Boro looking to put defensive blunders behind them

Championship 2018-19: Week 19

Sat 08 Dec – 15:00: Boro v Blackburn

Werdermouth looks ahead to a week where Boro must bounce back…

Such is the pace of this modern life we lead that some Boro followers are already expressing feelings of nostalgia over enjoying a complimentary warm pint of beer and remembering a time when leaving the house to head off for the match without locking the front door wasn’t regarded as a symptom of earlier-onset dementia but just sign of trust that nothing bad would happen. Yes, those hazy sunny days of August, where many wandered around in a dream-like state humming Dvorjak’s ‘New World’ Symphony as Boro made their best start to a season since some crazy jeweller from Iowa decided it would be a good idea to slice the bread before selling it.

Perhaps some weren’t so easily fooled as Tony Pulis’s makeshift team continued to confound their boss as he awaited that phone call from his non-committal targets. After that remarkable last-gasp comeback at Millwall with two late goals, together with that opening 25 minutes of Riverside action that saw them slice into the Blades, many had been left feeling giddier than their uncle’s wife as they struggled to acclimatise to the unexpected arrival of the Pulis goal machine. The lacklustre 1-0 win over the Blues and previous boss Garry Monk wasn’t particularly dwelled upon as a few days later the youngsters delivered a 3-3 draw in the Carabao Cup before winning the tie on penalties. Then following a rare and relatively comfortable 2-0 win at Bristol City, Dani Ayala’s very late and somewhat suspectly-controlled winner against the promotion-fancied Baggies delivered a fourth successive victory along with a fourth successive clean sheet. What could possibly go wrong?

Nevertheless, Tony Pulis was not getting carried away and unbelievably claimed that without significant reinforcements his side would most likely fall away during the season. However, once the loan window had closed and the dust from his crumbled deals had settled, he may or may not have been of a view that his squad had indeed been significantly reinforced. Although, he seemed to quickly decide that it was at least strong enough to discard some of the youngsters who had played a significant role in getting his team off to such a stunning start.

After the club decided against providing the dough demanded by their main targets, the Boro manager was left with few crumbs of comfort from his recruitment team as his squad appeared several slices short of a Wonder Loaf. As to whether there are still many left on Teesside who (as it was claimed in a 1928 article about the invention of the bread-slicing machine by the jeweller, Otto Rohwedder), “might find sliced bread startling”, is possibly something we should only ask in our heads. Though perhaps the sentiments expressed in the article about ‘the typical housewife’ experiencing “a thrill of pleasure when she first sees a loaf of this bread with each slice the exact counterpart of its fellows” may strike a chord with the Boro recruitment department.

In some ways, that possibly describes the problem of the half-baked Boro squad as each player appears to be the exact counterpart of its fellow and often leaves the manager with few options to shuffle his pack and give the opposition something different to chew on. Though it’s quite possible some of the under-performing players will end up as toast come the January window – especially Martin Braithwaite, who has not really turned up since his August move to France failed to materialise and has now started to be panned by his critics.

It’s become increasingly clear that our illustrious August start to the season was deceptively impressive and has masked the reality of the overall performance of the season so far. Indeed, if we were to take away those first five games from our current total of points and goals scored it would give a picture of a team consistently performing far worse than the current table is showing. OK, the old adage that the table never lies may ultimately be true but it can be skewed and perhaps tell the odd white lie occasionally.

If we produce a table of the last 15 games in comparison to the current one of 20, it perhaps better demonstrates that Tony Pulis’s team are not visibly moving forward and looking on track for automatic promotion – in fact they are possibly struggling to even keep up with an outside chance of a play-off place. You might think that this could be the case for many clubs chasing promotion but the last 15 games show us that only Boro would drop out of the top six (seven if you include Derby). It actually sees us down to 11th spot in what is still appears quite a congested table and still clinging only three points behind the play-offs. Though by far the starkest statistic it reveals is that only currently second-bottom Bolton have scored fewer goals in the last 15 games than Boro have. This is ultimately what will probably see Tony Pulis and his team fail to secure promotion and as yet there is no immediate sign that the solution will be found in the near future.

Championship table based on the last 15 games
Pos (now) Team W D L F A GD Pts (now)
 1 ( 1) Norwich City 11  3  1 27 11 16 36 (40)
 2 ( 3) West Bromwich Albion  8  4  3 29 20  9 28 (35)
 3 ( 5) Nottingham Forest  7  6  2 25 15 10 27 (34)
 4 ( 9) Birmingham City  7  6  2 26 18  8 27 (30)
 5 ( 2) Leeds United  7  5  3 19 13  6 26 (39)
 6 ( 6) Sheffield United  7  4  4 24 17  7 25 (34)
 7 ( 7) Derby County  7  4  4 22 17  5 25 (34)
 8 (11) Queens Park Rangers  7  4  4 21 16  5 25 (28)
 9 ( 8) Aston Villa  6  4  5 29 23  6 22 (31)
10 (12) Stoke City  5  7  3 19 16  3 22 (27)
11 ( 4) Middlesbrough  5  7  3 13 11  2 22 (35)
12 (10) Blackburn Rovers  5  5  5 20 26 -6 20 (29)
13 (18) Preston North End  4  6  5 28 28  0 18 (22)
14 (13) Swansea City  5  3  7 17 17  0 18 (26)
15 (14) Bristol City  5  3  7 17 19 -2 18 (26)
16 (15) Wigan Athletic  5  3  7 13 20 -7 18 (25)
17 (21) Reading  4  4  7 22 25 -3 16 (18)
18 (19) Hull City  4  4  7 14 19 -5 16 (20)
19 (16) Sheffield Wednesday  4  4  7 18 28 -10 16 (23)
20 (17) Brentford  3  5  7 21 24 -3 14 (22)
21 (20) Rotherham United  2  8  5 14 20 -6 14 (20)
22 (22) Millwall  3  4  8 19 27 -8 13 (18)
23 (24) Ipswich Town  1  6  8 13 27 -14  9 (11)
24 (23) Bolton Wanderers  1  5  9  7 20 -13  8 (18)

Other points to note in this table is that leaders Norwich look like they’re forging ahead and for all the talk of them scoring goals (more than twice that of Boro in the last 15 games), they’ve also only conceded the same number as Tony Pulis’s defensively-focused outfit during the same period. Interestingly, our place in the top six has been taken by Garry Monk’s Birmingham, who have claimed all but three of their current haul of points in the last 15. Also Villa have fared the same as Boro during this period with 22 points but they certainly look to have found their rhythm and are looking upwardly mobile. Even Karanka’s Forest are looking well placed for a promotion push and they have also scored nearly double what Boro have managed while conceding just four more.

The question is should we be worried or is it something that could be easily turned around? Well the gap to Leeds and Norwich now stands at 4 and 5 points respectively – if that suddenly grew to 7, 8 or 9 then we’re beginning to enter the territory that saw the hopes of automatic promotion for Garry Monk’s Boro end before the Christmas decorations had hardly been up. If you need to win three more games than your rivals over half a season then it becomes a very difficult task – not impossible but little margin for error and also not easy for a low-scoring team.

It’s unlikely that we’ll see a change in methodology from Tony Pulis but can he find a way to play to the strengths of some of our under-performing attacking players – perhaps several of them have lost interest in the Pulis project or have just had their confidence ground down by failing to adjust their game. The £25m strikeforce that is Britt and Braithwaite just don’t look like they have the body language of players enjoying their football – plus how long can we wait for them to adjust? Gestede has barely looked match-fit since he arrived with his stop-start Boro career and has become a lazy signal to hit the ball aimless and long whenever he appears on the pitch. Fletcher may as well not be here if he only gets a few minutes on the pitch every month or so. Our diminished hopes appear pinned on home-boy Hugill adding goals to his all-round busy bustling line-leading role and anticipating that the likes of Tavernier and Wing continue to impress their manager enough to get a start.

We’re still waiting for Howson to show he’s a goal-scoring midfielder and for Downing not to panic when he catches a glimpse of the goalkeeper’s eyes. Will Besic just continue to flatter to deceive? Can Saville enlighten us on how he scored 10 goals last season for Millwall? The question marks are endless and it appears time is short for finding answers if we are to avoid pretty much the same kind of scenario as the last campaign. It may be fanciful to think the club will be able to bring in the ‘right’ players for Tony Pulis in the January window – especially if those paying the cheques get in a muddle again over what constitutes value for money. It’s been hard enough attracting players without a Teesside connection in the first place but expecting them to take a financial hit will make the exercise little more than a time-wasting exercise for all parties. It may be time to target the up-and-coming players who see Boro as step up rather than hope ‘bigger’ names will be persuaded to step down on the cheap.

In the end it is down to Tony Pulis to accept the reality of the situation and do what he did when he first arrived and get the best out of what he’s got. The problem may be that, like Karanka before him, he values more what players do without the ball than with it. Both had a similar belief that one of the main issues is that their strikers need to be more clinical as they pondered why they didn’t get the players they wanted in the transfer window. Both of those points are convenient hypothetical reasons why the team is not scoring goals and it’s easy to pass the buck and imply that you’re operating to the ‘best’ you can in an imperfect world.

Once you’ve convinced yourself that the best policy is to remain tight and nick games then it is a self-fulfilling prophecy as what remains is exactly that. The 3-0 defeat against Villa at the weekend will only be regarded as blip if it isn’t repeated – though it’s likely the same methodology will remain under Pulis as he has been often quoted saying something along the lines that as the game starts at 0-0 you at least have a point to defend.

I’m sure new Villa manager Dean Smith has a quite different philosophy and aims to play a more expansive game in the belief that goals win matches. Pulis on the other hand believes primarily conceding goals loses matches. It seems Dean is prepared to balance the risk of conceding in order to score goals but Tony is most likely not of that view. The question is what offers the greatest chance of success in the Championship? Should a manager simply stick to their belief or should they just try to adjust the balance depending on whether their team is conceding too many or scoring too few. Maybe it’s not possible to change tack without risking undermining your whole credibility. Although I suspect at this level nearly all managers will always need to work within the constraints of an imperfect squad and it’s how they deal with that issue which determines success or failure.

Talking of a Boro manager who encapsulated in phrase the process of accepting their failings in the less than grand scheme of an imperfect world with “It is what it is” – club legend Tony ‘Mogga’ Mowbray returns to the Riverside with his newly promoted Blackburn side on Saturday. Mogga’s Rovers ended a run of six games where they had scored just a single goal in each with a 4-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday – their problem appears to be keeping the opposition out and they have conceded 9 in their last three outings and sound like ideal opposition for a team struggling to find the net. Hopefully Blackburn, or ‘The Riversiders’ as they’re also known, will not feel too at home in a ground with such a familiar name – although they have drawn on their last three visits in the Championship with Boro’s last victory at home being back on Boxing Day 2012 when a Lukas Jutkiewicz goal decided the contest to send the Teessiders up to third. It was a goal that pleased his then manager, who was a certain Tony Mowbray, with other familiar faces playing that day being current captain George Friend, now first-team coach Jonathan Woodgate, plus current club captain Grant Leadbitter and Lewis Wing’s cousin Jason Steele in goal.

It may be a little early to talk about must-win games but the dismal display against Villa needs exorcising if it isn’t to become the beginning of something much more damaging. With Norwich being at home to lowly Bolton and Leeds facing QPR at Elland Road, anything but a win could see the automatic spots begin to disappear over the proverbial horizon. Tony Pulis and the players need a Riverside performance and three points – anything else will have the Boro faithful believing their stale promotion chances are brown bread.

A comparison to how Boro were performing under Garry Monk

Werdermouth crunches a few numbers to compare last season…

At the same stage last season, Garry Monk was under pressure as the summer narrative that he had been given a squad capable of what became unfortunately known as ‘smashing the league’ was not going to plan. The supporters were vocal in their criticism that their manager appeared to be not getting the best out of his apparent riches.

Coincidently, Boro had just been beaten 3-0 at the Riverside by promotion rivals Derby and followed it up with a 2-1 defeat at Bristol City to leave Garry Monk’s team sitting in 9th place and six points outside the play-offs. It was perhaps the beginning of the end and maybe the point at which the decision was made by Steve Gibson to seek an alternative. Despite winning two of his next three games, Garry Monk was dismissed after just 23 Championship games.

We could maybe assume the decision to part company was probably taken around Game 20 before Monk won two of his next three games. If so, it would be curious to see how Monk’s Boro would compare in the same test of looking at their last 15 games before that point. What’s interesting is that his team had also achieved the exact number of points as Tony Pulis’s has with 22 in those same 15 games – though Monk had a better goal difference with +4 instead of +2.

Perhaps the decisive factor was that the other teams chasing promotion were performing slightly better last season than this term and had made Monk’s team appear to be performing relatively worse. Although, Fulham and Millwall had only just started their impressive runs that saw them rise up the table, the current top six were moving away from Boro.

2017-18 Championship table based on Games 6-20
Pos Pts 1-20 Team W D L F A GD Pts Pts 1-20
 1 ( 1) Wolves 12  1  2 34 13 21 37 (47)
 2 ( 5) Aston Villa  9  4  2 22  9 13 31 (36)
 3 ( 3) Bristol City  9  4  2 25 15 10 31 (37)
 4 ( 6) Derby County  8  4  3 25 14 11 28 (35)
 5 ( 4) Sheffield United  9  1  5 28 20  8 28 (37)
 6 ( 2) Cardiff City  8  4  3 20 12  8 28 (43)
 7 (11) Brentford  6  7  2 26 18  8 25 (27)
 8 ( 9) Middlesbrough  6  4  5 21 17  4 22 (29)
 9 (12) Sheffield Wednesday  5  6  4 21 19  2 21 (27)
10 (10) Preston North End  5  6  4 21 20  1 21 (29)
11 ( 7) Ipswich Town  6  2  7 26 24  2 20 (32)
12 (15) Fulham  5  5  5 22 24 -2 20 (26)
13 (16) Norwich City  5  5  5 12 14 -2 20 (24)
14 (14) Reading  5  4  6 21 19  2 19 (26)
15 ( 8) Leeds United  6  1  8 23 23  0 19 (30)
16 (13) Nottingham Forest  6  0  9 20 25 -5 18 (27)
17 (17) Millwall  4  5  6 14 15 -1 17 (22)
18 (18) Queens Park Rangers  3  6  6 16 23 -7 15 (22)
19 (19) Barnsley  3  5  7 17 24 -7 14 (20)
20 (21) Bolton Wanderers  3  5  7 15 27 -12 14 (16)
21 (20) Hull City  2  6  7 22 30 -8 12 (19)
22 (22) Birmingham City  3  3  9  7 23 -16 12 (16)
23 (24) Burton Albion  2  4  9  8 29 -21 10 (14)
24 (23) Sunderland  1  6  8 21 30 -9  9 (14)

Does this exercise actually show us anything meaningful? Well it may perhaps tell us that perceptions of how a manager or team is performing are related to expectations. Garry Monk was basically put in the position where automatic promotion was expected after the pre-season hype that Boro had supposedly bought the best team in the Championship – which was seemingly based on the price-tags paid for the new arrivals. Additionally, people will obviously look at the current table and make judgements based on how the club stands in relation to their rivals.

In the end Monk was judged to be failing to deliver and most weren’t too surprised to see him given the hook. Even though Pulis’s team has performed at almost the same level as Monk’s did since August, Boro are still positioned quite well in the league and there isn’t a groundswell of feeling that the club need to change the manager. Perhaps Pulis has connected better with the supporters and people can see he has a method in his approach, which he had proved last season would at least make the play-offs. Therefore his position appears most probably not in danger from his chairman either and he will be planning on hopefully getting a few players in January to help his cause. However, if Boro were to slip out of the top six in the coming weeks and performances on the pitch (particularly at the back) were below standard, then it could be an uncomfortable Christmas again for a Boro manager.

The main difference in terms of overall points between the two managers at the same stage in the season (35 versus 29) is that back in August Monk lost 1-0 at Wolves and 2-1 at Forest to start the opening 5 games with 7 instead of 13 points – the next 15 games panned out almost the same as they both acquired 22 from a possible 45. Incidentally, after Monk left Boro he successfully took on the task at Birmingham of saving them from relegation and we can see from the first table (shown in blue) that his Blues have out-performed Tony Pulis’s Boro during the last 15 games by five points. Given the similar failings in consistently getting close to that magic two points per game, perhaps the problems at Boro have less to do with who’s in charge and more to do with those responsible for putting the squad together.

294 thoughts on “Boro looking to put defensive blunders behind them

  1. Werder

    Our form normally evaporates as the decorations come down but this year it may beat the decorations going up!

    TP may well be part of the problem but it in some ways it is the same problem as under AK. A solid defence with attacking menace up front but the same problems still exist, tempo, pace and skill.

