Has Boro’s lack of individual flair made them a better team

Championship 2018-19: Week 7

Sat 15 Sep – 15:00: Norwich v Boro

Werdermouth looks ahead to the resumption of Boro’s Championship campaign…

Following a rather hectic August with eight league and cup fixtures packed into the opening few weeks all the fun and excitement ground to a halt while the League of Nations gathered to prevent a domestic fixture being played in anger. A time to reflect perhaps on whether all the right bodies managed to arrive in all the right places through the various random windows with seemingly random deadlines to buy, borrow and even pretend to borrow before buying – or indeed refuse to buy when all you wanted to do was borrow. At least the sight of Boro sitting tight at the top of the Championship with Leeds has prevented many asking the pertinent question of why Boro failed to re-invest a greater chunk of their £40m plus transfer gains on adding much-needed individual flair to a functional team.

A post-transfer deadline Tony Pulis has dutifully batted away criticism on the recruitment front and has frequently been supportive of his chairman’s spending. Interestingly, following the defeat in the play-offs against Aston Villa, Pulis declared “I know what we need and I know what’s necessary. I won’t waste Steve’s (Gibson) money – he’s spent an awful lot of money”. OK spending and wasting are two different things entirely, so it’s possible he may have been directing that comment at previous purchases. Though it’s a familiar theme that the Boro manager often refers to Steve Gibson as having spent £50m of his money last season on players. What he overlooks is that the club also raised over £40m in player sales to leave an estimated net spend of around £5-8m. Should we read anything into this spinning of spending or has the club decided a process of belt tightening is needed in order to improve the bank balance?

If the reason for failing to land high-profile targets is put down to the club prioritising getting value from the market then it may well be a sensible approach to running a football club. Though let’s not pretend the manager had to sell before he could buy this season due to the need of recouping a large portion of the £50m that Monk spent. The sales of Ben Gibson and Traore came as no surprise to many, the club also received an acceptable offer for Bamford and even the sale of Braithwaite was sanctioned too. The question will remain for some whether or not at some point the Boro manager will be given those banked funds to spend at a later date – though he should definitely not waste them.

Before wandering minds return to the long domestic Championship race ahead, those preoccupied with international events may still be contemplating how a group of three teams constitutes a ‘League’ in any meaningful way – it’s even barely a group and just one more than a tie. OK, the Champions League has been getting away with that particular misnomer for a couple of decades now, as the accepted definition of league is described as a group of teams who play each other over a specific period of time. So playing just two of the other eleven teams in your league doesn’t tick that pedantic box that also regards the baseball World Series as a local affair. The whole exercise was supposed to prevent meaningless international friendlies but having groups of three teams has now left England without a ‘competitive’ midweek fixture as Croatia play Spain – resulting in the arrangement of a meaningless friendly against the Swiss instead. It may be too soon to raise a sheepish hand and claim to have spotted a structural flaw in UEFA’s cunning plan – especially as many are still getting over being patronised by TV presenters telling viewers it’s all too complicated to explain how the tournament works. Some are instead forced to Google ‘how does the Nations League work’ – though in truth few even care. They just want the break to end.

The summer recruitment has seen the Boro squad probably reshaped out of necessity rather than design, though it remains to be seen who will become important components of the Tony Pulis heavy-duty functional machine as the season progresses. Aden Flint has already established himself as Ben Gibson’s replacement and looks set to form a central back-three with Fry and Ayala. Danny Batth arrived late under the radar from Wolves to offer further defensive back-up, plus with Friend and Shotton both capable of playing in a central three, it should offer enough cover. Southampton youngster Sam McQueen has also moved to Teesside on loan in the hope of gaining regular football and looks like cover for left wing-back or possibly a left midfield option – though his first-team outings last season amounted to less than 180 minutes spread over seven games so he may still not be match-fit. While Paddy McNair arrived from Sunderland as a central midfielder, he appears to be now being pencilled in as possible right wing-back cover after being overlooked in favour of both Mo Besic and Lewis Wing. With Howson and Clayton both being in excellent form, it may be a waiting game for McNair to stake his claim. Leadbitter has probably now dropped to understudy for Clayton and will probably get few opportunities this term.

Less clear is what will happen in the forward positions, Boro appear to have no stand-out striker with Britt working hard but not looking clinical enough to spearhead a promotion push. The arrival of Jordan Hugill on loan from West Ham is probably going to provide Assombalonga’s with his main competition for a start but the Boro-born striker still looks a little rusty and more of a nuisance than a threat. Whether a fit-again Rudy Gestede will be given a chance to impress up front is hard to say but Pulis seems to quite like having the big target man leading the line. It’s also doubtful if Ashley Fletcher can become anything more than a peripheral figure and he probably only remained at the Riverside because other targets didn’t arrive. At least Martin Braithwaite remains and had looked our most committed forward until he asked for a move to Spain. As it turned out, the interest in the Dane wasn’t matched by any serious numbers being offered by potential buyers and Pulis expects the player will now get his head down and work hard for the team – at least until the January window opens.

Though in terms of creativity or pace, Boro don’t appear to have much at their disposal and are now over-reliant on Stewart Downing continuing with his good start to the season as he rolls back the proverbial years. The other main option appears to be George Saville, who the club will pay a substantial fee of around £7m in January to make the move permanent. Millwall manager Neil Harris described it as a “ridiculous offer” that was too good to turn down for a player they paid only £350,000 for 12 months earlier. Boro fans will be hoping the former Chelsea academy graduate will justify the price-tag but that kind of figure has become the club’s standard punt price in recent seasons. Although, he was the Lion’s joint-top scorer last season with 10 goals in 44 games, a 1-in-4 ratio, which he also repeated the season before at Wolves with 5 goals in 19 appearances. I suspect a similar return for Boro will make him a fans favourite, though much will depend on where he slots in or whether he quickly adjusts to life on Teesside.

Despite some new arrivals, Tony Pulis will have ultimately been disappointed he couldn’t recruit the wide players he had desired this summer. A last gasp loan deal for Albert Adomah fell through when the former Boro favourite insisted on making the deal permanent in January – which was unsurprising given some of the names his brother had called his Villa manager Steve Bruce on social media. Whether the club had previously targeted the right players is debatable but the criteria appeared to be based on those who had previously worked with the Boro manager at Palace and had only recently recovered from long-term injuries. Though it seems Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon also had something else in common – neither of them wanted to move to the North-East. Not exactly a minor detail when profiling new recruits and perhaps best not left until the last question of the interview. Once Bolasie had done the maths and discovered Birmingham was much nearer to London he opted for Villa and left Pulis waiting for a courtesy call to inform him of his decision – perhaps he eventually sent a SMS with a sad-face Emoji followed by a thumbs down one.

With Jason Puncheon also opting to stay in London to fight for his place in Palace’s Caraboa Cup squad, it will mean he’ll not be carrying out his community service on Teesside. It will come as an obvious disappointment to those in need of litter being picked up and will no doubt also leave a local group building dry-stone walls a man light. Pulis had rated his former player quite highly and once said “Punch could be anything he wanted to be, he has got the tools to be a top player” – though in hindsight it’s perhaps an unfortunate nickname for someone ending up in court on an assault charge. Sadly, the Palace winger’s decision to stay put has robbed the Riverside faithful of seeing him link up with the big man Gestede in what could have become the Punch and Rudy show as they demonstrated to their team-mates “that’s the way to do it”. Teesside could have benefited from a bit of traditional 16th century knockabout theatre orchestrated by the veteran puppet-master Pulis. If I recall correctly, historians believe Mr Punch was based on a character called ‘Pulisinella’, who was the manifestation of the Lord of Misrule and a mythological Trickster figure. Folklore claim this figure “exhibited a great degree of intellect or secret knowledge and used it to play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules and conventional behaviour” – or in other words, ‘Old School’.

Though when it comes to persuading footballers to join your club, it may be for some that their priority is not what happens on the pitch but instead the potential for enjoying the lifestyle and being on the guest list of different kinds of clubs altogether. Perhaps for those on comfortable contracts, who are not quite destined for Champions League clubs or a career of winning titles and medals, the need for self-affirmation by displaying their ‘achievements’ is instead confined to simply showing off their wealth and minor celebrity status. It was not too long ago that owning a Ford Escort XR3i with alloy wheels was the status symbol of choice for young footballers to show they had arrived. However, with more money now raining down on wealth-soaked players it has meant they now need more impressive cars, even more extravagant haircuts, sharper suits and less space being left on their bodies for under-achieving flesh-coloured skin. The echo chamber that this nouveau riche elite find themselves in demands they have the right to reverberate their wealth loud and proud to distinguish them from those cast adrift in the austere normal world outside their cosseted bubble.

Of course, not all footballers fall into this trap of an ostentatious lifestyle but the pressures to conform to the required image may have made many make ill-conceived impulsive decisions. Peter Crouch revealed this week why he once gave up his brand new Aston Martin after only a week. The Stoke striker recalled of how after signing for Liverpool and playing for England he finally thought he’d made it, so decided to ditch his Renault Megane for a top-of-the-range flashy sports car. The eventual decision to part with his trophy car and take a hefty financial hit wasn’t because of the daily struggle to get his six-foot-seven frame in and out of it. Rather it was down to one day arriving at a set of traffic lights, wearing his shades, trying to look cool with his arm resting out of the open window as the car stereo thumped out electronic dance music. As Crouch proudly turned to the side to look at the car standing alongside him, he saw that the driver giving him a look of sheer disgust was none other than Roy Keane, who then sped off from the lights leaving him feeling the smallest he’s ever felt. Crouch said after glancing at himself in the car mirror, he suddenly realised it was not him and sold the car a few days later.

Still he can perhaps console himself that even people more powerful than the former Manchester United captain, have been recently seeking to emulate his style. It was generally assumed when it came to robotic dancing few could match Peter Crouch’s famous goal celebration – however, Prime Minister Theresa May showed us last week that while she may not have all the Brexit moves or can pull the right shapes to impress Brussels, her hopefully unchoreographed efforts in South Africa have proved she can indeed dance like no one wished they were watching. Not content with wowing the school children of Cape Town with her ‘Maybot’ rendition, she continued where she left off with another ‘impromptu’ robo-bop with a group of scouts in Nairobi.

All of which has left many wondering if the UK has been left with no alternative but to dance around the world for trade deals as the negotiations on leaving the EU begin to creak even more than the PM’s knees. Of course, it may just be a carefully contrived plan to see off a leadership challenge from Boris Johnson as she tries to outmanoeuvre him in the looking like an idiot stakes – something the electorate apparently give great credence too as a sign of normality. Not to be outdone, it’s rumoured that Jeremy Corbyn and the NEC are planning to form a circle then perform their rendition of the Horah at the up-coming Labour Party conference, possibly in full orthodox Jewish costume, in a bid to once and for all put the whole antisemitism episode behind them.

Whether the replicant PM risks been hunted down by Harrison Ford for her Maybot moves as she denies ever dreaming of electric sheep while running through fields of genetically-modified wheat is perhaps for another blog. Though, we were once again powerfully reminded this week that the opening scenes to the cult movie Blade Runner were inspired by ICI Wilton when the first episode of the docu-soap ‘The Mighty Redcar’ appeared on the small screen. Whereas Ridley Scott’s film portrayed a dystopian future, the story of a struggling town in the North-East brought into stark reality the dystopian present for many of the young people feeling forgotten in the quest to fulfil their modest dreams.

