in theory played for Boro against Leeds before his move – although the English deadline is 5pm, the Spanish deadline is 11:59pm (22:59 BST) and he could have then slipped away into the night. However, if it involves a real transfer with anything around £9m and a medical then it would have been too risky.

      I’d be tempted to play Wing as the advanced attacking midfielder as he’s shown a good range of passing as well as energy – Besic played on the left of midfield when he came on last week so could be part of a three with Clayton and Howson in front of a back four. More 4-3-2-1 with Downing the other advanced attacking midfielder and Britt up front.

    2. I think we should leave the midfield “as is” in a sort of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality. My logic for Besic in for Braithwaite is that we may have to dig deep, scrap and fight our way out of a few tight situations, Besic would be ideal in that situation. On the plus side he is capable of playing pin point balls (note his free kick accuracy and trajectory to Ayala last Friday) and that is what Britt thrives on. He also likes to dribble and dance his way into the box inviting challenges (a penalty at Elland Road to balance the one that Ayala will like as not give away for grappling would be welcome). Failing that a free Kick just outside the box with the big lads lining up will do.

      1. I can see what you mean RR. I don’t see Besic as a no. 10 type but maybe as a one-off or for tough away games it could work.

        Longer term though, I don’t see it as the way forward. I don’t think Besic has the strikers instincts or goals in him.

        I think he’s quite similar to Jack Wilshere in many ways – not the biggest but combative, useful on the ball and with a creative streak. Like Wilshere though I think he’s best employed in central midfield.

  45. Just read that the referee for tomorrow is Tim Robinson. He sent Traore off against Sunderland last season so can be swayed by a hostile home crowd. In 45 games last season he gave 11 red cards and in 5 games so far this season he has shown 2.

    I may need to reassess my numbers of Boro players on the pitch at the end!

    1. The site I viewed for his stats (Tim Robinson Refereeing Stats 2017-18) shows just 7 red cards in Championship games that season – while he did indeed send off Traore it also shows he’s been good to Boro as he also sent off Jake Clarke-Salter in that same game and also dismissed Hope Akpan for Burton when we played them, as well as Michael Hector of Hull when we visited the KCom Stadium. So 3-1 in Boro’s favour – possibly an omen? 🙂

  46. Thought for you.

    We’re scraping through the Carabao Cup. Yet I don’t believe we won a game by more than one goal in the run to 29/02/04, or an aggregate knockout game by the same on the Road To Eindhoven. 2-2, 2-2, 4-3, 4-3, 0-4.

    I also vaguely remember France scraping into Euro 2000 with a last minute goal against Iceland while the Czechs won all their games. The latter exited the finals in Round One, the former won the competition.

    You think how you reach your goal matters… sometimes it really doesn’t. To be frank the United team that won the PL title on the final day were better than the team who walked the league in the next two seasons.

  47. Sorry I seem to be in a bit of a stato mood today – it’s been raining all day and couldn’t get on with my outdoor project so have been amusing myself looking up all kinds of facts and figures. What’s interesting though is that behind the headline figures that sometimes spawn an article in the Gazette for instance – the reality of something like 20 appearances becomes a mixture of a couple of EFL Cup games, mainly late sub appearances and then a gap of several months without a game.

    Stats are just a shorthand that people use to support their argument sometimes – we don’t really know if the player had a good game unless we read a report or watch some highlights. I’d rather say someone like McQueen is arriving looking to restart his career and therefore may be hungry and keen than be giving the impression Boro have made a significant signing that will be a key player who ticks the proverbial boxes. He’ll be looking to make an impact, probably off the bench, which may give him the opportunity to impress Tony Pulis – he may or may not get that chance but let’s hope he takes it. Hopefully, he’ll be an upgrade on Johnson but most likely a similar level of player (for Boro) with perhaps a bit more potential.

    1. I’d forgotten about the Caraboa Draw – could have been a lot worse and may get the youngsters another game. Not sure if it will bump the Liverpool vs Chelsea tie off the box so it could well be radio commentary again sadly.

      1. I don’t know…. the clash of the only titans to have slain the hitherto undefeated whites of West Yorkshire… Surely top TV material there

  48. As GHW said, looks like Mr Pulis is not a happy happy and is getting his excuses in early just in case itall unravels.

    He can claim he did not get the backing he wanted from the club, second or even third choice players. No width, no pace and with Braithwaite going, like him or not, who is just going to score the necessary goals. None of our midfielders or attacking players, Britt apart, have many goals in them. How many will Howson, Clayton for all their good play, get. Besic, five if he plays 30+ games. SD two or three?

    I think Mr Pulis has been just a little disingenuous.

  49. Is it just my cynical questioning, disbelieving nature coming through once more or does this Transfer Window seem to have developed into a farce?

    The Window closed a few weeks back so now everyone just carries on chasing the same Players “on loan” as if the first Window never existed even to the point of fees being discussed (to be paid in January of course, nudge, nudge).

    With Saville there is talk of Grant, Ashley and or Marvin going in the opposite direction. Same with Sheffield United supposedly also wanting Ashley and Marvin. The two Windows are almost like a double glazing advert “I say, you buy one, you get one free!”

    In truth there is just one window but with a bodged locking mechanism.

  50. The transfer windows are unsatisfactory in the way they operate. They drive up prices and now we have the worst of both worlds. Our windows shut early but around Europe they are still open.

    The comforting fact is that our recruitment team are equally effective in all scenarios.
    In fairness it is much harder than we envisage.

    It is not a shambles like some we have seen before. The infamous titanic under the Unholy Trinity, the AK January meltdown were far more damaging.

    The headlines were the loss of three big players but none of them have contributed to their new clubs and we are still joint op.

    We just have to accept what happens and hope for the best. Not ideal but that is where we are.

  51. I’m not surprised that TP is frustrated, how has it come to this.
    He wanted better than we have already got.
    McQueen is not an upgrade on Gibson, Fabio or Christie. If we get Saville, is he a better option than Braithwaite, Adoma or Paddy.
    Flint and Besic OK. McNair, jury is still out.
    Unless there is a couple surprises in the offing we head into the season with a weaker squad.
    If TP can get this squad promoted then he should be given the freedom of Middlesbrough.(if he doesn’t quit)

  52. the Southampton fans seem to think that McQueen has a lot of potential so lets all give the lad loads of encouragement and a warm Boro welcome.
    If he comes with an attitude similar to Kalas he will do for me.

  53. Well said Old Billy,

    It’s all about buying into the club and the team.

    Kalas worked like crazy and could always be relied on. Fabio, Braithwaite, Christie and others all wanted to go. It’s better to let them go, provided that we get the money. If two La Liga clubs want Braithwaite then they can bloody well pay a proper price for him. That would take the incoming money up to Pds 50 million which is not bad and certainly leaves us in good shape either for loan deals or the January window.

    McQueen has a good reputation but hasn’t quite broken through. For him this is a huge opportunity to play a season with a strong club and either justify a permanent move or show Southampton what he is capable of. Interesting that he got a good report from Chambers. I see him as being in a similar position in his career.

    Now we need a bit of pace and touch of class. if we can bring that in then the whole summer will have been a success.

    By the way, with Pattison and Mahmutovic both there and Wing having played there last year, Yeovil is becoming the Middlesbrough finishing school. It will be interesting to watch how these two get on plus the other loanees such as Armstrong who is scoring goals for fun. Shame about Fryer who has suffered a double break. Best wishes to the lad.


  54. Let’s hope they don’t panic today and pay over the odds for third choice players. We don’t need new faces just for the sake of it.

    We’ve had an excellent start to the season, in fact I can’t remember a better one. Usually it’s the best teams who go up, not necessarily the best players.

  55. Reading in the Northern Echo this morning, it sounds like the deal for Saville is close with him due for a medical before a loan move that will include a clause that will turn it into a £7m permanent move next summer – So looks like Millwall will make their 2000% profit in 12 months after all.

    Also mentioned as a deal close to completion is the loan move of Jason Puncheon from Palace as a replacement for Traore. What was amusing is that it said Pulis “would have preferred a player with more natural pace” – is that a way of saying he’s not that quick?

    I had presumed the club were looking to bring in some pace in the wide areas but don’t know if Puncheon at 32 still has a few tricks to beat his man instead. He didn’t get much action last season with just 6 league starts but the season before started in 35 of Palace’s 38 Premier League games so he may improve once he gains match fitness. Sounds like another gamble but it could pay off if he comes with the right attitude.

  56. Bringing in players who have worked with TP before suggests that he knows that they will buy into his team ethic and will work hard. I don’t think Puncheon would let anyone down.

    1. I think the main problem will be whether he’s fully recovered from his cruciate knee injury he suffered on 1 Jan this year that ended his season. Plus he also was sentenced to 210 hours community service in June for an incident outside a nightclub in which he apparently lost it after his wife got involved in an altercation with another women – he struck the doorman with his belt that had been confiscated earlier. It was reported by the BBC that changed his original plea from innocent to guilty as CCTV footage showed the attack. A Palace spokesman said: “This was a regrettable incident and entirely out of character. The matter will be dealt with internally”. It lead to Puncheon being stripped of the captaincy at Palace.

      OK, people make mistakes and things can happen – there’s no suggestion he’s been in trouble before so hopefully it was out of character – who knows what the stresses in the lives of millionaire footballers are! Will Puncheon and his wife be able to swap London and its clubs for life on Teesside? Maybe he’ll be taking a suite at Rockcliffe Hall like his manager.

      1. I’d be very surprised if the kind of important and relevant information about a possible signing that Werder mentions makes its way into the Gazette. So it’s another of the crucial functions of this blog.

        One of our most recent signings has also had night- club previous. Another player, who has recently come and gone, had a terrible record both on and off the field before we signed him, the Gazette being scrupulous, in both cases, in avoiding any mention of their off-field misdemeanours. Fair to the players concerned, certainly. Diplomatic in terms of club-press relationships, perhaps. But it does raise questions about the paper’s supposedly primary function in keeping its readers fully informed. Then again, another of our recent signings came with the worst character reference of all: a public warning to any possible future employers from a judge. Not a word of this in our paper of public record. The newspaper as first draft of history? I don’t think so. This blog as essential reading? Of course.

  57. Selwyn,

    I didn’t realise that Christie wanted to go. I thought he was pushed, or didn’t fancy competing with “teachers pet” Shotton.
    Haven’t heard any mention of a (January) transfer fee for Braithwaite, or indeed that his wages will be covered in full.
    I appreciate the way he has played this season but we should not be out of pocket to a player under contract who wants to leave. If the Spanish team wont cough up in full, then he should sacrifice the rest of his wage.
    As for Puncheon, I dont remember him having much pace although he had plenty of skill. Hope he’s still got it.

  58. Disappointing to lose Braithwaite, and not sure we will get the right kind of deal for him.
    Both Leganes and Girona are only small clouds, the former having only a 11000 stadium.
    How they would able to buy MB and pay his wages if he is the top paid at Boro as someone posted? More like a watered down loan deal with us paying a percentage of his salary.

    Now that would not be a good deal.

    1. Tony Pulis has said that unless its a good deal for the club then Braithwaite will have to stay and get his head down – I’d be surprised if Boro entertain subsidising his wages. In his desire to go on loan in January, I think Braithwaite cited needing to play in the top tier to make the World Cup – this season has no pressing need. Presumably Leganes and Girona know what he’s earning and how much he costs – though finding around £10m for a transfer and wages of probably £3m plus a year will I imagine be quite a slice of their budget.

  59. Interesting press conferences from tonight’s managers.

    Bielsa saying they know our style and how we will play.

    TP’s view was that Leeds play through the pitch, they get bodies forward, they dont go backwards and sideways, backwards and sideways. That is direct.

    That brought to mind the debate about long ball and long pass. TP says it is al about perception.

    So when is it a long ball and when is it a long pass? In my eyes, TP is right, perception.

    If you have a trendy overseas coach or are a fashionable team it is a long pass. Liverpool under Rafa when Torres was at his peak had Alonso and Gerrard driving long passes to the striker.

    I suppose big Jack’s team with Bobby Murdoch would be classed as long ball.

    A struggle for many of us is when we get a corner or free kick and it is worked back to the keeper who has to launch it because of approaching attackers. I dont like long ball football but I do think you must take advantage of set pieces.

    The thing about big Jacks team was that it attacked when it had the ball and defended when it didn’t. Play with purpose.

    As for tonight, I expect a tough game and would be pleased with a point though I do fear we may be disappointed. It is early in the season so we cant read too much in to league positions but it is nice to be at the top.

  60. Leganes is a small club, probably equivalent to Bournemouth. their stadium only has a roof on one side and its nowhere near a beach.
    Cant understand why he would go there or how they can afford him.

  61. Irrespective of tonight’s result, let’s not carried away with joy or despair. Even if we were to lose we would still be on plus 2 points per game and they still have to come to the Riverside. If we win it does not mean automatic promotion, we are still in August after all.

    As far as the loan window is concerned, I have no idea what deals are going on in the background (who had any idea about McQueen until he signed) but “what will be, will be”.

    Come on BORO.

    1. This time last season Leeds were running away with things in the Championship then like the Autumn leaves they fell from their lofty position.

      As we all know it is a marathon not a sprint and of the two styles I think Boro’s is more sustainable for the longer term. Having said that if Leeds can and do continue to play exciting swashbuckling football and keep winning then they will go up on merit and fair play to them. “Fair play” and Leeds however isn’t something that I ever thought I would write in the same sentence.

    1. In the public’s perception, for the first time in my lifetime, we will be going into a match against Leeds as the pragmatic “dirty” team, with Leeds labelled as the football purists. The media narrative will almost certainly be about the extent to which we can put a stop to Leeds’ flowing, attractive,and attacking football. Shame really. It’s turning history on its head.

      My money’s on Pulis kicking the bucket at the end of the game.

  62. Surely Boro don’t see Puncheon as a replacement for Adama?

    2-1 to Boro tonight, Leeds are a good side, hence my prediction that they will be the first team to score against us since the first half at Millwall.

    1. Does Steve Bruce have a wire-tap? Or is Boro’s recruitment Department doing fee paying freelance work? Or are they an agent working for him? Meetings at Rockcliffe must be held in a tent in the middle of the patches.

      Maybe Boro don’t want all these players that Villa are linked with and Mr Pulis is planting them… maybe not.



  63. Old Billy, Leganes is a south Madrid side and only reached La Liga a couple of seasons back, first time in their history. Bournemouth yes.

    Their “local derby” is with Getafe another team that is probably punching above its weight and has been a yo yo side.

    Girona we all know is on the beach, more or less and again a small team playing in La Liga I believe for the first time.

    Money is not distributed (fairly) in Espana as in the PFL. How either of these two clubs could afford MB, either his wages or a fee is beyond me. It will be a loan I assume and he will be the Galactico.

    Girona did well last year but both will probably struggle somewhat. Why he would want to move there who knows. However there has not been a queue at Rockcliffe making big offers. Even the French clubs have stayed away. Still if he wants to go it is difficult to keep any player these days.

  64. I will be happy to keep our unbeaten run after today’ match. So let’s hope OFB is right for the first time. ⚽️ ⚽️ will do for me.

    The match is live on TV over here, too. So I am gonna enjoy it with my wife. My son moved to Portugal for four months this morning so there will be just the two of us Boro fans watching tonight.

    Come on, Boro! UTB!

  65. I’m sure Girona can afford MB, they are half owned by City Football Group with Pep Guardiola’s brother the other near half shareholder. But they remain a tiny outfit.