    TP’s Stoke team had pacey wingers and players who could attack from midfield. The squad has people who recycle the ball. They dont do it very well or at tempo.

    If we can be thereabouts at Christmas there is a chance to recruit but January is a bad time to recruit the right player.

    Wing and Tavernier wont do it by themselves, there are other gaps in the squad. I would love them to play more, that is a given.

      1. I think we need a RB more desperately, I’m not convinced about Shotton’s injury and if he does play I suspect it will be short lived and then likely out for the season.

        Our deputy for RB, McNair was a disaster and now we have Fry shoe horned in there. George to me is getting up and down the left flank showing attacking intent and has been our main outlet in many games this season. His problem is that when we concede its the defenders that get the blame. Maybe if those further in front of him showed the same drive, determination and willingness George wouldn’t need to be out of position so much and could concentrate on keeping things tight.

    1. I agree that it’s important that Boro remain in a competitive position for the January transfer window as a December slump will limit the attractiveness to potential signings – I think the problem will be Boro will need to be prepared to pay a premium for a recognised forward or goal-scorer and playing hard ball will probably result in any player with options not choosing Teesside.

      I think the club seem to forget that they’ve only attracted established players in the past by paying above the market rate or playing on the connections of the manager. I’m not sure if Pulis has that much pulling power – unless of course he’s planning on making a bid for Peter Crouch!

      It’s more likely Boro will take a punt on either an overseas or lower league player – though we may possibly prise someone away from a Championship club who is cash-strapped.

    2. Ian
      A very good summary of where we are ( not a very good place)
      But things will not be improved by ignoring the failings of our manager. The polite suggestion that our young ( and cheap)players, yes, I am afraid that we are talking about Wing, Tavernier, Fry, you can add Hugill and Chapman, to that list might be able to help us, is quite frankly very annoying to anyone who watches the team on a regular basis.
      They can never help us if they are not in the team, and the deliberate denigrating of them by the manager on a regular basis is merely making him look foolish.
      When experienced bloggers such as yourself “hope that he “might” possibly consider them for a start, then we are in cloud cuckoo land.
      We are in a difficult position right now, not in the future.
      The team needs reshaping as suggested. The people who should be going in the window, should be informed, and certainly not selected. The vain hope the Assalomge, and Gestede might start scoring goals is futile.
      We have a defence that works, the three central defenders are Fry in the middle with Flint and Ayala, the keeper and two wing backs, they do not need to change anytime soon, he changed them at Preston.( no explanation)
      He should not be allowed to buy anybody in the window ( judgement no good)
      Difficult to sell rubbish.

      1. It was not meant to be a slight on those players because they wont solve the problems on their own. I said I want them to play but I dont pick the team, I pull my hair out like everyone else.

        My view has always been if we are not getting them ready for the first team why give them squad numbers?

        TP was not on my list of hoped for appointments and I am not absolving TP from blame, far from it, I am merely pointing out there are issues in the squad whoever is manager. It is interesting that posters are saying dont forget such and such a position, the list is growing.

  2. Good one Werder loved them Hovis days of getting on my bike and cycling along the trunk road from doggie through Albert Park then parking the bike in some one’s front garden then into the bob end of Ayrsome Park. Just hope Mogga does not instill his Ayrsome spirit into his team when they roll up to the Riverside this Saturday. Bri

    1. Mogga and Southgate are the only Boro managers I have ever met face to face. Wonderful chaps. And both I would take back with open arms – always.

      Both have shown since that they are still good managers. Pity that they both needed to do a lot of cost cutting while at Boro. Especially Mogga. Gareth’s failure was a certain Brazilian record buy and striker. Had he scored a few more goals we would have never been relageted.

      But still I would like to see Mogga back, me. A good manager, an eye for good players and he plays right kind of football. Entertaining. A wondeful pearson. It would be nice to see what he would have done with the money Mr Gibson gave to Aitor or Monk.

      I hope Mogga will be given a nice reception when back on Saturday. But not more. I need a win, preferably 3-0 or similar.

      So all the best for Mogga – but after the match. Up the Boro!

      PS. Thanks to Werder for the lead. Excellent.

      1. Thanks Jarkko and yes I’ve heard Mogga is a great guy from those who’ve met him and he has proved to be resilient over the years and has dusted himself down and proved he can manage. He has also shown a good eye for a player – especially at the budget end and it would have been interesting to see what he could have achieved with a bit more cash when he was at Boro.

  3. Thanks for the opener, Werder. An enjoyable read as always and I agree with the points you make.

    I think Blackburn at home is as good a chance as any to put the Villa game behind us. Generally speaking, it wouldn’t be like Tony Mowbray to abandon his principles and go defensive which should help us. He did grind one or two results out when Boro manager but they were rare occurrences.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Pulis approaches the game. Will he see the Villa performance as a watershed moment and make a few changes or will he stick to his guns and give some of the players a chance to redeem themselves? I suspect it will be more of the latter than the former.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ayala back and Shotton if he’s ready. Otherwise I reckon it could be same again. I’d love to see Wing start with Chapman on the bench but think it highly unlikely.

    Score first and we’ll win.

    1. Thanks Andy – I would like to think Pulis would try and shake things up but he appears limited with what’s available and the lack of form of some players. Maybe it’s time he put more trust in Tavernier and Wing as he’s stuck with Howson and Besic in the hope they will at some point start scoring from midfield. It could be that they need reminding that to keep their place they need to perform far better – at least the energy and enthusiasm of youth automatically adds the intensity that appears missing from the game of more experienced players.

  4. Weirder great post as usual thank you

    I must admit I did have a COB on after the game on Saturday but if we win on Saturday we may go on a ROLL
    Pulis needs to make sure no one passes the BUCKWHEAT and YEAST of all our Keeper. We just need to keep blowing our BAGEL and give BLACKBUN a real BAMMY on Saturday

    I suppose some people must think I’m a real BARMCAKE to keep WAFFLING on about the last few games but BING we may win and that would take the BISCUIT

    However if we lose that would be a lot of BOULES and we may have to up BREADSTICKS early

    I Think we will Have a BUN day though and not get HOT or CROSS

    I’ll have a few drinks and enjoy it because I’m not BROWNBREAD and I’ll talk to the CHAPATI next to me about the game

    So we’ll CIABATTA them 2 0 and it’ll be a CRACKER and I’ll go home with my CRUMPET and have a DOSA then a MUFFIN or even a little bit of FOCACCIA HALLULLA I say !

    But if we lose it’ll be HARDTACK and KAAK (look it up!) and Pulis May Be TOAST !!!!!!


  5. Well done Werder. As the son of a baker I have to approve your weekly offering, but having digested its contents, I don’t expect Blackburn to roll over on Saturday, so it will need someone in our midfield to use their loaf and find that inch perfect pass to slice through the Rovers baguette four (no bun intended) for our strike force to rise to the occasion and prove they are worth all that dough they earn rather than the right barm cakes they look like just now.
    We can’t afford a scoreline resembling a pair of ring doughnuts this weekend and we knead a convincing win so I am just hoping they won’t make a wholemeal mess of things again.

  6. Good read Werder.

    Following on from Ken’s post about Arsenal and Huddersfield’s “lack of goals”.

    Even goal stats may not mean as much as we think, or may like to think.

    I have good memories of watching George Graham’s, Stewart Houston’s and Bruce Rioch’s Arsenal. Because when they won, they tended to win well. (Graham and Brucie were good managers for Wenger to follow – the Seaman-Dixon-Adams-Bould/Keown-Winterburn defence was watertight and enduring.)

    Memories of Ian Wright’s spectacular twenty-yarder in the 1993 Charity Shield, one of the first games I watched, are still fresh.

    In George Graham’s first season at Leeds, his team netted just 23 in 33 games. (Ouch.) The season was so miserable for fans that the nickname “Leeds Nil” emerged. I remember it well. From near the end of November to the end of the season, however, the team kept a remarkable 16 clean sheets. A run of not conceding at home since December was finally broken by a certain Juninho… alas, it was still not enough for the mighty Boro.

    One full season into my Boro supporting lifetime and I was a total wreck. (I had to remind us of that, didn’t I. I’m sorry.)

    Kewell’s breakthrough and the arrival of a certain Jimmy Floyd and Ribeiro helped Leeds to a much, much better 57 goals and 5th the following year.

    Parallels with the early days under Karanka in the Championship, when we won six games in eight at the end of 2013-14 after Tomlin and Danny Graham had fully integrated themselves into the side at the end of the Boro Nil period. Either that or the pressure was off once those four straight wins (one at Burnley) had ensured mid-table security, and we were able to relax.

    Either way, those results, like Mogga’s four wins at the end of 2010-11, were a great platform of confidence to carry forward. So from 2014-16 we netted a total of 157 in all competitions, 85 in 2014-15 (our joint third highest in the Riverside years, after 1997-98’s 93, 1996-97’s 92 and 2005-06’s 85).

    But how much did that really matter?

    I rewatched highlights of the 3-0 win over Huddersfield where Gaston netted a nice double, including a terrific free kick. At first glance, the game looks good, a win that could have been larger if Rhodes and later Stuani had connected with crosses aimed at them. But highlights are highlights for a reason.

    That, and there was a debate going on recently between fans about the quality of football played in 2014-16. A point made was that we can cite 4-1 and 3-0 scorelines as much as we like but that doesn’t mean it was great to watch. And that being efficient and effective isn’t necessarily exciting.

    Rafa Benitez endured similar stick for being, I think, too overly cautious at Liverpool and only playing one up front at Newcastle in the Championship. He’d respond by talking about goals scored, chances created and (for Toon) win rate, but how much did all that matter against what fans saw with their own eyes?

    It’s the old quality vs. entertainment debate. 4-3 joyrides are undisputed value for money but if even Roy Evans, whose Liverpool played terrific football, wasn’t happy at his team winning that way, what does that tell us?

    The neutrals, and the paying fans, embrace them, of course, but one reason we see them so rarely, I think, is because managers don’t like them. With the exception of Kevin Keegan circa 1995-96, and arguably Brendan Rodgers circa 2013-14 – yet neither KeeganToon nor RodgersPool lifted the Premier League title.

    1. Thanks Simon, though when it comes to keeping out the opposition at the expense of your own team scoring then I believe it ultimately represents a failure of tactics. I actually believe people go to watch football to hopefully see goals – otherwise why does the crowd go wild when their team scores? It’s the whole point of the game is it not. You can admire the statistics of clean sheets from the comfort of your armchair and I’m also sure the zillions of pounds paid by TV companies is based on the concept that games (at least not involving your own team) are watched and paid for by football fans for their entertainment value.

  7. Good post Simon. A 0-0 result can result from a thrilling match to have witnessed.

    It’s not really goals that matter, but a combination of commitment and intent. If the team starts out intending to hang on to that point they (allegedly) start the match with, then the entertainment value is likely to be low, even if they manage to nick three goals on the break.

  8. Nice read Werder to set me up before my pan tostada y tomate.

    I too think we will see Ayala and Shotton return if the latter has done well in training. I would drop Flint as he does not command the box aswell as Batth and unfortuanately his set piece goals have gone stale.

    We really do need to start on the front foot and that would need Tav and Wing in my opinion.

    1. Werder, I enjoyed the nostalgic article of the Hovis article to the background of Dvorjak’s 9th Symphony with the late Tony Capstick giving the dialogue of the fellow pushing his bike up the hill just to buy a loaf of bread. Once saw him at the Coatham Bowl giving his exaggerated tale of when he was courting he was able to take his girlfriend to the cinema, buy 2 ounces of sweets, and fish and chips on the way home, and still have change out of a farthing. Funny man though with his South Yorkshire wit, and could sing also.

      On the football theme, have I missed something there about George Saville? Who is claiming he scored 20 goals for Millwall last season? Is it the player himself, if so can we revoke his loan spell with us as he actually only scored 10?

      1. Thanks Ken, I didn’t know it was Tony Capstick who had done the voice-over for the ad – possibly one of the most iconic adverts ever made, which Dvorkak’s music will be for ever associated with – a bit like Bach’s ‘Air on the G string’ and Hamlet cigars.

        Also good spot on the Saville goals scored for Millwall – I must have overlooked the typo last night and have amended it. He probably would have cost us £15m if he was a 20-goal a season midfielder. Anyway, as far the point goes he’s so far got one goal for Boro so still nine to go!

  9. Without wanting to sound like “sour dough,” in our last six Home games Boro have won 6 points! That one pint a game and way off any promotion standard, in fact the opposite if anything.

    Our visitors on Saturday Blackburn Rovers last six away games have yielded them 7 points!

    If we take a combination of the last six games Home and Away for both clubs then Boro have won 9 points in total to Rovers 8 points. I see nothing except a dull lethargic uninspiring draw on a cold, wet, damp, windy and miserable afternoon in Middlesbrough.

    Unless something changes of course, I mean TP might surprise us all and Rudy might be fit for Saturday! We could actually be further adrift than Monk was this time last year by Christmas Eve. As Werder alluded to in his excellent article above, TP seemed to get more out of making the best out of what he had to work with last season than he has this season by trying to get unsuitable players playing to his preferred system.

    Lets be honest if you sat down and looked at that Squad of Players the very last tactic you would suggest or even contemplate is a Lone Striker. No recognised wide players to get past defenders and balls into the box for that solitary Striker to attack, no clever tricky playmaker in the middle of the park to make things tick and play balls through for the Striker in fact nothing of anything that would make you feel that is the best system for these players at all. Then consideration of who the preferred (until this point at least) Striker was when fit and available just compounds things.

    Sometimes even the best of us get lost in a spiralling fog of our own making and it needs a friendly tap on the shoulder to point out the bleeding obvious.

    1. RR, you noted that the team manage “… one pint a game”.
      Any more than one pint a game would mean they would have to leave their Maseratis, Ferraris and Lamborghinis (other supercars are available) in the car park after the game and take a taxi.

    2. I think Pulis will have to have some kind of rethink as there will be no major overhaul of the squad in January and even the arrival of one player who is the kind of player that will walk into the First XI has to be doubtful given what passed in the summer. I would be amazed if the club signed two attacking wide players and a new striker that met the requirements that Pulis had hoped for.

    3. Redcar Red,

      The lone striker means Boro are almost playing with ten men. Then add the disjointed tactics and the odd player seemingly disinterested and and draw begins to look like a good result. Based on Saturday I can’t see us winning more than the odd match for the rest of the season and by the end of January even the play-offs may well just be a dream.

      Those players who are desperate to play will start wanting away and those that we want to be away will just keep checking their bank statements online and strolling around the pitch or polishing the bench.

      Obviously I feel quite despondent and a bit sourdough but I simply cannot see it changing, as I said before as a Boro supporter even the International Breaks are beginning to look interesting and more exciting than Boro. I only wish I could get as excited as the lady opening her first ever sliced loaf.

      Werder. apologies for not saying earlier that was an excellent header article.



      1. RR
        Thank you for articulating what the vast majority are thinking.
        I can still see the line of villa players along the half way line, not troubled, not using any energy, just hoicking the ball back into our box, then thrashing at the weak clearance ( or, of course, the pass back into our own box) this went on for the entire half.
        No idea of what we might do to negate this situation, seemingly no intention of even doing the obvious ( that would be to always pass the ball through the above mentioned line into the empty half of the field) it would have at least cut down the number of high balls incoming as they had to turn and collect the ball to start again.
        Now for a serious question, any sensible answer would be very much appreciated.
        We had 20 minutes left, had been exposed as wanting in any tactical nous, any effort, any idea, in addition we needed a goal, even if just for our pride, but of course at 2-0 a goal would mean that Villa would get a touch of the nervous ninties, that is the fear of being robbed of their win by some lucky bounce.
        So, what to do( enter Baldric with a cunning plan) our heroic manager decided to hook Tav (had the beating of his fullback, and the speed and the skill).
        The next part of the cunning plan was to ignore Wing and bring on the golden statue.
        For some strange reason which defeats me this plan did not work, perhaps it was because we did not have Gestede available to sink a quick hat trick?

    1. I think some people seem to confuse a difference of opinion with incompetence. I don’t agree with every decision Pulis or any other manager makes but it doesn’t make them “clueless” or imcompetent.

      Do people think Pulis has fluked almost three decades of management?

  10. I wish the players were half as talented as Werder with his excellent contributions.

    It is a sobering thought that based on the last 15 games the team would only be 11th in the table with only 1 team having scored fewer goals. Figures don’t lie.

    Equally concerning is that other teams , having seen how Villa, Forest and Derby ran rings round the Boro, will all know how to successfully play against us.

    I hope Ayala is back on Saturday for his passionate play ( yes, I know he is a risk with his grappling at corners) and perhaps the time has come for Flint to be rested as the main reason for signing him was the anticipated goals he would score which haven’t happened.