The contrast between the meagre resources available to many on Teesside and those bestowed upon the heroes of their local football team remind us of how great the gulf in wealth has grown over the last few decades. It’s possible both may have even started life on the same streets, though the value given to being able to play a sport well has been driven up by the market in a seemingly unburstable bubble, fuelled by the satellite TV subscriptions of the masses to leave them a world apart. Maybe a little simplistic to compare the few at the very top of their profession to the many left behind, but it puts into context that the game of football has moved on from its working-class roots and has become an elite sport performed by the new elite.

Living your dreams through the eyes of the rich and famous is nothing new, though the cult of celebrity and fame has left many young people to believe their best chance in life is to emulate them. In times past, being good at football or cricket in a working-class town was an escape from a life down the mines or back-breaking toil in the traditional heavy industries. However, the dream being sold now is the same as winning the lottery and it’s not really something that the overwhelming majority can expect will be a realistic outcome. Today, fulfilling an ambition to become a top professional footballer offers wealth beyond imagination but for nearly all who embark on the journey it will end in failure. In his book ‘No Hunger in Paradise’, Michael Calvin claims that of the 1.5 million boys who play organised youth football in England only 180 will make it as a Premier League player – which is a success rate of just 0.012 per cent. In comparison, professor Stephen Nelson has calculated the chances of getting killed by a meteorite at about 0.0004%. So the good news for aspiring young footballers is that you’re 30 times more likely to become a Premier League player than being killed by a meteorite – though the bad news for those banking on winning the lottery is that you’re nearly six times more likely to be killed by a meteorite instead.

Thankfully the odds on Boro’s dream of playing in the Premier League are much more favourable after their unbeaten start to the season with Sky Bet now barely offering 5/2 on promotion for Tony Pulis’s team. Though the pessimists on Teesside looking for value in the market may anticipate a decent return with Boro standing at 200/1 to be relegated. The result at Elland Road was an important measure of the club’s promotion credentials and there was definitely signs of a team in Tony Pulis’s image being on display. Boro looked like an imposing big team compared to Leeds and perhaps not many opposition outfits will deal with our sheer physical presence. A glance through some of the Leeds fan forums showed a distinct lack of irony on display as most were quick to castigate Boro as nothing more than a physical dirty team of giants who wouldn’t let them play their football – at least it demonstrated which supporters were most pleased with the result if not aware of their club history.

Next up is a trip to Carrow Road to play a Norwich team that have only managed one win in their opening six games and have leaked 12 goals – with 9 of those coming against Leeds, Sheffield United and West Brom. The Canaries five points have been picked up against Birmingham, Preston and Ipswich – none of whom have won any of their last five games. Norwich have actually scored as many goals as Boro with both teams firing 9 a piece but the Teessiders have now gone over 500 minutes since Randolph last had to pick the ball out of his net. On paper it looks like Boro will be looking to bank another three points but the Championship is notorious for punishing the complacency of teams who believe they have enough to win.

A hard-fought point at Leeds will count for little if Boro fail to see off less dangerous opposition. Perhaps Boro supporters may be checking the odds on Ayala and Howson scoring on their return to Carrow Road – though others may be more worried about a certain Jordan Rhodes being the first to breach the Boro back line since Tony Pulis made his first half-time team-talk of the season at the Den.

Despite the angst over missed targets who could maybe offer something different and the loss of individual match-winners like Adama and Bamford, the truism that football is a team game is perhaps reflected in Boro’s performance so far this season. Whether it’s sport, business or even politics, successfully working together will normally improve your chances of achieving mutual goals – unless of course you prefer to gamble on individual brilliance and get extremely lucky!

221 thoughts on “Has Boro’s lack of individual flair made them a better team

  1. A certain Jordan Rhodes is bound to start for Norwich, and he will be very keen to prove a point.

    Great piece as always, Werder. Especially liked the Crouch anecdote – nothing like a Dr. Roy death stare to cut a footballer down to size.

    “Keano” may never make it as a manager, but can you blame him for always wanting to put the football first?

    1. Thanks Simon, I was wondering what Roy Keane’s stance on tattoos was but discovered he’s got his three kid’s names tattooed on his arm. Though I heard the story that his wife once asked him why he hadn’t also got her name tattooed on his arm – his reply was “I’ll never divorce them but I might divorce you”.

  2. A terrible day for Yorkshire cricket, but what a phrase from Yorkshire Post reporter Chris Waters describing Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s unbeaten century as wickets fell all around him – “he proceeded untroubled, like a man casually perambulating across a burning deck”. Worthy of the great Neville Cardus or John Allott.

  3. Another great read as ever Werder and in part highlights how Football has become a Rich mans game rather than the Working mans sport of choice. Today’s Working classes on Teesside are now sadly in many cases Unemployed classes with employment opportunity for those whose main asset is an ability to graft about as likely as Theresa May winning 2019’s Come Dancing.

    Gone are the days of Working Men, Woodbines, Bovril, open air Peeing, Wooden rattles and Lads being lifted over turnstiles. Even Working Classes let alone the Unemployed with families and bills would struggle with season card prices or walk up prices. The England game at the weekend again highlighted the cost of being a fan with the game only available on a pay to view basis. A Season card and a Sky Sports subscription would cost the average fan well in excess of a thousand pounds a year.

    The alternative however is the fate facing Bolton Wanderers at the moment. Just as the club seemed to be building back up again and their fans had reasons for early play-off optimism it looks like Administration and a 12 point deduction will put an end to all that. Where once we had a sport we now have hard faced commercial businesses in a desperate scrap for the top with a winner takes all mentality, not unlike real life for many in Mighty Redcar and the surrounding areas.

    1. Thanks RR, Yes football is really now a business and those running clubs in England are more concerned with maximising income. You would have hoped some of that TV money could have subsidised the cost of attending games for their supporter base, which in many cases are on below average incomes. Incidentally, ticket prices are far lower in other parts of Europe, including Germany. They will no doubt argue that their stadiums are nearly full so the ticket price is market driven – though as you know people who are hooked will often pay more than they can really afford.

  4. Ken

    Things are looking grim for the white rose and against the lot from over the hills. Too many players on international duty, too many opting for one day cricket and too many leaving cannot help unity.


    Top piece again, I will let you off for not doing an international week article discussing the merits of the new competition.

    On the topic of international football, we are told England have lost three in a row for the first time. They were against some of the top teams in the world but it shows how fair we have to go.

    The age group teams have few with any premier league experience, I think I heard that their were more championship players in the U21’s.

    There is little chance for England to really progress unless their is a pathway to the top flight..

    1. Thanks Ian, I think a paragraph is sufficient to sum up the Nations League, which is probably the international equivalent to the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Cup. I don’t suppose too many England supporters will also be looking forward to playing the team that knocked them out of the World Cup semi’s so soon either. Luckily it’s Pay-per-View so will miss it – then again I’ve long since stopped watching non-tournament England games live and find the ‘highlights’ usually enough.

  5. Werder

    Brilliant as ever and your Punch and Rudy reference made me chuckle.

    I had 3 XR3s years ago but never got anywhere near playing pro football – can’t understand what went wrong 😉.

    Your point regarding a well deserved draw at Leeds being meaningless if we can’t take points from Norwich is very apt.

    I shall therefore predict a 0-0 away win and hope typical Boro does not re-emerge.

    Let’s hope we also have a trouble free stream of the match.

    CoB keep the unbeaten run going!

    1. Thanks KP, Maybe you just had the wrong kind of wheels on your XR3 or your car stereo wasn’t loud enough 🙂

      BTW It’s been nearly a month since we last needed the MFC live stream – Mrs Werder spotted the £150 on the credit card statement a few weeks ago and thought I was crazy.

  6. Great piece Werder, loved the Phillip K. Dick reference about ‘electric sheep’. Predictably this weekend we’re in Berkshire looking after the grandsons, so I’m thwarted in my visit to Carrow Road. Damn the International Break, bloody ridiculous business.



  7. In response to RR.

    We’re now living in a different world, where, if Cloughie made the players run through a waist high bed of stinging nettles, they’d pick him up and toss him in it. Or if Big Jack told a player off, even if he was telling the truth, the player would tell everyone else Jack was a “bully” undermining the talent of poor ickle players who just want to express themselves.

    I’ll pass you over to this extract from Tommy Conlon (an Irish journalist, and Ronnie Whelan’s ghost writer), penned in 2007.

    “For John Giles, Eamon Dunphy and even the younger Liam Brady, football is still their game – but it is no longer their world… Football was then a trade that paid out modest wages after a hard apprenticeship… Nowadays it is a product in the portfolio of globalised entertainment. Where once it was run by small builders and second-hand car dealers in flash overcoats, it is now owned by television companies and stock exchange businessmen. Where once its primary relationship was with the working class men who paid in at the turnstiles, it now belongs to people who worry in their air-conditioned office suites over television ratings, advertising revenue and newspaper sales.

    “In this world it doesn’t matter if Ronaldo really is a great player or merely a good one. What matters is that he is a star. In the same way that it doesn’t matter if Brad Pitt is a great actor or merely a good one: he is a star who sells tickets at the box office. In that world every new movie is marketed as unmissable, and in this world every match is massive and every player is a star.

    “…The generations who came after Giles grew up in the media culture. A lifelong diet of wild exaggeration, contrived excitement and simplistic analysis has anaesthetised viewers into passivity; words have become meaningless, the lines between the real and the phony blurred.

    “Giles cannot stand to hear the Portuguese lad being described as ‘great’ because it lowers standards and because it diminishes those who truly were great. And it’s not just a matter of semantics: it’s a matter of longevity and achievement. I love great players,” he said, ‘I’ve a great respect for the Peles and the Maradonas, the Beckenbauers, the Bobby Moores, the Bryan Robsons, the Roy Keanes of this world. And they had to put in an awful lot of hard work and achieve an awful lot before they were considered great players.’

    “Bang on. There is a big difference between being exceptionally talented – which Ronaldo is – and great, which he is not. It is the difference between a Jimmy White and a Stephen Hendry.”

    Replace Ronaldo with Neymar, and Pitt with Tom Cruise, and I think you could definitely say the same applies today.

    1. Very true Simon unfortunately and I think it may actually get worse with each generation.

      I can foresee a match between Manchelskiarsepool City versus Real Barcelona being played out in front of a 15 million live virtual reality crowd complete with pre recorded chanting from the terraces and the whiff of Bovril/Popcorn/Hot dogs/Cotton Candy (owner can select their drop down down options) all for just a one off £150 pay per view fee!

      1. I loved subbuteo, too. They were not as popular over hear as in the UK, but my family loved it. I spent many nights playing with my brothers and a brother-in-law, too.

        Are the Subbuteo still available anywhere? I need to buy a set to my son perhaps. UTB!

  8. Reflecting on Chris Waters phrase of ‘perambulating across a burning deck’ I was trying to recall if the phrase could be apt in describing certain Boro flashbacks. Maybe Traore or Juninho, certainly Mannion against Blackpool in the week he became engaged to his future wife Bernadette. However to most of us it was the John Hendrie run from his own penalty area to score against Millwall. Anyone think differently?

  9. I see that OFB was correct in his early diagnosis about Bamford and the seriousness of his injury. Paddy has reported that its a posterior cruciate ligament injury and is hoping to be back around January but with a PCL he could be out for a lot longer than that. Whilst it arguably dents Leeds ambitions to a degree should Kemar Roofe get injured or lose form its a shame for the lad.