    Ronson-Kanu, surely not? A man whose reputation flared on the back of a couple of half decent games at the last Euros only and has done little before or since. Is he really better than what we already have.

    And ‘loans with an option to buy in January’. More meaningless than a Martin Braithwaite contract, it is merely a loan and when the time is up the ‘buying’ club can buy him if they like. Or not. Or maybe loan again. The Gazette in particular, is guilty of dressing this up.

    Loans play a valuable role at this level but only when there is little residual capital value in a player, Jason Puncheon etc. With MB, it’s merely counting down the clock against the owning club, we’ll still have him in a year’s time only his worth will be much reduced.

    Role on 5pm

  66. There is no truth apparently in a rumour circulating around Bodymoor Heath this afternoon that when Steve Bruce heard that Boro had a buy Elsa rendezvous today he immediately ordered a snatch squad to grab Boro’s new tea lady. “Offer her the best and latest tea trolley from Argos in Union Street, break out the Bourbons and Custard Creams, whatever it takes, kidnap her if necessary”.

    Just as a luxurious new tea cosy was being ordered on-line Steve Agnew was able to calm his gaffer down by explaining that “Buy Elsa” was actually the name of the Leeds Manager and not a shrewd window shutting last minute deal by TP putting one over the paranoid and supposedly financially fair play strapped Villains.

  67. Talking of Albert, have a read of this article.

    Albert’s brother does seem to have a lot to say. If you recall this is the chap who gave us a bit of a kicking before Albert moved to Villa.

    You all know my view about how the sad business developed when Albert left. I dont know how much influence he has over Albert or whether he is Albert’s mouth piece or just a loose cannon. I wonder what he said when Albert moved from the Robins to Boro?

    1. You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family as the saying goes!

      My thoughts on Albert are positive ones. I know he sometimes makes the odd faux pas but he is also the beaming, smiling Albert that mainly played very well for Boro but apparently (along with a few others) had a strained relationship with AK. People come in all sorts, shapes and sizes and one of AK’s weaknesses is in dealing with players who will not or as I suspect in AA’s case could not become an Karankamaton.

      This is the Albert who was dancing with Cheerleaders at Yeovil, its the Albert that I remember who in his last Riverside appearance hit a ball during the warm up and it smacked in the face of a little lad around three or four years old sat just in front of me. About ten minutes later when the players had finished their routines Albert ran over to the North Stand, leapt over the advertising hoardings picked out the lad in the packed crowd (first home game V. Stoke in the Prem) and apologised to the little boy and his father and gave him his training top. That to me isn’t the act of a selfish or untrustworthy individual or some sort of disruptive bad influence.

      If he came back I think he would put his heart and soul into it because thats how Albert is. I also think that TP has more far greater experience in dealing with players with his background than AK ever had or indeed if I’m being blunt ever will. Different cultures elicit different behaviours and reactions, AA’s Brother is intensely proud it would seem of Albert and as a consequence speaks with his heart rather than his head at times.

      1. My thoughts about Albert are positive.

        I am not so sure about his brother and we dont know the influence.

        Albert wasn’t very smiley, smiley, Carol Smiley when he ignored Boro fans and went to applaud the Bristol city fans at the Riverside, He certainly wasn’t smiley when he left the ground and ignored the Boro fans.

        For all that I would welcome him back.

  68. You beat me to it, Ian.

    This has unfortunate echoes of not only August 2016, but Nicky Bailey circa 2013.

    To quote Ayresome Gates:

    “Bailey gives his all when he’s in the side, has had far more good games than bad in a Boro shirt but allows his family to spread poison on the internet. That tells you everything you need to know about his character and whether he is an appropriate person to be around this football club.”

  69. Boro in talks with Villa for Adomah. I would rather have Albert than Puncheon. I would rather have Albert than Bolassie.

    It would be a good move from the fans viewpoint. Anyone got some treacle toffee for his brother.

    That reminds me of a night I suffered from heartburn – something I rarely get. My wife swears by Gaviscon so I got up and went to bed chewing a couple. I fell asleep and when I woke up it was like I had swallowed a spoonful of cement.

    Did I hear someone say it was no bad thing?

  70. Which badge will Albert kiss this week.
    We know he was born in London, made his name at Ashton gate. Absolutely loves Villa ( according to his helpful brother), supports QPR.
    I don’t think any of this affects his game.
    It’s a yes from me.

    1. Nigel

      Still could be leaving as the Spanish window does not close until 23.00 hours! I just hope the purchasing club can’t meet our demands.

  71. I am generally not in favour of old boys returning but given a choice between Puncheon and Albert it is a no brainier for me, Albert all day long.

    Hope the rumour is true and the AA deal proceeds and that JP goes to Villa.

  72. As with Nigel and KP, never go back, never take a player back, it usually ends in tears. However if there is nobody because Villa have taken them, well Albert before Pucheon or Bolasie.
    I would have Abraham’s though. Pity about Villa finding those new investors. Wonder how they are dealing with FFP? Mind you it does appear to matter these days.

  73. Just watching Sky News and the reporter has said that unlike the PFL, the EFL cannot do deal sheets after five. So if it is not in then no deal.
    He did not elaborate if MFC had any in for ratification.

    1. Good

      he and his greedy Brother ensured last time that he moved on and so it proved today that he’s just in it for the money

      Not interested in players like him


  74. A cloud of mystery hangs over the ‘loan’ situation swirling around Rockcliffe, if Boro were working towards something it looks a bit of a lash-up. The system is a bit of a charade really.

    Right on to tonight, Back Alley Shin Kickers 2 – 1 Pulis’ Artists. Neil Bausor playing sweeper has a blinder. His office is spotless.

    On a different not the boss and I are negotiating over a new used VW van. I’ve asked the garage to keep it quiet in case Steve Bruce hi-jacks the deal.



  75. Is anyone else thinking that Boro’s transfer deadline dealings has just set the bar for Brexit? It seems no deal is better than a bad deal. Perhaps we’ve reached this peak social media experiment where people no longer believe in compromise any more – this is what I want and I’m not budging and the strategy of going to the 11th hour with this position in the hope someone blinks. Maybe people are no longer blinking after being conditioned by a world where Trumpisms and alternative facts makes them demand others say they are right. My observation is having these artificial deadlines just doesn’t work and turns the whole process into a non-functioning waiting game where most just decide to wait and then go home.

  76. Been a bit under the weather this week and not really up for posting, but read every word.
    Very belated acknowledgement of Werder’s wöchentlich schriften and RR’s Rochdale rendition. Both up to the usual high standards.
    As for tonight. Looking forward to watching and having a feeling we can win, so counter-intuitively and to avoid tempting providence, I will predict we lose to a late late wonder strike from PB, 2-1 to the dirty whites.

  77. With Villa buying/loaning everyone in sight, I thought I would see when we and Leeds would play them, they have an interesting December:

    1. BORO away

    8. West Brom away

    15. Stoke home

    22. Leeds home

    26 Swansea away

    29 Preston away

    So when we have a month of tough fixtures, it shows we are not the only ones. So maybe he will need all those players if some of them are not on the treatment table.

    Come on BORO.

  78. No manager is perfect, and no player is perfect.

    My heart couldn’t help but warm at the possibility of Albert returning, despite everything. I stand by my belief that AK *did* make Albert a better all around player – his defensive qualities certainly helped Villa shut us out in the play-offs – but blunted his edge. He may very well have become a useful player that we needed – 98 appearances in two years under AK say it all – but he was no longer the exciting player that we wanted.

    This applies to, say, Bamford too. In the midst of all the sadness at Bamford’s departure, from me included, there were opinions to the contrary and not just from GHW. AK wasn’t the only one to call Bamford out for attitude – Sean Dyche did too, and I was reminded by someone that Paddy recalled himself from loan while at Palace. The implication was that as long as the tactics and surroundings were right for him, Paddy would thrive, but he doesn’t suit the Pulis way and it was good for us to make a profit.

    Funny how we can all put spins on things.

    Contrast Paddy with Stuani – even when stuck out on the right he got on with it. Partly, maybe, because Espanyol and Uruguay did the exact same thing to him.

  79. I must admit bringing in another central defender was a surprise – Danny Batth played in all of Wolves’s games last season so he’s not exactly a squad player either. Perhaps it indicates that Tony Pulis will have to continue with a back three since he didn’t sign the wide players he wanted. All of which would mean 5-6 central defenders would be needed to cover injuries and suspensions. Braithwaite staying is a bonus and the arrival of Saville will maybe add a new dimension.

    The fact that Boro kept Harry Chapman, Johnson and Fletcher indicates that the squad is not as deep as intended. Hopefully that means opportunities for the youngsters to get games – particularly those with pace like Tav and Chapman.

  80. Some other rumours that Adomah was released from his contract at Villa so in theory is now a free agent and can sign for clubs after the transfer deadline – maybe still could be a late arrival at Boro.

  81. I assume that the signing of Batth was an admission of failure on the winger front – Pulis has said he does’t have the players he wants for the way he wants to play, so he has resorted to the 3 at the back with wing-backs. Playing 3 CBs means that additional cover was necessary.

  82. The signing of another centre back should not be confused with players signed for other areas of the team. If it was felt another centre back was needed then that cannot be ignored because it doesn’t fit the story.

    Imagine in a presser

    ‘You didn’t sign a wide man with pace Tony.’

    ‘I know, we needed a players in other positions and because I didn’t get the wide player I wanted I decided not to strengthen elsewhere. It is better to be weak in all areas of the pitch’

    We needed more progressive midfield players and have signed some. The miss is the pace and width, where will that come from?

    1. If only we could take our chances and the referee would take appropriate action at both ends of the pitch when grappling and shirt pulling goes on at free kicks and corners.

      CoB 😎

  83. Am I wa Ching a different game. Leeds are playing just as much if not more long balls as Boro. They are struggling to cope with Boro’s structure but we are finding it hard to get any support for Assombalonga up front. It needs a flash of brilliance or it could be a set piece winner unless someone’s concentration slips.


  84. Excellent Excellent Excellent Boro

    Adam Clayton, Outstanding!

    Did someone tell Dale Fry he’s Franz Beckenbauer’s Love Child, definite future England CB at senior level.

    Even Stewart Downing has won me over , a revelation.

  85. Outstanding team effort tonight. Sharper refereeing should’ve given us two penalties,. Sharper finishing from us should’ve scored anway. Would have been a huge injustice had we lost. Also, have to agree Clayton was superb.

  86. Dead right Ian. I should have remembered.

    That was a really impressive performance against a team that has been scoring for fun. A great testament to TP’s organisation, the effort of the players and their fitness that they were able to keep going at full pace without even a single substitution. It will be interesting to hear TPs reply if asked about ‘no subs’. Was the structure working so well that he didn’t want to upset things.

    That’s now five and a half games without conceding a goal and, to be honest, Leeds never looked like scoring.

    Great performance from Clayton and non-stop from Howson as well. Besic also looked quality although he did seem to slow down a bit towards the end. I was expecting him to be the one subbed along with Assombalonga who was very good holding up the ball in the first half but did less well in the second. He was, to be fair, pretty much alone most of the time. The back three looked rock solid and, this time, Shotton was the better of the two wingbacks. Can’t comment on Randolph because, literally, he didn’t have a save to make. That maybe sums up the game more than anything else.

    We could have sneaked it from a set-piece but I’ll take that result.

    Onward and upward with some interesting new additions and surprising retentions…..if nothing happens before 11pm!


  87. Oops. Forgot Downing who produced another rock solid game. He almost looks like a new player this year. I can’t make up my mind about Friend. He does so much so well but he can get caught occasionally.


  88. That was a high intensity match – you could almost say a typical no quarter given derby game but apparently games against Leeds are not counted as one. Boro barely put a foot wrong and looked a frighteningly strong side. Besic looked good and Clayton was at his best – though Fry looked like he could be knocking on the England door in a few years as an ideal back three defender who looks comfortable on the ball. Thoroughly enjoyable game to watch and well done to Boro for standing tall – literally!

  89. An outstanding team effort.

    Great tenacity, concentration, organisation, energy and determination from the whole team.

    Fry had probably the best game of his short career so far. Flint and Ayala are absolute beasts alongside him. Shotton and Downing appear reborn this season. Howson seems to be twice as energetic and purposeful. Clayton? Back to his very best which makes him one of the best, maybe the best defensive midfielder in the division.

    Of course we need more creativity in open play – all our best chances seem to be from set plays – but we’ve lost the devastating pace and directness of Traore and of course Braithwaite wasn’t playing as well.

    Away to the league leaders wasn’t really a game to play creative football. It was a game for fighting for each other, working as hard as you can and refusing to give easy chances away. That’s what we got.

    An outstanding team effort.

  90. Top performance. You could tell from the interviews with both managers. To be fair to Bielsa he had to go through a translator but his head was down.

    If you offered any fan five points from Millwall, Bristol and Leeds they would snap your hand off


  91. Nice one OFB.

    In fact, the way Boro are playing reminds me of another wonderful cartoon, The Fosdyke Saga. Who remembers them? Boro make me think of Tripenstein, the monster they created. “Creative enough to play the violin in the concert halls of Europe and strong enough to knock them down afterwards”.

    Still makes me laugh.


  92. Watching on a television set is not the same as being at the game live, where you can see the whole picture the entire time. But there is one aspect where it is superior, and that is you get to see a players reactions and facial expressions up close.

    I took particular notice of Assombalonga tonight, his work rate and running is excellent, but he seems to just lack that certain edge that top strikers have, a meanness or nasty edge if you will. I’m not condoning foul play but it’s the only thing lacking from his game.

    If I was part of the coaching set up at MFC I’d be on the phone to Ian Wright or Chris Sutton and ask them to spend a bit of time one on one with him. He has everything to be a top striker but I think he’s lacking a little bit of self belief and a bit of nous around hard nosed defenders.

    1. I agree with that but they no he’s lacking a few other bits as well.

      I’d like him to be more alert and his first touch needs to be much better too.

  93. Two things I love about Boro since Tony Pulis took charge.
    Hearing opposing Managers say things like “…against a very difficult, very physical, side.” (Marcelo Bielsa last night). No longer anyone’s soft touch.
    Seeing an unchanged team more often than not, gone are the days of constant chopping and changing with no particular aim (seemingly) in mind.

  94. That was a fantastic team effort and had the referee done his job Boro would have had a couple of pens and Douglas had a straight red card.

    Leeds created very little and all the dangerous chances fell to the team in red. Although if you believe the BBC football website apparently both teams prayed out “a forgettable draw”.

    Really! And I have the legal obligation to fund this moronic and myopic bunch of idiots! Although we had the better chances Leeds certainly played their part in what I saw as a very exciting and entertaining game. Forgettable it certainly was not. What were the Boro supposed to do, let the dirties just walk the ball into the net.

    The reporter is called Phil Cartwright and as a fee paying license holder this total tool should be sacked for his inability to carry out the job for which, due to the unique way the BBC is funded, as were constantly being reminded I along with millions of others have the dubious pleasure to pay for.

    Once again from front to back there wasn’t a weak link, although Shotton had a few stray passes but he more than made up for those errors overall. Fry, Besic, Downing and Howson were all excellent and Brit never gave their defence a minutes peace all night But the stand out motm was Adam Clayton who is playing his best football in a Boro shirt. Absolutely fantastic Clayts well done son!

    Running up those Austrian Alps certainly looks as if it’s paying dividends as our fitness levels are the best I think I’ve ever seen.