    I notice that a poll of supporters show that 86% would like Gestede to leave in January. No doubt if he becomes aware of this view ( can he avoid it ? ) he will ‘hardly pull up trees’ to get fit ASAP to play again and therefore I think that a move would be best. Fee? Perhaps a couple of million at most although anyone with any sense would ask for a loan spell for him to prove his fitness.

    I expect the same type of tactics on Saturday as to radically change them would be an admission that the previous tactics have been wrong , whereas I would say they have been acceptable in terms of the points so far gathered.

    I am sure Mowbray will get a very warm welcome and I have always thought he was given a poisoned chalice as manager as he had to get rid of players / balance the books for his predecessor’s failings.
    As much as I would like him back I tend to think it rarely ever works second time round.

  11. Philip, seeing that Mowbray has just signed a three year extension to his contract, I think there is very little chance of him coming back to Boro.

    Come on BORO.

  12. Thanks Werder for another great post. Talking about bread I am eating two
    ham sandwiches whilst reading DiasBoro.
    As I mentioned earlier Ayala has got to come back in. We have missed him.
    The most reliable thing about Boro every season is that we always need a clear out and that is certainly the case so far.

  13. I hope Mogga gets a huge round of applause for his tenure. Falling short in 2011-12 and toxic split to coincide with terrifying freefall in 2012-13 regardless, there was so, so much right about his reign.

  14. A quick thanks to John, Philip, Powmill, RR, GHW, Braveheart and anyone I’ve missed for their kind responses to the article – much appreciated.

    I would just add that I think Tony Pulis is not stupid and will know that the current form is below what is necessary for promotion. However, he no doubt still believes in his methods but also has the added complication of needing to keep his players motivated and buying in to those methods. It may well be that some are thinking they have a limited future under their manager or indeed are looking to move on. The problem is the high-value tickets like Britt and Braithwaite won’t be sold cheap just to clear the decks in anticipation of acquiring better suited replacements in the transfer window.

    There are still six Championship games to prepare for before the window opens and nine before it closes. Any new arrivals would need to bed in and there’s a chance that any potential targets who are currently under-occupied in big Premier League squads will most likely not be match-fit. So the solution to our problems may not be totally dependent on bringing people in unless they are ready to go almost immediately.

    On that basis, now may be the time to decided on whether some players at the club could offer a better chance of providing what is apparently missing. Perhaps Tavernier is Pulis’s new project in the same way Adama was – why not give Wing a run in the team too or even Fletcher. Better to have motivated players looking to impress than waiting for the usual suspects to rediscover some form.

    1. A top post, there is no simple answer.

      It is good to see Tav getting game time, lets get Wing playing as well. As I posted the other day playing these players will not solve all the problems in the squad.

  15. I too hope that Ayala and Batth occupy the central defensive positions. I wonder if something radical is needed to get us goals. John Hickton was converted from a fullback to a centre forward with great success, and Dickie Rooks actually played a few games as a centre forward, so what about Aden Flint as a centre forward? I can’t actually see Tony Pulis trying that, but would it have any merit?

    1. The Yorkshire Post Power Rankings have Boro down from 1st to 3rd in its form guide of the 12 Yorkshire clubs which includes the two National League clubs. Leeds United have jumped one place to lead the rankings and Doncaster Rovers have jumped two places into 2nd place. Maybe our current form isn’t as poor as we make out as we occupy 2nd place among the 5 Championship clubs. Or am I just clutching at straws?

      1. Our current form is mid table. If you separate Home and Away form our Away form is actually doing OK but our Home form is relegation threatening. Our early season good start before the “Men” arrived and our Away form where our defensive catching them at set piece tactic works is supporting our present league position but it is now straining and buckling and imminently going to collapse unless something radical changes.

        Like AK before him having a great defence is only half a job, the lack of attacking creativity, pace and ultimately goals is killing us at home. Sitting deep and clinging on immediately after Kick Off isn’t working and its now becoming a issue with a growing number of home fans including some vociferous arguments and exchanges in the North Stand, not good form at all I’m afraid.

      2. Just to be clear the lack of attacking creativity, pace and ultimately goals is not all TP’s fault. You can’t make a silk purse out of a Pigs Ear and all that but it does help a bit if you stop selecting the most leathery, flea bitten Pigs Ears.

  16. A duck walks in to a pub and orders an sandwich and a beer. The barman looks at him and says ‘hang on but your a duck’

    ‘I see your eyes are working’ replies the duck.

    ‘And you can talk’ says the barman.

    ‘So your ears are working as well, can you get me my sandwich and beer?’ said the duck.

    ‘Ok, sorry about that’, said the barman as he pulled the pint, ‘it’s just we dont get many talking ducks in the pub, what are you doing round here?’

    ‘I am working on the new housing estate, I am a plasterer’ replied the duck.
    The barman tried to get more out of the duck but the duck sat down, pulled his paper out of his tool bag and had his lunch.

    This continued for a couple of weeks until one day a circus came to town. The ringmaster came in to the pub and the barman had a thought. ‘you are with the circus aren’t you’, the ringmaster nodded his head, so the barman continued ‘I have this duck that comes in to the bar who talks, eats sandwiches, drinks beer and reads papers, he does everything, would you be interested?.

    ‘Sounds great’ said the ringmaster giving the barman a business card ‘get him to give me a ring, there will be something in it for you’

    The next time the duck came in the barman asked him ‘are you was interested in a job?’

    ‘What job?’ asked the duck

    It is with the circus’ replied the barman.

    The duck thinks for a moment ‘Is that with the big tent with animals in cages and performers living in caravans?’

    ‘Yeah’ replied the barman.

    ‘And the tent has canvas sides and a canvas roof with hole in the middle’ persists the duck?

    ‘That’s right’ said the barman.

    The duck shakes it’s head in amazement and says….’What the hell would they want with a plasterer?

    Sorry about that but amongst the gloom it cheered me up, somehow it reminded me of our recruiting team.

  17. A poultry offering Ian. It made me smile and reminded me of a story about a talking rabbit that also liked to take a toasted sandwich with his pint ……. but that’s for another day

  18. Or the pig story that can be adapted to suit

    A Geordie walked in to a pub with a pig tucked underneath his arm.

    The barman asked ‘where did you get that from?’

    ‘I won him in a raffle’ replied the pig.’

    Other target groups are available.

    1. OK. I give in…..

      Two rabbits go into a pub. The first orders two pints and asks if they serve food.
      “Yes” replied the landlord, “we do a selection of toasted sandwiches.”
      “That’s perfect”, said the rabbit, “I’ll have a cheese toasty please”. “And I’ll have the same” said the other rabbit.
      The next day the rabbits were in the pub again and ordered two pints.”Can I have another of your cheese toasties please?” asked the first rabbit. “I’d like a ham and cheese one today” said his friend.
      Same again the next day, two pints and the first rabbit had a cheese toasty, but his friend took a baked bean toasty.
      Then the rabbits weren’t seen for a couple of weeks until one day the first rabbit came in alone.
      “Hello” said the landlord, “Where’s your friend today?”.
      “He’s passed away” said the rabbit.
      “Oh dear” said the landlord, “What happened?”.
      “He took ill after the last time he was here” said the rabbit. “It was very sad. He told me he was dying of mixing ma toasties”

  19. Following on from my earlier article that looked at how Tony Pulis’s team had performed during their last 15 games, I was curious to see how Boro under Garry Monk had performed during those same 15 games as it was most likely then at Game 20 that Steve Gibson decided to change his manager – especially given that he won 2 of his next 3 games before being dismissed.

    Anyway, rather than post it as a comment, I’ve produced the comparable table for last season and introduced it as a mini-article and placed it at the end of the earlier discussion blog article. You may or may not be surprised to see what it shows and can click on the link below to read it…

  20. Another good article Werder. RR I got round to reading your match report and it made for depressing reading as well written as it was.

    There have been some really good posts this week and most have been on the downbeat side to say the least. But that’s not exactly a surprise given our results and style that is being employed. Nothing to add really but it would be a nice pick me up if OFB and his West Midlands rumors are true and we added a certain “pacey” winger in January.

    Thanks for two jokes. Oldies and goldies certainly but the made me chuckle😀

  21. Werder a good summary of the situation, the key difference is that last season Pulis could rehabilitate Traore and Bamford into his matchday squad. Essentially that got us involved in the play offs

    Just like as when Gaston was not replaced we have done the same with the loss of Bamford and Traore.

    1. The “rehabilitation” may have started early this season with Tavernier and Wing?

      The unanswered question still remains after £millions of expenditure “how did we get ourselves into this situation again?” Now of course most of us on here know the answer, just a shame that those within the Club either don’t see the symptoms or for whatever reason choose not to.

      1. GHW

        Valdes, Guzan, Barragan, Mejias, de Pena, Kike Sola, de Roon, Guedioura, Fischer, Gestede, Johnson, Fletcher, McNair, Saville.

        None of those were an upgrade at what was already at the club despite spending huge sums either on transfer fees or wages or both, de Roon was possibly the marginal exception.

        Even the signing of Rhodes at the time was poor in the sense that he didn’t fit the then Managers model and Adama when signed was nowhere near ready.

        So the answer to the above is recruitment. Our buying has been extremely poor and bordering on desperation in getting some of those deals done. For all the dossiers and data supposedly being compiled its the footballing equivalent of sticking a pin in the runners and riders for the Grand National and putting your house on it.

        As a consequence we slipped out of the Premiership with a gutless whimper, spent a Kings Ransom by Championship standards to “Smash” the League then scrapped into the Play offs where we then exited without a fight. We now have an imbalanced and poorly resourced squad which is slowly sliding away from the aim of promotion. Maybe thats fine for many but I remember the Stan Anderson era and that is where we are now headed if not careful.

      2. Of course you can say that and lots of clubs can produce similar examples. I’m not defending them as I have been one of their biggest critics. But on the other hand I can name:
        Randolph, Friend, Shotton, Flint, Ayala, Clayton, Batth, Besic and Ramirez.

        Player recruitment is vital to a club but it certainly isn’t easy. Look at the amount of players who don’t make it at the top clubs.

        Would Wolves fans be happy with Traore or Burnley with Gibson? Let’s not forget the Middlesbrough factor when it comes to attracting players.

  22. Redcar Red

    You may well be right but I think we will need reinforcements anyway if we are not to regress. The fact is that if you stand still you will go backwards, maybe that is what we are seeing.

  23. Statistics can be used to disprove or prove many things, but when you start to cherry pick your base points I would imagine you can put forward anything you like.

    How is this team performing so far this season? Look at the league table.

    1. That’s a bit harsh, I don’t think I was cherry picking a base point to try and prove some arbitrary point – the argument which I was trying to demonstrate, which has been made by many both on here and in the media is that Boro have been reliant on those points picked up in the opening five games in August to stay in the top six as their haul over the subsequent 15 games has been declining relative to others.

      I’ve simply shown what has happened in last 15 games since then and it clearly shows Boro’s form over that period is below what is regarded as good enough to sustain a promotion challenge. I then compared those 15 games with the exact period of games last season under Garry Monk – obviously I couldn’t include his last three games at the club as we’ve only played 20 so far this season but have referenced that he won 2 of those.

      The wider point I was making by comparing Monk and Pulis was that even though they both achieved 22 points from those run of 15 games, one manager was deemed to be failing to deliver and the other was regarded as more or less on course. I also made the point that perceptions are always in context to what is happening relative to other clubs performances.

      I think cherry-picking would have been to take an arbitrary start and end point and then make an argument from that.

      1. Harsh? Come on.
        I would imagine in Bournemouth’s promotion season you could select a set of matches to show relegation form.

        Teams have good and bad runs through a season, there are many reasons for that. Players out of form, injuries, suspensions, coming up against teams at the top of their form. This is why promotion and relegation is decided on a full season of fixtures.

        I don’t understand this continual criticism of the team, manager, club. We are a middling championship club aspiring to do our best. I’m sure many supporters of other clubs would gladly swop places with us.

        I suppose negativity is the default position of the typical Boro fan.

        1. The problem is the amount of money spent and the Chairman promising to smash the league raises expectations of the fans and we can’t be blamed for that


        2. Yes cherry picking is to select an arbitrary start and end point that is most beneficial to an argument you want to make and that would be the case in your Bournemouth example.

          As mentioned, I’ve simply highlighted Boro’s form and the other Championship teams during the last 15 games. Ten-game and six-game form tables are pretty standard practise and are widely used – I’ve just extended the concept to the last 15 games as the argument being explored was Boro’s form since our opening 5 games.

          I also didn’t try to imply Boro were in relegation form but were in fact just three points behind sixth spot over those 15 games. So it’s not quite promotion form and I think the reason why that gap is thankfully not larger is down to most other clubs not being much better. Sadly Garry Monk didn’t have that lifeline provided by the teams around him and was deemed not likely to make the promotion cut (by supporters and chairman alike) and lost his job a few weeks later.

          Yes, I’m sure nearly all players and manager are trying their best and probably quite a few supporters from other clubs would want to swap places. Though we’re not necessarily a middling Championship club in terms of available resources this season (or last) but we perhaps will be next season once the parachute payments have ended.

          Therefore, I don’t see anything particularly wrong in drawing attention to aspects that possibly need addressing or could be done better if the performance of the club is falling below what they require to meet their aims.

          I think negativity is the default position of nearly all football fans – even those in the top four of the PL!

      2. With regard to Monk vs Pulis it’s probably down to experience and track record. I would imagine the chairman is prepared to give Pulis a bit more leeway to get it right than Monk was.

        Plus of course the chairman has all of the relevant facts to hand being the controller of the club. I begin to wonder sometimes if he runs a bit scared having given previous managers a bit too long before wielding the axe.

        Director of football is a position that has its negative aspects but in SG’s case I would have thought it would be a good move if he wants to go down the young manager route in future.

  24. Talking of cherry picking, I’ve just selected another ripe piece from OFB to publish from his orchard of articles that are waiting to sustain you through the winter months. This week OFB meets up once again with Doug Weatherall to delve into his diaries and discuss another famous Boro player. As an all-action attacking midfielder, he’s certainly the type of player that the team could do with at the moment – it’s Craig Johnston…

  25. Well done, OFB. Craig was one of my favourites when I was a teenager. He looks like being just a year older than me.

    Those were the days. It was great to see these Boro players in Shoot! Magazine. I cut out the pictures of both Craig and David Hodgson and put them on mu bedroom wall. I felt they were really big and famous players already at Boro.

    Great post, OFB. Up the Boro!

  26. Statistics are great, but I do think that one must take all 10 home and away matches into consideration. It’s true that having won their first 4 home matches Boro’s record of only one win in their last 6 home matches is poor, and as Redcar Red alludes to, relegation form. But Boro’s home form in total is only bettered by 7 clubs whereas their away record is only bettered by Norwich and Leeds. I did state a few weeks ago that I thought that Boro might find it easier to accrue away points easily than those at home, and at the moment it’s 18 at home and 17 away. After the next 3 matches we’ll have played every team, 11 of them at home and 12 away after which I would expect Boro to have 21 points at home and at least the same number of points away. So let’s just get things into perspective, Boro haven’t as yet had an unbeaten run of more than 7 matches.Under Aitor Karanka Boro had unbeaten runs of 7,8 and 9 in his first full season, and 9 and 10 in his second. Aren’t we due for similar unbeaten runs under Tony Pulis? In such a congested season as this one, that would certainly have Boro challenging for automatic promotion.

    1. Ken, prior to the defeat by Villa I thought we were unbeaten in 8 matches, although I am counting the cup match versus Palace, especially as they are a Premiership side.

      Come on BORO.

  27. OFB
    Incidentally I love your interviews, especially with Doug Weatherall where his replies to your questions are much more expansive than those of former players. I suppose that comes from his career as a journalist which obviously makes him feel more at home ‘in the chair’. A raconteur to boot which also makes it easier for the interviewer. Well done!

    1. Many thanks ken

      As you say the answers from Doug are a lot more expansive and forthcoming than those of other interviewees and of course it is purely down to the professionalism of the industry Doug was involved in.

      Dave Allan and others who are involved in the media have also proven to be great candidates for interview

      Its not the Interviewee that’s at fault for a lot of it as I’m not an experienced interviewer but hopefully with the experience over the past year I’m getting better at it.!

      It’s a bit like pulling teeth with some who are a bit reticent to talk about their exploits and seem somewhat embarrassed to talk.

      I must confess I’ve a couple of Interviews which I haven’t used as in the end they didn’t come up to standard or what I was comfortable with.

      Sometimes they don’t work but sometimes I do one and take a lot of satisfaction in the result and hope that others enjoy them too.