    On the Bolton topic there is a part of me that is wondering if the timing is perhaps contrived in some way. They have probably excelled their early pre season hopes and maybe figure if they take the hit now there is still plenty of time left to recover as they will end up with -1 point propping up the Championship beneath reading on two points and Ipswich on three and QPR, Hull and Birmingham on four points.

    The likelihood of their squad sustaining a season long run in the top 6 is maybe just beyond them but even then the odds of Phil Parkinson’s side actually winning the Play Offs is probably remote just now. Losing the twelve points at this stage is probably recoverable for them based on their current 1.8 PPG average. Surving in the Championship was their aim last season. Administration and surviving a twelve point deduction this season would have to be classed as a result of sorts perhaps?

    1. I’ve just been reading about the possibility of Bolton going into Administration – It seems to stem from a £5m loan that the group Sports Shield took out from a finance company called BluMarble when they took over Bolton in 2015. The chairmen of Bolton, Ken Anderson, has been in dispute with BluMarble over the terms of the repayment and they failed to reach an agreement by a deadline set last week by the finance company.

      Interestingly, it appears it’s the finance company BluMarble who are seeking to put the club into administration and are prepared to finance the process. The Bolton chairman had claimed that the club planned to meet the repayment schedule, which was due on 1 September. It’s estimated Bolton have debts of £13m and are losing around £6m a year – so not a massive amount in relative terms.

      However, BluMarble are determined to push ahead with administration in order to find a new buyer, with reports that an American billionaire is interested in buying the club. It sounds like the whole scenario is being played out in order to force a sale but if the club get a 12 point penalty then it’s the supporters who will pay the price.

      Apparently under new rules introduced in June 2015, it is a legal requirement for an administrator to speak with the supporters’ trust and give them an opportunity to mount an offer. I suspect it could turn into a messy process with legal challenges and counter-claims by several parties.

      Maybe it’s one for the chairman of the EFL, Ian Lenagan, to sort out – unfortunately he’s just resigned after claiming he now has “increasing opportunities arising out of his business interests away from EFL” – in other words he’s done a runner to concentrate on making money. So until they appoint a new chairman the EFL is currently being run by former tennis player Debbie Jevans.

  10. I see that ( too late) the foolish idea of having a striker as captain( permanent) has finally hit the buffers.
    The story is that he is being rested, not dropped.
    This means that the player who has been carrying out the job of captain from his post in the mid field can now assume his proper rank in the hierarchy, which must be good.
    it has cost us a place in the world cup final, possible win in same. Can we assume that this foolishness will now be terminated, regardless of red faces all round.

  11. Plato I suspect not.

    Another great read Werder however I was a bit worried when you started to bring politicians into the equation. The League of Nations gathering to prevent a game of domestic football breaking out made me chuckle.

    Regarding footballs link with the working class, for me that link has been well and truly severed with little or no chance of the two becoming joined again.

    Sad news about PB and hopefully he’ll be back as soon as he can. But not before his new employers have a big downturn on the footballing front.

    Back off my jollies early hours Friday, in time to get the Norwich game in. So looking forward to my first in the flesh Boro game since January when we beat Sunderland in the FA cup. Same result would do me nicely and from what I’ve seen so far this season it’s more than likely to happen.

    1. Cheers OFB, Yes Neil Maddison has already spoke in your In2views piece about his new role at MFC – it will be interesting to see if he will improve on the 0.012% of junior league players who make it to the top – Ben Gibson has already joined that exclusive fraction but it’s becoming increasingly difficult for English players to make it to their own national league.

      Interestingly, we saw many players for England last night making their first starts of the season because they can’t even get into their club sides in the PL. Something is not quite right if even the best English players can’t cut it in the Premier League – they often sign big contracts with the big clubs and then see their careers stalled. Even star performer Rashford is almost on the periphery at Manchester United.

  12. OFB

    I’m sure the TJFA is one of the biggest youth league set ups in Europe. That the club are only now looking to utilise this, with the appointment of Maddo, as a potential recruiting resource is something that’s long overdue imo.

    And for the vast majority of the players, the coaches and numerous volunteers who keep the whole thing going, input from highly qualified ex professional footballers can only be a good thing for the development of players and coaches alike.

    Grass roots football is the life blood of the game as I see it so well done to MFC, all be it with one eye on unearthing the next home grown superstar of course!

    1. Interesting listening to that. I never liked Keane as a player. I’m with Chris H., Give me a Renaldo any day (and readers in here should know I am far from a fan of this talented individual who feels the need to resort to dishonourable behaviour on the pitch) rather than the thug that was Keane on the pitch. I don’t understand why anyone gives lip service to his opinion on anything, certainly not football.

  13. Ken – I respectfully suggest the cricket writer was describing the opposite. Bobby Murdoch would be a more apt example.

    Si – I don’t comprehend how Ronaldo is not great. What more could a modern player do to achieve greatness? The occasional surreptitious wink aside, he’s a far greater sportsman than one who deliberately inflicts an injury on a fellow player.
    Crouch should just have laughed at Keane’s self-importance.

  14. Chris

    That’s why I love this blog because we say what we think 🤔 and we don’t upset others we just say how we see it.

    Si I’m sorry I have to agree with Chris on this


  15. Bob and Chris

    I’m more inclined to agree with both of you. When referencing Conlon I noted he penned that piece in 2007 and was happy to replace Ronaldo with Neymar.

    Why Neymar? Because he can do lots of things great players do but also does things great players wouldn’t do.

  16. Re: Keane.

    Thanks for the link GHW. Delaney is one of my favourite writers.

    We all hail the virtues of Cloughie even now, and rightly so, but the game was changing as the PL era began and he couldn’t keep up with it. Similarly the rise of player power helped see the end of Big Jack.

  17. Finally the International break is about to close.

    But the international matches were better to watch now we have the Nations League. We have four Nations in a group except the top level. So there were two meaningful matches except the level where England is playing. And it offers a way of qualifying to Euros on all levels.

    Just for your info concerning the Norwich match, Finland played two Nations League matches winning both matches 1-0. Why this is of interest, you might ask? Because both goals were scored by Teemu Pukki, who plays for Norwich.

    He has played in all six matches for Norwich this season and scored two goals so far. So the confidence of the former Celtic striker must be sky high now after a good start to the season at Norwich and netting twice for his National Team.

    I hope we can nullify him as well other strikers at Norwich. I will go for a 1-2 win for us. That is optimistic, I know and I’d be happy with a OFB result, too.

    Up the Boro!

    1. The Nations League may have made the international break more competitive but whether a pay-per-view tournament that seems for many countries over after just one game will keep supporters interested is debatable. Spain’s 6-0 win over Croatia essentially means England now have little chance of winning the ‘group’ and progressing to the finals – three points behind and eight goals behind means they will need to win by 4-5 goals in Spain. Talk is now that they’re involved in a relegation battle with Croatia – looks like that controversial disallowed goal that prevented England getting a draw against Spain proved to be decisive in their bid to win the ‘League’. If only there was some system available to give referees video assistance…

      1. Croatia is an interesting case. They were not able to beat Finland at home in Sofia in the qualifiers and then they reached the World Cup final. Mind , they sacked the manager after the qualification match and were excellent with the new manager. But now they lost 6-0 to Spain!

        Werder, I see your point, but the same applies to friendly matches, too. I rather watch these matches that has a meaning for some of the countries. And the four country leagues make more sense than England’s three-countries group.

        Happy that it is soon Saturday with Boro playing. UTB!

      2. I just realised that I mentioned Sofia to be in Croatia (see above). The Croatia vs Finland 1-1 draw was played at Stadion Rujevica, Rijeka last year.

        My good Friend is now on holiday in Sofia, Romania. Perhaps that was in my mind. UTB!

  18. A great week for English sport, and top marks to the Indian cricketers who to a man all went to shake Alastair Cook’s hand after his century at The Oval in his final Test Match. I must admit to shedding a tear not only for Cook’s achievement but at the wonderful sportsmanship of the opposition rarely seen these days.

    Secondly not to forget that Justin Rose has become the World’s number one player even though it might be tentative. This from a player who missed the cut in his first 23 tournaments after turning professional. A true gentleman also, a role model to any young golfers, and a person for whom Rudyard Kipling might have written his wonderful poem “If” for.
    “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds of distance run, yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and which is more you’ll be a man, my son.”

    Two wonderful sportsmen and gentlemen who this week got their due deserts.

  19. Ian
    A much grittier batting display especially from Ballance and Kohler-Cadmore who is now showing he can play the red ball game in a dffferent way to the white ball game whereas Lyth seems to have gone backwards. Another impressive bowling display from Ben Coad, 39 wickets and counting at an average of just over 16 – hope England don’t snap him up too soon!

  20. I would consider both Ronaldo and Keane to be greats in their own way: Ronaldo as an all time great of the game and Keane as a great of the Premier League era.

    Both are hard to like.

    Keane was a terrific all-round and somewhat old fashioned centre midfielder – before we had defensive midfielders, attacking modifiers, deep-lying playmakers end all those other granular descriptions. He was just pretty good at everything but went beyond players of similar ability with his ferocious drive and fearsome leadership. A player who I’m sure his teammates were glad to have on their side. I think of him as Grant Leadbitter turned up to 11.

    Loved the piece, Werder. “Punch and Rudy” was a good ‘un. I’m pretty sure that’s why Puncheon was targeted to be honest!

    Looking forward to Saturday and will be interested in the line-up. I’m expecting the wingbacks again and not too many changes. The questions are whether Braithwaite will return to the starting XI and who will play in midfield alongside Clayton and Howson.

    I’d be tempted to bring Braithwaite back in but stick with Downing in midfield. It ain’t broke.

    1. Thanks Andy, it’s possible that’s why Puncheon was targeted though I did wonder if rumours of Matt Targett arriving from Southampton was down to a misunderstanding between Pulis and the recruitment team of what he wanted. Anyway, it will be interesting to see who plays on Saturday and I’d select Braithwaite as he’s looked sharp all season and probably only missed out against Leeds because of the transfer speculation. Though I wouldn’t expect to see any of the new signings making the team just yet as you said “if it ain’t broke” – though for what then did we sign Saville to fix…

      1. I think TP will go with the Leeds eleven. Braithwaite lost his place so will have to wait for his opportunity. The question is who would we drop if he was brought strsight back?

        It makes for a strong bench with Hugill, McNair, Saville, McQueen, Batth and Braithwaite.

      2. I agree that it is tricky to fit attacking players in if Pulis goes for a back-three and a midfield three as he did against Leeds. He has previously gone with a back two also away from home, which allowed Braithwaite and Downing to play either side of a striker. Plus he has also sometimes gone with a midfield two of Clayton and Howson and played Downing as a playmaker in front of them. I guess much will depend on how he views Norwich – are they there to be beaten or a team to contain and look for goals from set plays.

  21. I see Braithwaite Has apologised of sorts on social media hope he is sincere as I rate him highly, just hope Wing does not loose his place on the bench with all these new MFs on loan at the club. He deserves his game and can only get better with more match time, he comes from the area and has put the hard yards in by playing in the local leagues so knows what it means to earn your corn and play for the team and fans alike. As for Saturday 2-1 for us UTB.

  22. Maybe Tony Pulis should consider getting a personal shopper for the January window if he doesn’t want to miss out on those hard to find purchases. Apparently it’s all the rage with top footballers these days and here’s the story of one 17-year old entrepreneur who has found himself as the the go-to person for many of the big names in football.