    I know it’s early days but watching with a few mates, one said we’ve just seen the championship winners tonight and he didn’t mean Leeds!

    1. Loved that. I passed it to Mr Cartwright ( anonymously of course he doesn’t get to see where the comments came from or whom)

      It would appear it’s in his inbox awaiting his attention. Hope you don’t mind.

      “Hello, I am out of the office until Sunday, 2 September at 11:00 BST. For anything urgent, please email or call 0121 567 6325. Thanks, Phil.”

  95. I think Andy said it best. In the direct aftermath of the game I was disappointed we didn’t nick it a la West Brom and I feel that negatively coloured my opinion at the time. Yet, given more time to reflect, there is a lot to praise.

    The shape was good. Leeds were ordinary because our towering trio of centre backs didn’t let them be extraordinary. Like West Brom, they fancied they could play and monopolised possession (more on this in my next Talking Point). But it counted for nothing.

    Clayton had the holding midfielder part down to a “T”, allowing Howson, Besic and Downing to roam forward with force when they got the opportunity. Considering the quality of the opposition, it seems churlish to nitpick, but the end product, barring Ayala’s late header, and one fine run and shot from Howson, was a little below par. Notably Britt’s first half header.

    That, and I suspect that had we shown a little more endeavour and intuition (Wing or Hugill for a defender? McQueen on to provide pace down the flank?) we could have won.

    But I simultaneously understand it is early in the season, Saville (a Northern Irishman!) is still to bed in, and Pulis didn’t want to gamble unduly at the league leaders. Which is fair enough. That, and bringing Braithwaite on might have caused a fuss after, according to one fan, his head was turned by the transfer window. No surprise then that MB was dropped.

    No, it wasn’t pretty. But “pretty” is not what we need most right now – “consistent” is. And we’re getting that.

      1. Maybe so. Bielsa didn’t change anything until near the end himself.

        But Hugill did make a difference vs WBA, and I believe he may have done so again.

        Just a thought. You don’t have to agree with it. And previous Boro managers have been slaughtered for making no, or few, changes.

  96. There’s extra satisfaction in knowing that we frightened Leeds. We spoiled their big party. Beating their closest rivals at home would have been really important to them, and we didn’t let them.

    Reminds me of the days when Big Jack’s Ireland lined up against Spain and Emilio Butragueno was visibly trembling before kick-off. The aerial presence, the physicality, the togetherness of the Irish struck fear into the hearts of their more illustrious opponents. As Mick McCarthy said, “We knew we could do it before the game”.

    And they did. 1-0.

    Similarly, Ireland gave then European Champions Denmark a very rough time on their own patch, becoming the only opposition side to hold the Danes to a 0-0 draw at home.

    Binary scorelines? Yes. But performances to be proud of? Certainly.

  97. I admire Britt’s workrate, though I suspect to maximise his goal return he needs the ball to his feet ten yards from goal with a minimum of thinking time.

    A goalless point away to Leeds is a very good point indeed, especially considering our league placings.

    To recap: I saw us concede two at Millwall but having not witnessed a second of live football since, we’ve yet to be scored against. Perhaps I shouldn’t attend anymore games until the end of the season…

  98. I’ve thought again, and now I can theorise why Pulis made no changes.

    It could be down to not having the right players available to him, players who he believed could definitely make a difference against Leeds. Maybe a psychological nudge, also, at the board, to back him with the right money and the right players if they want Boro to win the league.

    Though there is the alternative argument that TP should simply make do with what he has, rather than go the Rafa route of needing more money and more players.

    Case in point? While Dyche spent a lot his club had earned more than what was spent in player sales.

    1. Simon

      I think another reason was the team were performing well as a unit and they have a two week break in front of them so no need to think about tired legs or upcoming fixtures. I also think it sends a very positive message from the manager to those on the pitch.

  99. An excellent performance , it looks to me they are enjoying the ,three at the back system, it seems to fit with type of players we have, its also allowing the midfield more scope and not to worry about any mistakes as there is plenty of coverage .behind,
    A very positive start and its going to take a very good team to beat us,if we stay consistent.

  100. RR,

    Great report about a great team effort and a great result. The entire game seemed rough, ready and fairly brutal at times but Boro didn’t fold. Excellent, Leeds dropped two points Boro won one is how I see it. I reckoned it would be Boro’s first defeat but Mr Pulis put some backbone into the team. Well done.



  101. GHW

    Thanks for forwarding my post to that bastion of sporting impartiality that is the BBC.

    Before the West Brom game I’d been messaging friends with the opinion that I’d take two draws from our next two games as long as we showed we could compete with two of the best (alleged) teams in the league.

    Well after last night I’m actually disappointed in a way that we’ve only come away with two clean sheets and four points. Talk about exceeding expectations!

    When I saw the team sheet I must admit to being more than a little surprised to see Braithwaite named as one of the subs.

    Caught the last few minutes of BBC Teessport when I got home and in his post match interview TP was asked about Braithwaite, to which he replied his move hadn’t/wasn’t happening and the club basically had to ensure his head was right and he’d be a Boro player for the foreseeable.

    I haven’t seen anything that says otherwise so if he’s still here and he keeps up the standard he’s shown so far then that could be almost like a new signing. I’ve even looked on the BBC and the last move they show at 19:14 was Marvin Johnson moving to the blades on loan. Good luck to him btw.

    So how would I sum up our start to the season so far. Well we’re unbeaten in six league games with five(!) clean sheets and progressed through two league cup rounds with mostly under 23 and younger players. Goalie aside. As we’ve now played two games against “someone” and come through with flying colours I’m starting to become slightly optimistic about the long hard season ahead which is a strange feeling for a Boro fan.

    Hopefully the manager of the month award will go to Bielsa at Leeds and Boro can continue to sneak in under the radar. The only downside for me is that like last season we still haven’t beaten anyone above us in the table😀.

    A* so far on the report card from me.

    1. Mind you, if your team remains at the top of the table, there will be precious few “higher” teams to put on the chopping block. In which case I will be happy if we carry on beating the teams below us in the league!

  102. RR

    Your match report is another great read. I’m glad it wasn’t just me who thought once again we watched yet another example of poor officiating. I was beginning to think the problem was with me and not the man with the whistle.

    Totally agree George got away with one for what was a poor challenge and that by not giving a penalty for the pulling down of Brit early doors he set himself up to take the easy and incorrect route of not making any decisions on the wrestling and fouling taking place in the penalty area every time there was a corner or free kick aimed into the box.

    Not to worry though as these things even themselves out over the course of the season.

  103. Great report RR and many thanks. Seeing t live on TV and also reading the prose brings it all to life – in media stereo.

    Besic caught my eye, and I think he made the difference from earlier performances, he made Downing look like the master and now that we don’t need his crosses anymore as he fits well into this quiet more influential role.

    Did anyone notice the tunnel shots – we looked like a squad of giants – no wonder Leeds panicked every time we had a dead ball attack – but this was the ancestral home of big Jack. My first cup final as a thinking supporter on TV was Leeds v Chelsea. I was looking forward to a net busting goal but was let down by Big Jack who scored from a corner and the ball crossed the line but just landed over the line and stopped.

    Anyhow no more rambling good for the lads to go into the break on the up and lets hope we stay at the top and soon overhaul Leeds and dismantle this league.


  104. Great match report again RR. I would take issue with one statement though, that there was ‘little real quality on display’. In my opinion. Some of the fast, accurate movement of the ball between players of both teams was great to watch and definitely not lacking quality. There might not have been any individual flair on display, but that is different to quality, especially in what is a team sport. Actually, I think just about everything else you said reflects just that, quality and I would agree.
    Not much individual flair on display, but a gripping encounter showcasing many undervalued qualities the modern media hacks just don’t understand. Take me a game like that anytime, but to put 8 goals past a disinterested assembly of footballers (thinking Man City) every game, well that would become plain boring.

  105. Just to start on a positive( and continue on the same) As a blogger who has expressed doubts about Tony ( note the dramatic tone change) can I now say, please inform your wife that you are enjoying the job so much that you will be staying for awhile.
    Love the way that he has abandoned the habit of signing players of medium stature. We now possess a team of giants, a back three of , 6-7 6-5 6-4,
    As the reports said, we towered over them in the tunnel, and that proved to be a good indicator for the match.
    I knew from past experience that league leaders in good form do not get beaten at home very often. So it was going to require a good performance to exit the pitch still unbeaten. We did that with bells on, largely thanks to an iron will and a good game plan.

    Strangely, no regrets, they moved heaven and earth to land the points, we quietly set about getting a winner, both failed, but it was close.
    Now looking forward to the season with real expectations.

  106. A great match to watch from the beginning to the end. Some nice touches and great passes. Great teams to watch with good players as Powmill said above.

    As AV wrote: “Boro did work hard. It was a physically draining encounter played at a relentless intensity but Boro never flagged.”

    We were at least as good as Leeds, or even better but happy with an away draw. But definately two exceptionally good Champioship team who deserve to be joint top.

    Up the Boro!

  107. Just got the report, RR. Well done sir – it’s a brilliant read that captures the game perfectly.

    Now the International break (sigh) then it’s Norwich away. who’ve struggled a bit having lost their best player from last season, Maddison.

    Leeds won pretty convincing at Carrie Road. Can we do the same?

    The line up will be interesting with Braithwaite having stayed and a couple of new faces added to the squad.

    Can the next fortnight please just fly by?

  108. Good performance last night. Expect that if we maintain this high level of intensity then a top 6 is nailed on – maybe better?

    Thought Clayton was immense. Just a pity we didn’t get a winger with a bit of pace. Hopefully Braithwaite won’t take his bat home and at least play till the next transfer window.

    Also we had to put up with the referee and others not giving obvious penalties for all the grappling that goes on by all teams in the penalty area.

    This will continue as no one referee will take it upon himself to start giving them .

    The solution is obvious if the F.A. instructed referees to start giving penalties and after the initial moans from managers when lots of penalties were given, they would soon tell their players to stop the infringements and the game would be much better for it.

    It will be nice to have a stress free afternoon by watching some high quality crown green bowling and listening to the radio and the football scores in the knowledge that whatever the scores the Boro will still be second in the table tonight.


    1. Couldn’t agree more Philip. Once clear infringements are dealt with on a zero tolerance basis, the whole game will become much more enjoyable to watch much more regularly.

  109. After watching the match last night I immediately turned over to the St Helens v Wigan match which I’d recorded earlier. Both fixtures were 1st v 2nd in their respective codes, albeit Leeds v Boro were the two best teams in what effectively is the old Second Division whereas Saints v Wigan are the best two teams in Super League. I therefore think it was grossly unfair of the BBC to describe the football match as ‘mediocre’.

    At the same time I agree that on the performances of both teams they would struggle in the Premier League, but it’s early days yet and let’s not forget that this is probably in my opinion the weakest Championship in many years. Leeds are probably akin to Fulham, but will not be able to keep their previous fast passing game alive all season and I don’t see them as automatic promotion candidates, whereas Boro are more akin to Cardiff, a team perhaps not as flamboyant as Leeds, but one that will be very hard to beat and as I mentioned pre-season should finish with near enough 100 points by the season’s end, and after they are promoted will hopefully spend wisely to preserve their Premier League status. I enjoyed the match, but apart from the time Clayton kicked off the goal line, I never felt that Leeds would score even from the last minute free kick.

    Now, though I can’t agree with the BBC’s assessment of the match, I do think Redcar Red’s assessment was more accurate than than the Gazette’s and, dare I say it, some of the bloggers on this forum. Which brings me to the Saints v Wigan match which was outstanding. Few Super League matches this season have been so intense and skillfull, and as a neutral I enjoyed that match also. To a sports observer it would surely overshadow the majority of Premier League matches. Nevertheless this is a Football forum, and mainly a Boro one, so I can understand to some extent some of the rave reviews of Boro’s performance last night. But we still have a problem converting chances especially from dead ball situations into goals in a match I think we should have won. A bit more consistency though, and I think we’ll walk this league.

  110. Been working since posting up RR’s match report early this morning so just had chance to read it properly – many thanks another brilliant take on the game with some great lines and written with an equal intensity to the game. Oor Wullie was a new one on me and comparing the Leeds manager Bielsa to him initially passed me by until I Googled it and turned out to be stroke of genius – he’s an image of the great man himself…
    Oor Wullie

  111. It is interesting that on SSN transfer centre, the top transfer whisper is Jason Puncheon to Middlesbrough rated at 4.5. The only way that could happen is if Palace release him from his contract and he becomes a free agent, then of course Villa will be after him but would he be 4th/5th choice there.

    Come on BORO.

    1. Not sure how likely that is as the Northern Echo claimed this morning that he turned down Boro because he didn’t want to move to the north-east. Strangely, I also read a similar rumour about Villa releasing Adomah from his contract for the same reason. It was reported that the Adomah deal failed because Boro didn’t want to make it into a permanent move in January – I guess it will probably be a long time before Steve Bruce contemplates picking him after what his brother said on social media.

      Incidentally, I can’t see how Villa will pass Financial Fair Play rules given their spending – they were already struggling financially before this season’s spending and now they’ve lost their PL season debt allowance of £39m to use in their 3 year accounts. Also they’re on their last year of Parachute payments which I think is only around £17m. They must have quite a big wage bill and have spent big too – it’s probably go up this season or face a fine and transfer embargo.

        1. Yes it’s not much of a deterrent if you get promoted as the amounts involved don’t make much impact (Foxes paid £3m fine and Bournemouth just under £5m). Although, if not promoted the transfer embargo could hurt – at least it would stop them nicking our targets 🙂

        1. They were reportedly given a £42m penalty in July – though it was a £17m fine plus £3m in legal costs for fighting and losing the case in which they said imposing FFP was illegal – they also agreed to convert £22m debt into equity, which meant the owners had to cough up £42m in all. They also agreed to a transfer embargo in January 2019.

  112. Terrific match report as ever RR and an excellent point last night. Pulis again got it right and we do have an awesomely powerful defence now.

    I’m glad that the club didn’t let Braithwaite go on the cheap just because he asked to leave. It seems to me he now has two choices.

    One is that he throws his toys out of the pram, gets relegated to the reserves or worse and thereby damages his market value and makes any move that he might want in the future less likely to happen.

    The other is that he knuckles down, fights his way into the first team, produces man-of-the-match performances week after week and thereby increases his market value and makes any future move more likely to happen.

    Question is whether he will be disgruntled enough to cut off his nose to spite his face. I hope not and I hope he chooses the other option because he can be a very valuable player this season if his mindset is right.

  113. I’ve noticed that Villa endured their own Barnsley-style implosion today at Bramall Lane, fighting among the away fans included. Except unlike Boro they hadn’t Albert to reduce the arrears sufficiently.

    Albert has his “moments” but he never especially struck me as a troublemaker or troublesome player. So why is even Steve Bruce struggling with him? It’s still sad that, in football, a solitary player, or two, can cause such a ruckus on the Twitterwaves, when there’s a whole squad to support. We sold Adama, we sold Bamford, and naturally not everyone was happy, but now we’re joint top, so there you go.

    Elsewhere, Foghorn Waghorn scores from the spot in a Derby win, and AKForest are scoring in every game but, with one exception, can’t keep a clean sheet. Hmmm.

    1. Simon
      Not bad for a little dribbler.
      Noticed that they got the ball to him pretty near the area, one man to beat, then put it into the net. Not something we did very often, if at all.
      They will be playing him in the middle soon, then watch out.
      Just a thought, what sell on agreement did we insist on? Could be a very valuable asset.