      Thanks again


  28. As a keen supporter, could I point out that what is really angering the fans is this infernal habit of downing tools just at the point when we are about to crash the top of the table, three times I make it. The last was at Preston, a big, big moment in the season, a fortnight off, back to the grind with two away matches, glory be, we won the first, four days later we had another opponent of the same level of difficulty, same team, tell them that his could set you off on a long period of dominance with two home games to follow.
    Result! He takes an axe to the entire team, starting with the defence, strange names, unheard of for months, trav gets the chop, wing stars in defence, they say the manager was keen to stop this wild scoring of goals, the dreaded Gestede appears, yea, that would do it.
    Gestede collapses after 15 minutes? Who declared him fit? Let’s hope it wasn’t you know who.
    To possess the home form that we do is a disgrace, and shows I think, a lack of control by the backroom staff, after all, any slip up at home has repercussions down the line, as we all know.

      1. Well, some people do believe what Mr Trump or Nigel Farage say. Weird world nowadays.

        I do not think there are players who do not want to succeed with their teams. OK, some are more motivated but the others but all aim to play football well and win. We often forget that there is another team on the pitch and the game of football is never simple to predict.

        Up the Boro!

  29. Thanks for the latest in2views to you OFB and especially to Doug Weatherall. Craig was a favourite of mine in the day, but in those days (late 70s and early 80s) we did have many players to be proud of an to enjoy performing. I agree wholeheartedly with Doug’s sentiment about the NE big three VB often (always?) cashing in on really top class players. You end up as a Boro supporter just wondering sometimes, just what might have been.
    Always going to be grateful to SG for giving us all the taste of success and an unforgettable ride through Europe.

  30. Good read Bob. Remember being really disappointed when Craig signed for Liverpool.


    I don’t believe a word politicians say no matter what their political persuasion. They’re all liars in my book.

  31. FAA Now in Saudi
    Yep, I have to agree, especially having worked with (or should I say against) councillors in my career in Local Government. However I do like a good ‘wind up’ most of which I can’t repeat on this forum. There must be a lot amongst footballers in the dressing room that we never hear about. David Nugent particularly was a ‘wind up’ merchant. But I recall a couple involving cricket which were televised.

    Ian Botham had promised to buy his son Liam a car for his 18th birthday and when the big day arrived all Liam’s friends were there as the car covered with a dust sheet was unveiled and to Liam’s embarrassment the car was a 3 wheeler Robin Reliant. I can’t rememember the TV show, but it’s probably on YouTube somewhere.

    The other one which is on YouTube was from Test Match Special where Jonathan Agnew had purportably received an email stating that some matches between England and the Rest of the World would now lose their Test Match status meaning that Geoffrey Boycott’s hundredth 100 at Headingley in 1977 would now actually be his 99th. I’ve just seen the YouTube on the Yorkshire CCC website under Classic Ashes: the Tale of the Century and Yorkshire’s Prodigal Son. It’s a hoot!

  32. Just had time to read the Craig Johnson article properly so many thanks to OFB and Doug for bringing us that enjoyable read. Craig Johnson was probably one of the first Boro players I can remember who really caught the eye as a young fan when I first started going to games in the late seventies and early eighties. It was quite an exciting team to watch back then with David Hodgson, Terry Cochrane, Spike Armstrong, Micky Burns and of course Bosco Jankovic.

    Craig Johnson is actually only four years older than me but just noticed that Micky Burns will be 72 in few weeks – where did the years go?

    1. Craig Johnson, David Hodgson, Terry Cochrane, Spike Armstrong, Micky Burns and of course Bosco Jankovic. What a team!

      But still TC is my all time favourite player. Mainly because I shared a cup of tea with him. It was somewhere around Ayresome Park. Could it have been at Ria’s in 1980?

      Where was Ria’s actually? Please explain so that a foreigner can locate. Brian Clough knew the place at least – did he met his wife in there?

      Up the Boro!

      1. Frank Spraggon met his wife Linda in Reas coffe bar he’s just revealed that in a recent Interview with me which will be published in Diasboro presently


      2. The Rea’s Cafe in which Chris worked was on Linthorpe Road, adjacent to The Elite cinema ( to eventually become the ABC ). Brian Clough used to frequent The Rea’s Cafe close to Albert Park across from Clairville Stadium (later renamed The Porthole Cafe) His sister was in the same class as me at St Thomas’, as was Paul Rodgers’ ( The Free lead singer) sister.

        1. Now you mention it, Mrs Werder is threatening to drive me to her brother’s for Christmas (Boxing Day to be precise) so it looks like I’ll miss the Sheffield Wednesday game – is that really what Chris Rea would have wanted?

  33. Just seen the comment re. ” do they think that TP Wants us to lose”
    I would think that in footballing terms that would be silly.
    The complaints are about the foolish selections which we are suffering on a regular basis, the foolish principals expounded about ” young ” players, the foolish tactics employed, against all the evidence as to their usefulness on a weekly basis.
    The stupidity of the clubs efforts in the transfer market, at this moment we are being groomed as potential buyers of a continental youth who has crashed and burnt, but they are determined to collect some money from someone, and that would be us.
    They seem to be unable to accept that if he was a young star with potential greatness in the game, they would be telling him to one of their mates.
    Look at our position in the league, we are living a lie, we are two results off fifteenth place, and our next game is at home, gulp!

    1. “…a continental youth who has crashed and burnt, but they are determined to collect some money from someone…”

      Sounds a bit like Adama Traore. Yes please!

      1. Andy R
        We are finding players who will be welcome in our team for some time, not much cost and plenty of attacking spirit.
        This should give us the encouragement to stop being mugged in the transfer market. As a general rule, when a club plants stories in the press saying that you are going to buy their player, it means two things, one, they are very keen to offload, and think that you have plenty of dosh, and two, he is worthless.
        Why cannot we scout and find young players that are good enough to get into our team, there are thousands of players all trying to play at a higher level, they would be only too keen to play in the championship, hoping to move to a higher grade if they are good enough.
        We certainly cannot go on with our present selection methods because they do not work, and that is a fact.

  34. OFB,

    That was a real belter of an interview, excellent work from you both, I’ve read it while enjoying a coffee and listening to the rain hammering on the window.

    I wish we had a young Craig Johnson playing for us now then we could loan him to Stevenage or Lincoln and no disrespect to them either.

    Next comes the weekend game…



  35. Belated thanks to Werder and OFB for a couple of excellent reads.

    Well listening to TP’s pre match interview it sounds as if he will have to make defensive changes as DF is not available so we may see the return of RS and I wonder if he will bring DA back so that we will have the back four which started the season and Millwall apart was very solid.

    We really need to be on the front foot tomorrow as if we sit back and let Rovers play or score early doors then I think the atmosphere at the Riverside could turn very ugly.

    A big day for all concerned so come on Boro time to give us all a match to enjoy and with a happy outcome.

    Here’s also hoping for a trouble free stream for all of us watching via Riverside Live.

    My last live game for a while as Mrs P and I set off next weekend to eventually spend Christmas and New Year with family in Australia, and do not return to Spain until late January so will need to keep in touch via the blog and MFC match videos..

    CoB gives us a good send off! 😎

    1. Thanks KP – I’m already jealous at the thought of six weeks in Oz as we used to try and do a three-week trip every winter but haven’t managed to visit since our 8-year old was born. Hopefully, MFC is not like iFollow and will allow you to access your subscription from down under instead of Spain – you may need a VPN 🙂

  36. Have you seen the Finnish International Shefki Kuqi double to take all three points for Blackburn at @Boro in December 2005? It is on the Gazette web page.The Kosovo born striker was powerful if not quick. You might remember his famous celebration after a goal, too.

    PS.How is Chris Rea doing nowadays? I think he was ill when we last talked about him on this forum. A year ago, perhaps?

    Up the Boro!

  37. I do. It was not one of my favourite nights as a Boro fan. Blackburn had knocked us out of the league cup at the Riverside five days before, in a match where Boateng got injured. This, tied in with a 0-0 draw vs City on New Year’s Eve signalled a season that seemed to be fizzling out to a big nothing.

    Enter a 17-year-old named Lee Cattermole, a poor Mark Schwarzer punch followed by a transfer request, a right hammering at Arsenal and a 4-0 home reversal by Villa that contrived to reboot the season…

  38. …and gave birth to UntypicalBoro.

    The first game of focus was the 3-0 win over Chelsea. Where AV asked a question that he really should have asked ten years later after AKBoro’s 0-0 at the Emirates. A little paraphrasing included.

    “Why can a team that plays with such power, pace, crisp attacking movement and defensive solidity against a team of ‘supermen’ not sweep aside the mere mortals and makeweights?”

    “Fans are right to question such wild swings in performance levels and to wonder why it takes the prospect of a glamour game to drag out of Boro the kind of displays we know are possible.”

  39. I think a simple reason may be that many a team, or any team, can really perform when the pressure valve is switched off. Like Arsenal. Or Derby in the play-offs, once – they were awful when losing 3-0 at home to Hull, but won the second leg 2-0 after they’d been written off.

  40. Have friends visiting this week and been in Malaga to see the lights. Quite spectacular.

    So late thank you to Werder and OFB for their great articles.

    Anything could happen tomorrow and if the unthinkable but distinct possible does happen, then Boro would really fall behind the crowd and especially the top two.

    1. Thanks Pedro – I think you’re right that anything is possible tomorrow. We could get a reaction and see the team start with intensity on the front against Blackburn – equally it could also be a nervous ponderous start with the fear of losing affecting the players and crowd. It could even be a cautious approach by the manager who won’t want his team to fall behind after the Villa defeat.

      I’m hoping for a win to keep us in touch with the top two as anything less may see us 6 or 7 points behind them as they’re both at home too.

      I’ll go an optimistic 2-0 with 2 goals from Hugill.

      Team prediction:

      Shotton – Ayala – Flint – Friend
      Wing – Clayton – Besic
      Downing – Hugill – Tavernier

  41. I’ve said it many a time, someone should get hold of a medium or spiritualist take them down to the riverside, stand between the Ayresome gates, and remove the the curse that as been hanging around for decades,
    The one that builds up hope , only to leave us exasperated..

  42. I’m not superstitious but the curse of Middlesbrough containing 13 letters has always been in my head. I don’t believe in bogey teams, yet if I did Blackburn, like Villa, would be high on my list as Boro have only beaten Blackburn twice in their last 17 encounters. I prefer to look on the positive side remembering how Boro lost at home to Villa 0-4 then beat Mourinho’s Chelsea 3-0 in our next game and was the precursor to a fantastic European journey. And all that happened because Boro scored 2 early goals and that must be the key to today’s game, attack from the start and score early.

    On another subject it’s gratifying to know that former players such as Tony Mowbray and Danny Graham are still big Boro fans, along with other players such as Gary Pallister who had more fame away from the Boro. To give Tony Pulis some credit, he has learnt a lot about the area, but the most annoying thing about him in my opinion is his faint praise given to some players on our books like Marcus Tavernier, Lewis Wing, Dael Fry and now Ashley Fletcher. Fair enough that he should encourage them to improve, but to broadcast their deficiencies to the media is bad man-management in my opinion and unlikely to fill such players with confidence. Just keep any criticisms in house would be my advice.

  43. Thanks to Weder and OFB for their articles, good reads as always, we are truly spoilt on here!

    I am very late to both the Bread puns and also the bar jokes so my only contribution is that a man walks into a bar


    Bit like supporting the Boro at times, you constantly need alcohol and it hurts! But as others have said, we could be in a worse position. I go along with GHW view that we a a middling Championship side who may be punching above our weight but trying to rise up to the land of milk and honey where all the dough is!

    Whilst I am sure that SG wants promotion, I am not sure that he will be throwing loads of dosh into the mixing bowl in January but what do I know! All I know is that I like a promotion season although would prefer it not to be followed by relegation in the style of last time!

    It is what it is and it is only a game of football after all………..

    Onto today’s bun fight, I have a horrible feeling that it has score draw in it although given the WBA and Villa game last night, a win sees us back into third place, ready for a push in the New Year. A lot will depend on what team is selected and then how they perform. We are still missing our midfield supporting the lone striker and if Fry is unavailable, then I have some reservations on the defensive set up.

    So I am predicting a 2 2 draw but hoping for a win!


  44. Feeking brimful of optimism today, well the sun is shining after all, so here is my prediction for a typical Boro performance.

    Boro 1 – 2 Blackburn, any ex-Boro player to score their goals.



    1. Let’s hope he finds what he’s looking for and hopefully isn’t considering reviving the Jason Puncheon deal as he looked very average when we played Palace in the Cup and not as good as many of our youngsters.

  45. Forgot to say it is my birthday today. went out for dinner last night, so will I be celebrating and savouring my special bottle of Ribera del Duero or necking it to dull the pain?
    Hopefully GHW will get one of his predictions correct for once.

    Weder that would be my team apart from Batth for Flint. So no cautious start and all out attack.

  46. feliz cumpleaños Pedro. I like your choice of vino nice one. Let’s hope you will be celebrating!

    I see that RS and DA have returned to the defence which I expected but surprised to see that Fletcher has been picked to partner Hugill. Remains to be seen if this is an inspired choice or if it is a shop window exercise.

  47. So no Wing or Tavernier in the team today but a surprise start for Fletcher instead and Ayala is back in place of Batth – Braithwaite not even on the bench

    Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Flint, Friend, Clayton, Howson, Besic, Downing, Fletcher, Hugill

  48. Shotton was a shoe obviously, toss of the coin between Batth and Flint, but Fletcher is a big surprise, hope he takes his chance and the players give him the opportunities.
    No wing or Tav in the starting line up is a disappointment to me. Still all to play for, for all of them.

  49. I should mention that after some problems with the MFC stream last time I emailed the club and got a couple of useful replies from Alex Thompson who recommended using the latest version of Google Chrome as they’ve found that to have the least problems.

    Also regarding the problem of sometimes getting just sound and no picture before the match begins – I know Jarkko also had this one – he suggested:

    If you click play on the player and its only the background noise coming through, then click on the player to pause and then clicking on it again to play (this should then push the video content through).

    Let’s see what happens – he also recommended deleting MFC cookies and site data if you are using different browsers such as Firefox.

  50. Not looking good at 1-0 down and one man down – Boro had been fairly lively for the first ten minutes without troubling their keeper but as Blackburn got into the game they started to pass it around quite well and looked to get behind Boro. Besic’s red card was down to being caught facing his own goal and getting his pocket picked and his reflex action of tugging the shirt of their man as he tried to run on goal meant he was then deemed to be the last man. It was a decent strike from the resulting free kick that Randolph couldn’t get across to and made it a double whammy.

    Boro since going down to ten look even less likely to score and Blackburn look good going forward with good movement and slick passing – it could get worse if Boro don’t find something in the second half – plus Shotton and Friend on yellows so have to be careful. I’d settle for a point now.

  51. Well looks like i am going to have to open my bottle early to dull the pain, as it has been terrible watching this lot even allowing for the deserved sending off.
    Thought that Randoldf was partly to blame for the goal again with his poor positioning.

    Now with ten men the game appears to only have one result to it, as there has been nothing from the Boro players. My choice of Batth is looking justified as Flint has a mare, alongside a poor George.

    Midfield unfortunately chasing shadows and some poor passing from our lot.

    Well Mr Pulis what are you going to draw out of the hat? A miracle I hope.

  52. Well that was a game of two halves that in the end could of gone to either team.

    Credit to TP for changing it around at half time and an excellent team effort from the Boro players.

    Unfortunately the other games all went against us, so it is now catch up time.

  53. Well a point it is and unfortunately Britt couldn’t build on his wonder strike and missed out on a couple of good opportunities for a winner. Blackburn looked better going forward than Boro and we still lack that interplay in the last third and composure in front of goal. Another injury time winner for Norwich puts them 7 points clear of us with Leeds now 6 points ahead. It’s going to be a hard slog this season.

    One point about the subs – Pulis brought off a striker for a creative midfielder (Fletcher – Wing) after 30 minutes and then at half-time put on a striker for a creative midfielder (Britt – Downing) and swapped Saville for Clayton – didn’t really add up tactically but thanks to Britt’s wonder goal it at least paid dividends. Though in theory he could have kept a sub for the last 20-25 minutes – he must have changed his mind in the break.

    1. I thought similar, first sub sorta made sense but half time ones didn’t.

      Still a point salvaged from what I thought could have been worse after the red card and resulting goal.

      Let’s hope that the evening game goes our way so that we remain 5th!

  54. I suppose a point in the circumstances is a good point and they at least gave a better account of themselves in the second half with Assombalonga again showing the enigma that he is, scores a screamer and the fluffs two other easier opportunities!

    Hugill is also learning from him and didn’t test the keeper when through on a one on one with the keeper!

