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Southampton v Boro....
 

Southampton v Boro. Good Friday 15.00

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Clive Hurren
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Southampton v Boro.

Friday 29 March. KO 15.00

Well, after two weeks of dry, dusty tumbleweed, at long last it’s back to real football at the weekend, and the start of a busy Easter programme.

Probably not even the most optimistic, passionate, foam-fingered, rosy-bespectacled Boro supporter thinks we still have a chance of the playoffs, despite the Gazette reminding us daily that we are ‘just 7 points off the playoffs.’ Actually, lads at the press-face, it’s 8 points, as we would definitely struggle to close a goal difference of -14 on Norwich. I suppose it would be possible in some fantasy scenario for Boro to pick up 20 points from the remaining 24 (while still relying on all 4 of Norwich, Hull, Coventry and PNE to cock things up spectacularly), but it ain’t going to happen. For one thing, we still have to face 4 of the sides above us, Leeds at home, and Southampton, Ipswich and Hull away. We’d need to be in absolutely stellar form to pick up 6 points from those games, let alone the minimum 9 we’d require.

So then, starting with Southampton on Friday, this is probably the first of a tedious series of meaningless end-of-season games for Boro. (I almost wrote ‘pointless’, but we’ll come to that in a minute.) There’s pride to play for, the incentive of finishing above Sunland, and the necessity simply to finish as high up the league as we can, of course. They have to try to keep the fans on board, even though the game is just two days before the early-bird deadline. And some of the squad will be playing for their futures…….by no means everybody who’ll play on Friday is guaranteed to be with us next season. They have to be prepared to turn it on for the manager. I sincerely hope Carrick has disabused everybody of any thoughts of deckchair syndrome.

Russell Martin has done well. He’s got his side playing some nice football and has kept them firmly in the promotion hunt, though they might now have to settle for a playoff spot. Of course, they finally suffered relegation last season after several years of clinging on by their fingernails, with Ralph Hasenhüttel pulling off several  remarkable late rescue acts. They’ve kept many of their Prem squad together and are obviously benefiting from parachute payments. They went on a 25 game unbeaten run earlier in the season, and following a brief hiccup are now back to winning ways. Saints are prolific goalscorers (73), with Adam Armstrong contributing 18, Che Adams 12 and Ryan Fraser 8. However, they have also been conceding of late. Sunland scored 2 and Huddersfield 3 against them, though both ultimately lost in high-scoring games. Both Hull and Millwall have won recently at St Mary’s. So there’s hope!

Southampton will have had a 20 day break since their 4-2 win over Sunland, whereas Boro have played twice since beating QPR. So Saints will either be fit, raring to go and fully practised in a whole range of innovative free-kick routines, or they just might lack a bit of match sharpness. Let’s hope it’s the latter!

How this game pans out will depend on which Boro turns up. Will it be the Boro who worked out Leicester and gave them a good going-over, or will it be the team that failed to turn up at Stoke and lost miserably? We pretty well know already which Southampton will turn out - the free-flowing, free-scoring promotion chasing side, and we know how important this game is for them. For Boro, it’s not the same. As I’ve said, there’s precious little riding on this for us. We’ve conceded only 1 goal in our last four games, so there’s hope - if not expectation - that we’ll be competitive. But it’s at the other end where I fear we’ll struggle. It seems likely that we’ll be without Forss and McGree, and there’s been no word yet on Hackney. Silvera may be required on Tuesday to face Lebanon in a World Cup qualifier, which at least is in the Middle East, but he may still be knackered after his travels. I just can’t see where our goals are going to come from, as there’s nobody left who is creative.

For me, Azaz must start, if Riley is unfit, as must Jones, but I can’t see us getting much joy in this game. I fear that if we concede even one goal we will leave St Mary’s ‘pointless.’

I thought it might be worth writing a bit about Southampton, the club, as it’s an interesting case study. 

Firstly, the city itself. It has a population of 250,000. Surprisingly, both Brighton & Hove and Plymouth are bigger. I’d always thought of it as the biggest city South of London. It’s the UK’s second busiest port after Felixstowe, and has had a notable history as the departure point for luxurious ocean liners setting off for the USA, especially Titanic, Queen Mary and QE2. Cunard sailings to New York continue to this day. I think, too, of England and Hampshire cricket at the Rose Bowl, and, less enthusiastically, of Jeremy Hunt’s luxury rental flats, which he mysteriously forgot to list in the register of MPs’ interests. Ooops, sorry, mustn’t get political. Southampton was battered by German planes in WWII and largely rebuilt as a modern city. Significantly, the Spitfire was designed and built there.