  114. Great alternative match report RR….thanks, which I have to agree with in the view that it lacked some quality.

    Boro were immense and played out a total TEAM game. However there was a certain quality missing upfront and the lack of pace was obvious at times. Mr Pulis’ team selection to counter Leeds was spot on and he utilised his available squad (I include MB as not being available) to perfection.

    What concerns me, and yes I know we will not be playing Leeds every week, is the number of chances we create is minimal outside of set pieces. There will be occasions when we will not score from those and the other team will possibly score with their only chance of the game. That leaves us vulnerable.

    Will TP bring MB back into the team, will he utilise Saville after possibly agreeing a January 7mil fee? The latter is match fit, will somebody drop out to accommodate him or MB.With a lack of pace and a wide player will he stick to 3 at the back or possibly at home go a flat 4 and be more positive.

    In two weeks time we may know, though away to Norwich I do not see any changes apart from the bench. Leadbitter???

    Werder….looking at Wiki, Bahht only played a small number of games last season, but was an ever present in the previous 4 seasons. Am I wrong?

    1. Yes, Danny Batth played in all Wolves games in 2016-17 not 2017-18 as I earlier posted, which means he didn’t feature much last season in their promotion campaign and arrives short on match time like Sam McQueen – sounds like he’ll be a squad player on that basis.

  115. A compelling and engaging match despite it being 0-0 and perfectly captured in RR’s report, thank you.

    The commitment, intensity and defensive organisation of Boro is something to admire. It’s just a shame that when in possession we do not do more with the ball but that is down to what we have available. I just hope it doesn’t come back to haunt us later in the season.

    Some immense performances from the likes of Fry, Howson who sees to be setting new benchmarks week by week, and of course MoTM Clayton.

    Overall the combined team performance could not be faulted albeit one or two individuals could perhaps at times have made better decisions/execution but it would be churlish after such a good result to name names.

    If we can continue to replicate last night’s performance for the majority of the season then we should be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. This was not something I felt after our first match when I believed that we might finish somewhere between 7th and 10th.

    It appears that the collective is greater than the sum of the parts todate and long may it continue.

    Following the closure of the window we now seem to have c.25 players who I would regard as in contention for a first team place, which is rather at odds with what TP has said previously on the subject of squad size. It would be interesting to hear his views now and also to hear from either SG or the recruitment team about the problems they encountered but I am not holding my breath.

    Roll on Norwich and let’s see if we can do a Leeds on them. 😎😁

  116. Someone commented earlier that Assombalonga might benefit from spending time with an out and out striker like Ian Wright or similar who could advise him on becoming a bit more aggressive with his game and I like the idea.

    He has ability for sure but for me he lacks a bit of ruthlessness and the killer instinct in front of goal and as a result he isn’t as effective as he should be. He had a great chance with a header last night that ballooned way over the bar and off target. I suspect that Hugill might have buried it.

    1. I think last nights game would have been an ideal one for Bamford rather than Assombalonga. His skill sets are more suited to playing that lone role in that he can twist and turn, control the ball and has a burst of pace.

      Paddy was always cited as not being physical enough to play that role but I think its wrong. He doesn’t barge into CB’s trying to steam roller them instead he reads the game and uses guile and cunning to get behind the big bruisers and past them whilst they are trying to turn. His so typical burst past Flint led to a free kick as Aden had no alternative in his locker other than to take him out. The resultant free kick was the nearest Leeds came to equalising and had us all nervous momentarily. My point is I still don’t think it was good business to sell him.

      1. The only upside is that it’s impossible to think we’ll make a bigger clanger this season. Bamford has skill, commitment and is simply credible in all areas and is player around whom the fans can rally. It was stupidity of the highest order to sell him. To Leeds, just twists the knife.

  117. Villa’s performance today is reminiscent of when they first came down, spent big and imploded. Its almost like history repeating itself and not so dissimilar to GM last Season when he had too many toys and no idea which ones to play with.

    1. Yes, good point. There was also one comment on Twitter from an outraged Villa fan making the point that it is a waste of time signing loads and loads of Premiership squad players when what is needed is proven Championship battlers – like Boro last night.

  118. I posted that I would rather have Albert than Bolassie or Puncheon, them we had the deal falling through.

    OFB posted dont bring him back for being greedy with wage demands. RR posted his brother was proud so was protective.

    What are my views? I have always stated it isn’t straightforward.

    Albert has a disagreement, applauds Bristol fans at the Riverside then ignores Boro fans outside the ground.

    Naughty stepped or toys out of pram before coming back in to the matchday squad with hugs for AK. Helps getting us promoted.

    A starter in the premiership season then his brother comes out and criticises the club for insulting terms.

    Suddenly he is at Villa rather than playing in the Premiership. Villa have a shocking start and Steve Bruce comes in and Albert isn’t fancied.

    Last season can easily be argued the best of his career with goals and assists. Villa dont go up and FFP strangles the transfer dealings so everybody is available.

    New investors and the pressure is off to sell.

    Adomah goes from being a saleable asset to no longer wanted. The club’s offer is insulting – the brother again with insulting, foul language aimed at Bruce.

    The club hijack the Boro deal for Bolassie who must be expensive on the wage bill.

    ‘Albert’ comes to Boro and turns down personal terms.

    I am sorry, something isn’t right. Can someone rationalise that lot without dislocating their limbs or creative accounting.

    1. Trying to put myself in Albert’s shoes he wanted more money at Boro and was sat in the same dressing room with the only Keeper to wear Cuban heeled football boots on probably three times (maybe four or five times) his wages. His age at the time is what is generally regarded as a Player’s peak years so when contracts were being discussed he probably asked for the Moon. Considering he had played a role in getting the Club into the Premiership (along with others) he probably felt he was worth it.

      He moved to Villa and may or may not have received remuneration in line with his previous Boro expectations but I’m guessing he was on decent wages based on media reports this week that Steve Bruce told him he could have a new contract but only on reduced terms. Considering that he had just had probably his best season with a hat full of goals for Villa he probably figured that he was worth at least the same amount and not expecting a pay cut especially with the clubs very obvious new found wealth.

      With regards to the discussions which broke down yesterday my guess is that Albert was seeking the same as a minimum as his existing Villa contract which I’m guessing was more than his previous Boro one. Its entirely possible he was even haggling for more (one final decent contract) bearing in mind he also witnessed the return of Downing previously during his time here and figured the club still has parachute payments plus have just sold a few million quids worth of Players. He also wanted a permanent agreement as I understand from reports in media from journalists who weren’t there as oppose to just a loan.

      Boro’s recruitment/contract negotiation team seem to be under strict wage ceilings (assumption based upon failures to land some targets during both windows). Put two and two together, get five and hence the discussions failing over personal terms. MFC seem very rigid and determined over what they will pay in terms of wages and agents fees and are walking away from deals rather than sign Pulis’s preferred options (or so it seems).

      1. RR

        Allegedly !

        It’s belt tightening all through the club and cuts are being made everywhere

        Ex players and partners now have restricted amount of visits per season

        Corporate hospitality has been pruned back with limited access to MFC Match day hosts which are now shared between all the lounges for limited timings

        All MFC stewards have had meal / sandwich allowances restricted which apparently saves £40kpa (that’s a lot of sandwiches !)

        Reduction in the number of match day staff has also been implemented

        Now this can be seen as being prudent and running a tight ship

        I remember seeing it before at a company I used to work for and it showed Savings on overheads and increased profits which made the books look good. It was sold the following year !

  119. OFB

    Alberts leaving has always been depicted as an evil created by AK

    My view has always been that is too simple. I look forward to a rational discussion of his moves. AK cannot be blamed for his Villa career and subsequent fall out.

    The only constant appears to be Albert and his brother.

    1. As far as I’m aware Albert wasn’t the instigator behind Charltongate which would indicate that he wasn’t the only one who had experienced difficulties with AK. Steve Agnew also clearly had an uncomfortable relationship with AK and of course Leo Percovich also seems to have had issues unknown to us at the time. None of that of course proves or disproves anything in regards to Albert but his career to date only seems to have required relationship counselling with AK and Steve Bruce.

      Now Albert does have “previous” in regards to falling out with clubs over contracts. In 2009 while with Barnet on the final day of the transfer window, Barnet chairman Tony Kleanthous revealed that talks with Blackpool broke down two hours before the deadline. I don’t claim to know about what or why but its happened before with him.

      Similarly with Bristol he made it clear to City that he did not wish to play in League One following their relegation from the Championship. Wigan Athletic made two bids for him both of which were rejected so Albert then submitted a transfer request which was refused. At the start of the 2013 season Albert was rested for Bristol City’s campaign opener.

      My conclusion is that he doesn’t particularly have relationship problems but likes to negotiate the best possible terms and conditions he can muster and can be demanding and temperamental when it comes to cash.

        1. I know Leo fell out with AK towards the end of his career with MFC and was brought back by Steve Agnew

          Craig Hignett has no time for him at all !

          Enough said .


  120. OFB

    Maddo made an interesting comment about TP after the game, I know he is now doing work coaching etc,
    But he mentioned the changes taking shape, all positive within the club.
    Its about time, it seems its been haphazard,
    How can you go from ,Viduka,Ravennelli, Hasslebank to Kai Kamara. Merson to Mark Yeates, Woodgate, to the in loan get rid of £4.4 mil Peterborough guy, don’t remember his name,
    Anyway its about time the waste is being rectified.

  121. From today’s Rod Liddle column in the Sunday Times. What many of us are thinking I’d bet…

    ‘On Friday evening we sold a chap called George Saville to Middlesbrough for more than four times that amount. George had been bought from Wolves, where he was surplus to requirements, one year ago for about £350,000. He had a good season for us, but £8m? Are you kidding?

    But the big hitters of the Championship have money coming out of their ears. It is doubtful Saville will hold a regular place at Boro, where the midfield is marshalled by a player designed according to Tony Pulis’s template, the underrated Adam Clayton. There are now more midfielders on Teesside than there are chicken parmos.’

  122. It would appear that B-exit is still causing consternation amongst posters.

    I said I would donate £20 to Zoe’s Place if Bamford outscored Boro’s top scorer. Despite his beatification amongst many on here only one, or maybe two offered to donate, if the top scorers were reversed.

  123. OFB

    I dont think many would want AK back, I hope he has mellowed in the time since he left.


    The non B-exit may be interesting. Will Martin play more than Paddy? Who will score the most goals.

  124. Further to the earlier post regarding the penalty imposed this summer on QPR for breaching FFP. Just to recap they were fined £17m and ordered to pay £3m towards the EFL’s legal costs for fighting a case in which they claimed imposing FFP was illegal – They also agreed to convert £22m of debt into equity.

    QPR breached FFP rules in their promotion year 2013-14, when they had a wage bill of £75m, which was almost double their income for that season. Back then FFP was calculated on a yearly basis with I believe owners allowed to invest £8m with a loss of £5m allowed – giving an overspend allowance beyond turnover of £13m. QPR that season exceeded the FFP limit by £23m.

    It’s taken 4 years to impose a penalty and their fine of £17m does appear high. It may sound a lot but the EFL have agreed that this fine can be paid over 10 years – so £1.7m per year is not going to have to much impact. Even more incredibly this fine is not included as expenditure so it’s extra money the club can inject, which in reality means no financial handicap.

    What’s also quite amazing is that the EFL spent at least £3m on the court case – does everything football related need to paid for to match the player’s salaries. A club in breach of an organisation’s rules, which presumably they signed up to by entering the competition, should have been a relatively simple case to defend.

    Also converting loans to the club into equity is something that Steve Gibson has done in the past, though I’m not sure in the case of the Boro owner that he can at some point redeem those loans if the club is sold. I believe in the case of QPR they won’t be able to redeem the £22m that they converted to equity.

    Though what the QPR case does show is that it won’t prevent rich owners from trying to inject cash into clubs in the hope of taking them into the PL. The only real hardship in the end is that they will have a transfer embargo in January 2019 – though rarely do any significant deals take place in that Window as clubs are reluctant to sell their best players halfway through the season.

  125. FFP is there to help the top clubs and to deter the smaller clubs from incurring debt and going under. Thus retaining the Status Quo.

    Same as it ever was.

  126. The Championship is a way into the PL for rich owners who aren’t concerned about a piddling little fine. For some it’s not even about the money, just the kudos of owning a Premier League football club.

    1. Sometimes it’s not even kudos but it’s designed to raise their profile and in some cases legitimise their brand or business ventures. This what Qatar are doing with their World Cup bid and ownership of PSG through the Oryx Qatar Sports Investments vehicle.

      1. Michael Corleone: My credit good enough to buy you out?

        SG:Buy me out?
        [Neil Bausor laughs nervously]

        Michael: The club, the hotel. The Corleone Family wants to buy you out.

        SG: The Corleone Family wants to buy me out? No, I buy you out, you don’t buy me out.

        Michael: Your Club and Rockliffe loses money, maybe we can do better.

        SG: You think I’m skimmin’ off the top, Mike?

        Michael: You’re unlucky.

        SG: You goddamn guineas really make me laugh. I do you a favor and take Fabrizio in when you’re having a bad time, and then you try to push me out!

        Michael: Wait a minute, you took Fabrizio in because the Corleone Family bankrolled your Club because the Molinari Family on the Coast guaranteed his safety. Now we’re talking business, let’s talk business.

        SG: Yeah, let’s talk business, Mike. First of all, you’re all done. The Corleone Family don’t even have that kind of muscle anymore. The Godfather’s sick, right? You’re getting chased out of New York by Barzini and the other Families. What do you think is going on here? You think you can come to my club and hotel and take over? I talked to Barzini, I can make a deal with him, and still keep my hotel and club.

        Michael: I leave for New York tomorrow, think about a price.

        SG: Do you know who I am? I’m Sir Steve Gibbo, I made my bones when you were going out with Scottish Clubs!

        Michael: Well we’re going to make you an offer……..

  127. So, following on from Werder and GHW, as long as the Corleone Family can pass the EFL “deemed as suitable” test then FFP is dead just like the horse in the bed.

    Aston Villa looking down and out at the end of last season have now been resurrected and appear to have loads of loot to spend. Mind you Mr Bruce must be on thin ice now and the first crack appeared yesterday.
    Wolves gained the Fossen Group (is it called) and loaned their way to promotion with the help of Mendes. Fulham in a similar way with Shad Khan who also wants to buy Wembley.

    Werder and GHW are correct, it is not about money with these guys as their football spending is peanuts against their worth, it is about getting to a higher plane of acceptability and world wide acceptance. The football is probably just the vehicle of getting there.

    1. Interestingly, I checked out Villa’s transfer dealings and according to ‘’ they made a profit of around £7m on incoming and outgoings but have acquired 10 players on loan (though some may be not first-teamers). Maybe they’ve actually stayed within the limits but I’d expect their wage bill is quite hefty.

  128. Just one final word on Friday night’s match. Yesterday on ‘Football Focus’ Dan Walker was going to make some snide comment on the supposedly best two Championship teams playing out a dull goalless draw when Kevin Kilbane interjected and said that he enjoyed the match. Maybe an ex international player having played in several divisions of the Football League as well as the Premier League might understand more about football than James Law on the BBC website or the aforesaid Dan Walker.