    Good performance from Ayala and Saville had one of his better halves. Difficult to pick a MoTM but would probably give it to Ayala as he showed so much commitment and kept urging on his team mates.

    The gap to the top two spots is becoming worrying and could be even bigger after the QPR game as it’s another ground where we rarely get anything.

    1. In some ways it was also captain’s performance too as he was constantly geeing up his team-mates and congratulating them when they made good blocks or tackles. His personal performance was also very good and was there when needed – he also carried the ball out of defence well.

  55. On the Live stream front I had a few issues this week which started at log on when I couldn’t seem to get the video player to load. After a couple of page refreshes and clicks on the player it loaded and was fine up until the players were shaking hands when the stream disappeared!

    I had to refresh and re load and was just in time to see kick off. The picture froze on 2/3 occasions during the first half and I had to refresh the page and also at half time when an advert for the club shop was showing. By the time I realised and sorted it out the second half had started. Again this saw another couple of times when the picture froze and I am not sure if this was something local to me or a general problem?

    Other than these instances the picture quality and audio were absolutely fine.

    Hope everyone else did not have too many problems other than the score!

      1. RE: the stream of Riverside Live

        I was able to see the stream from about 10 minutes before the kick off until about the 55th to 60th minute when it froze. Since then I just luckily saw five minutes including Britt’s equalizing goal but not the replay anymore.

        Since the goal I was not able to follow the match so I swiched to the audio commentary for the last 10 mins.

        But it could have been also from my end as I haven’t been able log in to all sites either yesterday. But the Riverside Live video just froze yesterday.

        Up the Boro!

  56. I thought it was tactically very clever of TP by putting 2 up front because Blackburn then put 3 defenders against them, which in essence (apart from the keepers) it was 7 v 7 and Boro were the better team in the second half. I also think we saw today what Saville has to offer whilst I also think we should send Besic back to Everton as it is not the first time he has tried to dribble too many players only to lose possession, when there was a simple pass available, this time it has cost us 2 points, he is not as good as he thinks he is. IMHO I would rather have Saville in the team than Besic. Great goal by Britt but on the other hand he should have had 2 more and if he had squared the ball one time we would have won 2 – 1, saying that Hugill should have put away the one on one with their keeper.

    Come on BORO.

    1. I don’t disagree that having two up front worked better but he starting the game with two up front, then took Fletcher off 15 minutes before half-time and then went back to two up front when he brought Britt on at HT – just seemed an odd decision.

    2. Exmil, I think you have to be fair to both sides.
      As I posted earlier, the game could of gone either way. Rovers hit the post and had a number of good chances blocked by heroic tackles. Of course we could say that is their job.

      No I was more than pleased with the team performance and point.

  57. Thought that he had to change and use all his subs very early because we were so poor. Their goal was a self inflicted wound, this constant back passing into our own box is an open invitation, and today it arrived gift wrapped.
    I need to see the free kick again , I hope that the keeper was dead centre of his goal because I am growing tired of the goals caused by the keeper guessing which way the shooter will place the ball, and getting it wrong, it is done throughout football and never ends well. tav must wonder, has he got an infectious desease? He was a must today, lightening fast and not afraid to score, and we had three breakaways.

    1. Plato, as my previous post, I thought Randolf was at fault for their goal.

      Also thought our chances were not clear cut and only half chances at best. Do not forget they hit the post with Randolf beaten.

    2. Plato

      On the tv replay from the south stand camera Randolph was quite a way over to his left hand side. Too far for me. Another yard/half yard to his right and I think he would’ve saved it as it looked like he got his finger tips to it.

  58. I think the criticism of Randolph is a bit unfair. There were two Blackburn takers lined up to take the free kick and they shaped up as though it would go to Randolph’s left then changed takers last second and curled it to his left. Think we have to accept that it was a very well taken and pre planned free kick.

  59. Besic’s mistake has been coming with the way he plays. A sending off was correct although TP has a good record of appealing.

    Lucky not to be 2-0 down at half time as Blackburn missed an easy chance after their first goal and so a point seems a point gained compared to two lost. Even so we could have nicked all three points if Assombalonga didn’t need three attempts to score.

    The January window is becoming increasingly important but there is no certainty in getting the right players and those signed will need time to get up to speed.

    If a creative player is not recruited I’d like to see Downing given a chance as he can at least control and pass the ball. I remember he had a very successful season , albeit a few years ago , for West Ham in that role.

    I was interested to hear TP saying he fully expects Saville, one day, to be a Boro captain . I’m surprised cos he doesn’t seem to display captain qualities. My idea of a captain is a leader in the mould of eg Mowbray, Ince, Robson who would drag performances from teams and even Southgate whose major quality was to lead by example.
    The nearest we have with the current players is Ayala.


    1. Philip

      Every Boro manager has tried Downing in the midfield role since his return and he has failed to deliver the performances he showed at West Ham.

      In part this is down to the quality of the players surrounding him and due to his own diminishing abilities.

      He is not the answer to our numerous problems in midfield or up front.

      1. They tried Downing in that role and then were instructed to pass it back wards and sidewards with an isolated striker. With West ham he had two strikers to pick out as well as overlapping wide players.

  60. There were times when I thought Ayala was the new Southgate during the best of the AK years. Like that night against Norwich, and against City.

    I wasn’t the only one. A fellow NI Boro fan thought that too.

    That sort of changed when I saw Kalas grab the CB role by the scruff of the neck vs. Hull at a time when we really needed to win. A character who stood up to be counted when it mattered most. And he passed the test.

    That kind of character, when given games and the time to develop, is a real defensive leader to me. Ayala, well… he’s immense on his day. That’s undoubted. But can you really rely on him?

    Worse, under AK and Monk he was accused of having an attitude. Those who saw him walk off the pitch without the manager’s permission, at Blackpool, and get sent off against Derby at home, will recognise that.

    1. Don’t agree with you at all Simon about Ayala. I love him and think he has been a brilliant asset to Middlesbrough over the last few seasons. I said recently that he has to be reinstated to the first team and his MOM performance on Saturday proves that I was right.

    1. Ian

      Watching it live Howson stood initially directly behind the Rovers player at the end of our wall but then moved away to mark another player.

      When the free kick was taken the Rovers player crouched down and leaned left into the wall thereby creating a bigger gap between post and wall and exactly where the ball was placed just outside of Randolph’s dive.

      Had Howson remained in his original position he was best place to block or deflect the kick.

  61. RR

    Thanks for getting an accurate report out on the blog so quickly and which is reflective of the way the match unfolded.

    My own observations are that Ayala should be our captain he cajoled he shouted he directed and mad a last gasp tackle to prevent a certain goal.

    George for me is to nice and sometimes players need a good kick to get them going

    Pulis is complaining in the press that it should have been a yellow card and it’s difficult to prove that it was a goal scoring opportunity but i must confess I thought it was a red

    The ref was a fussy so and so and he and his decisions did have an impact on what was not a dirty game

    Pulis called Fletcher over to Talk to him 5 Minutes before making the sub to tell him what he was doing and to apologise which was a nice touch

    Now the reason fletcher was playing today was he has been well in training the last few weeks and Pulis wanted to see him in a game

    I heard today at the game that clubs have been circulated with Braithwaite and Assambalonga availability in the jan transfer window

    I don’t expect to see Braithwaite again in a Boro shirt

    It was interesting to see a midfield without Clayton and including Wing and Saville saw a more forward passing game with Howson pushed further forward

    Radical changes enforced on Pulis but credit is due that his tactics worked to get a point which could and should have been three but for some woeful finishing by Assambalonga

    I wa talking to one of Jarkkos favourite players before the game Terry Cochrane who lives locally and we were discussing Pulis tactics

    Interesting that Terry had been on coaching badge courses the same time as Pulis and he said that even then Pulis was defence minded

    Shotton played well and Pulis said at the post match interview that it wasn’t 10 man Boro who were struggling with cramp at the end it was Blackburn !


    1. I am with you OFB and thought it was a red and definitely after the replay which clearly showed the Rovers player was denied a goal scoring opportunity.

      I am not surprised this has happened as I posted last season that I found Besic frustrating when he was dropping so deep to pick up balls off the toes of our defenders when he should be in the opposition half and receiving balls from the back four/Clayton.

      Your rumour about Assombalonga and Braithwaite does not come as any surprise and I did wonder if Fletcher was only being played to put him in the shop window.

      Clearly TP needs to generate funds before he can spend; trouble is he might not get much for his sales!

  62. First I would like to thank OFB for his chat re Craig Johnston. I think he was one of the best Boro players I have ever seen – a very hard worker and skillful,
    Today I was relieved that we at least ended up with a point though the other results have gone against us. I was pleased to see Fletcher in the team (though not ahead of Wing and Tav), When Fletcher first played for us he seemed to fall over if someone breathed on him but he may have toughened up at Sunderland and has shown some ability in the league cup games so I had hoped he would get a chance as our 3 first choice strikers have not provided the goals we need, Whenever Besic plays I have wished he would not play so deep. Clayton (and Howson) are more defensively minded whereas Besic has the passing ability needed in attack and his error would not have happened if he was upfield. It was a good decision by TP to make the changes at HT and if our strikers were more reliable we would have won.

  63. Great write up and very enlightening comments from the bloggers.

    For my part, I liked the way we set up in the 2nd half and feel this is the way forward.

    Playing with 10 men brings the best out of the side and whilst I am not advocating that 10 are all we need, all we have to do is work out which position no 11 is, and to whom it should be given.

    For me another striker just behind the front 2, as our defence and mid field looked adequate with the 7 they used. Others may feel another midfielder is the key – some may even like another defender in our fortress wall.

    We showed yesterday we can function with 10 and be dangerous so with 11? Smash the league could be back on the cards.

    Just thinkg out loud like.

  64. Besic reminds me a bit of Adel Taarabt, When he was managed by Arry at QPR, he was that concerned about him defensively Arry quipped he banned his players from passing to him in their own half

    Besic is one of many players that both sides fear him near their box!

  65. Well done RR, a good and clear report that conveys the chaos and lack of system Boro seem to start matches imbued with. Maybe the team selections affect the players the way the affect us, who knows?

    As one blogger said maybe we should start with ten instead of eleven and have an extra substitute.

    Now I’m preparing myself for the next selection mystery.



  66. Good match report RR which I’ve read at the first opportunity this week.

    After a fairly confident start although not very inspiring Besic goes and throws that away. Does he really think twisting and turning, going around in circles and trying to beat the same player 3 times makes him a fantastic footballer? He’s nowhere near the player we signed on loan in January and unless he ups his game I’d seriously consider not paying Everton for his services and send him back when his loan expires.

    As bad as some of the officials decisions were yesterday I think they (eventually) got his red card right. After his recent performances I’d be happy if the club appealed it and the FA increased his ban! I believe it will only be one game.

    As previously posted, Randolphs positioning for their goal could have been better, and we did seem a bit all over the place for a good 15 minutes after the sending off. But steadied things by half time.

    I thought the substitutions Pulis made all had very positive impacts and set us up for what was a very entertaining and hard fought second half. Wing looked a far better option than Besic, Britts goal was an absolute belter and as one of Savilles critics I thought he had a very good 45. Playing as a more orthodox box to box midfielder have anything to do with it?

    Defensively the back 4 did well especially Ayala who looked like the commanding centre half of a couple of seasons ago.
    We certainly deserved a point and if we only had strikers who could beat the keeper in a one v one situation then we could have taken all three. In my world three one on ones trumps a shot that hits the post.

    One thing that came across well in the second half was the reaction of the Boro crowd. They sounded like they were really getting behind the team and it must have given the players a lift.

    Plenty of work to do before next Saturdays reunion with “Magnificent” Schteeve at Loftus Road.

  67. I missed out an honorable mention for Howson. Although not a big threat going forward he covered a lot of ground yesterday getting in tackles and blocks to help out his back four. More of this weeks performance and no more like last weeks please.

    1. FAA

      As you say, Howson must have covered some miles yesterday as he ran and chased at everything like a demented Terrier. Likewise Saville when he came on put in a very solid and impressive display and Wing stuck doggedly to his task and got stuck in. Put Downing in behind Hugill and Assombalonga in that second half team and it could be an interesting proposition.

      Its a shame that Fletcher became the sacrificial victim of Besic’s greed and lack of awareness. In a way I could forgive Adama because at least his lack of a footballing brain cost us at the opposite end but to do that repeatedly in a series of games now in his own half is completely and utterly unacceptable. Shame that it is just a single game ban because I fear that he will be back in after it is served. Personally I’d send him back in January if at all possible, flatters to deceive but no end product. Goes missing and bottles the tough games (especially Villa) and just doesn’t do enough against the weaker sides.

  68. First thanks to Redcar for his continuing “alternative report” . Watching the home games on the TV / Computer has been bad enough lately, but having to attend then write up a report deserves praise.

    Whilst Mr Pulis has come in for some criticism for his team selections, i thought yesterday he deserved credit for first subbing Fletch and then bringing on Britt and Saville.

    The second half was an inspired team effort led by “Captain Ayala” and aided by all the other players. I would also defend Britt and Hugill for their misses. Having the advantage of replays and seeing the opportunities a number of times I still believe they were all only half chances. the one on ones were difficult, a lob for Britt and possibly two seconds more for Hugill may have produced a goal. Credit to both for the lay back and superd curling shot.

    What was most interesting though was the desire and forward play that had been forced upon us. As has been said and a critic of Saville, I would say that that 45 minutes has to be his best to date. So has it been TP´s fault that he has been relatively poor due to not playing his natural game??

    As someone who thinks that Besic is probably our most gifted passing player and has defended doing his pirouettes and beating his man twice because players in red have not made themselves available, His tug in my view and seeing it a couple of more times was a straight red and TP can in no way defend in my opinion. He does get caught in those areas far too much and as Ian said, if playing he should be banned to the opponents half. But quite often he comes deep as there is nobody else that brings the ball forward in the same way.

    FAA, i think he will serve a THREE match ban for that sending off. According to Google anyway.

    So where does TP go from here? I think we have to be more positive as we need wins and points to stay in touch and hopefully make up some of the lost ground, otherwise the downward spiral will continue and come January reinforcements could be too late. On yesterdays performance Saville should possible get the more forward MF position. However what does concern me is that without Clayton we do not have a real tackler in the team. Saville is next best, Howson runs but does not tackle.
    As good as Fry has been, Shotton improved the overall team play and i still would have prefered Batth to Flint.

    So a weeks rest and then we need that same 45 minute performance over 90 minutes and a positive team selection including Tav in the start up.

      1. FAA

        You are correct as I understand the Law and punishment. As Besic committed a professional foul it should only be a one match ban. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing!

        1. Actually, the penalty for a red card depends on what it was given for…

          3-match ban – Serious foul play/violent conduct/spitting at an opponent

          2-match ban – Offensive/insulting/abusive language or gestures

          1-match ban – Denying obvious goal scoring opportunity

          So Besic falls into just the 1-match ban as others have mentioned – though on that basis, I’m not sure if some of our forwards should have been red-carded for denying their own team obvious goal-scoring opportunities…

  69. Another good report thank you RR.

    My fear is our season is beginning to slip away and with two away matches (QPR & Reading) to come before Christmas where we might not get anything (our record at both grounds is not good) we could be 13 and 12 points behind the top two if they both win their games.

    If that scenario pans out then I think a top two spot is highly unlikely and we may even be outside the top six pre-Christmas.

    What does Mr G do given this will be close to the scenario he had with GM? Stick or twist, probably the former in the hope we can make top six and give us an outside chance of winning the play offs.

    I suspect if we fail to go up then TP will shake hands and walk away to leave us as a middling Championship side for years to come.

    Not the sort of Christmas most of us were looking forward to back at the end of September.

    1. This season our away form is far superior to our home form so perhaps at the minute having two away games is a blessed relief as our sitting back and keeping it tight then picking them off seemingly works better.

  70. A fair report of the match from Redcar Red, and I go along with the majority in agreeing with the red card and bemused that Tony Pulis should be baffled by the decision. Does he not know the rules that to fraudulently foul a player with a clear run on goal is definitely a red card offence? Listening to the Radio Tees commentary, Maddo at first was shocked that the referee hadn’t seen it, and said “We’ve got away with a red card there” so was not surprised when attention was drawn by the linesman. Maddo also thought that perhaps Randolph might have done better with the free kick, but let’s face it, it was a magnificent strike. Although there were over 20 minutes remaining until halftime, he advocated keeping it tight until TP could get the players in the dressing room at half time, although we needed a lot of luck to keep it down to 0-1 mainly because of the profligacy of the Blackburn attack.