    He apparently is one of those Instagram sensations who has also made contact with footballers through playing the online video game ‘Fortnite’, which is a multiplayer fantasy survival game – probably much like it will be for Boro in the PL next season I suspect! So here ‘s the story of Sam Morgan, the personal shopper of Paul Pogba, Delli Ali, Kevin de Bruyne and many others…


  23. “What next for Albert Adomah at Aston Villa after Middlesbrough move collapses on deadline day”.

    The above is the current lead football article from Teesside Live. As much as I liked Albert as a Boro player and was sorry to see him go he is for me now part of our history and I am not particularly bothered about what happens to him football wise.

    It is the present the paper should be focusing on and writing about current players, not those who have left however well they served us. Just sayin like!

  24. “A terrific all around central midfielder, before we had defensive midfielders, attacking modifiers, deep-lying play makers end all those other granular descriptions. He was just pretty good at everything but went beyond players of similar ability with his ferocious drive and fearsome leadership.”

    I like that Andy. Sums up Keane well.

    I’ll add this: watching him in the 1994 World Cup (which will remain the only international tournament he ever played) highlights how, in some ways, he was ahead of his time. I point to the intuitive, off-the-ball movement and angled passing, long before it became “hip”, that opened up the space for Paul McGrath to find John Aldridge’s feet against Mexico in Orlando. Two passes and one pin point cross later, and the ball was headed down and into the Mexican net by Aldridge.

    The subtleties of the build-up easily escape you when you’re desperately in need of a goal, or a lift, as Ireland were back then. Similarly, I recall how on future viewings it would have been so easy for him to attempt a cross for Tommy Coyne (against Italy) and later David Kelly (against Norway) when he had the space to do so. Instead, he spotted John Sheridan, hit an accurate sideways/angled pass, and Sheridan, in both cases, was the thickness of the woodwork away from scoring a cracking goal.

    Clearly he’d learned from Cantona (see: Looking for Eric) that if you trust in the skills of your team-mates you’ll be rewarded.

    The problem with lauding this style of play is something Ian correctly pointed out in 2014, which holds true now. If our team draws 0-0, one can easily wax lyrical in their little “blog bubble” about how well we played, how it just wasn’t our day and that there are ingenious elements of play to carry forward and build on from highlights, but how will that go down with those who paid for a goal feast?

  25. Continued…

    A sad story about Cloughie from Keane’s first autobiography.

    Young Keane heads up to the manager’s office to ask for a few days’ home leave during the inaugural PL season, 1992-93, when Forest are struggling against relegation. He spots Graham Taylor, then England manager, waiting outside the office when coach Ronnie Fenton (I think) beckons Keane in.

    “Roy. Roy. Over here.”

    And there he is. One of football’s greatest managers sitting in the corner. Cloughie then speaks again.

    “Is Taylor still out there?”

    “Yes, boss.”

    Cloughie raises his finger to his lips, urging Keane to be quiet.

    “He wants to see me about Nigel (Clough), but I don’t want to talk to him. Ron’s told him I’ve gone home.”

    Put it in context. Taylor is England manager, a position that Clough once coveted but never attained. And consider that, after a dreadful day at the office, Clough is hardly likely to be in the mood for the typical after-match chit chat between managers.

    “Can I have a few days off, boss?”

    “Of course you can. But leave by the other door, I’m staying here until that *expletive* is gone.”

    No matter how combative one may be, there are times when it really does get too much and they deserve our sympathy.

    It is what it is.

  26. I’ve never forgiven Keane for hounding Andy D’Urso half way round Old Trafford. I still think he should have been sent off for leading a wolf pack of howling United players snarling at the ref. And the delay meant we missed the penalty, too, which I also put down to Keane’s gamesmanship. Can’t stand the man, personally. Bear a grudge, me? You bet. As Ian says, it’s in the DNA.

    Loved the article, Werder. I especially liked the reference to the Leeds fans not understanding their own dirty history. Genius!

    I think we should be able to beat Norwich on Saturday. But then again, I was there last season when a very poor, tame Boro side lost 1-0 and barely registered a shot in anger. Gestede was sent off, of course, but we were rank bad before then. Amazingly, Boro appealed the red card and won, which was a pity, as it meant Pulis gave the cement-footed Gestede more game time in later games. Anyway, I’ll stick my neck out and go for a1-0 win to us.

  27. Ah, Jaap Stam.

    Immediately transferred to Italy after extracts of his book got a little too public. Fergie denies it but he’s fooling nobody.

    Naturally Keane’s first book rushed to the manager’s defence (the book reads like a Ferguson hagiography). Stam was “limited at the highest level” and it was “just business”.

    Me, I thought Stam was hard done by. Even Fergie admitted he made a mistake selling him though I suppose the book gave him no choice.

    Stam’s devotion to United – him and his family loved the club and the area, by all accounts – was sincere and extreme, *and* he was a popular guy. I suppose he was as open as he was about Fergie tapping him up in his book because he was certain he wouldn’t be leaving United. He should have been aware that they’re not that kind of club. Not under Fergie anyway.

      1. Yep. Contrast Keane’s first book with his second and how his attitude towards and opinion about Ferguson has changed.

        At times, the praise heaped on Fergie in the first book is almost embarrassing. Though, as one reviewer noted, United paid Keane’s wages, so he had to be careful not to tread on the precious egos of anyone still at the club back then.

        Another point of view is that his ghost writer, a certain Mr Dunphy, emphasised Fergie’s ability to highlight the deficiencies of Jack Charlton and Mick McCarthy. Both, note, have achieved much more in management than Keane has and surely ever will.

    1. The issue of agents creaming off the thick end of the wedge of money on transfer deals is a problem that’s been known about for years but the regulators of football seem to as usual done little to prevent it. Many agents now essentially act as an agency, where both the players and clubs (selling and buying) are their clients. While all parties are happy to pay them ridiculous sums of money then it will continue unless regulations are brought in. Perhaps the reality that agents ultimately decide which club the players move to should alert the football authorities to reform the system.

      The proposal to cap agents fees will no doubt be circumnavigated as they will probably take their ‘cut’ through other means. The whole financing of football, whether it’s the owners, players wages, transfer fees, agents fees, media deals or even ticket prices and replica shirts is completely out of control. It’s more a case of where to start with reform and whether there is indeed any will to do it.

  28. Interesting to read this snippet in the Guardian this morning about our former player:

    Adama Traoré has always been regarded as a rough diamond, lightning quick but perhaps lacking composure or an end product. Yet since his £18m summer move to Wolves from Boro, with each of his three league appearances coming from the bench, he has hugely impressed. Per 90 minutes, nobody in the Premier League has created more chances than the 22-year-old or completed even half the number of successful dribbles: Eden Hazard has 5.56 to Traoré’s 11.87

  29. Werder,

    Brilliant piece. You’ve come back from the international break with your batteries fully recharged. A great read.

    Stupid football stats No 112: the 11.87 successful dribbles of Traore. By my reckoning he’s only achieved 11.83.

    Ironic football complaints No. 872.: Pornographer owners (“the Dildo Brothers”) regretting the distasteful influence of agents in football. That influence having grown historically via the use of a proportion of agents’ fees finding its way back into the pockets of managers and owners.

    1. Thanks Len, the jump leads have been re-attached. BTW on the Traore stats I should have spotted that anomaly of making 11.87 dribbles in the Guardian piece – re-reading, it’s been ‘seasonally’ adjusted to show how many he would have made if he’d played the full 90 minutes of each game. Since he’s come off the bench and only appeared for 91 minutes in three games then if you multiply 11.87 by 91 and divide by 270 (3 x 90) it gives 4. It means he’s actually only made 4 successful dribbles before extrapolation – so that’s meaningful stats for you!

      1. Werder, Earlier this summer I played my first bowls game of the season. My opponent didn’t turn up so I got a walk-over. I went away on holiday, and came back a few weeks later to discover that, with the season now under way, I was well ahead of everyone else in the league and top of the averages by a country mile. For most of the rest of the season opponents tried to avoid playing me, such was my reputation based on my brilliant opening season stats.

        I hadn’t played a single game.

  30. It’s a huge pie, and everyone wants a piece.

    Having stolen it from the traditional supporter and subsequently pricing them out of the game they’re like Vultures picking the bones of football.

    1. Yes. See Tom Bower’s book Broken Dreams for chapter and verse on the range of bungs, sweeteners, off-book loans, and undeclared payments that disfigure the game, and with almost all of the big-name managers up to their ears in it. And that was over 10 years ago.

  31. Love the opinions on Ronaldo expressed by the bloggers on here.
    Each different opinion has a grain of truth and sense in it, except, ( I could have put the word but in there) consider the following, when some bore starts rattling off his stats ( is there a mirror about?) there is a sudden hush round the pub table.
    These stats read something like this, ( Not accurate) per season, 62, 58,52, 55, 66, currently he is about 50.
    This is the most marked ( and fouled) man in the world.
    His stats tell of a fierce work ethic. As for skill he dispatched some giant team from the champions league with the most colossal overhead kick quite recently, ( I believe the Welchman did a carbon copy to dispose of Liverpool recently.

    1. GHW, I beg to differ on the “great” classification. Truly great players do not engage in the dark arts. Their talent and their sportsmanship means they don’t need to and that is what defines their greatness. Ronaldo is a truly gifted and talented player and who am I to argue about his work ethic, but he fails the test of greatness for me because of far too many examples of unsportsmanlike behaviour on the field of play.

  32. Championship 2018-19: Week 6

    Werdermouth, congratulations on another great lead article but and this is not a complaint, why is there no mention of our midweek fixture (Wed 19:45 hrs) at home to Bolton.

    Come on BORO.

    1. Thanks Exmil, my new system for the discussion blog this season runs from Monday to Monday in advance of the weekend so that will actually be listed in my next article (17 Sep), which will also cover the following game against Swansea – so two home games next week to hopefully get another 6 points!

  33. Werder, I didn’t acknowledge your great lead article for the week this week. I read it shortly after you posted it and laughed aloud at the Punch and Judy references. Thanks for continuing to write in such an entertaining, but none the less serious, vein.

    As for this weekend. I see Leeds now that your man has the MOM albatross around his neck, the Roofe has fallen in. So not only will the DWs be without Bamford, Beradi and Hernandez for their visit to Cold Blow Lane, but now also without Roofe.
    I might fancy Millwall will do a number on them on Saturday afternoon.

    Much more importantly, we do not seem to have any serious injury problems heading to Norfolk. I would go unchanged.
    Fry, Flint, Ayala
    Shotton, Friend
    Howson, Besic, Downing
    With Dimi, Saville, Braithwaite, Hughill, McQueen, Wing and Leadbitter on the bench

    My only concern is our history coming back after these infernal (sorry I meant international) breaks is not particularly good. I hope we come back with the same attitude we showed throughout August. If so, I see us coming away with a clear win – 2-0 will be my prediction.

    1. Thanks Powmill, like last season, Millwall seem to be having their usual slow start to the season and Leeds their usual blazing beginning. At some point they will probably re-adjust and pass each other in the table – let’s hope it starts today!

  34. I’m wondering if Braithwaite might get the nod over Besic as apparently both Besic and Saville played in both of their countries games this week so may be “rested” a little.

    Norwich are very dysfunctional this season and to me are reminiscent of Boro under Monk last term. A Norwich supporting friend has assured me that we will walk (with the emphasis on “walk”) away with all three points tomorrow.They are also the second worst in conceding Championship goals so far. I can’t see anything but a no nonsense robust Boro win and with a few to to spare at that plus another clean sheet. Canaries 0-3 Boro.