The club is nicknamed the Saints because it started out as a church team at St Mary’s Church, founded 1885, joining the Southern League in 1894, and known originally as Southampton St Mary’s FC. They dropped St Mary’s from their name in 1897. Saints moved to their new ground in 2001 when they left their previous venerable home, The Dell. St Mary’s is actually a local district close to Southampton centre, and the ground is built on the site of a disused gas works. Boro will no doubt create a bit of a stink if we manage to win………

A bit like Boro, Saints have won very little in the way of trophies over their existence. However, they were FA Cup winners in 1976 as a (then) Division Two side, beating Manchester United 1-0 in one of the competition’s biggest all-time shocks. Lawrie McMenemy, that giant affable Geordie, was the manager.

They also hold the record for most 0-9 defeats in Premiership history, two to be precise - at home to Champions elect Leicester in 2019 and away at Man United in 2021. They survived in the Prem both seasons! The Hasenhüttel effect!

Since the foundation of the Premier League in 1992-3 Saints have spent 24 /31 seasons in the top flight. From 2005- 2012, they were mainly in the Championship, with 2 years in League One. However, in all that time in the top flight, they won nowt; they had a brief spell from 2014-17 under Pochettino, Koeman and Claude Puel when they finished 8th, 7th, 6th and 6th, and they did make brief sorties into the UEFA Cup in 2003 and the Europa League in 2016, and were runners up once in the FA Cup and again in the EFL Cup. Those apart, they have mainly finished in mid-bottom half positions, often struggling near the trap door, until football gravity finally dragged them through it last season. It got me wondering: Is this what our Premiership ambition might ultimately boil down to - merely staying up there, making the occasional cup final or earning a [minor] European spot? I guess that’s the lot of most clubs making it to the big league - unfortunately, there aren’t too many Leicester Citys or Blackburn Rovers around nowadays - but you might be tempted to ponder if it’s all worth it.

One of the reasons sometimes mentioned regarding Southampton’s resilience in clinging on so long to their Premiership slot is that they have a strong history of developing young players into very fine footballers and later selling them on, enabling them to reinvest funds in the squad. Over the years, they’ve sold players such as Alan Shearer, Gareth Bale, Emil Hojberg, Dusan Tadic, Theo Walcott, James Ward-Prowse, Tino Livramento and Luke Shaw. They’re often seen, too, as a feeder club for Liverpool: I’ve found at least 8 players, some of them greats, who’ve made the move North to Anfield in recent seasons: Ricky Lambert, Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne, Virgil van Dyke, Sadio Mane, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Danny Ings. That’s nearly a whole first team!

Saints even loaned us a couple at one stage, the talented Calum Chambers, now at Arsenal, and who could forget King Rat, Gaston Ramirez?

Finally, it would be remiss not to mention one we sent the other way. How sad was it finally to lose that great player and great servant, Mr Consistent, David Spike Armstrong?  How we could do with someone of his ability on Friday! UTB.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Selwynoz
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@Clive Hurren

good starter which sets out the no-man’s land into which Boro are about to fall. I assume that we will play the A-team until we don’t win and then maybe we will see a couple of the kids get a go. It’s probably also decision time for Greenwood. Is he the best that we can get for the money. Will he want the salary increase that comes with Leeds going up?

It occurs to me that Southampton are almost in the same position that Boro found themselves in last season after the international break; guaranteed a play-off spot and not quite in a position to lock down an automatic promotion. Boro lost their rhythm and never really produced their best football - although I still have daydreams/nightmares about that header that Akpom missed in the last few minutes of the away game at Coventry.

Southampton are packed with goal scorers and we can all wonder what might have happened if we had picked up Armstrong last summer as the rumours suggested.

UTB 

This post was modified 2 months ago by Selwynoz

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Great intro Clive. Hopefully we can keep up our pretty decent record against the top teams. Unfortunately the Socceroos away game is in Canberra, apparently it is not safe to play in Lebanon, and Canberra Airport only has ONE international departure even though it is the capital so Silvera will have to get to Sydney for the flight on Wednesday so won’t be back in the UK until Thursday morning. I suppose he could go directly from Heathrow to Southampton and meet the team there.


Selwynoz
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@mw-in-darwin 

That would work OK. He'll be available for a spot on the bench.

This post was modified 2 months ago by Selwynoz

   
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Many thanks Clive for another excellent opener.

I thought I was down to do this one tbh but very happy to see that you've got it done with your usual high quality!