    1. It may have been goalless but it wasn’t dull – it was a high intensity full-energy game from start to finish and had 20 attempts on goal and 11 corners with plenty going on in the box – plus Shotton’s long throws are just like corners too. I remember some games under Strachan regularly only had 1 or 2 attempts on goal – plus the days under Karanka regularly involved slow sideways passing that often ended up back with our own keeper after crossing the halfway line.

    1. Ken anything north of Watford is classed as mediocre by the BBC. Even Man U, love them or hate them, are now fair game for their esteemed reporters. Whatever is in fashion with them.

      I enjoyed the game, enjoyed the result even more.

  129. Well, this has been sitting waiting for the 300th post all afternoon. Clearly everyone has been too distracted by Hamilton’s unexpected victory at Monza and England’s perhaps equally unexpected test win over India.

    1. Well, over here it was all about Räikkönen not winning the home grand prix for his Ferrari. And that we did not have a one-two win for our country.

      Personally I think we are very fortunate to have two Finns on the podium again. It was not the first time there were two Finnish drivers on the podium this season. And we are a nation the size of Scotland.

      Boring when Boro is not conceding any goals and especially so when there are no matches for a fortnight. Up the Boro!

  130. Thank heavens for Zinedine Kilbane. An Irishman – born in Preston to Irish parents – jeered at by many at Sunderland because he wasn’t the jinky “magic man” that his predecessor Allan Johnston* was to them. For Ireland, and for Everton, it was the complete opposite – he was not maligned because he didn’t do magic, but appreciated for energy, graft and balance. Regardless of where he played.

    As Paul Doyle put it, Everton and Ireland may not have always been threatening when Kilbane was on the left flank, but they were never vulnerable.

    Not always threatening, but never vulnerable – a bit like Boro on Friday night.

    *Ah yes. Allan Johnston. Who ended up at Boro for a pittance after his move to Rangers didn’t come off. One goal and a thimbleful of appearances later, he was on his way again.

    He did however play in a cup tie against Brentford, the one where Downing scored his first senior goal for Boro. Back then, we were third, they were in the third tier and the Mackems would be relegated at the end of the season, having had three managers, four wins and a mere 19 points throughout the whole campaign.

  131. A final postscript to Friday night’s match. Even the Yorkshire Evening Post, much more orientated to Leeds United than it’s sister paper the Yorkshire Post, was fairly respectful of the Boro, not critical of TP’s tactics but acknowledging that there is more than one way to be a success in the Championship. Fair play to their reporters.

  132. Interesting thought.

    Last season we bemoaned our lack of points from top half teams. This time out, of six matches four have been against teams in the top ten and we have taken ten points from those games.

    Early days but progress.

  133. Missed the Burnley match because we had a BBQ. Checked the reports and noticed Ben was not even on the bench.

    Paddy a late sub for Leeds. Adama came on after an hour and scored for Wolves.

    A bit of a mixed bag for our three big money sales.

    On those who tried to get in, I suspect Albert will be on a naughty step for two at Villa. He will be able to get lots of time with his brother No Bolassie in the Villa squad. Puncheon made the squad at Villa.

      1. No, Ben was suspended from the European match but in the Burnley website preview they said he was available for the match yesterday.

        I thought I had better check before posting.

      2. If Ben was available to play and not even on the bench he is probably now starting to wonder whether he has ended up at the right club, especially in the light of Burnley’s very poor start to the season. If he can’t make the team when they are shipping goals then when will he?

    1. Oops, I was cut short in mid sentence.
      I meant to write that I don’t take much notice of League positions until each team has played 10 matches. That has always been my rule of thumb in analysing every result in all four divisions. I always regard the previous years positions when assessing if a result is a surprise, hence despite both teams having won their first 3 matches, I count Watford’s win against Spurs as being the most surprising result of the weekend in all 4 Divisions.

      I’m not trying to put a damper on Boro’s good start, but let’s wait until after the away match at Hull before getting too euphoric. Nevertheless I still maintain that the Championship is at its lowest standard for many years and I expect Boro to accumulate near enough 100 points at the season’s end which would surely see them promoted as Champions despite some reservations from Tony Pulis after not being able to acquire all his desired purchases.

  134. I think Assombalonga played well on Friday. He was holding the ball well and bringing others to the play. I honedtly think he has improved and the Leeds defenders couldn’t always get the ball away from him when we played (not hoofed) the ball upwards. Certaily an improvement by Britt.

    Up the Boro!

  135. Like Rhodes and I think Bamford too, I’m sure Assombalonga would score plenty of goals in the right team for him. I’m not sure that we are that right team though.

    You can see why Pulis wanted Mitrovic. He looks like he would have been ideal. Another one that got away but at least it wasn’t to Villa.

    1. I think Assombalonga battled and scrapped very well on Friday night, I certainly have no complaints about his efforts and endeavour. The manner in which we were set up however wasn’t to Britt’s benefit and scrapping and battling in isolation when outnumbered was always going to be a thankless task.

      That is when the squad has to provide the Manager with options be they physicality, trickery, pace or whatever. That is where the transfer window has let TP down, selling Traore was inevitable as was Gibson. Adama could and would have proved an interesting alternative and stretched the Leeds defence and kept them pegged back giving the likes of Saiz for example less support and options but we couldn’t hang on to him as the Premiership was calling.

      Paddy has the ability to read the game and leave lumbering Neanderthal defenders for dead and he would have given the likes of Berardi and Cooper a different problem. You can’t bear hug someone who has just gone around you heading down on goal. Britt has his qualities but pace, first touch and svelte footwork aren’t high on his list.

      I’m not familiar enough with Hugill and what his qualities are having only seen him fleetingly but my view is that he seems to be an old fashioned, in your face, bustling centre forward. That of course is different to Britt but not the ideal solution for me at least for last Friday night but he will no doubt will be very successful in other games to come against different opponents.

      A squad should offer competition and like for like alternatives to replace when injuries and suspension occur to minimise disruption but it also needs variations and alternatives for when the tried and tested isn’t working. The failure to back TP and bring in the Bolasie’s, Puncheon’s, Van La Parra’s or Adomah’s and whoever else we were supposedly linked with to offer pace and flair makes sanctioning the Bamford sale a poor transaction. Paddy doesn’t normally play the same role as those players but he does have the ability to trouble defences through skill and agility. We don’t posses that in the squad now unless we look at the youngsters.

      Whether Paddy ever kicks a ball again for Leeds or indeed scores a goal for the rest of his career is irrelevant. Right here and right now we don’t have anyone who possesses his type of skill sets and love him or loathe him when called upon he delivered at this level. Allowing him to leave was controversial and split the fan base but replacing him with better presumably was the intention at the time (or at least I hope it was). It hasn’t happened for whatever reason be they agent’s greed, player salary expectations or Boro simply not willing to fork out the money (after Savile that seems questionable). As the season progresses opposition managers could work us out and the constraints placed upon TP could come back to haunt us.

      So far, so very good, hopefully it can continue.

      1. With due respect I think you need to re read my post GHW. It was about skill sets and squad balance. It was no more about Bamford than it was Hugill, Assombalonga, Adomah, Bolassie etc.

        I think TP has been short changed by our indifferent recruitment and as a result he has lost attributes which have not been replaced. That includes Adama as much as Paddy in areas where it was generally acknowledged at the end of last season we fell well short.

      2. I was just ribbing you, we all have our favourites. I’ve never forgiven them for giving Don Masson a free transfer! At least we got good money for Bamford.

      3. I have a very long list of Boro “unforgivens”, Souness, Pally, Juninho (McClaren to Celtic), Schwarzer, Luke Young and if I had been old enough Clough would have been top of the pile!

      4. Yes, but it was inevitable that those names would leave as they were in demand. It was the “free” that raised my ire.

        My father only went to one more game after Peacock was sold having said he would never go again. That one, was my first.

  136. RR,
    I get the feeling that Saville had to be purchased at any cost.
    Not only because of previous failures but the fact he had been front and centre in the news/ gossip for weeks. The window was about to shut and the management probably feared that TP might be a tad upset if he ended the the day with nothing other than a warm Batth.

    1. I think there may have been breakdowns in outgoings as well as incomings. Its reasonable to think that if we were playing hardball with incomings then outgoing discussions may have been just as complex hence why we are perhaps left with some players who it was maybe thought would have departed. That’s one logic I can think of with regards to bringing Saville in however the deal does seem to fly in the face of being tight with the cash?

      Another thought process is that our midfield pick up Yellows quite liberally and freely which over a season may mean serious shortages. We are 9th in the disciplinary table with 11 Yellows, Leeds are 7th with 12 Yellows and AK’s Forest on top with 21 Yellows. Having a strong Midfield in depth may make sense so as not to derail things plus it may focus Besic for example not to lose his place due to temperamental indiscipline. It still seems a lot of cash to fork out for a squad player when we may have missed out on some more crucial strategic targets due to finances.

  137. Redcar Red

    It was better than the January window when AK threw a wobbly

    We lost Adama who provided us with skill plus pace and Bamford with craft but bringing Besic back has brought some guile in to midfield.

    Saville with give drive and skill allied to McNair and the youngsters to add to the mix. McQueen gives cover left side. Braithwaite is still here, the fact he was on the bench was a good sign – he looked ok on the matchday video but that is no guarantee.

    We didn’t get the pace we wanted out wide.

    Compare that to Gaston going AWOL and we brought in Gestede, a demoralised and unfit Bamford plus guedewhoareya. Now AK is not our favourite person but you could hardly begrudge him a hissy fit with that sequence of events.

    Anyway, having watched the matchday video I noticed something. On Friday night, live on TV we watched and were told Clayton cleared off the line. He is not paid to let the ball in! The video showed the clearance from the side of the goal through the side netting.

    You clearly see the Leeds player through the netting head the ball, the ball travelled across the goal and Clayton. When Clayton clears the ball it is visible outside of the goal post.

    Rather than congratulating Clayton for a goal line clearance we should be asking, as it wasn’t going in, why didn’t he bring the ball down and instigate an attack?

    I suppose, n mitigation, he was in the six yard box and it was on his left foot.

    1. Its no wonder AK was feeling stressed with that Window however he must have had a hand in Barragan and Valdes and co. arriving. I exclude Negredo from that as I felt he actually worked hard and done his best in an impossible tactical situation.

      To add to me list of ire previously I would also include Stuani who I think was probably the best Striker we have had at the club in the last decade if only we had played him as one!

      1. RR. I here what you say about Stuani but did Jordan Rhodes really get a fair crack of the whip? Bamford and Rhodes together would have been something worth seeing in my view.

    2. Ian
      If the ball is in your six yard box, then you are in real danger of conceding.
      Every goal scored inside the six yard box is accompanied by a defender who coulda, woulda, and certainly shoulda, put boot to ball and despatched it over the stand.
      The race is not to the purist, but the realist. Long live Tony and his giants.

    1. Played well in the match against Boro that was available to be seen. After that it only internet speak and stats.

      Why we needed another MF I am not sure? And as I have previously stated who is going to score the goals. You cannot rely on set pieces all the time. Saying that only three of the nine have come that way. Ayala, Flint and Friend. SD 1; Britt 2; MB 3: None from the recognized Midfielders.

      Still a lack of creativity and a worry over the possibility of a lack of goals.

      1. Pedro
        I have an idea that TP navigated his way past two giant obstacles in West Brom and Leeds using a rock solid defence( result four points).
        I note that Wing is now a fixture in the first team squad, and he was a revelation as a creator of chances, I look forward to a few goals as we meet the weaker teams.

  138. I think we have a good squad and an experienced manager. We should be OK until January when we can try to buy a winger or two.

    At least there is depth and competition in midfield now. We have never had so good midfield except for wingers. No windscreen-wiper chaps in the middle. Great.

    Also we have Britt, Hugill, Braithwaite and Gestede as strikers. I am happy with the lot (I would have preferred Bamford over Gestede, but BamBam wanted to leave and Pulis rates Gestede more). So patience, gentlemen.

    Let’s enjoy the league position and the performances now. As ever we could have done better with transfers but we have what we got. Just keep on plugging away.

    Up the Boro!

  139. A little controversial ,but after watching the u23 match yesterday, I’m wondering if that level is worth the cost and bother.
    Very poor quality and worse the players didn’t seemed all that bothered ,basically going through the motions,none impressed ,you would think if you want to progress in the game,you would be doing everything you could.
    Maybe keep teams up to u23 ,then end at that.
    Then again maybe its the management at that level,are poor and can’t motivate?

  140. gt

    The EFL Trophy has started. The U21 teams from the top two leagues can take part against teams from Leagues 1 and 2.

    In general the U21’s have not done very well which shows the gulf getting in to a first team. It certainly backs up the need for those that are likely to progress but need game time to go out on loan and play even at a lower level

  141. now the dust has settled on the transfer/loan window, it will be interesting to see the line up at Norwich. I cannot see TP making many changes although MB may come back into the eleven (if he can accept parmo’s over paella).
    its not inconceivable that TP could play his wing back system with the following:


    This, in my opinion would be a very strong team but would leave out:

    McNair – never had a real opportunity
    Downing – TP’s favorite
    Howson – Playing his best football since he arrived
    Friend – Not done too much wrong, prone to give the ball away and get caught out of position
    Assombalonga – Has worked real hard for the team but missed a few sitters
    Wing – Just when you thought you had made it…

    I dont think he will be that extreme and may introduce new players slowly or wait for injuries/suspensions but it does show the assets he now has at his disposal. Personally, I wouldn’t change a winning team but it will be difficult to keep them all happy.
    I would be interested to hear what others think while waiting for the next game.
    Who would be a manager!

    1. OB

      There is no way TP would change so many players at once

      I went to a Boro function where there was a Q&A with Curtis & Woody and both said they have never seen a manager work so hard on shape shape shape during training sessions

      It will take a few training sessions to get the new players indoctrinated into the system and as the saying goes

      “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it “


      1. I don’t think based upon league standing that there is an awful lot wrong with what TP has been going with. Undoubtedly it would have been better to have different options like an Adomah and/or a Bolasie but we don’t so we and TP have to suck it up and make the best of it.

        Its pretty much a settled and an effective system and starting eleven which TP can switch from three at the back to four should he choose to tactically but I suspect we will see three rather than four as without conventional Wingers he can at least keep a strong backline and shut outs. If someone picks up a niggle or drops off the pace then he will maybe rest someone but as OFB says it will be one or two only and then only if forced.


        Out of those 26 players I would imagine that Dimi is virtually semi retired in all but name, Wood will probably only be considered in an injury/suspension crisis. Fletcher and Gestede I’m guessing will be peripherals and come into the reckoning for extreme injuries and suspension issues.

        Tavernier, Wing and Chapman may get opportunities but limited to 10 to 15 minutes at the end of games to see how they respond. In fairness Wing has already passed that test with flying colours but I can’t see him getting ahead of Besic and Saville who arrived after his impressive early season starts.

        So that leaves us with 19 players of which Lonergan will be a bench warmer except for some cup games. The remaining six Subs will likely be permed from McQueen, Batth, Leadbitter, Hugill, Saville, Braithwaite and McNair.

        To have Dimi, Wood, Fletcher, Gestede, Tavernier, Chapman and Wing as “surplus” and back ups for the bench should be more than adequate. Put it another way should the worst possible scenario happen and TP was without his entire first eleven he could field:

        McNair, Batth, Wood, McQueen
        Tavernier, Wing, Saville, Braithwaite

        Leaving Dimi, Fletcher, Gestede and Chapman on the bench with three from the Academy.

