Optimism outbreak contained as super-spreader is identified

Championship 2019-20: Weeks 28-29

Sat 15 Feb – 15:00: Boro v Luton
Sat 22 Feb – 15:00: Barnsley v Boro
Wed 26 Feb – 19:45: Boro v Leeds

Werdermouth hopes Boro isolate themselves from the relegation pack…

As the Boro faithful disappointedly await their first victory since New Year’s Day, the good news is that there were no further cases of promotion fever being recorded on Teesside this week. Admittedly, it wasn’t a particular virulent strain and contagion was mainly restricted to the young and those who had failed to wash their hands of the idea that they would end the campaign with a trip to Wembley. Just how the play-off pandemic arrived on Teesside is not clear but it’s well documented that optimism is quite infectious – even despite the local population having built up genetic resistance over several generations.

With rumours that some at the club were openly expressing ambitions of closing the gap on the top six, there was much speculation on the identity of the so-called super-spreader who started them. It’s now believed the source of these contagious Chinese whispers is thought to have frequently visited Rockliffe in early December and may have inadvertently passed on the cohones virus to several players in the Boro squad – many of whom quickly grew a pair and transmitted that infectious confidence to their team-mates. Still, at its peak it not even the EFL men in white coats could restore calm as they further fuelled hysteria by awarding Woodgate their coveted monthly prize.

While ‘Patient Zero’ may sound like the game plan of former manager Tony Pulis or even the marks out of ten some unimpressed supporters gave their new head coach after his first ten games, it does in fact refer to the person who was the origin of an outbreak. Perhaps self-confessed optimist Jonathan Woodgate himself was that Patient Zero when back in November he proclaimed “You never know what is going to happen in football. We could win five on the spin.” It was almost prophetic but since he had also added that “Britt could hit five” and “Ayala might score three” it was not necessarily evidence based – especially as Boro were at the time continuing their descent down the table. Such statements appear to indicate that the new gaffer has clearly been an asymptomatic carrier of the positivity pathogen since he took charge – while that is not necessarily unhealthy in a manager, it won’t make him immune from criticism if he fails to deliver on such lofty aspirations.

Nevertheless, just like the innate enthusiasm of many Boro supporters, the promotion fever has now been contained, which was mainly thanks to those among the faithful who opted for self-quarantine in the comfort of their own homes rather than risk the infectious atmosphere at the Riverside. OK, there may still be one or two sporadic cases for those with low resistance – with perhaps Adam Clayton seemingly most at risk after he was still showing strong symptoms back in mid-January when he declared: “There’s always a team that comes from behind and gets a bit of momentum and makes a late push. Why not us? We’re not going to get carried away and say we’re getting in the play-offs for definite but if we keep the form up and keep playing the way we have been it is there for us. We just have to keep playing well and working hard the way we are and if we can keep this run going for another four or five games, who knows?” Sadly, we all now know that those last five games have yielded just three points and now the talk is once again about avoiding being dragged into the relegation battle.

Talking of self-quarantine, it seems Ben Gibson has placed himself in isolation on Teesside after a training ground bust-up with Sean Dyche following his failure to secure a Burnley exit in January. The 27-year old defender openly questioning whether his future still lies in Lancashire after being given just one league start in 18 months and only a single Carabao Cup outing this season, which was way back in August. The Clarets clarified matters with a brief statement claiming that Gibson made it clear that he wanted to leave the club in January but no offers had met their valuation of the player – which for the player wondering why he hadn’t seen much of the turf at Turf Moor since he arrived would appear to be approaching zero.

This arrangement is apparently temporary and shouldn’t last more than a week – though it could be extended should the collision between a Teesside grudge and a manager famous for insisting every player totally buys into his methods fails to see either backing down. These methods apparently include Dyche demanding crunching tackles in training but doesn’t allow the use of shin pads and everyone must adhere to a regimented dress code, which includes wearing shorts at all times and even rules on the socks a player is allowed to wear. According to former keeper Paul Robinson that is policed by the other players who forward videos of any transgressions they spot to Dyche via the video analysis team, who then makes any offenders spin the wheel of punishment on a Friday to discover their penalty – which appear to be based around humiliation or self-ridicule. Robinson says it was all very English-culture based and designed to create a team ethic – though it may explain why Dyche was overlooked for the Arsenal job recently with their multitude of pampered multinational players as he also has a ban on wearing hats and gloves in training!

Whether as The Clarets most expensive signing, Ben Gibson has got himself caught in the middle of Sean Dyche’s mind games that are possibly designed to demonstrate both his absolute authority and that no player is valued more than another. Dyche’s answer to the question of whether Gibson would play again for Burnley was telling: “We will wait and see what the next step is for us as a club and for him as a player” – in terms of making a name for yourself, it sounds like Burnley was probably the wrong place and the wrong time. Although, not quite the same risk of attempting to live up to your name, which may have pushed the new Chief Executive of BP to crazily declare this week that the world’s fourth largest oil company plans to become carbon neutral – especially when your surname is Looney. While BP’s shareholders may question Bernard Looney’s lucidity, he can at least take comfort that nobody worried about the sobriety of a man called Young Boozer when he served two terms as the State Treasurer of Alabama – though it may have helped that he was 62 when entering office.

However, the question remains is would Ben Gibson be training at Rockliffe if his uncle wasn’t the club owner or indeed would most managers have wanted the distraction ahead of two crucial games against potential relegation rivals. It’s hard to see under what circumstances or indeed at what price the chairman’s nephew can return to Teesside in the summer – a loan move was a possibility if Burnley were prepared to pick up a large chunk of his wages but surely only a permanent exit is on the cards now. How many millions would such a deal cost hard up Boro and would it be the best use of limited resources at this point in time – I suspect the numbers don’t really add up on a permanent return.

Anyway, it’s these next two games against the bottom two clubs that Boro need to concentrate on now and first up are Luton, who are currently ten points behind Boro in 23rd place. The Hatters have the worst defence in the Championship and have conceded 66 goals with 41 of those coming on the road – in fact Graeme Jones’ side have lost their last 11 games on their travels and anything other than a Boro win will be seen as failure by any measure. It was that 3-3 draw in the season opener with the Friday evening televised fixture at Kenilworth Road that heralded the Woodgate era and his desire to play exciting attacking football. Ironically, it was a false impression as Boro only managed another 8 goals in the next three months as they struggled to score and looked suspect defensively as the Liverpool-lite approach didn’t fit the players at the head coach’s disposal. Boro started November sitting in the bottom three and it was only after switching to a more pragmatic back three that results for Woodgate began to improve.

At the end of November, Boro were alarmingly sat in joint-23rd in the table, when they finally ended a run of ten games without a win after beating bottom-club Barnsley by a single Ashley Fletcher goal. It was essentially a must-win game and they now follow-up this weekend’s game against Luton with the return fixture at Oakwell, where the Tykes are still in bottom place. Interestingly, after that defeat at the Riverside in only Gerhard Struber’s second game in charge, the Austrian’s team only lost once more before the year ended, with three wins and three draws. Sadly, like Boro they’ve not repeated their December form and have only picked up four points in 2020. Woodgate will be hoping his team can get back to winning ways in these next two fixtures as failure to do so will leave Boro once more looking over their shoulder at the clubs in the bottom three.

One team who has been looking over their shoulder for several weeks now is Leeds United, who after seemingly looking on course for automatic promotion have seen their once 11 point cushion to third spot completely evaporate and are now just in the automatic places on goal difference. Imploding after a good start has become a regular pattern for the West Yorkshire club and their supporters are increasingly becoming resigned to another season of choking. Perhaps the owners will be contemplating pulling the plug on Marcelo Biesla as they consider the merits of gambling on a new manager bounce to see them over the line. They now look a shadow of the team that cruised to a 4-0 victory over Boro at Elland Road at the end of November and if they continue their downward trajectory it will almost be like facing a team in relegation form. Although, typical Boro decrees that the midweek non-derby will probably see the start of the Leeds revival.

Despite the feeling of being in an almost experimental pre-season mode,Woodgate’s team still need three or four victories to secure their Championship status. The return to a back four has produced similar results to when it was the modus operandi in early season as Boro have likewise looked more easily opened up by the opposition. Tuesdays game at Wigan saw Boro have plenty of possession without much penetration as they passed the ball backwards, sideways and occasionally forwards in neat methodical triangles. Interestingly, Lewis Wing spoke this week of how they’ve been “working on little triangles” in training – perhaps many of the players took this exercise too literally as they appeared to suffer from pythagorean paralysis as the ball travelled opposite over adjacent as the concept of threatening the opposition once more went off on a tangent. Indeed, it seems some of Boro’s players seem to disappear in the Bermuda triangle that exists between midfield and the opposition net. Wing also spoke about playing with Ravel Morrison and hailed his quality by saying “It is nice to know you can wrap a ball into someone’s feet and they will deal with it.” I presume by “deal with it” he actually means control it, which seems to indicate he thinks some of his other team-mates are lacking in that department – no names mentioned but I think they know who they are!

While it’s important that Jonathan Woodgate tries to introduce new methods and ways of playing, he himself has warned about complacency and wants to finish as high as possible in the table. The danger is that the head coach has himself taken his eye off the ball a little as he starts to experiment once more with a back four and rotates his squad and introduces new tactics. The wing-backs of Spence and Coulson had been working well and added pace down the flanks, plus Howson had looked like he’d played in a back three all his career. With the Ben Gibson circus also hanging round the club it’s yet another distraction from preparing for what are probably games it is important that Boro not only don’t lose but should be focused on getting back to winning ways and playing to their strengths – especially as Wigan still have to play the other five teams in the bottom six too. So better no mistakes as we enter the last third of the season, otherwise the recovery may be too late to save the patient!


686 thoughts on “Optimism outbreak contained as super-spreader is identified

  1. Werder, now the doc’s signed us all off we only have to get the teacher to drum that new fangled math/geometry into the players then we might have less of them oblique triangles,
    Thanks again for another funny leader.

  2. Werder, it was not me, honestly. I have not visited the area since Pulis left. Other than this blog …

    Could it spread over the blog? I don’t think as most on here are too old and have a very good protection mechanism. It is in their blood, like.

    Up the Boro!

  3. Werder,

    Very good indeed, I did laugh at a few of the lines, triangles particularly Oh, and the uniform police at Burnley.

    AS for our slow, tortuous and triangular midfield I’d recommend three training Portaloos just outside the opposition penalty area and give them a mild enema to speed them up in getting within shooting range. Although with our luck they’d miss and I suppose it would empty the north and south stands before full-time. Perhaps just a training regime then.

    Anyway a great header article, thoroughly enjoyed it. Now to worry, fret and get gurgling guts thinking about Luton and Barnsley.



  4. Werder one of your best “Headliners” since the last but one. However I have to say it was good to see you revert to “laugh out loud” lines, especially after the last more serious tone.

    Why oh why do MFC want anything to do with the BG circus. Let’s be honest here, we have enough clowns of our own at Rockcliffe. Once again it appears like I am in charge interference by the Owner. Whether or not it was Burnley’s request is of no value.

    To cure the problem that Werder has succinctly raised in his Headliner, requires to identify the source of the virus. In our case at Rockclffe, the virus has been identified. Fortunately the solution is easy. Just take your spoonful of medicine. Five parts diluted in a solution of eleven will make things better. Doctor RR has promised it will be OK eventually and I am inclined to agree.

    Another good read on the greed within football and of the world we live in.


    1. Yes, it is Valentine’s Day or as we say Friends Day locally.

      I hope it is Friend’s day tomorrow when George makes a win for Boro vs. Luton.

      I will go for 3-2 win tomorrow. Fletcher, the other George and Morrison scoring. Up the Boro!

    1. Great news about the 18-21 year old tickets now being available in all areas!

      It was the most ridiculous, illogical and ill conceived mental aberration known to Teesside man. The sheer stupid. narrow minded, ignorance of it in the first place beggared belief but extremely well done to the individual who finally applied common sense to a ruling which I would guess has probably cost the club hundreds if not even four figure season card renewals every season.

      That ruling destroyed the North Stand over several years. The next generation was strategically mugged off, footballing genocide by friendly fire if you like. If MFC just lost 150 fans every season over ten years thats 1,500 fans down. All because a young supporter who had possibly followed the Boro for years as a kid turned 19. His or her reward for that birthday from the Boro was that their season card suddenly doubled in cost unlike their apprenticeship or young persons wage. In my own personal family and friends experience it cost them four season cards.

      Once again take a bow for the individual with common sense. A small gesture but a massive leap forward from what went on before!

  5. Middlesbrough are unbeaten in their last 10 home games in all competitions (W4 D6), their best run since August 2016 (also 10 unbeaten).

    Luton Town have lost their last 12 away games in all competitions since a 2-1 win at Blackburn Rovers in September, scoring six times and conceding 37 across those defeats.

    Nothing can go wrong tomorrow? Up the Boro!

  6. Just looking at the weather forecast for tomorrow afternoon’s game at the Riverside and they’re currently predicting gusts of over 100km/h (nearly 70 mph) with the arrival of storm Dennis – could be a tricky game and worse conditions than at Wigan.

    1. Since the corners were filled in the wind swirls a little but doesn’t normally affect play to a great extent apart from the flags on the East Stand roof. That’s not to say that the odd sudden gust doesn’t or couldn’t hold up or distort a hoofed ball’s trajectory but it is a lot calmer than many grounds especially those with open corners.

      Its more likely that the safety committee may take a serious view that Boro’s current league position and having a game in hand against one of the Championship’s whipping boys may be a useful card up the sleeve to have at the back end of the season, especially if Dani Ayala is back fully fit.

      Sorry thinking out loud! What I really meant was that there could be structural concerns with panels on the Stadium and the approaches to the ground putting spectator safety at risk plus the additional threat to those travelling by rail to the ground.

  7. Great article Werder thank you.

    It brought me out in fits of infectious laughter but I should be well enough to listen tomorrow, or even watch if you can find me a live stream!

    Not sure what to expect tomorrow, formation wise, selection wise or score.

    Just hope we don’t go down with the Borona virus and can isolate the Luton forwards.

    Scrappy 1-0 to us! 😎

      1. RR, thanks for that link.

        So I will be able to see the match on TV via Vaiplay tomorrow. I only miss the commentary of Radio Tees – Mark Dury (?) and Maddison will be missed.

        Up the Boro !

  8. RR, surely we would not try that again? After we got away with it when we got all that Siberian snowfall which disappeared from our roads and stadium by 10 am on the day of the match against the Magpies. We were struggling then plus players missing.

  9. Just working out that we have scored 16 goals at home in 16 games at the Riverside this season. With simple maths that would equate to 23 goals in 23 home games if it continues in that vein.

    Those early birders in the West Stand upper would have paid the princely sum of £25.26 per Boro goal for their Season Cards. The early bird plebs in the cheap seats (aka the North Stand) would have forked out £18.26 for the same privilege per goal.

  10. Brilliant Werder. Thank you so much for taking your time to share your imaginative musings with us. Many laughs and chuckles in that one, but as ever, always totally topical and with an underpinning sense of the reality of it all. You have a great skill my friend.

    As for the Boro. Well sometimes you believe they have a great skill too and others, you just get to wonder what they have done with it …

    Dennis the menace or not, I expect a convincing win by a 3 goal margin tomorrow. 3-0 us.

    1. Many thanks Powmill for those generous words and I’m starting to become increasingly convinced that my surreal imagination is in fact closer to reality than what passes for it in the current world these days 😉

      1. Werder,

        I think we live in the age of the white rabbit. In the filing system it sits under ‘you couldn’t make it up’ but why would you bother it’s all around us. Sometimes I am quite troubled by the concept.

        I will not go on a rant…



  11. It’s difficult to believe about the weather in England as here in the Algarve it’s been a constant 18/19 degrees with bright periods but variable sunshine, but the main difference is the lack of any wind and difficulty in getting the washing dry. I’ve been away up north for awhile into the lower Alentejo region so a little behind on what’s happening at Boro so far too busy enjoying myself touring around, I know, but someone’s got to do it.

    First of all an excellent article from Werdermouth, especially enjoyed the geometrical comments. Next the Ben Gibson problem. I see nothing wrong in his training at Rockliffe as there
    have been many instances in the past of players keeping fit by training at a ground nearer their home, though I’m assuming here that Ben still owns a property on Teesside. The problem for Ben is that in my opinion he was never going to become a Premier League player never mind an England player after his most recent appearances for Boro. Of course he might have been carrying an injury but Sean Dyche must have been frustrated with Ben and underwhelmed with his performances. I’m informed by my Burnley friends also that his wages are way above most of his colleagues and in effect the ‘Gestede’ of the club. I can understand Dyche’s reluctance to allow him to leave
    unless he can recoup some of his investment and I think it’s a magnanimous jesture on Dyche’s behalf to allow him to train at Rockliffe, and much preferable from Ben’s point of view to train with fellow Championship players at Boro than academy players at Burnley. Ben must realise that his colossal wages preclude him from playing for Boro or any other Championship club so his only course of action if he wants to play at the moment is to take a massive wage cut, or he’ll have to stay on the sidelines until his contract runs out and then renegotiate a much lower wage with a Championship club. A shame really how things have turned out, but Boro must take some blame for paying some of their players far more than what they are worth.

    I’ve also noticed the article about Adama Traore and his amazing pace. Well fast enough to be a Rugby League winger? Not sure about that, although I concede that it’s easier to run full pelt with a rugby ball in one’s hand than with a football at one’s feet.

    Lastly I’m aghast at the sheer arrogance of a senior official of one of the Premier League’s top six in stating that we don’t want any more Leicester City’s winning the Premier League in the future. What we do need is the complete opposite with the Premier League becoming more competitive. I recently mentioned that 60 clubs had enjoyed First Division football in my lifetime. In fact 16 of those clubs have won the League in that time, but outside of the current top six only Portsmouth in 1949 and 1950, and Wolves in 1958 and 1959 have won it in consecutive seasons though Derby County have also won it twice in 1972 and 1974. Perhaps we should start a petition to ‘give us back our football’ starting with salary capping and a restriction in the number of foreigners per club following Brexit, and revert to a system in Europe where only League Champions are allowed to compete for the distinction of being European Champions. Of course it’s not going to happen, but one can dream.

    1. Ken
      So pleased to hear that you are enjoying the fine weather. As Pedro mentioned, like southern Spain today, here on the Costa Blanca it was 21 degrees and delightful on the golf course.

      It is predicted to reach 27 degrees mid week which is much higher than normal for this time of year. Dreaded global warming strikes again!

      You mentioned the back to back wins by Portsmouth, were they still benefitting at that time from service men who were professionals from other clubs?

      I don’t seek to diminish their achievements but wonder if they benefitted by having players who would normally be playing for other clubs?

      Enjoy the remainder of your Iberian holiday. 😎

    2. Ken
      I think that we are at fault for even considering that Burnley have a point.
      Burnley are a small club, desperately searching for very good players on the cheap, with the object of selling them on at a very big mark up.
      Accidents happen to all clubs who try this, Burnley forgot that they cannot give anyone game time because their need for points is desperate, every season.
      The idea that we might be prepared to call the deal a mistake and take him back is frankly a damned cheek.
      Ben Gibson has one duty and that is to himself, when on a big contract collect the millions, every one of them. He could have been working in industry, so let’s not involve Ben in the struggles of Burnley. Incidentally, having played about six games in two seasons, and being very fit, I think that any talk of him being not good enough is simply sour grapes coming from Lancashire.
      As ever, money talks, and they will pay up his contract.

    1. Thanks for the earlier link Pedro it was very interesting read that perhaps confirmed my view that football has become driven by money. It’s a bit like Mike Bloomberg who is now attempting spend $1bn to buy the US presidency – clearly if you have enough money success has a price and if you’re willing to spend enough then it’s almost guaranteed. Although, as we know this didn’t apply to Boro under Garry Monk as presumably you still need to spend it wisely and effectively.

    1. Just sat earlier this evening having a drink before dinner and up popped the news headline about Man City.
      Talk about priorities. Farmers here in the south protesting about their lot. 17 cents a litre for their olive oil just is not sufficient to make a living. But then in the UK we know all about milk prices!!!!!!!

    1. After their previous fine of £49m in 2014 and now accused of inflating the value of a sponsorship deal and in doing so misleading European football’s governing body I think they might struggle to claim innocence. I would guess they will want it commuted to a fine (which will be peanuts to their owners)

      The trickle down effect however could be interesting on the likes of Derby, Reading, Wednesday and of course Villa all protesting their innocence.

  12. Malcolm

    Re your earlier post regarding the Ayala contract situation. I have the awful feeling it is not going to happen.

    According to an article in the EG nearly two months ago, he expressed a wish to stay and renew his contract whilst accepting that the financial landscape had changed (would have to accept a reduction in salary) but since then we have heard nothing.

    This would seem to indicate the following:

    MFC have not yet made him an offer and are waiting until the end of the season.

    They have made him an offer which is not acceptable to him.

    He prefers to wait until the end of the season to see what, if any, offers are available to him.

    Whilst you and I would like to sign him up now, I can understand MFC’s position that until they know which division they will be operating in next season, it is difficult to agree terms with the more experienced/ higher earners.

    I hope we don’t lose him, as we need an experienced spine to the team if we are to get out of this league.

    Fingers crossed on the Costa Blanca. 😎

    1. My problem with Ayala KP, is that he normally takes an extended holiday around January /February and even into March.

      This has become somewhat of the norm. Can we really afford that commitment.?

      1. Pedro

        I don’t think he is a shirking, he is just unlucky in picking up injuries. Perhaps as a consequence of being a regular in the side.

        It may be a case of managing his game time better and not playing him when he is not 100% fit.

        I think he is worth keeping and if we could afford Moukoudi as well then even better. 😎

  13. Having done a quick sweep of the major domestic Football Leagues in Europe since the Second World War I’ve come up with the following title winners:-

    Celtic 31
    Rangers 29
    Aberdeen 4 (last title in 1985)
    Hearts 4 (last title in 1960)
    Hibernian 3 (last title in 1952, all those titles in the space of 5 years)
    Dundee once in 1962
    Kilmarnock once in 1965
    Dundee once in 1983

    Anderlecht 34
    Club Brugge 14
    Standard Liège 10 (last title in 2009)
    Racing Genk 4 (won last title last season)
    KV Mechelen 3 (last title in 1989)
    Lierse 2 (last title in 1997)
    Beveren 2 (last title in 1984)
    RFC Liège 2 (last title in 1953)
    Ghent once on 2015
    Molenbeek once in 1975
    Royal Antwerp once in 1957

    Bayern Munich 28
    Borussia Dortmund 8 (last title in 2012)
    Stuttgart 5 (last title in 2007)
    Borussia Mönchengladbach 5 (last title in 1977)
    Werder Bremen 5 (last title in 2004)
    Kaiserslautern 4 (last title in 1988)
    SV Hamburg 4 (last title in 1983)
    FC Koln 3 (last title in 1978)
    Nuremberg 3 (last title in 1968)
    Wolfsburg once in 2009
    Eintracht Braunschweig once in 1967
    1860 Munich once in 1964
    Eintracht Frankfurt once in 1959
    FC Schalke once in 1958
    Rot-Weiss Essen once in 1955
    Hannover once in 1954
    Mannheim once in 1949

    Ajax Amsterdam 27
    PSV Eindhoven 26
    Feyenoord Rotterdam 10
    Willem Tilburg 2 (last title in 1955)
    Twente Enschede once in 2010
    AZ Alkmaar once in 2009
    Amsterdam FC once in 1964
    Sparta Rotterdam once in 1959
    Roda Kerkrade once in 1956
    FC Eindhoven once in 1954
    Racing Club Heemstede once in 1953
    Cimburgia FC once in 1950
    Scheveningen FC once in 1949
    Den Bosch once in 1948
    Haarlem once in 1946

    Juventus 28
    AC Milan 15
    Inter Milan 13
    Torino 5
    AS Roma 2 (last title in 2001)
    Lazio Roma 2 (last title in 2000)
    Napoli 2 (last title in 1990)
    Fiorentina 2 (last title in 1969)
    Sampdoria once in 1991
    Hellas Verona once in 1985
    Cagliari once in 1970
    Bologna once in 1964

    Benfica 32
    FC Porto 25
    Sporting Lisbon 16
    Boavista once in 2001
    Belenenses once in 1946

    Real Madrid 31
    Barcelona 25
    Atletico Madrid 8
    Valencia 4 (last time in 2004)
    Athletic Bilbao 4 (last time in 1984)
    Real Sociedad (San Sebastián) 2 (last time in 1982)
    Deportivo A Coruña once in 2000
    Sevilla surprising only once in 1946

    Note how all these Leagues have been dominated by 2 or 3 clubs since the War and also how some clubs won only 1 or 2 titles in the dim and distant past. The only country where the League Championship has been shared out is FRANCE where St Étienne have won the title 10 times, Marseille, Paris St Germain, Monaco and Nantes 8 times each, Lyon 7 times, Bordeaux and Rheims 6 times, Nice 4 times and Lille 3 times with single title wins by Montpellier in 2017, Lens in 1998, Auxerre in 1996, Strasbourg in 1979 and Roubaix as early as 1947.

