Will Gibson show intent before January circus leaves town

Championship 2019-20: Weeks 26-27

Sat  1 Feb – 15:00: Boro v Blackburn
Sat  8 Feb – 15:00: Brentford v Boro
Tue 11 Feb – 19:45: Wigan v Boro

Werdermouth prepares for surprise arrivals and shock departures or neither…

As the January transfer window circus gets ready to head out of town, all that is left are the usual bunch of sad clowns kicking their heels in oversized shoes after failing to persuade desperate clubs that their client’s wage demands were reasonable and the elephant in the room is now wondering why he’s been going round in circles again. Reports that Boro are attempting some death-defying signings without the aid of the safety net that was parachute payments have probably made even the most daring of accountants unable to look.

Still, cries for the jugglers in the recruitment department to be sacked remain unheeded as the Riverside ringmaster tries to get in on the act by introducing his amazing escapologist nephew, who is attempting to free himself from the claret and blue chains that bind him to Sean Dyche. While very few onlookers are left holding their breath, the latest rumours suggest rather than signing our own Harry Houdini, Boro may be welcoming the French-born defender Harold Moukoudi instead – though from Saint-Etienne rather than from from the Cirque du Soleil. OK, it could still be the result of a Googling autocorrect error that got out of hand.

Talking of chains, apparently first-time buyers Boro are being held in one as they hope to gain the signature of Leicester’s Croatian £13m stopper Filip Benkovic, who can seemingly go out loan to get some game-time and test his dodgy knee that has restricted him to just a handful of appearances in the last 12 months – though the cunning Foxes first want to sign a replacement as cover. From a typical Boro perspective it looks like an accident waiting to happen or indeed repeated as news that one January signing has already been sidelined by injury for two months. The exciting and energetic Patrick Roberts looks unlikely to pull on a Boro shirt until April after doing his hamstring (to give it the full medical diagnosis) against Birmingham and will now have little impact on Boro’s fortunes this season.

It seems as the deadline approaches the ambulance chasers at the Boro recruitment ward are being linked with another injury prone player to replace Roberts. Jordan Jones of Rangers is being suggested he will imminently move to Teesside, where he would return to the club he supports and was released by the academy in 2006. A knee injury has restricted Jones to just five appearances this season and it seems the three-games-a-week Championship will more than test his recovery.

Another player now being heavily linked to join Boro is bad boy Ravel Morrison, who at 26 has already been at ten clubs but hasn’t really played that much football in the last five years with just 34 games at five different clubs – 18 of which were down Mexico way for a club in Guadalajara. As a youngster there was no doubting his talent but his attitude has seemingly not made him many friends. From Manchester to London, Birmingham to Wales, Italy to Mexico and Sweden to Sheffield, it seems next stop is Teesside if the players less than cryptic Tweet yesterday of the Boro badge is any indication.

It’s fair to say with all that travelling he comes with plenty of baggage, including some serious off-field problems in his late teens and early twenties, which show being convicted of witness intimidation, several charges of assault (which were later dropped) and being fined by the FA for posting homophobic threats on Twitter. Lazio’s footballing director said of Morrison: “He has undoubted quality and is world class, as well as being a little mad” – while Big Sam described him as “The biggest waste of talent he has worked with.” A career blighted by problems, attitude and injuries, which you could say will add insult to injury to the mix if he does indeed join Boro. Perhaps not the role model our young squad need but possibly a cautionary tale for those who think they have already made it.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Woodgate may be hoping he won’t need to contemplate looking for his old boots under the stairs as defensive options for February could involve variations of a back one and a rush goalie. Though there’s still no news on progress of the Billy Ashcroft style conversion of Rudy Gestede into that towering presence at the back. At least it sounds like Dael Fry has recovered and hopefully he will be sufficiently fit to withstand the busy schedule of 11 games in the next seven weeks.

The Championship it appears has been designed to literally test a squad to destruction and is one that seemingly ignores the pace and rigours of modern football. This is no longer a world dominated by goal poachers and agricultural defenders but now requires players to press, sprint, overlap and cover with high intensity until they have left everything on the pitch – including surely their prospects of a long career. With the season now punctuated by four two-week international breaks, where a significant number of second-tier players at all levels don’t even get a break, it’s meant the need to further squeeze the calendar to fit in 46 league fixtures and two cup competitions – that’s normally a minimum of 50 games for each club with only 35 weekends available. It’s a war of attrition and tiredness has become the great leveller as once again the better teams at the top with more internationals lose their edge as others randomly play catch up.

Whether Boro can still catch up is another matter, that fleeting moment of possibility appears to have passed after those Manager-of-the-Month performances of December have not quite been repeated in January. After not tasting victory since that New Year’s Day win at Preston, Woodgate will probably need to explain to his son Carter that he probably doesn’t need to find any more space on the top of his wardrobe for another one just yet. He could possibly take time to introduce him to the folklore and the curse that often accompanies the award – though that could lead to some nightmares when the young lad sees it emitting an eerie kryptonic green glow in his bedroom at night.

Sadly, a twelve-point gap to sixth place is now looking insurmountable in the remaining 17 games and all but the pathological optimists on Teesside have probably given up hope of reaching the play-offs. To put the task in context, it probably requires 40 points from the remaining 17 games and few teams have ever achieved that in the recent history of the Championship. In case any doubt the veracity of that claim, I’m contractually obliged to throw in a table to prove the point that shows the most points that clubs have achieved since Boro were relegated ten years ago – note: other arbitrary statistically interpretations are available.

Most points gained in the last 17 games since 2009/10
After 29 games After 46 games Points gained
Season Team Position Points Position Points last 17 games
2011/12 Reading 7 46 1 89 43
2015/16 Burnley 3 56 1 93 41
2009/10 Newcastle 1 62 1 102 40
2018/19 Norwich 2 54 1 94 40
2017/18 Fulham 6 48 3 88 40
2019/20 Boro ? 17 35 6 75 40
2014/15 Watford 6 50 2 89 39
2014/15 Norwich 7 47 3 86 39
2018/19 Sheff Utd 4 51 2 89 38
2015/16 Brighton 4 51 3 89 38
2013/14 Burnley 2 56 2 93 37

Boro have been added to the table not out of anticipation but for the simple purpose of demonstrating the contrast in points and position that the other teams had both at this stage and after 46 games. Woodgate’s team currently have 12 points fewer than any team that has managed such a total. Nevertheless, if we were to see Boro ever join that table for real and make around 40 points to reach the play-offs then they’re going to have to come from a very long way back to emulate just a handful of clubs. Teams who can achieve such a sustained run of form appear to be already in contention with a third of the season remaining and probably weren’t relying on makeshift defences or bedding in too many young players and loanees. It’s perhaps even more of a challenge for an injury hit squad that has to now play 11 games in seven weeks. OK, it’s not impossible to make that amount of points but highly improbable a team currently in 17th is going to shoot up the table.

There’s probably an obvious reason why Boro are not closer to the play-offs and that is down to inconsistency and not having the ability to win games when not playing well – or indeed even when playing well. It should be noted that Aston Villa overcame an 11 point deficit with just 12 games to go last season to make the play-offs. They won 10 on the spin of their last 12 games and only lost their final game against Champions Norwich after resting some key players like Jack Grealish once a top-six place was already secured. Boro have already used up all their space for bad runs and would need to win four of their next five games, repeat that twice more and then end with a win and a draw! I don’t think even Ray Winstone would have the nerve to offer any odds on that.

This is the puzzling backdrop to why Boro are keen on adding more high-profile loan signings to what should be geared towards preparing for a better start next season. Try before you buy deals would be a more sensible approach rather than giving pitch time to any players who are not likely to be available or affordable for Boro next term. OK, Woodgate will want to finish as high as possible this season but it shouldn’t be at the expense of limiting his resources to acquire better players in the summer.

At the moment the club are pondering whether they can afford to offer deals to players like Howson and Ayala – though Woodgate sounded confident the former would sign a new contract. Following Marcus Tavernier committing himself to Boro until June 2023, the head coach also seemed to indicate both Djed Spence and Aynsley Pears were also very close to following suit. With Hayden Coulson already on board, together with Dael Fry, Lewis Wing and Ashley Fletcher, it will give Woodgate a good young core of players to build his team around and it will be important that they all get as many games under their belt this season as possible.

Of course, attracting players to Teesside has never been easy and most targets that reach the media before they sign usually never end up happening. Boro have to almost operate in stealth mode to avoid getting gazumped or players hijacked on route to Hurworth. Perhaps the bid for Ben Gibson was the equivalent of the proverbial ‘dead cat on the table’ that is essentially a distraction so Boro can work on their real targets without too much media attention.

OK, avoiding the media pack’s gaze can be difficult and often requires those involved to operate covertly. Boro could possibly learn from the latest takeover at Newcastle, where Mike Ashley is said to be furious that news of the deal has leaked into the media before it has been agreed. It’s not yet clear how the media twigged that the consortium involved were planning on buying the famous black-and-white shirted club as the whole deal had operated under an impenetrable codename. OK, perhaps ‘Project Zebra’ was barely enough to fool some of the working-lunch tabloid journos but at least they opted against adding the word ‘Crossing’ at the end.

Nevertheless, now that the people behind takeover have been outed, there is unease that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is one of them. You may recall it was reported he was recently behind the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi, whose body was then gruesomely chopped up and disposed of. Indeed, the charge sheet doesn’t stop there and you could easily add a whole list of crimes and human rights abuses from extra-judicial killings, financing a proxy war in Yemen, persecution of LGBT people in his own country and much more.

The prospect of such a person owning their club seems not to be an issue for most Newcastle supporters, with a poll showing 80 percent in favour – especially after the group indicated that they planned to make £200m available for transfers and possibly re-instate Rafa as manager. The Northern Echo reported that Michael Martin, from the Newcastle fanzine True Faith, said “The lure of a strengthened squad and the chance of a place in Europe means many fans would look beyond the issues surrounding human rights. If the Saudis took over at Newcastle, I seriously doubt there would be any local outcry… They would be welcomed not so much with open arms but with an unparalleled euphoria.” It’s also possible that the threat of the ‘bone saw’ may encourage the likes of Andy Carrol to stay fit.

All of which tells us that in the world of football today it’s only money that talks and nothing else seems to matter. Newcastle fans merely see Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as their lottery ticket to becoming the next Manchester City. As to how he will pass the Premier League’s ‘Fit and Proper Person’ test will be interesting. I can imagine the meeting where the suits weigh up the evidence… “OK, on the downside he’s responsible for the murder of quite a few people, oppressed the population and is financing a brutal war – though on the plus side he’s got a personal fortune of $17bn and his extended family is worth over $2 trillion. Sounds like just the kind of man we’re looking to attract.” You may as well abolish the test if this deal goes through as what would somebody have to do to fail?

Owning a football club has become a way for very rich dubious people to add a veneer of respectability to their image. 15 of the 20 clubs in the Premier League are already owned by billionaires, even half-a-dozen of the Championship clubs are owned by billionaires. Steve Gibson with his personal fortune estimated at $263m is now one of the ‘poorest’ owners in the top two divisions – with only Millwall’s owners listed as worth less. I suspect the pressure to water down FFP rules will grow as the power of the wealthy usually exceeds the will of those who regulate.

Anyway, back to the actual football and Boro resume their business on the pitch this Saturday as they welcome a couple of local heroes back to Teesside with former manager Tony Mowbray and the head coach’s brother-in-law Stewart Downing. Downing claimed this week that him moving was the best for everyone and especially his friend Jonathan Woodgate. Though while he says he loving life at Blackburn under Mogga, he announced that he won’t celebrate if he scores – well I’m not sure given his less than prolific strike-rate (average of two goals per season at Boro and just one so far at Blackburn) he should spurn the opportunity to do a knee slide towards the Red Faction and turn his back and point to his name. Still, I hope he doesn’t include OGs in that statement as he will surely get to hear “there’s only one Stewy Downing” if he does. After winning their last two games, including 5-0 against Garry Monk’s Owls, Rovers are now just 4 points off the play-offs in tenth place. Woodgate will be hoping that only one of the Teesside-born former-central-defender-turned-gaffer is left smiling come five-o-clock – and preferably the current one.

The following weekend sees Boro make the trip to Brentford to take on a Thomas Frank’s side that are currently occupying a play-off place in fifth spot. Their 1-0 defeat at the hands of Forest ended a run of six-successive victories at Griffin Park, including wins over Fulham and Swansea – plus that 7-0 thrashing of Luton. It will not be an easy task for Boro to come away with three points as not only have the Bees conceded the fewest number of goals in the Championship, they are also the fourth highest scorers and subsequently have the best goal-difference.

Next up is the first midweek game of the month as Boro are once again on their travels as they head to Wigan. Paul Cook’s side are currently in the relegation zone. Their win over Birmingham on New Year’s Day ended a run of 13 games without victory and they picked up another three points last time out against Sheffield Wednesday. The Lactics are currently nine points behind Boro and four from safety and it’s a game Woodgate will want to win to put an even healthier distance between the clubs. The reverse fixture back in August saw Woodgate achieve his first win as Boro head coach with a narrow 1-0 victory thanks to a first-half headed goal from Britt Assombalonga – perhaps the DR Congo striker will hope to repeat the task if he’s back from injury.

So as rumours come and go and targets become no longer of interest, it’s difficult to predict how the squad will look come 23:00 on Friday evening. If past experiences are anything to go by then probably not much different as last-minute hitches and changes of mind mean business wasn’t able to be completed. As I type this sentence, there’s still no sign of Ben Gibson, Harold Moukoudi is still heading to Teesside to be toughen up, Ravel Morrison hasn’t as yet unravelled, Leicester have signed a replacement to unblock Filip Benkovic, Jordan Jones is possibly still on his Jack, the lad from Shrewsbury who looked good on TV against Liverpool is still being linked with everyone and apparently Boro are in for 20-year old wonder-kid from Argentina. Still no offers for Gestede and Villa have yet to panic and offer £10m for Britt…

316 thoughts on “Will Gibson show intent before January circus leaves town

  1. Great read, Werder, as always.

    About the last sentence, RR has just reported; “There are hints that Metz are trying to put something together for the services of Gestede which I’m guessing will be dependent upon how much SG wants to pay up whats left of his contract and how much Metz are prepared to contribute.” Unbelievable!

    Up the Boro!

  2. Werder,

    A summing of considerable length and quality. I love the part about ‘Teesside’s pathological optimists’, presumably you meant both of them?

    The questions around the International Breaks are correct, FFP and the Mags welcoming a despot to replace to replace Mike Ashley is intriguing. I’d have gone for Hitler, less controversial and at least he could address a crowd and get them wound up. Operation Zebra Crossing. Excellent.

    Keep it up and Redcar Red to look forward to tomorrow, fantastic.



  3. Thanks Werder, excellent as ever.

    If we are to recruit anyone before the January circus leaves town, I suggest that we be brave and go for the juggler.

  4. Thanks Werder. Loved your article today. Great reading.
    I wonder what circus would be involved ie ‘Billy Smarts Circus’ or ‘Chipperfields Circus. In Boros case I guess it would be ‘Fred Carnos Circus.😂😂

    1. How difficult can it be to demand from your scouts a written eye witness account of the last dozen matches played by your latest target, and yes I do mean in the last couple of months.
      It is sickening the we are thinking of signing players who are crocks, still trying to get back to fitness, After a long and serious injury. They are going to drag us down if we are not careful.
      I will not even think about the bad boy with spectacular talent who has spent six? Seasons misbehaving (and how!) can I tell you now that he cannot rescue his life, it’s gone, and will not be returning.
      I despair.

      1. Talking to one of the scouts recently from Boro and most of the evaluation is done using computer technology and statistics.

        If the stats add up then the scouts attend matches and usually watch at least three games by which time they have enough data including videos of games to evaluate players

        Don’t forget these guys are not having a game of play station and if they don’t perform they are out…..

        Tongue 😛 in cheek


      2. I would imagine with Ravel Morrison it would depend on what kind of terms he comes on. I would imagine it’s based on appearances/short term, with the possibility of a contract if he can redeem himself.