  142. OFB

    As a chemical engineer by education and many years in production management in various industries the one thing that always concerned me was making too many changes at a time because if you do, what brought about the improvement (or not) in performance.

    Shotton looks much better this season so why is that? There is a good chance it is because Traore is at Wolves. Very simplistic but it is an isolated situation.

    1. Ian
      Nice to see Traore running onto the ball about ten metres from the penalty area, then burying it in the net, and it was the winning goal.
      Now remind me, again, why did we desist from doing that, was it because he was a little dribbler, and we all know they are a nuisance and should be got rid of asap.
      He will be playing at the top of the game by next summer.
      Thankfully we will be getting an enormous sell on bonus.
      Er! We did include a sell on bonus when we were unwilling sellers, didn’t we?

      1. Plato

        I dont think the club wanted to let him go, TP certainly didn’t. It was taken out of the clubs hands though the club created the situation originally.

  143. I would agree Ian about Shotton, not one of my favourites last season, but has performed well, better than George IMO, this season.

    He will go with the same team as Leeds and Saville on the bench for Grant??

  144. Saville’s from NI, so of course I’ll be biased.

    Thanks for the Rod Liddle extract Richard, I’d thought about posting it but you beat me to it.

    Have been taking a little bit of time out from DiasBoro while I get caught up on other work – apologies for lack of posts. We in Belfast have recently been hit hard by one of the city’s most historic buildings burning down and I think the community is still reeling from it. I know I am.

    1. One of my gripes (one of many) during AK’s tenure was the seeming total lack of any game plan from throw ins. We had no movement or strategy to the point where at times you would have thought the Boro player taking the throw in was lobbing a hand grenade. I find it fascinating that it takes the likes of Gronnemark (fair play to him) to spot the obvious that has seemingly eluded Professional Coaches and Managers for the history of the game (TP excepted to a degree).

      The same applied to corners and free kicks under Karanka. Very rarely would we see any rehearsed routine. One against Birmingham stands out in my mind, thats how rare it was. Corners were just simply fired in at the same height and angle for keepers to collect or clear. Worse still was when they were just regularly over-hit with absolutely no one on the far side of the box. It used to drive me nuts sat in the North Stand having to witness it repeatedly.

      And that then brings me on to Barragan but I will desist for the sake of my blood pressure!

      1. That’s it, that’s it! I just KNEW someone would use the “B” word. How anyone, possessing a brain and who has sufficient hand-to-eye co-ordination to persuade a professional football team to give him a contract and play him in top-level competition, could fail so often to take a legitimate throw-in, has me completely flummoxed. I mean, if he was getting paid £100 per week it would be shocking. He wasn’t getting more than that, was he?

    2. Prior to TP ( and many moons before that) a Boro throw in was inevitably returned to the opposition. I used to dread getting a throw, in our own half, as it usually teed up an attack on the Boro goal.

  145. I remember one free kick within the six yard box range, getting beat at the time, and our man of now, Mr Clayton, passed it sideways and eventually it ended back with Valdes. Those were the days.

  146. Pedro

    I dread to think how many attacking corners ended up with the goalkeeper, same as you say with free kicks plus you can add throw ins.

    And it just wasn’t AK. Our ability to leak at defensive corners has long been matched by our inability to use set pieces.

    It isn’t a case of being a one trick pony but delivering in to the box is one of the tools of the trade.

  147. Popping back in for a tick…

    The throw-in lark goes back years. I remember (alas) the 2-1 defeat to Tranmere in the League Cup, where Dave Challinor’s long throws were a constant danger even if they didn’t directly lead to goals. This came not long after Wrexham had dumped us out of the FA Cup.

    In 2009 PuStoke undid Wimpgate with a Rory Delap throw.

    By contrast our own throws have seemed relatively feeble.

  148. On throw-ins. It’s. Bit like Ian observed, the difference between a long pass and a long ball is the team that is delivering it. So, it’s Liverpool that have now learned the value of a well delivered throw into the box, but that’s ok cos they have a specialist throw-in coach so when they do it it is not like when PuStoke (other non-fashionable make weights [including Boro] are available) do it.

    1. Boro, that is Teesside against the rest. As it is and always will be. But if we gain automatic promotion? Well who’ll be right and who will be wrong? Statues for pundits? The international break is boring. So boring.



  149. Perhaps in Big Jack’s time we were better at it?

    One of the most memorable Irish goals during his tenure came when Ronnie Whelan volleyed home a Mick McCarthy throw in against the Soviet Union. It finished 1-1.

  150. GHW

    As I posted, any set piece we had seemed to lead to an opposition attack.

    I remember when Mogga’s team had not so much a post Xmas slump as a black hole experience. In this case it wasn’t all our fault.

    In the second half of a miserable defeat by 3-2 at Wolves (who were in the midst of a bad run of course) Friend get cleaned out and we had a free kick 20 yards inside their half.

    George had to go off for treatment and stood at halfway trying to get back on.

    We took the free with ten men on the pitch as the ref ignored George. The free kick was cleared and they stormed past George stood on the side line. They got towards the byeline and luckily the cross came to nothing.

    The ref then waved George back on! Odd sort of advantage to say the least.

  151. Slow
    Slow slow
    Must be the international break

    They don’t have a break in the County Championship when there is a test match on. The counties with the best players just have to get on without them.
    We didn’t used to have a break in the Football League when there was an international on. The players were up for it to play for their country mid week and for their team the previous and following weekends. If a player was injured on international duty, then I believe his club were compensated.
    It’s all stuff and nonsense and panders to the “top” clubs and raises two fingers to the collective of supporters.

    Slow slow
    Slow…. Yaaaaaawwwn

  152. To fellow cricket lovers a fascinating look back by Ray Illingworth and Dickie Bird as schoolboys at the historic Test Match at Headingley in 1948 when England declared setting Australia 404 to win which they achieved for the loss of only 3 wickets. I remember the occasion but it’s the first time I’ve seen a newsreel of it. Check it out on crowds!

  153. So they replace rounds of meaningless friendlies with a new meaningless competition. Don’t care and won’t be watching.

    Fortunately I managed to contrive to book Mrs FAA and myself a 12 night holiday in Gran Canaria while this tedious international break is on. More luck than judgement I must say! Back on the Friday before the Norwich.

  154. KP

    But Marcelo Bielsa has been nominated as well and he is a coach from overseas.
    On the down side we progressed in the EFL Cup and Leeds went out.

    I am hoping Bielsa gets the poisoned chalice.

    1. He has to. After all he has (allegedly/apparently) turned a basket case of a club around and has the sum of his meagerly talented individuals punching and playing well above their weight.
      Oh, er, perhaps that describes us too !!
      But, he is not Tony Pulis and doesn’t play Pulis Long Ball so he is nailed on 🙂

  155. Well we’re now well into the first international snoozefest – sorry I mean Nations League extravaganza – but help is at hand as I’ve just managed to find a couple of hours in my even more busy schedule than usual to prepare OFB’s latest In2views piece for publishing. This week it’s former Boro central midfielder, Radio Tees co-commentator and newly appointed club employee Neil ‘Maddo’ Maddison…

  156. Thanks OFB for another really good interview. He sounds like a really nice guy.

    Sounds like a fun job with the academy and a good guy to do it. Does everyone agree that the Boro youth programme is operating as well as I can ever remember. It will be interesting to look back and see how many professional players have been turned out through this period…for Boro and for other clubs …any how many will get to play international football at all of the different levels and for different countries.


  157. Selwyn, I like what you say about wanting to see how many professional players we turn out of the academy, but some people lose sight of what turning a kid in to a pro means against a financial return off his back. For me, seeing a wide eyed, enthusiastic kid having his life’s dream fulfilled by becoming a pro footballer means more to me than any monetary return, even if he doesn’t evolve to be the best player on the planet. Call me a romantic, but we’ve all had dreams of becoming something or other and most of us failed, but sports stars regardless of which sport it is, are idolised the world over by kids who just want to be their hero. I know that I never had any pictures of Fitters & Turners or Electricians on my bedroom wall, but there was plenty of footballers up there.

    I think that what I’m trying to say is, we shouldn’t be placing these young ones on a conveyor belt just to see how much we can make on them, and not only in football, I would much more prefer to see any kids dreams come true. Being a father of three, you come to realise just how precious kids are, despite how much it costs you to try and make their dreams come true, we didn’t have them to make a profit on.

    There again, I might have missed a trick there!!!

    1. I wasn’t writing about the financial return but was writing more about our ability to turn out good people who could make a career in football. Clearly making a bit of a profit doesn’t hurt but, like you, I’m really proud of ‘our guys’ making a success of football.


      1. Selwyn, I didn’t think for a second that you were, I just went off on a tangent thinking about how some view the academy as nothing more than a money spinner, that’s why I said “some people.”

  158. Great interview OFB.

    I am now looking forward to Werder’s international break article and Redcar Red’s reports on the England matches.


    Maybe not!

    1. More chance on me reporting on Test Matches Ian!

      For me there shouldn’t be International breaks. We didn’t have them when Clubs were not allowed Subs let alone a bench with seven sat on it and squads of 25 and upwards. Mind you those were the days when players played with broken necks and strapped up thigh strains, before metatarsals were even invented (or fashionable, whichever came first) all cured with a bucket of cold water and the infamous magic sponge.

  159. OFB,

    Thanks for another great interview and it dispersed some of the tumbleweeds that always gather in the ‘Internation Break’. Keep up the good work and who is next? Or is it a surprise.



      1. There’s a couple of things in the vault

        An In2View with Steve Vickers and a Doug’s Diary about Stan Anderson

        I’ve also been talking to David (Spike) Armstrong and sounding out a few more candidates to keep them coming along.

        I think the Maddo In2View was the 20th to be issued on the blog over the past year but as ever I’m indebted to Werder for giving them a Polish ! For which I’m grateful…..


    1. Craig Harrison. Is getting prepared at the moment.

      A guy who came through the ranks at Boro from the Academy with Neil Campbell and whilst he didn’t enjoy success as manager of Hartlepool he had an outstanding record with Bangor.

      He was really happy to get his EUFA Pro coaching license this summer and is very qualified


      1. Had a few with him on a promotion evening in the purple onion – great lad then.

        As for Maddo my brother worked with him and after a spell off work due to serious illness was greeted back with a bear hug from the man himself. Top bloke

  160. I can well remember the time when international matches didn’t encroach on the football league schedule. The Home internationals were played throughout the season on Saturdays and a full programme of league matches went along uninterrupted, and international matches against foreign teams were played midweek and some at the end of the season. I can therefore sympathise to a certain degree with those of you who miss out on your weekend football 4 or 5 times a season, but of course with so many foreigners playing in the Premier League one can understand there being blank weekends as the same thing happens in all the major European Leagues.

    However does that mean that there should not be a full programme of Championship matches but giving clubs an option of postponing matches if say two or more of their players are selected for international duties, or playing their matches without their international players for after all most clubs have a squad of players itching to play. The problem as I see it is that 24 clubs in a league is at least 2 too many, some might say 4 too many. Nevertheless as well as in England only in Germany, Italy and France are is there no programme of second division matches scheduled for this weekend, although I believe Spain has a full programme of second division matches scheduled.

    As I mentioned earlier some of us find these international breaks boring, even the Gazette reporters finding it difficult to find something to write about. But we are luckier on Diasboro as it gives us a chance to read OFB’s wonderful interviews. But for those of us who also love other sports also there are plenty alternatives to football this weekend. For those of us with Sky Sports and BT Sports the Final Cricket Test of the series against India starts at the Oval today. Also this weekend we have Round 8 of the Speedway Grand Prix Series from Krsko Slovenia as the season enters its exciting climax. The Rugby Super League Semifinals might already be settled prematurely but the middle eights dogfight is still wide open with the prospect of Toronto and even Toulouse being promoted to Super League. Furthermore the majestic scenery of Crans Montana in Switzerland is a delight to view at the European Masters even for non-golf lovers. Let’s not forget later this month the Ryder Cup takes place at the French National course near Paris where plenty of lakes should ensure some exciting moments.

    I don’t mind these occasional breaks from football in an almost 10 month season. Perhaps those of you that find these international breaks boring might find those alternative sports I’ve mentioned something to fill a void. Yes, we’re all Boro fans foremost, but life’s too short to wish away the next week. Take it from someone who knows.

  161. Well, OFB, I think that this is your best effort yet!
    It must have been a pleasure doing the interview with him. A person I have always respected, both as a player, and he comes across as being very personable, and genuine.
    Well done!
    Tractor Man.

    1. Thanks Tractor Man I’m still ploughing into the In2Views whilst furrowing my brow and sowing the seeds of inspiration!

      Neil Maddison is a great guy and readily agreed to do it but he’s so busy it took me three months to get it!


      1. When you put together all the contributions from Werder, RR, Simon and yourself sorting the wheat from the chaff you could call the writing team a combine harvester..

  162. Interesting read on Kalas and why he didn’t go back to Boro or Fulham and a comment about a coach he clearly had an issue with!

    When time permits (along with a suitable passing of time itself) there is a great interview for OFB to speak to one or two players at the time about what really went on behind the scenes. I seem to recall a lot of discussion and disagreement on here and other sites about whether it was a happy ship or one holed just below the waterline and on the brink of mutiny.

    1. It’s sad, RR. It *looked* and *felt* like it worked, or if it didn’t work, was just one missed chance or one defensive slip away from working, but now, with the benefit of reflection, it does seem that the confidence bubbling on the surface masked a fragile underbelly that would snap at the slightest provocation.

    2. RR

      No one will talk !

      Perhaps in a few years !

      I have heard off the cuff never to be repeated stories and promised faithfully I would keep my mouth and keyboard shut


  163. Obviously Kalas didn’t sign a confidentiality agreement.
    Hopefully his book is out soon.
    It is interesting that of all the Boro players linked with forest, none have gone there.
    ( except guardea……. The Watford guy)

    1. It was also interesting that both Gestede and Bamford were linked with AK’s Forest (Bamford probably because of that is where the lad hails from). Considering those signings along with Guedioura in “that window” were said to have peeved and underwhelmed our then Coach its strange that he or at least Forest were being linked. Arguably its perhaps not so strange then that neither arrived at the City Ground.

  164. I think SG should buy TP a house in the area from the money saved during the window.
    Maybe a nice bungalow in Great Ayton.
    Yarm is a prick to get in and out of and not easy to get parked so GA it is.
    He can bring his family up and settle down. Plant some flowers in the garden and go for some nice walks in the country side. Pop down the pub and chat to the locals.
    This may sound stupid but I would prefer our manager to be close at hand rather than bolting down south at every opportunity.
    Could be the best investment of the season and I am sure an estate agent will be cheaper than a football agent.

      1. I thought he was working to pay off the eye-watering legal fees he brought upon himself after his ill-advised appeal against the tribunal which upheld the charges brought against him by Palace.

  165. Another great read OFB, thanks.

    Maddo comes over as a nice person and has always spoken his mind on Boro results bad and good..

    Will his new job with MFC conflict with his commentary work, especially if we have some bad results??

    1. No it won’t conflict Boro are quite happy to have the media on side !

      Have you noticed Gazette Gate seems to have settled down and with no fanfares that Phill Tallentire is now attending press conferences and asking questions….

      Is it because the Gazette have now had a management change or that MGN don’t want the lack of interface with Boro to reflect in reduced advertising sales?

      Or is it because Diasboro presents a real threat to their circulation?