    The second half sounded much better, and although Assombalonga missed a couple of chances so did Blackburn, so all in all a fair result and certainly an exciting second half. I got the impression though, if it hadn’t been for the sending off, that Boro migtht have won quite comfortably. I can’t understand though why Hugill and Assombalonga haven’t been given the opportunity as a pair of strikers before now. I know Britt needs a lot of chances to score, but that’s probably true of many Championship strikers or they would be playing in the Premier League. Nevertheless, credit to Tony Pulis for being more attack minded in the second half (he had no other choice really), but it does arouse the crowd.

    In my opinion the next two away matches are there for the taking. QPR were pretty poor last week at home to Hull, and Reading were woeful yesterday and were flattered by a 0-2 scoreline with not one shot on target, and Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich are probably the two teams one would choose to play at home at the moment, so after the New Year’s Day fixture against Derby the league table might well have a different look then.

    Just savour the following fixtures from Boro’s point of view in the next 5 rounds:-
    Villa v Stoke,
    Derby v Forest
    Sheff Utd v West Brom
    Villa v Leeds
    Blackburn v Norwich
    Leeds v Blackburn
    Norwich v Forest
    Sheff Utd v Derby
    Swansea v Villa
    Norwich v Derby
    Blackburn v West Brom
    Forest v Leeds

    Compared to that lot Derby v Boro seems to be our hardest fixture. Add in the odd surprise here and there, how will Leeds particularly cope with a long injury list? Norwich have yet to draw at home this season, so I would be surprised if any of the top teams start a long winning run over the holiday season, except possibly Villa and Boro, but just let’s wait and see. Nil Desperandum!

  71. There’s a lot of talk about managers losing a dressing room ,this is spouted when teams go on a losing run,or are struggling,
    What’s the reason for this?
    The reason is ,players are not stupid,at least the good ones are not, they see what’s what,
    They know when the manager is picking the wrong players,or using a dumb system..
    Now some don’t like stats, OK, but if you are a defender or midfielder, and one striker as scored twenty odd goals and another as four,but the guy with four keeps getting picked above the other, I think you may have an issue with that..
    Bernie Slaven wouldn’t get a game in that case, because he misses some chances.
    What I’m really saying is facts are facts ,in my world A is A ,and 2+2 =4

  72. Watched the highlights and Besic get what he deserved , dribbled 20+ yards towards the box and was mugged, tugged the players shirt and 10 yards outside their box it is a yellow card.

    Ten yards outside our box with the player clear, with two defenders nowhere near and it is an offence. That was a red all day long.

    1. I think Randolph would have had time to slide in and kick the ball out. So a yellow card was the anonymous verdict of our household. But we looked through the red glasses but agreed with Pulis in here.

      But perhaps most of you as well as Ian were right. As were the linelady. I am very happy to see ladies on the football pitch – they should be able to do the job as well and often better than men.

      Up the Boro!

  73. Thanks to Redcar Red for another excellent match report with some good insights and observations. I think looking back at one of RR’s observation, it’s true that Fletcher did start more as a left-sided attacking forward who was tracking back rather than playing off Hugill.

    Incidentally, just before Britt scored the commentary team had also said that he was out on the left instead of being in the box where he should be – a few seconds later he scored is wonder goal by cutting in from the wing. The question with Britt I think is that he’s far better when facing the goal and is capable of striking the ball quite well – he generally seems a bit flat-footed when anticipating play around him and doesn’t hold the ball too well to play as a Pulis-style forward.

    I probably wouldn’t be so harsh on Besic as I think it was just a reflex action to briefly grab the shirt as the player ran past him – though he did get himself into a bad position. Then again I saw both Friend and Downing give the ball away cheaply just outside their own box with a bad pass but they got away with it. George also got booked for a blatant dive to add to recent ones from Tav and Hugill – perhaps Pulis will be keen to stamp that out.

    Regarding Randolph – it’s usually quite normal at a free kick for a keeper to defend one side of the goal and the other is the job of the wall – part of the problem is that a keeper must stand slightly to one side so he can actually see the strike – that’s why some teams will often have a defender on the post the keeper is furthest from. Boro chose not to do this but it probably would have been a simple block if they had.

    I’d also agree with Allan that Boro showed much more intensity with 10 players than they’ve displayed often with 11 – perhaps it indicates that they are perhaps a little complacent if they think that their defensive record gives them a reason to believe they will not lose.

  74. Been reading Fever Pitch. And I think Nick Hornby has put me in my place, in addition to opening my eyes a little bit more. Slight paraphrasing included.

    Stoke lost 2-0 at Arsenal in 1980. Journalists were infuriated at manager Alan Durban’s tactics. That triggered his immortal quote…

    “If you want entertainment, go and watch a bunch of clowns”.


    “It became one of the most famous football quotes of the decade. The quality papers in particular loved it for its effortless summary of modern football culture. Here was conclusive proof that the game had gone to the dogs, that nobody cared about anything other than results any more, that the Corinthian spirit was dead and that hats were no longer thrown in the air.

    “One could see their point. Why should football be different from every other branch of the leisure industry? You won’t find too many Hollywood producers and West End theatre impresarios sneering at the public’s desire to be diverted.

    “So why should football managers get away with it?

    “(But) I have come to believe that Alan Durban was right.

    “It was not his job to provide entertainment. It was his job to look after the interests of the Stoke City fans, which meant avoiding defeat away from home, keeping a struggling team in the top division, and maybe winning a few cup games to alleviate the gloom.

    “The Stoke fans would have been happy with a nil-nil draw, just as Arsenal fans are happy enough with nil-nil draws at (top teams). At home, we expect to beat more or less everyone, and we don’t particularly care how it is done.

    “This commitment to results means, inevitably, that fans and journalists see games in a profoundly different way. In 1969 I saw George Best play, and score, for Manchester United at Highbury.

    “The experience should have been profound, like seeing Maria Callas sing. And though I do talk about it in that way sometimes, to younger fans, or those who missed out on Best for other reasons, my fond account is essentially phony: I hated that afternoon.

    “Every time he got the ball he frightened me, and I wished then, as I suppose I wish now, that he had been injured. And I have seen Law and Charlton, Hoddle and Ardiles, Dalglish and Rush, Hurst and Peters, and the same thing happened… I have not enjoyed anything these players have ever done at Highbury, even though I have, on occasions, grudgingly admired things they have done against other teams.

    “Gazza’s free kick against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley was simply astonishing. It was one of the most remarkable goals I have ever seen… but I wish with all my heart that I had not seen it, and that he had not scored it.

    “Indeed, for the previous month I had been praying that Gascoigne would not be playing, which emphasises the separateness of football. Who would buy an expensive ticket for the theatre and hope that the star of the show was indisposed?

    “Neutrals loved the glorious theatre of that Gascoigne moment, of course, but there were very few neutrals in the stadium. There were Arsenal fans, who were as horrified as I was, and Tottenham fans, who were just as thrilled with the second goal, a two-yard Gary Lineker tap-in after a scramble. In fact, they went even more berserk then, because at 2-0 after ten minutes Arsenal were dead and buried.

    “So where is the relationship between the fan and entertainment, when the fan has such a problematic relationship with some of the game’s greatest moments? There is such a relationship, but it is far from straightforward. Tottenham, generally regarded as being the better footballing team, are not as well-supported as Arsenal, for example. And teams with a reputation for entertaining don’t get queues around the block.

    “The way our team plays is beside the point for most of us, just as winning cups and championships is beside the point. Few of us have chosen our clubs, they have simply been presented to us. And so, as they slip from the second tier to the third, or sell their best players, or buy players who you know can’t play, or bash the ball for the seven hundredth time towards a nine foot centre-forward, we simply curse, go home, worry for a fortnight and then come back to suffer all over again.

    “For my own part, I am an Arsenal fan first and a football fan second. I will never be able to enjoy the Gazza goal, not to mention countless other similar moments.

    “But I know what entertaining football is, and have loved the relatively few occasions when Arsenal have managed to produce it. And when other teams who are not in competition with Arsenal in any way play with flair and verve, then I can appreciate that, too.

    “Like everyone, I have lamented long and loud the deficiencies of the English game, and the permanently depressing ugliness of the football that our national team plays, but really, deep down, this is pub-speak, and not much more.

    “Complaining about boring football is a little like complaining about the sad ending of King Lear… it misses the point somehow.

    “And this is what Alan Durban understood: football is an alternative universe, as serious and as stressful as work, with the same worries, hopes, disappointments and occasional elations.

    “I go to football for loads of reasons, but I don’t go for entertainment, and when I look around me on a Saturday and see those panicky, glum faces, I see that others feel the same.

    “For the committed fan, entertaining football exists in the same way as those trees that fall in the middle of the jungle: you presume it happens, but you’re not in a position to appreciate it. Sports journalists and armchair Corinthians are the Amazon Indians who know more than we do… but in another way, they know much, much less.”

    1. Very interesting reading, Simon.

      However, I think the view is slightly skewed by being that of a “big club” supporter.

      Fans of Arsenal and others of a similar ilk have a genuine chance of winning trophies season after season. That is their goal and it’s understandable that entertainment is a distant second.

      For many others, football without entertainment leaves little to get excited about.

      We have clear goal of promotion for the time being and so entertainment is also a distant second for most in the list of priorities.

      Should we get promoted, we will then have a couple of seasons of survival to keep calls for greater entertainment at bay.

      Beyond that, should it happen, I still think fans want something more from their team than 36 or so points.

      The worst of both worlds is of course a failure to reach your goals and a distinct lack of entertainment. This is where someone like Tony Pulis has to be very careful indeed. There’s not a lot for him to fall back on.

  75. Excellent report as ever RR.

    At the end of the day it was a good point with some positives to take. The team looked much more threatening with two up front, Saville’s performance was encouraging and Ayala was immense.

    However, Pulis should not be wasting his time telling us that he is puzzled about the red card for Besic but rather he should be giving Besic an almighty bollocking for his completely unnecessary error and for costing the team two points.

    And one point from two home games is nowhere near promotion form.

    1. My concern, BoroExile, is how Besic will react and how Pulis will react in return. If Pulis is indeed The Secret Footballer’s manager who focused solely on shape and immediately hooked the one winger who dared to speak up to him, well…

  76. Good reply, Andy.

    Ticket prices are key too. £3 got you into Highbury back in 1980, while in 2015-16 you’d be paying nearly £46. But we have to remember inflation – £1,000 prize money on 3-2-1 (1978-88) was a lot of money in those days.

    So nowadays it’s *really* got to be worth the money, which is why, I suppose, fans are turning away from football in general.

    I still remember the fourth round of the FA Cup where Boro were drawn against United and we only got 17,000. That was 2001-02. Boro versus the Champions? That should have commanded a bigger crowd, surely. But the fans were bored that year, and the game was on TV, so they chose to save their money and watch it down the pub.

  77. I don’t know if anyone on this forum follows Scottish Football, especially the lower echelons of the Scottish League, but this season is providing us with one of the most remarkable turnarounds since the rise and fall of Gretna, a team who won the English Northern League in 1990/91 and 1991/92 (the League where Middlesbrough FC cut their teeth so long ago) and then subsequently joined the Scottish League and reached the dizzy heights of the Scottish Championship in 2007 and actually reached the Scottish FA Cup Final in the previous year only to be beaten by Heart of Midlothian on penalties, and then go bankrupt the following year when their benefactor Brooks Mileson was forced to withdraw his financial assistance due to ill health, thus plummeting the reformed club to now play in the Scottish Lowland League.

    The club I’m now referring to is Edinburgh City, another former Scottish Lowlands League club who were formerly known as Meadowbank Thistle, and replaced East Stirlingshire by winning a playoff just three seasons ago. Edinburgh City finished bottom in their first season, but beat East Stirlingshire again in a playoff to preserve their League status and managed to finish second from bottom last season with 30 points from their 36 matches. Well this season they have already accumulated 36 points from 14 matches and sit proudly top of the Scottish Second Division two points ahead of Peterhead who they meet tomorrow night at home.

    It’s obviously too early in the season to talk of promotion, but I love a ‘Cinderella’ story and hope they get promoted despite surviving on gates of between 300 and 350. But to already have accumulated more points than last season I find quite remarkable. I don’t expect them to emulate Gretna, but if they do gain promotion they would be my Scottish team of the season no matter what Celtic do.

  78. Interesting post Simon and of course Nick Hornby is a self-confessed obsessive Gunner so I expect more than anything else he is ultimately focussed on the emotion of the final result. In fact many fans are and the truth is that a bad result can ruin a whole weekend (if not week) but a boring 1-0 win doesn’t taint the joy of victory for many.

    It’s perhaps conflict of sport being a contest and also a source of entertainment for those who follow it. Though the quote “Complaining about boring football is a little like complaining about the sad ending of King Lear” could be turned around to say that the ‘sad ending’ is actually just the result and not the performance of the play itself, which would better equate to whether you would enjoy a boring play if you got a decent ending.

    Those football managers who believe that it’s not their responsibility to offer entertainment may want to lift their heads and wonder why they’re playing a game of football inside a stadium with 40, 50, 60 thousand seats or more, which is also been beamed into the living rooms of fee-paying subscribers of satellite TV who are ultimately paying for the incredibly high wages and transfer fees.

    Of course you can ignore the thousands of onlookers as just an aside if you believe football is not viewed for its aesthetic quality – though I believe what actually unites most football fans is that they share the moments that make it the beautiful game. The actual result is long forgotten by the majority but those moments of great skill or wonderful goals are remembered for a generation or more.

    What Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are showing is that football which is pleasing on the eye is also proving to be more effective in winning games. Perhaps the discerning eye of football supporters has been right all along and ‘boring football’ is in fact less effective. Stopping the opposition is just half of the game and if a manager can’t work out how to achieve the other half then he is failing with his methods.

    Stopping the opposition may actually get you more points than some of your rivals and stop you finishing in the bottom three at least – though it probabaly won’t on it’s own win you titles or promotion. for me, Tony Pulis is at the point where he has to work out how to make Boro a better attacking unit if we are to finish higher than our promotion rivals – which I’m sure he knows!

    1. Werder
      I wish you had not complained about the lovely quote “is like complaining about the sad ending to ‘King Lear’ ”
      It certainly had me laughing out loud.

  79. Just as a complete aside on a Monday morning – if you’ve grown tired of listening to nothing but Brexit debates of what could, should or may not happen then you may enjoy this satirical take on the matter by Radio 4’s Dead Ringers team – which has many good laugh out loud moments and even includes rather bizarrely one mention of “Up the Boro”…

    btw If you get a pop-up asking you to register to the BBC just close it as it doesn’t insist

  80. Scott Wilson of the Echo is asking the obvious as Middlesbrough improve against Blackburn after shackles were removed. And it is easy agree.

    So should we play home matches like we ended the match vs. Blackburn?

    Shotton – Ayala – Flint – Friend
    Wing – Saville – Howson – (Downing/Tavarnier)
    Hugill – Assombalonga

    I rate Clayton highly but we have had problems in the final third as long as he or Leads have played for Boro. So perhaps Saville is worth a try in there – even some have asked him to be sent back to Millwall in here!

    Secondly, I still rate Besic highly. He did a mistake in dribbling too long. I think that must be in the genes of most people coming from Balkan. I have seen a lot of these pirouettes in my own team alone!

    Up the Boro!

    1. The worry about Besic is that he does it three or four times every match. Before the Dack incident he was being clever in front of his own 18 yard box minutes earlier instead of simply passing the ball or hoofing it upfield.

      When it comes off he looks a calm and composed genius and what on earth were we all worrying about. Unfortunately it wasn’t the first incident on Saturday that he had the North Stand reaching for their incontinence pants. If he plays he should be under strict instructions not to come back into his own half of the pitch. Twisting and performing pirouettes in the opponents half is one thing but not in a defensive zone. That he hasn’t understood that basic requirement at 26 years old is a concern.

  81. Ken, reference Edinburgh City, there was an article on the BBC web about Boro lad Josh Walker, who plays for them. Captain I think. This follows another article a year or more ago when he played in India.

    Biggest problem for him has been his injuries.

  82. I see we are being linked with a journeyman no mark Serbian Striker Aleksandar Prijović who went to Derby some years back and impressed so much he was loaned out to Yeovil and Northampton Town.

    He is playing for PAOK in Greece and of course is currently having his once in a career Gestede/Murphy/Waghorn season so allegedly a series of idiot scouts are all clamouring to splash millions of their clubs money on their next prize Donkey. Personally I’d rather Boro tried to get Stuani back and play him where he should have been played all along or even Kike come to that (not Sola obviously). In fact I’d rather have Nugent back even at his advancing years, lets hope there is nothing in it other than bedroom journalists making up more internet fake news.

    1. Thanks Werder.

      Following on from your post, two of the matches I attended under Southgate had similar trajectories. They were against Keane’s Sunderland and Mogga’s WBA.