        1. Morrison only signed a one year deal with Sheff Utd so he’s a free agent in the summer – it could either be a try before you buy deal or he’s lookingn to put himself in the shop window. If he does really well I guess bigger clubs will offer him more than what Boro can.

      3. Only signing a one year deal and yet moving on only half way through that year to start again at yet another Club isn’t a great line on his ever burgeoning CV.

  5. At least we have now signed a centre back on loan. He is 191 cm tall (is it nearly 6 feet 4 inches?) . Not a monster as I am 1 cm taller, but hope he a bit better than me in defending. Mind, I still play twice weekas a defender.

    A full International and some experience at the highest level with Le Havre in France.

    Well done, Boro. Let’s see if we can see another arrival today.

    Up the Boro!

  6. This made me laugh…

    Manchester United are nervously awaiting a reply after reports in Argentina claimed Middlesbrough had also made a move for their latest striker target, San Lorenzo striker Adolfo Gaich.

    Apparently he’s rated at £10m so I wonder what the deal Boro are offering is.

  7. Thanks Werder for putting a smile on my face before the Saturday look of dread takes over.
    I agree with you about giving the young players a run out in preparation for next season particularly Wood’s omission when we need our midfield players in midfield. Perhaps Moukoudi will freeup one of them and Wood will get some more time as a sub.

    1. Cheers David, hopefully you’ll still be smiling at the final whistle. I think Boro are building a decent young team that should improve with time – though I was surprised to see Patrick Reading leave the club permanently yesterday, which probably means Woodgate has decided left wing-back will become Coulson with cover from Bola in the coming seasons.

  8. Moukoudi looks like a reasonable call but Morrison seems to be a bit of a leap of faith. Can he give us four good months? Maybe. I don’t know enough about him to understand his fractured career.


    1. I’ve not seen anything of Moukoudi but Woodgate has described him as “A unit of a defender, a real big, strong lad, and he’s a quality player” – however, his manager at Saint-Etienne said that he’s been sent on loan to England for six months (although only really three months of the season left) to toughen up. So I’m not sure what ‘toughen up’ means in practice or whether he’s a gentle giant that needs to show more aggression rather than being the monster his physical appearance indicates.

      We won’t really know until he’s played a few games but in the end Saint-Etienne want him back so he’s really only a short-term fix player to see us through until the injured defenders return. Once Ayala is fit, I don’t see the point of playing Moukoudi ahead of him, Fry or Howson – who I believe has become one of our best defenders and doubt he’ll be returning to midfield where we are well covered.

  9. Thanks Werder for another enjoyable and informative read.

    I am also of the view that a top six place is beyond us but not yet convinced that we are safe. The 2 home draws and defeat to Fulham means we are now only 9 points clear of the bottom three (3 wins v 3 defeats) and we are back in the mire.

    Given the possibility of the curse of the old boys’ (Mowbray, Graham & Downing) a defeat tomorrow could see us slipping back toward the relegation dogfight which we thought we had escaped a few weeks ago.

    We have lost our recently recruited play maker and it will take time to get our new loanees up to speed whilst hoping they don’t get injured so there is still a lot to play for in my view.

    I, like you, am confused as to exactly what is the rationale for taking players on loan without a purchase clause, or who we cannot afford, and who will be returning to their parent clubs at the end of the season.

    What exactly are we gaining? Surely we should be playing those players who will be with us next year and seeking to save funds to use towards making offers to those player with expiring contracts we want to retain. Perhaps it’s me but this doesn’t make sense.

    As for tomorrow, Boro 0-1 Blackburn just to set Boro supporters nerves jangling again and to keep us safe on the edge of our seats until the end of the season.

    We need to remember, we never do anything the easy way! 😎

    1. Thanks KP, I think Boro would even surpass themselves if they ended up in a relegation fight again. Usually nine points takes a long time for teams at the bottom to accumulate and I suspect three more wins will make us safe. Though the sooner we get those points the sooner we can concentrate on playing those who are going to be around next season.

  10. Time will tell with this window. The actual positions filled are what we needed. Roberts has already done really well but obviously is out for 8 weeks now. I suspect Morrison was a back-up who they went back to after Roberts’ injury. Anything could happen with him but not being able to get in to a Sheffield Utd team that is doing so well isn’t much of a black mark. It sounds like he has kept his head down and worked hard so maybe he’s grown up.
    Don’t know much about Moukoudi and to be honest I would have preferred James Chester but if he gets McNair back in midfield that’s a positive. New keeper as a back up seems reasonable enough. Finally Nmecha has shown potential and some nice touches.
    On paper and given our finances they all seem like reasonable signings. The main problem I see is that if the loanees do really well we won’t be able to afford them next season and potentially starting a match with 4 loan players makes it hard to build a team. This is probably in part because Bola and Browne have both failed so far. Dijksteel may work out but is now a back-up for Spence at best.
    On the positive side, I am looking forwards to seeing what these players can do. We have a youthful and energetic looking side full of players who like to get forwards. It’s been a while since we could say that.

    1. I’d probably agree that we needed a centre-back to cover for the injured players until they are fit and allow McNair back into midfield – which given he will probably be subject to offers in the summer, I think keeping him in his preferred position is better for Woodgate in persuading him his future is at Boro.

      Although, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to bring in Morrison, who has hardly played much football in the last five years and send out Browne on loan, who we signed in the summer to do a similar job. Perhaps Boro see Morrison as playing for a contract and want to see if he still has it – if he ever did. The problem is that his last four clubs have turned down the chance to sign him on a longer-term basis because of a combination of reasons ranging from fitness, attitude and fitting in. In footballing terms, he’s may be one of those players a bit like Tuncay who doesn’t really fit into a particular position but looks good in bursts.

  11. Great read Werder and a slight shift in delivery. Less laughs and a more serious theme, but one that is totally on trend.

    Morrison will prove that nothing has changed in spite of JW take. The CB, well we certainly need one, two even. The new lad should be reasonably match fit and with a couple of training sessions hopefully he will be ready to step into the breach.

    I can see another disappointment tomorrow with a defeat against Tony’s team. Then we will have Woodgate saying the difference was Downing.

    1. Thanks Pedro, yes it was a bit of mixture of things that are concerning and others that are just waiting to be exploited. I hope you’re wrong about tomorrow but I’ve just discovered I can only watch the first half as Mrs Werder has inadvertently booked an early table for dinner with her parents 🙁 Still, I’m hoping for a great first half and then ‘game management’ in the second 45.

      1. It’s very bright this morning in Middlesbrough but also very breezy and a swirling wind which will make passing the ball in a controlled manner very difficult

        I’ve often seen weather like this which generally calms down by the afternoon and the Riverside does afford some protection on the pitch.

        Blackburn are a very efficient side and it will be an interesting game and unfortunately I don’t think we’ll win !

        What I do want to see today is a competent display from the match officials rather than the pantomime performance at out last home game which seems a long time ago now.

        There is an interesting piece about Morrison in the Gazette which is worth reading and although a lot of managers have tried and failed to make him into a player it sometimes just takes a spark of genius to turn a game. Let’s not prejudge but the jury is definitely out.

        Oh and before I go …..…


        Sorry can’t help it !


  12. I reckon that the loaners are there to fill a gap and see us safe whilst our younger players go out and get some much-needed practice. Hopefully that will see them come back as Lewis Wing did ready to stake a claim for a senior place.

    If you look at all the players that we now have out on loan there is a lot of potential there and one can see the so-called golden thread. That doesn’t mean that they will all come back as stars but, looking at these placements plus the salary savings that will happen after this season, there does appear to be a football and economic logic behind what the club is trying to do.


  13. Of all the players that we sent out on loan yesterday I’m surprised to see that Reading to Stevenage was actually a full transfer. He to me looked the most likely to next step up in the same way that Coulson and Spence have. The ones that have actually gone out on loan are now at the age and stage of their careers where they need to prove to be something special or they get moved out permanently. Out of them all Reading was the only one that looked to me like he could make the step up, the others I’m afraid don’t inspire me, however they now have the opportunity to prove me wrong.

    Elsewhere I see that Wolves have signed the young lad Luke Matheson from Rochdale that I talked about a while back on here and as I suggested at the time loaned him straight back to Rochdale. They have allegedly paid a million for him which is quite a wedge but if he continues to show the potential that he has so far then it will be a very shrewd and astute investment by Wolves. His age and talent shown to date compared with the older youngsters we have sent out on loan are in very stark contrast.

    With the closure of the window I’m not seeing the “golden thread” at all with Boro, what I see is more of a stained patchwork quilt. It looks like a window that is intended to limp us towards the Summer when because of contracts expiring will mean a massive recruitment drive. Based on the recruitment strategy of last Summer and its total and utter ineffectiveness and the seeming hell bent intent this week in bringing back Ben Gibson when the Club is currently doing the exact opposite in trying to shift out players with big wage demands then I struggle to see any coherent thread, golden or otherwise at all.

    I was hopeful that the Moukoudi deal had an option to buy but apparently it doesn’t which leaves me confused as to the point of it plus I doubt we could have afforded the £10m or so in any case. Surely it would have made more sense to bring in a more experienced CB on loan with knowledge of English Football to assist with the development of our current young Keeper, young Wing Backs and even young Fry? Maybe the return of Friend and Shotton is seen as the experience needed but their fitness records and indeed Ayala’s would scream the exact opposite to me.

    Moving on Randolph and acquiring a budget replacement made commercial sense. Roberts and Nmecha made sense, especially if we could have shifted Britt or Gestede out so they are positives but bringing in a player with a record of nine Managers in eight years and with it a highly questionable attitude and work ethic sends out all the wrong signals on too many levels. In desperately trying to find one the positive may be that he can now “resurrect” his career for the second, third, no fourth, no fifth, maybe sixth or is it seventh…………………………..

    1. Yes I mentioned earlier that I was surprised to see Patrick Reading leave the club but I suspect Woodgate has decided left wing-back will be between Coulson and Bola under him and Reading will in all likelihood not get a look in.

      Also with Britt now fit again, Boro now have one striker too many and I wonder if Nmecha will start more than others. Morrison is just a high-risk gamble that we probably shouldn’t expect to pay off if it’s based on what has passed in the last five years.

    2. RR, I think that Moukoudi was probably the only real option available to us. Chester May have been better, but possibly he preferred Stoke as it is closer to home.
      I am pleased Ben did not arrive.

      What will be interesting, is to note the two lads Brentford brought in from Oxford and follow their progress.

    3. RR
      A very good summing up of the position as to the running(using the word loosely) of this club.
      The Ravel Morrison story is a classic of it’s kind, so good that Man Utd moved heaven and earth to cure him of his (very) bad habits, and failed, passed up the chance (slight) of many tens of millions, and let him go to the first of a long line of hopefuls.
      After many clubs, some world famous, have failed, we finally decide that we can cure him and restore him to the great game as a bona fide star.
      If that happens, there will be a special place in football heaven reserved for us.
      Of course it means that we are behaving as a recovery ward for the badly disabled.
      Gaza, anyone? Or Mido? It fair takes the mind back.
      In the meantime we are denying a place in the team to our youngsters, who are really looking good, plus our young centre back and striker, who should as a matter of urgency be in every match whilst we are looking safe (for the moment)

  14. In the midst of all the activity yesterday the FA have announced their punishments on Boro and Birmingham. Leo has been given a two-match touchline ban and fined £3,000, Boro have been fined £7,500 and Brum fined £9,000. The Birmingham coach Sean Rush, (formerly one of Garry Monk’s Boro backroom team) was banned for one match and fined £2,000.

    The cynic in me suggests that the FA wanted this one leaked out and quietly slipped under the carpet rather than announce it as a warning to other clubs due to the absolute incompetence from the four Officials who were supposedly in charge that afternoon.

    1. Cheers MW, I’ve just watched the video with its nostalgic tone- I wonder how the youngsters will be viewing the town in 20 years time when the steel industry is probably only something their grandparents talk about. Perhaps Middlesbrough will have a super-modern train station with HS3 running to it and MFC will be owned by wealthy Chinese billionaires who trade from a huge Teesport complex.

  15. I am underwhelmed by the signing of Morrison who in the last eight years has had about 10 clubs. He has not been a success at any of them and has played very few games. Indeed his career has been the exact opposite of what you would want plus his attitude and antics off the pitch have been unprofessional.
    Perhaps signing him is some kind of reverse psychology to instil into the young players how not to develop your talents and become a good and reliable footballer.

    I feel today will be a very tough game as Blackburn are on a good run of results and I feel Boro will miss the attacking runs of Roberts.

  16. I reckon Boro will struggle today and an OFB would be good result. I think the pre-Christmas momentum has dissipated somewhat and it will be a hard game against a good side.

    Optimistically 2 – 2

    Pessimistically 1 – 2 and that’s what I’m going for.



  17. I am happy we kept Assombalonga. For the past ten years we have not had such a good pair of attachers. I love Fletcher and look forward to seeing him and Britt together today.

    Well, let’s hope Britt is available after injury. Up the Boro!

  18. I would have liked Paddy Reading to have gone on loan so that over the summer he and Bola could fight it out for back-up to Coulson but I can imagine there are good reasons for letting him go.

    Today will be a tough one. First game of the rest of the season. We still have most of our defence out and it doesn’t seem wise putting the new signings straight in. I can see a 2-2 draw or 2-1 win to us. Team wise, assuming Fry is fit I suspect we’ll play 3 at the back because I think Woodgate doesn’t think that Howson and McNair are good enough to play as part of a back 2. I also suspect that Britt will be back in.
    Spence Howson McNair Fry Coulson
    Wing Saville Tav
    Britt Fletcher
    Subs: Big Boi, Moukoudi, Wood, Clayton, Ravel/Johnson, Nmecha, Gestede

  19. Off topic at the moment, but Liverpool have made a statement that they will play a team of Academy players in the FA Cup replay against Shrewsbury on Tuesday. I grew up at a time when the FA Cup especially the Final were fixtures that I looked
    forward to. Nowadays with matches in the 5th Round being scheduled for midweek, Semifinals now being played at Wembley and the Final kickoff time not yet being confirmed, no wonder it has lost its appeal. But nowadays we have many clubs who play a team made up of mainly Academy players. I feel that this is disrespectful to the oldest Cup competition in the World. It predates the Football League by 16 years and certainly in my youth often produced the highest attendances of the season. I’m aware that this does help the minnows to cause upsets, but even these are devalued compared to what used to happen in the past when the exploits of Port Vale and York City
    thrilled the nation by beating First Division clubs who played their strongest teams.

    What is the answer to bring back former glories? A one year ban in the following season? Or even a 10 point deduction in the League for Premier League clubs who fail to play their strongest team? I haven’t got the answer, but it’s a crying shame what was once the finest competition in the World is now a competition only classed as the third competition by the top clubs in this Country. I might add that the players still hold the FA Cup in high regard, but seemingly not the clubs.

  20. Team news: Only one surprise really with Johnson starting ahead of Coulson, who is on the bench. Fry is thankfully fit to start. Also on the bench is the return of Britt Assombalonga.

    Starting XI: Pears, Spence, Howson, McNair, Fry, Johnson, Saville, Wing, Tavernier, Nmecha, Fletcher.

    Subs: Mejias, Wood, Coulson, Clayton, O’Neill, Gestede, Assombalonga

  21. I’ve been full on for a while here, so only just caught up with reading this all today. Thanks for the headline article Werder. On point as always.
    As for today, I’m fancying the Boro to start another run of good results. So 2-0 is.

  22. A poor match lacking quality from both sides. Too many misplaced passes and a lack of cutting edge in the final third. A draw was probably about right give both teams missed gilt edged chances.

    We looked much more potent one Coulson came on but his introduction was too late. Johnson should have been substituted in my view as he had a poor game. Tav made little impact and both Fletcher and Nmecha lacked any decent service.

    Gestede should have scored and sealed a win but missed an easy chance as he did some seasons ago at Wolves!