  35. When it comes to C. Ronaldo, consider this.

    I have read that one tends to feel better if they say to themselves that someone only reached the top because they were born with the right talent, the right luck, and the right connections, and didn’t work for it.

    In short – they only got there because they have something we were unlucky never to have. Really, endurance, passion, work ethic and persistence tend to separate the best from the rest. As Gary Player said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get”.

    Back to C. Ronaldo. Judge him by personality and you’ve someone who’s narcissistic, arrogant, selfish and easy to dislike. The complete opposite of happy-go-lucky cheeky chappy Albert Adomah or boy-next-door Jordan Rhodes. But anyone who’s played with Ronaldo has confirmed that he’s as hard a worker as anyone could be. The same has been said about Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

    It’s deciding that you’ve “done enough” that gets you into trouble. Who talks about Mario Balotelli today?

  36. Well just back in sunny Espana, (well not today though) and catching up with the blog.
    Many thanks to Werder and his once more “funny” article.

    Not sure about tomorrow, we have to lose sometime and Norwich will pick up another win. may be a draw then. Unchanged team from TP?? I am not sure, Besic has played to full matches and the associated travel, Saville nearly two full matches.
    Will Mo be not too worn out. will Saville be on the bench? Then there is MB?

    I think an unchanged team with MB and Saville on the bench along with Wing and a couple of defenders, probably McQueen and Batth.

    Now off to catch up on the posts and look to purchase my on-line match day video.

  37. It was. I totally agree with you there, Chris.

    On the other hand, many stood up for Keane because of his winning mentality. Of course, a less intense individual would have thought, “I’m hardly being fair comparing the FAI’s approach to that of Manchester United, one of the largest sporting empires on the planet. Best to just get on with it, right?”

    Were he less intense, Keane wouldn’t have achieved half as much as he did.

  38. After a 5-0 aggregate victory in 2014-15 we have since stalled against the Canaries. 0-2, 0-1, 0-1 since. Not good.

    Saying that but for Bamford’s injury and a touch of defensive incompetence Wembley may well have been a whole lot different is one thing, but falling back on ifs, buts and maybes masks the bigger picture. (I’ve already discussed how late arrivals can actually help to relieve pressure, but that didn’t happen with us.)

    I’m going for a win.

  39. As we worry about Jordan Rhodes coming back to haunt us a couple of my neighbours are worried about a certain Mr Howson so they cancel one another out. I think Boro will be to business-like and it will be Canaries 1 – 2 Boro. Now what have I said.

    No news from the eyes in the sky? Where’s the oracle when you it?



  40. From what I can recall Canaries were used to monitor air conditions before modern technology. Maybe a dose of Smoggie visitors could prove injurious to Norwich hopes.

  41. It will be interesting to see TP’s attitude to squad rotation after an international break. Randolph, Besic and Saville played two full games. Braithwaite and McNair played one game but it was this past midweek. Fry played one game but not midweek. Assombalonga played as a sub (I think) but had a longer journey.

    I assume that Randolph plays and that it’s 5-3-2. I think that he could give Besic and Saville a slot on the bench and go with Clayton and Howson in midfield plus one other which would be Downing or Wing with Wing perhaps more likely to counter Norwich’s pressing.

    Up front, Hugill could get a shot depending on Assombalonga’s tiredness but more likely BA will start and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Braithwaite given a start.

    That would then be

    Shotton, Ayala, Flint, Fry, Friend
    Wing, Clayton, Howson,
    Braithwaite, Assombalonga

    with a mega-bench of


    Looks a good enough squad to win.


  42. The argument for an unchanged team is strong today but where does that leave players like Braithwaite and new boy Saville or even Lewis Wing who added a new dimension to Boro in the middle with his running and passing. Boro have a lot options in the middle and in Ayala, Flint and Fry three players who have looked solid. With Shotton proving to be perhaps Boro’s most improved player too and Downing in good form, then few will feel they deserve to miss out. No doubt McQueen also hasn’t decided to swap the bench at Southampton for Boro’s either.

    The talk of two games a week in the Championship may make Pulis rotate more than he’s inclined to do – or at the very least make subs around the hour mark. He’s already stated that Downing can’t be expected to play 46 games at his age and keeping everyone fresh, keen and motivated will perhaps mean a couple of changes here and there. It may be about being part of the 16 rather than a starting XI, with changes made to suit opponents – though not quite in the Karanka mould.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see a version of 4-3-3 today with possibly Fry missing out and Wing in for Besic – a front three of Downing, Britt and Braithwaite.

    2-0 to Boro with goals from Howson and Braithwaite.

  43. I would be surprised if TP makes any changes to the starting line up today from the team that started at Leeds.

    He hinted in his press conference that players would have to fight for the shirts of the existing incumbents. I think it is too early for Saville to start as he only joined the squad a few days ago following international duty.

    More likely he will use some of the new players as substitutes for those who may tire having played international games.

    It was good to hear of MB’s intentions and that he has had frank and positive discussions with TP who clearly wants him in the team albeit I expect him to start on the bench.

    I hope the weather is better in Norwich, we have had prolonged thunderstorms overnight, it is grey with rain leaden clouds and pouring down at present. I am expecting Mrs P to return like a drowned rat from her food shopping trip!!

    CoB 😎

  44. Norwich knocking it about well and playing some tidy football.
    Boro seem a little under the weather first half.
    You would think they would be busting a gut to keep the shirt with the talent available on the bench.

  45. A pretty dull and uninspiring first half of football – it may be the same team as Leeds but certainly not the same intensity or sense of purpose. Sloppy passing from Boro and at the moment we seem content to just clear our lines and give the ball back to Norwich. With mostly ten players behind the ball, Assombalonga is being left on his own and has only received the ball with his back to goal or near the corner flag – which is not really his game. Would like to see some early changes in the second half as Britt needs support as at the moment is looking like 0-0.

  46. Well not the walkover predicted by a few on here. Norwich with the possession and edging the few chances being made.

    Our midfield is rather second best at the moment, with very little support up to Britt or from the wings. some sloppy passing and George having a bit of a mare.

    All the fault of the international break and the lost flow? It probably needs MB and possibly Saville to give more impetus to forward play into their box.

  47. Well Boro unrecognisable from the pre-international break – I said in my preview that the championship was notorious for punishing teams who were complacent and that is exactly what happened. The intensity that got us to joint top just wasn’t there and it was an overall poor performance with too much sloppy passing and lack of composure on the ball. Boro I’m afraid got what they deserved on that showing – nothing!

  48. Well what a let down after such a wholehearted performance at Leeds.

    Werder called it in his leader when he said that the Leeds result would be of little value if we did not build on it at Norwich and sure enough typical Boro turned up.

    We lacked creativity, drive and quality and made Norwich look like a candidate for automatic promotion when in reality, I beleive, they will not make top six.

    TP said in his press conference it is a long season and there will be ups and downs, well he was right because that performance was certainly a down.

    Too many players failed to turn up and I have never seen so many misplaced passes or passes to the opposition.

    I will be interested in reading RR’s report and also what TP says!

    1. For the moment all I will say is that was dreadful and reminiscent of the Millwall game only we did not have Wing this afternoon. They have missed him since he was dropped,. the only forward passing midfielder of any quality.

    2. GHW,

      Nor will the fans be.

      In a way I’m glad family commitments stopped me getting there. Some of my neighbours, Norwich season ticket holders, have texted me and said what went wrong, Boro gifted us the game and Norwich only managed one goal. What would a quality team have done to Boro. Another called us, Boro that is, timid. I’d call it disappointing. The team did not do itself justice. Why no Wing?

      Time for a beer I think.

      UTB, John

  49. No intensity whatsoever.
    We allowed Norwich to dictate the game and were second to every ball.
    It just seemed like we didn’t want it today.
    Was Downing and Howson playing?
    Shotton never got forward, George tried but his passes were terrible.
    Hard to find a player today that would be 5 out of 10.
    Waited two weeks for that no show.
    So disappointing

  50. Oh dear, when you get a knock in you have got to take it, it is pointless sitting back and doing a shut out.
    The logic is as follows, your opponents know that they are poor, and are not going to be attacking with gay abandon, and may well be chasing the game at some point.
    If they find that you are forming a wall and that is your game plan, then all their attackers who have been getting nothing, and defending as damage limitation up to now, will be spending their time around your goal, plus having a bit of shooting practice thank you very much.
    Observation of the top teams shows that they will not let anyone have a shot at their goal, because any, repeat, any, shot can go in. Nothing to do with skill or talent, the ball is round and will bounce where it will, and that includes in your goal.
    We have a great defence, we had goals in our team with Wing, he did the trick at Milwall late in the game, he was the obvious choice today.
    This was an enormous mistake, we enjoyed his success hugely, and should have had the courage to play him, all the talk of making the newby’s wait until our golden run ended was so much hot air. We had a gift today, and we thought ourselves into a hole, it leaves a horrible feeling when we could and should have gone there and made them do some serious defending for ninety minutes, instead we did the defending and got what we deserved.
    Think of this, we , of our own choice, took the goals out of our team when we dropped Wing. Now, I suppose pride and dignity will prevent us reinstating him, and that is sad.

  51. We had( and probably have )no idea. When our shut out went the way of all flesh, we removed Fry, young mobile, good in the air, not afraid to score from a dead ball. Bad decision, very bad decision.
    we started the second half without any substitutions, which might have stopped them attacking for a while until they saw how things stood.
    I think that we got lucky with Wing, and to a certain extent with Tavernier, I fear the worst if we start to pick the team on seniority, our quite beautiful two home games now look very much like two hand grenades with the pin’s out

  52. I wasn’t at the game, so it’s perhaps not appropriate of me to comment, but I did think when I saw the starting lineup that it looked to lack creativity and balance. One of the EG lads commented during the game that we had no link between the midfield and the attack and that Britt was isolated. Well, hasn’t that been Braithwaite’s role, and also his strength? Playing a midfield three of Howson, Downing and Besic obviously couldn’t compensate for missing the Dane’s link-up skills.

  53. Another great piece by Werder and the usual comprehensive match report by RR. If only the team today had put as much effort into their work as these two we could have been looking at being top of the league and 2 points clear. Instead we slumped to a dismal defeat to a very average side.

    RR has hit the nail on the head when he says “today was an opportunity totally and utterly spurned through a lack of endeavour”. Boro showed zero endeavour today with a defensively focused display of poor quality and zero creativity. We were so poor that Norwich were virtually gifted the points when they realised after about 10 minutes that we were not going to pose any kind of attacking threat and we were there for the taking.

    My question to TP is why. Why wasn’t the team set up with the objective of being really positive with the creativity to apply attacking pressure on a weak Norwich defence? What went wrong with the players motivation today which resulted in many 50:50 battles being lost and the impression being given that the players weren’t up for it? Why was there a lack of the level of intensity shown at Leeds? We went into the game joint top of the league yet subsided to a feeble defeat against a team way below us in the table. Why? Unless these questions are answered and the problem addressed then we supporters will need to adjust our expectations because teams that play like Boro did today have no chance of promotion..

    RR says that “the positive is that we can quickly put things right midweek”. I don’t agree because It is not possible to put right today’s performance. It is done and dusted and can’t be undone and it resulted in 3 points being lost unnecessarily, 3 points that will never be regained.

    Must do better, much better.

  54. Another good report RR, thank you. I am only glad I wasn’t there to witness proceedings myself. I wish we could work out how to carry momentum over these enforced two week breaks. It seems to me it is after every infernal break there has been, we have come back and taken several games to find the spark again. Very disappointed tonight. I was hoping for more from this Pulis inspired collection.
    We have to hope for more conviction and belief against Bolton, along with a set up that is prepared to take the game to them.