      We were the better side in both matches and created a succession of chances, but a 2-2 draw (featuring a late goal from the late Liam Miller) and a 0-1 reverse respectively left me devastated.

      At home to Hull in the direct aftermath of the Charlton debacle, we were stodgy and uninspired – to be fair, so were Hull – until Nugent got his head to that cross and you know the rest. Wonderful feelings.

      As Ian put it – goals and wins change our perceptions of performances.

  83. I’m about to offer such a deeply old fashioned view it’s possible even TP wouldn’t consider it.
    All I’ve seen of the game on Saturday is Britt’s excellent goal. I know he’s out of favour and possibly soon out the door, but that was a terrific strike and suggests if played correctly he could provide the goals we lack.
    Certainly he’s suffer d as many of are recent strikers have by being asked to plough a lone furrow up front.
    There seems to be a consensus here Britt teamed up well with Hugill, with the latter playing the big lad role of ball winner which played into Britt’s strengths of facing goal.
    Is playing two up front -at home – such an obvious and ridiculous suggestion?

    1. What is interesting is that when Britt just had a go he scored a blinder, against the keeper in a one on one he fluffed his lines. Time to think can hinder many a striker.

      I always worried when David Mills was in the same situation.

    1. I suppose most of us have seen the report on Teamtalk now related as fact in the Yorkshire Post that Adama Treore is frustratied in only starting 3 games for Wolves (yesterday as a central striker) and that Boro are likely to make a bid for him either as a loan signing in January or as a permanent signing, although Boro might face competition from Everton and Newcastle. I don’t know how much credence can be given to such rumours, but Tony Pulis is blaming Boro’s lack of pace on the sale of the Spaniard – maybe correct, but another veiled remark of not playing Marcus Tavernier?

      The Hartlepool Mail also states that Tony Pulis is preparing an appeal against Mo Besic’s red card.

      1. It would be hard imagine that Wolves would sell him back at a loss or indeed Boro could afford his upgraded wage packet – as for a loan, well the player himself may look first another PL team if possible. although Nuno Santos said yesterday that they were playing Adama as a striker so that they could utilise his pace further up the pitch.

        Incidentally, what is more than a bit surreal with Adama Traore is seeing all the protesters in Paris wearing ‘Justice pour Adama’ T-shirts after another man also named ‘Adama Traore’ was killed in police custody last year and has now become their focal point against police brutality.

  84. Watched Traore playing up front (highlights) ,thought that the great idea must be to give him passes in front to run onto very close to the box, just to see what comes of the inevitable panic.
    They did not give him lots of passes, and it was difficult to say if they used him as a stalking horse.( they did win) so I suppose they were happy.

    1. At £500K he is maybe worth a gamble but we all know that if its Boro we start the negotiations for Strikers at £5M plus. A 28 year old is the finished article not one for the future, that he has never settled anywhere in his career with 10 clubs in the last 10 years tells me he is just the sort of stable, dependable individual that our Recruitment love to overpay for. Once his seemingly inherent Romany nature sets in after a few months we are then stuck with a player with an attitude problem in the squad and who we can’t giveaway.

      Like Gestede, Murphy and Waghorn there is nothing to suggest in his stats or his career that his present goal rush would continue wherever he ends up. He represents a massive gamble that can only be justified if the price is right, we have had far too many players recruited recently that are no better than what was already here.

      1. RR
        There is no price that would justify buying a player with his profile.
        This is our default behaviour, and we should concentrate on stamping it out, because it never ends well.
        It worries me that we got Wing because his family are Boro through and through, and we are still reluctant to fully invest our trust in both he and his team mate Tav.
        Despite the fact that I cannot remember any recent (That would be ten seasons) debutant with quite the effect that this pair have had , and continue to have ( when, of course they get on the field). By the way, is there some internal club rule unknown to us supporters, which forbids them being on the pitch together.
        Just saying,

  85. The turnover of players these days is remarkable.
    I remember the days, not that long ago, when a team signed a player, for good or bad. and he was given time to settle with a good run of games and eventually bedded in. Not anymore. We now sign players and want them to instantly perform as hero’s, sometimes without getting regular game time to establish themselves. Players like Rhodes, Gestede, Fletcher, Johnson, McNair, Saville, regardless of their talent or lack of, do not seem to have had much game time to show what they can do. They become the boo boys, are relegated to the bench and then their agent finds them a loan or permanent move and the whole sorry process starts again. The main loser being SG’s retirement fund.
    Unless there is a lot better out there (and I doubt it), I would give the present squad a chance as I dont think any combination of championship players could play TP’s present system and average 2 points per game.
    I am not suggesting the manager should go, just that he change the system and select the team that will score goals in this league, they are already at the club.

    1. It’s probably down to it being more of a squad game now with a manager choosing from 18-20 players and having a bench of seven players and making three subs. I guess players would get more of a chance to establish themselves when there was a smaller squad with only one sub.

      You can probably add to the equation that rise of agents and transfer windows means players are encouraged to move on to both make money and try their luck elsewhere if they don’t start regularly. Plus back in the days before Bosman, a player was only sold or moved on at the discretion of their employers – even when their contract had ended.

      Modern football is becoming increasingly more short-term in its outlook and the default is to change players and managers as a first resort.

  86. While I have been critical of Brits finishing maybe TP has accidentally stumbled on a system that suits his style of play, as it’s blindingly obvious that a lone target man with his back to goal he isn’t.

    I say stumbled, as with Bamford who had a good run after coming in for Gestede, because in both cases Pulis has/had no intention of playing either player from the start.

    Starting with two up front makes the team a much more potent attacking force imo, and if the more attack minded players are allowed to push forward more to deliver balls and support the front two who knows where we may finish. We also have a defence that is usually more than capable to cope with what opposing teams can throw at us.

    Maybe a 4 1 3 2 formation might bring us a few more goals while one man in front of the back 4 would continue to give the defensive the protection and stability that also helps win games.

    Shotton Ayala Flint/Fry Friend
    Howson Wing Downing/Tavernier
    Hugill Assombalonga

    That’s what I’d like to see, certainly at home, maybe going to three centre halfs with wing backs away from home. Any thoughts?

    Not expecting anything to change soon mind🙁

  87. Following on from Old Billy.

    Here’s something I cottoned onto with the help of AV and Ian, mainly.

    If a manager is successful, but still needs a bit of extra thrust to take the team that step further – I believe it was Jorge Valdano who said that the brain of one manager can’t compete with eleven brains on the pitch, and that while team is very important, you need individual skill to go to the next level – he ought to, logically and ideally, be given the opportunity for transition and integration.

    The long-distance fan like me, sitting here in Belfast right now, might see that. They will look at the manager’s overall record and see a generally positive trajectory, acknowledge that we won’t win every week, that dips in form happen and that time to get a new player up to speed with mentality and organisation of the methodology is only fair and just.

    That tossing in a brand new signing or arrival spontaneously will run the risk of upsetting stability and is not, again, fair on those who have worked so hard in training for their shirt. And that if the system, you know, “works” and is still in a position to deliver the target the chairman has set at the end of the season – what’s the problem?

    The problem is how hard that is to sell to paying fans who are looking for a lift, especially when they can spot that the team are faltering. And if the new player is an expensive one, by the club’s standards, and is already well versed in the division, then the onus is more on the manager to adapt quickly.

    It may not be “fair” to coaches, but – yes – it is what it is.

    And as much as one can argue that a new player can upset stability, fortune also favours the brave. A seventeen-year-old Wayne Rooney being handed an unexpected start against Turkey in 2003 did wonders. It was, and still is, one of England’s best performances in the Sven years – the player’s hunger, speed, strength and skill took Turkey by surprise and gave the whole England team a lift.

  88. I recall Faustino Asprilla being blamed for Newcastle’s failure to land the PL title, but ultimately it’s has to be the managers responsibility. He picks the team and how he wants them to play.

  89. Asprilla being a scapegoat is far too simple. It’s more a case of Toon bottling it when the magnitude of what they were about to achieve hit them.

    I reckon scapegoating is too simplistic full stop. Success or failure is collective – it is neither fair nor just for one to get the blame nor one to direct the failure at another.

    Taking a little time to look within, compromise and allow everyone to figure things out would do wonders.

    But this is an emotion-driven sport in a far-from-ideal world.

  90. “That tossing in a brand new signing or arrival spontaneously will run the risk of upsetting stability and is not, again, fair on those who have worked so hard in training for their shirt. “

    You said it, not me.

  91. I did say it – and then I offered an alternative point-of-view. How hard the difficulties of a transition period are to sell to paying fans.

    Not everyone will like a manager’s style of play and they may well feel that he’s not using all the resources he can use.

    But one can see that as an argument for supporting and an argument for blaming him. His supporters will say, you know, maybe he needs more time to figure things out. His critics will say that managers simply need to figure things out much quicker nowadays.

    Always more than one way to look at things.

  92. Take Big Jack.

    He got the time and goodwill from Boro and Sheffield Wednesday that he never received from Newcastle. To a similar degree, he got time and more than enough goodwill from the Irish public than he did with the Irish football purists.

    Case in point. Even when Sheffield Wednesday had lost the FA Cup semi-final in his last season there, 1982-83, it’s documented that the fans sang “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” on the Tube. A reminder that while they lost the semi, not to mention weren’t getting promoted, they were still miles away from the third tier gloom Jack had inherited in 1977.

    Realistic acknowledgement of what they had done rather than what they hadn’t. Something for Howard Wilkinson to build on when he took over.

    Two years later, not long before he left Newcastle, he said:

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

    But how does that read to the Toon Army?

    Alternative views.

  93. I’ve re-read what I’ve written.

    It wasn’t my intention to blame the players. I was merely trying to imply that it is as much the players’ responsibility to adapt as it is the manager’s. Or ought to be.

    One reason Ferguson’s squads at United were generally ahead of the rest in the early PL years is because his players were adaptable. A young Keane would play at RB, McClair would carry out defensive duties, O’Shea would play anywhere, Phil Neville moved into midfield.

    It wasn’t that they were jacks-of-all-trades, more that they would be willing to adapt if the situation called for it. And United would still win and score.

  94. In Charltons case at Boro, I would imagine winning promotion and establishing records whilst doing it, then quite a lot of goodwill was generated.

    As ever, it’s always about results with a manager. I often quite Bryan Robson. “Players win matches, managers lose them”

  95. Since I can’t find any mention of it, I take MFC have not appealed Besic red card, as I understand it, any appeal had to be in yesterday.

    Come on BORO.

  96. Before I continue the history of Middlesbrough FC it would be remiss of me not to mention the career of Harold Shepherdson. His playing career like many young men was interrupted by the Second World War so he only played 17 matches for the Boro, and 14 of them were before the hostilities, so I never saw him play even for the reserve team although I did have the pleasure of meeting him at a function. He played all but one of his matches as a centre half, but couldn’t hold on to a regular first team place, so after a short playing career turned his hand at coaching and became Alf Ramsey’s right hand man up to and beyond the 1966 World Cup. It’s just a shame that the award of a World Cup medal wasn’t awarded to him until some 14 years after his death. He was an excellent coach, but never wanted the responsibilities of becoming a manager.

    The reason I’ve mentioned him was that after Raich Carter had been dismissed in 1966 he took over the reins of Caretaker Manager for Boro’s last 16 matches but couldn’t save the Boro from being relegated for the first time to the Third Division. When Stan Anderson resigned following a shock FA Cup defeat to Plymouth Argyle Shep again took over the reins of Caretaker Manager for the remaining 16 matches, but this time with much more success winning 8 of them and only losing 3 as Boro finished the season on a high in 4th position. So Shep’s contribution should not be underestimated in paving the way for Jack Charlton’s appointment.

    It might be conceived as somewhat of a gamble when Jack Charlton was appointed manager. After all he had had no coaching nor managerial experience, and great footballers don’t always make good managers; younger brother Bobby’s term at Preston was testament to that, as was Bobby Moore’s term at Southend. Anyway Jack Charlton started the 1973/74 season with more or less the same players that Stan Anderson and Harold Shepherdson had used, and an Alan Foggon goal in the first match away to Portsmouth augured well for the season. It was maybe surprising that a crowd of less than 15,000 should watch Boro’s first home match, but perhaps some sceptics might have had doubts of the wisdom of appointing someone with no managerial experience especially as Boro then lost their next match 0-2 to Fulham at home. Maybe some of the players didn’t take kindly to Jack’s appointment because the team were coached most of the time by Ian MacFarlane and Jimmy Greenhalgh, and Jack Charlton was rarely seen on the training ground. As Stuart Boam recounted, Ian and Jack had done the spadework with a detailed training session at Hutton Road only for Jack to turn up at the start where he’d drive his Landrover on to the centre of the pitch with ‘a shotgun on the back seat and a car full of stinking partridges and stinking dogs’. Charlton would then rip up everything the coaches had prepared, then return to his fishing or shooting. That was not what some of the players expected of a new manager, but perhaps it was Jack’s way of showing everyone who was in charge. Jack was furious that the team should lose their first home match, he certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly, but the lesson was learned as Boro never lost at home in the league again all season.

    Boro won at Crystal Palace 3-2, then recorded their first home league win with a John Craggs goal 1-0 against Carlisle, but then followed three successive goalless draws at home to Villa and away at Orient and Blackpool. However something was missing, so Jack signed Bobby Murdoch from Celtic, a player with no pace, but one who read the game so well and had such a telling pass in his armoury. He not only made his home debut in the 2-0 win against Bristol City but also scored so a crowd of 22,164 were in expectant mood for the return fixture with Orient and to see if Murdoch was to be the real deal, and it seemed to be the case as Boro won 3-2 to go top of the table, a position Boro never relinquished.

    Boro were drawn away to struggling Manchester United in the League Cup and won 1-0, Boro’s first win at Old Trafford for over 40 years. But like today Boro’s achilles heel was scoring goals. They only scored four goals in their next five matches, but it still yielded 8 points as Boro looked forward to another League Cup match away to First Division Stoke City where a Peter Brine goal secured a home replay. Seven days later the largest crowd for several seasons 26,068 saw a late Alan Foggon goal take the match into extra time, but Boro finally succomed to a 1-2 defeat.

    However in the league Boro suddenly found their shooting boots with 24 goals in their next 13 league matches which extended their unbeaten run in the league to 24 matches. This run included a 2-2 draw at Notts County after being 0-2 down at half time and a 2-1 Boxing Day win over Sunderland in front of a crowd of 37,030, the largest attendance for a league match since the final match of the 1966/67 promotion season.

    The FA Cup brought Boro an away tie against non-league opposition for the first time since the 9-3 home win against Goole Town in 1914 where Jackie Carr, George Elliott and Walter Tinsley had all scored 🎩s. The 1974 tie was against Grantham which Boro duly won 2-0. However Boro then lost to 3rd Division Wrexham 0-1 in the shock of the Round, and when their 24 unbeaten league record went the following week away to Nottingham Forest 1-5 followed by a goalless home draw with Blackpool, maybe some sceptics might have been having doubts about Boro’s credentials despite having a handsome lead in the League Table. But we needn’t have worried as Boro won their next 9 matches including recording a derby double over Sunderland (their first double over the Mackems since 1939), two astonishing 4-0 away wins within three days at West Brom and Fulham, and then the 1-0 away win against 2nd placed Luton on the 30th March which guaranteed the League title. Boro eased off around Easter with defeats at Cardiff and Bolton, but put on a terrific display in their final home match with a resounding thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday where Graeme Souness recorded his only 🎩 in an 8-0 win, and then rounded off the season with a 4-2 win at Preston.

    Promotion had been confirmed on the 23rd March, the earliest ever in Division 2, and of course that of Championship Winners a week later at Luton. Alan Foggon was the leading scorer with 19 goals, but John Hickton and Alan Mills chipped in with 11 each. Overall 77 goals from 42 matches may not seem a lot for a promotion winning side in those days, but considering nearly half of them 37 were scored away from home, and that only 8 were conceded at home it was very respectable, and certainly only 4 league defeats in the league was remarkable especially as one of those came in Boro’s second match and two more in their final four matches meaning that Boro had suffered only one defeat (albeit a drubbing at Forest) in 36 league matches 24 of which they won. Jack Charlton was named ‘Manager of the Year’, quite an achievement for someone in charge of a 2nd Division club, but the question now was how would Boro perform in the First Division after 20 years in the wilderness?