    Gap to top six is widening whilst the one to the bottom three has narrowed to seven.

    Another defeat next week at a rampaging Brentford could put us back under pressure and will need us to get a result at Wigan. 😎

  23. I will remember the words, if you cant win dont lose. As far as I am concerned keep collecting points, I was disappointed with our friends down the road. I like the dirties losing but not against Wigan.

    Plenty of work still to do this season..

  24. Just back from an evening out with the in-laws, which appears to be a theme Redcar Redcar has also hooked onto too. Since I only caught the first half of the game before heading out, I was unsure what to expect at the final whistle. Luckily there was something waiting in my inbox when I got home, especially since I’m now heading straight to bed ahead of an early start tomorrow for a trip to Miniature Land in Hamburg – which is not exactly a small town in Europe. Anyway, here’s the view of the man who also has the right perspective – it’s Redcar Red and his match report…


  25. Thanks RR – I enjoyed reading the report and I also enjoyed the game – football is getting better and hopefully results will follow soon enough.

    I am in Teesside for the Luton game and arranged my family zone tickets for my wife and youngest to have their first Boro match and of course yours truly to supervise things.

    The team at the Boro ticket and hospitality office were excellent and very helpful, it was a joy to speak with such committed and customer focused staff

    So if the team deliver there will be 2 new supporters blooded for the next 20 years or so. We shall be sneaking in Allan the Mia cat and little Boro Ted .

    Incidentally little Boro Ted has been with us for 25 years and has travelled a lot to odd games including Wembley. Never seen a Boro win though . . maybe this will be his first.

  26. Redcar Red,

    Thank you for the report and as usual a report that is an accurate reflection of the game. From what you have described Boro do seem somewhat profligate with their chances.

    I feel that your phrase ‘halfway to somewhere and halfway to nowhere’ sums things up very nicely.

    I know some supporters had a brief burst of hysteria about reaching the play-offs but Boro appear to be in about the right place. They now need to maintain that position because even that represents an opportunity. At the point safety is reached surely we can blood some of the promising reserves in meaningful games rather rather than cameos in friendlies with no points at stake.

    Many thanks,



  27. Many thanks RR for another brilliant report. Can we give you a pay rise.
    On another note the love in between JW an SD continues. Now he wants to club to take on SD as part of the academy. No thanks.

  28. Informative and honest appraisal of the match RR and as John above says…….great line with your accurate position Boro now find themselves in……….halfway from somewhere and halfway to nowhere. It could not be more true and in truth I just do not see it changing that much come the summer.

    We had chances to win at the end, but then so did Blackburn and arguably the better opportunities overall. Our service to the front two was once more very limited with what little that did come from the left wing poor, although I have to say they did not do themselves justice. Time and again Johnson did all the hard bit to gain space thenthe majority of his deliveries were left wanting. Spence, well was that his worst game for the Boro?

    Midfield is still an area of concern even if you include Mcnair and Howson in there.The lack of pace is so obvious as is the ability to track and tackle. Wing our best passer of the ball gets bypassed at times as though he is not there and should be further up the pitch and not in front of the defence. The other MF players are no better and that showed for the Blackburn goal. They sliced through our MF and CB´s with ease and as much as Mcnair and Howson have done OK, when it comes to position and tackling they look like Midfielders. As has been said before, we need to find a young Leadbitter or Clayton.

    Hopefully we have sufficient ability in the squad to keep us out of a bottom end dog fight. However unless we play to our top form and brentford have an off day, there should only be one ending there.
    After Brentford we then have three games against teams below us, before we play Leeds at home, and two are away. Must win games or certainly not defeats. The season could yet get a little twitchy.

  29. Thanks RR for another excellent report on a match which was similar to many this season in that it highlighted our deficiencies more than it did our strengths.

    A lack of composure and quality in the final third and an inability to hit the target regularly. We do at least seem to have discovered an ability to fight back when we go behind which has not always been a renowned Boro trait.

    I agree with Pedro in that this appeared to be Spence’s poorest game and I just wonder if he is running out of steam.

    When we have all of our defenders fit I would like to see Coulson in a left midfield/winger role rather than a wingback; he has pace, trickery and delivers a much better ball than Johnson who in my view can be let go at the end of the season as he is too inconsistent.

    Still much work to do before we are safe, we need to be wary of the fact that often teams feeling comfortable get dragged down into the mire toward the end of the season. 😎

  30. Our run of fixtures up to April represent an opportunity to pick up some points especially if we get Shotton and Friend back with Moukoudi available. Resting Spence isn’t an option as there are no alternatives but with those above three available it gives options at the back.

    Being the Championships second lowest scorers after Wigan illustrates our problems highlighted by yesterday’s finishing. Nmecha along with Roberts would have been a positive change but the injury to Roberts has dented that one and the lack of any creativity was screamingly obvious until Coulson came on. Woodgate has always wanted four at the back and I suspect that the fact his best results have come with three will not deter his vision. Playing Spence and Coulson further up as Wingers with a back four with Shotton/Howson as RB and Friend/Johnson as LB may be the way forward for him.

    Strikers usually miss more than they score (something like 4/5 or even 6 chances per goal) and our distinct lack of goals at the moment are making all those misses more focused. Fletcher looks the better finisher now for me and Nmecha seems to offer far more pace and movement so I’m afraid that for me Britt would be third in line and Gestede bringing up the rear.

    I would keep Johnson, he offers flexibility and can play in a few roles and is good enough at this level as a squad player. I would also assume that his salary isn’t on stratospheric levels and to my knowledge hasn’t been a problem to manage. Brentford away and Leeds (who are falling apart again) at home aside the fixtures coming up have some winnable games so long as we score goals. Failure to start picking up three points will mean squeaky bums come April.

    1. Agree with keeping Johnson RR, if he resigns on a reasonable pay structure. Whilst the 3mil we paid for him was too high, what do you get for 1 or 2 mill in the current market.

      We will probably lose a good number of players come the summer and like it or not, we will probably have to use the loan market to beef up the squad numbers and try and get some quality in that is missing now.

      I think we could lose McNair and if we can get our money back OK. Ayala I would let go if we can negotiate an early CB loan or a reasonable younger purchase like Bristol did with Webster @ 3mil I believe. What we should be doing of course is following Brentford and see who they are looking at!!

      Overall though I think there could be a large-ish turnover with comings and goings, something that won´t please Jarkko.

    2. RR
      Interesting point about strikers needing 6 shots to one hit.
      Sums up our set up and general attitude. We probably get the exact percentage of goals we should for the shots we have, for I have never seen a more shot shy team than us.

  31. I thought Johnson was OK, to my untrained eye, admittedly he didn’t deliver once he was passed his man but then I thought he was academy. Now I realise we paid for him and his salary is high then maybe not quite the real deal.

    But then don’t our coaching staff improve players and work on their weaknesses?

  32. Already back from the day-trip to Miniature Land, which didn’t take that long to visit as it wasn’t as big as we thought… Anyway, many thanks to RR for the match report, especially for providing an excellent summary of the second half, which I missed. To be honest after the bitty first half, which neither team managed to get the football flowing, I didn’t really mind having to miss the second 45.

    Sounds like it was the usually story of not taking our opportunities and getting punished – though at least Boro made another comeback of sorts. I was surprised Coulson didn’t start ahead of Johnson when I saw the teamsheet, so it was typical that he made the difference when he came on.

    Another point at home is not really what Boro needed and we’ll see from the next two away games if they can pick up some more on the road. Nevertheless, 14 points behind sixth place looks like any play-off talk can be put to rest – as for relegation talk? Still too early to start to get worried but we need another win and preferably at Wigan.

    Although, the season does have that feel of not having that much to play for unless you fear getting dragged into a relegation fight – but after only losing 2 from the last 10 it doesn’t make that a realistic worry as yet.

    1. 14 points from the Play Offs and now just 7 points from the trapdoor means that we are in danger of subconsciously sliding back down the table. No use beating West Brom and Preston away and then drawing your last four home fixtures (albeit one being Premiership opposition). Derby and Birmingham were teams in and around us and those are points dropped, Blackburn was another that could be considered winnable if we could beat West Brom and Preston. All in all the December Manager of the Month award had the usual effect. Is it a case of Managers believing their own hype?

      No need to panic just yet but at the moment going down seems more likely than going up. Do loan players really care passionately about what happens when they can walk away in June? Time will tell. As Thomas Dylan would say “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”. Lets hope that Morrison delivers half the hype that Woodgate enthused over him, I suspect he going to need it.

      1. Yes draws are of no use when it comes to climbing the table and while normally a point a game should keep your gap to the bottom three intact as that is what they average over a season. However, the slight problem is that Wigan have now won three of their last five games and both teams were to continue in that vein then there would be only one outcome.

        Though it seems they were lucky at Leeds, who had nearly 80 percent possession and conceded an own goal to continue their annual mid-season slump.

  33. On Saturday Boro’s unbeaten home run was extended to ten matches in all competitions, Boro’s unbeaten home run was extended to ten matches in all competitions.

    Now we need to convert some draws into wins and we will be safe. But at least it is much nicer to watch the matches than when Pulis was here.

    Up the Boro!

  34. Looking at next matches. We are currently 14th in the form table. https://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/championship/formtabelle/wettbewerb/GB2

    About to play away at Brentford (2nd in form table) then away at Wigan (7th in form table). That would look like 2 losses especially as we probably won’t have any of our long-term injured back by then but I suspect that Wigan are just having one of those doomed team bounces which will peter out, ideally when they play us.

    The key matches are those against Barnsley (22nd) and Luton (23rd) in the form table. If we don’t win both of those, we’re sliding back into trouble.

    My personal feeling is that Woodgate has shown potential to be a good manager but it’s going to take a sustained run of decent results for the rest of the season (say 24 points from the last 16 games) to show that the December purple patch wasn’t just a fluke.

  35. In this crazy Championship Boro have dropped down from the form team of the League to the 14th in a matter of weeks. However Leeds have accumulated only 9 points from their last 9 matches and West Brom only 8. It’s far too early in the season for the leaders to get the promotion wobbles, that usually happens with only about 5 or 6 matches remaining. I would not be surprised though to see both of them miss out on automatic promotion with Fulham and Nottm Forest ending the season in the top two places. But then of course those two teams might get the wobbles with 6 matches to go which makes
    the form of last season’s promoted clubs even more impressive especially Villa’s.

    However it’s much rarer for those clubs fighting relegation to go on a long unbeaten run so another 3 wins should see Boro safe
    from relegation although I wouldn’t bank on Boro winning at Wigan, Barnsley or Charlton just yet which makes it imperative that Boro remain at least unbeaten for the rest of the season at the Riverside, but I’d be happier if we turned some of those remaining home matches into wins.

  36. I don’t think Joe Gibson is related to the other Gibsons (stand to be corrected) but he does seem a propsect – signed his first pro contract in November and still part of the u18s.

    I also see Calum Kavanagh (son of Graham) scored again for the u18s at the weekend (whilst still being a member of the u16s) so one to keep an eye on.

    We could conceivably have a future team containing Kavanagh, Liddle, Pears and (Wood) Gordon – the 90s revisited!

    1. Browne undoubtedly has skill as even West Ham fans were surprised they sold him to us but he also seemingly has a self destruct button that he must learn to control. He is 22 years old now and his future career will likely be determined this year. He will either come back to Boro and start again in next seasons Championship, older and hopefully a little bit wiser showing what he has to offer or he continues as a League One level Player. One of the best at that level but not good enough to make the step up.

      The same goes for Bola although I can’t see him playing at Championship level in the future. His performances were wayward at best and often looked lost and out of position. Still Adama often suffered with the same malaise and has done alright since joining Wolves but he had skills and bags of pace in his kit-bag, neither of which it appears Bola possesses.

      1. Bola did indeed look lost at left-back but I think if we’d just signed Dael Fry in the summer we might have come to similar conclusions based on his first 4/5 appearances this year once fit.

        Bola looked to me like he does have pace but obviously not Traore-pace. No-one but Adama has that kind of speed.

    2. I get the impression that Browne may be the kind of player whose head goes when things don’t work out. Being a big fish in a small pool at Oxford may be as good as it gets for him.
      Then again, like Bola, he had to make an impact at a time in the season when the whole team was falling apart so both Browne and Bola may have been made to look worse than they were.
      They are both the kinds of player that you want to see succeed. Hopefully they’ll do well on loan and come back to a team that is more stable.

      1. Andy/Deleriad both fair points!

        The team was certainly disorganised and chaotic tactically back then so it would be difficult for anyone to look half decent in all that confusion. Fry definitely would have been castigated a lot more had he not been a “known” quantity and of course “one of our own”. With Browne I do sense something deep within if only he can control his frustrations and keep his mental focus.

        With Bola he didn’t look physically strong enough to be a dominant defender at this level but nor did we see any speed or skills in getting up and down the flanks in the way that we have with Coulson and Spence. He lost the man he was marking more times than enough, in fact it would be difficult to make a case for who he was actually supposed to be picking up. Given a straight choice I’d have kept Reading and sold/released Bola personally.

        Hopefully him returning on loan to Blackpool may give him time to readjust, take a breather out of the Riverside spotlight and come back a far better player. I just don’t see what our scouts must have seen. I suspect it went along the lines of “we need a young low cost left back with potential future resale value”. After a google trawl through the two lower leagues a shortlist of Left Backs under 23/24 years old was compiled and it was noted that Bola was the Blackpool Player of the season so an offer was made that was based on nothing more than a desperate cheap speculative punt.

        There again of course Bola may have been extensively and exhaustively scouted, watched, researched in minute detail and tracked before being lauded in that infamous and by now disconcerting “PowerPoint presentation” (and I’m pretty sure that some on Teesside will still believe it). It was pretty clear that the Gazette believed it all so it must have been true, mustn’t it?

  37. I am probably one of the few (or only one) that saw potential in Bola, from the few games he had at the Riverside, to me there one or two glimpses of what could be. As been stated above, the team ,at the time, was not particularly playing well so I am not so eager to judge him yet. Going to Blackpool on loan will, hopefully, get his confidence back and return a stronger player even if it is for him to be a squad player as cover for injuries.

    Come on BORO.

  38. MFC website were advising that JW wanted GF to have another week training before playing which he may do this weekend with the U18s at Bishop Auckland. 😎

  39. A shout out for last night’s episode of Inside No 9, a football related piece with a superb performance by David Morrissey as a football referee. Should greatly appeal to most contributors to the blog on catch-up if you missed it.

  40. As I’m unlikely to see my Boro play live anymore except on TV I thought I’d like to share with everyone on this forum the best eleven players I’ve seen wear the Boro shirt in the three quarters of a century which I hope to reach in September 2022. I’ll leave it others to decide the formation but here’s my selection:- Schwartzer, Pallister, Hardwick, Maddren, Murdoch, Souness, Juninho, Mannion, Fenton, Clough and Peacock. Maybe an unbalanced eleven, but I couldn’t leave any of them out.

    Just for fun I’ve also selected the best eleven non-Boro players who I’ve had the privilege to see play in the old-fashioned 2-3-5 formation:-
    Frank Swift; Jimmy Armfield, Alf Ramsey; Bobby Moore, John Charles, Duncan Edwards; Ryan Giggs, Tom Finney, Tommy Lawton, Bobby Charlton and George Best. I’ve excluded the likes of David Beckham, etc because I’ve only included players I’ve actually seen live. It’s been difficult to chose between Giggs and Best so I’ve included both of them. Also Tom Finney was so versatile he could play in any position in the forward line. He would get my vote every time over Stanley Matthews, and I never saw either Nat Lofthouse nor Raich Carter play.

    It’s been a privilege to see all these 22 players and all things being equal age wise, I reckon my Boro eleven would give the non-Boro players a run for their money.

      1. Deggsie
        I agree that my Boro team lacked balance, but although a fan of Eddie Holliday I would have placed Stuart Ripley, David Hodgson, Spike Armstrong and my favourite player as a child Johnny Spuhler ahead of him. Full backs were also a problem as in a more balanced eleven Cyril Knowles and John Craggs came to mind on the right and Gordon Jones on the left, but I finished up giving the best eleven Boro players I’ve had the pleasure of seeing irrespective of their positions.