    1. Ken, it does highlight the fact that football as a concept of actually being a sporting competition, where all those involved have any chance of winning, doesn’t exist. Perhaps it demonstrates how it is in fact more a market where the biggest and richest gradually gain control over the the best players, managers and coaches to further strengthen their dominance.

      Bayern Munich have now won the last seven titles in Germany and two-thirds of them this century – although it’s probably just coincidence that Werder Bremen won their last title a few weeks after I arrived in the area and haven’t won one since.

      This is what happens when the money-men are put in charge – what is measured as success is not how fair and equal the competition is but how much money the commercial rights can be sold for. It restricts all the best players to a handful of clubs in each country and then you can more easily market another competition like the Champions League that contains them all.

      It seems the various top leagues in each country have now become just a qualifying mechanism for the Champions League – though in actuality there is little uncertainty over which clubs will qualify on a regular basis. Although as long as people continue to pay their subscriptions to watch the Champions League on TV nothing will change as it appears they are providing a product that they want.

      Though what is football these days but an expression of the power of wealth – it will be interesting to see if UEFA actually go through with their threat to ban Man City from the Champions League – maybe they will ultimately be persuaded by the money-men that it would be bad for business!

  14. Not many predictions on here this morning so here goes. As long as Britt starts on the bench, and perhaps stays on it, I’ll go 2 – 1 to Boro. But if one or more of our less mobile strikers are put on for the last twenty minutes it could well end up a draw at best.

    The sequence of draws is killing us so please do not revert to your favoured formation it doesn’t work with those which we have. Youth and mobility please.

    Boro 2 – 1 Luton. I hope



  15. Am I feeling an anxiety amongst the rank and file of Boro fans and maybe Gazette reporters? Is today’s match really a ‘must win’ game? Obviously it would be desirable to win it, but hardly a ‘must win’ game with Boro holding a 7 point advantage over Wigan and a 10 point and superior goal difference over today’s opponents. I admit that the sooner Boro accumulate 49/50 points the better, but a ‘must win’ game will only occur on the final day of the season if Boro are only a point above the relegation places. Boro will NOT be relegated this season, and I’d stake my life on it despite Boro’s record through the ages of producing the unexpected.

  16. Our last victory against Preston on New Years day saw us ten points clear from Wigan in the third relegation spot and nine points clear of Stoke. We are now just three points ahead of Stoke and seven points clear from Wigan. Derby and Birmingham were beneath us and are now looking down. Birmingham were four points beneath us then and are now six points ahead of us!

    Huddersfield and Charlton were both five points behind us then, Huddersfield are now two points behind and Charlton only one. We were twelve points ahead of the then bottom club Luton now we are ten points clear from them.

    A defeat to them today would reduce that to seven points which is still a sizeable gap but that reduced gap becomes a psychological boost for the Hatters and another damaging one psychologically for Boro. All the above gap shrinkage has happened over six games since January 1st.

    Of course all that matters is that three clubs have less points than us and despite coming down with the Christmas Decorations we should probably hold on. There are however fourteen games remaining but if the above gaps have eroded over just six games if we don’t soon pick up points then Wednesday away on the final day could be very uncomfortable. For me today is a must win game, if we can’t beat one of the worst sides in the league at home today then the fans will get very twitchy at best and the atmosphere will fester all week when we then have to travel to the worst side Barnsley.

  17. I suppose it depends on your definition of “must win”. Ken’s mathematical definition is correct, but perhaps RR’s more psychological one is too.

    Boro 2-0 Luton.

    1. I think Ken’s right but there is always “Typical Boro” to factor in.

      If we draw or heaven forbid lose today then the toxic Teesside atmosphere will not be the ideal preparation backdrop for next Saturday away to Barnsley.

  18. Well since it’s a rather pleasant and sunny 12 degrees at the moment, I think I’ll take advantage and go for a walk in the countryside around our village before the game.

    I’m not expecting Boro to stumble today as Luton have lost their last 11 league games on the road and as Jarkko mention, Boro are unbeaten at home for almost equally as long. A win today and an expected defeat for Wigan at in form Cardiff would see the ten point gap restored and probably any prospects of getting dragged into the relegation battle.

    Still it is Boro we’re talking about so we should expect something to go wrong – though hopefully not today.

    Prediction: Boro 2 – 0 Luton

  19. Team News: A surprise return for George Friend who starts as captain but Fry looks like he’s out injured – though Shotton also returns on the bench. Also starting are Spence and Coulson, so it looks like it may be a back three of Howson, Moukoudi and Friend. In midfield it’s Saville, McNair and Wing again with nicely rhyming couplet of Nmecha and Fletcher leading the attack. Most of the dynamic pacey players are on the bench but no place for the optimist Clayton in the matchday squad.

    Starting XI: Pears, Spence, Howson, Moukoudi, Friend, Coulson, Saville, McNair, Wing, Nmecha, Fletcher.

    Subs: Mejias, Shotton, Morrison, Johnson, Tavernier, Assombalonga, Gestede.

  20. That looks about the best side JW could ha e picked for me. A fully fit Morrison or in-form Tav would probably come in but neither are quite the case at the mo.

  21. Another terrible first-half performance from Boro that saw just one wayward attempt on the Luton goal – passing has been poor and they haven’t shown the the same energy as Luton who deserve to be ahead. Can only get better – surely?

  22. I started to count the mis placed passes, but gave up when I got to twenty. Once again crosses are coming into the box from wide positions unopposed.

    As ever we are continually out muscled in every area of the pitch. There also seems to be a lack of effort to close down the opposition resulting in Luton being allowed to move forward freely. I won’t even bother commenting on the dead ball deliveries.

    All in all a snap shot of the season so far. At least it can’t be any worse in the second half…….

  23. Well the first half was pretty awful, very similar to the game against Wigan. Passing not very good, Little cohesion and at times the defence is all over the place.
    Luton look comfortable. .
    The decision I have to make is whether or not to watch the second half.

    For those of you who are not watching it live you can get it on
    Click on. Sport
    Click on. Fottball
    Then scroll down to. Middlesbrough v Luton.

    The only good news is that the commentary is in a foreign language so turning it off means I don’t have to suffer the commentary in English which presumably would confirm much of the above.
    Philip of Huddersfield

  24. Well I know this will bring to moans and groans, but I did say all things could to an end and that Boro had to lose sometime and Luton do score goals. And of course GHW predicting a 3 nil win.

    Luton have been far quicker than us from the off and could of been two up without any complaints. We have had a few poor performances in this first 45 and very little service up to the front two, with Nmecha still not impressing me one bit to date.

    The defence has looked somewhat jittery with rusty George having a mare. At fault for the first and nearly gifted a second along with some poor passing. Though a lot of our passing has been poor and McNair is still not offering much at all.

    Lets see what JW can do at his HT team talk. As somebody said, this arguably could be our best side, apart from Georges lack of game time which is showing´.

  25. Well what can you say about that performance? Simply awful, shocking, very poor and completely disjointed without any quality from those in red shirts. Congratulations to Luton on getting the three points they deserved – Boro also got what they deserved – possible more! Not sure why or what I was watching in the end…

  26. Well I do not profess to be an expert on football tactics, but how Woodgate is going to explain that absolutely inexplicable series of substitutions will be interesting to hear.
    For all the slack the that Woodgate has been given with his injuries he has proven time and again his limitations. This could all get very uneasy with another couple of defeats against Barnsley and Leeds. Would you put money on the Boro after todays display and Barnsley´s performance at Fulham.

    1. When it comes to random substitutions that was up there with them and its effectiveness was demonstrated when Coulson put in a rare Boro cross, three of them were going for the same ball with Britt and Gestede getting in each others way to stop a better placed Nmecha having a chance at converting it.

    2. Pedro,

      One Boro player was quoted as saying, and I paraphrase, that one team always comes out of the pack and races up the table. What he omitted to say was that one always seem to go into freefall.

      Take your pick on this showing. I bet they’ve all ordered takeaways tonight.

      Why did he put Britt and Crichton on? Baffling, utterly baffling.



  27. A Pears

    H Coulson
    S Hambling
    D Spence

    I Nept
    S Hambolic
    I Nvisible

    U Seless
    C Lueless
    H Opeless

    Well played Luton. How that team are so far adrift is strange, but then again they don’t get to play us every week.

    As for us, as lacklustre as a lustre factory lacking in lustre. Too many disinterested in the pitch, I’ve seen more movement in a broken clock. There is something basically wrong when a team performs as badly as that from the moment the referee gets the game underway and keeps it up for the full 96 minutes.

    In a lull of play in the 53rd minute I spotted an errant crisp packet on the pitch and followed it closely until it disappeared into the north stand on 62 minutes. I understand that JW is the manager, but if his players fail to put a shift in he’s on a hiding to nothing. Unfortunately this is the pattern for most of the season so far.

    Once again MFC face having to oversee a massive clear out at the end of the season.

  28. Well that performance has persuaded me not to renew my season tickets after 33 yrs of having them if the players dont care why should I, to have no shots on target against the team bottom of the league says it all.
    We had 4 strikers on the pitch ( in the broadest sense of the word) but nobody who was capable creating an opening, utter utter shambles, I know I’m pissed off at the moment but how can that performance be defended.
    We will get relegated because their appears to be no fight in the team and I dont think most of th players on the pitch today care.

  29. That was dreadful, no defending that. Possibly one of the worst performances I’ve seen at the Riverside.

    Why on earth did he only make 2 subs? And 4 strikers on the pitch, but no-one to create anything for them.

  30. I’ll see your three, and raise you another ten…..

    M ediocre
    I nept
    D our
    D ishevelled
    L acklustre
    E xcruciating
    S hambolic
    B ad
    R ank
    O ne paced
    U seless
    G utless
    H opeless

  31. GHW,

    I’ll stick with three after three Abbot Ales:




    Boro will do really well against Barnsley. Three games and nine points. I predict one point.

    Why change, repeatedl,y a system that was winning? There seems to be strain or thread of unwillingness present in the team/selection. Why George Friend, Britt and Crichton. Why the substitute regime? Weird and bizarre.




    OK GHW you win.I’d only disagree on One paced. No paced.



  32. I’m not advocating any change in Boro management at all. But not having known anything about Grahame Jones the Luton manager, I’ve been very impressed in his media interviews and what he’s done with limited resources. His wife is a Stockton lass and that helps. Hope they survive along with ourselves.

  33. Well, that was a terrible performance.

    We got the wing backs back in but the show was even worse. So it shows it is not the formation, perhaps the constant changes.

    For defence I can understand we have had problems all season with injuries, but the problem is in midfield. As ever.

    I take some of the blame, too when I was asking what could have possibly gone wrong with our unbeaten home run against the worst visitors in the league.

    Sorry, gentlemen and ladies. Up the Boro!

  34. Thanks for the report, RR. Spot on.

    I also agreed with AV’s opinion piece online where he suggested that this was two weak teams but one team played like they were in a relegation battle and the other did not.

    I think JW got his formation and selection right but the performance certainly didn’t follow.

    Jarkko mentions the problem being in midfield. I think that’s right (one of the main problems anyway!). I’m struggling to think of a game this season when we’ve controlled midfield. We have some decent individuals but it seems to me that it hasn’t added up to a unit in there all season.

    If a positive is needed, it’s that this defeat should refocus minds. The players must know that the season is far from over now. Points needed fast.

    1. I think this is spot on. We’ve all heard the team saying they are too good to go down, looking at the playoffs etc. I don’t think they have thought for a second that they could be relegated yet Luton know they are in the thick of it and battled and fought for every ball yesterday. I just don’t think we fancied the conditions or a fight at all. And Woodgate’s response wasn’t nuanced it was just throw a load of strikers on.

      Saturday has to be much better and hopefully this was a one-off.

  35. Redcar Red,

    Thank you for the report, that’s not irony by the way. That sounded an absolutely and utterly bloody awful game.

    Why all the useless strikers? Incredible and utterly staggering. Have the coaches learned nothing from the ‘good run’?

    Well done to the fans who put up with it.



  36. Thanks RR for recounting that shocker of a game which must be up there with one of the all time greats of “typical Boro” matches. I won’t say Boro performance because we did not perform in any shape or form.

    As the season has gone on (with the exception of the seasonal blip) I have become more and more disillusioned. I continue to watch the live tv games when I can but am no longer elated on those rare occasions when we score nor do I moan or groan when conceding as nothing regarding this team surprises me any longer.

    If this continues I may be joining some of the thousands who have already thrown in the towel and given up season tickets, (my subscription to Riverside Live) my brother included.

    The whole situation has become depressing and I cannot see any light at the end of what appears to be an endless tunnel.

    Depressed on a very foggy Costa Blanca! 😎😞

    1. I can understand your feelings KP. It is now some time, WBA & PNE, since I was like you, elated when we score. Likewise when the opposition score I feel very little, which unfortunately is far too often.

      Considering that I received my STC renewal email on Friday, and that I also watch far more matches through subscription than at the Riverside, the performances this season and the little hope of any improvement next season if we are fortunate to be still in the Championship, gives me a very difficult decision to make.

  37. Well that’s probably our worst league performance of the season. What makes it worse is that it was the formation and players that fans have been calling for. With the exception of Tav, I would always put Tav in the team.

    To be fair, every team, every season has a few matches where the players simply don’t perform as a group. You can only hope right now that yesterday was a blip. Before the match, I would have put our chances of being relegated at 5%. Now I reckon it’s around 20%. Lose against Barnsley and it starts looking like around 35%. Ultimately one of Wigan or Luton have to win 3 more games than us out of the next 13 and that’s probably not going to happen.

    1. To be fair to the Boro fans deleriad, I think we have had far more than a few of those matches were the players just did not perform. Not help by the head Coach not performing also.

  38. Only Wigan (7) and Barnsley (6) have won fewer games than us (8) Luton overtook us to move to 9 yesterday.

    Once again it’s the amount of draws that are detrimental to our position in the league. On the other hand, it could be said that they could well have been defeats and are therefore good results.

    We now have a team ( and squad ) who have given up on this season and are playing with complete indifference. Attendances will continue to dwindle and I think they could even drop as far as 15,000.

    This is not FIFA 20 where you can quit the current game and start again. The fans pay good money and should get maximum effort from the players in return.

    1. Yesterday’s “official” attendance of 19,000 seemed optimistic to me and therefore like towards the end of the Pulis era Season Card holders couldn’t be bothered to turn up.

      There now seems little structure or plan to what is going on with the playing side. The high pressing tempo dream lasted a few games at best and what has followed is a series of reactive sticking plasters. Its almost a text book scenario of what happens when you throw an inexperienced Manager into the hot seat. The likes of a Pulis, Hodgson and Warnock stick to their principles because they have unwavering belief and conviction that what they do works for them and battle through the tough (transition?) periods knowing that they will come out the other side and reap the rewards.

      Leaving my personal misivings about the appointment of Woodgate, he never had a squad with the skill set to deliver and there were a few outgoings making it a far weaker one than Pulis had to work with. The recruitment was a car crash and may have been behind a senior Exec leaving but hasn’t helped. We now have 6 players whose contracts are up in the Summer and likely won’t be here and a plethora of loan players who won’t either. Not exactly great foundations for any Manager to build on let alone one who was thrown under the bus.

  39. The good news is that no team at the bottom of this League is showing any consistency, except Boro of course whose consistency is being inconsistent. Boro are still 18th in the table and are just as likely to lose at Barnsley as they are to beat both Leeds and Forest, then go on another winless run. It’s what Boro do! I’m with KP on this, never overjoyed when we lose, nor downcast when we lose. I just take it all in my stride nowadays. However I still maintain that Boro will not be relegated this season, because in this crazy league it’s very difficult for any team to go on a long winning run whether fighting for promotion or relegation, and despite Boro not having
    won since New Year’s Day it is very rare for more than one team fighting relegation to do so and there are still 6 teams below Boro at the moment and the gap over the 22nd club is still 6 points or 7 if one takes into consideration goal difference. Though not happy with Woodgate’s tactics or substitutions I can’t see any of the teams below Boro winning 4 games in succession as Boro did at Christmas never mind 3 of them doing that. On reflection Woodgate probably has too many players at his disposal at the moment (shades of Gary Monk) and needs to deploy a settled side, injuries permitting. The difficulty for Boro, Stoke and Huddersfield is that their fans didn’t expect to be in this position whereas the fans of the 3 promoted clubs last season probably did.

    1. Hope you are right Ken but Boro are in a downward trajectory since New Year whilst those around us are putting more points on the table.

      Wigan have won eight points over their last six games and Luton nine points to our three. Even next Saturdays opponents Barnsley have accrued four points to our miserly three points over the same period.

      Stoke and Huddersfield are also racking up more points. Even Charlton who are one point behind us have won seven points to our three. If that was projected forwards for the next six games we would be deep in and around brown stuff.

      I doubt if all three bottom clubs would overtake us but it only needs one to seal our fate.


    2. Know what you mean, but, and it is a big but, we are very consistent.
      Every single “what not to do in your first (and last, one would hope) job, is being done, several times, by Woodgate.
      Do not fall in love with any player, check.
      Do not attempt to avoid playing youngsters, check.
      Do not talk nonsense to the press, check
      Do not change a winning team, check.
      Do not play players out of position, check.
      Do not return to failed systems, it looks like you are a non learner, check.
      Do not chop and change, check.
      Do not think that an extra one or two (failed)strikers on the field at the end of another fine mess Stanly, is going to do other than make you look silly. Strikers need a supply, take off your striker and put on someone with real speed late in the game, or even at the start of the game.
      And just to make the point, we were slow, never fought our corner, were never at the races, and had not a clue.

  40. Thanks RR for another expansive and well written piece. It is just so sad now to have to read such an article when we can all see the direction the Boro are headed.

    What is so disappointing, but not surprising is the lack of any comment from the Chairman or anybody else from within MFC explaining just what our plan is and how we will execute it over a period of time. Some type of plan to give some hope to those who will be renewing their ST´s with their sometimes limited resources.

    It is time for Mr Gibson to show he is still interested in the future of MFC. We all know that there is not a bottomless pit and he is still shoveling cash into the club, but it needs a little more than that in terms of words of hope.

  41. Thank you RR for a great report on a poor game.

    For the first time I was considering leaving at half time

    Every Boro player was poor and if we play like that every game we will be relegated

    I’m pleased you stick it to the end but I’m fast losing faith ….


  42. Just read a brilliant article by AV in the EG which sums up yesterday and the season to date.

    Dare I say such a good article it is nearly on a par with our very own RR.

    In fact, now I reflect on it, I am even more depressed! 😎

  43. Thank you RR for possibly the only bit of quality to come out of the game. That said, I wonder if there is an agenda that you are writing to, being so consumed with relaying how bad everything was you ( and I suspect deliberately 😉 ) omitted to report on the highlight of the game and the MOM performance of the crisp packet that other contributors have commented about!

    I didn’t see the game, so can only pick up on the anxiety of others posting in here and can well believe the issue is motivational more than anything else and there’s only one place where that buck stops.

    If the team cannot be motivated to rise to the challenge at Barnsley, I will believe we really could be getting relegated this year.

  44. Thanks RR for a very honest and damming report of yesterday’s game, in which every single player and management should be hurting like hell.

    My friends on Diasboro , I will be away for the next four weeks as I once again depart to Egypt . I will hopefully try and keep up with your posts. Thank you.

    1. Malcolm,

      have good trip and enjoy yourself. I couldn’t can’t cope with Egyptian artefacts, it doesn’t matter where I see them all the hairs on my body stand on end and I start to get dizzy, I had to be helped out of an exhibition in Chicago. Weird or what? Don’t let me put you off! Enjoy.



      1. OFB,

        The whole thing creeps me out, mummies, removing brains, wrapping in bandages and all those strange comic strips. Maybe I’m an Egyptian re-incarnated and my punishment is supporting the Boro? I must have been a naughty boy, wish I could remember it. My middle name is Anthony. Now where is Cleopatra…



  45. Thanks RR for another highly accurate report. It must have been as agonising for you to write it, after yesterday’s no-show, as it was for us to watch. Probably the worst Boro performance I have seen in the last twenty years – and let’s face it, there has been plenty of competition!

    I agreed absolutely with your comment about the supply line being the problem when we had 4 strikers on the pitch. The midfield was woeful all game, but once Woody put Gestede on and reduced the midfield to two, it left Luton free to break forward and retain possession almost at will. Wing and McNair were almost bypassed and from then on had even less influence on the game, if that was possible! There was certainly no adequate supply to the front four.

    We were crying out for some creativity, some spark, some way of getting through their defence. We desperately needed Tav or Morrison. It beggars belief that Woody left them both on the bench.

    Perhaps even more worrying than our lack of shots on target yesterday was the fact that we created barely any chances. Simply dreadful all round.

      1. The whole team looked to me like they weren’t interested or up for it, I would be hard pushed to blame one more than another. As perplexed and confused as most of the onlooking spectators were I’m sure that at least some of the players would have been sat there on the benches or even playing asking themselves what on earth they were supposed to be doing.

        There seems to be no semblance of identity, no blueprint or DNA through the team with regards to team selections, tactics or organisation. Since Karanka has left the Club has lurched from one muddled mess to another. “Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance” and I could have added a sixth “P” in the middle of that!

      2. Problem with Karanka would be in getting him to toe the line and pretend to be a true Teessider and to accept all the wonderful gifts he was showered with previously with more gratitude. Gifts like Downing whom he didn’t want, Rhodes whom he didn’t want and Gestede whom he didn’t want and in part cost him his job.

        There again was it AK who wanted Valdes, Barragan etc. or were they more gifts from someone who orta have known better?

        Sadly I’m rueful about results now and the shambles the club now finds itself in. No point in getting all emotional when there are many who it appears do not give a fig about the state of things. Interesting that the local media are now starting to feel nauseous, hardly surprising considering all that garbage they ingested and kept regurgitating since the summer.

        As big Abe Lincoln was alleged to have said “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

  46. Dear me, am I the only person not concerned about Boro’s position in the League table? Well, apparently not. George Friend has stated that one can’t pick and choose which matches we might/should win and which we might lose, Football doesn’t work like that and I have to agree with him as it certainly hasn’t worked like that throughout the history of Middlesbrough FC. It’s out of Boro’s control how other teams perform when not facing them, everything is still in the Boro’s players hands with effectively a 7 point cushion over the 22nd placed club in the League. I don’t wish to criticise Gazette reporters, Boro supporters nor the opinions of some folk on this forum, and one might justifyingly argue what my opinion isn’t worth much since I haven’t been to a match since 1997, but everyone is entitled to their opinions, though don’t some folk overreact too much when Boro lose unexpectedly as they sometimes do when Boro win unexpectedly.

    Winston Churchill once quoted that ‘Russia was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside of an enigma’. If he had been a football fan, he might well have coined that phrase about the Boro.

    1. Let’s make a mini league to the end of the season.

      18 Middlesbrough . 33 -9 37
      19 Charlton ………. 33 -6 36
      20 Huddersfield …. 33 -14 36
      21 Stoke …………… 33 -12 34
      22 Wigan …………… 33 -17 31
      23 Luton ……………. 33 -27 30
      24 Barnsley ……….. 33 -18 28

      I am quite positive that we will be safe after a couple of wins. But mathematically we can gain 7 points less than the bottom three.

      Up the Boro!