   
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Clive Hurren
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@mw-in-darwin 

Thanks for that correction. I just assumed as the Aussies had already played Lebanon in Oz that the second leg would automatically be away. Silly me - I forgot to take the complexities and vicissitudes of middle-eastern politics into account! 


   
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Nice Starter, @clive-hurren. I suppose that BORO would have to play to 100% and hope that Southampton had an off day, and even then there'd be the need for a slice of luck, for BORO to get anything out of the game. I realise that BORO's defence has recently started to become a little more "mean" but Southampton is the sort of free-scoring team you could imgine having a field-day if things go right for them.

I had come to the realisation some time ago that getting into the Play-Offs was something destined NOT to happen this season. Not only would BORO have had to go on a Manchester City-like run of win after win after win (whatever the opposition), but it would also have been necessary for the other competitor teams above us to collapse.  There MIGHT be a team or two capable of starting a really bad run of results above BORO, but the chances of them ALL doing that are minisule. So, we are in the early stages of the "dead rubber" games.  Let's hope that the coaches and players don't think that or play like that.  As you said in your piece, some of the players will effectively be playing for their futures in the BORO squad and they will ALL be playing for season-ticket sales.  If BORO's season finished like a limp lettuce, that would have a damaging effect on ticket renewals and later new ticket sales which, itself, must have a dampening effect on next season. On the other hand a successful run in will at least allow supporters to go into the close season on a high and perhaps would make it easier to persuade any potential targets to sign for BORO next season. BORO might then at least LOOK like a club on the up rather than merely stagnating.

This post was modified 2 months ago by Forever Dormo

Powmill-Naemore
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Yet another great opener from the Diasboro stable of quality writing, thank you @clive-hurren .

It almost doesn't bear thinking about, what will come to pass on Friday in Southampton. I don't think we ever really come back from international breaks, especially after a recent upturn in results, and hit the ground running on all cylinders. Southampton will be sure to want to put us back into our place having unexpectedly taking all three points at The Riverside earlier in the season. With what is looking like no McGree, no Hackney, no Latte and no Coburn, I really don't think we will pose too much of a threat to the Saints and we will have done well to keep them down to 2 goals.

So. Mr Pessimist here and no amount of hallucinatory foam has me seeing anything but defeat.

2-0 to Southampton.

 

Re Greenwood.... no thank you. He gives me nothing apart from a memory of a one-off spectacular against Leicester. Even his contribution to the scoreline at Sunderland came as part of a team performance that was simply too good for them on the day.

Ayling? Yes please.

 


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Brilliant, Clive. You are able, almost as a matter of routine, to produce articles that are far superior to most of the journalism one reads. Proves there is no substitute for intelligence, style and commitment to one's subject. This was an interesting, informative and thoroughly enjoyable read.  Many thanks.


jarkko
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I think Sunderland was in our position last season at this point of the season. And Mogga was able to take them to the top six on the very last day of the season. So it can be done!

Of course it is not likely, just wanted to say it is possible. But I am not going to say anything more. Up the Boro!


   
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Martin Bellamy
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A bit of light reading whilst we wait for the football to resume:
https://www.theguardian.com/football/2024/mar/26/sven-goran-eriksson-england-manager?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other


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Thanks Martin. A typically splendid piece by, in my view , the best sports writer of the current generation. I try to catch everything he produces.


Powmill-Naemore
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@martin-bellamy 

That is a lovely read Martin. I worried a little through the first passage that we were close to crossing that line about politics and football, but the message comes through loud and clear: none of us should ever forget, this game is for fun and we should all be able to enjoy it for what it is. Winning a bit of silverware is only the cherry on top of the cake. That said, it is nice for at least one club in the North East to have had that cherry this century 😉.

This post was modified 2 months ago by Powmill-Naemore

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I found this an interesting and heartwarming read and thought it may interest likeminded friends:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2024/03/25/bob-wilson-interview-arsenal-sir-alex-ferguson-brilliant/ 😎


   
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Thank you Clive for another thoughtful and informative article which I thoroughly enjoyed; I liked your nostalgic reference to one of our late great players, Spike, a particularly favourite of mine.

As to Friday, I agree that there will probably only be one outcome, particularly if history repeats itself and we fail to perform after an International break, again.  

A point would be a good point albeit little use in the quest for a top six slot, which the majority of us have already given up on for this season at least; it would however keep the unbeaten run going and provide more of a foundation to build upon. Clutching at straws, perhaps. 😎


   
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Powmill-Naemore
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@k-p-in-spain  tha ka for sharing that link. Truly a gentleman if the game and one of the very best of his generation.


