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Boro v Plymouth
 

Boro v Plymouth

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Selwynoz
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BORO Home v Plymouth Argyle

Riverside

3.00pm, Saturday 24th February (2.00am, Sunday 25th February)

When presenting previous previews, I spent a lot of time researching topics that were directly relevant to our upcoming opponents. In the first case as we set up to face big-spenders Southampton, I took a long look at recent transfer activity and the value of the bloated squads of the relegated teams. I then had a lot of fun speculating on the idea of ‘big clubs’ as we prepared to meet one of the giants of the 1930s, Huddersfield.

So, my prior blog subjects were very clearly influenced by our upcoming opponent but this time when writing the preview for next Saturday’s home game with Plymouth, I am convinced that the primary focus should be on us – MFC that is, not this happy band of Diasborians – rather than our actual opponent. I primarily want to try and analyse whether we have any chance of having any real say in the play-off race.

I should make it clear; this is not intended to either disrespect Plymouth or under-estimate their ability to play well and win games.  It is just that Boro have proved capable of winning any game as evidenced by our results against top two sides Leicester and Southampton. Played 3, won 3. I also accept that we have shown a maddening ability to lose any game no matter how well or badly we play. This is clearly evidenced by having taken only 1 point out of four against Rotherham and losing to Preston despite having played them off the pitch but I would suggest that this is just evidence that a lot of our recent disappointing results are due much more to Middlesbrough than the opposition.  

Winning away at Leicester, in a season where there have only lost five games – two of them to Boro – and with a squad that was missing our first-choice midfield against two of the top midfield players in the division, is beyond all logic. The very entertaining Second Tier blog made Leicester one of their banker teams to support this past weekend.

Anyway, let’s come back to the play-off race. My thought was to look at the last nine years to see the points needed to reach 6th place and then also see whether this appeared to be affected by the cumulative number of points taken by the top five clubs. Using this data I hoped to be able to take a look at this year to date and have a guess as to what might happen. I also threw in the number of points taken by 10th spot to give us an idea of how close it was below the top six.
 
Here are the numbers starting with the most recent.

      Year                       Sixth position              Total points for top five         Tenth
                                    (team and points)              (points)                      (points)

2022/23                      Sunderland       69                    417                           66
2021/22                      Luton               75                    415                           67
2020/21                      Bournemouth    77                    433                           64
2019/20                      Swansea           70                    411                           64
2018/19                      Derby               74                    422                           65
2017/18                      Derby               75                    436                           69
2016/17                      Fulham             80                    434                           64
2015/16                      Sheff. Wed        74                    432                           63
2014/15                      Ipswich             78                    428                           63                                                       

It turns out that in certain years such as 2014/15 or 2019/20 as high as 80 points or very close to that was needed to reach the play-offs whereas in other years, such as last year or 2019/20, 69 or 70 was enough.

I had expected that the higher the points taken by the top five, the lower the number of points that would be needed to reach 6th but when I look at the numbers, they don’t really fit with that idea. In fact, a high number of points for the top five clubs seems to pull up the requirement for sixth. At the same time, a low top five total – as in 22/23 and 19/20 – seems to pull down the requirement for sixth. In fact, the only place where consistency does come is outside the play-off places. With the one exception of 2017/18 when 10th needed 69 points, all other years see that position gather between 63 and 67 points.

So, looking at this year, with most clubs having played 33 games, sixth spot is Coventry at 51 points but West Brom and Hull could lift that as high as 54 if they both win their game in hand. Boro are at 44 from 32 games and could lift that to 47 from 33 from our game in hand against Birmingham (aargh, Mowbray)

The top five have already gathered a massive 332 points and if they continue at that rate they will together accumulate something over 450 or even 460 points. That would be almost unheard but does it mean that sixth spot will need something close to 80 points. I just can’t say. With this year being so unusual, will the pace of the top four or five finally have an impact on the points that can be gathered by the aspiring play-off clubs. I certainly hope so because our chance of getting to 80 is pretty much zero.

With 13 or 14 games left, any club going on a run would hope to gather something close to 2 points per game. For MFC that would represent 28 points from 14 games and would take us to 72 points. Had we lost to Leicester, that line would have dropped to 69 points and that would have been that. Summing it up with no real confidence, it seems to me from looking at the data above that the chance of MFC reaching 6th spot is unlikely but not impossible but may need a run of better than two points per game.

Having spent all this time on Boro and some figures that did not really prove very much, it’s time to cast a quick eye at the opposition. Here is a quick look at Plymouth and what they have been doing since we so kindly gifted them a draw in the first game at Home Park.