  166. A great read OFB thank you. NM is a genuinely nice person.

    I purchased a meal in the Riverside Restaurant and match tickets to enable my brother to celebrate his sixtieth birthday. I emailed Ali Brownlee and asked if he could give my brother a mention and also if NM could wish my brother happy birthday when undertaking his hosting duties. Neil duly sought out my brother and had a long chat with him and really made it a special evening.

    A good footballer and a lovely person who is Boro through and through.

  167. OFB
    Another great in2view.
    And thanks to Werder for bringing it together.
    So much better than the click bait on offer during the international break.
    We appreciate all your efforts.
    Can’t wait for Norwich.

  168. With Rhodes it may be as simple as saying that specialist goalscorers are anathema to Eurocrats who prefer their No. 9 to be a strong, chasing, willing workhorse. The coaches are given a Shevchenko when they really want a Drogba.

    1. Simon,
      I would have liked to have formed an opinion on JR but he didn’t play enough.
      I am sure he would have been a success but his lack of game time must have sucked his confidence and I don’t think he has recovered.
      Another prolific goalscorer who lost his mojo at Boro.

  169. All I’m saying is, Old Billy, if Rhodes is a prolific scorer who lost his mojo at Boro… he’s far from alone. Payton, Ashcroft, Davenport… heck, even Ravanelli didn’t score away from home in the league after November.

    The other argument is that at the very top, where AK learned his ways, managers prefer their forwards to run and work. Even Fergie preferred Welbeck’s pace and graft to Chicharito’s instinct, regardless of the little Mexican’s goalscoring record.

    1. Perhaps AK should have recalled Mourinho’s comments when at Real Madrid about Karim Benzema when he was struggling for goals at the time.

      “If you don’t have a dog to go hunting but only have a cat, you have to take your cat.”

      “You’ll catch less, but you’ll catch something all the same.”

      Not only did AK have an apparent aversion to hunting he also forgot to feed the darned thing!

  170. Been saving this in2view for this afternoon OFB and a cup of coffee with a choccy biscuit (or two). Loved Maddo as a player but I think his co commentary is even better. Always passionate and without resorting to grandiose, politically correct, brown nosing MFCness, just striking an open balance.

    There are probably far better pundits and summarisers out there but not many who see it and say it just as the fans do (well most of us anyway) and therein is what makes his views so enjoyable including the linguistically challenged moments which raises smiles but enhances the rawness and honesty of it all.

    Great In2view Bob!

    1. Thanks RR appreciated I enjoyed doing that one and of course he has the personality and media presentation not to be hindered by saying the right thing.


  171. The good news is that Bielsa was awarded the Manager of the Month award or to put it into context thank heaven’s TP avoided the MOM curse!

    I note that “Buy Bruce” wasn’t nominated or should that perhaps be “Bye Bruce”?

    1. It could well be that the “Curse of the Manager of the Month” award simply happens because said award draws extra attention to said manager and his methods – ensuring that his winning formula will likely be found out before long.

  172. As an aside… you all like your punk, don’t you?

    Good Vibrations, once a record store and a label, then a film starring once and future Doctor Jodie Whittaker as the former Mrs Terri Hooley, was brought to the Belfast stage this week and quite naturally blew everyone away. It was a reminder of the music that gave NI the chance to properly express itself in very troubled times… not rags to riches at all, rather unity in adversity that I think Boro can certainly identify with.

    I’m in the process of reviewing it and another play, in addition to going to the opening day of the Dublin Fringe tomorrow. Hoping – *hoping* – I can finalise both my drafted Talking Points and send them to Werder, but as theatre season kicks in again time will be a little harder to find. But I’ll do what I can.

    As an aside, among the guests at Good Vibes were Johnny Logan and Derry Girls writer Lisa McGee – I did pass Len’s kind words about the show to the latter, she was really chuffed.

  173. Sticking with the Good Vibrations theme… here’s the number at the end of the film, which I first saw in early 2013. (Warning: one solitary expletive included.)

    It’s impossible not to get swept up in this. (Though I must sadly report that Good Vibrations closed again in 2015 due to Terri’s ill health, and will not re-open.)

    Yet it’s the scene shortly before that *really* strikes a chord. The Ulster Hall is packed out, Terri is proclaiming it the “best night ever”, only for his fuming friend Dave to reply as follows…

    “Terri, we’ve made a loss. We’ve packed out the Ulster Hall and we’ve somehow made a *expletive* loss. Your man at the front says you had the longest guest list in the hall’s entire history, longer than all the other guest lists put together… Terri, the whole point of tonight was to raise money!”

    “No, Dave… not the whole point. Money. Couldn’t. Buy. What we’ve just done… We’ve taken back Belfast tonight.”

    I then think of the money *we* spent. On the Ravanellis. The Emersons. The Juninhos. The Road to Eindhoven which set us back £12 million at the end of it all.

    Terri, like Boro in 1996 with their wobbly defence and squad divisions, and later in Eindhoven with an aging team that had run out of steam and ideas by the end, was an easy target for ridicule, for being laughed at, by outsiders. But in spite of everything, I like to think that for him and Boro it was all about daring to dream.

    Perhaps the Burnley fan I often quote, even though he knew that Premier League survival was most important and the Europa League would stretch resources, was right when he said that football was about emotion, otherwise the game is just a series of business transactions. He added, “If you want to be sensible, give up football and take up competitive accountancy.”

    That’s better, and probably more apt, than any line I could have come up with.

  174. Additional… because I’m in the mood.

    You can go overboard, of course. Look at the Bournemouth “fairy tale”. They *did* dare to dream. They played exciting, daring football. They got promoted three times in six seasons.

    In doing so they broke FFP. I read that they lost over £38 million in their promotion season. Remarkably their fine of £7.6 million was reduced to £4.75 million. No transfer embargo either.

    Convinced that the size of Dean Court played its part – capacity there is still just over 11,000, meaning low matchday income compared with the rest of the PL.

    Not that their fans will care, understandably. But still.

    1. Thanks Si. You’re on a roll there. I’m a great fan of Sally Rooney too if you ever encounter her on your travels. Quite a writer. Meanwhile the Secretary of State for NI has just announced that she didn’t realise that voting there tended to take place along sectarian lines. HG Wells said many years ago that civilisation was a race between education and barbarism. Not much evidence over the past few years that education is winning. Best wishes with all of your endeavours in the opposite direction.

      1. To be the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and have no knowledge of local politics in an area which had been topping recent news headlines for nigh on 30 years is staggering and beyond excusable. That the Political divide stretches back to 1690 and beyond makes her ignorance of the historical knowledge of the province even worse.

        Under normal circumstances I suspect Karen Bradley’s tenure will (or at least should) be a very short one, problem was barrel scraping didn’t leave the PM much choice when she looked at the assembled ranks in her cabinet, throw in Brexit and the waters got even muddier.

        Bringing it all back to a Teesside connection and contrasting Karen Bradley with our adopted Mo Mowlem and the gulf in ability and competence isn’t so much a chasm, it’s literally light years and indicative of the extremely poor current state of politicians regardless of the colour of their rosette.

  175. Si and I have had many a discussion about the tenure of AK including Charltongate and what really went on behind the scenes

    I’ve suggested that we collaborate on the book telling it how it was !

    I’m sure it would be a best seller ..?


    1. The Chapters covering March 2016 to March 2017 would be worth a good read!

      Some suggested Chapter headings:

      Rotherham Rollover


      Hull Reconquista

      Four draw conclusion

      Gashed Shin Ramirez

      El verano de la invasión Española

      Tees Bay Passbackers

      Spanish Inquisition Hammer Attack

      Stoke Sentience

      Adios Aitor

    2. Is anyone really concerned about what happened at Charlton? The club stayed tight lipped so nobody knows, as QI would say. You might flog a few on here, but it’s hardly William Hill Sports Book of the Year material.

      I’d much rather read about the 3pts, debacle. There’s definitely a story there if all the pertinent facts can be put together. Or briefcases full of cash in 1986.

    1. Bad news for both the Club and Player. The Leeds playing staff has been trimmed back a lot in the summer so there isn’t much depth to Bielsa’s squad. Paddy’s injury could be pivotal if a few more pick up knocks and sprains. Apparently he drove himself home so it may just be a bad twist or jarred knee and not ligament damage.

  176. Each to their own of course. Though the Charlton debacle fascinates me like the three points. One saw the manager absent, the other saw the whole team absent. Yet while the team made it (just) in the aftermath of the former, they didn’t in the aftermath of the latter. Although, Boro being Boro, it was a matter of fine margins (one more chance taken… one fewer mistake…).

  177. Talking of typical Boro, I hope Saville and Besic stay away from each other in this afternoons match. We could do without self inflicted injuries.
    It would be ironic though.

    1. Alves was a strange one. He outscored Ronaldo, Suarez and Van Nistelrooy in Holland and hit the deck running when he arrived at Boro but for some reason he couldn’t keep it going. Definitely something behind the scenes on that one.

  178. OFB

    Just got round to your chat with Maddo as I’m far too busy relaxing and sunning myself here in Gran Canaria.

    He comes across as a genuine nice fella in what was an excellent read. I love his enthusiasm on BBC Tees and just don’t get the negativity of some people, not on here btw, who dislike his style of broadcasting because he mispronounces the odd word or two. A Boro biased, in the right way, summeriser on my local radio station is what I want to hear. Keep up the good work Maddo and the rest of the Tees sports crew. And you obviously Bob.

    As for the motm award. Given to a manager whose team has scored a few more goals and conceded a few more goals than the team level on points with them, that went to the home of said team and were so much better that the motm manager was out of ideas and options after 20 minutes or so. If he and his team are so good, why couldn’t they find a way to come close to scoring never mind beating “long ball Boro”.

    Boronoia possibly, media hype over new Leeds manager certainly in my view.

    Glad he got it rather than TP to avoid the curse if I’m honest😉

    1. FAA

      Thanks for those kind comments

      Watching NI v Bosnia quite like NI left back Jamal Lewis who plays for Norwich. Both our Boro Lads Saville for NI and Besic For Bosnia had good games but Besic not a right back


  179. The full 90 for Besic will help with him getting match fit sooner rather than later.

    So it’s on to the big show down later this evening then. Not the England game obviously, Mrs FAA has thrown down the gauntlet in the big crazy golf challenge. Loser to buy dinner apparently which is a strange one as I’m the only one who seems to take money out of an evening!

  180. The boss and I have just watched ‘The Mighty Redcar’ and it brought tears to our eyes. The country’s raw material and talent being squandered, wasting away and penalised because of our leaders ineptitude. And I don’t care what political colour ‘they’ are. Heartbreaking.

    Teesside against the establishment. They don’t give a ….



  181. I read a recent interview with former England winger, Chris Waddle, who was recounting his experience of playing for French champions, Marseille.
    He loved the experience but was surprised corners and throw-ins were considered of no tactical importance in the French league.
    Whereas in England they are worked on in training to maximise goal scoring chances, over there they were co sisters to be of little importance and just a way of restarting the game.
    Perhaps this is also true in Spain. It would perhaps explain AK’s reluctance to use them as a springboard for attacks.

  182. Although I’m not one for looking too far ahead I have to agree with AV’s assessment of where we are now and that the next half dozen games on paper don’t look nearly as taxing as our last six. As I’ve written several times before this season’s Championship looks the weakest for several seasons although I’ve not yet found anyone agreeing with me.

    Nevertheless with that in mind and the fact that this League has a habit of throwing up unusual results, providing that Boro can show the same consistency in defence and are able to find a way especially at home of scoring against teams who will undoubtedly try to limit our scoring chances, I’d still be surprised if we are still not undefeated by the time the next international break arrives. But of course there is still that title of ‘typical Boro’ labelled at us, so what do I know?

    1. Reading Ken’s thoughts above got me thinking about our current squad strenght versus the “Premiership one which we assembled.












      De Roon





      On paper at least there isn’t much to choose between the squads with the obvious “stand out” exceptions being the likes of Valdes, Negredo, Ramirez and De Roon. The present squad to me looks like a more cohesive unit benefiting without the destabilising influences of the few.

  183. Just seen that England have lost to Spain, hhm! It may seem trivial but the crazy idea of appointing as captain the latest in form striker, has, yet again, cost us big time.
    You simply cannot drop your captain just because he is not scoring, yet you must drop your striker if he is not scoring.
    You will of course spot the dilemma, we played him in the semi-final of the world cup, when he had dried up, leaving Vardy on the bench, goodbye world cup.
    Vardy did not complain, he quietly retired from international football ( quite right too)
    If you keep doing what you did, you keep getting what you got, and last night was a sample for the future.
    When this situation is put right, there will be tears, there always are in these situations. But it must be done, and quickly.

  184. Co-sisters and football.

    Reminds me of a story that was going the rounds about 60 years ago, that Billy Wright, the then Arsenal manager, was trying to sign Mike Trebilcock from Everton. For the Beverley Sisters.

  185. Just watched a certain mr. Fry playing for the England youngsters, he’s a bit good isn’t he?
    did he put a foot wrong? Don’t think so, and didn’t he launch a few attacking moves that should have settled the match in style, if the forwards had been any good.

      1. I hope that the arrival of Batth doesn’t see Dael benched. As experienced and proven as Batth is at this level Fry is improving with each game and his confidence and ability to bring the ball out from the back is incredible for a lad his age, no doubt helped by having the security of the likes of Friend, Flint and Ayala around him.

        Hopefully Batth gets his chance but only when injuries and suspensions take their toll especially with Ayala’s recurring issues and is an insurance policy rather than an immediate replacement.

  186. I’ve been catching up this week with some outstanding background tasks on the blog and have now managed to get the Archive pages up to date after adding May to August.

    Also many thanks to OFB for yet another excellent In2views piece on Neil Maddison, in which he came across as a very interesting guy. OFB has now built up quite a collection of interviews, plus his conversations and profiles with Doug, and I thought I should gather them all together on a dedicated page so that Diasboro readers can more easily find them and dip into the contents.

    So if you click on the ‘In2views’ banner in the top right column (see also below), where Ken’s History and the Exmil Challenge are, it will take you to a page that has links to all OFB’s articles – I’ve placed them in reverse chronological order with a photo and brief summary to help you navigate.

    In2views Banner

    OK, I suppose it’s now time to start thinking about my next article too…

  187. Having just watched the England game on catch up, if that ref ever picks up another major game I’d be gob smacked, not amazed because I know how the old boys network cross each others palms, and I’m not one of the old boys I’m afraid.

    I’m going to mention the booking of Stones for two reasons, firstly for its showing of how this clown of a ref shouldn’t be allowed on any pitch anywhere on the globe, but also to highlight the ability of the alleged offender. When the bid, allegedly, came from TP and West Brom for 25 big ones for Gibson, I was screaming “TAKE IT”, then we can shoe-in Fry to take his place. Not only have I always seen Fry as a way better and more complete back line player than Gibson, from day one all I’ve ever seen is class. Thing is, the talk about Fry being Beckenbauer’s love child, I think that half the bloggers on here could lay claim to being Gibson’s back of the Navi’s dad, I’d have been lynched if I’d have suggested getting rid of him at the time. If someone wants to offer 50 big ones for Stones then what price Fry?

    We’ve had a more than ample replacement for Gibson in Fry for almost two seasons, but our constant reluctance to give youth its head has held the team and the kids back, just ask Ben Gibson.