   
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Thank you Clive for an interesting and informative opener, as for Friday’s game at Southampton, who knows. I remember the predictions on here about the return trip to Leicester, after previously beating them at the Riverside (sound familiar) how they were going to get revenge by tearing us apart, 3/4/5 nil or more, remind me how did that end 🤔.

Yes, it is a very tough ask to even get a point at Southampton but as we all know, on any day, any team can beat any other team in the championship. I wonder if the MFC website or Gazette live will publish photos of the team in training this week, which might give us some indication as to who will be available on Friday.

I certainly don’t think the Southampton result will make any inroads to the sale of early bird season ticket sales as the match kicks off exactly 24 hours before the deadline. I like most, will renew on Friday before 1500 hrs (possibly on Thursday night as Friday is a bank holiday) just in case there is an online problem on Saturday. By now the majority of people will have made up their minds on whether they will renew or not and one more away game will not make the slightest difference. It will be interesting to hear how many of diasboro do in fact renew or will I be the only one at Boro home games 🤔.

Come on BORO.

 

 


Martin Bellamy
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@k-p-in-spain It’s behind a paywall when I try to read it, I’m afraid.


   
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@martin-bellamy.  Sorry Martin, I managed to be able to read it, (I don’t pay) but since sharing it it is now asking me to sign up if I wish to read the full article! 😎


   
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@exmil 

Mrs OFB & I Have renewed so we can wave to each other over the empty seats

OFB


   
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Powmill-Naemore
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Posted by: @k-p-in-spain

@martin-bellamy.  Sorry Martin, I managed to be able to read it, (I don’t pay) but since sharing it it is now asking me to sign up if I wish to read the full article! 😎

I managed to read it all without paying. The very thought of paying money to that cold-hearted enterprise would make feel a little queasy 🤫

 


   
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Clive Hurren
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@exmil 

I’ve paid Boro my shilling this week, so I’ll be there next season. 


   
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@martin-bellamy - Thanks, Martin.  I have heard enough and read enough about the England shirt (it's quite simple, folks - if you think something grim in a design sense has happened to the shirt, don't buy it!).  But it was a good article. And, for the record, I recall its being said at the time that England had 5 or 6 world class players (by Lineker?).  That would have been a very generous interpretation of "world class", so I guess SGE didn't do quite so badly with the England team he was gifted.


   
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@exmil - And all other Diasborians...I have renewed this afternoon, and so has my mate in the next seat to me (despite his having "wobbles" about it) within the Early Bird Deadline.  Somehow with Maundy Thursday then Good Friday followed (inevitably) by Easter Saturday, I thought that, with my luck, there might be some digital issues that could have intervened if I'd left it later and, by that time, it might be difficult to sort out.  Thankfully there were no issues. All done via laptop within a couple of minutes.  And I can still use my physical credit-card sized Season Ticket which I much prefer to having the ticket downloaded to my mobile phone.


   
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OFB, Clive and Forever Dormo glad to hear you have all renewed, I will be in my usual place in the East Upper block 38 next season and I changed to digital at the first opportunity I had.

Come on BORO.


   
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@exmil - I will wave at you all at the next home match.


   
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England U21’s beat Luxembourg 7-0 tonight and Rogers came on 62 minutes and scored two.

Come on BORO.


   
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Philip of Huddersfield
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Not heard much about how Coburn and Fry are progressing with their injuries. I’m wondering if Coburn has run his race this season whilst Fry seems to be getting injury prone .

As for the score , I can’t see Boro stopping Southampton scoring for 90 minutes whilst I can’t see where Boro’s goals are coming from and so I’ll go with a home win of 2-0 or even 3-0

Philip of Huddersfield 


   
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Selwynoz
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Silvera came on in the 82nd minute when Australia were already 5-0 up. He was then booked in the 87th minute. Given that he didn't play in the first leg, he certainly has no reason to be tired. A good sleep on the flight home and he should be fine.

UTB


   
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@selwynoz - Isn't it more likely he'll need to sleep the day after he arrives in the UK, then he'll need a couple of massages, physio and then some more rest?  And maybe after he has joined in a couple of training sessions, he'll be considered as a 70+ minutes substitute.  Can't exhaust the lad after his 8 minutes (plus added time) workout.  No doubt he travelled in the cargo hold, too.  Although it is Easter and if BORO should happen to be down to the bare bones...


   
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