        Similarly in the non-Boro eleven I omitted Dennis Law and unfortunately have never actually seen Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan nor Alan Shearer play. Going back in time I can’t recall seeing Jackie Milburn or Len Shackleton play although I may have done. There were a plethora of goalkeepers though in the 50s such as Ted Sagar, Sam Bartram, Bert Williams, Ted Ditchburn and Gil Merrick, then later Harry Gregg and Ray Clemence, but such was the magnetism of Frank Swift he had to be my number one. Unfortunately I never saw Gordon Banks nor Peter Shilton or I would probably included one of them ahead of Swifty,

  41. Agree with seven of your selections, Ken, but Murdoch, Peacock, Fenton and Maddren wouldn’t make my cut. I’d want to make room for Emerson, Ian Gibson, Eddie Holliday and Cyril Knowles.

  42. Schwartzer

    Knowles Pallister Maddren Craggs

    Emerson Souness Murdoch

    Ripley Ravenelli. Juninho

    I don’t go back as far as Clough Peacock etc, but I’d pay to watch this team play.

    1. GWH
      I realise how lucky I have been to see such wonderful players not only playing for Boro but against them also, but nevertheless respectful of other people’s opinions. That’s what makes this forum such a wonderful outlet for Boro fans.

      1. Lovely to read the chat about old time stars (anyone who has finished)
        Regarding the opinions on clough. I was fortunate, I watched him as he finally got into the first team.
        All fans love players who are willing fighters for their team, but it seems to me that the striker is the king of them all when he is truly great.
        It was pure joy to see him, and to see the fear of the centre half, be he never so famous.
        Best of all he was arrogant, the international defender was so much rubbish beneath his chariot wheels, pure poetry in motion, one object in life, to shoot. To that end he cruised like a shark around the box and as the ball came in he was like a terrier down a rat hole, his foot was connecting with the ball before anyone had even thought there might be half a chance on offer.
        As an instance of the change in attitudes today, then, to hit the deck simply meant that the quickest to get up got another bite at the ball, and boy was he quick.
        Just remembering the opening match of the season, Brighton, 9-0 five? for him, and the sun shone that day.

  43. That was my first match that I was allowed to see on my own. The first with my father, a 2 all draw I think, against Bury. Ken will know the year.

    Brighton had just been promoted. First match of the season and at home for the Boro. Brighton must have wondered what had hit them.

    1. Pedro
      The 2-2 draw with Bury was on the 29th August 1956. I missed that match as it was the day I had to present myself at RAF Cardington in Bedfordshire to begin my National Service. I also recall that we had floods near my home in Redcar on that day, but not aware of any in Middlesbrough.

      I also missed the first match of the 1958/59 season and the 9-0 thrashing of newly promoted Brighton as that was the day after I arrived in Southampton on a the troopship Empire Fowey from Singapore to await demob at RAF Innsworth in Gloucestershire.
      My colleagues told me that Boro had won 9-0, but of course I thought it was a wind-up and didn’t believe them.

      I haven’t got my records here in the Algarve, but I do recall that Boro won all four matches against the two promoted teams that season beating Brighton 6-4 away in the return fixture after leading 5-1 at one stage, and completed the double over the other promoted team Scunthorpe 6-1 at home and 3-0 away. I’m also fairly sure that Brian Clough scored 14 goals in those four matches 5 and 3 against Brighton, and two hat tricks in the matches against Scunthorpe. Unfortunately it was a false dawn as Boro finished 13th at the end of the season one point below Brighton and only 7 points ahead of Scunthorpe who finished 18th.

      It’s strange how I can remember events over 60 years ago with a certain amount of accuracy, but struggle to recall some Boro matches that occurred in the last two years.

      1. I think its down to the the way football has changed Ken as much as advancing years. Decades ago I could recall FA Cup winners and Runners up and even Scorers as well as the European Cups but now I would struggle to tell you last seasons finalists. Its probably a combination of a few things rather than just one specific thing. I can recall individual games during the Anderson and Charlton eras but now often have to double check on last seasons fixtures and results and thats despite me writing up reports on those games!

        The engagement with the fans is different today to decades ago. Back then the Clubs were the heartbeat of the community and the fans the blood that coursed through its veins from Glasgow to Liverpool to Newcastle, Boro, Leeds and down to the South Coast with Pompey, the Saints and not forgetting Exeter, Torquay and Plymouth of course. People would often finish work at midday and make their way direct to packed grounds. images and smells are mentally embroidered by the stench of stale urine, Woodbines and Bovril. There was a driving passion from fans and a need to be uplifted from their daily grind, the result meant something even if the Club was as Boro are now just mid table mediocrity.

        The players were playing to pay their bills and keep a roof over their families heads much like the fans themselves, they lived next door to those fans. Gradually money and with it mercenaries, agents. millionaires and now billionaires along with instant gratification entered the game to the point where it is now so commercialised it has sold its soul and with that for me at least has gone a lot of the interest, certainly for other Clubs and other Competitions results. The games today are far less entertaining as avoiding defeat to maintain status or cling to survival is as much as many clubs and their managers can hope far having no chance of ever breaking through several layers of glass ceilings.

      2. Ken
        I think that was the era that ended with a player called Swan being jailed for throwing games. Facts need checking, but it threw a light on a true scandal. Players were sent to prison, with headlines in every paper.
        There were several Middlesbrough players involved (jailed I believe) if I am right then we have our answer as to why we could field several internationals, achieve plenty of good victories, and crash and burn with equal frequency. Hhhm!

  44. Just realized that I have a business appointment on the 3rd of September 2020. It is a fair I have to attend.

    I have been planning a visit to my favourite destination – so the UK. I would like to visit a friend of mind who lives in Swansea. So I am planning a visit to Cornwall and the South for a change, too.

    But of course I try to make the holiday long enough to see my beloved Boro live.

    Does anyone know when will the Championship start in Autumn as we have the European Championships this year, too?

    Also when do we usually get the fixtures out for the up-coming season? I think I have to start to think about my summer holidays soon. And first I have to fix the weeks for the UK holiday. And I better do this while travelling is easy as you have a Brexit party in power now 🙂

    Up the Boro!

    1. The fixtures were published on 20 June for this season so I guess it will be around the same time – the season started on 2 August (so not quite autumn!) and I imagine it will be around the same time next season.

      1. Cheers, Werder.

        But last season’s start was earlier than ever before. I cannot remember the reason – perhaps they wanted to start the PL earlier as the now have a winter break.

        Actually, here in Finland we are still waiting for the start of winter as we are affected by the climat change again. Hope to see some snow but now we can play golf now.

        Anyway, I am trying to check that there will be more than one match for Boro in August before returning home for September. I might even drive over to the UK if we stay two or more weeks in the country.

        Up the Boro!

  45. Ken, I would have included some Scottish greats ie Jim Baxter/Denis Law/Kenny Dalglish/Jimmy Johnstone (who was a better winger than Best) Billy Bremner and there is many more. For Boro some of the great Scots were Murdoch/Souness/Slaven/Barry Robson/John Hendrie and the best manager Boro ever had, Sir Bruce Rioch.

    1. Maybe so, but I’ve only chosen players that I have actually seen play in real life and of those you’ve mentioned there’s only Dennis Law of non-Boro players that fit that criterion. As for Boro players I did include Murdoch and Souness in my eleven but whilst the other three we’re good players not really comparable in my opinion to those I selected. However I remember Boro playing Hibernian at Ayresome Park in a friendly match in the late 50s and was impressed by Lawrie Reilly.

    2. Jimmy “Jinky” Johnstone was worth the admission money on his own. Reality is that today Celtic could never have held onto him as he would have been in the £80m+ bracket easily. Unfortunately like George Best and Gazza he had his demons (nothing on today’s footballer scales) but despite that he could run rings around most of today’s top defenders and on his day was simply unplayable.

      I had the privilege of knowing him in later life, sadly just the last few years before he passed. Despite his bravely born battle with motor neurone disease he remained as humorous, positive and optimistic in that battle as he was on the pitch, firmly believing that the cure would one day be found yet knowing full well that it would be too late for him. A fantastic footballer.

  46. The Premier League clubs have voted to change back the closure of the summer transfer window to Sept 1, I can only see the EFL following suit.

    They also voted to begin next season on Aug 8, usually the time the EFL starts so it may all begin together.

    Come on BORO.

    1. I think the PL started a week later than the Championship this season.

      Also one of the reasons stated for the transfer window being extended is because it’s potentially the last window before Brexit and the last chance to sign European players before they have to meet the same requirements as non-EU players (i.e. meet the threshold on international appearances). Could be a busy window and up-and-coming English players such as Dael Fry will probably increase in value next year as European options are fewer.

    1. I’m assuming that level of analysis and selection wasn’t in place last summer considering that two out of the three are now back out on loan from where they came.

      Sometimes I think its best to say nothing and let the Players do the talking. If they perform then the plaudits will come but to try and “sell” the concept before results dictate whether they are a success or not is a foolish act. Nobody expects that any Club or Manager deliberately goes out of their way to sign poor or underwhelming Players despite that often being the case.

      Ultimately Managers, Coaches, Scouts and Players all get judged on one thing, Results.

  47. Re: Moukoudi, our 22-year-old senior Cameroon international

    I wonder what Woody means when he says: “We did a lot of work on him.

    “He’s a really strong individual. In fact, he’s massive, he’s a real big boy, the same size as Rudy (Gestede) and more thick set than Rudy too, so he’s a big lad. He can play, he’s quick, and he’s good in the air, so let’s see.”

    Is he that huge, really? He is 1 cm shorter than me. OK more muscles and much quicker but just a normal size in my opinion 🙂

    Let’s see if he starts tomorrow and McNair is back in midfield. I will go for a surprise 1-1 draw with Assombalonga scoring and putting us in front.

    Brentford will be a tough opponent, though.

    Up the Boro!

  48. Perfect start to the weekend for yours truly as Cas without 11 first teamers outplay Wigan to record their 7th home win in the last 8 Super League meetings against the Warriors. I was able to listen to the full commentary on West Yorkshire Sport on my iPad last night. So now hoping for a perfect weekend with Boro winning at Brentford this afternoon although no radio commentary nor TV broadcast of the match here in the Algarve. Would be a great hat trick for me if Redcar Athletic beat Bedlington Terriers also. Fingers crossed then.

    1. Ken, cannot you buy the match from mfc.co.uk and watch it via Riverside Live as you are abroad now.

      I think you can buy a pass to one match, too. Not only seasonal. The quality is nearly HD and commentary is by BBC Tees. Of course you need a decent internet connection, too.

      Up the Boro!

      1. Jarrko beat me to it Ken. Normally you can pay with a UK debit card. You only have to be out of the UK.
        There will always be a free WiFi somewhere. Nearest hotel and have a coffee.

  49. Thanks Jarkko and Pedro. Trouble is that the restaurants over here are fairly full from opening time of 12 noon so as I eat out every day I usually don’t eat until about 2.30 when I don’t have to hang around as my mobility isn’t good. By the time I return to my apartment it’s almost 4pm and as Portuguese time is the same as in the UK it’s halftime so not worth the hassle to listen or watch the match. Evening matches are a different proposition of course, and Rugby League matches are free to listen to on West Yorkshire Sport and of course I can watch Boro matches on Sky Football channel in my apartment when available, although no red button facility.

    Cas have to play Wigan again at home later in the season when hopefully some of our injured players might be available, but agree that the Warriors are often slow starters. Wigan are a certainty for the playoffs, not sure about Cas but always seem to raise their game when home to Wigan.

  50. Team news: New signing Moukoudi makes his debut but Ravel Morrison starts on the bench. Also dropped to the bench are Djed Spence and Nmecha. It could be a back four today with Howson as right-back unless McNair is part of a back three. Hard to quite work out the shape but could be 4-3-3 with Tav and Johnson either side of Fletcher and a midfield trio of Wing, Saville and McNair. Probably the strongest bench of the season for Boro in terms of experience.

    Starting XI: Pears, Howson, Moukoudi, Fry, Coulson, Johnson, Wing, Saville, McNair, Tavernier, Fletcher

    Subs: Mejias, Spence, Clayton, Morrison, Nmecha, Assombalonga, Gestede

    1. Looks reasonably strong on paper, but the front players have to up their performances somewhat. saying that the providers of the service to them have to up theirs also.
      Biggests concern is still the lack of pace through the middle and that has not changed with this lineup. It is a weakness that will need resolving with a purchase in the summer.

  51. I’m still of the mood that there’s now little to play for this season unless Boro implode and fail to win another four games. Today is a game where I’m not expecting to come away with anything given Brentford’s home form and Boro’s loss of momentum since December. I think scoring may be a problem for Boro with the Starting XI and it could be another game where Woodgate will bring on a few more attacking players on the hour mark to chase the game.

    Prediction: Bees 2 – 0 Boro

    Still, at least Wigan are currently losing with only a few minutes to go and therefore hopefully no real damage if we don’t get any points today.

  52. No real surprise to see Boro behind at half-time as Brentford’s pace has caught Boro a few times – especially down the flanks. Boro have created little with just a Coulson individual run with a shot from distance and a bit of Skill from Johnson to keep the ball in and set up Tavernier – though both efforts were straight at the keeper and comfortable saves. Moukoudi has looked as solid as his stature and used his body well. However the midfield hasn’t really created much and Fletcher has been more or less playing as a lone striker. Boro need a spark and support for Fletcher – perhaps we’ll see Morrison and Britt before too long.

  53. Poor first half from the Boro after a reasonable first ten minutes. Midfield not protecting the defence and little service up to Fletcher , so he has been anonymous
    Even the dead ball kicks have been poor once more, with McNair having most of them. He is not exerting any authority at all and is Saville really playing?

    Woodgate needs to remove either Tav, Johnson or Saville and bring on Britt. Now, not after 60 minutes.

  54. A bit of a chaotic second half that was end-to-end and it seemed Boro were going home with a point but again they couldn’t handle the pace of Brentford. Britt should have maybe even put Boro ahead but missed his header in shades of that early-season 3-3 with Luton. Boro’s dead balls were pretty bad all games with the exception of that corner from which Fletcher scored and while the players showed plenty of willing to score it was the same old story of lacking finesse. It could have maybe gone either way this game but it was not to be – at least it wasn’t boring!

    1. No it was not boring Werder, but ever time Brentford attacked they looked dangerous and Boro just did not get enough balls up to the forwards. We ended the game with three and nothing at all in reality for them to go for.
      McNair moving from defence to MF did not have the desired effect either.

  55. Well one thing we learnt today is that the players we have are not good enough for a flat back four, especially against a team like Brentford. Whilst I appreciate Woodgate resting Spence ahead of Tuesday, he has to take quite a lot of the blame for today’s result.
    We should of kept with 5 five at the back as it is obvious from previous matches that Coulson and even Howson are not good enough to play as full backs. JW still has lots to learn and he had better do it quickly if we are to progress.

  56. The current form table has Leeds in the bottom three, yet they’re still in an automatic promotion position.

    Meanwhile the much derided Rooney is having the desired effect at Derby with them second in the form table. What a crazy league the Championship is.

  57. I think McNair and Hawson were below thie normal level, but other than that I think we played reasonably well away to Brentford. They have been excellent recwntly but we would have deserved a point from this match.

    Yes, we conceded a couple of sloppy goals but for one mistake the new Cameron International was good.

    With a bit of luck and especially better finishing we could have come away with a point or even three. Fine margins, again.

    Agin, a good game to watch 😊

    Up the Boro!

    1. Ever the optimist Jarkko. We never looked like getting three points and the only chance of one was blown by Woodgate and his naive substatution.