Before getting on to football, one must mention the most famous son of Plymouth, Sir Francis Drake who was Mayor of Plymouth in the 1580s when it was a very free port. There is also a tale from 1588 involving the Spanish Armada, Sir Francis, a game of bowls and Plymouth Hoe and we can apparently thank him and his fellow mariners for preventing us all speaking Spanish and being part of a European Super League.

I remember realising when I lived and worked in Belgium that, at the time of the Armada, the whole continent had been under Spanish control right up to what is now the Dutch border. So we can be thankful that the Armada lost to Sir Francis in extra time and had to sail home by going all the way round the United Kingdom with a number being shipwrecked on the Irish coast……..but that’s another story which may or may not be true.

The biggest change for Argyle since we last met is the change of manager that happened in December. Stoke City came shopping and a deal was done for Steve Schumacher who had brought them up from Division One playing a very attractive brand of attacking football. He left on December 19 to become the new manager of Stoke City and, at first glance, this would seem a major blow to the club but they have a very solid ownership and commercial structure and were able to find and appoint a replacement in early January. The way things have gone at Stoke it may well have been a major blow for Schumacher but I’m inclined to blame Stoke - a badly run club – rather than an excellent young manager.

The new manager is Ian Foster who joined them at the start of January. He left the sands of Saudi Arabia - where he was assistant to Steve Gerrard at Al-Ellifaq - for the beaches of the English Channel. In fact, he had earlier been manager of the England U18, U19 and U20 teams and one can assume that this move was intended to fit in with Plymouth’s find-develop-sell strategy of financial prudence based around young players. This is an interesting parallel with Boro who have adopted the same approach and, at least to my eyes, are doing it very well.

On 1/1/24 Plymouth were 18th with 28 points and 7 points ahead of the top relegation position. They drew 3-3 with Watford on Jan 2 under a caretaker arrangement. Then, under Foster, they had a good run in January, winning their FA Cup third round against Sutton and taking 7 points from 9 against Cardiff (W), Swansea (W) and Huddersfield (D). They also drew away at Leeds in the fourth round of the Cup. Since then, it hasn’t been so good. They lost 4-1 at home to Leeds in the cup reply and took 1 point from league games against Sunderland (L), Coventry (D) and Leeds (L). As a small point of curiosity, they have played Leeds four times in the last couple of months.

So, after all that, they are now up to 16th with 37 points but only 5 points ahead of relegation as QPR start to gather some points. That puts them seven points behind us, both having played 32. They do have a game in hand over nearly all the teams below them which will be played this Tuesday, at home to West Brom. Let’s all hope that they win in an exhausting encounter and can hardly drag themselves onto the coach or plane as they head to the north-east to face a rejuvenated Boro team.

To round up on Plymouth, I looked at their transfer activity in January and it raised a very interesting window on the financial dealings of a small, tightly-run club that is known for being very prudent.

They went into the window in 18th and during January they lost 10 players. Two of these were young lads going out on local loans. Two more were players going out on EFL loans and one was a free transfer. Of the other five, one was an actual sale and four were EPL loans being terminated.

The sale was Macauley Gillesphey, sold for Pds300k to Charlton.

The loans terminated were

1.       Finn Azaz (recalled by Villa and we know what happened to him)
2.       Luke Candle (recalled by Wolves)
3.       Kaine Kesler-Hayden (recalled by Villa)     &
4.       Lewis Warrington (recalled by Everton.)

Net income (excluding saving in wages)        Pds 300,000

The biggest impact was certainly the loss of Azaz who may even become the next Chuba Akpom.

In order to replace these departures, they brought in seven players:-

1.       Will Jenkins-Davies (recalled from Torquay)
2.       Matthew Sorinola (free transfer, unattached)
3.       Ashley Phillips (loan from Tottenham)
4.       Darko Gyabi (loan from Leeds)
5.       Alfie Devine (loan from Tottenham)
6.       Lino  Sousa (loan from Villa)                       &
7.       Adam Forshaw (free transfer from Norwich)

Net expenditure excluding wages                    Pds NIL.

Looking at the incoming players, three were in the first team against Leeds (Sorinolo, Phillips and Devine), Sousa was on the bench and Forshaw was out with a hamstring injury. Adam Forshaw has played three games for them after an injury-ruined time at Norwich and he seems to have picked up another one. He would have been a good acquisition if healthy.