      1. Hi Jarkko

        If we do a mini league than I would include Hull in that mini league as I think they are going to endure a very tough run in and may very well slowly slide into serious trouble while one or two others pull clear. Currently ten points clear from third bottom Wigan they look safe but so did we not so long ago. It’s probably not enough to find themselves relegated but sailing very close to it.

      2. Assuming we don’t get tanked by Barnsley, Leeds, Notts Forest or any of the other clubs we play.
        Let’s be honest we are not going to improve our goals for, even if we gain the necessary points.

      3. I think you are being very unfair on Boro Strikers there Pedro!

        Just today Barcelona have been given the green light to buy a forward outside of the transfer window as an emergency to replace the injured Ousmane Dembélé and both Stuani and Braithwaite are being linked as potential targets.

        That should firmly put an end to the curse that the Riverside is a Striker’s graveyard. Gestede will score a hat trick at Oakwell on Saturday as an 85th minute substitute with Nmecha adding a brace with Boro winning 5-4.

        Now where did I put that medication?

    1. On Saturday we are away to Barnsley, Charlton are at home to Luton and Wigan are at home to Millwall.

      Should all three games go pear shaped from a Boro perspective, that is us losing and Luton winning away at Charlton and Wigan beating Millwall at home then Barnsley would be 6 points behind us on 31 points to our 37, Luton would be 4 points behind us on 33 and Wigan 3 points behind us on 34.

      Too close for my comfort but again psychologically it is draining on the Boro players mentality being sucked down deeper.

      1. Yeah, it was terrible to lose to Luton. Likewise if we lost at Barnsley.

        A draw will do at Oakwell nicely with a spirited performance – but also a lucky win without a performance.

        Nervy. Up the Boro!

  47. Just looking at the fixture list until the end of the season.

    Here is a brief synopsis of the bottom clubs playing the other clubs around them.

    BARNSLEY v Boro H, Millwall H, Stoke A,
    Luton A, Wigan H.
    LUTON v Charlton A, Stoke H, Wigan A,
    Barnsley H, Huddersfield A.
    WIGAN v Millwall H, Luton H, Huddersfield H, Stoke H, Barnsley A
    STOKE v Luton H, Boro H, Wigan A, Barnsley A
    HUDDERSFIELD v Charlton H, Wigan H,
    Luton H, Millwall A.
    CHARLTON v Luton H, Huddersfield A,
    Boro H, Millwall H.

    So there are in those games alone opportunities to lose or gain ground on those in the relegation battle. Of course there will be the unexpected like Boro v WBA and PNE, Barnsley v Fulham.

    I therefore wish I had Ken and Jarkko’s confidence of not slipping into the bottom three. The team is shot of confidence and those like, Ayala = injured, George = rusty, Shotton = not played yet. They may once of helped the situation along with Howson. However all we really have is a relatively young team and players not used to this situation we find ourselves in.
    We also have our Head Coach and his staff who are also limited. Woodgate has made some poor decisions from the beginning of the season showing his inexperience. This position we now find ourselves would be a challenge even for somebody like Mr Pulís.

    If JW could not see that four guns up top with no ammunition to fire at the enemy was a futile choice then why would we expect anything to change under our “Leader”

    1. Pedro,

      I’m in agreement with you on those points. Anyone who cannot see that a downward spiral has begun and could quite easily become irreversible is kidding themselves. Boro could easily end up like Ipswich were when they were relegated where the harder they try the worse it gets. Then throw in some bizarre tactics, like Saturday and the decline becomes terminal, they club must be worrying or the naivety is more serious tan we all thought.

      Those highly paid players nearing the end of their contracts will be off and away, then the loan players return to their clubs never to return leaving us with what? Through all this the management philosophy and collective thought seems to be ‘we’re Boro we can’t go down’, we’ll persist with flawed tactics and some players who don’t seem to care.

      Every season a club seems to go into freefall and at the moment it’s Boro. The team are now the cheap and easy points. Barnsley will be looking at us as an absolute and guaranteed three points. Let’s hope they get over-confident and Boro turn up as a team and give them a game. That would help.

      I wonder how they are going to sell season tickets after Luton last Saturday? The table should be interesting this weekend.



      1. The other thing to remember is that the majority of the squad were here last season under TP and managed to go on and lose 6 matches in a row.

        I dread to think what would happen if the Luton result was the start of a similar sequence of results! 😎

  48. Whilst I largely agree with Ken that our league position and the cushion to the bottom three shouldn’t be a cause for undue concern, nonetheless I am a bit worried, for the following reasons:-

    Firstly, there is the obvious form table. We are currently on a slump, and may not yet have hit its crest. (Yes, I know slumps don’t have crests!) Contrast that with the upturn in form and associated fight now being demonstrated by some of our rivals. It’s a bit worrying that OFB and others think some of our players look disinterested.

    Then, there’s the goals for column. Only Wigan have scored fewer. How will that change?

    Most of all, though, I’m concerned by our remaining fixtures.
    Barnsley – tough. They’re desperate for points, and have just had a belting good win at Fulham. Stoke away, Huddersfield at home – again, two sides desperate for points. Hull might also get dragged into it, so going there won’t be easy.

    Millwall away. Eeeeeeek. Say no more. Reading away – tough. They’ve had a string of good results of late and are no mugs.

    Leeds and Forest at home- both potentially very difficult games against leading promotion challengers. Ditto, Bristol City. Both Swansea and Cardiff may still have an outside chance of the play-offs.

    That leaves QPR at home and Wednesday away. The Wednesday game is the last of the season, so they’ll be looking to win in front of their own fans before they get a points deduction for financial irregularities.

    I make that 5 really tough home games and 5 or 6 challenging ones away. Given that we have so far only won two away games this season – albeit at WBA and PNE – I’m not sure we’ll pick up too many points away. Home form will be key, I’m sure. The question is, can we pick up enough points to stay clear of the trapdoor? If the current slump continues much longer, it could get very tight.

    I do agree with Ken that nine more points should see us safe. Where we get them from is the issue!

    1. If we get more of the same at Barnsley there will almost certainly be a strong reaction. With the Stadium layout and positioning of the tunnel it lends itself to vitriolic outbursts. Anything but coming out of the blocks firing on all cylinders is likely to invoke the wrath of the travelling support.

      Barnsley 3 – 2 Boro

      “Boro fans called for Tony Mowbray’s head after a chaotic crash to rock-bottom Barnsley. Large sections of the 2,000 travelling Teessiders chanted “you’re getting sacked in the morning” and barracked the boss as Boro were booed off at three down at the break.

      The fans were frustrated after seeing their spluttering team leak three goals to the basement boys thanks to some schoolboy defending at Oakwell”

      Then before that there was:

      Barnsley 2 – 0 Boro

      “The Boro boo boys left under-fire boss Gordon Strachan in no doubt about what they thought of a below-par performance by the promotion favourites.

      The Riverside chief was jeered by about 1,500 travelling fans as he made his way down the tunnel to open the after-match inquest into a second away defeat in five days”

  49. What really troubled me was our front runners were getting little to no service all through the match.
    So time for a change. Add another forward. Nothing happening, add another forward and still nothing changed.

    After bugging up Ravel, why did Woodgate not bring him on to use his direct running at their defence. Why did the Journos not ask that question? I have not seen anything at all from JW taking any blame for his (small admittedly) part in all of that woeful performance.

    1. Think we all know why the Journo’s didn’t ask that question Pedro after some of his post match TV interviews and having just got off the MFC naughty step they don’t want to be sat back on it.

      Looking at what we have left and if we can scrape our way to survival this is what I think is achievable and anything more is a bonus.

      Remaining Boro fixtures:

      Barnsley A – 0 points
      Leeds H – 0 points
      Forest H – 0 points
      Charlton A – 1 point
      Swansea H – 1 point
      Stoke A – 0 points
      Hull A – 1 point
      QPR H – 3 points
      Millwall A – 0 points
      Bristol C H – 1 point
      Reading A – 0 points
      Cardiff H – 1 point
      Wednesday A – 0 points

      That’s eight of the magical ten points that should keep us safe. Big question however is that if we did lose the next three games will Woodgate still be backed by the Chairman? I’m guessing in that scenario that there will like as not be a few verbal exchanges at Rockliffe and who knows maybe even Leo leading the Team out at the Valley again.

      1. RR

        I can’t disagree with any of that, in fact I did the same myself and came up with the same points.

        Even if we get another two points it still doesn’t guarantee that we couldn’t be caught by either Luton or Wigan unfortunately. Unlikely, but still possible if either of them put a winning run of say 6/7 games together. 😎🙁

  50. I’m stupid! We’ve already played Huddersfield at home! It’s Charlton away instead. The same criteria apply, though – a side desperate for points. The difference is, we’ll be away, so potentially more difficult!

  51. KP, just looked at the Pulís teams during that six loss run.

    Randolph, Fry, Ayala, (red carded against PNE) Flint, Friend, Saville, Downing, Mikel, Howson, Britt, Fletcher.
    Subs and Changes. Shotton, Clayton, Besic, Hugill. Bit parts for Tav and Wing.

  52. Before I traveled over I was looking at the weather forecast for Saturday and wishing I hadn’t already paid for my hotel. Also when I saw Luton’s run of away defeats I thought it could be a ‘Typical Boro’ result. I was then on a train caught up by the A67 railway bridge crash (fortunately the car driver does not seem to have been seriously injured) and spent about 45 minutes at Teesside Airport station before we were allowed to slowly continue to Middlesbrough. I want to thank the train crew and Northern Rail who arranged a coach to meet us at the station at 3:05 pm and take us to the Riverside. (I think there were about 30 Boro and Luton supporters.) I managed to get up the (many!) steps to the upper concourse in time to see the screen replay of Luton’s goal having obviously missed the start of the match when I assume Boro were so on top that they were unlucky to not be 3 goals ahead.
    I did see a dreadful performance by the Boro team. We were outclassed by a poor Luton team who worked hard to close down on Boro players as soon as we had the ball. When we managed to get down the wings, the crosses were too strong and too high and it was back to the old days when midfield players did not get into the box to support the strikers. If JW then really thought having 4 ‘strikers’ on the field and no-one to supply them could get us out of the mess it is time for him to revise on his coaching training, I had to agree with a Luton supporter at the hotel who suggested I must be worried about how we would end the season.
    Looking at the final 13 fixtures I cannot see any that I am confident of us winning. Hopefully the 12 points we won over the Xmas/New Year blip means there will be 3 teams worse than us over the season. This seems to be our only hope of escaping relegation. (It was not a good time to announce the early bird season card prices.)

  53. Boro are capable of winning any of their remaining fixtures, but also losing any of them. However I think it will be a mixture of unexpected wins and unexpected defeats as it has been throughout the years I’ve supported them in whichever division they’re been in. There have been many instances of Boro losing matches following good wins, but equally many wins following poor displays and poor results. Without all my statistics here in the Algarve I can recall two such instances.

    In 1954 Boro defeated West Ham 6-0, but lost their next match at Blackburn 0-9. Also more recently in 2006 Boro lost 0-4 at home to Aston Villa, but a week later beat Chelsea 3-0 and went on to reach an FA Cup Final and a European Cup Final. OK one cannot compare the current squad certainly with the 2005/06 squad and I’m not disputing Saturday’s performance was one of the poorest ever. Nevertheless I’d rather have Boro’s League position than any of the clubs presently below them.

    No team in the Championship this season has shown any consistency. Just peruse the following strange results this season:-

    Barnsley won at Fulham and Millwall, but lost at home to Luton and Stoke.

    Birmingham won at Brentford and Bristol City, but lost at home to Wigan.

    Blackburn won at Bristol City, but lost at home to QPR

    Brentford won at Bristol City, but lost at home to Huddersfield

    Bristol City lost at home to Birmingham and Millwall

    Charlton won at Forest, but lost at home to Huddersfield

    Fulham lost at home to Barnsley and Hull both by 3-0

    Huddersfield lost 2-5 at home to Stoke, but won at Brentford
    Hull have won at Fulham and Forest

    Leeds lost at home to Swansea, Wednesday and Wigan

    Luton won at Barnsley, Blackburn as well as at Boro

    Boro won at Preston and West Brom, but lost at home to Luton and Wednesday

    Millwall won at Bristol City, Derby and Preston

    Forest lost at home to Charlton, Hull and Wednesday

    Preston lost at home to Boro and Millwall

    QPR have beaten Cardiff 6-1 at home, but lost 0-4 at home to
    Forest and 3-5 away to Barnsley

    Reading won at Fulham, Preston and Wednesday, but lost
    at home to Birmingham, Charlton and Wednesday

    Wednesday won at Leeds, Boro and Forest, but lost at home to Hull

    Stoke won at Swansea and West Brom, but lost at home to QPR

    Swansea won at Leeds, but lost at home to Stoke

    West Brom lost at home to Boro and Stoke

    Wigan won at Birmingham and Leeds

    Boro may not have a very good record at Barnsley with only 2 wins and 3 draws in the last 11 matches, but as I‘ve mentioned before any team is capable of winning or losing to any other team on any given day despite what kind of form they might be in. If Boro can stop conceding the first goal in matches they’re quite capable of winning games against anyone in this division.

  54. Thanks RR for the report – sums up the frustration I felt listening in. I tuned out when Gestede came on.

    Squeaky bum time yet again and the fixtures don’t get any easier!

    It smacked of arrogance thinking we’ve got players back who are good enough. You’ve got to prove it and earn it! George saying he’s not worried and that we are good enough. That type of comment is not helpful from your club captain! Plus he’s been useless for 3 years!

    Rockets needed or we will go down. I’ve been supportive of management but having been to 4 of the last 5 there’s an aloofness there that could spell trouble.

  55. Man Utd starting tonight in the shape I’d like to see Boro play in – 3421:

    Howson Makoudi Friend
    Spence Clayton Saville Coulson
    Wing Tav

    I think having Clayton and Saville just sitting like they did against West Brom will allow the wingbacks to do what they do best whilst Wing and Tav bring the movement and creativity in front of them.

    Harsh on McNair? Maybe, but as good as he was in the early part of the season we look more stable in midfield without him at times.

    1. Although Clayton does not have the legs now, he is still the only one with a tackle in him.
      McNair has been poor in midfield, especially these last matches.

  56. I think that the main contributing cause for the lack of consistency and poor play we have seen this season, is that Woodgate still doesn’t know what his best side is.

    His team selections and substitutions often leave the fans baffled. He seems to be trying to make it up as he goes along.

    I would suggest he picks his best performers ( injuries and suspensions permitting) and sticks with them.

    1. Every manager we’ve had in the last fifteen years has been accused of the same. Even Karanka never picked the same side twice.

      Pulis was probably the most consistent we’ve had in terms of selections.

      1. Have we ever played the same back four or five (wing backs) this season? Perhaps when Spence emerged?

        I think the injuries to the centre back could be a reason for the late goals we have conceded. And also inexperience in the team as such.

        Up the Boro!

  57. It all comes down to judgement of players, the coach simply must be able to say which player is the better for every position.
    In addition he must say who stays and who goes.
    Does our coach have this know how? Don’t think so.
    He has used the end of last season and all of this season as a rehabilitation exercise for two time expired strikers, that would be Britt and Gestede. The net result is a desperate shortage of goals.
    He has used Wing as a nursemaid for the back four, with of course the understanding that he would score a few from thirty yards, amazingly Wing has scored a few (leading scorer I believe), no wonder he is wanted (desperately, I think) by the bottom fishers in the prem, as he is an easy ten mil waiting to be picked up, that is profit for the signing club of course.
    We will not speak of the hundred mil we threw away with Traore, hhhm!
    There is the further fact to face, our loaner centre back, very big, very strong, and a disaster waiting to happen, and our coach is showing all the signs of a love affair as all consuming as his love for Gestede . And that is turning out rather well, in fact it could run to a second series (in div one).

  58. Events have me wondering about who are the worst and best of our managers in the Riverside era. Not counting Agnew, here’s my list from worst to best.

    Worst: Strachan. A no-brainer in all senses. He had had a good track record up until then and I welcomed the appointment at the time but he completely mis-judged the Championship.

    Monk. Possibly unfair because he hardly even had half a season but there was no sign that he knew what he was doing despite being given the keys to the treasury.

    Robbo. Probably controversial but Robbo was completely unable to manage a team. He could spend money and, at first, attract players (largely by spending money) but that was it.

    Woodgate. Like Southgate he’s being asked to do way too much for his first job. Although the evidence is mixed, so far it’s not looking good.

    Southgate. England has shown that there is a top class manager in there. You could argue that he did well to keep us in the Premier league as long as he did, especially with hindsight. At the time, I wanted him out because it felt like the job was breaking him.

    Pulis. Like Strachan, he mis-judged the Championship. He had one, difficult, shot but blew it.

    McClaren. On one hand you can’t argue with his league results and a trophy. On the other hand, everything McClaren did was with an eye on what was best for him. He had the second best budget of any Boro manager and spent it on short-term fixes until he got the job he actually wanted.

    Mogga. I didn’t want him at the time because it felt like a nostalgia appointment but he did a great rescue mission. Ultimately and, unfairly, the fans turned on him but he laid the foundations which have since been squandered.

    Venables. If we could have persuaded him to stay who knows what could have happened. TV showed what a top class manager can do with a team. The only reason I don’t put him top is that he wasn’t around for long enough and maybe his impact would have waned.

    Best: Karanka. A pound shop Mourinho with all the good and bad that entails. Like Mourinho, I suspect he can’t manage more than 3 years at a club without self-destructing. Like McClaren and Robbo he had a budget to play with but he also fell foul of a massive division in the club. Personally I think he should have gone after the Charlton game; keeping him was just plastering over a gaping wound we still haven’t healed. Ultimately he was a failure: I feel that the team he had in the Premier league should have been enough to keep us up. Despite all that, I feel that he was one of the very few managers to improve the team and if we had beaten Norwich then things may have turned out very different. And no, I wouldn’t have him back.

    Mogga, Venables and Karanka could all lay claim to being the best. McClaren has the best record but left the club in a mess. Venables is probably the only manager to make a success of the post and leave before it went wrong.

    1. Deleriad
      Great , and interesting summing up of a group of managers.
      Two points.
      One. Venables, his actions on taking up the problem that was Boro were a pleasure to watch from the stands. Calm, confident, all smiles, hail fellow well met, no battle needed to get-out of trouble, done in about three matches.
      Unfortunately he was doing it as a favour to our chairman, and that was that. Done and dusted.
      He knew his way around the game and would never have worked away from the top of the game, with ready access to the media.
      Southgate. In my opinion sleepwalked us to the championship over three seasons of what was nothing less than incompetence, striking the crossbar twice before landing the big prize of relegation. We all knew it, but he denied it, together with those who hired him.
      His rebirth as an England manager is very impressive, but it involves no buying or selling, or coaching, or motivating. And he has a couple of strikes against him. His over praise of Kane cost us two possible wins in competitions. Why? Well he overpraised Kane, quite wildly in my opinion, openly dissing Vardy which was a big mistake.
      He was completely blind to the fact that Kane has a glaring fault in these tournaments, and that is, he is brilliant in the first game, very good in the second game, average in the third game, rubbish in the quarters, innocuous in the semi-final when we exit stage left.
      This has happened twice, and of course Vardy, very sensibly, told him pretty damn quick that he was as of now retired. I should say that Vardy is the top striker in the Prem.
      In addition to the above, Southgate is on record as saying that player x will have to move to a big club if he wishes to play for his country. Not good, not good at all.
      So. Not a very bright boy taken all round.

  59. Anthony Vickers has written that on reflection Boro’s display though bad was not the worst of the season, and probably not even in the top 40 ever. For once I totally agree with him and as
    I’ve been following Boro either live or on television and given for 73 years and that there have been at least two similar poor performances per season I’d suggest that there have been at least 150 similar occasions in my lifetime when Boro supporters have booed their performances and that is probably only at home matches, but Boro have always bounced back at some point if not immediately.

    I have never booed Boro nor left a match before full time, not because I haven’t been disappointed, but because it’s counterproductive. The Luton match has gone now, dead and buried. Some folk have suggested that they can’t see where the next win is coming from. Of course if they play like they did last Saturday I’d agree with them, but there are still 13 more matches to play and taking this season as a whole with its up and downs Boro ought to accrue another 14 points on average which should guarantee safety.

    I think it’s irrelevant who we have to play, this is the capricious Championship not the Premier League. One cannot compare Boro’s position with Bolton or Ipswich two of last season’s relegated clubs as they only accrued 32 and 31 points respectively, yet Millwall with less than a point a game were safe. However the League table never lies and despite conceding late goals at Luton and Wigan, and home to Derby there have also probably been a couple of matches which Boro undeservedly won.

    It might not be where we expected to be at this stage of the season but the supporters of Huddersfield, Stoke and even Wigan may have expected to be in higher positions also. Three points from the next three matches might be a good return, but four even better and Leeds and Forest may well be as jittery as Barnsley, that’s how this Division works. I reckon it’s too early yet to bring out the prayer mats.

    1. AV’s article made some good points and the Leeds, Birmingham and Wednesday games certainly were atrocious but they were away from Home and against established Championship sides. Luton are merely paying a brief visit having popped into the Championship for the season with a return ticket in their back pocket.

      The Hatters have been anchored at the bottom for most of the season and had conceded by far the most goals in the Championship at an average of two goals a game (66 goals in 32 games). We did have an effort that that I counted out of kindness which in fairness was more of a speculative cross from Spence that Sluga collected but no efforts on target (or being honest even remotely near the target) was recorded by a plethora of Journalists at the game from various sources. That fact is appalling, beyond belief and for me the major reason why it was the worst game of the season.

      It was a game that we needed to win and were expected to leverage maximum points from because of the position we are in and having home advantage. Away to Leeds a defeat was expected and at best probably a draw away at Wednesday and Birmingham would have been considered good results. Boro at home to Luton should have saw at least two goals and a victory be it spectacular or otherwise. We know Football doesn’t always go according to plan or to the form book but we didn’t even show up, we didn’t even put an effort in. That spoke volumes loud and clear about what is or isn’t going on behind the scenes. There isn’t any defence for that regardless of who the management and coaches are.

      There were no tactics visible, there wasn’t even fight and spirit shown, nothing, absolutely nothing, just a directionless, steaming, confused, mess. I deliberately avoided more emotive terminology like gutless or spineless because quite frankly it wasn’t even that, there was nothing, nada, null, nil, zilch, niet, nowt, diddly squat.

      The defence was all at sea but there was no midfield shield in front, in fact there was no midfield full stop, defensively or creatively. There were no midfield battles because nobody battled they just looked lost. And there is the rub because as lost as the midfield looked they were nowhere near half as lost as our “Strikers” who may as well have been sat beside Clayts in the stands.

      Putting another two “Strikers” on was simply staggering and was pure schoolboy hoof and hope stuff rather than tactically astute, clever management. It was worse than Pulis at his worst because at least we knew that Pulis seen hoofing it as a mainstay tactic. It was painfully and screamingly obvious that there was no service to the two “Strikers” that we already did have on. Our midfield was anonymous, it was like Switzerland all afternoon, neutral! Why Woodgate is persisting with Gestede whose contract is finished and has done absolutely nothing (again predicted) during his time here was the icing on his sorry looking cake that now looks very much like it had been left out in the Storm Dennis rain.

      Leeds hammered us as did Wednesday and Birmingham but Luton at home, seriously, and Martin Cranie outplaying any of those wearing a Red shirt. From a Woodgate perspective it was probably just as well that the Directors like our midfield were ominous by their absence. Their empty seats were in keeping with the empty efforts and strategy on display across the Riverside pitch.

      In part I agree with AV that we have had some terrible performances this season and the very fact that we are actually debating which of them is actually the worst is testimony to the shambolic appointment of Woodgate in the first place. What was clear and predicted by many back then was covered up and papered over by “Spingate” to which the Gazette played a huge part in operation “Golden Thread”. Consequently our Head Coach and sadly the Chairman himself is now just a free hit to all those naysayers.

      Had we played a half decent Championship side and not one which had lost their previous eleven away games on the trot that performance would have seen a Cricket scoreline. If we play like that against Forest and Leeds our GD which we now seem to be anxiously clinging to as a positive may be wiped out.