    1. PPP
      It’s a matter of luck, planning and the will to play the market.
      We have none of the three above when it comes to the market. We are like the original middle aged widow going out to trade in her car ( an easy victim for the sharks)
      Yes Fry is startlingly good, and we owed Ben big time for his loyalty, so it was a no brainer to sell him to the biggest club to make an offer and tell Fry that he was in the team. Period. That should have happened last season, and who knows where we should be now,( we won’t mention Ben).
      At the moment Fry holds all the aces, so he will not be dropped, the consequences do not bear thinking of. Some of the attacking moves he started were special. But the real eye opener is the simple check list, old fashioned I know but boy does it illuminate the bleedin obvious.
      Height- yep
      Confidence- yep
      Ability in the air in defence- yep
      Ability in the air in attack- yep
      Calmness under pressure – yep
      Leadership- yep
      Ability to be the only defender, and still be in complete control- yep
      we had better get in touch with that second hand car dealer I have mentioned before, or we might do another ten year loan deal like we did with Pally

      1. The decision by Monk to drop Fry after the Norwich game was ridiculous and in my opinion hastened GM’s departure. The frustrating thing for me is that he was pulled out of position to cover for another team mate being caught up field and the Boro midfield didn’t track back leaving Maddison with a gift on a plate. Although it was late September and still relatively early in the season it led to yet more shuffling of his pack further undermining any cohesiveness and intuitive understanding.

  188. Imagine if Monk has deployed a back three of Fry, Ayala and Gibson with Christie and Friend or Fabio as wingbacks. It could have ideal though I don’t think any setup would have worked under GM.

    OFB – really enjoyed that interview with Maddo. Top work.

  189. RR’s squad comparison got me thinking of synergy and how post-promotion transition affected the Boro squad in the past.

    Like in 1995. Fjortoft had already “clicked” with the squad in the post-Uwe period after a few goals near the end of the promotion season and a full pre-season. So the only additions were one crucial and two not-so-crucial: Barmby, Gary Walsh (!) and Phil Whelan (!!!!). The promotion synergy was generally maintained but even as we reached fourth place after ten games with a total of six clean sheets, we were running with a thin squad and had netted a mere eleven goals. Higgy got five of those – before you knew it, he’d lost his place to some little Brazilian and the season was to end with a painful free fall and a fat Brazilian in the team. Say what you will about Juninho’s arrival, his mid-season departure to play for Brazil’s Olympic team (imagine the outcry today?) and how it “destabilised” the team. I’m more inclined to think a lack of squad depth and a similar lack of PL experience from manager and players was the problem. Though we’d enough to survive, I think, as the likes of Mustoe, Higgy and Vickers had at least one PL season under their belts thanks to Lennie.

  190. OFB, a nice interview as ever. Really appreciated – especially so during the International break.

    I was a bit confused about the Nations League format first. But after watching a few matches on TV – mainly Finland, NI & Bosnia and England – I am a fan of the format. It looks like the players really like to play internationals with a meaning. As you know, the top team from each category can qualify to European Championships.

    So no more useless friendlies but matches which are meaningful and hence exciting. Better to watch than just friendlies.

    Up the Boro!

  191. While there is a break in the league for Boro, I want to comment on the team still joint top in the division.

    On the left wing we have Downing and Tavernier. They can be really good going forward and are natural wingers. If needed we can also use Friend and Danny Batth as wing backs or even as midfielders on the left.

    In the central we have a lot of competition especially so when Mo Besic and George Saville have now joined the team.

    But it is the right side that looks more light in than the left. We have Shotton there as a wing back – also Paddy McNair can play as one. But as a natural right winger or right-sided midfielder we only have Harry Chapman. So this is the area where we really need to buy someone in during the January window.

    So if we play with wing backs and three in the centre, we will do OK. At least we have Chapman there as an impact player – and he should be ready to start some matches having been on loan to lower league clubs for a couple of years now.

    So looking forward to the Norwich match on Saturday. Teemu Pukki of Finland scored the only goal of the game versus Hungary on Saturday, and he can be a worry for Boro at Carrow Road – or was it Carrot Field!

    Up the Boro!

    1. PS: Hartlepool-born Harry Chapman joined Dael Fry in becoming a part of the first England squad to win a World Cup since 1966 when the Under-20s lifted the trophy in the summer of 2017.

      Up the Boro!

  192. I saw over the weekend Boro along with Villa of course (plus WBA, Forest etc.) are being linked with free agent Bakary Sako whose Palace contract has now lapsed.

    He missed the 2nd half of the season with a bad injury but was still offered a new contract by Palace (I’m guessing at much reduced terms and withe caveats and bonuses based on fitness and appearances etc.) which he had declined. He was very impressive at this level previously but the injury could be a risk and insurance premiums I’m guessing not particularly appealing for a potentiating employer. His wages were of course Premiership level at a suggested +£50K a week and I’m not sure that MFC would have the appetite for such a risk.

    He could be awesome at this level or he could be a very expensive drain on resources, half fit and never regaining the form he once had. I fear this one may have Parlour and Gazza all over it rather than Merson!

  193. Not having watched the England game on Saturday I’ve just looked at the disallowed Welbeck goal on YouTube after what I’ve read about it.

    How on earth the referee thought that was a foul by Welbeck is beyond me! All Welbeck did after being fouled/obstructed by a Spanish defender was stand there and get clambered all over by de Gaya who then hit him on the head with the ball. After realizing he’d right royally cocked up de Gaya then cheated by feigning injury which the hapless ref swallowed hook line and sinker.

    It as such an appalling decision I fully expect to see that referee plying his trade in the championship in the near future, as that seems to be the type of refereeing we seem to get.

  194. A forgotten man from that summer of 1995… Igor Cvitanovic.

    A 6 ft 1 in forward with a great record for Croatia Zagreb, Robbo shelled out £1 million for him.

    Then he was refused a work permit.

    Two years later his name cropped up again when he netted an ultimately meaningless double against Toon over two legs in the Champions League qualifiers.

  195. Watched the youngsters and thought that they suffered the curse of the press pundits. Instead of the team ethic being paramount, we saw the player with the double barrelled name ( much touted in the press) attempt to score a wonder goal from thirty yards in the first minute when all he had to do was advance ten yards and put it in the net, he was unmarked with no defender near, two minutes later he had another golden chance, just place a shot into the far corner, but he blazed it high and wide( there were two colleagues waiting to see it in the net).
    The other noticeable thing was the desperate attempts by the Fulham fullback to live up to his hype, not good. Back to team spirit I think.

    1. Fans want to see individual genius, star players want glory.

      The Iniestas may teach us how to hone our skills for the sake of professionalism. The Gascoignes (pre-injury) and Juninhos encourage us to dream.

      That’s what it is.

  196. Last night I got thinking about the infamous FKC of 2016-17.

    The Four ‘Keepers Caper. Where we ended up with four ‘keepers on our books when really two would have sufficed.

    Now, it’s been a FIFA rule for years that each squad for an international tournament must have at least three ‘keepers. Big Jack was able to get around that in 1990 by naming Niall Quinn (yes) as an emergency ‘keeper, along with “proper” ‘keepers Packie Bonner and Gerry Peyton. I do believe however that now each squad must have at least three “proper” ‘keepers. (In 2002 Mick McCarthy selected Shay Given, Alan Kelly and Dean Kiely.)

    So even though two ‘keepers would probably suffice for any team over the course of the season, it’s good to have a third one around just in case. And if teams sometimes end up using four over the course of a league season… it is what it is.

    As Boro did in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

    In fact, we would have been grateful for *five* ‘keepers in that famous season. Case in point? Robbo realising by Christmas that neither Alan Miller nor Gary Walsh were up to it – good shot stoppers but not much of a reassuring presence to the defence. I reckon that Robbo not knowing which ‘keeper to rely on ensured that a proper synergy was never developed. The synergy that, despite Dimi’s blunders, helped make the popular Greek popular.

    Against Coventry, even when we won 4-0, three times the Sky Blues had clear headers which they put weakly straight at Miller, and it took an excellent save from Miller to thwart Salako. I sense our lack of defensive prowess did no good for his confidence, and not long after he let in 11 in four games he was dropped, transfer listed and sold to the Baggies.

    In stepped Walsh, right in the middle of a twelve game winless run. The nadir was at Anfield where despite making many fine saves he couldn’t stop EvansPool and the Spice Boys cantering to a very easy 5-1 win, the trigger for the #threepoints.

    Next up? Ben Roberts. And he did okay, although I sensed that he wasn’t really ready for the responsibility of suddenly being first choice in a struggling side. So the call went out for Mark Schwarzer. I still remember his debut at Stockport and how his presence and shot-stopping inspired everyone, kicking be damned. Our league form turned around as he, Festa and a fit Nigel Pearson formed a strong defensive triangle… then he broke his leg. It reached the point where every ‘goalkeeper was injured and Roberts had to play against Villa despite a damaged elbow.

    As Simon Gleave put it at the time, “The club has known for some time that they had (the three point penalty) and what did they do about it? Buy one Australian goalkeeper (who promptly got injured) and sold a perfectly good goalkeeper to West Brom which almost left them keeperless when an injury crisis took hold.”

    1997-98 also saw us use four ‘keepers. It seemed for a while that two would suffice, but Roberts struggled with injuries and Schwarzer was injured twice for relatively long spells. So into the Boro goal stepped Andy Dibble – lots of shot stopping, but no confidence and absolutely no synergy. 0-4, 0-5, out you go. The purchase of Burnley’s Marlon Beresford for a relatively cheap sum was inspired – three games, three clean sheets and a penalty save as Boro mounted a sort of recovery. Unfortunately we couldn’t use the cup-tied Beresford in the cup final, meaning Schwarzer had to win a battle to be fit or we’d have no ‘keeper. Thankfully he did.

    Proof, if proof were needed, that you never really know when you might need that extra ‘keeper.

    1. I think its relatively easier to spot a good keeper or a dodgy one come to that very early on than with outfield players. Even the mediocre ones seem (to me at least) to be easily identifiable after just a few games.

      The younger ones can of course and will develop, hopefully positively but when I see acrobatics with no ensuing save alarm bells start to ring Jason Steele style. Dimi was/is the absolute antithesis of that, at times he looked so lumbering and slow he wouldn’t get close to the shot or cross yet always seemed to be able to do the necessary, no more, no less.

      Commanding areas, organising back lines, walls and yelling instructions are all part of what a great Keeper does (apart from the obvious keeping of clean sheets) preventing the opportunity, hence the mediocre from the great. Shot saving or shot stopping seems to be what many aspire to hence we often say about keeper “X” being a great shot stopper but a lousy Keeper. Schwarzer wasn’t the finished article when he arrived but improved dramatically (especially his kicking when it was lucky if it reached the half way line) over time.

      During his short stay I particularly enjoyed watching Shay Given’s warm ups and during games especially when he wasn’t involved but kept himself occupied and sharp by exercising and being half way up the pitch at times having “discussions” with team mates. To me at least, there appears to be a lot of eccentricities nowadays specifically associated with the position which despite huge fees, wages, reputations, egos, tattoo’s and hair style to match look distinctly average with nothing to substantiate their fees and hype. Liverpool in particular comes to mind as they seem to have been very good at attracting a host of these type of Keepers and I of course won’t mention the obvious one of late that we (or at least I) endured.

      I don’t think Randolph is as good as Given (not many will be) but I would certainly prefer him over say Joe Hart (as West Ham seemed to have agreed) and many other higher profile Keepers. His kicking is probably worse than Schwarzer at times but overall he sticks to keeping it simple and is generally a safe and confident pair of hands without the overt thespian type attention seeking drama.

      As for Ben Roberts which is what got me thinking and started on this, as soon as I saw that Headband I knew what was to follow.

  197. Ah, the “Alice” headband. You had to remind me of that, RR.

    I probably should have mentioned the “Hollywood savers” you once alluded to. They’re the most telegenic kind of ‘keeper, the sort who look good on the highlights but aren’t so reliable when it comes to “doing the necessary”.

    I remember thinking we’d found the answer with Steele but I think I got carried away with his Hollywood saves. Valdes, well, I tended to defend him because of the ever increasing #BringBackDimi crowd. But he was another Hollywood saver – which, when you’re in a massive theatre like the Nou Camp on a weekly basis, suits you, I suppose.

    Irish ‘keepers tend not to be showmen – just very good or exceptional at doing the job. I would put Shay at the top of the list, followed by Packie Bonner, then any from Randolph, A. Kelly, Kiely, Westwood etc. Mr Reliables who prioritise (there’s that word again) synergy over showing off.

    Yet there have been great showmen. Among my favourites in my youth were the barking mad Thomas Ravelli, Jorge Campos of Mexico (designed his own shirts and played up front for club and country), Jose Luis Chilavert of Paraguay (took both penalties and free kicks) and Rene “scorpion kick” Higuita. Not forgetting, of course, Kasper Schmeichel’s dad, once thought of by Roy Keane as a “poser” who “fancied himself” and “played to the crowd”. Though he did add “to be fair, he did the business”.

    1. You have missed two great legendary iconic Irish keepers from that list Simon notably Pat Jennings and Elisha Scott not forgetting our own Jim Platt of course!

      As regards who was the best well that would take a few months of discussion especially in the case of Scott who hasn’t the advantage of video footage to support his claim. His status is such that on Merseyside he is still revered and remembered a long time after his death. He also represented both Linfield and Belfast Celtic which in itself is pretty remarkable considering the history and eventual demise of Belfast Celtic.

  198. Was just reading how “Millions miss out on watching Nations League match shown on pay-per-view Sky Sports” in the Independent. Have to admit I also missed it primarily because I wasn’t interested and therefore didn’t know (or care) when they were playing. I do however know that Boro play Norwich at Carrow Road next Saturday at 3.00pm, strange that.

    1. Simon

      After a scroll through the archives this is what I’ve come up with!


      Fleming McNair Kernaghan

      Christie Brunt
      McMordie Fitzsimons


      St. Ledger
      Miller (Joseph)

      There are a few who go way back in time (Taggart, Desmond, Loughlin etc.) who I have no idea what their level was and may be unfairly overlooked but of more recent vintage, O’Halloran, Platt, O’Neill, Moore, Gavin, Yeates, O’Riordan all missed out.

        1. I’ve been in contact with Alan Moore the past few months and he’s a football coach at Cardinal Newman College Preston.

          He has said he will do an interview but nothing yet.

          It took 4 months to get Maddos and some have taken longer!

          It’s not all done in 5 minutes even though it sometimes appears to be like it has!


    1. And this is why I virtually never place a football bet.

      When I was 11 I read about the popularity and the attraction of gambling and how hard it is to be cured of an addiction once you have it. I concluded then that it was best not to get sucked in, although that hasn’t stopped me making the occasional bet and spending a fair bit on quiz machines.

  199. As there is only uninteresting football you wont mind some cricket, tough if you dont.

    Tremendous sportmanship shown by the Indian cricket team towards Alistair Cook in the Test Match. The Indian team are incredibly competitive but as a man they have applauded him on to the pitch in his final match and shook his hand as he left when dismissed.

    You can be aggressive when you play but gracious as well. Some football managers could benefit from a look in a mirror.

    1. Ian

      It was great to see Cook finish his batting career in the way he has and it was for me made more enjoyable by the way the Indian team has responded to him throughout the match – sheer class and true sportsmanship.

  200. OK the international break will sadly soon be over and the excitement of a return to meaningful Championship football will soon be upon us. The question of whether Boro have shunned individual flair to build a better overall team will be put to the test over the coming months. Whether by accident or design, Tony Pulis has built a team more in his image – here is my take on the post-transfer window August as we look ahead to the weekend…

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