  58. Well, Jonthan Woodgate must have polished his Manager of the Month award again before setting off for Brentford as the non-winning run continues as the playoff genie of regret has now long since left the bottle. Although, if the Boro head coach still has three wishes left then he may wish to convert them into points on Tuesday against strugglers Wigan. Anyway, one man who is always polished and has something that surely can’t be bottled is here to give his view on the magic that was on display at Griffin Park – it’s Redcar Red and his match report…


  59. Redcar Red,

    Thanks for the report although it made slightly depressing reading with all the old frailties having returned. I like the comment about JW having polished that damned albatross the MoTM award, I thought the ‘curse’ only lasted a calendar month, talk about a false dawn. I didn’t get time to post before the game because of family problems but my prediction of 3 – 2 to the Boss was bang on. Sadly.

    can anyone tell me why JW put our roll of lino that is Gestede on? It seems that was a point in the game that was when a defender was needed not going down to ten men. The Wigan match now assumes even more importance and Boro are back in the old routine again.

    Right now to watch the highlights and listen to the wind howling and moaning outside.

    Many thanks.



  60. There was no shame in that result or performance. Right now we’re sort of repeating our pre-purple patch form: drawing games we almost win and losing games we almost draw. Hopefully this is a sign that can go on another run soon.

    McNair looks to be going through a dip in form, as do Howson and Tav. This happens to all players and I suspect McNair and Howson in particular are physically and mentally exhausted from playing so many games out of position. Saville seems to be reverting back to anonymity. You get 1 or 2 good games out of him then he goes missing for the next 10. He’s clearly a decent Championship midfielder with an eye for goal but he just looks unsettled.

    Moukoudi looks excellent but I wonder if he’s really capable of another full 90 on Tuesday. I guess Woodgate has no choice in the matter. If Fletcher keeps it up he’s in the running for player of the season. Even when the team gave him nothing he kept plugging away.

    The Wing dilemma reminds me of Juninho in his first spell. If you give Wing a free role behind a striker he will score you goals by the shed load but you’re left with a gaping defensive hole. Like Juninho he’s also not great at the #10 role of linking attack and midfield together. Woodgate’s tried to get him to play in a more conventional midfield role – as McClaren did with Juninho in his second spell – but then you end up with a Ferrari being asked to do the job of a Ford Mondeo. They do ok but you’re not getting the best out of them and a Ford Mondeo would do the job better.

    Tuesday will be an interesting one. Wigan will be desperate for a result against us; if they don’t get a win it’s going to look like relegation is nailed on for them. For us, a draw will be a decent result but if we go there with that mentality and the team retreats into its shell I can see us imploding.

  61. Great report RR, however a sad reflection on where in are in reality compared to the better teams.
    All the previous dreaming of making our way up the table has just reverted back to bad dreams. At least the nightmares appear to have abated.

    I think once more deleriad, above, has written a very good post. His first paragraph however leaves a few unanswered questions.

    My opinion as much as Woodgate has improved as the season has gone along, his inexperience still continues to show and he is not learning quick enough from previous mistakes. His choice of a flat back four was a mistake from the off and continued until the end. What is even more galling is the pleather of midfielders we have and some not bought on the cheap. And yet we still have a rather poor one even if you picked and played what one would think was the best. No pace, no real bite and ball winning qualities and only Wing who has little of those can really pass or strike a ball with some consistency.
    As deleriad said, his is an enigma but without him we are weaker.
    How come other teams can find the midfield players we need and not spend a fortune on them?
    How Ian Gill has kept his job is beyond belief.

  62. Thanks RR for your report and an excellent summary on what was eventually a disappointing day. Not because of the result, which most had expected, but due in part to a poor first half performance and then having got back into the game a failure to close it out and hold onto a point.

    In my view JW showed some of his naivety and confirmed some of the concerns I expressed in a previous post that this would now be his most challenging part of the season; with additional resources now at his disposal he needs to get his selections and tactics spot on as he no longer has the luxury/excuse that lack of resource was forcing his hand in terms of selection and formation.

    He seemed not to have learnt from previous games that a flat back four does not work when you are still using some players who are being asked to play out of their natural position and I could not understand why he did not play three at the back comprising Howson, Moukoudi and Fry.

    Coulson could then have been used further forward, where he offers much more, as defensively he was clearly exposed time and time again as through being out of position or losing his man and failing to stop crosses coming into the box. I was astounded to see that AV had given him a rating of 7 and three stars in the EG due to a few feisty tackles and a few runs at the Bees defence; he seems to have overlooked the other important aspects of his game.

    Personally I am in favour of four at the back but also believe you need specialist CBs and FBs to make it work. I would then like to see Coulson and Spence playing more as traditional wide men to provide width and crosses into the box and to be driving at the opposition defenders. Hopefully we can see that before the season ends.

    I was also baffled by JW’s substitutions. Having got back to 2-2 with what had been a largely ineffective midfield and forward line due to a lack of supply, JW then decided to go three up front, including a player who has been largely a non-entity for most of his time at the club instead of putting Clayton on to shore up the midfield and to close down the attacking threat from the bees; most of us would have been very content with a point against a promotion challenging side.

    I also agree with many of the previous comments that this game had all the hallmarks of our early season games lacking a degree of organisation and control, failure on the majority of occasions to build on dead ball situations and our usual failure to show composure and execution at the appropriate times.

    Whilst the second half was end to end and clearly entertaining if we keep playing in this manner I believe that we will end up, more times than not, on the wrong end of the result.

    The pressure is beginning to build again and we need a win soon and need at least a point at Wigan. 😎

  63. A self inflicted disaster, wrong team, wrong formation, wrong substitution, at the wrong time. How am I doing?
    How can a manager persist with suicide changes as we glide towards a point or more with minutes to go, and do it repeatedly.
    To put it no stronger (and, believe me, I could) we started winning when Britt was injured, and resumed losing when he returned, join the dots, it ain’t difficult, missed another sitter, add it to the several, plus three penalties, shall we say ten points, plus a cup run. It all adds up.
    Of course we have not counted in the obsession with the dreaded Gestede, things looking not too bad the final whistle not too far away, the opposition just about to resign themselves to the inevitable, when up goes the board and on comes you know who. And bang goes another result.
    Just a point, but we were tortured by speed yesterday, on the bench was a certain Mr. Spence, had he been brought on last twenty it is entirely possible we might have won, just to clean up their speed ball wide man, nothing else.
    Why are we insisting that Wing must score his goals from distance, it makes no sense, he could and should be sniffing around the box, we are losing around twenty goals a season, in return for Britt’s output, my head hurts.

  64. As I didn’t see the match I once again have to rely on Redcar Red’s excellent reports. By all accounts the match was at least entertaining, but I guess that’s all one can hope for in the remainder of this season. Bringing on Gestede as a striker makes no sense to me, but with nothing to play for now for the rest of the season (talking of being dragged into a relegation battle is nonsense in my opinion, we’re far too good for that to happen and it would take a lot of extraordinary events for that to occur), it’s good to see that Boro should still go all out for a win instead of playing safe with a point earned. In our current position I’d rather see Boro play more positively than park the bus, different of course if we were fighting relegation or trying to reach the playoffs. The season now should all be about entertainment.

    It was interesting to hear Jonathan Woodgate’s thoughts about how much easier it is now for Boro to be more attacking having two natural central defenders in the side. I know it’s now a different system to the 50s when Boro relied on one centre half as did most clubs. When Bill Whitaker was injured, George Hardwick played at centre half as did Tom Blenkinsop occasionally, a utility player for me a liability wherever he played, and eventually Hardwick’s full back partner Dickie Robinson was converted into a centre half and indeed finished his playing career in that position, but technically Boro still played with only one central defender and that basically was why we conceded so many goals as did many teams, though it did make for exciting football.

    I’m not advocating that Boro should revert to that system as time has moved on with different formations. Nevertheless goalless draws were rare in those days 5,6 and 7 goal thrillers were fairly commonplace. What football lacked in skill it made up for with entertainment, but even in the old First Division there were often many surprising results as there still appears to be in today’s Championship. However long winning runs like the three promoted clubs of last season, Wolves the previous season, and Burnley in Boro’s promotion season are still rare.
    I’ve never thought that Leeds and West Brom were too far ahead to be caught this season and would be surprised if both still finished in the top two this season. We all know how crazy this League is, but so is Division One with Wycombe unable to maintain their early season form, and Peterborough’s losing run
    suddenly coming to an end with a succession of wins. Football was ever thus, but the long unbeaten runs of Arsenal, Nottm Forest, Manchester City and especially Liverpool are and were quite exceptional. Momentum is the key.

    What I’m trying to convey is that Boro are now on the right
    lines. The average attendance is 3,500 down on last season and Boro fans are not fools. Winning is a habit, but as long as football is entertaining does it really matter all that much for the remainder of this season? The only problem is that Boro don’t score enough goals, and until that happens attendances will not reach the 25,000 average even with entertaining football. That is the conundrum that JW has to solve for next season.

    Sorry for rambling on, but I hope that my views are not too incoherent, but sport particularly football has become my life since losing my wife, and I write just as I talk, and probably boring the pants of some folk. But at least one doesn’t have to read my thoughts, whereas there is no escape for the listener.

    1. Ken
      interesting as always, but as we were on the road to playing in a different manner by the accident of injuries to personnel who were not working out as striker and other roles.
      It seems outlandish to reintroduce them in their (failed) roles.
      The result has been a return to abject failure, a fall down the league, and no doubt despair in the players who turned us round.
      What is the plan for Gestede, it must be something rather grand, because it is costing us many points.
      What is the plan for Wing, because he is the striker we need, and is being limited to wonder strikes now and again, he is the fox in the box, and will help in many goals if we make sure that he is on the premises when the ball is in and around the goalmouth.

  65. Next three games are against the bottom three, Wigan Away, Luton Home and Barnsley Away. That’s a huge opportunity but also a huge risk. Naive tactics, formations or substitutions that are punished will be subject to greater knee jerk reactions. The squad is probably as strong as it has been all season possibly even at its strongest despite losing Randolph and the injury to Roberts.

    The December Manager of the Month award came when the squad was its most depleted and desperation forced the opportunity and emergence of Pears, Coulson and Spence. The coming trio of games provides Woodgate to kill off relegation fears and boost his own managerial credibility instead of relying on Gazette hype and spin along with grumpy indignant interviews.

    Should we emerge from those games with a poor points haul and those Teams perhaps making a three point gain on us the pressure will be at breaking point with Leeds coming up at the Riverside.

  66. In defence of Ian Gill (jarkko 12:12) he departed on a two week cruise on Friday.

    I must email Jeff Stelling to have him drug test Paul Merton because he saw a different performance from Boro yesterday, even made the post match comment that Boro fans should be excited for next season as from what he has seen, he expects Boro to be there or thereabouts. Brentford manager, Thomas Frank, stated that Middlesbrough are a lot better side than their league position suggests !, even on Quest, they were complimentary about Boro, funny how different people see the same match in a different way.

    Come on BORO.

  67. We’ve certainly come a long way from some of the fears earlier in the season about getting hammered at the top teams. Since the Leeds defeat we’ve played 4 of the top 7 away from home and picked up 7 points. And we could have easily nicked a win yesterday.

    Throwing Gestede on for the last 5 seems a reasonable gamble; all you need is one good set piece and he could nick a win. I suspect some of the team selection (resting Spence for example) was with one eye on the crucial game on Tuesday. We have lost a bit of momentum and a defeat at Wigan would start making things a bit nervous so hopefully we can pick up something there.

      1. You could say Fletchers goal was from a decent Tav delivery which was well taken. Hower considering they have all week to practice. deliveries generally have been very poor all season.

    1. Considering where we are in the league BoroPhil and that we had ridden out luck somewhat, coming back twice and with Brentford still calling the shots, then I would have counted myself fortunate and tried to keep the point.

  68. Thank you Mr RR for the report on the game. Great reading once again. Far far better than the Gazette guys every time.

    On another note, I am not a fan off resting players for the next game. For me you should always play your best every time.
    Yesterday showed again JW inexperience. Substitutes and tactics were poor. I would have left Balonga on the bench. We did far better when he was out of the team. On to Tuesday and will it be Wigan’s Ovation or Boro’s devastation.

  69. On set pieces we have been poor all season but I feel like our goals that we have scored from corners have happened more recently. (Saturday, west brom, I’m sure there is another recent one)

    Maybe the corner has been turned…

    1. Before KO yesterday we had only scored eight goals from set pieces and with Fletcher’s goal yesterday it now stands at nine.

      Eight goals was the lowest in the Championship this season to date and I’d pretty much guess that even with Fletcher’s header nine is still there or thereabouts the lowest. An astute Manager wouldn’t bring on a Striker with a very poor goals record let alone relying on set pieces to provide that opportunity let alone taking one off who is in goal scoring form form and had just scored such a rare goal.

      Out of interest I think Rotherham have or did have the highest number of set piece goals in the entire EFL with somewhere in the late twenties just for comparison. I can’t find the data now, I should have bookmarked it.

      1. Throw in that 33% of the goals scored against us this season happen in the last twenty minutes and 18% in the last ten minutes makes the Gestede Substitution all the more dysfunctional.

  70. Ken – you keep posting and we’ll keep reading.
    Malcolm – totally agree, play the team in front of you, not the team you’re playing in three days time.

    Was a switch to a back four to better accommodate our new CB? Please advise.

    I can understand the positive intent of bringing on Gestede, but surely Fletcher must be kept on the field at all costs? To swap one for the other is one step forward and three steps back.

    1. The back four switch is the default desire of the Manager, when he has tried it previously it bombed but he still has a yearning for it but not the personnel. Coulson is an attacking wide player and not defensively competent but the lad does his best. Arguably Spence falls into the same category but their saving grace is that their attacking prowess is their best form of defence. A back four negates that and made all the worse by dropping Spence altogether for a tinker with the set up.

      Howson, McNair and Fry were all available (and playing) so sticking with the back three shouldn’t have been an issue especially with Morrison now adding to the midfield area if McNair was that big a miss in the middle (which based on his performance and set pieces he definitely didn’t add to our midfield). As a CB I am sure Moukoudi has previous knowledge of both a back four and back three system plus there was an entire week at Rockliffe for a dress rehearsal and as it was he was the MOM.

  71. I’m far from the knee jerk negativity of some correspondents who seem happiest when things are going wrong. I’m also not as despondent as many who don’t see the green shoots of new growth that I am seeing.

    We played very well for the first fifteen minutes and then Brentford got their act together and discovered the space down the wings that is always present against a flat back four when the full back goes forward. For me a back four is best suited to a game when we will have plenty of possession and wingbacks seem a more flexible way to play when we might come under pressure.

    The rest of the first half was poor although Mokouidi looks to be a beast and will do very well when he settles into the rhythm of the team. McNair, Saville, Wing and Tavernier were anonymous and It was a relief to go in just one down.

    The second half was a different story and we looked very good. In fact the second half was a tremendous advert for Championship football. Saville had an excellent half and Wing suddenly turned up and looked closer to the player that we know he can be. McNair didn’t have one of his best games and I actually expected him to be the third player substituted to give Morrison a chance. Notwithstanding that we could easily have taken the lead when we carved open the left hand side of the Brentford defence and both Assombalonga and Fletcher missed the same chance.

    I have to say that at the time i didn’t think of shoring up the defence at 2-2 but can accept that it’s a rational point of view and maybe going for the win was a bit naive. However, its better watching this kind of football than a constant diet of attritional defending.

    Clearly we need to get the extra ten points or so that are necessary for safety but once that is done I will definitely be looking forward to next season. The main question is whether any of the loan signings will be permanent options. I don’t expect Nmecha or Moukoudi to be available but both Roberts and Morrison were going nowhere in their careers and, should either have a good run through a March and April, they might be options for a permanent deal. Add in the experience of a few senior players and the promise of the kids and I see no reason not to look forward to a good time and, more importantly, football that I will enjoy watching.


  72. A positive for me is Gestede’s contract expires this summer so it isn’t all bad news for next season. Giving him game time in December and January made some sense as it may have helped to move him out during the window but its now closed and as he has sat and offered nothing whilst absorbing a huge percentage of the wage bill for years I don’t get why Woodgate would even countenance playing him now. There is literally nothing to gain.