      For me Saturday was the worst Boro performance of the season because it highlighted the state of and the worst of everything about MFC against probably the worst side in the Championship. It crucially came at a time when after the Wigan performance in midweek and our growing perilous position we had the perfect opportunity, perfect opponent and perfect timing and didn’t lay a glove on them.

  60. We have now 37 points.

    For the past four seasons, the last relegated team have had 40, 41, 51 and 40 points at the end of the season.

    So usually 41 points is enough to survive but three years ago Blackburn went down with 51 on goal difference. So 44 points could be quite safe this year but three wins must be aimed for.

    Where are the three wins going to come from? Boro have 13 games to play this season.

    Up the Boro!

    1. I think was Lennie Lawrence who said that to be certain of promotion you needed 2 points per game plus two more, and to be certain of safety from relegation you needed one point per game plus two more. Sounds about right to me.

      Another eleven needed, then, to be certain.

  61. Martin Braithwaite did not want to play under Pulis. Now s Barcelona is interested. Some reports in Spain say talks over Braithwaite have already begun after Barca agreed to trigger his £18m release clause.

    I hope he enjoys playing for Barcelona more than he did at Riverside.

    Football is full of suprises ….

    Up the Boro!

      1. I don’t understand the allowance for Barcelona to be able to sign another forward. Yes one is out injured for the season, but they still have a couple of others. And surely reserves?

      2. It’s because poor Barcelona have all their Strikers injured or in reality maybe its one rule for one etc. Interestingly if they sign for arguments sake Gestede from Boro we wouldn’t then be able to go out and sign someone to replace him. Its the same for Leganes if they do actually sign Braithwaite, Leganes would not be able to sign a replacement.

        At least we could paint a lamp post Red and have the same impact, poor Leganes would miss Braithwaite’s goals!

    1. Redcar Red,

      I wouldn’t use a lamp post. I still go for the roll of Lino, more mobile, but not the height, and easier to re-position for the second half.

      The glass around the mantles is fragile too and we don’t want it spending time on the maintenance shops bench being repaired.



    1. Yes I read that on the BBB site GHW.
      Sounds to me as though the ref got sick of all the earache and wingeing from the Bournemouth plays and gave them one back. Good on him.

  62. Current Skybet relegation odds for Championship relegation:-
    Luton 1/7
    Barnsley 1/5
    Wigan 4/5
    Charlton 7/4
    Huddersfield 4/1
    Stoke 13/2
    Boro 10/1
    Hull 14/1

    Bookies are never wrong are they? So that’s OK then, we can all now relax can’t we?

      1. One point per game will see us safe. Let’s calculate that from the Barnsley match until the beginning of May. We can do it!

        I know it is not as exciting as the normal two points per a game we are used to, but so what. Up the Boro!

      2. 13 matches to go and although Boro haven’t won for 9 matches, thanks to those 4 successive wins around Christmas the last 13 matches have produced 17 points. Replicate that and Boro would finish with 52 points. Similarly also replicate the
        results against the 13 teams Boro have yet to play against the results achieved against those same opponents earlier in the season would also produce another 17 points, so again 52 in total. Quite a coincidence or clutching at straws?

    1. Ken
      One error in your belief that the Bookie is always right.
      You should have said that *the bookie always Collects” and that means that those who bet the favourite end up crying.

  63. The squad as it currently stands is more than capable on paper of securing safety and indeed it should never have been in this predicament in the first place and therein lies the problem.

    Why are we in this state? Put simply performances out on the pitch fell way below what could have been reasonably expected far too many times. Do Millwall or Preston just as two examples have far better squads than Boro?

    How those players are organised, structured and prepared will define whether we survive or ignominiously slip into League One. To me recent displays don’t inspire confidence or reasons to believe.

    I recall along with many on here that it was thought once before that we were too good to go down. With half a dozen or so players out of contract in just a matter of months and the volume of loans bolstering the squad, how motivated or indeed how they can be motivated is a challenge in itself and thats before the inexperience of the Coaching staff is factored in.

    A win on Saturday would lance the boil, perhaps not drain it but certainly relieve the pressure for a short while at least.

    1. You are right, RR. But we must also remember that Woody is going to change the mentality of the team after the Pulis years. This was mentioned very clearly by the Luton boss, too. He was an assistant manager at WBA after Pulis left.

      Beside we lost many experienced players and lacked some numbers in the first period of the season. Only now we have a quite a squad in numbers needed in the Champioship. And the numer of injuries to the centre backs were bad.

      Let’s give Woodgate two seasons if we beat the drop. I hope Ken is correct with 52 points at the end of the season 😊.

      Up the Boro!

      1. Having a great idea or a dream and the ability to achieve it are two entirely different things. The Luton Boss knows less about whats going on at the Boro than most of us do on here but with 1% of the interest level. Jones knows that Pulis’s footballing style is not to everyone’s taste and everywhere he has been has required a change of style when he has departed. I would seriously question the skill set and experience required from Woodgate to be able to undertake that mentality change task as promoted last summer.

        So far the Golden Thread yarn has unravelled badly with initial signings crashing and burning. A senior part of the Exec team has already gone and the high pressing dream was abandoned in tatters within weeks with a squad ill equipped to do so just highlighting the inexperience, naivety and lack of structured planning.

        There needs to be a lot of change within MFC after years of questionable decision making and like an iceberg most of it is under the waterline rather then the bit that Woodgate is held to account over. I didn’t buy into the spin last Summer at all, it was fudged, amateurish at best and embarrassingly staged. If I was circumspect then you can multiply that by X 100 now, annoyingly it isn’t hindsight either.

        The manifestation of a Football Club’s competence are the performances out on the pitch rather than off it which means that the spotlight is always on the Managers/Coaches who bear the brunt, paying the price for poor performances. Club owners just rip up the script and start again with another Manager in the hope that they can work with the limitations imposed on them but achieving better results. I see absolutely nothing to believe that two seasons of more of the same is going to suddenly improve the situation or that in the meantime Woodgate will survive a backlash from the fans.

  64. What’s the prognosis on Patrick Roberts, will he be back for the last six games? Seems since he got hurt, not gone well.
    I prefer the 352 system. But our wing backs have to learn when and when not to bomb forward , it depends which team mate as the ball ,if he is accurate and can be trusted.
    On another note Friend is a little erratic at fullback , worse at CB , please Woodgate don’t play him there , also time McNair was rested, he’s not that brilliant ,in fact he was suspended during our good run.
    Jonathan forget what the EG has to say or some fans, get serious , and ruthless if you have to.

    1. Interesting RR, thanks for that. They have made some good signings over the years that they have made healthy profit on. Not something MFC can crow about.

  65. Hope I’m wrong:

    Pld GD Pts
    18 Hull City 46 -11 50
    19 Barnsley 46 -16 45
    20 Charlton 46 -16 45
    21 Stoke 46 -17 45
    22 Middlesbrough 46 -21 43
    23 Luton 46 -31 43
    24 Wigan 46 -22 41

    1. Did just our results and let the calculator do everything else.
      19 Middlesbrough 46 -11 51
      20 Huddersfield 46 -17 51
      21 Wigan 46 -22 46
      22 Luton 46 -29 46
      23 Charlton 46 -15 45
      24 Barnsley 46 -21 42

  66. I hope I am wrong as well, like Deleriad I just did our results! 😎

    19 Charlton 46 -13 51
    20 Stoke 46 -13 51
    21 Wigan 46 -13 51
    22 Boro 46 -18 45
    23 Barnsley 46 -23 40
    24 Luton 46 -34 39

      1. Deleriad

        I agree. My fear is that we lose the next two and then the confidence goes and the panic really sets in.

        I am probably being over pessimistic but this is the team that lost six in a row last year with a better defence and there is always the spectre of “typical Boro” around the corner.

        I do hope that I am wrong and that we have a good end to the season which sets us up for next year.

        It is, however, hard to see where that will come from on the season to date, which has comprised two very good away performances and the rest, in the main, being poor fair.

        This Saturday is probably as big a game as any as it could well set the tone for the remainder of the season. Win and we should be on the up, lose and anything could happen.

        Barnsley has been the nemesis of a few previous managers, let’s hope it is not for the current one. 😎

  67. Good to hear that Boro have included a sell on clause in Martin Braithwaite’s contract.

    I was initially against Barcelona not having to stick to the transfer window but I now hope the deal goes through.

    Hopefully the cash can then be used towards either resigning the likes of Howson/Ayala & Friend, or in the summer to re-build with, if possible, the purchase of Roberts and Moukoudi. Roberts may, however, be a stretch too far given his MCFC contract. 😎

    1. Its sad to see a Player leave the mighty Boro only to end up at Barcelona. He must rue the day when he fell foul of Tony Pulis and wanting to play adventurous attacking football. Reflecting on how his career has panned out since just wondering what could have been.

      Riverside glory in the Championship or Champions League in the Nou Camp. I hope this serves as a warning to other young players not to mess around with Boro otherwise they too could be stuck with Messi instead of Gestede dreaming of what might have been.

      1. His new release clause is a whopping € 300m (£ 251).

        And we are supposed to get about £ 2 million from his sale to Barcelona. Hope that keep Ayala and Howson at Boro for a year …

        Up the Boro!

    2. Redcar Red,

      Please no. You are like a darkness at the edge of the blog coming out with a statement like that, proper nightmarish stuff.

      They wouldn’t would they? Someone must put their foot down, firmly, and say no.

      I’ll wake-up sweating and screaming tomorrow at just the thought.

      Man arrives with white coat and straight jacket. The jacket signed by Gestede.

      I think that it’s time for some fresh air walking the terriers.



  68. Maybe my calculations of replicating results of matches played so far this season with similar results in the return fixture, or indeed obtaining the same number of points from the final 13 matches as we did from the previous 13 matches both giving Boro a final total of 54 points are both tenuous, but here is another one:-

    If Boro replicate LAST SEASONS results for the remaining 13 matches Boro will beat QPR at home, draw with Leeds and Swansea, but lose at home to Forest, Bristol City and probably Cardiff who we didn’t play last season but where we lost in the previous season. However we won at Reading and Wednesday, drew at Stoke, Hull and Millwall, but didn’t play at Barnsley (drew there at our last meeting) nor Charlton (lost there at our last meeting). That’s another 3 wins, 6 draws and 4 defeats, and 15 points making 52 points. Much better away results than at home, but still safety confirmed?

    However I don’t think one can estimate which clubs have the hardest run-in on current positions in the League table, though possibly on the present number of points each club has accrued to date. But the alternative League table produced by Jonathan Low is obviously flawed as some stadia have low capacities (especially Brentford). A percentage of attendance over capacity would give a completely different result.

  69. Ken

    Re your last paragraph. Even that to a degree is only part of a picture, as at the end of the day it is the amount of income that counts and how much that contributes toward the running costs.

  70. It would be interesting to actually know how much of sell % we have on Braithwaite?? I do not think MFC will tell us.
    This emergency rule only applies to la Liga. Braithwaite however cannot compete in the Champions League games only La Liga. Also every player in Spain has to have a release clause value on his head.

      1. Is it a percentage of the selling price or a percentage of the sell on profit?

        If its the selling price then its possible that a club could actually make a loss if the value increase isn’t enough so surely it would only be on the mark up in which case the numbers coming Boro’s way may not be as much as some are reporting.

  71. Love the proud boast “we inserted a sell on clause” .
    Unfortunately you need to demand a percentage of the selling price, that way you have a real interest in your ex going for 100 mil.
    We have obviously demanded fifty per cent of our selling price. It is not possible to invent this sort of thing, they are destroying the market for comedians.
    They would have gladly agreed to 50 per cent of 100 mil, because they would have regarded it as pure fantasy, how they must have laughed.

    1. Well apparently it is possible to invent this sort of thing as that is precisely what you have done, again. Frankly it’s tiresome. How can you make such definitive statements without any evidence? A chip on your shoulder is no substitute for evidence

      1. Wiggy’s mate
        You obviously are a very humble person if you think that a suitable backhander is 2 Mill.
        Any club inserting a sell on would I think, be more, shall we say, demanding.
        It is, by the way, a basic demand of any one who holds a season ticket, that their club runs a tight ship, you know, gets a good price for those that they sell, does not pay over the odds when they buy, and never pays wages that are not sustainable. When your club is batting zero you are in danger of dropping down a division.
        When the season started, that would have been a silly statement, we’ll, we are not laughing now.
        Incidentally, I thought that the club were being run by people who were, by general consent well into cloud cuckoo land, you know, statements being made in all seriousness which tended to make us a laughing stock.
        The attempt to make Gestede a striker.
        The pitiful certainty that Britt would come good.
        Even worse, I thought that this opinion was general, I obviously was wrong. Hhhm!

  72. Patrick Roberts could be back for the final month of the campaign.

    “We’ve missed that (type of) link man for the last couple of seasons I’d say”, said Woodgate.

    I would add that a player like him has been missed since Fábio Rochemback in 2008. Generally speaking, like.

    Up the Boro a!

  73. Hi All,

    I’ve been a long time visitor to the blog and decided to begin posting a few opinions I hope you all (or most) won’t mind!

    My thoughts on our current situation are similar to Redcar Red’s, I’m not a Woodgate fan, same can now be said of Sir Steve (the Scarlett Pimpernel) and the general management of the club.

    I work in engineering projects so believe I have managed to develop and calibrate my Bulls**t detector over the years, and boy has it been wailing this season! From the gazette flyers dropped over the border walls from the south across the de-militarised zone (apologies I mean articles) to the bumbling figurehead of the club using words and phrases totally out of context and using aggressive negotiating tactics to avoid basic questions on tactics and plans.

    The farce of the interview process takes some beating. The Gazette themselves were filling their advertising pages with tales of how Tony Pulis had left the club in great shape and even arranged the pre-season training back in Austria. That in itself confirmed Woodgate as boss, what self respecting top level manager would take a job and work of a pre-season plan set-up before he arrived?! To compound the lie we were then given the golden thread nonsense and an FA spin masterclass from AB that was up there with the appointment of Adam Crozier who was going to “deliver” success for the England team!

    Steve Gibson is also running out of time, lets not forget that mr Gibson has greatly benefited from MFC, the MFC that was purchased for peanuts and went on to make good profit in the early nineties through the sales of the Rioch babes (Pallister, Cooper, Ripley to name a few).

    I’m off to Barnsley tomorrow feeling it could well be a tough afternoon for the Away management team heading back to the tunnel with likely in-fighting in the terrace! Oh the joys of being a football fan!

    Cheers (and apologies for the initial rantings!)


    1. Welcome aboard

      Great post!

      As Mt Gibson is also Vice Chair of the South Tees Development Board which has just announced the purchase of SSI land he will be pretty pleased with things


    2. Osvaldojnr,

      Well said and keep it up. I fear it will be torrid afternoon at Barnsley where JW will repeat the mistakes just to be sure that they happened. All that vrap about resting players is just that crap.

      Britt, Gestede and George will feature at some point if not the whole game and bad luck will be blamed with the only bad luck being who gets to pick the team and ignores form.



  74. Well according to Bernie Slaven I must be a fool, although in mitigation I am on heavy medication just to keep me alive. I’ll take that on the chin, as everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    One thing I can’t understand though is why youngsters need a rest. I recall that Boro had a plethora of young players in 1986 who hardly missed a match and helped Boro to successive promotions. I don’t recall Matt Busby resting his young players or further back in the 1952/53 season when Huddersfield, probably lucky with injuries and suspensions had 7 players play in every League match 6 of whom comprised of their whole defence. I’m not saying young players are mollycoddled as I’m
    sure they’d rather be playing than rested. But just imagine if young service men were rested in Wartime, where would we find substitutes?

    OK extreme circumstances, but in Wartime as in 1986 for Boro needs must, but then what would a fool like me know? I’ve got other things to worry about other than football, but I choose not to. And it’s too soon for me to be concerned (I hate the word ‘worry’ as that is too strong a word to use about football) about the fate of Middlesbrough FC with 13 matches still to be played, but then as Bernie Slaven states I must be a fool, not that his opinions concern me as I say everyone one is entitled to their opinions.

    Will Boro be relegated this season? No way in my opinion.

    1. Ken, there are two of us, fools. I expect us to play better now than a few months ago.

      I was thinking the same as you when reading Bernie’s rant this mornig.

      But I am not offended. I love Bernie and have played against him once, too. He is a great man and a true Boro legend and fan with a heart of a lion.

      Up the Boro!

    2. I agree Ken, young lads would much rather be out there playing football. In the 50’s and 60’s teams managed with a squad of around 12 or 13 players plus a goalie in reserve just in case. They played through entire seasons and often had jobs as well and many had to walk to get to the ground and then walk home again.

      I read it all as media guff, spin, twaddle and horse manure to make excuses for not knowing what the Managers best formation, tactics and starting eleven are. By all means rest them if they have a sprained ankle or a broken leg but don’t swap them out or switch around with inferior players to keep everyone happy and a deluded Coach that he is a footballing genius.

      We will see tomorrow if Woodgate knows his best formation, team and tactics. We failed to register a single attempt on target at home against Luton who concede the most goals in the league and couldn’t beat Wigan when they were down to ten men (not for the first time Woodgate’s tactics have bombed this season against ten men) a few days earlier.

      There will be a huge Boro following in the away end at Barnsley who are the second worst team for conceding goals after Luton but they can score a few as well. If we go behind they will be bursting with confidence after their last result and the pressure and nerves will start to trickle down from the away end.

      21% of goals we have conceded this season come between the 20th and 30th minutes of the first half. We also concede 33% of goals against in the last twenty minutes. That’s 54% of the total goals scored against us that can be reliably predicted within a third of the playing time. I wonder what the game plan is to counter that and more importantly what the analysis has revealed as to why we concede so many then?

      A draw will keep most pitchforks out of sight but a defeat and the position of the Tunnel will be just too inviting for quite a few who have had enough. Unfortunately I wouldn’t be surprised to see a repeat of trouble between Boro fans if things go badly tomorrow. Only a win will do because I don’t see reason for belief with Leeds and Forest coming up next.

    3. With you there Ken.
      Players should only need “resting” when they lose their form or are injured. You should play your best team week in, week out and not the team you can best set up to counter the opposition, your own best team that will give the bl**dy opposition something to worry about.
      There. Glad that’s off my chest.
      I’m expecting us to get turned over tomorrow, so no doubt we will come out lucky winners by an odd goal. All the same I am predicting losing by 2 goals.

  75. Well that was some post Osvalojnr to get you off and running. However IMO, plenty of truth in it.

    As for tomorrow, I am expecting to get beat, but obviously hoping for some type of result.
    I am guessing that Woodgate will go for experience again and continue with five including rusty George who was mostly to blame for the Luton goal. Will he be any better tomorrow, I doubt it.

    Just what will JW do with our porous midfield? As a champion of Wing, I was somewhat disappointed at how the opposition normally just by-pass him without a tackle, something he used to do last season.
    Likewise with McNair and Saville, but maybe to a lesser degree.
    I would not be surprised therefore to see Clayton back alongside one of the former as two defending MF-ers. I also expect Morrison to start to give some impetus, something Woodgate should of done with his first substitution against Luton.

    Saying all that, you can never tell what team Woodgate will conjure up and fail to motivate.

    1. As Bernie highlighted I think one of the problems (just one of a myriad) now are the amount of players whose contracts are up at the end of the season. Most of us when leaving an employer do our best to leave things tidy but our focus and enthusiasm is usually understandably on our new role and challenge and just finishing off where we are currently at, running down the weeks.

      A professional footballer I’m guessing would be no different. I’m sure Leganes knew that once Barca came calling Braithwaite just wouldn’t be the same. There is maybe an argument in there somewhere about Ben Gibson and his failure to break free from Burnley in January. We witnessed Ramirez taking the proverbial after he was prevented from going to Leicester and who can forget that night away to Wigan when a certain Boro Player decided to make a protest. A torn hamstring or a 50/50 challenge is unlikely to see a player with no contract in three to four months time risk his career or at the minimum be out of the game for say nine months making him unemployable in the summer.

      It will also be hard to become enthused when the team is in freefall anyway and results are pretty poor knowing that in a little over 11 week or so its not your problem or concern with Dubai or the Maldives beckoning. With your future lying elsewhere I doubt if anybody would be wholly committed regardless of how ethical or moral we are, its just human nature. Add in that there are several loan players with a similar walk away mentality and detailed tactical discussions and even rollickings will like as not be water off a ducks back.

      Camaraderie and friendships are being broken up and dissolved in slow motion. Discussions with your agent have significantly more importance than whether you are picked or even make the bench especially with the obvious absence of any silverware or medals on the horizon. Genuine remorse for the fans who remain is I am sure something that some players will give consideration to but for others its the next big contract that takes over their waking moments and with many being Fathers thats not unreasonable either.

      Moukoudi must wonder what he has walked into, Morrison has had more clubs than Rory McIlroy, Roberts is just about out for the rest of the season unfortunately and Nmecha has no idea if he will be a wide player or a striker or indeed whom his strike partner will be if there is one or where to play if there are three partners out there all at once. Shotton won’t be wanting a recurrence of his injury nor Friend and no doubt Ayala will be thinking along similar lines. Then there is the Gestede situation who like Viduka is suddenly fit when looking for a new contract somewhere (hopefully not here but I just have that typical Boro nagging niggle).

      Marvin Johnson and Jonny Howson I imagine will be glad of regular game time but will now be ensuring that they finish the season in one piece catching the eye of potential suitors along with a juicy signing on fee in lieu of a transfer fee to make up for the likely wage drop. Clayts it appears is somewhat of a ghost now at the Riverside, walking the corridors, jangling his solitary promotion medal and probably doing a good Uncle Albert impersonation of “did I ever tell you the story of when me and Grant………”

      Then we have lots of Kids in that bizarre environment and the psychological impact it is having on them. Instead of building a band of brothers mentality, their seniors seemingly couldn’t give a stuff. Throw in the three signings from the summer and a Coaching team that its as obvious as Bernie’s backside in Binns window to the players are less than the sum of the parts required to manage their way out of this mess.

      I think the euphemistic tern is transitioning. but I’m sure thats what Ipswich, Sunderland, Bolton, Portsmouth fans etc. though as well.

      1. Personally I see it as an opportunity to see large wage earners off the payroll. We are no longer a “Premiership Club” transitioning in The Championship.

        Time for a change and the chance to start as an established Championship cub aiming to build from the Academy/Astute Signings program, with a view to establishing a fiscally astute club with aspirations to build a team with the Sheffield United approach to future success.

      2. Maybe then like the Blades the plan is to drop into League One to commence the transition. Just so long as we don’t then become a “Championship Club” transitioning in League One with Championship wages and after a few failed attempts we have to start transitioning all over again.

        It begs the question about why we brought Saville in last season at an extortionate cost when we were having a fire sale trying to unburden ourselves of costs (also considering that it is obvious now that the Bamford sale was more a money saving exercise rather than sound footballing judgement) and we also nearly brought Besic in from a Premiership side who I’m pretty sure would have wanted Prem wages and then there was JOM this time last year. I’m left scratching my head as to when the new vision was decided upon.

        It all seems very short term knee jerk to me. I guess its that level of planning that got us into the mess in the first place, sadly not for the first time either, its like 2010 all over again exactly ten years later. The signing of a £1M Keeper to be third choice also seems to fly in the face of austerity cuts. Key to it all working of course is where do we find a Chris Wilder?

        I don’t necessarily disagree with your logic GHW its just that I find the workings of MFC a tad perplexing and utterly unbelievable since the appointment of Southgate. For the life of me I can’t figure out how Bulkhaul is so successful yet MFC and Rockliffe are a slow motion car crash.

        I can feel a book coming on “From Southgate to Woodgate, the lost era”. Incredible that the guy who brought us from nothing to our greatest ever period of history seems hell bent on leaving us exactly where he found us.

      3. RR. You mention SunLun and Ipswich. I think that by holding onto high earning players they contributed to their own demise once theY slid into League One.

        It prevented them from signing players to mount serious promotion challenges. I still think that losing high wage individuals like Ayala, Howson, Assombalonga, Clayton, Gestede etc would give the club a base to build from.

        I doubt very much that these players will take a pay cut and once Championship status is confirmed they should be allowed to leave. Woodgate ( it would appear) is here for the long term so there is a golden opportunity to set the club on a firm financial keel and have a realistic approach to life in the Championship.