    At last the 1974/75 season saw Boro back in the big time, not only in the league, but in both Cup competitions. The Texaco Cup didn’t augur well for Boro in August with a 0-1 defeat at home to Carlisle, a 1-0 win at Sunderland, and a 0-4 defeat at Newcastle all within 7days, but really they could only be classed as pre-season friendlies, so when the league matches commenced Boro couldn’t have wished for a better start than winning 3-0 at Birmingham in their first match. It came as quite a surprise then that Boro should lose their first home match to fellow promoted Carlisle 0-2, but the Cumbrians then beat Chelsea to go top of the league after three matches. When Boro failed to beat Luton the other promoted team at home, having to settle for a 1-1 draw, maybe some of us might have been wondering that if Boro could only glean one point from home against promoted teams who were regarded as likely to be relegated back to whence they had come from, then maybe the win at Birmingham might have been a fluke. After all Boro had taken seven points from Carlisle and Luton in the previous season. Well not to worry, Boro won the reverse fixture at Carlisle but that was followed by a tricky three matches against Stoke and Sheffield United sandwiched in between a home match with Chelsea. Boro only managed two points from that trio so had only accumulated a point a game from their first 7 matches and were 13th in the table.

    But Boro were just finding their feet, and as I turned on the radio and heard a score of 2-0 away at Tottenham, I assumed Boro were on the receiving end, so I was quite surprised that Boro were actually winning by that score at halftime. Could they hang on I thought? No need to worry, Boro won 4-0! In the league Boro went on to beat Manchester City 3-0, Spurs away again 2-1 and Wolves at home 2-1 following that with a 1-0 home win in the League Cup against Leicester. Suddenly Boro were up to 5th in the league and awaiting an away tie at Liverpool for a place in the Quarterfinals of the League Cup. But first Boro had to visit Anfield in the league, which unfortunately they lost 0-2 but followed it up with a 1-0 win at Luton, a 4-4 draw home to Coventry and a 3-2 win at Derby which elevated Boro up to 4th.

    The next next four fixtures however saw Boro lose 0-3 at West Ham followed by three fixtures Boro fans were really looking forward to. Boro played out a goalless draw against Newcastle before a home crowd of 38,380 and three days later with a superb defensive display won at Liverpool in a League Cup match where Willie Maddren scored the only goal of the match two minutes into injury time. The big test though was the visit to Elland Road where Boro came from behind to force a 2-2 draw. Whether this sequence of matches had taken its toll I don’t know but Boro lost their next two matches at home to QPR and at Highbury before the League Cup match at home to newly promoted Manchester United which ended in a goalless draw before being forced into replay at Old Trafford a week before Christmas, a match which neither side really wanted.

    However before that replay Boro seemed to have a testing time with three home matches in 7 days – Ipswich Town, Leicester City (a rearranged fixture after the original match had been abandoned after floodlight failure with Boro leading 1-0) and Birmingham City. Boro won all three by the same 3-0 scoreline with Alan Foggon and Graeme Souness each scoring 3 in that sequence of matches. Boro however went on to lose the League Cup Replay to Manchester United 0-3, but draws at Burnley and Everton and in between a Boxing Day home win over Sheffield United pushed Boro up to second place going into the New Year.

    Boro disposed of non-league Wycombe Wanderers in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, but not after an away goalless draw and what looked like being a similar score in the replay at Ayresome Park until David Armstrong converted an 89th minute penalty to see Boro into the next round. Boro’s League form deteriorated somewhat in the next two months with only 3 points and one goal in the next 6 matches. The one bright spark was the 4th Round FA Cup home win over Sunderland when in muddy conditions Boro came from a goal down to win 3-1 with a Bobby Murdoch goal five minutes before the interval and two converted penalties from John Hickton in the second half before a restricted sell out crowd of 39,500. Boro then beat 3rd Division Peterborough 2-0 with two Alan Foggon goals in a 5th Round replay to set up a Quarterfinal tie at Birmingham in the next round.

    Before that though Boro ended their 7 match winless run in the league by beating Stoke City at home 2-0. Surely Boro would easily account for Birmingham to give Boro their first FA Cup Semifinal. After all they had beaten the Brummies 3-0 in both league fixtures, but a Bob Hatton goal was enough to dispose of Boro. Often when a team loses an FA Cup match that they were expected to win, a team goes into decline. But this Boro team was made of sterner stuff, and following home wins over Tottenham and Everton, Boro then went on to beat admittedly a poor Chelsea team 2-1 at Stamford Bridge where Boro hadn’t won since 1938 and haven’t won there since. That’s 30 matches with a solitary win and 20 defeats.

    Boro were now in 3rd position with 7 matches remaining and although losing at Maine Road, they then beat Burnley 2-0 at home with a crunch match at home to Derby to follow. Boro led 1-0 at the interval but had to settle for a draw. They then lost to Leicester and Wolves but finished with a flourish beating Liverpool at home 1-0 and Coventry 2-0 away. Boro finished with 48 points in 7th position but only 5 points behind Champions Derby. Had Boro beaten Derby, they might well have beaten Leicester and Wolves too which would have given Boro the title with 53 points one more than Derby. Fine margins indeed in a tight league with no really outstanding team. Boro had scored 54 goals but only conceded 40. Alan Foggon was leading scorer with 16 league goals in his 41 matches.

    The 1975/76 season wasn’t as successful in the league or the FA Cup but Boro not only reached their First League Cup Semifinal, but also their first silverware albeit the low graded Anglo-Scottish Cup. The Qualifying Rounds were played on a regional basis prior to the start of the season, and this time Boro fared much better against the clubs they had encountered in the previous season’s Texaco Cup. Boro started the week by beating Sunderland 3-2 and Carlisle 4-1 both at home, and finished the week with a 2-2 draw at Newcastle to reach the Quarterfinal. The league season started with a defeat at Spurs and a draw at Newcastle, but Boro won their first two home matches against Wolves 1-0 and Birmingham 2-0. But surprisingly Boro leaked eight goals in their next two away matches at Burnley and against Manchester City and despite winning their third home game 3-0 against Stoke City Boro were languishing in 15th position following a goalless draw at home to QPR. They then started their League Cup journey with a 2-1 win at 3rd Division Bury.

    Boro then won their Quarterfinal first leg in the Anglo-Scottish Cup at home to Aberdeen 2-0 and put together an unbeaten winning run of ten matches, six of which were in the League. They won at both Coventry and Ipswich without conceding a goal, then won their second leg match at Aberdeen in the Anglo-Scottish Cup 5-2. They followed that up with scoreless draws at home to Villa and away at Leicester in between they beat Derby County 1-0 at home in the League Cup. Boro then followed this with a 3-0 home win in the league against West Ham which saw Boro as high as 6th. Boro’s next match was the Semifinal home leg of the Anglo-Scottish Cup against 3rd Division League leaders Mansfield Town who subsequently were promoted as Champions. Boro won fairly easily 3-0, but the month finished with a 1-2 defeat at Highbury. Boro then lost their six match unbeaten home record to Liverpool but followed that up with a routine 2-0 2nd leg meeting with Mansfield Town to reach the final of the Anglo-Scottish Cup.

    Boro continued into November with a 1-0 win at Norwich, a 3-0 home League Cup win over Peterborough, a goalless home draw with Leeds and a defeat at West Ham before the big event in some people’s eyes – the Final of the Anglo-Scottish Cup. The pity was of course that no Scottish club had reached the last four, and that the Final had to be decided over two legs. Only 14,700 attended the home match which was a fairly dour affair against 2nd Division Fulham and was decided by an own goal. Boro ended the month with a 2-3 defeat at Derby after surrendering a two goal lead. Manchester United were then held to a goalless draw at home before the rather anticlimaxical 2nd leg Final of the Anglo-Scottish Cup, another goalless draw which was enough of course to give Boro its first silverware since winning the FA Amateur Cup way back in 1898. It was a good December for Boro as a 2-1 win at Wolves, a 1-0 home win over Spurs, and 1-1 away draws at Sheffield United and at home to Everton had Boro in the top half. It had also been an exhausting season so far with 24 league matches and 15 Cup matches already played.

    Boro were drawn at home to Bury for the second time in the season in a Cup competition, and having already beaten them away in the League Cup were expected to win easily in the FA Cup fixture, but yet another goalless draw meant a replay at Gigg Lane three days later. Boro were quickly out of the traps with a two goal lead in the first ten minutes, but whether it was complacency or tiredness Boro seemed to have their eye on the three ensuing encounters with Manchester City and lost the tie 2-3.

    The first of the three meetings with Manchester City was a home league match which Boro won 1-0 with a David Armstrong goal to be followed three days later with an identical scoreline this time with a John Hickton goal. The first match had seen Boro rise to 7th, but would the second one be enough to see Boro through to the Final? Before that however Boro had a League match against Stoke City but played at Vale Park due to storm damage at Stoke’s Victoria Ground. Boro lost that match 0-1, but worse was to follow 4 days later when Boro found themselves 0-2 down in next to no time in the away leg of the League Cup and finally lost 0-4 to lose their chance of a first major final.

    Nevertheless Boro played out an entertaining 3-3 home draw with Newcastle in their final match in January and despite a second home defeat in February, they had notable 2-0 away wins at both Leeds and Liverpool which elevated them to 6th. However Boro won only two of their remaining fixtures and finished the season with only 40 points and a position of 13th. Boro scored only 46 league goals with David Mills netting 10 and an aging John Hickton 9. Jack Charlton made only one signing during the season – Phil Boersma from Liverpool who made his debut in the goalless draw with Manchester United, however he failed to score in any of his 21 league and Cup matches.

    The 1976/77 season started with Boro attempting to retain their Anglo-Scottish title, but this time they failed to win the Qualifying Section despite beating Hull City 2-0 at home and Sheffield Utd 1-0 way due to losing their final match at Newcastle 0-3. However they started their League campaign with a 1-0 home win over Coventry, two goalless draws at Derby and Tottenham who then won the League Cup match 2-1 at Ayresome Park. Perhaps it was for the best as Boro could now concentrate on the League at least until the FA Cup started for them in January. They followed the League Cup defeat with two successive home derby wins against Newcastle 1-0 and Sunderland 2-1 to push them up to 2nd after 5 matches. A 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford was not unexpected, but Boro became difficult to score against as they beat both Leeds and Norwich at home 1-0 with a rearguard goalless draw at Anfield in between. Boro had therefore started the season with 13 points from their first 9 matches and despite only scoring 6 goals had only conceded 3 and headed the table. Following a 1-3 reverse at Birmingham when Boersma at last scored, they regained top spot with another 1-0 home win over West Brom.

    Having won their opening six home league wins, the next two were defeats to Leicester and Ipswich and might have been regarded as surprises, but truth to tell Boro had forgotten how to score and further defeats at Stoke 1-3 and QPR 0-3 had Boro dropping to 14th. But Boro then started on a remarkable unbeaten run of 13 matches, 10 of which were in the league. These included 5 league wins, two of which were consecutive away wins at West Ham and Bristol City. They also earned draws at Everton and Coventry. They started their FA Cup campaign by beating non-league Wimbledon 1-0 in a replay and then Hereford United 4-0 in the 4th Round. The FA Cup draw had been kind to Boro and successive home wins against Spurs 2-0 and Arsenal 3-0 saw Boro in 4th position by mid February.

    However the unbeaten run came to an end at Sunderland where Boro lost 0-4 four days later. With a week to prepare for their FA Cup encounter with the Gunners one wondered if Boro could repeat their win against a team they had easily beaten only eleven days before. Well the result was never in doubt as two David Mills goals had Boro ahead in the first 15 minutes. Arsenal did manage to reduce the arrears by half time, but David Armstrong restored the two goal cushion soon after half time and David Mills recorded a rare but deserved 🎩 in the last minute to record a 4-1 win.

    Unfortunately Boro then went on a 12 match winless run which included a 0-2 Quarterfinal FA Cup defeat at Liverpool and Boro plummeted down to 10th in the League. Just as it looked as if Boro might have a relegation battle on their hands, they won at Ipswich, beat Manchester United 3-0 at home and drew their remaining 3 fixtures to finish 12th with 41 points. Boro once again had shown their defensive metal by conceding only 45 goals, but had earned the title of boring Boro by the media for only managing to score 40 goals of which David Mills contributed 15 plus another 3 in the FA Cup.

    Jack Charlton’s decision to resign came as a surprise as he hadn’t lined up another appointment deciding he didn’t want to outstay his welcome. Boro needed a centre forward, but missed out on both Ray Hankin and David Cross because he wasn’t prepared to spend £10,000 over what he considered to be his valuation of the players. He was very dogmatic and often had arguments with some of his players. He dropped goalkeeper Jim Platt over a disagreement of how he perceived he should be defending corners and replaced him with Pat Cuff for 18 matches. Perhaps OFB might be able to throw some light on that when he next meets Jim.

    The overall view from some of the players and certainly the fans was that Jack was tight about spending money, but nevertheless conceded later that perhaps he should have stayed for at least another season as there was unfinished business to attend to. Boro next appointed John Neal as manager, and his approach to managership was quite different to Charlton’s and I’ll look at that in my next instalment of the history of Middlesbrough FC at a later date.

    1. Wow!
      You have stirred some memories there Ken.
      My thoughts are of faded nylon scarf with half of the tassels missing tied around my wrist, Bay City Rollers jumper with three stars, oxford bags and doc martin boots, weak oxo/bovril and listening to the power game while reading the team sheet in the programme that only ever changed if there was an injury.

      1. Old Billy
        That was the longest historical blog I’ve ever written and took me all day to compose it. However, although it does continue the history of Middlesbrough FC, I much prefer it to be known as a nostalgic view of a manager who some regard as Boro’s greatest ever, and one that most of this forum can remember with affection. I’ve always been a fan of the history of this great club, but for most folk it’s difficult for them to associate with as most of it was before any of us were born. However a lot of us remember the Charlton years, and that’s what I tried to convey – memories or nostalgia.

        1. Ken

          That was a really great article and thanks for devoting so much time to doing it

          As I’ve said previously what we have on this blog is camaraderie and friendship as we talk in our virtual pub and no, it’s not my round before everyone gets on to me!

          I hope all these articles and posts will form a history of MFC and we will be remembered for them !



        1. I just knew I’d get copped for another round !!


          Will that do? A virtual round !!!


  97. Simon,

    It is still my opinion that the players I have mentioned (and there are probably more) have not had sufficient game time to assert themselves. In Rhodes case he was moved on and I would bet most fans thought he had a lot to offer at that time.
    I think his “time” at Boro had a detrimental effect on his game and goal scoring prowess and he is yet to fully recover.
    I agree with Werder that a large squad means less game time. The last window didn’t help as we lost 3 accomplished players at this level and their “replacements” have yet to set the Riverside alight. McNair and Saville have showed at other clubs they can perform to a high standard and its up to TP to bring that performance level out. McNair was scoring goals as an attacking midfielder at Sunderland, TP plays him at full back. Saville was scoring goals as an attacking midfielder at Millwall, TP plays him deep.
    I cannot believe these players were purchased to play in the positions TP is playing them. After all, wasn’t it goals from midfield we were lacking?
    Its the square pegging that frustrates me and its being going on for years. Bamford and Stuani are examples of that.
    The players have some responsibility but they cannot show their true form if they are square pegged or watching from the bench.

    1. The Rhodes thing is less a consequence of the coach than of modern football culture’s reluctance to embrace the poacher.

      Chicharito was ridiculously under-utilised at both United and Real Madrid. But he and Rhodes are unfortunate enough to be archetypal goalscorers in an age where the front man needs to be a workhorse, an assist king, a link man or a big hold up man.

      Or you could be like the Spanish and play no forwards at all. Yet still win 4-0.

      1. When Rhodes was scoring for fun at Blackburn or Huddersfield, it would have been a very brave manager that sacrificed his 20-30 goals a season to make way for a hold up man/assist king.
        i do agree that players like Rhodes often need a partner or decent number 10.
        Surely a competent manager would play a system to take advantage of the goal threat, you cannot win games without goals.
        As for Spain, they were football freaks at that time.
        Would TP play without forwards? possibly, but in the wrong half of the pitch.

  98. Great stuff Ken. I think my best day as a Boro fan was coming back on the League Liner with all the fans plus the players and the Second Division Trophy.

  99. Will 15% of season ticket holders send letters to the 1986 committee for a no confidence vote demanding a leadership election and risking a dream ticket of Woodgate and Fleming.
    Can TP expect over 50,% of the vote and a further 12 months of management?
    Will he offer a free pie to go with the pint?
    Will the men in grey suits tap him on the shoulder.
    UK politics is far more exciting than recent Boro games.
    Kay Burley keeps me interested

  100. As football takes a back seat to the media frenzy engulfing the Westminster game show of “I’m Brexiteer get me out of here”, it’s time the politicians moved on and realised there are more important things occupying the public’s minds – such as can Tony Pulis get his team back on track for promotion and can he find a way to get his team to play in a more threatening manner. Anyway, here’s this week’s discussion blog article…

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