    Fletcher, Assombalonga and Nmecha are enough in terms of Strikers so why waste space playing Gestede? Amazing how he has spent most of his time here crocked yet when his contract is almost up he is suddenly fit again, what a lucky coincidence. Had he been a prolific scorer like Viduka I could understand it but he will live long in Teesside memories not for his goal scoring heroics but for his glaring misses.

    I don’t want to watch attritional Pulisball but nor do I want to watch schoolboy formations charging around disconnected, incapable of taking a free kick or working out a clever corner routine. I want to watch an effective winning unit and to win that means they have to score goals. This season isn’t free flowing exciting Liverpool Lite Boro, the reality is that we are the second lowest goal scorers after Wigan in the Championship. A handful of games over a season doesn’t change that, even Karanka had Brighton and Millwall away.

    The green shoots burst through in spite of not because of the Manager. He had no choice but to play them when all his favourite/star/best/experienced players were missing. His preferred signings all crashed and burned to add insult to injury. His Manager of the Month award came when he couldn’t muck around with formations or tinker with selections. It seems the more options he has at his disposal the more of a mess he makes of things and yet despite all the evidence to the contrary he just can’t let go of his back four fantasy.

    I see no evidence yet of next season being anything other than a continuation of this season. An exasperating struggle with the odd purple patch (hopefully) collecting safety points when his hands are tied and like as not getting more irritable in his interviews with reporters asking blunt questions that they ask of every other Manager. With the number of contracts expiring in June and loanees going back and no guarantee of returning that means a massive overhaul with little cash and more Bola’s, Browne’s and Dijksteel’s arriving.

  73. Brentford hit Luton for 7 recently, did Hull for 5 last week, they are a team who are really flying ,they have lost the odd one yes,
    We could have won the game, but we are just missing a bit here and bit there, we need a little look.
    Woodgate remit is more of an attacking force , he is trying to implement it ,, but you can expect teething problems,
    For almost ten seasons we’ve had a pragmatic, hard to beat ball retension boring team ,results yes but the fans wanted change,
    It might take not next season but the one after for everyone up to a level needed.you can see he wants young athletic types ,
    I wouldn’t resign any of the older players , no matter how good they may be now they won’t improve
    A clean slate.

  74. I think tinkering is a reaction to being rumbled.

    These days tactics are over planned. The only way to avoid being predictable is to change which is why we are seeing the current instability. Had we stuck with our successful set up then we would have been rumbled. Our players are not the best and in fleeting glimpses it seems to work but I would imagine only the very top teams are good enough to play the same formation week in week out.

    I mentioned on an earlier post that we should play the same side and formation until we lose 3 or 4 on the trot. Even though we were losing it was exciting to watch and I don’t think there are any slackers in the side.

    We really need the win on Tuesday so I hope we see the December side playing, and of course on Saturday at the Riverside, I hope to see the young side winning.

    PS I actually enjoyed the game and RR take was again very accurate, keep up the good work.


  75. Saturday seemed to me was one of those games where Boro were not set up to their strengths and we started with two full-backs who are not really full-backs and an isolated striker who is not at his best as a lone striker. The midfield was also a bit disjointed at times and that was probably down to McNair returning to a position he hasn’t played for a couple of months. The second half was better but we ended up by throwing Moukoudi and Gestede forward and pumping long balls in the hope of our now three strikers on the pitch picking up the pieces.

    OK, you could confuse the opposition with all these changes of shape but it will probably also remove the coherence of your own side. As others have mentioned, tactics based on set-plays where our deliveries have been largely ineffective all season were perhaps unlikely to prove to win us many points.

    I’m wondering if the whole set-up at Brentford was simply geared at giving Djed Spence a rest and the knock-on effect was to move Howson away from where he’s been performing really well and expose the defensive inexperience of Coulson. Incidentally, I think Spence could probably play as a conventional full-back as he’s look quite good positional-wise defending and has good timing with his tackles – though he did look like he needed a rest in the previous game after a long run starting.

    After his lay-off, Britt doesn’t look match fit and lacks sharpness – whether he will improve in the remaining games is hard to say but can’t see why he should start ahead of Fletcher – but nor should Fletcher play as a lone striker. Nmecha has looked like he has a good first touch and maybe a better pairing up front rather than Britt who doesn’t always get the ball under his spell.

    Either way, Boro should be fielding their best players for the next three games as these are probably the ones we shouldn’t be experimenting with and should concentrate on stopping these struggling teams from closing the gap. Three wins and the job is done for this season and then Woodgate can indulge himself in working out how the players fit together.

    Nevertheless, I agree with RR that this summer will see many changes and Woodgate needs to work out what is needed in his squad – though it will need to be a better summer of dealing than the last one. While it would be nice if Boro could have Roberts next season it could only be another loan as he still has two years left on a lucrative contract at City. I also suspect Nmecha will be eyeing a PL loan and of course Moukoudi will be heading back to France. Morrison is a possible option as he’ll be a free agent but we should wait till we see him play before judging – which I suspect will require another formation shuffle.

    In the end, I’m with Ken on the rest of the season in that all is seemingly left is to be entertained and I’m not going to be too interested in watching Boro keep it tight and grind out a few results – unless it became necessary to avoid relegation if things go pear-shaped.

    1. Pretty much agree with all that Werdermouth apart from the last paragraph where I would prefer to see some structure and organisation or put simply foundations first rather than entertainment. Entertainment can come once the Players know what their roles are and who should be doing what, where and when.

      Our failure to pick up players was abysmal both in open play and especially at set pieces. I suspect reverting to a back four may have been the reason why Brentford had the luxury of free headers at the back post from their corners.

      1. It could be the longest pre-season ever if we win the next three – though I’m not sure we’ll hear the Red Faction chanting “What do we want? Structure and Organisation! When do we want it? Now!” 🙂

        Although I take your point but we’ve often seen with managers like Pulis and Karanka that there was not much beyond structure and organisation with entertainment merely an occasional by-product.

        However, I’m a bit concerned that Woodgate seems to have forgotten why he switched to three centre-backs in the first place and it wasn’t because of an injury crisis and not having recognised fit centre-backs – we had three when the switch was made in Ayala, Fry and Shotton and the main reason was that we didn’t have recognised full-backs, which meant we were getting exposed down the flanks.

  76. Reading through the Sports pages of the Pontefract and Castleford Express there are now major doubts from Leeds United supporters that United may not even reach the playoffs this season. Many seem unimpressed with Patrick Bamford and
    not being able to find another striker in the transfer window. No mention of Britt Assombalonga though; perhaps if he had not been injured the Whites might have made a bid for him. A pity really as Boro might have been able to recoup some of the £15m we paid for him. Let’s hope that United’s poor run continues with tough matches at Brentford and tricky home ones against Bristol City and Reading before facing Boro especially if Boro can pick up 7 or 9 matches from their next 3 matches as I’d then expect us to gain revenge for our trouncing from them last year. Think positive!

    1. They may well be right as glancing at the table I see Leeds have lost 4 of their last 5 games and the six teams below them have only lost 3 games between them – especially as Leeds are now only 5 points above seventh place and have only won 2 of their last 10!

  77. To put a bit of perspective on things. Remember last year, at home to Brentford, winning 1-0 and Pulis takes off Brit to put on Friend to shore up the game. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/47424359 We lose 2-1 and TP gets slated, by plenty on here, for encouraging Brentford to attack. Same match next year and Woodgate is slated for putting on a striker at 2-2 having recently equalised with people saying he should have put on a defensive player instead.

    One of the refreshing things about Woodgate is he will try to make subs to push the opponents back rather than sit back and hold what he has. Given our defensive injury crisis that’s probably the best option. It’s also clear that he sees Gestede as a striker who provides defensive cover at the back. His substitutions don’t always work but that’s because we’re not Real Madrid.

    I am one of those who thought that Woodgate wasn’t the right appointment. Not because of who he is but because it seemed like too much of a risk to downsize a team and completely change the pattern of play with a rookie manager. I felt that to do that successfully you needed someone like a Michael O’Neill who has experience. I still think a more experienced manager would have done better but I think Woodgate has faced up to the challenge well and done better than I expected.

    Assuming we get the results we need over the next three games I think Woodgate’s earned the right to try and take the team forwards next season. It certainly looks like the team has the potential to be the freshest and most exciting to watch since AK’s play-off failure season.

    1. I know what you mean. If we had brought Clayton on and Brentford had won 3-2 there would have been cries of ‘it was there for the taking!’ ‘why didn’t he have a go!’ ‘we are mid-table, why not go for the win!’

      Bringing Gestede on was totally logical. You could perhaps argue about who to bring off, but like you say he is a threat at both ends. I’m pretty sure Brentford’s defenders didn’t want him to come on.

      I also see the narrative now is that:

      everything bad this season = Woodgate’s fault
      everything good this season = total luck and no credit for Woodgate whatsoever

      as has always been the case…

      1. Maybe the narrative (if there is one) should be that Woodgate bears no responsibility at all because he’s one of our own?

        I’m genuinely struggling to see how his short lived December good bits this were part of a deliberate, planned, intentional piece of Football Management considering the circumstances. Had he deliberately dropped his big earners, played the kids, switched to five at the back because he planned it rather than having to accept that his four hadn’t worked (and still isn’t) I’d maybe give him credit but his hand was forced because the cupboard was bare.

        I seem to recall Pulis getting quite a bit of stick and before him Monk and Karanka and Mogga and Strachan and Southgate. Even our only trophy winning Manager got stick when he got things wrong. Bielsa is currently getting stick at Leeds along with Guardiola at City and Solksjaer at United. Even Klopp has received pelters over the FA Cup last week. Its a good job Messi doesn’t play for Boro at the moment with his issues.

        “Infamy, infamy” as Frankie Howard once claimed.

      2. I’ve mentioned it before but I think the only youngster who came in because of injury during that good run was Spence. All the others were already in and around the side before the injuries hit. Ok Pears as well but I don’t think anyone saw/sees that as an upgrade on Randolph so that one’s a moot point.

        I also don’t think that the injuries made JW’s tactical plan for him. We changed shape at West Brom and won so I think that theory should be dispelled.

        Woodgate did very well to organise and motivate the players he had during the injury crisis. It was a great run and JW deserves his portion of the credit, if only he were given some.

      3. Phil
        We have suffered considerably this season from Tactics, that is, our coaches Tactics. He now has a history, so we can evaluate his success rate.
        I have to say he is batting zero and there is no sign whatsoever that he is about to amaze the football World with his genius.
        There obviously is no input from his mate on the touchline, because it is not possible for two people to have the same fantasy about the same player.
        Yes yes, it’s Gestede, isn’t it always Gestede, which is worse him being injured, or him coming on late in the game when we have a point (or three) in our hot little hands. The question is? Is he going to smash one into the top corner? Or is he going to show the opposition what a truly great defender can do when it matters.
        Answers on a postcard and no swearing.

    2. Two completely different scenarios, taking off Britt was roundly booe’d by the Fans at the Riverside at the time as they could see what was going to happen. It wasn’t hindsight the entire stadium just about called it and predicted what would happen. We were doing OK in the game up until that point and Pulis unbalanced everything. He took off our biggest attacking threat and in doing so gave Brentford carte blanche to come at us, safe in the knowledge that they were no longer going to be threatened at the back. Both decisions were appallingly poor managerial errors, one doesn’t in any way shape or form mitigate the other.

      Gestede as a Striker is a waste of space and has been since the day the ink dried on his contract but Gestede coming on for his defensive abilities has to be a new one on me. His heading ability is so unpredictable he is a liability at both ends of the pitch. Taking off Fletcher for him who is in scoring form and all round faster and more skilful player made no sense at all. It was even worse when you consider that we were being ripped a new one down the flanks and needed someone to curtail their unabated freedom there yet Woodgate ignored the obvious threat (probably couldn’t grasp it) and done nothing about it and stuck Gestede on. It would be hilarious if I wasn’t a Boro fan.

    1. Thanks for that, RR, (and also for your excellent report.) The analysis is fascinating. It rather backs up the majority view on here that a switch to wing-backs at half-time might have been preferable, given the amount of space Brentford regularly carved out down our flanks. ( I say that having only read reports and watched highlights.)

      That said, I do think their second and third goals were eminently avoidable – poor defending – the first resulting from a poor pass out of defence and the second from allowing Watkins far too much room in the box.

      In response to Ken’s earlier query about the Wigan game possibly being off, I can’t really see that at this juncture. We had a ton of rain over here in Lancashire, of course, but it’s all pretty much dried up now. The violent winds we were warned to expect were quite short-lived. It was nonetheless a big surprise to see the Man City game called off. Softies, obviously.

  78. Boro Phil
    Re your post at 9:48

    The contra argument/rose tinted view to your final paragraph is:

    Everything good = JW
    Everything bad = bad luck/bad refereeing and no criticism of JW.

    Many of us on here had reservations about JW’s appointment but as with other managers are prepared to see how he fairs and as such he needs to be given at least one season (possibly more) to form a fully informed view.

    That being said, I think we are all entitled to express our concerns and criticisms when we feel that mistakes have been made as I did with regard to the formation and substitutions at Brentford.

    Equally, I have posted and praised some of his decisions previously when I feel that he has got things right.

    I do not believe that because we are supporters of the club/team/management that we should only express positive views or overlook perceived failings as I believe this can unhealthy.

    At the end of the day, we all want the team/management to do well and even more so if they are “one of our own”. 😎

    1. I’d agree with that point KP in that objective observation is the only way progress is ever made – although it’s seemingly quite unfashionable at present as people are now described as either being in favour or against something.

      However, I would also suggest that being a fan is by definition not an objective position and many people either feel obliged to be supportive of those who represent club or critical of their efforts if it falls below expectations.

    2. Well to be fair it was more aimed at “The green shoots burst through in spite of not because of the Manager” which just seems really unfair.

      I don’t think anyone thinks Woodgate has been flawless this season, he certainly has made mistakes but to give him no credit at all is harsh.

      As I said earlier, plenty were predicting that we’d get hammered when we came round to playing the top teams, that hasn’t occurred, in fact we’ve been very competitive. But no one mentions those comments now.

      In fact, if you were being very favourable to Woodgate you might wonder what he could have done with a fully fit squad all season.

      1. Phil

        Re your last paragraph. That’s why I commented that he needed at least one season, if not more, in order to form a full view of his managerial abilities. As is often said, only time will tell.😎

      2. BoroPhil, all teams suffer injuries and I believe Brentford had four first / squad players missing on Saturday. You have to get on with it.
        I will say however in Woodgates defence, as I have said previously, he was stitched up with his buys, but then he knew what he was getting into.

        He favours four a the back, we know that. Not having the personnel is something different.

  79. I agree Pedro, my point was if you want to take the opposite position to ‘he can take no credit whatsoever’ then there is plenty to use. I would say it’s probably somewhere in the middle though.

  80. We must not lose tonight. Essential.

    Claim a first win in eight matches, and Boro will move ten points clear of a Wigan side currently occupying the third of the relegation places. Lose, however, and they will fall back to within four points of the drop zone with 14 games still to play.

    I hope to see Britt and Flecher to start tonight. No more Karanka and Pulis type play with an isolated nr. 9.

    So I will go for a 1-1 draw (McNair) but hope to see a 0-2 win with Fletcher and McNair scoring.

    Up the Boro!

  81. I wrote before last Saturday’s match that after Cas had beaten Wigan Warriors that I hoped that both Boro and Redcar Athletic would make it a perfect weekend for me. Well Redcar obliged and although Boro failed I was quite mollified by what I saw in the match highlights. It’s not often that both Cas and Boro meet clubs from the same town over the same weekend. I recall it happening only twice before with both Cas and Boro beating Leeds Rhinos and Leeds United and Hull FC and Hull City respectively. Maybe an omen even though tonight’s fixture is not part of the weekend, but you get my drift. So Boro have a second chance tonight for my favourite two clubs to perform the double. The bookies strangely make the pie-eaters slight favourites, but I think Boro will do the honours tonight if only by a single goal as long as they play for the win and not the draw. So maybe different sports, but same results is the order of the day. Come on Boro!