  55. On reflection that was to be expected in the realm of “ Typical Boro”.

    Our saving grace is that in TP we have a manager with enough experience and nous to put it right immediately. Bolton will face a completely different Boro who should be hot to trotter.

    1. GHW, I agree that TP should have enough experience to “put it right”. My question is with all that experience why he didn’t get it right in the first place? In my view he picked the wrong team and failed to motivate the players yesterday. We don’t want a manager who has to keep putting it right but rather one who gets it right match after match.

    2. GHW
      We thought we had the manager to banish these acts of lunacy, unfortunately he picked the team, he chose to defend( against a team of bits and pieces), he left Wing and Carpentier at home ( That would be our providers, so no goals then)
      He watched his scheme collapse, he made no changes at half time, he made the most ham fisted changes when the damage was done, I mean the youngest centre back leaving the field, downing staying on ( to do what? Put the ball over the bar?)
      Why leave Asamlonga on, we may as well play Fry up front.
      Above all, we ( and by that word I mean the players and the manager) showed no awareness of the great prize which awaited us if we could pile some more misery on the badly damaged opposition, no one can have explained to the players that in eight days we would harvest nine points if we disposed of this struggling team
      We will of course pay heavily for such stupidity.
      They had better play Wing at home and put some goals into this bunch of sideway passers, or I fear the worst.

  56. I cant comment on the detail of the match not having seen it but you can get an impression. The radio commentary seemed to say we never went for it and were comfortable keeping them in front of us without threatening.

    You could have predicted that from the line up. We went for nil nil and got half of it.

    Stats are always dangerous but Norwich had 62% possession, 16 attempts to 8, 6 shots on target to 2.

    Nothing ventured so nothing gained.

  57. Thanks for the report, RR. As telling as ever.

    I think Pulis got his line-up wrong. I was expecting Braithwaite to be restored for this one with the question then being Downing it Besic in midfield. I expected Downing to get the nod.

    To play both was a signal to everyone, including our own XI, that we’d come for a point and hoped for a set piece.

    Playing without a link-man away to Leeds is one thing but it should. It be the default away setup. It should be reserved for the toughest fixtures.

    It was a mistake. Norwich were there to be beaten.

    I trust we will be much more adventurous in the two home games to come and hope we’ll not be so timid in a winnable game again.

  58. Well, that was as typical, a typical Boro moment as we’ll get. Just when you tell yourself that this time it might be different…

    Our scoring form is a worry, nothing in the last two and a fortuitous late goal v West Brom the match before, and must addressed on Weds. It’s not good enough clearly.

    A couple of poor results and we’re back in the pack which is hugely frustrating. This one result will affect nothing ultimately but we need to start scoring and winning again right now.

  59. Thanks Redcar for the alternative report and view of the proceedings. Whilst I said you cannot win them all and Carrow Road is a bit of a grave yard for us. we certainly should not of been dead and buried against a poor team missing some key players.

    Mr Pulis I am sure thought long and hard about his line up and possibly, but certainly should not of, paid tribute to the Team that did so well against Leeds.
    He got his selection for this one all wrong reverting to type in his defensive keep the point, try and nick the three policy.

    We have very little creativity in the team from the midfield and that has been evident in my opinion since the dropping of Wing. The team yesterday worked hard and I would not criticise them for that, but my did they labour throughout apart from may be the first 15 or so minutes. How so many players could perform like that at the same time is hard to believe, however following Werder’s Headliner and comments from Ian, it probably all comes down to the Team Unit. We have played well as a Team and without creativity we fail as a Team as we did yesterday.

    I cannot agree with some views on individual performances and thought for all his endeavour George was poor, as was our dead ball deliveries, SD´s being back to normal. Wings had pace, yesterdays were all just floaters, defenders balls.

    Norwich were there for the taking and whilst no match is easy and teams have off days like yesterday, we played into their hands somewhat and even when TP made his changes it all still looked unbalanced and still had nobody to provide any real telling balls into the boxes. Again whilst I may be championing Wing somewhat, he does have pace that the others do not and he should be on the bench at least unless his form says otherwise, which it hasn´t. To have two defenders and two midfielders on the bench with our starting line up was all wrong for me and ultimately led to lack of choice and player differences.

    Mr Pulis needs to look at his overall squad and (with no injuries) admit that we have at this time too many midfielders and just because we have brought possibly too many in, we cannot guarantee them a place on the bench to the detriment of a player with a different skill. One which we are short off.

    Finally once settled in I would like to see what McQueen can do in the LB position. I would also bet that the next time we play with three at the back (Bolton??) that we will see Fry drooped for Batth.

    1. The problem as I see it is that we have too many “samey” type of Midfielders. If we listed them and their values the likes of Besic and Saville etc. would be high up the list with Wing like as not propping up the bottom of the list.

      Industrious grafting battlers are great in any side but too many of them plus a Downing and a Howson isn’t creative enough. Stewy’s set pieces have been poor for years as is his accuracy when shooting (which is a rarity in itself nowadays). Howson has been much improved this season but isn’t enough of a creative spark. The result is an isolated Assombalonga who isn’t suited to that lone Striker role in any case.

      The transfer window was disappointing in that the wide pacy players didn’t come in. The likes of a Bolasie or an Adomah would add something extra to the mix and their lack of arrival isn’t TP’s fault. That said as we often quote Mogga on here “it is what it is” and my niggle is that I don’t think its better to play say an 8/10 tenacious grafter instead of a perceived 5 or 6/10 creative spark. Balancing the team is just as important as playing all your best players. Yesterdays bench showed the strength of the squad but also highlighted the dearth of creativity be it from set pieces (Wing’s delivery is now better than Downing’s) or the ability to get past a man and leave him in your tracks.

      I haven’t checked any stats but my gut instinct is that we have picked up more points with Wing in the side than without him. Coincidence perhaps, but I think there is more value than his financial worth on Transfermarkt may suggest. Going back to Millwall it wasn’t the old guard that turned the game around, it was the enthusiasm and vigour of youth that took the game to Millwall at the Den.

      I don’t see what Saville added to the squad in an area that we were already well covered for. Having said that I do think he is a very decent player at this level but at £8M it has to be questioned if that sort of cash could and should have been splashed addressing areas of greater need even if it meant “overpaying” by a similar comparative amount. Having just joined up with then squad on Thursday its too early to judge how TP will use him, he may in fact signal the end of Downing as a nailed on starter and his “10 goals” may make a massive difference over the season, time will tell.

      Tav and Wing on paper may not be in the same value bracket as the rest of the squad but their skill sets are significantly different and if you need to change a game sending on clones isn’t going to achieve the desired outcome. Having said all of that regardless of who was playing the tactics yesterday were rank bad and it was obvious after 20 minutes or so that a tweak in tactics or personnel was required. Playing against one of the worst defences in the league and not showing any intent of exploiting that was very poor decision making, continuing with it was even worse.

  60. This was a disappointing game, well described in RR report as usual.

    We are used to it now and so like the old grandads in the muppet show or the gang in the last of the summer wine – what more can we expect. Wednesday night may be the tipping pint however as now TP surely knows what he has and what is needed.

    The Boro stream was rubbish again, I really dont know what they are doing wrong. As a paying subscriber I was very disappointed and expect someone in Boro IT to be reading the riot act to whomever the outsourced that debacle.

    Aprt from that it seems it is business as usual – regrettably. Honey moon over – again!!!

      1. Pedro

        You are correct in that the away games are provided by IFollow and streamed via the MFC link. Yesterday’s problems may not necessarily down to MFC but I can’t be certain.

        Concerns however need to be voiced to MFC if we are to pressure them/iFollow to produce a quality stream.

  61. Well as much as I love my Boro that was a waste of time and money. My first “live” game in 8 months and they contrive to put in an appalling display like that.

    It looked as if TP was going for the draw from the off and for me usually that only ends up in defeat which unsurprisingly is what happened. Poor from the manager in his approach and the way he set the team up.

    From the off Boro were second best in every department, with Norwich quicker to move the ball and get forward with intent, all be it mostly coming to nothing. We looked fairly solid at the back but at times there was some comedy defending going on. Shotton put in a couple of good crosses but with only Brit in the box against 4 or 5 defenders they were never going to come to much.

    There was no connection between the midfield and Brit who was totally isolated up front. It was just like Negrado all over again.Clayton was putting himself about and was unfortunate to get injured in a good old fashioned 50/50 challenge that cut down on his effectiveness. Downing was poor and Agent Howson reverted back to last seasons form and was anonymous and a waste of a shirt.

    Hugill held the ball up and laid it off quite effectively when he came on and Braithwaite looked lively but not on the same wavelength as those around him.

    The referee made a few strange decisions or even non decisions but penalty claim aside he didn’t end up costing us the game, that was down to our poor approach to the game and far too many Boro players just not being at the races. The red card incident was a farce though. Not sure what the linesman saw or even if it was for offside as I didn’t see his flag go up. The ref was cajoled by the Norwich players to consult him and the decision reversed. Strange one to say the least. Hopefully they came to the correct decision in the end.

    One of the main disappointments from yesterday is that we made a fairly average team look comfortable without being any kind of threat whatsoever. As other posters have mentioned our current lack of goals is a bit of a worry and needs to be addressed.

    Need to put that poor performance behind us and move on to Bolton at the Riverside on Wednesday. I’ll be there before flying back out to the land of sand on Thursday but they’d better up their performance from yesterday otherwise it’s going to be a long trip back.

  62. Well, as said above, Boro didn’t play very well. Norwich was slightly the better here but of course we must remember that we could have come away with a point. Norwich was not dangerous but they stopped us of having any good scoring opportunities. I think we lost the midffield battle at Carrow Road.

    Teemu Pukki has had a wondful eight days. He had two internationals versus Hungary and Estonia. And now Boro. All three matches ended in a 1-0 win. And he scored all the three goals – so all winning goals. The lad must be walking six feet tall now!

    I am sorry that I was right about Pukki being deadly at the moment. But this was the only the first defeat this season. Let’s hope we get the three points on Tuesday.

    Up the Boro!

    1. Not sure how we could have come away with a point Jarkko, unless you meant before Norwich Scored? After that we never looked like scoring even with the changes. what was it 5 shots, 2 on target?

  63. We didn’t deserve a point Jarrko.

    Out of those 3 midfielders you mention who started yesterday Howson should definitely be one to be dropped on that performance. Absolute rubbish and back to last seasons player. Either Downing or Besic to make way as both were totally ineffective and like Howson had no influence on the game whatsoever.

    I’d go for Wing as opposed to Saville as he knows the players around him better. Plus he did nothing wrong to warrant getting dropped as far as I’m concerned. In fact he did a lot of things right.

    I know he only came off the bench and it’s very early to make too much of a judgement but Saville seems very similar to what we have. Hopefully he can be that forward thinking attacking midfielder we desperately need. Time and games will tell.

    1. That’s fair. My assumption is that Besic and Downing will be the more tired of the three.

      Downing and Howson have both had excellent seasons so far but yesterday was not good. I suspect that part of the problem however was having so little in front of them.

      Pulis got it wrong for me.