        SG, with the best will in the world is no longer able to pump large sums of money into the club, whether that is by design or down to P&S rules is open to question. However that seems to me to be the best way forward.

        I realise there will be many that disagree with me, but I believe this is the best pragmatic approach to take.

  76. Whilst I fully agree with being realistic I’m never comfortable for settling for mediocrity, something we seem to do as a region never mind as a club. I always remember an old lecturer talking to me about what grade I wanted to graduate with. When I suggested I would be happy with a second class mark I was told to be careful, aim for mediocrity and you may just achieve it, aim high (and prepare well) and you may ‘fail’ to a second class mark.

    Whilst education marks are not what football clubs set out to achieve is the rational behind not the same? I see the mantra that we are were we are as that’s always been Boro’s level as an excuse for failure. Barring a handful of clubs there is a constant shift in power amongst the other clubs.

    Also regarding pumping money into a club, that has been shown numerous times now that there is more than one way to skin a cat. We need a left winger for example. For arguments sake say each PL team has two in each squad that’s 40. Then the top 40 clubs in Europe have two each in their squads, another 80. Then the top ten championship clubs, another 20. Even at those over estimates that is 140 left wingers we may not get. Now look at how many left wingers must be available globally playing the most popular sport in the world. We need ONE that is Better than what we have. Our current scouting and/or recruitment team have not shown anything of merit.

    We brought in Roberts who is a great player, if he wasn’t going to be injured he was almost certain to drop in form. What was our plan then? Woodgate sat in disbelief in the press conference bemoaning his luck when it was actually odds on when rationally approached. Instead we spent the window chasing a CB, GK and another CM!

    League one with a plan is disappointing but manageable, league one with spin is suicidal…

  77. GHW
    I have to disagree to an extent with some of your strategy.

    ” I doubt very much that these players will take a pay cut once Championship status is confirmed”.

    You appear to be suggesting that if they are allowed to leave then they will be able to secure a deal which is equal to or betters that which they are already on and I find that hard to believe.

    They may be able to secure a signing on fee as their new club will not have to pay a transfer fee but I doubt they will achieve better terms than their existing contract terms and, as such, may well be prepared to consider a new contract on reduced terms.

    I base my view on the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, MFC did not receive any bids for these players whilst they have been under contract. Basically, MFC have overpaid and the rest of the league are unable to match or better their current deals. We should therefore be in a position to at least offer something close to or better than they could achieve elsewhere in the Championship.

    If we let them all go and do not retain any of them then we have a major rebuild to do and we all know how that has worked out in the past.

    Just think of what happened when we were promoted to the PL and imported 7+ players. It takes a while to gel as a team and as was shown, it did not work that season and we were relegated.

    In my view we need to retain the nucleus of the current squad, a mix of youth and experience. I would therefore be looking to retain Ayala, Friend, Howson and Johnson of those with expiring contracts if possible.

    If necessary you could look to sell some of those still under contract to generate funds but again may be hampered by their current terms. The only way possible is if we are prepared to take a big hit on what we paid for them eg Assombalonga.

    If we do as you suggest, then we are reliant on recruiting players of the calibre of Bola, Browne etc.

    Whilst you can probably manage with one or two who might or might not make it in the Championship, I believe a team comprising 5+ new recruits, from lower leagues, is likely to fail and I see it as a race to the bottom and relegation to League 1. But what do I know………..😎

    1. I’m in complete agreement with this. I think we should be looking at offering Ayala, Friend and Howson competitive if short contracts. Probably Johnson as well because he’s a decent squad member. If they can get a big payday somewhere else then all power to them. I think Ayala and Howson can legitimately expect to be among the best paid in the club.
      Clearly we have to sell Britt for whatever we can get for him and we probably have to sell one of McNair or Saville but, as you say, if we are to compete for a top 6 position then we need a solid core of proven players and if we let everyone out of contract go and sell others beside we’re more likely to get ourselves relegated (assuming we aren’t already) than improved.

  78. I’ve just read a few quotes from our manager, which I paraphrase.

    ‘We just need to win more games’.

    ‘We need to score more goals’.

    ‘We need to concede less’.

    Now we’ve worked all that out I know Boro will be OK. No doubt we’ll start with Gestede so that we’ll play with ten men. There’s not many predictions on here but with Boro’s form and lack of leadership and direction I’ll go for a 2 – 1 home win for Barnsley.

    I pray that I’m proved wrong.



    1. Oh no GHW. Hopefully not another prediction down the pan.
      That has to be tongue in cheek. Could you really, honestly see us scoring three goals. And keep a clean sheet?

  79. I’ve seen some mystifyingly strange decisions from VAR so far this season and I thought the decision not to give Harry Maguire a red card was at the top of the list, but the absence of a red card for Lo Celso today in the Chelsea Spurs game is staggering.

    In some instances you have to wonder what the match official at Stockley Park is actually seeing. I defy anyone to look at the incident and not think it worthy of a sending off.

    I realise that fans don’t like to see the forensic dissemination of offside decisions, but whether it’s a millimetre or a yard, according to the rules it’s offside. But sending offS ( or not) Couldn’t be more obvious than the one I’ve just seen.


  80. Team news: Well Woodgate has shuffled his defence again and it’s all change with both Spence and Coulson out but Shotton returns with possibly Howson and Johnson as the wing-backs. McNair is also dropped as Morrison comes into midfield and it’s Britt’s turn to partner Fletcher up top.

    Starting XI: Pears, Howson, Shotton, Moukoudi, Friend, Johnson, Wing, Saville, Morrison, Assombalonga, Fletcher.

    Subs: Mejias, Coulson, Clayton, McNair, Tavernier, Nmecha, Gestede

    1. It will be interesting to see which formation he plays. Looks like we will be light in midfield, I’ve given up trying to guess JW’s team selections.

      1. Yes, is it a four or is it a five? Are flooding the midfield with non tacklers or going for broke to make GHW’s prediction come true.
        With JW it’s like playing dominos. You shuffle the pack but the same comes out only in a different order.
        However to be fair to Woodgate, he had to do something after last week. Disappointed Spence is at least not on the bench.

    2. Werder,

      No Spence anywhere, not even on the bench. Is he injured, resting. Even if you had the best of three guesses you wouldn’t get near the selection of JW.

      Time to get the linament on and get behind the couch.



  81. Can’t say I’ve got much enthusiasm towards watching football at the moment but I’ll probably keep an eye on the game in the hope it’s ten times better than recent performances. All looks like another random team selection where it may be expecting too much to see any kind of fluency or interaction between the players – three or four of whom are probably not match fit.

    Anything from this game will probably be a bonus but I’m predicting a 2-0 defeat – especially if the players don’t show the intensity required against a relegation rival looking to add to their Fulham win.

    1. Yes Werder,Friend, Shotton, Morrison all short of game time so will be prone to errors like with George last week.
      Remember when Shotton used to give the opposition an opportunity and often a goal on a regular basis.
      If the players don’t turn up for this one, wellI I am afraid Mr Gibson should really dispense with our Jonathan. Let’s hope it does not come to that.

  82. The latest JW selection twist does not fill me full of confidence with so many players still very rusty.

    I hope I am wrong but this could all go very pear shaped.

    I hope we can get something from the game but inclined to go with many on a win for Barnsley.

    CoB proves all wrong. 😎

  83. Just reflected on the team selection and it doesn’t matter what shape we play we are back to square one. Where is the pace in the side going to come from?😎

  84. Thankfully more intensity from the Boro players than we saw last week but not much quality on display in what is now around 165 minutes since Boro last had a shot on target. Defensively we look a bit shaky at times and Barnsley appear better at moving the ball forward. Conditions are not helping but Barnsley are looking more likely to score.

  85. KP is correct, little pace and nothing really to the front two. Conditions difficult and Fletcher must have slippers on?

    Shotton and Friend look as we feared making mistakes that nearly gave them good chances.
    Barnsley 10 shots us 3 with none on target.
    Midfield very poor with Morrison deep and getting by passed as is Saville.
    How Barnsley are not ahead and if it continues like this there is only one winner.

  86. Well nothing from Boro in the second half to trouble Barnsley and a second successive game against a team in the bottom three where Boro couldn’t manage a shot on target. It seems we’re out of ideas and the drift downwards continues while Woodgate continues to search for a coherent team. The team lacked energy and pace and those who have it have been left out of the starting eleven because they are deemed in need of a rest. Perhaps it will soon be time the man making the calls will be needing a rest if the season ends in an unnecessary relegation!

  87. Statistics from the BBC website say it all:

    Home Team Barnsley

    Away Team Middlesbrough

    Home 57%
    Away 43%

    Away 5

    Shots on Target
    Home 4
    Away 0


    Home 6
    Away 2

    Truly shocking display against the bottom team who have failed to keep a clean sheet at home since the opening day of the season! 😎

  88. Starting XI:
    Pears -good game,
    Howson – at least he tried,
    Shotton – steady but rusty, why only one throw in?
    Moukoudi – premier league yer affing a laff, wins the ball and then gives it away. Friend – shame, as he has been a good servant for the club, time to coach the juniors.
    Johnson – ever decreasing circles.
    Wing – like playing with a man short.- headless chicken who doesn’t tackle
    Saville – we got the wrong player from millwall, WALLACE
    Morrison – I’ll get me boots out of the garage
    Assombalonga – this is a strange one, the less he plays the worse he gets, I am trying to get my 1 year old granddaughter to stay upright.
    Fletcher – the best strikers have strength and pace, he does have a little bit of pace.

  89. The Gazette report on today’s defeat:

    And tempers almost boiled over as Rudy Gestede gestured dismissively at supporters as he disappeared down the tunnel.

    Come on BORO.

    1. And contributed absolutely nothing for 28 +4 minutes. Absolutely nothing.

      I do not really blame Woodgate. He is out of his depth, the blame lays squarely with the blinkered Chairman.

      1. Pedro,

        RE. Gestede Surely Mr Woodgate knows rubbish when he sees it?

        I’ll get my coat.




        I do not understand. When he plays he contributes as much as when he didn’t play. Even then we are still playing with ten men. If he’s offered a new contract that’s the end for me. Redcar Red has unhinged me with his aside about the Braithwaite money giving him a new contract. Christ the tea lady really could do better with or without the trolley in her slippers.

        Plus, the last three games were going to give us the cushion, one point out of nine…

  90. Exmil,

    Gestede is not a solution. That’s trying to solve a problem with a much bigger problem. Maybe Redcar Red is right, they’re going to offer him a contract extension. Would he excel in the old Third Division?

    Answers on the back of a stamp.



  91. Its football I can accept that we will lose games. If somebody had said that we wouldn’t have a shot on target against two bottom three teams I would have said “yer jokin arnt yer”. If somebody asks if I am renewing my two season tickets the answer is “yer jokin arnt yer”

  92. Exmil Challenge 2019 – 20
    As in previous seasons, this years challenge will be in 3 parts, the first part will cover from Tuesday 25 Feb until Sat 14 Mar.

    The format is the same as previous years, in that each entry will have to predict what each listed team will have at the end of each Part. If you predict the correct amount of points for a particular team, you will score 10 points but for every point + or -, you will lose a point. As an example if you predict Team A will have 40 points but they actually achieve 38 points you will score 8 points for that team, the same as if Team A actually achieves 42 points. Totalling the points you score for all teams will determine your position in the Exmil Challenge 2020 league and the points you score in Part 1 will carry forward into Part 2 then your total will carry forward into Part 3, at the end of which we will have our final placings and overall winner.

    PART 1 – Deadline Tue 25 Feb 19:

    For each team post your entry as either W/D/L for each fixture and the total points the team will have by cop 14 Mar, for example

    Luton (30) WWWW 42 points

    For part 1 I have included teams from Luton up to and including Hull, in parts 2 & 3 the teams my change depending on their likelihood of relegation.

    Once I record your entry I will reply with a simple “recorded” and you will know I have entered you in the challenge. Your entry must be posted on Diasboro by 1945 hrs on Tues 25 Feb At the end of each part I will post the league positions for everyone.

    Good luck to everyone and especially the BORO.

    Luton (30) Brentford (H), Stoke (H), Wigan (A) PNE (H)

    Barnsley (31) Hull (A), Reading (A), Cardiff (H), QPR (A)

    Wigan (34) Reading (A), WBA (A), Luton (H), Huddersfield (A)

    Huddersfield (36) Bristol (H), Charlton (H), Leeds (A), Wigan (H)

    Boro (37) Leeds (H), Forest (H), Charlton (A), Swansea (H)

    Stoke (37) Blackburn (A), Luton (A), Hull (H), Reading (A)

    Charlton (39) Shef Wed (A), Huddersfield (A), Boro (H), Hull (A)

    Hull (41) Barnsley (H), Leeds (H), Stoke (A), Charlton (H)

    If anyone notices a mistake in the fixtures, please let me know.

    I am leaving for a two week cruise to the Far East the morning after the Leeds match (I will be there in the East Upper) and I return to Middlesbrough on the morning of the Swansea game (funny how it worked out I only miss 1 home game) so I will post the next set of fixtures that weekend.

    Come on BORO.

    1. Exmill, this is my effort to keep us still in the championship.









      1. Ex mil

        Very sorry but I will not be doing the challenge this season my heart isn’t in it and my mind is thinking about more positive things !

        Thank you for organising again it’s appreciated


    1. Exmill,
      Enjoy your cruise and hope we are in with a shout, here is my effort at forecasting.









  93. That was a disgraceful performance. Barnsley outplayed us from start to finish and in every position. They fought for every ball. We didn’t. They played it on the floor, which was sensible in the ferocious wind, but we preferred to hump it long, presumably in the hope that Fletcher or Assombalonga would outpace a vulnerable defence with the ball over the top. Some hope. Barnsley’s passing was crisp and purposeful, ours lacked any kind of accuracy or cohesion. Two games against the bottom two with not a single shot on target. I despair.

    After the Luton game, I commented that it was folly to leave Morrison on the bench. Now we know why. Like so many others today, he was anonymous.

    The Gazette’s reporting of the dissent at the end is massively understated. As Woody reached the tunnel he was roundly and loudly booed. As all the players made their way past the Boro fans, a large number in the crowd chanted, ‘ You’re not fit to wear the shirt.’ This went on till every Boro player had left the pitch, which must have been agonising for players like Howson and Friend. Gestede, not for the first time in his illustrious Boro career, reacted and had a go at the fans nearest the tunnel. Bridges burned for good this time, hopefully.

    I was at the Barnsley match when Mowbray received a similar reception from our fans. He was gone a couple of days later. Today’s chanting was very loud, very angry, very obvious and came from a significant number of those fans who stayed till the end. Personally, I don’t see how Woody can survive this. The crowd has turned. And I have never seen a Boro crowd have a real go at the team as they did today.

    1. As I said in an earlier post, if there was no result today Woodgate has to be dispensed with.

      Will Mr Gibson once again be accepting of his continuous mistakes since our disastrous season in the Premier League?He accepted the plaudits for what he has done since1986 and rightly so.
      However since our pitiful relegation from the EPL, he has got every decision wrong every season since.

      This season has to be his worst to date. Woodgate is so out of his depth, the poor man is drowning and the only charitable action now is to save him by relieving of his duties.

      There are 12 matches left, possibly sufficient time for somebody else to save us from our doom. If Mr Gibson is really interested in MFC he will act over the next 48 hours.

  94. Its interesting the top teams have foreign coaches,
    We had one, who got us promotion, but I guess the chairman isn’t comfortable with them,
    I’m wondering has Woodgate got too many opinions in his face, and its messing any logical thinking regarding what’s needed, I’m sure Keane has a lot to say otherwise why be here.
    Why play people whose contracts are running down, they are not going to risk a bad injury, and in a time when you need fighters as much as ability, they go AWOL .
    We had six players if you include Morrison starting , six with no guaranteed future at the club.
    That is insane.

  95. Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone for their sincere responses to my pre new year post, and hopefully the acceptance of the reasons therein as to why I’d been reluctant to post up to then, along with the ensuing resurrection of the BD problem which didn’t help. A special thanks goes to John for coming out (whoa! clarification required there please!) to admitting to owning a large, dark coloured canine along with his two terriers, it’s tough to do mate isn’t it, to admit the slates are a bit slack in the loft.

    Like RR and many others on here, the appointment of Village to sit in the hot seat came as a serious blow, especially when the announcement came candy wrapped and sprinkled with more fairy dust than a Brother’s Grimm library, “fooling some of the people ………”. From the off he excelled in proving all of us nay sayers right by producing the tactical awareness of a five year old, and team displays that I, for the first time in my life, switched off from watching and went to bed. You can blame the players if you like, but we all know where the buck stops, ultimately it stops a bit higher but the Teflon Don seems to be able to deflect all blame.

    His mismanagement almost came to a breaking point at the start of December, when all he literally had was eleven starters and a bench that required a signed statement of ‘Loco Parentis’ to allow them to play away games. He had nothing to think about, which listening to his press statements isn’t exactly his strong point, and nothing to tinker with, so for the weeks of December we had a status quo in the team. A team that gelled, showed no fear, fought and produced results, despite, not because of the coaching team’s best efforts.

    This inevitably led to the MOTM award to someone that had done nothing other than nothing at all, the award should have gone to the team for their sterling efforts, whilst he picked up the Dedication In Coaching Knighthood (DICK) award, much more fitting to a person of his management skills.

    Teflon then went out in January and bought Village a whole new set of toys and had some of his old ones repaired, cue chaos. Like a kid in a sweetshop, he just didn’t know which one to pick first or which one to put where in his order of preference, so he decided in his wisdom (notice the word ‘his’) to use them all. Ever since receiving his award, his new and repaired toys, and then breathing the same O2 as the chosen one over two games, he’s developed an over evaluation of what his abilities are and we’ve gone in to free fall due to his inane tinkering, basically if it’s not broke don’t fix it, simple really.

    I’ve reached the point, and I’m not alone here, where I’m not really bothered about the Boro at the moment, I can’t get excited when we score and neither do I get upset, or more to the point surprised, when we concede. I just want this complete farce to come to an end because I’ve honestly had enough of all the amertuerish, pantomime play acting, pantomimes are meant to entertain and be funny, this at present is neither by a long chalk. Can he and his cohorts be gone by tomorrow morning please, and be replaced by someone that actually knows what he’s doing? No fanfares, no show ponies, no big names, no promise of a whole new era of exciting football, just a manager that can steady the ship and actually get the players doing what we all know they can do.

    Exmil, thank you for putting together yet another challenge and I’ll try to get my entries in on time this year. Safe journey and I sincerely hope that you’re back in the East Stand Upper for the Swansea game, it’s just that others that went on a Far East cruise in January haven’t got home yet.

    1. PPP,

      A fine post and summation of what is happening, depressing with a small ‘d’. I just don’t think he knows what he is doing and the more and harder he tries the worse it gets. Or is that got. He certainly couldn’t tune a car. Sadly momentum is gathering now and terminal velocity can’t be far off.

      Good to see you back posting again. Right now to walk the three terriers, what a midfield, all the village dogs keep out of the way and cower! If I walk two miles they cover at least four. We’ve got our daughter’s Jack Russell until tomorrow. Their energy levels are frightening then they go to sleep all over my studio floor and chair just to make my printing awkward and difficult.

      I’ll read Redcar Red’s analysis when I get back in an hour or so.



    2. Great to have you back PPP you have been missed!

      You are not alone in being unfazed should Boro win lose or draw. Mrs Red has remarked that she could tell if we had won, lost or drawn just by the look on my face when I walked in the house. She has said that for the first time in almost 30 years of knowing me that she now has no idea when she sees my physog. Apparently I was a miserable beggar for a day or two if we lost, a bit moody if we drew and full of beans if we won but now I’m just a moody beggar 24/7 which apparently is at least better than miserable.

      Like the Grinch, Pulis killed Football and those Villa games especially the Play Offs without a shot on target until Downing’s deflected effort at Villa Park in the dying seconds live long and painful in the memory. Woodgate’s “Football” is a hundred times worse because there is no shape or direction in what on earth is going on. It is beyond the “Clueless Pulis” label that was stuck on Newport’s finest export. We now core less, win less, shoot less but concede more. The worst of the worst but nothing in return, the very worst of both worlds.

      After the summer of spin I found myself detached from the club, I want them to win of course because I used to support Boro but now I feel like I’m watching a club that I once liked but I’m there for nostalgia only reasons rather than passionate desires of hope and support.

      When I was a kid I remember another kid who always used to bring his ball for a kick-about. It was jerseys for goalposts and two captains (he of course being the ball owner was always one) who selected from the scruffy little ragamuffins assembled in a line before them. The game would kick off and the numbers would often swell as other kids came out to play and were divided up between the sides. The games would sometimes have 20 plus players on each team with no tactics or semblance of defence, midfield or attack but it was great fun with the game often lasting for hours.

      Tactically there isn’t much difference to watching a Woodgate assembled group (I avoided the use of the word “Team” deliberately), Huffing and puffing, running around, hoofing the ball up the park and anyone near it chasing after it. It was great fun and most importantly in those days it was free enjoyment compared to today’s youth with console games, computers, the internet, multiplex cinemas and fast food distractions. To me fast food was a brown sauce sandwich and often still is today much to my kids and Mrs Red’s disgust only bettered by the sheer luxury of a Banana sandwich but I digress!

      Sometimes the team of the lad who owned the ball would be losing and he would start getting a tad “emotional” screaming that it was his free kick or his penalty etc. If we didn’t give in to him we knew that the next thing would be an almighty screaming fit, picking his ball off and storming home in a strop absolutely seething.

      It was his ball after all and we needed to know that. We were all welcome to join in and play but heaven forbid if you fell out with him because you would then be barred for maybe an entire week or even longer until his strop subsided or there weren’t enough kids to have a decent game. At times of course we learned to tip toe around his emotions so we could carry on playing but even then every so often the scream would come up “its my ball and I don’t care” and off he went to his bedroom and we wouldn’t see him for days with his Mum adorned in her pinny answering the front door deflecting enquiries about him coming out to play.

      Come Christmas and various birthdays etc. and we all asked for Footballs and once there were other lads with Caseys his few month era (which seemed like decades to a child) of control and influence waned. I keep being perpetually reminded of that childhood even today and for the life of me I can’t put my finger on why?

      1. I was the Pele of the life of my Christmas/Birthday present football, I could do almost anything with a ball on a park within my own imagination, then the ball burst and then I was back to reality with a bump, does it sound familiar?

      2. I also was the sole owner of a football, also a cricket set of bat ball and stumps, Subbuteo fixtures were always compiled by me, and I had the last word on any decisions, in fact the ‘Just William’ character of the Richmal Crompton author. I changed completely during and after doing my National Service where teamwork became the name of the game. I would never have volunteered to join the RAF, but I’m glad I was conscripted as I was no longer so self-centred and I’m humble enough to say that I needed that. It was the transition from adolescence to manhood that I needed, and I became a better person for it.

  96. Few were expecting a footballing feast at Oakwell on Saturday but perhaps Jonathan Woodgate would like many of his predecessors find it difficult to resist the lure of the Barnsley chop. Although perhaps the travelling army from Teesside are beginning to have had their fill with the diet of football that the Boro head coach has been serving up and are now worried he only has the recipe for relegation. Anyway, was this another half-baked Boro performance and did the team get their just desserts? Here’s a critic who has been chewing over the fare deliver by Woodgate’s team to give his verdict – it’s Redcar Red and his match report…


  97. Thanks RR. Depressing to read, no matter how well written. Glad to see last week’s MOM, the crisp packet, putting in a late appearance…
    And that says it all, that an empty crisp packet blowing in the wind merits a mention.

    I fear that Leeds will utterly embarrass us on our own turf next and we will lose our marginal goal difference advantage at the bottom.

  98. Thank you Exmil for providing some entertainment this season, something that the team on the pitch seem unable to do!

    Here are my predictions – oddly it seems that the ‘Boro don’t drop back into the bottom three just yet.

    Luton (30) LDWL (34)
    Barnsley (31) DLLL (32)
    Wigan (34) LLLD (35)
    Huddersfield (36) LDDD (39)
    Boro (37) LLDW (41)
    Stoke (37) LDLD (39)
    Charlton (39) LDDD (42)
    Hull (41) DLWD (46)

  99. Redcar Red,

    Well, I’ve read the report and no complaints about the writing, very good, honest and a reality check for the optimists. Again.