    1. Latics fans really don’t like being called pie eaters, a name usually saved for Warriors fans. In all the time I worked in Wigan I could never understand the animosity between both sets of fans. Even now there’s not much cross over of fans who support both clubs. For a small town, I find it very odd.

      1. Martin
        Strange maybe, although most Cas fans don’t like football at all but those that do support Leeds United but hate Leeds Rhinos. I suppose it’s because Cas is a traditional Rugby League town rather like Wigan and Hull are, and like Huddersfield used to be.

  82. It would be a strange old world if we all agreed with each other. I find that I tend to get pushed into the opposite view. If everyone is slating someone then I find I want to defend them. Likewise if everyone is praising someone it makes me want to see what’s wrong.
    So when someone is ranting about the incompetence of our club it makes me go look at other forums and sure enough, if there are 92 professional clubs in England you can pretty much guarantee that at any time on around 82 of those forums that the supporters are ranting about incompetence which makes me think that, actually, in most cases the clubs are doing about averagely well.
    So if a manager is getting no praise for when things go well (it was forced on him) and all the criticism when things go badly (it’s all his fault) then I tend to suspect that’s overly harsh.
    Personally I think Woodgate has so far done slightly better than I expected but not as well as I suspect that a more experienced one would have done. That said, even with Pep Guardiola on board I think we would be struggling to compete for the playoffs with the squad and injuries we have.

    1. Deleriad
      The use of the word ‘rant’ is a little unfair. When it comes to the running of a football team and of course club, the situation is always as follows.
      The club (Read, the owner and his appointees) reserve the absolute right to do what they wish, regardless of the fact that there is an immense body of evidence which is being added to on a daily basis by the activities of a great body of clubs (reported in detail by the press) which tells any intelligent observer the major do’s and dont’s of managing a football club.
      Yet on a daily basis some owner will be seen to commit basic errors which will surely lead to great unhappiness for their supporters for some considerable time in the future.
      To sign a decent player, play him out of position, fail to use his strengths, sell him quickly, replace him with a poor signing on very high wages and a long contract. To sign a player just after a very bad injury. To sign a player at the end of a long career,
      To sign a player who has been out on loan to many clubs in lower leagues, without much success.
      To get involved in chasing some player with six clubs after him is foolish in the extreme, half of the six are allowing their name to be used as a lever to up the price on a very moderate player.
      Most of the successful dealers in the market scout furiously, tell no one, sign quickly and quietly, then play them in their team. Then, most important. They name their price, and stick to it, no matter who tries to tell them it is too much.
      The fans know all this, and tell their clubs to start acting in this fashion and get their club moving in the right direction (see this blog)
      The reaction is outrage, how dare the fans presume to tell the club how to run itself, and so it goes on, the steady decline (remind you of any club near you)
      It was mentioned this week that we watched any player twice before we signed him. I rest my case.

  83. I don’t know about Managers/Coaches but a recent survey of owners of Championship clubs shows some interesting statistics. Top of the list is Luton Town with 96% of supporters satisfied with the ownership of their club, followed by Brentford fans with 93.25% and Bristol City fans with 93.22%. Over 80% of fans of Derby, Leeds, Forest, Millwall and Fulham are also satisfied, whilst Boro and Steve Gibson are only in 11th place with 73.9%. Not surprisingly only about 15% of Charlton and Hull fans are satisfied but even though they’re riding high at the top of the League only 41% of West Brom fans are satisfied with the ownership of their team putting them in 17th place.

    Perhaps some clubs’ supporters are more realistic than others, but Boro are where I’d have imagined them to be with nearly 75%. I’d like to see the statistics for Rotherham who regularly fight back from relegation, and of course our neighbours Newcastle and Sunderland who I imagine would be pretty low down.

  84. Deleriad at 9.23am – Good post (again).

    Like you, I didn’t want JW as manager – as I said at the time there were candidates available with far more on their CVs – but some of the castigation on here does make me more inclined to defend him.

    Without wishing to cause offence, I do feel that some of the negative opinions are rooted in a personal dislike of him that began long before he was appointed, as well as a feeling that there was a distasteful club conspiracy in appointing him. Neither of those are fair platforms on which to judge his performance so far. I also find comments about his “naivety” etc to be a little patronising at times. Honestly, it can be like a self-help group for grumpy old men at times! 🙂

    This does not detract from my appreciation of the blog as a whole and the many excellent contributions for all corners, especially our blogmeister and the regulars.

  85. It seems like “ Safe Standing Areas” are inevitable in Stadia around the country. In fact it’s pretty obvious that there are large numbers of fans who are already standing for the entirety of the game ( and have been for some time).

    Personally I prefer to sit and watch the game, but don’t see why those who want to stand can’t be catered for.


  86. All matches are ‘must win’ matches, this match is a ‘going out with the right attitude from the start’ kind of match, mind you all matches are like that too. Well they are in a perfect world. Please supply some of the December magic Boro and please no shooting yourselves in the foot just to make things ever more difficult.

    Will Assombalonga be on from the start? Personally I don’t think he should be but the rest of the team pretty well picks itself.

    A 2 – 2 draw for me



  87. There was indeed much resistance on here to the appointment of Woody, however the overwhelming majority of it centred on questioning his integrity as a man rather than his ability or otherwise as a manager. The angst was driven it seems to me by internet gossip and unfounded rumour passed off as ‘fact’, as The Donald would say ‘Fake news’

    There must always be a risk when appointing a rookie manager as firstly there is no certainty as to how good that person might be but also anyone doing something for the first time is going to make mistakes.

    Steve Gibson has now twice appointed rookie managers at a time of major change and upheaval (aka cost cutting) at the club. He did it with Southgate and we’re still paying the price for a new manger having to rebuild a team with no money (relatively) to spend. He’s done it again with Woodgate and even though its early days the likelihood of success seems significantly greater.

    In a few months we’ve seen a new more entertaining attacking style start to emerge alongside several young academy players who hopefully will get better as time passes.

    Personally I’m enjoying the transition, watching exciting football (even if in short sporadic bursts currently) is a world apart from the dour drudge of sitting through a Karankaesque or Pulis ball football match.

    So far my assessment is good job with signs of significant potential for better, Woody appears to me to be a strong leader with a clear vision.

    I for one am enjoying watching the Boro again.

  88. As is it definitely a must NOT lose game, well so as not to get those squeaky bum feelings, I wonder if JW will opt for a causous team? Five at the back and may be Clayton back in?

    For me, a five and two upfront. Be positive from the off.

  89. Team News: Looks like Woodgate is sticking with a back four with Spence continuing to be ‘rested’ but Morrison gets his debut with Britt and Fletcher also starting together. Tav also rested and it’s the same midfield trio of Saville, Wing and McNair.

    Starting XI: Pears, Howson, Moukoudi, Fry, Coulson, Saville, Wing, McNair. Morrison, Assombalonga, Fletcher.

    Subs: Mejias, Spence, Clayton, Tavernier, Johnson, Nmecha, Gestede.

  90. Hard to predict how exactly Boro will line up but it looks likely to be 4-3-3 with Britt returning to a more central role and Fletcher perhaps playing out wider with Morrison on the other side. It’s basically the same back four and midfield as at Brentford. OK, it could be a front two with playing Morrison behind them but we may lack width if Coulson can’t get forward easily.

    The problem will be that Britt and Morrison may not be match fit yet and McNair is still re-adjusting. It means Boro need a performance from Wing and we also need to hope Wigan won’t look to expose Coulson’s full-back credentials.

    Prediction: I’ll go 2-2 with goals for Fletcher and Coulson.

  91. Well it looks like Woodgate has nailed his colours to the mast once more with this line up.
    We constantly looked vulnerable with this, but it was against Brentford, no disrespect to Wigan. However Wigan will be fighting hard, harder than Boro, we will see.
    As Werder said, no pace in the side apart from Coulson who will probably be contained with his defensive duties. Lets see how Britt and Morrison perform with no game time.

  92. I was worried that Morrison may lack match fitness but he was the sharpest player in a Boro shirt and possibly the one who looked to get the ball forward. Boro seemed content to play neat triangles in midfield but as usual lacked a final ball or pass. Wigan scored when I thought Boro were looking comfortable in the game but they’ve lacked quality in the final third with no shot on target. Sadly, one of few times they put a good move together (and it was a really good move) Fletcher finished well but it was adjudged to have been offside – whether it was is hard to say since there wasn’t a replay of any significance. Wing has been pretty poor with his passing tonight I’m afraid. Bring on Spence and play with wing-backs sooner rather than later and Britt looks off the pace too and should make way for Nmecha.

  93. When I saw the team I thought we would struggle and finished a glass of Malbec before the match started. I hope JW can change things in the 2nd half and avoid us dropping back into the relegation battle.

  94. It is half-time and how would you summarise what we have seen so far?
    Slow, uninspiring, lethargic, too many players static, far too slow in closing down, lack of cohesion , look nervous and very poor movement off the ball.
    The only good points? The new defender who looks to pass the ball accurately forward and takes responsibility for holding the defence together, and, Howson and Coulson getting forward but not a lot of end product.

    Wigan look like a team who if their opponents score first look will crumble. But they are now leading 1-0 at half-time and looked to have gained in confidence.

    Will the second half be any better? Perhaps a little better by scoring two goals but against that they conceded against a team who posed little threat going forward and Boro couldn’t beat a team with ten men for the last 30 minutes.
    The real stars were the Boro supporters who were exceptional and deserve a better team than the one witnessed tonight.

  95. Well in the end Boro couldn’t take advantage of several pieces of luck – it looked a dubious free-kick that resulted in a red card and a big deflection off the wall saw us level. Then a goal-keeping blunder saw Wing give us the lead but then Moukoudi must have felt sorry for Wigan as he executed a powerful header that gave Pears no chance. Boro never looked like they had an extra man and instead gave away countless unnecessary fouls to make the last half hour scrappy. So just two shots on target in a poor quality game as both teams got lucky and contrived a 2-2 draw that leaves them as they were before kick-off. I don’t think either manager will be pleased and plenty of errors by plenty of players to share the blame around – though didn’t think a back four helped to bring the best out of many Boro players.

    On the plus side we’re only now 13 points off the play-offs and I at least predicted the score…

  96. It looked as if the conditions were pretty bad but it certainly wasn’t a great performance.

    Wing got better as the game went on but the best Boro player was George Savile who covered everything and played his way out of a lot of difficult situations. I don’t think that we deserved to win although at 2-1 up against ten men we had a great opportunity. The own goal wasn’t Moukoudi’s fault because he had to go for it with a Wigan player unmarked behind him. It’s the same whenever we play four at the back. There’s too much space, particularly behind Coulson. We have to find a way to stop the crosses coming in. Anyway, the important thing was not losing which keeps us a reasonable distance ahead of the relegation fight.


    1. I think with the own goal the cross started to dip and in the end Moukoudi had already committed to heading the ball and couldn’t get under it – I agree conditions were a factor and probably caught out the Wigan keeper for our second goal. Still, that’s 5 goals conceded with the return to a back four – though Fry may have gone off with an injury at the end so maybe we don’t have enough bodies to make a back three at the weekend even if we wanted too. Maybe it will Howson, Moukoudi and McNair with Spence and Coulson as wing-backs. I’d also agree that Saville was probably MOM – but not many candidates.

      1. I agree that four at the back isn’t working. I’d like to see three at the back with Saville in front and then flour across the middle with Spence and Coulson wide. Then someone playing just behind the front two. The two in the middle and the one would be a combination picked from Wing, Morrison, McNair, Tavernier, Roberts (when fit). This would function like the diamond that they tend to use but with the two wingbacks added in.

  97. I was just following the match on Radio Tees and my pre-match worries were based on reverting to 4-3-3 might upset the defence, not having wing backs might remove our quick midfield breaks and that starting with Britt after his long absence might upset our attack. It seems my worries may have been justified. 4 points from 18 is not good enough nor is 2 shots on target against the third from bottom team. I do not feel confident about the next 2 matches but at least we still have a 7 point gap. It looks as if the ‘blip’ in our form was the 4 wins over Xmas/New Year but better that than the other way round. Looking forward to Redcar Red’s report to see what he saw as the problems.

  98. I agree with many of your views above. It’s a good job I don’t go to football to be entertained (!), because this game was a right load of Lancashire tripe. Boro were frankly awful. Some of you have highlighted the usual issues – a lack of pace, a lack of creativity, four at the back leaving attackers far too much room, poor passing, and so on.

    Some negatives:-
    – Coulson is good going forward, but much weaker at his full-back duties.
    – We’ve now conceded 5 goals in 2 games with a back four.
    – The forwards were woeful all night. Britt barely touched the ball. Fletch couldn’t control it and had a very poor game, apart from his disallowed goal. Late on, he resorted to just shoving over his marking defender, in what appeared to be a sign of frustration. Nmecha made precious little difference, and missed a glorious chance in the last 5 minutes when he failed to control the ball with only the keeper to beat.
    – Did I mention players failing to control the ball? It went on all night, and far too often passes to teammates went frustratingly astray.
    – I can only recall four shots from Boro all night – Wingy’s two goals, another one from him that went wide and one from Coulson that just missed. Did any other Boro player actually have a shot tonight? We certainly created very few chances, and hardly ever tested their keeper.
    – What was the formation supposed to be? The midfield didn’t seem to know! Far too often we tried to play it through the wall of blue shirts down the middle, but with very little success. There seemed to be 3 or 4 red shirts all occupying the same space, passing the ball rapidly between themselves five yards in front of Wigan’s midfield / defensive blockers, but never actually breaking through. It was all far too congested and lacked pace, width and guile.
    – We really couldn’t take advantage of Wigan being a man down.
    – Ref Oliver Langford was his usual awful self. He booked 9 players, and could have booked several more as the game got very niggly late on.

    And a few positives:-
    – We didn’t lose, but we might have done as Wigan piled on the pressure in the last few minutes, and to be fair, until the sending off we had never looked like scoring.
    – George Saville had one of his best games for Boro.
    – Ravel Morrison was involved and constantly looking for thd ball.
    – Wingy’s goals! The first took a deflection, but looked goal-bound anyway. The second was laugh-out-loud beautiful. I was right behind it as it came goalwards and saw it bend wickedly to beat the embarrassed keeper, who was heading the wrong way! It was probably a combination of the swirling wind and Wingy’s magic swerve, but it was an absolute belter!

    Verdict: – 4/10 for the performance. Must do better against Luton and Barnsley.

    Now come on, RR. Eagerly awaiting your report. My guess is you might find it quite difficult to find nice things to say in this one!

  99. Just a reminder , the football you see on Match of the day , is fake ,in the sense its cut up to show the best of the worst,.
    Every game as lots of periods of pathetic periods.
    What you saw was a team with players playing at their level ,which means , inconsistent , ability, I’ve mentioned it before, to gat out of this league , you need solid types , enhanced by at least three players who are better than this level, and raise up the others ,
    Roberts is a massive loss, but he is what I am on about
    Our problem is the local media ,who never see the premiership on a regular basis , upping the likes of McNair, who would never last five minutes in the Prem.
    Its about your standards seems Gill and the like have a low one.
    Remember the winger from Ajax reserves, gone in one season,
    Say no more.

  100. So would the only thing to sparkle once again be Jonathan Woodgate’s Manger-of-the-Month award as the current incumbent is seemingly the only one capable of putting in a polished performance – albeit with his duster. Boro supporters were hoping that their team would at least show Wigan a clean pair of heels and increase the safety gap to a tidy ten points. Anyway, one man who always leaves his mark is here to tell us if Boro were a well-oiled machine at the DW – it’s Redcar Red and his match report…


  101. How on earth RR has done that? Does he stay overnight at Wigan to write the professional report to our blog? Unbelievable, Jeff.

    We were not as good as at Brentford but nearly nicked the three points. It was an entertaining match to watch but neither team were better than the table shows.