  64. Listening to the Radio Tees commentary Neil Maddison sounded in despair at Boro’s tactics. He said Norwich were there on a plate to be defeated, but Boro’s tactics were all wrong with Assombalonga far too isolated which seems to be the consensus of opinion from Redcar Red and most bloggers on this forum. I put most the blame on TP’s selection. I can see the logic of not selecting players who had been playing for their countries twice in the last week, but Braithwaite only played the once and it’s evident that Assombalonga can’t play the lone striker role without someone between midfield and himself.

    The thing that concerns me is that TP seemed to select a formation to play for a goalless draw but hopefully snatch a win with a dead ball situation, admirable perhaps against a free scoring team like Leeds, but negative against a team with a porous defence like Norwich. It is to be hoped that TP doesn’t employ the same tactics in every away game, because many teams will adopt those tactics at the Riverside and we’re not a free scoring team from open play. We may have the best defensive record in the League but 10 teams have already scored more than us.

    As I mentioned in earlier texts I don’t pay too much attention to League positions at this stage of the season as a mere 4 points separate 2nd from 12th at the moment which is possibly par when only 7 matches have been played, but I would have been disappointed with a draw yesterday, so a defeat does put added pressure on Boro with their two home fixtures this week. It’s a question now how Boro respond, because although we still have that average of 2 points per game, in such a poor League as this we ought to be doing better considering the mediocrity of the opposition in our first 10 matches.

  65. Who would be a manager, started with the same team that got a very good point at Leeds that most people on here were very happy with and they lost, if he had changed the team and had lost the majority of the above posters would be saying “Why change the team”.

    Likewise on Wednesday, if he starts with the same team (giving them a chance to redeem themselves and they don’t win) the cry will be “Why didn’t he change x amount of players. If he changes x amount of players and they don’t win the cry will be “Why did didn’t he give the team a chance to redeem themselves, surely they would have been up to prove a point”.

    Before the international break, played 6 matches, undefeated, 5 clean sheets, joint top with 14 out of 18 points. ONE defeat and the manager doesn’t know what he is doing, before anyone says “nobody is saying he doesn’t know what he is doing” read most of the posts above where most people are questioning his selection, tactics etc.

    We will not go through the whole season without defeats and/or bad displays, that is the reality of football. Nobody, whether on this blog, team manager or any supporter can prior predict that a player or a number of players will turn in a match winning display or have a nightmare.

    Don’t get me wrong everyone is entitled to react to a defeat/bad display in their own way, I just accept that it is part and parcel of a typical season, maybe if we were in the bottom six struggling then I might have a different point of view but not when we are joint second one point behind the leader.

    Come on BORO.

    1. Exmill
      It is not one defeat, it is a complete change of ethos, from a delightful run from a group of players who actually came from two down, who did not just win but scored goals, who scored goals early in the game, who played the ball forward so quickly that it disrupted the opposition, who allowed us to relax during the game(think on that for a moment) who accumulated points without effort.
      For the last three matches we have been scrubbing along, last minute goal, check.
      0-0 battle to the wire, check. Come the worst team we have played, just win and go top, no effort, no shots, no threat, no speed in the team, no goals in the team, no heart in the team.
      A total refusal to believe we could have picked up a jewel in Wing, is he watching the games?
      The team selection on Wednesday will tell us a lot about our manager.

  66. Ken, “the mediocrity of the opposition in our first 10 games” let’s look at six of our first 10 matches, also I think Millwall away is not an easy fixture !

    Leeds 1st
    Bristol City 3rd
    Shef Utd 5th
    Swansea 6th
    WBA 8th
    Bolton 10th

    Really !

    Come on BORO.

    1. Swansea and West Bromwich were relegated last season, Bolton almost. That says to me they were mediocre and if Boro aspire to be a Premier League team next season one would expect us to beat them. Norwich certainly are, as are Hull City who are our next away opponents. As stated before I don’t pay much attention to current League positions, too early to call yet, but I did expect Boro to win yesterday and rather easily against a team with such a porous defence. Tactics all wrong in my humble opinion.

      On another subject what a fantastic gesture by Manchester City to have 102 year old Vera Cohen and her 97 year old sister Olga Hallon as mascots yesterday. Apparently the two ladies have been regular supporters of City since 1933. Gosh! They will have probably seen George Camsell play for the Boro!

  67. Great report RR thank you which in my view was a more accurate reflection of the team performance than TP’s post match assessment.

    Thanks also for your further thoughts at 10.38. I like you was thinking that we have performed much better with Wing in the team than without and it was disappointing that he was not included on the bench yesterday. In fact why has he been dropped in the first place as his performances did not warrant it??

    Early days, but Saville does not look to change the dynamics of the midfield so TP needs to find something.

    I had no problems with him starting with the same team yesterday, it was the lack of intensity and failure to impose ourselves on the opposition that drove me mad yesterday.

    Good teams find a way to get a result when things are not going for them but we clearly are not that yet, if at all.

    1. This nails the performance of Boro yesterday: “The lack of intensity and failure to impose ourselves on the opposition that drove me mad yesterday.”

      It was not the tactics or the manager. We just had a bad day in the office. This is football.

      Bring on Wednesday. Up the Boro!

  68. Exmil, I have to agree with you that although initially the first ten matches looked reasonably easy, if that can be applied to the Championship, and we did beat Bristol and Sheff U comfortably in the end, the league positions paint a slightly different picture.

    However considering the travelling and matches played, Besic looked lethargic from the off and it may have been a better shout to bench him for Norwich.

    Likewise given the MB situation, if TP was not going to start him then for me Wing should have been in there at the off.

    Two defenders and two midfielders on the bench when the starting team was full of the latter was not a good choice.

    You said who would be a Manager. Well Mr Pulis has been one for a long time, is experienced and his job is to make at times difficult decisions. Unless injuries kick in or Clayton keeps getting booked, we have far too many to keep happy.

    Wing and eventually Fry will be pushed down the ladder as they are the easiest to push. As well as we have played since Millwall and prior to yesterday, the team has been better with Wing than without him. You can include MB in there also.

  69. We need to talk about Besic.

    Last year he was effectively the pivot that snapped our engine room out of side-to-side paralysis. This year he feels like just another midfielder. At least so far. It could well be that having arrived at Boro last season with fire in his belly, with a point to prove, this year he may be in danger of getting comfortable, of blending too well into midfield.

    Wing, on the other hand, is young, hungry and eager to create. I understand the need to “ease him in”, but when you’re as blunt as we were yesterday you can’t really afford that. Hence the calls for Adama in 2016-17 even though he was not ready.

    Either that, or like many a club, we need a dispiriting defeat now and then to snap us out of complacency and re-focus our minds.

  70. Speaking of Adama.

    Happy to hear that he came off the bench today for Wolves and set up two chances for Bonatini, even though they weren’t taken. The Sky commentary team’s reason for him not starting was the usual “lack of end product” excuse.

    Jacqui Oatley thought different. “Excellent each time he’s come off the bench. Created several clearcut chances which weren’t taken.”

    As, I hear, Downing did for Andy Carroll at Liverpool. Except those weren’t taken and Stewie’s “36 appearances, no goals, no assists” stat for 2011-12 became entrenched.

  71. Thanks for the report RR a disappointment for all Boro fans and Pulis was quite scathing about the officials

    On another note it was interesting to see Marton Braithwaite on sunday morning at Yarm watching his young son play a cup match in local junior football. Integration with the local community


  72. Simon

    Re “Last year he was effectively the pivot that snapped our engine room out of side-to-side paralysis”.

    I would agree your comment is applicable to the early part of Besic’s season but as it progressed he became less influential and like so many failed to have a positive and creative impact on performances.

    Against the stronger sides he failed to shine, another failing which could be levied at others in the squad.

    The most creative and positive we have looked is when Wing/Braithwaite have played but this seems to have been not fully noticed/appreciated by TP and Besic/Downing appear to be two of the first names on the team sheet despite how they have performed previously.

    The midfield struggled last season to create sufficient chances with Besic/Downing playing and I fail to see how that will change this season.

    In my view Wing is the better option to start with and get us on the front foot but Braithwaite needs to be included to help link up with either Assombalonga or Hugill.

    My fear is that the likes of Wing, Fry and Tavernier will end up on the fringes of the team and replaced by the TP recruits.

    I just hope I am wrong as I see them as the team’s future.

  73. Just back from an early start this morning with family day out in pleasant summery conditions, which is one way to forget a forgettable performance from Boro yesterday. Firstly many thanks to the mighty Redcar Red for yet another spot on match report – it also filled in some of the gaps from the live feed that needed somewhere around ten restarts. I completely missed out on the red card that never was but whether if it had stood Boro would have scored seems unlikely.

    I agree that the second half subs appear to have had a confusing effect on the players as the formations changed but the bad dancing continued as Boro were strictly stuck in defensive mode. I suspect (for whatever reason) Boro came for a draw and found it increasingly difficult to get any momentum into their play after starting slowly. Whilst we may have a strong bench it didn’t seem to put too much pressure on the Starting XI to perform – what Tony Pulis learned is unclear. A bad day at the office or something more serious? we’ll find out next week I guess.

    1. Werder

      I was relieved to hear that you lost the feed about ten times and also missed the red card incident. I was becoming paranoid that iFollow had it in for me.

      Fingers crossed that Riverside Live will have had an upgrade by Wednesday evening!

      1. Just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean they haven’t got it in for you 🙂 Though it does seem to be taking quite some time to get this live feed business sorted out. My lack of confidence in the feed stops me playing it though my large TV screen and settling on the sofa as I’m rightly anticipating needing to be hands-on with the laptop to avoid missing more than necessary.

  74. Exmil

    I’m a Pulis fan. I think he’s a common sense manager who gets far more right than wrong and there aren’t many, of any, managers out there who we could get that I’s prefer to have.

    However, that doesnt mean he gets everything right and I think he got it wrong yesterday.

    The setup, and presumably the message whether implied or explicitly expressed, was that we should play defensively and hope for a moment to win. To me, that was too much respect for a struggling Norwich side.

    No histrionics or overreaction. I expect we’ll get back to creating chances on Wednesday and O think we’ll win.

    I’ll be very surprised if there isn’t a subtle change in approach and a strong reaction from the players.

    1. Andy, it did look as though the tactical plan yesterday was to “play defensively and hope for a moment to win” as you put it. My criticism is that this plan should never have been considered by the manager. We entered the game second in the league equal on points with the leader, unbeaten to date and with better players than the very average team we were playing. Moreover Norwich were suffering with injuries and way down below us in the league.

      In my view we should have approached the match in a manner befitting the team second in the league with a bit of a swagger and a tactical plan to win the game. Look at how Wolves swept all before them last season because they played like league leaders who were determined to stay at the top. Boro might not have the same player profile as Wolves had but why can’t they show a similar attitude in every game?

    2. Andy
      The change in the approach( and the team, that would be Wing) must not be subtle it needs to be monumental, what happened on Saturday was horrible, one of the few times we have seen our team on a most fabulous , confident, attacking , winning run.
      We were faced with three matches, starting with Norwich, out of luck, out of form, out of players, out of confidence, the full set, wingers at full back, trainee as striker,
      We had had a rest, nothing to do but train and practice, with a bit of sunbathing thrown in. Do not tell me what went wrong, I am not interested, even the players should have ignored the manager and just attacked the rag tag team facing them.
      You do not have to be Guardiola to know when you are facing a team on an immense downer and there is no excuse for standing around sucking your thumb, because any loose ball into your box can come to rest in your goal.
      the attempts to categorise it as ” one of those things” is despicable, there are eleven players out there plus subs.
      Not one of the people there at Norwich did anything to change the mindset of that team.
      Not one of them even thought about the truly great position we were in, beat this broken team, two home matches to come, by next Monday we would have been four points clear. It was there for us, but did they think about it, don’t think so.
      which brings us to another point, do this club have a bonus system, i.e. Rewards for being top of the league, if they had, the players would have tried harder. They certainly have no bonus system for playoffs, witness the performances in same.