    I am now resigned to relegation because I just can’t see any improvement coming that is going to save Boro. If we had Barcelona’s forwards we couldn’t score. Oh, hang on didn’t one play for us and thought Mr Pulis’ brand of football was terrible? At least it was organised.

    We have a ‘defence’ that does what it ‘does’. A midfield that does something and forward who don’t seem to do anything but those three distinct areas don’t seem joined-up at all.

    Gestede, good god, why oh why? Will he play him again? Probably, because he sees something in him that nobody else does. Perhaps it’s the way he ties his laces.

    I still remember that Boro player interviewed a few weeks ago who said ‘a team always goes on a winning run and climbs the table’ or words to that effect. Being the Teesside pessimist my response was that one always goes into freefall. At the moment Boro are that team.

    If the management, coaches and players can’t see it we are truly bollocksed.

    I did laugh out loud at the Uwe Fuchs translation. Very good. In fact along with the crisp packet the highlight if the game.




  100. Redcar Red thank you for the match report and filling in the gaps of the highlights that passed me by.

    How I admire your fortitude, however by your own admission the attendances now are probably akin to an auto man. Is that the correct word?
    Also like many and more than may admit, like the Boro, we are just going through the motions of supporting and watching our Team. When the opposition score it is with resignation that that is how it is. When we score, there is no reaction because it usually does not matter to the result.

    How has it come to this very sad state of affairs that the Owner, I have chosen that word deliberately, has not to date tried to rectify the problem. One big part of which we all know. Has he lost all interest and in reality is only sitting on his hands?
    It is also alarming if he indeed is not turning up at the Riverside as that would tell the whole story.

    What legacy will there be when we are floundering in League One next season.

  101. RR

    Thank you for
    Your support and dedication to the Diasboro blog.

    You and Werder have kept the spirit alive and even though players and managers come and go we all appreciate what you both do for us.


  102. Exmil,

    Here’s my entry for the challenge.

    Luton (30) L, D, L, D, 32

    Barnsley (31) D, L, D, D, 34

    Wigan (34) L, L, D, D, 36

    H’field (36) D, D, L, D, 39

    Boro (37) L, L, D, D, 39

    Stoke (37) L, D, D, L, 39

    Charlton (39) L, D, D, 41

    Hull (41) D, L, D, W, 46

    I hope it makes sense and I haven’t been too optimistic.



  103. Great report as per RR,

    The game perfectly summed up with each performance superseding the last for ineptness.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so despondent (admittedly I was only a few years old in 1986) but the pack of critique from the local media coupled with the lack of communication from the club had created a gulf I fear is now irreparable. Barring the fact that Gibson is from Park End and Mike Ashley is from London can anyone tell me the difference between the two recently?

    One shows utter contempt for the supporters, looks to maximise revenue that he has stated numerous times in the past is negligible to a clubs finances, appoints dud after dud, employs mates with no real experience or qualification whilst greatly growing his own personal empire……the other of course is Mike Ashley!

    If no change is made this week I fear being even more isolated in the East stand next season!

  104. Thanks RR for your report and dedication to the cause, which is more than can be said for many in the Boro team recently!

    The whole sad saga has left me so disinterested that I feel disinclined to vent anymore on what is turning into a car crash of a season and which many on here have been predicting; not because we wanted it to happen but because we have seen similar outcomes in the past with the appointment of inexperienced managers being tasked beyond their capabilities.😎😟

  105. Hmmm, considering the crock of ordure served up yesterday by the club it’s really very quiet on here.

    Is this submission, acceptance or a quietly fermenting fury that hasn’t blown the cork out yet?

    And Leeds to come…



    1. Infamy Infamy !

      They’ve all got it infamy !

      Still sore

      Still hacked off

      Still considering should I Or, should I not renew the season ticket ?

      Should I go and watch the debacle against Leeds ?

      Sending this for a friend !

      He’s in a bad way at the moment !


    2. I think “ordure” is much too polite a term for what is now unravelling and gaining momentum.

      Leeds will be interesting, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a “Typical Boro” performance against the form book and in doing so enabling a temporary stay of execution and prolonging the agony. An more likely ignominious display and consequential defeat will ensure some Teesside banter with those in the dug outs and those sat in the comfy seats high up in the West Stand. For that reason I suspect the posh seats may well be vacant again.

      From 1986 to 2006 Steve Gibson was a hero and walked on water but his time since then has indifferent at the very best. The last 14 years have been difficult and there is now a generation bordering on two generations of young fans who have no recollection of Europe or ’86. To them he is just another old bloke who owns a football club with no emotional attachment to him or respect for him. Sadly that may heighten with scenes nobody wants to ever hear at the Riverside but my guess is that the time is getting closer to becoming a reality and detached seeming aloofness (a euphemism for hiding from the wreckage) isn’t helping in the current mess.

  106. Exmil,

    Here’s my entry for the challenge.

    Luton (30) L, D, L, L, 31

    Barnsley (31) L, L, D, L, 32

    Wigan (34) L, L, W, L, 37

    H’field (36) D, W, L, W 43

    Boro (37) L, L, D, D, 39

    Stoke (37) L, D, W, D, 42

    Charlton (39) L, L, D, L 40

    Hull (41) W, D, L, W, 48

    Safe travelling and enjoy your cruise.

    I hope you are not sailing on the MV Boro as it’s sinking fast and in danger of going down! 😎

  107. Enjoy your holiday exmil.
    I can only hope that I am not leading the challenge.

    Luton, LDLW = 34
    Barnsley, WDWL = 38
    Wigan, DLWD = 39
    Huddersfield, WWLD =43
    Boro, LLLD = 38
    Stoke, LDWL = 41
    Charlton, LLWL = 42
    Hull, LDLW = 45

  108. Can I honestly say that I’m absolutely blown away by the reception I’ve received on my return to posting, but now I have to put it in to perspective.

    1. Is it down to my cutting correspondence that was missed by the blog to beyond belief? Well, I think we can put that one in the bin.

    2. Is it down to the predicament that we, as Boro sufferers find ourselves in, and due to the lack of posting that you would welcome me back even if I disclosed myself as Spartak to bulk out the post? Trust me I’m not, but worth a consideration.

    3. Is it simply because, that this blog, it’s blogmeister and its contributors, have a reasoning and understanding, along with forgiveness, that other blogs could never dream of coming close to, that makes you always want to come back? Mmm, could be a front runner.

    I don’t think that we need an Exmil Challenge on this, but can I please say that the response to not only my post, but that of Osvaldojnr is overwhelming, welcome aboard Os2 by the way. You lads are exceptional, I honestly wish I could buy you all a beer and have a good old natter, some day maybe.

    Can I also say that my reasoning for my voluntary exile due to what I thought was an over the top criticism to my posts on the day, in no way should restrict that poster and others from giving me, and others, a dig in the ribs at any time, we at most times deserve it due to our exuberant outbursts. We’re not tissues, well I’m not any way, so fire away, but sometimes one should think about one’s contribution before we hit enter, me included. Bloody hell, that sounded posh for a Park Ender!

    Lastly, and this has been bugging me for weeks. RR, your quote of ‘Infamy, Infamy by Frankie Howard is somewhat astray. It was actually by Kenneth Williams in Carry On Cleo and, Frankie’s name was actually ‘Howerd’ due to restrictions imposed by some other actor having the same name but odd an earlier time.

    Sorry for being a pedant.

  109. Firstly, thanks to RR for another excellent match report that unlike Boro had countless attempts that hit the target. Although, I must confess I’m feeling much like in his reply to PPP in that I’ve become quite ambivalent to the results and emotionally detached by the current campaign as the best we can expect is now not to be relegated or possibly see a shot directed between those jumper substitutes

    At least Boro have done their best to avoid mid-table obscurity and have rather generously contrived a poor run to provide Exmil with a suitable means for his annual challenge – albeit a relegation one. Although while my powers of prediction are notoriously unpredictable I shall endeavour to ponder the imponderable and think the unthinkable.

    However, I discovered this morning that one of my earlier predictions did sadly come true yesterday with the unfortunate death of Mad Mike Hughes. It was almost exactly two years ago when I wrote of his exploits in coincidentally the Leeds match preview that was at risk from the so-called ‘Beast from the East’. Anyway, in case any of you have forgotten, here are a few paragraphs from that Leeds preview: Boro Beasts from the North-East hope to blow Mighty Whites away – Incidentally, Boro won that game 3-0 so it could be an omen of sorts…

    After the disappointment of conceding a 96th minute equaliser at Sunderland, both the team and supporters were left feeling flatter than the flat-footed flatmate of Michael Flatley on his way to the Flat Earth Society. OK, it may not be the end of the world (spherical or otherwise) but the draw certainly felt like the proverbial defeat at the Stadium of Light, which ultimately cast a huge shadow over the weekend after a potentially famous Boro comeback was thwarted at the death. Incidentally, for anyone of a deeply sceptical nature who is still struggling to see hope on the distant horizon for Boro’s season, you may be interested to discover the Flat Earth Society recently relaunched itself in 2009 before subsequently splitting into two factions after one ironically deciding to go global on social media.

    Still, those who are looking at some of the players to demonstrate they have the courage of their convictions could perhaps point them towards the example of one flat-earther known as ‘Mad’ Mike Hughes, who is so determined to forward his cause that he even built a steam-powered rocket and plans launch himself into the heavens and boasts “I’ll shut the door on this ball Earth” before claiming a conspiracy that “NASA is controlled by round-Earth Freemasons”. Sadly for Mike the planned launch a few weeks ago failed due to a blown O-ring, which was apparently in the rocket not himself – though a previous launch in an earlier model saw him reach the less than staggering height of 1,300m before he collapsed from the G-force. That experience didn’t deter him and he admits “It’s scary as hell but none of us are getting out of this world alive” – which is a theory he’s probably more likely to prove than the flat Earth one. Still, we can only hope Boro’s season reaches such dizzy heights before our own steam-powered promotion campaign actually runs out of steam.

    In memory of Mad Mike Hughes (1955-2020) who died yesterday when his steam-powered rocket crashed – Daredevil dies during homemade rocket launch

  110. I foresee the present bottom three falling further behind but not by much :-

    Luton (30) D,L,L,L = 31
    Barns (31) D,D,W,D =37
    Wigan (34) L,L,W,L = 37
    Hudds (36) W,D,D,W = 44
    Boro (37) D,L,D,W = 42
    Stoke (37) L,W,W,D = 44
    Charl (39) W,L,L,L = 45
    Hull (41) D,W,L,D = 46

    1. Could you please clarify Huddersfield v Charlton as you have D & L for same match also Boro v Charlton as you have D & L for same match also Charlton v Hull as you have L & D for the same match and confirm total for Charlton.

      1. ExMil
        Wow, a hat trick of bloomers over Charlton’s matches so here is my revised forecast for them:-
        Charlton (39) W,D.D,D = 45
        Sorry about that, it would appear that I’ve pressed the last 3 fixtures all as LLL instead of DDD as the total of 45 is correct.

  111. Boro are in a mess. Of the bottom half a dozen teams they probably have the worst points achieved over the last six games than any others.

    Up until now it was reassuring to look at the league table and think there were four or five teams worse than Boro .

    This is no longer the case. Barnsley are winning matches, Luton have won matches, Wigan have won matches and Huddersfield are showing fight e.g. losing three nil to Fulham and got back to 3-2 at half-time and based on chances in the second half should’ve won the game. Stoke are winning matches and probably have the best squad of players to get out of trouble.

    By comparison, certainly in the last two games, Boro are not creating any chances. The team is crying out for leadership on the pitch but whereas in the past Friend might have been a contender he is not the player he was and his first objective must be to get some form back by playing games.
    So there is a real danger of Boro ending up in the bottom three.

    Can Woodgate turn it round? I’m not sure.
    . I would be much more confident in turning things around with e.g. a Pulis , a Karanka or one or two more experienced managers who have done it before.
    Nothing beats experience in all walks of life.
    The younger players brought a refreshing enthusiasm and carefree attitude to the team whereas the older brigade lack pace and commitment . It’s a real dilemma on what to choose. It appears Woodgate is going for the latter with players not likely to be here next season .
    I wonder what the odds are for Boro to be in the bottom three after the next two games?
    How many of us if offered fourth from bottom now I would snap their hand off?


  112. My entry for the challenge is

    Luton (30) LDLL 31
    Barnsley (31) LLDL 32
    Wigan (34) LLWD 38
    Huddersfield (36) LDLD 38
    Boro (37) LDDD 40
    Stoke (37) LDWL 41
    Charlton (39) LDDL 41
    Hull (41) WLLW 47

    Come on BORO.

  113. Let’s imagine an unpleasant, but possible scenario: supposing Boro lose the 2 home games v Leeds and Forest, so that the gap to the bottom three gets narrower still or we even end up in the relegation spots. Does Steve Gibson hold his nerve or does he act to either sack Woodgate or support him a la Venables with an experienced manager?

    If he holds his nerve, how long dare he leave it before he takes decisive action? After Leeds and Forest, we’ll have ten games left, 30 points to play for. Perhaps all will depend on SG’s confidence in Woodgate’s ability to turn it round and what he sees as the footballing reasons for optimism, such as the return of Ayala or Roberts, or the fact that we might have scored a couple more goals in losing the two home games? Perhaps he’s already sensing, like many of us, that Woody hasn’t got the nous to turn this round?

    Whatever, it’s a huge decision and one he has to get right. If he gets the timing wrong, we could well go down. This could get very nervy.

    Any views, blog-mates?

    1. I think Gibson is notorious for waiting until the decision is almost made for him – perhaps the exception was Monk but we have since learned that the reason for his dismissal was more than likely related to the club accusations that he and his agent had a financial involvement in some of the deals – including paying over the odds for Fletcher.

      I suspect while Boro are within three points of safety Gibson won’t act but by the time we were in a worse state than that it would probably be too late. The only saving grace is that teams around the bottom generally only average a point a game so any win is of great benefit.

      Although it would be harsh to sack a manager for not beating either Leeds or Forest but perhaps the only time to do it would be just before the international break but then there would only be 6 games left.

    2. Probably wrong but my gut feeling is that Gibson will stick with Woodgate even if we go down.

      One of the problems with replacing him is that the job isn’t particularly attractive now. It’s an average squad with the noises coming from the club suggesting that Ayala, Shotton, Clayton and Johnson (and Gestede) will all be let go. If a new man comes in and keeps us up there will be a weak, inexperienced squad and not a lot of money to rebuild.

      If JW was to go I would imagine if would have to be someone to the end of the season only. Pulis again? Karanka? I don’t see that sort of manager committing longer term to a situation with so many problems.

      So we’d probably get Leo.

      1. Of course if we did go down, Howson would likely not stay on and you’d expect Assombalonga, Fry and Wing to all leave, possibly Fletcher and Tav too.

        That would give us no squad at all but plenty of cash to rebuild with, especially in League One.

    3. Clive, as I posted prior to the Saturday match, if we lost on Saturday, I said Mr Gibson should dispense with Mr Woodgate within 48 hours.
      Will he do so tomorrow morning, I doubt it. Why, because it would be a massive admission that he once more got things wrong. He does not want egg on face.

      However if we do go down, I would expect a radical reaction from ST’s. I will not be renewing, irrespective of the difference in cost and bearing in mind I only see half the Riversde matches, if that, unless we escape relegation.

  114. HI Exmil.

    Hoping you have a good trip and thanks again for putting the challenge together again this year.

    Here’s my attempt…

    Luton (30) DDDW (36)
    Barnsley (31) LLWD (35)
    Wigan (34) LLDL (35)
    Huddersfield (36) DWLW (43)
    Boro (37) LDLL (38)
    Stoke (37) LDWL (41)
    Charlton (39) LLWL (42)
    Hull (41) WDLW (48)

  115. If Gibson and Woodgate have any sense they will realise that these last three games have tipped the balance of the scales. Belief, trust and confidence have gone totally and with that support for their foolhardy project that was spawned last summer.

    There are a few rumours circulating about an alleged unsavoury incident about a former player which unfortunately has been played out on social media and another rumour that meetings and discussions have already taken place between Gibson and Woodgate and I don’t mean Ben. As a former Director of mine used to say “you don’t get yourself into these situations”.

  116. Here’s another one Exmil, enjoy your cruise, hopefully we will still be above the waterline when you get back!

    Luton (30) L D D W (35)
    Barnsley (31) W D D D (37)
    Wigan (34) L L L D (35)
    Huddersfield (36) D W L D (41)
    Boro (37) L L D D (39)
    Stoke (37) D D W W (43)
    Charlton (39) L L D D (41)
    Hull (41)) L L L D (42)

  117. I doubt that SG will base any decision he makes with regard to Woodgate on whether or not it looks bad on himself.

    I firmly believe all the things he does are based on what he truly thinks is the best for MFC. Of course like all, best laid plans, they can aft gang agley.

    1. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

      If he removes him he is admitting the collapse of the plan and if he keeps him its very likely a bad loss against Leeds could turn vitriolic with a lot of it directed towards himself.

      Its probably a case of which is the lesser of two evils. It’s a situation that he himself engineered and was the sole creator of (its not as if it couldn’t have been foretold).

      He seriously needs to consider appointing people who will challenge him. We argue and disagree on here and can hold opposing views but it doesn’t mean that we need to fall out or stop being on the same side.

  118. Thanks to RR for the warts and all report.
    ExMil the results from the Darwin jury are as follows:
    Luton LDLL (31)
    Barnsley WLWD (38)
    Wigan DLWD (38)
    Huddersfield DDLD (39)
    Boro LLLD (38)
    Stoke DDWL (43)
    Charlton LDWD (45)
    Hull LLLD(42)

  119. Sad that Harry Gregg the Munich air disaster hero has died. I saw him play for Doncaster Rovers on the last time I saw Boro play a match on Christmas Day 1957. I was right behind the goal in the Holgate End as Boro won 3-2 but could well have been 6-2 if it hadn’t been for him. Of course he was already Northern Ireland’s goalkeeper and after playing for Doncaster in the return match on Boxing Day which Boro lost 1-2 he signed for Man Utd before the month was out. I remember the match well because my mother wasn’t too pleased that I missed my Christmas dinner all for my love of Boro. How times have changed!
    RIP Harry

  120. I understand the reaction from a number of people because I too have somehow become almost anaesthetised to the run of poor performances and bad results. There has been a lot of comment about the last game and all that I will add is to say that it was ten minutes when we played very well, another thirty five minutes of average football and then forty five minutes of mediocrity mixed with rubbish.

    It seemed to me self-evident that we had to play on the front foot and thereby put all the pressure on Barnsley who were desperate and therefore very nervous. The opening ten minutes showed that we could open them up an then we fell back into a slower more defensive mode which allowed them back in.

    I feel sorry for Morrison who wasn’t given any chance to find a spot to play in and despondent for Assombalonga who seems to have forgotten everything that he ever knew about being a number 9. Playing against Leeds we need a solid spine and counter-attacking verve. They’ll have most of the ball and so I’d put Clayton and Saville in front of a back four with two wide men on either side – and then Fletcher up front with Morrison or Wing sitting in behind him. Frankly, we’ll be lucky to draw.

    Exmill, here are my predictions
    Luton (30) LLLD 31
    Barnsley (31) WDDL 36
    Wigan (34) LLWL 37
    Huddersfield (36) DWLW 43
    Boro (37) LDDW 42
    Stoke (37) LWWD 44
    Charlton LLDD 41
    Hull (41) LLLD 42


  121. I think instead of everyone piling on , maybe Woody deserves some slack.
    From the first game when Assombolonga misses a penalty ,to the next game against Brentford and the ref going skitso , sending offs, injuries,
    The fact he has to work with some people who don’t know their future, because the club won’t commit ,
    He hasn’t had the greatest of luck, Karanka had lot, thinking back to some late winners, remember Reading , the ball could have went anywhere ,Karanka also had better players that cost a lot.
    Yes Woodgate as made mistakes, but he’s trying to progress the way we play with limited resources , his best signing Roberts gets injured ,just when things are moving forward.he’s introduced young players who are at times raw.
    I’m not a happy camper at where we are, that Christmas run had us all thinking at last.
    But maybe we should get back to understanding what’s going on, Everyone didn’t like the Pulis way, so what do we want?
    I know i want a team of young fast confident skifull players, its the way forward , but it won’t happen overnight.
    For years we’ve been signing from the same division , from teams that had never been promoted, players who are pragmatic, look after themselves don’t take chances, methodical possession types, that bore you silly,
    I support the club ,but it doesn’t mean I don’t see what I see.

    1. There was an ABW (Anybody but Woodgate) group on FMTTM months before his appointment was announced. People wanted Pulis out and yes they wanted more entertaining football (even Karanka was more entertaining than Pulis despite his negative set up) but Woodgate was not a remote consideration in the fans minds at the time. Those protests at Pulis towards the end of the season were not aimed at getting Woodgate the job, not even close. There is a story doing the rounds that the deed was already done twelve months ago and that internally it was known that the job was Woodgates last March and that Pulis was going anyway.

      The negative reaction on social media took the club by surprise which again just illustrates how detached they are from their support base and the wider Teesside community. It took a comically orchestrated attempt to sell him to the Teesside public to get it over the line and even then it was met with great scepticism and disbelief with our local media tarnishing their own reputations for their part in the farce. I can’t think of any manager who could possibly be more negative than Pulis but the fans were hoping for a Jokanovic, Hughton or Cowley depending on how realistic and/or affordable they were. Another relatively unknown foreign coach along the lines of where Watford shopped would also have unified the support which was desperately needed after the way Pulis had split it.

      Stupidly because of their remote aloofness and their parochial mindset the club or in particular Steve Gibson himself most likely thought Woodgate would be that unifying character. I’m guessing that the comfortable relationship with Ben Gibson, Downing and the Chairman collectively created a false sense of Teesside nepotism as the way forward and Pulis through his limited knowledge of the area and the strength of feeling outside of the Rockliffe sanctuary went along with it.

      Woodgate should never have been given the job for a multitude of reasons the main one being that up to that point he had shown little to no intellect on management and coaching (I would include John Terry in that summation also) and a club the size and profile of MFC was far too big for him (as it was Southgate previously). Any of us on here would also have been probably stupid enough to take it if offered it but having a passion for something doesn’t necessarily make you good at it which is why Karaoke has died out in pubs and clubs across the country. Woodgate has shown to be a Karaoke manager, great with a hair brush in front of the mirror but painful to experience outside their own bedroom door.

      In real world careers if we fail we get sacked or we leave before the axe falls and as regards luck you create your own luck. Britt’s penalty misses were as a consequence of a Player who isn’t equipped to take a penalty and clearly neither practices them or hones his technique yet Woodgate persisted with him. The set pieces all season are a huge stick to beat him with, they are not down to bad luck just bad planning, a lack of understanding and coaching.

      Unlucky decisions happen to every side over a season along with the lucky ones but in football you can make your own luck by pressurising officials as Wenger, Fergie and Mourinho did to great effect. To do it well you have to be clever, wily and astute, attributes of the type that have never been laid at Woodgate’s door.

      I suspect in an organised and disciplined set up he maybe functions as a cog in that wheel quite well which is perhaps how and why the illusion that he could make a good manager or head coach arose and thats being kind. Spending a career laid up on some of Europe’s finest treatment tables doesn’t qualify you to be a great Coach. Again citing Fergie, Mourinho and Wenger their playing careers were less than illustrious which that negates one of the few things the pro Woodgate supporters clung to.

      Then with regards to the actual role, he was shafted before he even got started but that is purely because a more experienced coach or manager wouldn’t have been sold the pup he was dumped with. I doubt if he even knew who Bola, Brown and Dijksteel were and I doubt that the famous PowerPoint was constructed by himself if indeed it ever existed. As bad as his level of support has undoubtedly been the squad is not as bad as being in the bottom end of the table. A mediocre manager would have that squad probably mid table at worst, it is a far better squad of players than many others in the top half and a heck of a lot better than many in the bottom half.

      The last three games presented all the managerial/coaching flaws and weaknesses on a silver platter and the dog’s abuse he is now receiving should be shared out but as always in these cases it is always the manager that carries the can. The Leeds game is live on Sky on Wednesday, “Typical Boro” would come out and stun everyone with an emphatic “where did that come from” victory but the alternative and more likely outcome will not be pleasant. If it is as bad a feared and with the provocation of thousands of “non derby” gloating Leeds fans the evening could turn out to be the worst in Middlesbrough’s history since 1986 and I doubt if it will all be directed at the dug outs.