    Two great goals from Wingsy. That was worth watching the game. I am not missing the Pulis play.

    We scored three goals away from home – unfortunately one own goal. As a defender myself, I can see these things happens. He had a striked behind his back and it was a low and hard center – not much time to think there. It happens.

    I think Woody has too many options now. I personally do not see why we would need three centre halfs. I rather have two forwards in our team.

    But this was a second match in succession when we gave a debut to a new player. We need to stick to a formation now for the next few matches and make only one or two changes. We need to give time for the chosen players to find a rhythm. The problem is that we need a couple of wins to settle. Including McNair.

    But job done. We still have seven poits separating us from the relagation zone. Let’s win at home next and see where we finish in May.

    Up the Boro!

  102. Great report RR. Spot on as usual. I just think that you were a touch hard on Saville who I thought held things together when there was a lot of mistakes and confusion around him.

      1. That’s right, John. It was made famous in George Orwell’s book, The Road to Wigan Pier, which highlighted the dreadful working conditions in the town at the time (something similar to what we all witnessed last night?!!!)

        The town made it into a well-known local tourist attraction in the eighties, with a pub and a museum that incorporated a ‘living’ 19th century school room, complete with costumed actors as teachers who would regularly rap recalcitrant adults across the knuckles with a ruler! Great fun. Sadly, when the tourists dried up, the attraction faded and the Pier, as was, once again fell into disuse. The original building remains there, though, by the side of the canal.

  103. Redcar Red,

    As always thank you for your report, great effort on a freezing night with a lazy wind blowing. Thankfully the gap to Wigan didn’t close but nor did it open so sort of stays quo but as you say luton and Barnsley must be six points although their respective managers will have have noticed Boro’s back four weakness. Will the coaches ever learn? Answers on the proverbial postcard.

    At least we didn’t lose, that’s a sort of compensation, but Boro don’t seem to be able to hang on to a lead. Well not yet anyway. Please make all those ‘… of the month awards’ back door or shed door stops.



  104. werder I put a post up yesterday not long after my 12:20 post which is now gone, have I been censored?

    🔴 No you weren’t censored it just ended up in the spam folder but I’ve posted below in case anyone missed it – Werdermouth

    Nigel Reeve wrote

    There was indeed much resistance on here to the appointment of Woody, however the overwhelming majority of it centred on questioning his integrity as a man rather than his ability or otherwise as a manager. The angst was driven it seems to me by internet gossip and unfounded rumour passed off as ‘fact’, as The Donald would say ‘Fake news’

    There must always be a risk when appointing a rookie manager as firstly there is no certainty as to how good that person might be but also anyone doing something for the first time is going to make mistakes.

    Steve Gibson has now twice appointed rookie managers at a time of major change and upheaval (aka cost cutting) at the club. He did it with Southgate and we’re still paying the price for a new manger having to rebuild a team with no money (relatively) to spend. He’s done it again with Woodgate and even though its early days the likelihood of success seems significantly greater.

    In a few months we’ve seen a new more entertaining attacking style start to emerge alongside several young academy players who hopefully will get better as time passes.

    Personally I’m enjoying the transition, watching exciting football (even if in short sporadic bursts currently) is a world apart from the dour drudge of sitting through a Karankaesque or Pulis ball football match.

    So far my assessment is good job with signs of significant potential for better, Woody appears to me to be a strong leader with a clear vision.

    I for one am enjoying watching the Boro again.

  105. Just saying like.
    If you remove the speed from the team (and yes, I do mean Tav and Spence!) then you will see all the limitations of your side exposed in all their glory. And will suffer the sight of a very moderate side going for your throat, and succeeding.
    I do think the return of Britt has damaged us severely, no goals.
    Thank god for Wing, a talent for scoring is beyond price.

    1. Plato,

      I agree with you about Britt, just because he and Gestede cost serious money it doesn’t mean they are better, perhaps they are potentially better but those December boys did a good job and still are. I think he should wait for his chance now.

      The next few games are going to be a big test. In some ways worryingly so.



  106. Quick thanks to RR for another very good match report and some good observations – I particularly liked the point that Boro players didn’t really know what to do with Morrison and I think it’s true that when he dropped deeper to pick up the ball and then laid it off before making a forward run, everyone just seemed to ignore his runs and continue playing their methodical neat triangles as they progressed slowly up the pitch. Perhaps it highlights the lack of urgency that our midfield seem to possess and are simply not used to having team-mates who are not so static. I think if Morrison can integrate into the team then he could be the playmaker we need – he looked quite sharp given he’s hardly played much in the last few years.

  107. RR

    Many thanks for the match report it gave me the flavour of the game as I was unable to watch it at home.

    I must confess that I could drag myself down to the local pub and watch it but my interest is lacking at present in watching a below average team give below par performances.

    In years gone by I would have made every effort to see the game either live or on TV and I don’t know if it’s an age thing but apathy has definitely set in.

    I did listen to the radio and was quite excited when Fletcher “scored” and then doubly disappointed when the goal was ruled out and then Wigan scored.

    I switched the radio off and watched a movie instead.( I said apathy had set in!)

    So when I checked the result at 10:30 last night I didn’t know to be pleased we had won a point or disappointed that we had only drawn against 10 men.

    RR your is the only match report I have read and for that matter intend to read so thank you for your endeavour and honest reporting. You tell it “what it says on the tin”. warts and all and as ever is appreciated.


  108. It seems that Woodgate believes that some form of 4-3-3 is the best way forwards. The thing about managing a team is that you do have to have a plan, know when to stick with it and when to change. At this point, it looks like the team is better suited to some form of 3-5-2/3-4-3 so it’s really on Woodgate as to whether he reverts to 3 at a back for another short-term fix or decides to tough it out with 4 at the back until the team gels (or fails).

    Ultimately football is a very short-term business and Woodgate is not in a position of strength that would enable him to survive poor results while trying to mould the team into his preferred shape. He has two wingbacks that are full of potential in Spence and Coulson with reasonable back-ups in Johnson and Howson. He should have Shotton or Friend ready as a third CB in time for the weekend.

    On the pluses side, we do have players like Tav, Wing, Spence, Coulson, Ravel, Roberts (when fit) who are exciting to watch. I think there is a risk with Ravel that we end up with Juninho/Adama syndrome where the team simply gives the ball to him and waits.

    For all the low points this season I do feel quite optimistic about the next year or two. Woodgate and his coaching team hasn’t convinced me yet but I’m open to being convinced.

    1. That’s quite astounding and makes you wonder if the reason why he’s not played for 18 months – Burnley should have sanctioned a loan in January as everyone will now know that he’s not wanted at Burnley and he doesn’t want to be at the club either, which will be reflected by any offers made in the summer.

      btw I’m reminded of the David Squires cartoon in the Guardian this week with Sean Dyche shouting at storm Ciara instead of going away on a winter break…



  109. Thanks again to Redcar Red for his report. He mentioned that many passes were going astray, but in such windy conditions maybe we should expect that. The conditions probably affected the flight of the ball for Lewis Wing’s second goal, a nightmare for goalkeepers and defenders so I’m not going to castigate Moukoudi for Wigan’s equaliser. Although two ‘own goals’ in successive matches by the same Boro player is not what we want to see the record for ‘own goals’ in a season for any team is 5 and naturally by a Boro player, Bobby Stuart in season 1934/35.

    1. Whilst I may be barking up the wrong tree, I would repeat what I said previously.
      Ben Gibson has not committed 100% to Burnley.???

      Will the majority of clubs see him as only a Championship level player? If so how would any club in our league (apart from those with parachute payments) manage his 2mil a year salary? And he could be a big gamble at those wages plus even a smallish transfer fee.

  110. I can confirm that Ben Gibson is training with the Boro team today, what is going on I have no idea at the moment, has he bought himself out of his contract, who knows but since he still has 2 years left, it would cost Burnley £4m in wages and how much of the transfer fee £15m do they still owe Boro.

    Come on BORO.

    1. I don’t think Ben Gibson can unilaterally buy himself out of his contract as yet – the Webster ruling by FIFA (based on the case of Andy Webster who at the time played for Hearts) states that players over 28 years old can buy themselves out of their contract after two years, which is increased to three years for players under 28. Since Ben Gibson has just turned 27 in January it will not be possible for him to do so until next January when he turns 28 and will have been with Burnley for two-and-half years. The compensation paid is equivalent to the amount of wages due in the remaining contract.

  111. Thanks for that werdermouth, I had heard about the Webster ruling but didn’t realise they had to be over 28 for the two year rule.

    Redcar Red, let’s be fair to our own players a shot that takes a deflection, when goal bound, is not classed as an own goal so Harold did not score an own goal against Brentford and therefore he has not scored a own goal in each of his appearances.

    Come on BORO.

    1. For what its worth I think Moukoudi looks a real talent. Its a pity that his arrival coincides with coming into an unsettled defence which hasn’t helped him. He looks to be a physical powerhouse, a real handful with a lot of skill for a big unit. Given the opportunity I’d sign him in a heartbeat providing the fee is both reasonable and affordable.

      Against Brentford Watkins should never have been left unmarked and therefore shouldn’t have had the opportunity to shoot in the first instance and likewise the cross that came in against Wigan should have been prevented. The blame for conceding those two goals lies elsewhere rather than Moukoudi having to deal with the consequences.

  112. Just read the Burnley statement on Gibson.

    Wow, that is some way to mismanage an expensive asset. Baffling from Burnley really. What is it you often say, RR – you don’t get yourself into those situations in the first place?

  113. “Steve”
    “Yes Neil ”
    ” Adoma will sign , you know the winger from Vllla , ”
    “Oh right, ”
    ” but the agent is demanding a release clause in the contract ”
    ” Doesn’t he know every player at this club as a release clause, its called make me an offer i like, were skint.”
    ” OK, they mentioned £18m, ”
    “18m, that’s a fortune, get it done”

    “What if he works out ,he did play with Barcelona, you might get 50m”
    ” Nor ,no chance Neil, we are Boro you know, everyone screws us over, probably give him a free transfer next year, just like that guy from Ajax we had for one season , sign him anyway ,someone said he’s quick, so he can lead the lads on their cross. Country runs.”

    1. To be fair, gt, hindsight makes us all wise. At the time we signed him a lot of people felt we were being short changed on the deal and an £18m release clause seemed hugely optimistic. Good luck to Wolves with that now. All we can hope is that the deal we agreed with Wolves included some sell on clause, but that may be just wishful thinking.

      1. Barcelona and Villa before us never thought that he would be worth £18m let alone £80m.

        During his time here he showed his speed and trickery in abundance but badly lacked coherence with his team mates. That was in part down to his blistering pace leaving them behind and successive managers keeping things tight so when he broke through the opposition lines there was nobody anywhere near him but that also requires of him that he used those skills to fit with the team.

        The Managers could either build their team around one often erratic player or try and utilise him to fit in with their game plan. Wolves have got the best out of him but they don’t play the Karanka or Pulis way which perhaps questions why we sold /swapped/part ex’ed Adomah and brought him in because at the time Adomah was delivering and we suffered because of it.

      2. Another thought on Adama, his move has elevated and boosted his career in stark contrast to Ben Gibson whose Burnley move has just about killed his career. As Powmill above says, hindsight is a wonderful thing. there are no guarantees in life.

      3. Not forgetting at Wolves he has much better players around him. Bear in mind that the other 10 players on the pitch work hard to allow him to stand up the pitch doing nothing waiting for the ball.

    1. Its interesting but it reads to me like half a story just looking at incomings and outgoings, something that a thirteen year old could do on his laptop.

      Leeds seem to be in a very healthy financial position based on that and even the clubs with the worst losses don’t seem all that bad considering the current rules and would easily comply over three years is that was all there was to it. Of more interest would have been to publish the headline figures from the Clubs accounts and see where they are in relation to FFP.

  114. As we know from experience it is the wage bill that tends to push clubs outside FFP and I take it that those figures are only transfer related.

    Come on BORO.

  115. Re the FLW article on dropped points. It would appear the author qualifies for the Diasboro self help group for grumpy old men given his comment on JW’s tactical naivety! 😎😀

    1. Isn’t it amazing how when JW was a 30-something player he would be called out as an experienced head who could “calm the situation down” etc etc but now as a manager he’s forgotten it all?!

      I would say having a much team on the field is more likely to be the reason we sometimes don’t make the right decisions on the pitch.

      1. Andy R

        There is, however, a big difference between someone playing the game for ten years or more and then moving into his first managerial appointment.

        One is an experienced player the other is an inexperienced (naive) manager. 😎

      2. Playing skills (when he actually was playing) and Management skills are not one and the same and are certainly not transferable otherwise Bobby Charlton, David Beckham etc. would all have made great Managers. In fact most of the truly “Great” Managers were mediocre players at best.

  116. My Adoma post, was for entertainment purpose only.
    On another serious note, Merson on some round table , tipped Boro in the mix for promotion next season based on the Brentford game.

  117. Indications are that Friend and Shotton will be available for the Luton game.

    What odds on 433 with a back line of Shotton, Fry, Moukoudi and Friend? 😎

    1. In all seriousness this coming Luton game is a massive one. Draw it and whatever the reasons and excuses there will be a lot of questions asked. Win it and its expected so whats the big deal, Boro should be beating the bottom sides (second bottom after their win last night) at home. Lose and its not worth contemplating.

      I may be in a minority in this but I’m starting to see similarities with Monk. When he had too many players that he wanted to play and in order to fit them all in the tactics and set up were less than convincing. When Woodgate had restrictions on who he could select he achieved the best results of the season but when he has more choices he seems to (or at least his results would indicate) make life very difficult for himself.

    2. If we went with a back four of Shotton, McNair, Moukoidi and Friend with Spence ahead of Shotton on the right and Coulson in front of Friend on the left that would work in my view. A big solid almost Pulisesque defence with the speed and skill of two wingers to get at teams knowing they have cover behind them is tempting. Fletcher up front with Howson and Saville in the middle leaving Wing playing off Fletcher in a 4132.

      I’d still prefer a back three/five but right now we need to start getting clean sheets and keeping things tight. Getting back to functional basics. The reason I have omitted Fry is because I think he is crocked and playing through pain because of a lack of CB options and in any case I think he needs a breather.

  118. The only realistic way that JW can play four at the back is with two proper full backs in a 4-4-2 formation. He doesn’t have the personnel for 4-3-3.

    1. GHW

      I think many of us would agree with you in that including myself but has JW recognised that or is it still his preferred formation. Perhaps we will find out during this latter part of the season. 😎

      1. If JW persists with his preferred formation to get MFC playing in a recognised formation to instil it in the psyche of the club then fair enough. But I’d rather he did it when the clubs status in the championship is confirmed.

    1. Being available and carrying an injury and declaring himself (or being told) fit are two different things. He has had to come off in a few games lately and that to me is reminiscent of George Friend playing when he shouldn’t have.

      He is a young player and should be protected but with the lack of CB options it looks to me like he is being played when he should be recovering. I hope it doesn’t affect ether his confidence while he struggles or his long term future in the game through suffering a debilitating injury.

  119. RR, apologies likewise as others for my belated thanks for your Wigan match report.

    A French internet report has stated St Etienne’s Manager, ex of Southampton and Leicester I think, wants a clean sweep for next season and Harold is not part of his plans.
    He came from Le Havre on a free, so in theory should not be overly expensive. However, perform well for the Boro and that may change and more clubs could be interested.

    1. Pedro

      You have hit the nail on the head. He is now in the shop window, our shop window as are all the other players on loan.

      It also highlights the flaws in the loan system; it provides a short term gain but not a long term solution as in most cases we will not have the funds to compete with other interested clubs.😎

  120. OK while there may be currently be no cure for the condition that makes Boro fans follow their team, we can probably take comfort that we don’t suffer in isolation. December’s outbreak of optimism appeared it would spread quickly through the Teesside population but thankfully the club took precautions and reverted to their stocks of typical Boro to keep it in check. However, have they administered too much and now risk a further outbreak of pessimism? Here’s my take on matters with this week’s discussion blog article…


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