Anyway, the net position is a trading gain of Pds300,000 and another group of loanees and free transfers to integrate. This looks very different to Boro’s ability to acquire young players who are, at least, at the next level up and possibly higher and augment them with astute loan signings who will not ruin the team when they leave.

We had the same problem of integrating players from August but certainly seeing the progress that the club has made both financially and on the pitch. Personally, I can see Azaz taking the place of Rogers and more.

So, we are on the fringe of the play-off battle needing a minimum of, say, 8 wins out of the next fourteen games and it’s hard to argue that Plymouth shouldn’t be targeted as one of those games. We have injury problems but that is just where we are this year and Saturday’s game against Plymouth is simply a game that a club in our position has to win (sorry Werdermouth, can I call it a ‘must not lose or draw’ game 😊).

Tactically, we may have a problem dependent on the approach taken by Plymouth. They have been a committed attacking side which would leave us space to counter-attack. If, however, they throw down a low block we may have the usual problems in finding a way through. Quite what team or formation Carrick will use is anyone’s guess.

I would like to finish by saying that this year may well turn out to be a transition year and I easily can imagine Boro coming out next season as a top class side ready to storm the division. That may well depend on whether we can keep McGree, Hackney and Van Den Berg. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the feeling of a double over Leicester and look forward to Plymouth.

This topic was modified 2 months ago by Selwynoz

Powmill-Naemore
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Selwyn, what a good and (especially with the Exmil Callenge starting about now) very timely analysis.

Having read your starter at an ungodly hour, I then couldn't help myself by having a look through the remaining fixtures for each team currently in 6th to 13th place. Always with the caveat that there will be some unexpected results to come, a little like us winning at Leucester, it does look a decent bet that 72 points will be the magic total this year. My take on it is that Coventry looks to have a run in that could/should get them to that total. But that is the only team I see achieving that, with everyone else falling short. Even if Boro is able to hit the unstoppable form of 2 points per game from now, we would also need to up our scoring rate to improve the goal difference column. So on the whole it does look improbable we will make it into the playoffs.

All the same, while it is the hope that always gets you in the end, hope is one of those intoxicating intangibles of being a fan. No matter how improbable, it is still possible. Either way, if we are to look like a team that is evolving to be a serious contender for next season's Champioship, then we will also be keeping that little bit of hope alive for this season, at least for now.

 

Re Azaz: I agree with you. I think we have a diamond there and one that will serve us much better than Morgan would have. Good luck to him at Villa, but I don't think we will hear much more about him for some time to come. Azaz will, of course, be up against his recent team mates on Saturday, so surely is certain to score for us in this fixture.

One thing is certain, but if the playoff dream is to be kept alive, we have to start winning our home games. I feel that playing Plymouth at home next, after Saturday's unexpected result, could fit our narrative well. 

I never knew Francis Drake was mayor of Plymouth.

This post was modified 2 months ago 3 times by Powmill-Naemore

Selwynoz
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@powmillnaemore 

as per wikipedia

"Drake became the Mayor of Plymouth in September 1581. During his tenure, he installed a compass in the town's Hoe, and passed a law regulating the local pilchard trade. During his term as lord mayor, Drake contracted to construct a leat, or canal, to bring water from the River Meavy, and to build six new gristmills on it from which he derived a substantial profit.

UTB


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News from Birmingham

Tomy Mowbray stepping down temporarily as he has serious illness but hope that six weeks of treatment will solve things!

 

OFB


Martin Bellamy
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@original-fat-bob I’m sure we all wish him well and hope he gets better asap. Let’s hope it’s not anything too serious.


   
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Well, my Diasboro friends, I will be traveling to one of my favourite places, Egypt, this week for a 28-day stay. The internet is not very good there, but I have a mi-fi and that helps. So I will be keeping up with everything Boro and, of course, Diasboro. Looking forward to some wins while I'm away. Take care everyone.


   
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jarkko
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Yes, Tony Mowbray is my all time favourite manager. We should never had dismisssed him and bought Strachan in. I wish him all the best and a speedy recovery. Mark Venus will be a good debuty for Mogga. Up the Boro!

This post was modified 2 months ago by jarkko

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@original-fat-bob Oh dear, so sad for Tony, I wish him a speedy recovery. ❤️


   
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jarkko
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@selwynoz An excellent starter as ever. Thank you.

It will be interesting to see how Azaz plays against his former club. He has been on loan there for a year and half. 