      1. A perfect summation RR. I have no time for Woodgate but do feel sorry for him. He has been shafted indeed.

        The three pre season signings were astonishing at the time and the January additions are no better. I really don’t see why we needed them, a good coach should be able to mould a decent team from the squad we have. Man for man, I’m not convinced that Leeds for example are any better than we are but that is where managerial experience and ability and character comes into play. Thus they have a team, we do not.

        There is an obsession – way beyond Boro – for more and new players (no matter how average) all the time and that does not build a togetherness and the all for one team spirit integral to any good side.

        I think we will stay up purely because we have better players than the other relegation fighting teams but we have to come together as one now to do so. Bringing wholesale loan players in does not address that, all the January four have been hopeless (did no-one check Roberts’ injury record?). Ditch them and stick with the originals and youngsters.

        I cannot see Gibson sacking Woodgate so we need to back him until the summer.
        There are direct and deep shades of the 1986 relegation here, an aimless, leaderless club drifting. Steve Gibson stepped in to save us then, to save us again this time, sadly he needs to step aside.

      2. Its increasingly looking like Gibson has just about taken us full circle and back to the Willie Maddren era. Unfortunately it is now very likely that Steve Gibson’s tenure could well be remembered by many for the last 14 years rather than the first 20 years.

        Boro supporters in their late teens to mid twenties will have been kids when we reached Eindhoven and continued sliding ever since. Listening to them talk they have a very different opinion on the Chairman to those of us more follicly challenged.

      3. Redcar Red
        Have to agree totally with your comments especially regarding jobs for former players, from Murdoch, Maddren, Southgate, Cooper, Mowbray, Hignett, Agnew to Woodgate most of them managers or coaches, then Gary Gill and Neil Maddison. Sadly he missed out on the Clough/Taylor partnership. Then interference with players that his chosen manager/coach didn’t want, such as Jordan Rhodes and Stewart Downing. He was lucky that Bruce Rioch wanted to stay in 1986, with the Bryan Robson appointment with all his charisma and connections, and also it has to be said with Karanka who despite Charltongate got us promoted.

        Despite what OFB says in my opinion the club were crying out for Nigel Pearson despite being an exBoro player, because his CV stood out and he wouldn’t have allowed interference from Steve Gibson, and was a character in the Clough mould. I still think Boro will avoid relegation, but it may be tighter than any of us anticipated.

  122. Andy, I think you’re probably right that Gibson may stick with Woodgate but I believe the chairman did say earlier in the season something like he would be given a fair crack at proving he could do the job. That probably left an indication that he was minded to not panic but there was a line – whether that line is the risk of relegation is open to debate but I suspect if he did act then it would most likely involve bringing back relegation-avoiding specialist Tony Pulis in some temporary capacity, which could even involve Woodgate remaining and then continuing next season.

    1. Werder.
      Please, we are in torment, for someone as football savvy as you, someone who enjoys both watching and blogging on the subject.
      Would you really subject us to a remedy so severe, that it could include Pulis, followed by the return of Woodgate next season, please, say it ain’t so.
      No one, not even Boro supporters deserves a fate as bad as that.
      Just noticed that Barnsley are managed by a couple of young German Coaches, they believe in attacking, plenty of shots on goal, and things are looking up for them just now. Sigh! Whatever happened to our youngsters who won four in a row before xmass.?

  123. Werder

    Assuming JW’s pride will allow him to recognise and accept help. Not easy when he believes that he and the team can get out of the mess they have created. 😎

    1. Of course Woodgate is unlikely ever to say publicly he can’t get out of the mess and he knows a win or two will change the landscape. However, dropping into the bottom three would test Gibson’s resolve to maintain his patience. Bringing in Pulis could be spun as a necessary taking a step back as Woodgate is still learning – plus he’s already worked with him and has mentioned he’s often in contact with the Welshman.

      It would buy Gibson time to ponder the long-term future of Woodgate or indeed give him three months next season to see if results improve. The alternative is either to do nothing or face another managerial clearout and start the search for the next man – though nothing permanent will likely happen before the summer.

  124. Andy, getting relegated would be a disaster in every respect, especially the size of the fan base which would plummet. After all we are not Sunderland.

    I think you are correct in that the decent Championship level players would be cherry picked and leave. Tav, Fry, Fletcher, Coulson? Wing? Plus the out of contract and of course those on loan.

    Jarkko would go into meltdown having to in reality completely build a new squad.
    And of course how much faith would we have in Ian Gill and his lot?

    If Mr Gibson cannot see the possibility of all that, well I dispair.

    1. I know for certain that a South coast club have extensive scouting files on Fry and Tav and would have made a move in January had they sold a striker…

  125. Morning All,

    I was incredibly disappointed to read AV’s latest column this morning. It’s one thing not becoming overly opinionated and critical of the club, but to publish articles with a player declaring JW is the best manager he has ever worked with, HANDS DOWN, is totally farcical. The statement alone is laughable as he is in his first season. If placed in a similar position at work my response would likely be along the lines of ‘First impressions are good, if he carries on in that vein or impresses when the proverbial hits the fan he could turn out to be really good’. That of course would not coincide with him not delivering each work scope late, over-budget, under spec whilst alienating the stakeholders!

    What level of decision making would possibly see this as the message to broadcast given the weeks events?

    Even the reaction at the end of the game was underplayed, I was there with my son and it was an extremely unpleasant atmosphere on par with Strachan and Mogga.

    1. To be fair to AV and the Gazette they’re just reporting the quotes from a general Shotton press pack piece – the Northern Echo carried the same quotes. And to be fair to Shotton he said Woodgate was the best man-manager he’d ever had – which given he came through the ranks at Stoke under Tony Pulis before ending up at Derby under first McClaren and then Paul Clement, before heading briefly to Birmingham under Harry, then arriving at Boro with first Monk and subsequently Pulis again. Perhaps Woodgate is refreshingly normal when he talks to the players rather than down to them like they are kids.

      1. If I was garbage at my job and got away with stealing a living month after month and my manager never bothered me, if asked I’d probably say what a great guy he was!

  126. Exmil, predictions as follows;

    Luton (30) LWDD (35)
    Barnsley (31) DDWD (37)
    Wigan (34) LLDD (36)
    Huddersfield (36) WWLD (43)
    Boro (37) LLDD (39)
    Stoke (37) LLWL (40)
    Charlton (39) LLDD (41)
    Hull (41) DLLD (43)

    I hope there’s no mistakes in there with the hope that I’ve at least got two of my Boro predictions wrong!

  127. Ken

    You’re right,Harry Gregg was not only the top keeper of his day but a genuine hero who went back into that burning plane at Munich and carried out a number of passengers including Bobby Charlton. I was a bit confused by your reference to his last appearance at Ayresome Park, since I thought that I also recalled it clearly.

    It was in September 1957, and it was a particularly memorable night match, because Gregg was even then regarded as something special as a keeper. However, we had someone whom we thought of as being pretty special ourselves, young Brian Clough, a young Turk just at the beginning of his second season.

    The night had something of a shoot- out or gun-fight about it. Doncaster’s star keeper against our hot-shot striker. Who would prevail?

    Well the Boro won 5-0, with Cloughie getting four of them. Less than 3 months later Gregg went to Man U for a world record fee for a goalkeeper, and went on to become perhaps the club’s most iconic hero.

    One of Clough’s goals that night remains in the memory. We were awarded an indirect free- kick just outside the penalty area for obstruction (an offence that now seems to have become a legitimate and even mandatory part of the game). Clough took it and blasted it towards the goal. It didn’t deviate, but went straight into the net. It didn’t appear to have hit anyone. But there was a distinct sound that could be heard around the ground as the ball flew on its way in. Clough heard it and appealed for the goal. The ref heard it too and allowed it. Gregg had obviously heard it and didn’t complain.

    It was just one of the myriad ways in which Clough could contrive to conjure a goal out of nothing.

    I think the game you referenced, Ken, was in the previous season, Christmas Day 1956, a game in which Clough also scored twice. I recall Christmas Day 1957 particularly well because it was a day on which my Dad took me all the way to Huddersfield to see us lose 1-0. So much for the sanctity of Christmas dinner. It was the last year in which the regular round of Christmas Day fixtures was played, I believe.

    And since the agenda items for the next meeting of the pedants’ sub-committee are already stacking up, can I put in a word for the originators of the ‘Infamy’ gag.

    It wasn’t Frankie Howerd or Kenneth Williams or even Talbot Rothwell, the writer of Carry on Cleo and many others in the series. The original performer was Jimmy Edwards on the radio programme Take It from Here, and the line was written in the 1950s by the incomparable Frank Muir and Dennis Norden. Tolly Rothwell had an office in the same building as Muir and Norden and didn’t plagiarise the line, but asked their permission to use it, which they happily gave. It was later cited in some poll as the funniest one-liner ever written.

    I found the Carry On films unwatchable, because I knew all of the jokes, having gone regularly to the Empire with my Mum and Dad in the 1950s. In re-hashing a load of hoary old gags, however, Rothwell was inadvertently providing a real service. By the time of the Carry On films, the music hall was dead, but the films were to give something of the flavour and pleasure of vaudeville for the next twenty years or so to a generation that had grown up without it

    1. Len
      Although I haven’t got my records here in the Algarve I was speaking from memory. However I’ve just checked the Boro results on Wikipedia and you’re quite right. It was Christmas Day in 1956 that I saw Harry Gregg and he did indeed play for Doncaster on Wednesday 11th September 1957 as Boro won 5-0. I now realise that I couldn’t have seen that 5-0 win as I was
      away on National Service. However the recollections of the Christmas Day match are correct except that he was transferred in the following season. I just got my years mixed up. .Thanks for putting me right, but we do both agree that he was a fine goalkeeper and of course a hero after the Munich air disaster in saving the life of Bobby Charlton. It’s a great pity that Duncan Edwards couldn’t be saved also. I only saw him play three times, but had he survived would certainly in my opinion have been England’s World Cup winning captain instead of Bobby Moore.

  128. Thanks Exmil and it looks like Boro will also be cruising by the time you return – have pleasant trip!

    Here are the randomly optimistic predictions of the Northern Germany jury…

    Luton (30) LDLD = 32
    Barnsley (31) DDWL = 36
    Wigan (34) LLWD = 38
    Huddersfield (36) LLDD = 38
    Boro (37) WWLD = 44
    Stoke (37) LDWL = 41
    Charlton (39) LWWL = 45
    Hull (41) DDLL = 43

  129. Hi all,
    I’m still alive but just haven’t had the time to post anything for a couple of months. Have tried to keep up with the blog with some difficulty. I owe Werder a few “the usuals”, although the current leader is, in my opinion, his best ever.
    Plaudits also for the indefatigable RR for his brilliant reports in very trying circumstances and equally good posts which, invariably, chime with my view of all things Boro.
    One observation I’d make has been a constant for several seasons, we draw too many games, notwithstanding our tendency to lose to teams around us. Currently, in the bottom half, only Derby have lost less games but we have drawn the most, albeit only one more than them. A point at home is rarely a good point.
    Somehow, and I don’t know how we can do it with our lack of firepower, we have to turn the draws into wins. Failure to do so can only result in the trapdoor opening.

    1. Many thanks Steely and good to hear from you again – if only any of our £30m+ worth of strikers could manage to hit the target we may have converted a few of those draws into wins. As it is we’re the lowest scorers in the league and that is in a campaign that was supposed to see a change in emphasis from keeping clean sheets to being more attack minded. It seems whatever manager or tactics Boro have deployed in recent years hitting the net is not what Boro do.

  130. Apologies for my absence although I have been trying to keep up from afar! Slow internet didn’t help.

    Thanks to RR for the reports and also to Weder for the articles. The usual excellent standard continues, unlike Boro who have had a post New Year slump of epic proportions and unless JW can turn it round, I fear for our survival.

    He appears to be using the GM tactic of changing teams and formations as players come back rather than sticking with what was kinda working, albeit in a fashion!

    Anyway, as I am a glutton for punishment I am coming to the Leeds game when I hope for a draw at best to be honest.

    Hey ho, it is only football after all, there are a lot worse things going on in the world at the moment.


    1. Thanks BBD and I’d agree that it’s almost been a self-inflicted bad run that stems from tinkering to avoid tired players becoming jaded. The reality is the biggest cause of players looking jaded is bad results and players never look tired when they’re winning but seem to lack resolve and energy when a team is not getting results.

      Although compared to the long list of world problems at the moment what happens in football is not something that is much of a concern.

  131. Here is my entry into the Ex Mil challenge

    Luton (30) LDLD = 32
    Barnsley (31) DDDD= 35
    Wigan (34) LLWD = 38
    Huddersfield (36) LLWD = 40
    Boro (37) DDWW= 45
    Stoke (37) LDWL = 41
    Charlton (39) LWLW = 42
    Hull (41) DDLL = 43

  132. Just going back to Bahrain where we now have our first Covid case – my boy is at school in UK so is safe for the time being

    As you know I am a spread sheet geek. The outlook for the world does not look good, only surpassed by the outlook for the Boro.

    I have done an in depth model of the spread of the virus and now will have a chance to correlate it with my home turfs [ UK and Bahrain]. At least it is more interesting than the relegation chart. So as not to cause panic you should know that it is almost impossible to stop, but only 20 percent of people need treatment, About 10 percent will need to go to hospital otherwise they will die as pneumonia cannot be home treated, and around 1 in a hundred will die like the flu. But its only a very bad cold – until we run out of hospital beds. Its that last point that’s worrying ,however you have Boris to protect you.

    Elsewhere in the world we run out of beds around week 12 so the early catch gets the bed.


    1. Interesting thought Allan about getting infected with the virus early to make sure you get a hospital bed – it’s the kind of counterintuitive thinking that impresses me. I think I read the other day that the mortality risk for the under 50s was 0.5 percent but the over 70s was 8 percent.

      However, I agree it may ultimately be difficult to contain as many infected people are basically asymptomatic and won’t even know themselves that they have it but can infect people. Incidentally, I watched a programme about the spread of a pandemic in the UK (which partially inspired my article) and it would probably only take 6 months for 90 percent of the UK population to be infected, which accelerated once large population areas were infected. Interestingly, if people washed their hands thoroughly it would reduce the cases by nearly 20 percent.

      Still, a one percent mortality rate in a population of 66 million is a lot of bodies and if 10 percent needed hospitalising then I don’t think there are 6 million beds in the NHS.

      1. Right now I would guess that the NHS would really struggle to find 60 additional beds over and above their normal daily turnover. Perhaps assisted “dispatching” may help speed up the process and of course result in an improvement in meeting waiting time stats, assuming that they could find an Ambulance of course in the first instance!

        1. Out of curiosity, I checked how many beds there are in the NHS – a figure was given for England only and it’s just under 150,000, which apparently has halved in the last 30 years because of a shift in providing ‘treatment’ outside of hospitals. It was also stated that many hospitals are generally running at 90 percent and 95 percent capacity in winter, which would mean perhaps there could be only 7,500 beds in the whole of England unoccupied. Of course non-urgent admissions would likely be cancelled but it sounds like if the Coronavirus reached the UK you’d better catch it in the first week!

  133. Here you go.

    Luton (30) LDLL = 31
    Barnsley (31) DDLL= 33
    Wigan (34) LLDD = 36
    Huddersfield (36) LLWD = 40
    Boro (37) DLWD= 42
    Stoke (37) LDWL = 41
    Charlton (39) LDLL= 40
    Hull (41) DDLW = 46

      1. Hopefully I have it right this time.

        Luton (30) LDDL = 32
        Barnsley (31) DDLL= 33
        Wigan (34) LLDD = 36
        Huddersfield (36) LDWD = 41
        Boro (37) DLWD= 42
        Stoke (37) LDWL = 41
        Charlton (39) LDLL= 40
        Hull (41) DDLW = 46


    Just a gentle reminder that the deadline for entries is 1945 Tuesday 25 Feb 20 including the following who have errors on their entry that I have highlighted.

    John Richardson
    Redcar Red


    Come on BORO.

    1. Hi Exmil

      Here is my amended entry with a draw for both Luton and Wigan!

      Luton (30) L D D W (35)
      Barnsley (31) W D D D (37)
      Wigan (34) L L D D (36)
      Huddersfield (36) D W L D (41)
      Boro (37) L L D D (39)
      Stoke (37) D D W W (43)
      Charlton (39) L L D D (41)
      Hull (41)) L L L D (42)

  135. Werder

    Back and managing the contradiction of refreshed and needing a holiday.

    Sometimes you have some luck despite being a Boro fan. We originally planned to do a week in India, fly to Singapore and cruise from there to Hong Kong before flying up to Xi’an to see the Red army, Red Army plus other sites such as the Great Wall etc.

    The last leg went belly up then whilst the travel company were sorting something for later sir, the cruise company changed the cruise to Singapore and back again. For non cruisers that is often how they are planned, in our case we did a similar cruise last year and were only doing this one as a filler.

    Fair play to the travel company they offered us the cruise followed by a stay in Bali. We didn’t fancy the extra travelling and are not beach loungers so we tossed in a few ideas. The travel company came up trumps sorted out an all inclusive stay over looking the beach in Dubai followed by a different cruise. A bit shorter but we got money back as well.

    Where does luck come in? I am a Boro fan after all! The others on the trip opted for the cruise and trip to Bali but as we approached the end of our week around India an email arrived direct from the cruise company saying the Singapore cruise had been cancelled – because of time differences they knew before the travel company

    What a blow to our fellow travelers, they were so hacked off they wanted to go home and the travel agents worked wonders to get them back to there home airports.

    That was our good fortune and we really enjoyed it albeit a shortened break.

    Just as well seeing the results whilst away. My son sent a message saying we had drawn at Brentford only for me to find out in a wifi moment we lost 3-2. No disgrace but two 1 0 defeats against doomed clubs without a shot on target seems a tad careless.

    What have you lot done in my absence? I wont read the reports but my instinct is were we a bit complacent? A bit early for Speedos and sun loungers.

    It is now getting too close for comfort, so much so that we have an Exmil challenge! I was hoping for the season to fizzle out not to go down the drain , At least there are plenty of matches left and it would be a great time to inflict some damage on the Dirties and Judas.

    1. Welcome back Ian and Pedro will be pleased to note the only transfers you were involved with were flights to and from the ship 😉

      Hopefully, the cancelled visit to the Red Army is not an omen and it’s not an indication that Boro will be missing the boat.

      Incidentally, we were planning a trip to northern Italy this July but the latest Corona virus outbreak would perhaps make it a risk to book anything there.

      1. We have booked a break to Bergamo in early April. It’s got me thinking.

        At the moment all is running “normal” with flights. so no refunds for cancellations.

          1. Just heard a hotel has been locked down in Tenerife after a visiting doctor from the Lombardy region tested positive for Coronavirus – hundreds of guests have been told to remain in their rooms and the security services have been posted outside it. Also anyone returning from northern Italy with flu-like symptoms has been told to self-isolate for two weeks. It seems travel is looking a risky business.

  136. Dear chaps

    It’s always great to hear first hand accounts of games and players gone by from our elder statesmen of the blog.
    I once read the late Bobby Robson was an excellent player, so much so his absence from the England squad in the 1958 Sweden World Cup was hugely detrimental. Could anyone please offer any clarification or insight?

  137. Been away all weekend. Drove four hours for the funeral of my close cousin’s husband on Saturday. He was nearly 62 and had a fatal accident in a ship where he was working.

    So the Boro result nor the performance was not on my mind at all. It is just football.

    But life goes on. So here is my take on on the Exmill Challenge Cup First Round Proper:
    Luton L D L L 31
    Barnsley L L D L 32
    WIgan L L W D 38
    Hudds L W L D 40
    Mighty Boro W D L W 44
    Stoke L D D L 39
    Big jacks L L W L 42
    Kingston up-on W D D W 49

    This is highly unlikely. But I do not trust the bottom three will go on a decent run next. Where is the change going to come from?

    Up the Boro!

      1. Hi Jarkko, just wanted to echo the condolences of others on the news and loss of a family member in such tragic circumstances. Thoughts are with you and your family. 😎

  138. I hope this might cheer up fans but Skybet’s latest relegation odds still have Boro safe although the odds are shortening:-
    Luton 1/10
    Barnsley 2/7
    Wigan evens
    Charlton 9/4
    Hudds 5/2
    Boro 11/2
    Stoke 9/1
    Hull 9/1

    1. Hi Ken

      Looking at the form tables below it would appear that Wigan and Luton are doing considerably better than us currently. in fact everybody is except for Wednesday and Hull. Even Barnsley have acquired seven points from their last six games against our paltry return of three points.

      As we are currently fifth from bottom or two places and three points outside of the drop zone it only takes two of those bottom four to catch us and ominously Wigan have collected eleven points from their last six games. Leeds and Forest up next doesn’t inspire confidence and we could be in the bottom three before we face Forest on Monday night.

      There again after Preston we were all looking at the same table with pride and calculating the Play Offs. What a difference a few weeks make, if ever we need a “Typical Boro” scenario its right now.


  139. It sounds a simple task for folk on this forum to formulate their predictions of the next 4 rounds of fixtures, yet so many of us, me included, have struggled to get it right at the first attempt. So full marks to ExMil for his patience to check each entry and to allow those of us who got it wrong to have a second chance. It’s a good job Anne Robinson wasn’t running this competition as some of us might have read the dreaded words “You are the weakest link”.

    1. Just thinking about ‘second chances’ maybe all sports should follow the example of Tennis where if the first serve is given out or hits the net, the server gets a second serve. It’s always sounded daft to me, but nevertheless it might improve the excitement of other sports.
      Imagine if in Football a player misses a penalty and is then allowed to take it again, or in Rugby a player misses a conversion kick and is given a second chance, perhaps a golfer
      should also be given a second chance if he misses a putt, or a snooker player who misses a pot should also have a second go. How about Cricket, wouldn’t it be more in the spirit of the the game if the third umpire screen showed ‘Out, but have another go’ ? Why not, as W G Grace was reputed to have refused to walk when given ‘out’ by an umpire with the words
      “People have come to see me bat, not you umpire’. Possibly that initiated the saying ‘it’s not cricket’.

      No, on reflection it would be worse than VAR, so why then is Tennis out of step with the real sporting world?

  140. Exmil

    Here are the results from the Derby jury.

    Luton 30 D, W, L, L 34
    Barnsley L, D, W, L 35
    Wigan 34 L, L, W, D 38
    Huddersfield 36 D, W, L D 41
    Boro 37 L, D, D, D 40
    Stoke 37 L, L, W, D 41
    Charlton 39 L, L, D, D 41
    Hull 41 W, L, D, D 46

    I have had a chance to study the tables form and others predictions but I can see it getting tighter and my results are based on that instinct. It can all be blown out of the water by the odd result.

    I hope I haven’t made any mistakes in my rush.

    Have a good cruise

      1. Exmil

        Just checking you were alert

        Hull 41 W, L, L, D 45

        Unless I get the result wrong. In which case I will become an EU official and request they play again until they get the correct result.

  141. Reading Scott Wilson reporting on this mornings press conference with Woodgate:

    “Woodgate said “Ayala has been a big miss. He’s a top player and hopefully we’ll get him back soon. I need players to be available who maybe aren’t at 100 per cent – maybe only 90 per cent or 85 per cent. I need them to play.”

    Ayala is due to become a free agent at the end of the season, and while Boro are understood to have offered the centre-half a new deal, it currently remains unsigned.”

    Maybe I’m being overly simplistic but why would any professional risk their future career knowing that they are unemployed come June and needing a new Club/Contract? Returning early could seriously jeopardise their future employability and earning potential, nobody in their right mind would countenance such a risk.

    I suspect now that like many fans some of the Players have given this up as a bad job and just going through the motions knowing that the Manager hasn’t a clue.

    1. I suppose it all depends on how you define 85 percent fit – no injured player who hasn’t recovered to the point where it doesn’t risk further injury should be played – plus I imagine if they’re out of contract they themselves probably won’t want to risk playing either.