  75. I’d have more respect for TP if he held his hands up and admitted he made a bad judgment instead of blaming the referee, no matter how poor the refereehe was. We all make mistakes – referees and managers included. A friend of mine once told me that to admit to making mistakes was a sign of weakness, but I replied that it was a sign of strength.

    1. Excuses, excuses, excuses Ken.

      Blame those around you and do not look in the mirror. The referee had nothing to do with our bad defending that allowed Norwichto score. TP blamed Fry and Friend. After watching the replay a couple of times I would blame Ayala and Shotton for not picking up and getting close to the Finn. Of course we all know who will get the ultimate blame and chop don’t we.

      Likewise if you do not have creativity in the team you will not normally create anything. Saturday as an example.

  76. I feel that the mistake was playing Besic after two international games. He just didn’t have the spark. Equally, it’s hard to blame Saville for not making an impact after two internationals and two days with the squad. Equally, I thought that Downing had his poorest game of the season. Wing would have been a better call but starting with Braithwaite could have made the difference.

    Norwich were very average and looked seriously surprised when they scored but we just didn’t create anything.

    Having a midweek game gives us a quick chance to put things right but we need to be much more high tempo. Saville and Braithwaite from the start and let’s put this game behind us.


  77. In my limited knowledge of football I always find it strange that managers set up differently for games home and away.

    If you have a squad of players who can fit into your system of playing then the venue shouldn’t matter. Find your strongest team, trust them and play the same way every game. But, and it’s a big but, have the courage to drop under performing players. Impetus is vital in this league, and if you lose it, it’s hard to get back.

    That means it’s imperative that Wednesday’s game is paramount in the managers thoughts and three points is the target.

    1. GWH
      I go along with that, always play your strongest team. But sometimes certain players are better choices against different opponents than others, and I’m sure TP is aware of that. That’s why I’m surprised he didn’t select Lewis Wing on Saturday, at least on the substitutes bench. Let’s face it Boro were as woeful on Saturday as they were for most of the match at Millwall until he then made the brave decision to introduce Wing and Tavernier. Will he restore either of these two youngsters to the squad on Wednesday, or stick with a squad which has several midfielders much of a muchness? I’ve a feeling he’ll stick with the same squad for home, but hope I’m wrong. As I wrote before, we all make mistakes and I hope TP acknowledges that he did in his selection and tactics against Norwich instead of blaming the referee for the latter’s defeat, although he did state that Norwich were the better team, but surely they wouldn’t have been if TP had set out to win the game. Shades of Karanka?

      As a lover of poetry I can always find some guidance to adhere to. Most of us are familiar with Rudyard Kipling’s “If”, but perhaps Peter Dale Wimbrow’s poem might show that to acknowledge one’s mistakes is a sign of strength. For those unfamiliar with “The Man in the Glass” I recount it as follows:-

      When you get what you want in your struggle for self
      And the World makes you King for a day,
      Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
      And see what that man has to say.

      For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
      Whose judgement upon you must pass.
      The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
      Is the one staring back from the glass.

      He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest,
      For he’s with you right up to the end,
      And you’ve passed your most difficult dangerous test
      If the man in the glass is your friend.

      And you may be the one that gets a good break
      And think you’re a wonderful guy.
      But the man in the glass says you’re merely a fake
      If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

  78. Just a brief word on Traore( sorry) watched him come on for the final fifteen, always running on to the ball, never touched by an opponent,laid on three clear goals, all comprehensively missed, burst into the box and went for the near post, saved by the keeper. Rated eight by the times.
    What a player he is, we should be holding an internal enquiry as to why we made him available to any tom dick or harry who had a few Bob to spare.
    A glaring example, for those who seek one, of ” you can find the finest player in the world” but it makes no difference if you are too dumb to recognise him.
    prediction time, real Madrid, by 2019.

  79. Plato

    The club had no choice but sell Traore, the crime was the sell on clause but go back a year and many on here were suggesting we cut our losses and get shot.

    Anyway, I plucked up courage and watched the highlights from Saturdays match. We looked fairly bereft in the ten minutes, goodness news how awful we were over the full 90+.

    1. Ian
      That is a cop out, we, us ignorant fans can see the transfer system, and we can understand it, the giants set a release clause on stars, but they are always enormous, meant to have us fans smiling at the sheer bottle of any (giant) club which dares to bid.
      one can only smile at the smaller club which on finding a jewel boldly announces ” and any one who wants him will have to pay ” a really really big price, under twenty million, yea, that should frighten them. We paid fifteen for Assalonga for God’s sake.
      Every thing we told the club about his talents is true, he steps on the pitch and the media is agog, we knew this, I do not believe the club did.
      And that is awful.

      1. Plato

        It is not a cop out, it is just plain facts. The mistake was the escape clause, Once it was in there the situation was such that the people dealing with the transfer were hamstrung.

        I stick by the other point I made, many on here would have moved him on. When he was bought the view was that it was a bad piece of business, in effect, swapping him for Albert. If we had said we would get £18m for him there would have been hoots of derision – can a post be a hoot of derision?

        That was the situation two years ago.Traore had a troubled time at Villa under sundry managers, he struggled here until Pulis found a way to use him though it was still dependent on Adama.

  80. I understand the decision to play a more solid formation away from home.
    However to not bring on players with pace to attack the opposition when chasing a game seems to suggest not all the lessons from Millwall were learned.
    While it would be wrong to see Wing as a go-to saviour and expect him to turn every game in our favour, not to include him on the bench seems an oversight at best.
    Although the reputations of flair players improves the more they don’t play, it’s better to have him and not need him, than to need him and not have him.

    1. Totally agree on Wing.

      However, I think we’ve been retty solid this season ithout playing with four in midfield. Perfectly happy for us to adopt that approach at Leeds, West Brom, Brentford and one or two others but not really for Norwich.

    2. Chris
      It is far worse than that.
      From the moment he and Tavenier stepped onto the pitch at Milwall, we were in seventh heaven, we drew easily, if brought on earlier we would have won.
      The matches following went as they have not gone in my experience, easily in control, early lead, improved on the lead, played well, matches that should have been won easily were won easily, sailed to the top of the league, and at the centre of it was Wing, assisted by Tavernier.
      That does not happen to us, we always find something to trip over. Witness Norwich,
      When you get lucky, you ride it, who knows where it will take you.
      Wednesday will tell us a lot about this club,are we going to play moderate journeymen just because we signed them? Or are we going to go back to what succeeded? Because it matters.

    1. I think something needs to change to freshen things up. Friend, Downing and Howson all seemed below par yet none were away on International duty. Besic wasn’t at his best so perhaps had an excuse as perhaps did Saville but overall tactically it was poor against what should have been a side still around or indeed in the bottom three.

      Clayts is likely crocked so that may force a change of thinking, does TP play Besic in Clayton’s role or thaw Grant out from the Rockliffe freezer? McNair and Wing may not have the ability to play a 30 yard Downing style pass but if Britt is isolated and outnumbered does it add value? I’d prefer a McNair or Wing effort “on goal” (as oppose to “off goal”) to a silky pass resulting in nothing.

      Apart from that dribble on Saturday we look solid defensively but we are not scoring enough goals and we should be more than just about set pieces, the squad is better than that. I don’t think TP will tinker too much but I think Braithwaite will be back to start on Wednesday and Saville likely a starter also. That means something has to give and I suspect Clayts will struggle or be rested to recuperate and Howson or Downing will be benched.

      Then again TP might just simply say to them all “you are playing for your places now, do the business or suffer the ignominy of losing your place which you may not get back for some time if at all”.

      1. RR,

        I like the last paragraph, adding make sure you win.

        Having returned from family duty one of neighbours, a Carrow Road season ticket holder, said he knows Norwich are poor but he couldn’t believe that they won, they were expecting a hammering but Boro offered nothing.

        Come on Boro sort it out.



      2. RR
        I prefer the attitude of you were playing for your places and you lost them, curtains
        and why no talk of Wing playing, he is the rightful possessor of the midfield spot and should be playing every time.

  81. The team that started at Norwich on Saturday were more than capable of getting three points. The problem was far too may players just did not perform and the replacements did not do anything to improve the tactics/performance.

    I just hope that TP has recognised exactly what is needed and is not just putting it down to “one of those days and the officials”. If he is, then we have major problems and certainly if he does not sort out the creativity and goal scoring problems.

    I think that on Wednesday Wing needs to be brought back into the side together with Braithwaite and also Assombalonga should be replaced with Hugill who appears more adept at leading the line and holding the ball up.

  82. Not being facetious Braveheart but Randolph, Shotton and Clayton aside there is a case for dropping any one of the others in the starting 11. Neither Downing or Friend were the worst from my view in the stands, Howson closely followed by Besic hold that dubious honour.

    1. Howson prior to joining Boro had scored 23 goals in 185 games for Leeds, 22 goals in 176 games for Norwich and 3 goals in 50 games for Boro. As good as he has been this season he has mainly been inconsistent during his time here and at 30 years old isn’t likely to get any better. Maybe its the style of play and the upheaval of managers but from a fans perspective we signed a midfield who scored some spectacular goals at a ratio of every 8 games which has now slipped to every 16 games.

      Add Downing’s goal return into the mix and our “Goals For” column doesn’t look to be showing any signs of improving any time soon unless something is done about it. Besic transformed our Midfield after he got fit a few games into his arrival last season but went awol in the big games that mattered. With a solid defence I’d leave Friend where he is in the back three/five set up and play Clayton (or a.n.other defensive midfielder if he is injured) as normal tomorrow night and overhaul the rest of midfield to freshen the approach. Braithwaite has to start and I’d prefer Wing or even McNair getting an opportunity along with Saville to see if we can actually score some goals without relying on Flint and Ayala.

  83. In a nutshell the team were up for it against Leeds, but not against Norwich, and I include the manager in that.

    A fundamental flaw that needs to be put right……. and PDQ!

  84. Dont lets think bringing Wing back will result in an instant turn around. Players sat in the stands improve dramatically.

    I must admit I am disappointed that the early season promise of the youngsters has not had a chance to flourish as the season has progressed.

    1. If they are playing well keep them in. Only drop them if they begin to tire, get injured, or form fades and not before.
      What is it about manager’s that they prefer to rely on purchases rather than the potential they have in their academies.

      1. Powmill,

        Fear? Or maybe a belief that money solves problems. There are plenty of players who are thrown in early, as in young, rise to the occasion and establish themselves. The manager simply has to be brave enough to do it and hold his nerve.

        We have enough managers of other clubs desperate to sign our young players so they must see the potential and ability.

        I live in hope.



  85. it really is simple with a squad of our size now.
    Perform and you keep your place, don´t and you lose it. I am not saying Wing was the be all and end all of our results, but he had played well and did not deserve to be dropped.

    The next few games will be a test of the players, Team and of Mr Pulis.

  86. Well it’s going to be a busy week ahead with two games at the Riverside and chance to put the wobble at Norwich behind us and look to bank another six points. After forgetting what it felt like to concede a goal, I’m sure many of us are still coming to terms with the concept of defeat – not quite the end of the world as we know it but perhaps we need to take precautions in case of further bombshells in the future. Here is my take on another week following the Boro…


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