Generally, I think our best eleven would be:

                   Dieng

Ayling, Fry, van den Berg, Thomas

           Hackney, O'Brien 

Jones/Forss, Azaz, McGree 

                Latte Lath

The real question is when and how often we can field the above team. I hope the rumours saying Hackney is out for the season are untrue. If we can get a rid of injuries and play the same eleven from a match to another, we can do well. We have talent but lack consistency. 

Up the Boro

This post was modified 2 months ago 2 times by jarkko

jarkko
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There will be four tough matches towards the end of the season for Boro. This is also a good chance up climb up the table if we get the team playing constantly well: 

Wed 10 Apr
Hull City @ The MKM Stadium

Sat 13 Apr
Ipswich Town @ Portman Road

Sat 20 Apr
Leeds United @ Riverside Stadium

(Sat 27 Apr. Cardiff City @ Cardiff City Stadium)

Sat 4 May
Watford @ Riverside Stadium

Up the Boro! 

This post was modified 2 months ago 2 times by jarkko

   
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jarkko
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SUNDERLAND have parted company with Michael Beale after just 12 games in charge as head coach.

Formal confirmation is expected imminently, with Beale having lasted less than two months at the Stadium of Light after succeeding Tony Mowbray in late December.

Good that we have Steve Gibson. Up the Boro!


   
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@Selwynoz - a great Starter so thank you!

Get well soon, Mogga.  The fact he is talking about being absent from work with the Blues for only 6 weeks suggests to me that the medics believe things have been caught early so that timely/effective treatment will be very quick.

@Malcolm - enjoy your (28 days!!) stay in Egypt. Lots to see there but the Red Sea area and Sinai might be a little sensitive at present.  Keep safe.


   
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Sunderland has sacked the manager (Michael Beale) appointed only 8 weeks ago when Mogga was sacked there.  A merry-go-round of a club.  Nice pay-off if you can get it, though!  And Dan Ashworth placed on "gardening leave" by Newcastle United after what appears to have been indications by Manchester United that the club is interested in his moving there.  There is much to be said for stability...

This post was modified 2 months ago by Forever Dormo

   
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@jarkko I said this would happen. As a follower of Glasgow Rangers,Beale was not popular with fans and the results resulted in him getting sacked.

Poor appointment by Sunderland. If they had asked me, I could haved saved them some money. 🤣

This post was modified 2 months ago 2 times by Malcolm

   
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@forever-dormo Thank you.


   
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jarkko
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Posted by: @forever-dormo

@Malcolm - enjoy your (28 days!!) stay in Egypt. Lots to see there but the Red Sea area and Sinai might be a little sensitive at present.  Keep safe.

We all saw the Red Sea devided in Leicester by Carrick. Have a safe trip, Malcolm. And I remember you saying your thoughts about the quality of the appointment at Sunderland. 

Strange they chopped Mogga for a worse. Up the Boro!

 

This post was modified 2 months ago by jarkko

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Sunderland sack their manager !


   
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Late again as usual !

OFB


   
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Selwynoz

what can I say terrific!

 

well done 

star 🌟 man !

 

OFB


   
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Selwynoz
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Posted by: @jarkko

@selwynoz An excellent starter as ever. Thank you.

It will be interesting to see how Azaz plays against his former club. He has been on loan there for a year and half. 

Generally, I think our best eleven would be:

                   Dieng

Ayling, Fry, van den Berg, Thomas

           Hackney, O'Brien 

Jones/Forss, Azaz, McGree 

                Latte Lath

The real question is when and how often we can field the above team. I hope the rumours saying Hackney is out for the season are untrue. If we can get a rid of injuries and play the same eleven from a match to another, we can do well. We have talent but lack consistency. 

Up the Boro

@jarkko

I agree that this looks like a solid side. What impresses me is the number of solid reserves that we have - given availability - and how much better the squad will be next year. There is, of course, the open question of how many of our best players we will lose to predatory teams. Imagine if McGree, Van Den Berg and Hackney are poached. What can we do with what should be a big chunk of money?

I would also like to add that I would seriously consider keeping Ayling. He brings the level of experience that is always needed in a squad - particularly with Crooks gone - and he still looks like a top class player in pretty much everything that he does. He defends well, has great attacking instincts and great stamina. Why do we suddenly think that he's too old.

UTB

 


   
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Pedro de Espana
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@Selwynoz.    Brilliant Headliner. Thank you very much. Once again, a different approach to the content. Well thought out.

As for the team on Saturday, I think it will be very much of the same. No HH or Howson. I also cannot see Latte Lath starting if available. One thing I did notice when Forss came on, was his left thigh strapped.