      Ayala has been out for 2 months with an ankle injury, so it’s likely he hasn’t been training for much of that time and his fitness has suffered – though can an ankle be completely healed after two months? probably may still be sore.

      1. In 2017 the Luke Gale the Castleford halfback had keyhole surgery to remove his appendix, yet less than 2 weeks later not only played in a Super League Semi Final but was the man of the match as he scored a last minute penalty, then a drop goal in extra time to win one of the most amazing Superleague matches ever seen on television. I suppose it all depends on whether a player is a quick healer or not.

      2. “a useless remnant from our evolutionary past”

        Thought you were talking about two or three of our most expensive purchases then for a minute Werder!

      3. I would guess that by now Ayala probably thinks next season he won’t be here.
        So one last pay day, possible three year contract with a signing on fee. OK not as much as he is getting now but better than offered?…

    2. I think the Boro and players concerned must first know if we play in the Championship or League One next season. So I am not surprised that Ayala and Howson are still undecided.

      Up the Boro!

  142. We need to get back to keeping clean sheets if we are to get out of this mess and we also need pace back in the side.

    A point at home to Leeds would be a good point so JW needs to set up along the lines of West Brom/Preston.

    Need a holding two of McNair/Saville and to include Coulson, Spence and Tavernier.


    Howson Shotton Moukoudi Friend

    Spence McNair Saville Coulson



    CoB 😎

    1. That was almost the same formation and line-up I was thinking of KP as we need the pace of our young wing-backs but perhaps with added defensive protection – I would maybe opt for Wing in midfield but much would depend on which players are showing form. The good thing is that Johnson, Morrison, Nmecha or Clayton could all slot into that formation and maybe allow the players to get familiar with a structure for a change.

    2. Of our 8 wins this season Ayala and Fletcher have featured in all of them either starting or as a sub, Clayton, Howson, Fry, Saville, Johnson and Wing have featured in 7 of them either starting or as a sub. Pears, Tav, Coulson have been involved in 6 and interestingly despite his short term involvement Spence has been involved in 5 victories.

      To me thats twelve Players that seem to offer some winning consistency of sorts (granted they haven’t all set the heather alight in some games) but would indicate a basic platform to work from in this current mess.

      Ayala and clearly Fry are missing but Moukoudi, Shotton and Friend are available plus McNair (who featured in only 4 wins through missing in December due to suspension) so pick CB’s from them and leave the rest alone.

      1. Feels like that’s the way to go. I was thinking back to the first half against Stoke because two things stood out to me despite the poor performance.
        1) Clayton was the only one trying to recycle the ball. On paper it meant that more often than not he was passing short but everyone else was just hoofing it and losing possession. I also noticed that his first attempt was always to look forward but no one was showing so he would go sideways.
        2) Tav kept trying to make things happen. Nothing worked because no one else was showing so he would lose the ball but he kept on trying.

        We got lucky in the second half but, regardless, that looks like our best team right now. Possibly replace Walker with Wing, and play Wing and Tav just off Fletcher. Not much choice but replace Ayala and Fry with Moukoudi and Friend.

        Howson Moukoudi Friend
        Spence Clayton Saville Coulson
        Wing Tav

        Probably right now, no one, the players included, know what the best team or formation is. When that happens, most managers tend to go with experience but right now we probably need to go with pace and goals. Clayton may have neither but he still has the awareness to lock the door in front of the defence and give the rest of the team a foundation to attack from.

        Of course none of us know which of the players have decided not to try too hard and save themselves for the summer.

        I still suspect that the odds are on our side to escape relegation but we do have to start picking up points sooner rather than later.

      1. Pedro

        I was in two minds about McNair or Clayton and in the end went for the former on the basis that Clayton hasn’t played for a while and felt that McNair would probably be more on match pace.

        I just hope he puts in a better midfield display than of late.

        If JW goes with Clayton then I can be comfortable with that. 😎

  143. Exmil,

    Thanks for laying on the challenge again. I’ll go for the below:

    Luton (30) LLLD (31)
    Barnsley (31) DLLD (33)
    Wigan (34) LLWD (38)
    Huddersfield (36) DWLD (41)
    Boro (37) DLDD (40)
    Stoke (37) LWWL (43)
    Charlton (39) DLDD (42)
    Hull (41) DLLD (43)

  144. And there you have it RR!
    It’s all about timing. Luton’s previous away record, etc.
    Typical Boro turn up at the other end of the spectrum, i.e. ending winning streaks.

  145. Before I go, I’ll contradict my observation yesterday that a point at home is rarely a good point as, at present, I’d settle for a draw in the next two. If I could guarantee it, I’d prefer a win and a loss which would yield us a much needed extra point.
    Now I’m definitely retiring to a darkened room!

    1. I think a draw in the next two games would be far better than most expect now but there again we all expected five or six points from the last three games, maybe even nine with a fair wind.


    Just under 4 hours to get your entry in, at the moment we have 19 players, although the under mentioned need to clarify a small point on their entry:

    Ian Gill

    Come on BORO.

    1. Same here….

      Hopefully I have it right this time.

      Luton (30) LDDL = 32
      Barnsley (31) DDLL= 33
      Wigan (34) LLDD = 36
      Huddersfield (36) LDWD = 41
      Boro (37) DLWD= 42
      Stoke (37) LDWL = 41
      Charlton (39) LDLL= 40
      Hull (41) DDLW = 46

  147. Looking at tonight’s fixtures the Terriers who are just one point behind us are at home to the Robins who have been a bit hit and miss lately. Should Huddersfield beat City this evening perish the thought then they would leap frog us dropping us down to 4th from bottom. Luton are at home to Brentford this evening so that hopefully will maintain the seven point gap between us.

    Wigan and Barnsley are both away to Reading and Hull respectively tomorrow night, lets hope Hull recover some form since they sold off their crown jewels and that inconsistent Reading have one of their better games.

  148. If we are in experimental mode I’d give this team a chance……


    Howson. Moukoudi Shotton. Friend

    Saville. Clayton

    Spence. Wing. Coulson


    1. GHW

      I wouldn’t argue with that either. I could perhaps see Tavernier or Morrison replacing Spence. Spence has done remarkably well but I have noticed of late that he doesn’t seem to beat his man as much as he did in his first few games..or as much as Coulson manages on the other side.


  149. Well the pressure just cranked up another few notches with Luton beating Brentford and Huddersfield beating Bristol tonight. The Terriers have gone from one point behind us to two ahead of us and Luton are now just four points behind us instead of seven.

    1. With West Brom and Forest winning tonight as well it puts pressure on Leeds tomorrow night to come away with a victory to keep in touch of the Baggies and to keep breathing space between themselves and the chasing pack.

  150. Having a very relaxing holiday here in Lanzarote- lovely hotel, good food and perfect weather but I’ve just seen Boro are on Sky tomorrow and so I expect my day to be spoiled especially after Huddersfield and Luton both won tonight.
    I think Woodgate should resist the temptation to make too many changes and changes in formation.
    Just select what he thinks are the best players for the next few games and keep to it in the hope of snatching a win or a point.
    But I can’t see it for the next two matches and so bottom three looms.

    1. I agree with that. Not too many changes, please.

      I read that when Leeds had a wobble recently, Bielsa played practically the same players as before. Of course he had seen these players to lift the team to the top during the first half of the season.

      Of course we need a win. After that is easier to keep the same players in the team. But somehow I do think we need more stability now. And perhaps experience.

      But we also need pace. So I hope Woodgate finds a way forward. And I hope for a 2-1 win as the results yesterday went against my predicted results in the Exmill Challege Cup First Round Proper.

      So Fletcher and Howson scoring and a late run by Leeds in the end, perhapd Pamford hitting one on the 79th minute.

      Up the Boro!

  151. Well it looks the majority have started the exmil challenge off on the wrong foot.
    I do not think I saw anybody with a win for Luton and only one or two for Huddersfield.

    I would not be surprised to hear of Mr Gibson not turning up tomorrow night.
    A defeat for the Boro and a couple of the other results not going our way could lead to a toxic Riverside.

  152. Just seen the scores and I have to say that they couldn’t have been any worse!

    If ever we need to win tomorrow, then the 26th February is the day………… o hang on we are playing Leeds so what could possibly go wrong!

    JW needs to pick his best team, give a fantastic team talk and have the tactics spot on. The players need to come out on the front foot and demonstrate that they have what it takes to get 3 points.

    Concede early and the atmosphere will be more than toxic!


  153. I suspect the key to getting anything from tonight’s game will be whether Boro can score first – or even score given it’s nearly three-and-a-half hours since a Boro player had a shot on target.

    Boro have not scored first in their last eight games, the last time was against Derby, which ended in a 2-2 draw. The only other time since then Borol have been leading in a game was for those brief 8 minutes against ten-man Wigan before that also ended in a 2-2 draw.

    So after 34 games and just 34 goals, the chance of getting three points appears just as much about stopping the opposition from scoring. Although those last eight games have only seen a striker score twice with Fletcher getting both – the other five goals belong to three for Wing and one each from Saville and Coulson.

    To put it simply, the team are not creating chances for their strikers and finding a shape and line-up that does that may well be the difference between staying up or dropping to League One and risking the disaster of perhaps losing our better young players.

  154. I should add that Boro’s inability to score goals is not a new problem and if we look at out tally last season after 34 games it was still only 38 – so those extra four goals would still leave us as the 23rd best attack this season.

    However, last season Tony Pulis’s goal-shy team were in 5th place after 34 games thanks to having the meanest defence with only 25 conceded – that’s 19 fewer than this season.

    So scoring goals is possibly a structural problem within the squad and perhaps not something where the blame can be laid at Woodgate’s door. A midfield that doesn’t create and an attack that doesn’t convert is a long-standing problem so if Woodgate is going to turn to experience, then experience tells us that these players will not easily be able to produce the goals that will get us out of trouble.

    1. The poor scoring record of MFC is a fact in football. They have always been goal shy in my time of following them.

      Times of success have always been down to good defence.

  155. For Woodgate to pick his best team he needs to know what that is which by now its pretty clear he doesn’t. The same goes for tactics and formation.

    As regards to not having too many changes well there almost seems to be a form of Boro Bingo in team selections:

    “Garden Gate, number eight, congratulations Clayts your’e in!”

    “Two and six, half a Crown, well done Wingy your’e in alongside Clayts”

    “The Lawnmower, Number 14”

    Fix, Fix, Fix, Fix, Boooo, Hisss

  156. I’m notoriously bad at predicting Boro’s results but as Leeds have a similar problem in converting scoring chances into goals as Boro, although they do create more chances than Boro, I think I’ll go for a drab goalless draw tonight. It seems it’s easier for me to predict results of matches where Boro are not involved, so although Luton beating Brentford last night did surprise me I (I expected a draw) I’m not concerned nor surprised that Huddersfield beat Bristol City. In fact I’m not concerned about any results when Boro are not involved. It’s all about how Boro perform for me and the worst scenario I can envisage is Boro surviving relegation by only one point. I do enjoy the excitement of promotion/relegation battles though. But hey, what do I know?

  157. Redcar Red,

    A great concept for Team Selection Bingo. A game the whole fan base can play. Oh where have they gone?

    If it’s the form-free old favourites tonight it’s going to be:

    Us Nil A lot for them.

    Surely somebody else has a voice in there to make him see some sort of common sense? And not Gestede. Ever.

    I’m worried about tonight.



  158. Well last night went about as badly as it is possible to go. Although the odds are still on our side to avoid relegation they are narrowing at an alarming rate. We will probably still pick up around 10 points from the last 12 games but *if* one or two of the teams below us pull off a great escape then we’re now the most likely to get sucked down the plughole.

    At this point the best we can hope for is not being relegated and, when all is said and done, that counts as a failure. To a large extent I don’t blame Woodgate because the blame has to start with the man who made the decision to appoint him. You would have thought that Gibson would have learned from appointing Southgate but it seems not. Woodgate was asked to downsize a traumatised squad, change a style of play 180 degrees, imbed young players and do it all with no previous managerial experience to draw on. He was given a lousy hand. Like Southgate, he may turn out to be a half-decent manager but this was too much too early.

    Even if we stay up I don’t see how Woodgate can keep the job. On the other hand we really can’t keep completely changing the coaching staff every 12 months. Gibson either needs to have a clear vision and plan and stick to it or he needs to sell to someone who has and can. The bottom line is that we are as attractive a proposition as a team like Wolves with fantastic assets.

    Ultimately, Gibson took a gamble on Woodate and it failed. The only thing we don’t know right now is how badly it failed.

    1. Very truthful Deleriad. As I have often said it all starts with Mr Gibson. And sadly his list of mistakes gets longer.
      If he has lost interest fine, get out.
      We may end up with someone worse but we cannot continue as we have for the last number of years.

  159. I am really not looking forward to the match tonight – its late, and I am knackered having travelled overnight but of course watch it I will – just in case against all reason this turns out to be the start of a revival.

    I must be mad,

    1. I think the next two games against Leeds and Forest and the weekends results elsewhere before we play Forest will determine a lot. I also suspect that SG may have already decided to act as he did with Southgate and Monk.

      The financial implosion that League One football will bring and the likelihood of Season Card sales collapsing on the back of it along with walk up pricing acting as a deterrent will see crowds of around 8,000 to 12,000 at best. That will destroy any plan or otherwise that MFC may have had under FFP.

      1. Had he acted after Barnsley a new Manager would then be facing Leeds and third placed Forest which would be a baptism of fire and unlikely to present the opportunity of getting off to a good start. Momentum is everything and a new Manager bounce effect of two defeats, no points, bottom three, no goals for and eight goals against wouldn’t lift any clouds.

  160. Tonight’s match vs. Leeds (H) Wednesday 26 February (19:45) should be available on Video (Riverside Live) Worldwide according to the club web site.

    As I cannot see through ViaPlay I hope the info is correct and I will be able enjoy (!) the match again live via Riverside Live.

    Up the Boro!

  161. “It’ll be all White on the night”

    It would be fitting for Dennis Norden to be the commentator on tonight’s game. I fully expect to see a Boro team to be open to ridicule with numerous slapstick moments and much groaning and sighing from the Boro faithful.

      1. Not going tonight as a bit under the weather and the weather ain’t good

        I’m also suffering from pain and apathy from watching the Boro at close quarters

        Bring back Pulis

        Or Mowbray

        Or Karanka

        Or Monk

        Or McClaren

        Or Strachan errr no sorry getting a bit carried away there

        Ok it’s eyeballs in the sky time and an OFB special


      2. Out of that list I think Karanka with a long term vision based on a Burnley/Dyche model for a few seasons which may mean going up but coming back down again and living with it would be my pick. His football may not have been great but the attendances were there because he brought relative success. When his Forest team played us (and beat us) I was impressed with them and wished that we had seen more of that side of him during his reign on Teesside.

        Whoever comes in there needs to be an end to the parochialism and nepotism along with any Teessider cliques. With all the contracts expiring and mostly kids left its perhaps a good time.

  162. Leeds play a fast attacking game and press the opposition, so , I feel ,if the likes of Friend, Shotton and Clayton play then they will be overrun.
    On the other hand if he goes for youth with a bit of pace with eg Coulson, Spence and Tavernier then their lack of awareness and defensive qualities make them vulnerable.
    Who’d be a manager?
    It was a lot easier when the ‘ experienced’ players were injured and so there were fewer players to choose from.
    I can’t help but think that Ayala is a bigger miss than some of us thought.
    For me, it’s all decisions- have a nice meal, bottle of wine and a stroll along the promenade and avoid the game ? ,or, an early meal and go back to the bedroom to watch it on Sky?
    Philip of Huddersfield

  163. We could have Klopp or Guardiola and i’m not sure we’d be guaranteed success, the bottom line is there is no cash available until the new fairplay cycle kicks in. So we have a squad of young up and comings and not quite good enough with a few good championship players.
    Add that to some seriously bad luck with injuries and you have a strong argument for where we are irrespective of the manager.

    Blaming the manager for all ills is an easy gig as I’ve said before.

    My guess is we’ll have cash available next season, hoping we get to spend it in the championship.

  164. Nigel

    I fear we are reaping the ills from poor recruitment dating back to Karanka’s time at the club. It is what made him have a hissy fit. We needed pacey and exciting midfielders plus another No 10.

    We got Guediwho, Kryten from Red Dwarf and a broken Bamford plus lost Ramirez to all intents and purposes.

    1. I think that is the one area where Boro have constantly and consistently failed in. We either buy overpriced carthorses or young up and coming who never actually arrive (quite literally in some cases). Of late I think Mowbray was the best at recruiting especially considering the hand he was dealt which effectively was one of them shoved up his back whilst hopping on one leg, blindfolded. We seem to have one or two Managers with beggar all to spend or work with and then another few who have riches thrown at them and then its belt tightening time all over again whilst its saved up for the next incumbent. Rinse and repeat!

      The long term strategy of buying cheap and developing like Brentford as an example makes a lot of sense for a club of our size but the way it was executed last summer was ridiculous. To do that means you need a world class or at least Championship class scouting system and network in place then Coaching purposely set up to develop progress and nurture whilst the first team is adequately resourced meanwhile to permit the required development time to savour the first drops of the new vintage.

      Or you could just appoint a Manager with no experience, throw him in at the deep end with zero of the above infrastructure in place but declare thats how its going to work and elicit the local media to join in with the propaganda or else. I wonder what could possibly go wrong?

    1. I feel very apathetic, expecting a good tonking but knowing that typically we might surprise.

      A win is not going to solve the deep rooted problems at the Boro, a victory may just delay the inevitable. I suspect that either way it may mean Woodgate goes as did Monk and Southgate after victories. Whilst a Warnock or a Pulis may stop enough rot from now until May to save us and keep us up it won’t address the failing infrastructure which has crippled successive managers over a period of time, since 2006 to be precise.

      1. The downside to removing JW and his team is that MFC would have to pay him and his team compensation, which will not be cheap (2+ years still left on contracts) and leaves less in the pot to renew players contracts/recruit.

        I am not suggesting that this is a reason for not dispensing with them, just pointing out part of the downside to doing so.

        I am still not convinced that SG will wield the axe until or even if relegation is confirmed. 😎

  165. Just read a statement made to the national press by our glorious coach.
    He cannot be allowed to carry on in this fashion, it is just silly, asked by the national press a simple question. ” why did you drop Spence when you have no speed in your team”?
    He started a rant all about his rules.
    “If you let your standards drop there are serious consequences”
    “Spence let his standards drop, and besides, I dropped Tav. And no one asked me why?”
    The words Britt and Gestede spring to mind, but who cares? with this person we are homeward bound, one dreads to imagine the team tonight, the ‘big unit’ at centre back, hhhm! The dreaded Britt, Friend still getting fit, and Gestede to come on and save the day.
    Why the delay in wielding the axe, you cannot be worse than batting zero, it is not possible, so get on with it.
    I have seen some beauties, but, my goodness, he takes the biscuit, if he and his assistant survive this car crash then football has indeed gone mad.

  166. For some reason unknown I’m feeling confident about a Boro win tonight and I’ve got this feeling of it being fairly comfortable – although I haven’t seen the team sheet yet so perhaps in a few minutes that inner glow may darken…

  167. Team News: Tavernier and Coulson start but Spence is on the bench – Also returning to the starting line-up is Adam Clayton, who will be joined in midfield by Wing and Saville with McNair back on the bench. Fletcher is the only striker in the team. No Gestede in the squad after reports that he didn’t react well to the away supporters as he walked off the pitch at Barnsley.

    Starting XI: Pears, Howson, Shotton, Moukoudi, Friend, Coulson, Clayton, Saville, Wing, Tavernier, Fletcher

    Subs: Mejias, Spence, Johnson, McNair, Morrison, Nmecha, Assombalongga

  168. Looks a better team than the one selected at the weekend but I’m not sure if it’s a 4231 with Coulson at left wing or a 541 with a diamond midfield.

    It doesn’t matter unless the team go out with the right mindset and play with intensity. We’ll see.

  169. I don’t go to Leeds’ matches as there are too many ‘supporters’ who are looking for trouble so I would not feel comfortable going to or from the Riverside. Probably the best time for this one would be at noon on a Sunday.
    I expect the worst tonight (and on Monday when I am travelling over) so I am already into my first glass of Malbec and as that might not be enough I also have a couple of vanilla slices!
    As we seem to be the only team not capable of winning (or even scoring) I cannot see how we will get out of the current mess unless 3 teams have an even more disastrous end to the season (please).

  170. Thinking that we can win is a triumph of hope over expectation but that hasn’t stopped me getting up to watch. I‘m not sure about the formation. I think that it all revolves around Tavernier’s role. Is he wide right in a four or playing off Fletcher. Well know soon.


  171. Everyone is going on about this being a big night but it won’t be a disaster if we lose. Most of us expect at best a draw. It’s a question of how we play.

  172. Blooming typical! Just returned from the hotel restaurant after a fine meal etc and then tune in, just as Friend makes a useless pass and bang,bang Leeds score.
    Little point in watching second half as I expect Leeds to consolidate their lead
    Philip of Huddersfield

    1. It’s now well over 4 hours since we had a shot on target and even more worrying is that both Wigan and Barnsley are currently winning – so ironically we’re not in the bottom three down to goal difference.

  173. Well Boro concede first again and in truth it was coming – Boro have played with intensity but that has only meant we’ve given the ball away quicker – our passing is very poor. Only Howson and Pears have shown any quality and Shotton has also made some good well-timed tackles. The rest have panicked when they have the ball and can’t wait to get rid of it. Friend and Clayton are both off the pace.

  174. A comment from TV, Leeds picking up the second ball but more pertinent is the poor passing. If your passes go to an opposition player it is not picking up the second ball it is just poor play,

  175. What can you say?
    Too many players can’t do the basics of controlling the ball, passing the ball, showing any anticipation, moving off the ball etc. No sustained pressure.
    Leeds won in a canter.
    Where does the team go from here?
    A poor performance – yet again.
    No point in trying to pick out positives cos they are way outweighed by the negatives

  176. It’s hard to take any positives from that game as despite the players showing plenty of energy the play was devoid of quality and any semblance of playing with pattern or composure. We just didn’t look like a team and nobody seemed to know what to do to link up with a team-mate or where they expected the ball to be delivered. Clayton looks a bit unfit and Friend understandably was again off the pace but seems like he suffered an injury – as did Fletcher.

    It’s looking a bit desperate both on the pitch and the situation we are now in. You’d have to back both Wigan and Barnsley to overtake Boro within a few games as they have both momentum and confidence from their recent results. They also are playing as a team with belief – I don’t think the Boro players have much belief left. It’s hard to see how making a change in manager would make the situation worse but there’s not much evidence that Woodgate has a solution to stop the rot.

  177. I can’t fault the effort. Can’t fault the tactics. I thought Coulson, Shotton, Howson and Pears were excellent. Moukoudi stepped up a level in the second half. Tav kept trying to make things happen. The difference, other than quality, was that every Leeds player knew exactly where every other Leeds player was and where they were moving to. That’s nearly 2 years of playing the same shape every day. When we had the ball you could see we always had to take a second to see where the options were. That meant everything slowed down and passes went just slightly astray. When Leeds pressed a player with the ball, no one knew where to go to help him out.

    That’s the result of 7 months of inconsistent formations, tactics and selection. This is where Woodgate has failed. A good, experienced manager, takes maybe 6 games to settle on the best fit for their players then makes it work with just occasional alterations for specific reasons. We have got to this point in the season and Woodgate hasn’t been able to settle on shape, tactics or personnel. Yes we’ve had injuries but all teams have injuries.

    Don’t know where we go from here but it’s starting to look a lot like League 1.

    1. Yes I agree with that assessment on that we just don’t look like a team and what was notable was how many players basically tried something individual like going on a run on their own before losing the ball or ending up a blind alley because they had no idea what to do next with the ball. Coulson and Tav never stopped running but it was more a case of trying to beat everyone on their own – even Moukoudi and Shotton tried it. Where is the teamwork? Perhaps only Howson looked like he was thinking when he had the ball – the rest were just desperately trying to make something happen.

      Too many changes of players and too many changes of system for anyone to know what they are supposed to be doing – it’s getting too late to keep trying something different to see what works. Boro must decide on a First XI and a system that fits the players until the end of the season but maybe Woodgate can’t decide what or who that is.