So it could be that MC has not got much room for manoeuvre with selection. He could go again with three at the back again, which would give the attacking options left and right to start with. 


   
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@ Selwyn.  A great starter, thank you, encompassing statistics, history, football and analysis, what more could we ask for.  A really enjoyable read which is in line with all that has gone before, outstanding.

As for Saturday, who knows.  It would be good to see us build on an excellent performance at Leicester and give the home crowd something to enjoy.  My brother has not enjoyed many performances to date and is considering whether or not to renew his season ticket which has increased by 11%. 

With injuries still impacting, I would expect a similar line up as last Saturday and will be interested to see what formation/tactics MC employs.  

🤞for a good win/performance. 😎


   
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jarkko
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Roy Hodgson has left Crystal Palace. The 76-year-old stepped down on Monday, with Palace appointing former Eintracht Frankfurt boss Oliver Glasner.

With the announcement of Oliver Glasner’s arrival at Crystal Palace, the club are expected to appoint former Middlesbrough defender Emanuel Pogatetz to the Austrian’s backroom staff, according to the latest reports.

Well, there was a defender who gave his all for the Boro. Up the Boro! 

https://therealefl.co.uk/2024/02/20/former-1-8-million-middlesbrough-signing-joins-premier-league-club/


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"Mad Pog" as described in that article was, in fact, "Mad Dog" as I recall it.  He'd get in Boro's current side.  There was never any doubt about his commitment.  Good Luck to Pogatetz at Palace. 

(Last night at the Murdered Monkey we were discussing Robbie Mustoe, how much it would now cost to buy a player who would be good for 35 games a season at Premier League level for the majority of his career at a time when his club could afford to go abroad and in the UK to buy top class players to vie with him for a place in the starting line-up.  The answer had a lot of noughts in it. Another player, who didn't cost much even in the prices of the time, who would WALK into Boro's current team).


   
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Selwynoz, thank you for an excellent article, I am looking forward to Saturday’s game hoping for a much needed home win, which could set us up for an interesting challenge. I am hoping that the Red Faction planned “walk out” on 30 minutes doesn’t have an detrimental effect on the players, imagine if we were winning 1-0, then go on to lose 1-2, what would the response be of the rest of Boro supporters be 🤔.

Come on BORO.


   
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Thanks for a great opener Selwynoz, which was especially absorbing for someone like me who enjoys studying the stats and looking for patterns. I've also been wondering if there are any indicators of what is required to make the play-offs.

Though what I did notice over those previous nine seasons is that no team has made the play-offs if they've lost more than 15 games - only twice has a team lost 15 and made the top six during that period - that was Boro last season and Huddersfield in 2016-17.

Indeed, over the last 20 years only seven teams have ever made the play-offs having lost 15 games - the two previously mentioned plus Wigan (2013-14), Watford (2012-13), West Ham (2004-05) and Ipswich, Palace (2003-04). There was one occasion where a team actually lost 16 and made the playoffs and that was Leicester (2012-13) when they made sixth with 68 points.

I mention that because Boro have already lost 14 games so in theory can probably only afford to lose just one of their last 14 games unless they are to do a Leicester. Though with three clubs currently on 51 points vying for 6th spot it would probably need all three to lose more than half their games to end up with a sixth place total as low as 68 points.

Though mathematically Boro could lose 4 more games if they win the other 10 and still finish on 74 points as basically draws are just as much of a killer as losses in terms of accumulating enough points. Incidentally, Boro have only drawn 5 game this season compared to Coventry in 6th having drawn 12.

So in conclusion, Boro need to win a lot of their remaining games 😉 

 


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Excellent opener, Selwyn. As with your Southampton piece, very well structured, thorough and interesting.

It is the controlling intelligence and originality behind the leading articles on Diasboro that make them so distinctive and appealing.

You are never quite sure what you are going to get, but you know that it will be distinctive and thoughtful, as Selwyn's article perfectly exemplifies.

So thanks Selwyn for all of the work and thought that has gone into your article.

 

 


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After reading such a great opener, Mrs OFB said when are we renewing our tickets for the next season as she handed me the phone and the credit card!

Well how can a man refuse such a question? How can a man be married to such an understanding wife?

How can a man be so lucky?

Let’s see how the season progresses shall we?

OFB


Martin Bellamy
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An interesting take on the Championship managerial situation from the Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2024/feb/20/football-daily-email-sunderland-michael-beale?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other


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