Boro v Blackburn
Doodoo. The deep kind.
After another ignominious defeat away at Millwall at the weekend, rudderless Boro are unofficially in a relegation scrap. The long list of new signings have failed to ignite. The players retained have gone dramatically backwards. The manager has gone full stop.
If the bookies odds are anything to go by, the Boro hierarchy’s answer to this mess is to bring in a rookie head coach, presumably one who says “yes” quite a bit.
For Boro’s demoralised fanbase, not so long ago full of hope, the only strand that remains is that Boro have hit rock bottom and the only way is up. Can we go back to 1st January and start again please?
Right, that’s that out of the system. For a bit.
It’s looking highly unlikely now but maybe, just maybe, by 3pm on Saturday Boro may have a new manager in charge with fresh ideas to jump-start our season. If we do, his first task will be to overcome Jon Dahl Tomasson’s Blackburn Rovers at The Riverside, kick-off 3pm.
Polar opposite to ourselves, little was expected from Rovers this season as they ditched overachieving Boro legend Tony Mowbray over the summer and lost several key performers, including our own Darrah Lenihan and Ryan Giles. Yet Tomasson has guided his unfancied charges to a very respectable 7th, albeit having played one game more than many around them following Tuesday’s 0-1 reverse away at Wigan.
The club did well to retain talismanic frontman Ben Brereton Diaz over the summer against a backdrop of Premier League and overseas interest and the Chilean international has rewarded that stoicism with 7 goals to once again be Rovers top scorer. A glance at the stats appears to show that Rovers aren’t a team carving out lots of goalscoring opportunities but they do have a knack of coming up with moments of individual skill to unlock defences. Brereton is likely to be one of those individuals who doesn’t need a gilt-edged chance to make his mark.
Most often lining up in a 4-2-3-1, with occasional dalliances with a back three, Blackburn have been picking up the majority of their points at Ewood Park however, struggling to just 2 wins and 4 defeats on their travels with only 4 goals scored.
Unfortunately for us, Rovers may now view this fixture as a good opportunity to improve their away form, such is our current crisis, but Boro’s Riverside record, remarkably, isn’t too shabby as we’ve won 3 and drawn 3 of our 7 home encounters thus far, albeit with just 9 goals scored.
How Boro will set up is difficult to predict given the current state of flux but, with a full week to have worked on it, perhaps we’d be wise to give the opposition a different look.
Giles and Jones remain Boro’s key creative threats and it is starting to look odd to overload them with defensive duties in wingback roles. With Giles having been left out of Boro’s last two away games, presumably because of that defensive burden, you have to wonder if playing the 3-5-2 is the optimal way to get the most out of what we have.
With so many strikers on our books, it seems equally odd to play a lone frontman so perhaps the neatest fit is to go to an old fashioned 4-4-2, or something akin to it, with Jones and Giles on the wings supported by Djiksteel and Bola at fullback. In theory, Lenihan and Fry ought to be a strong centre-back pairing at this level whilst Akpom or Watmore can drop off Muniz in attack. The quandary, as ever, is central midfield but there is no real way to solve that until January. For now, Howson seems nailed-on to play with a choice of Crooks, McGree, McNair or Hackney to partner him. My vote would go to Hackney. There’s nothing to lose and Boro could do with some youthful zest that perhaps hasn’t been worn down by the debacle of our season so far.
Our last six encounters with Blackburn have finished 0-0, 1-1 or 1-0 with Boro having won none of them but this is a slightly different Blackburn and a very different Boro. Can we have a different result? And I don’t mean 2-0 to Blackburn!
Come on Boro.
Many thanks Andy for the Blackburn preview and dragging us away from the protracted/diligent (delete as appropriate) interview process that has become a speculation-fest that may even had a negative effect on the Teesside pound!
I don't how the result and performance last Saturday will have impacted on the thoughts of the interim coaching team - though given they've got a week to prepare for the visit of Rovers, I suspect some kind of experimentation on the training ground may have taken place.
As to whether it will involve a completely new shape and tactic who can say but I also agree that the wing-back system is looking less fit for purpose with every game. Imagine if a change of shape and tactics led to a convincing performance and three points on Saturday - that would make for a posing question on who to appoint - though hopefully it wouldn't lead to promoting someone from within on the back of one result. Nevertheless, Blackburn look to be a tougher test than either Birmingham or even Millwall - but avoiding yet more defensive errors is a must!
A mixture of calm reflection and urgency is needed by the men upstairs - let's face it, if anyone had suggested sacking Chris Wilder and replacing him with Lee Cattermole two weeks ago they'd still be getting through the paperwork at St Luke's to secure their release. I'm still hoping for a modern head coach with some decent experience behind him to rescue Boro's season with over 30 games left to play - surely it's not too much to ask of the club to find someone suitable - is it?
Yes. Many thanks AndyR for breaking the tedium with an excellent starter for ten. Let's hope that Blackburn won't take me literally after that and sink us with 10 goals!!
I have idea how we are going to rectify last weeks dismal effort in London. However we have had a full week for the interim team to get to grips on the training field, working with the team to (hopefully) find a better approach on the pitch.
I agree that we do need to go with 4 at the back and with two wingmen. I also think to stick with Munitz up front but with three in the middle, which is where we are consistently losing it this season. Howson and Crooks with either of Hackney or McGree for me linkng with Munitz. Kind of 4411, with the wide two on midfield expected to press high and cut in as well as wide and getting behind the defence.
It will be interesting to see how we do. Big advantage to be at home so long as the crowd get behind them.
I don’t want to predict because I have no idea what shape Leo/Lee(?) will opt for. Same format as before, 3 at the back with wing backs and I would fear Blackburn will triumph. Some thoughtful replanning of our shape and perhaps we can take control of the game and pull off a respectable victory.
My thoughts on the next manager/coach...? I have none, but glad to see we have not rushed to making an appointment when we had no one lined up. I would be happy to see us get to the World Cup break till we have someone in a permanent position.
Great Headliner Andy as always. Unfortunately as good as the article, I was still left with my head in turmoil and this regularly repeated disaster we continue to face.
Surely Mr Gibson must know that he has to get this next appointment as good as he can, limiting the gamble it is, to as low as possible. A rookie choice, home grown or not could be a disaster with another last throw of the dice to come after the World Cup.
We appear to agree on here now, the obvious, that the 3-5-2 was not producing the goods. Whilst 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 may not change anything, it must be worth a try, if nothing more than to stiffen the porous midfield and defence.
One change I would start with and may cause debate, Roberts in for Steffens. I thought he should have been better positioned for Millwall’s first goal and then made another fumble, although he did redeem himself with a saving block.
As much as I do not like admitting, we probably have to stick with Howson if only for his professionalism. I would include Hackney if possible, but do wonder about Luongo, isn’t he supposed to be a decent defensive midfielder signed as cover for JH.
If we are to go with only one up front, I would choose Akpom over Muniz. I think the former would do better from any chances created.
Craig Johns @the Gazette saying that Carrick still in the running, and not as reported, he has opted out. Probably down to how many of his cronies he can get in with him.
I thought Munitz might be better holding up the ball and playing any one of the wide men, or the "forward" midfielder (Hackney or McGree for me) in. Munitz could be swapped with Apkom in the 2nd half. But I could agree with you that Apkom could start instead.
I do agree about Roberts in for Steffen. I thought Roberts was more than unlucky not to have held onto to being first choice after his convincing performances. He certainly makes me feel more comfortable than Steffen, even if his clearance distribution needs to improve.
Any boro news re new manager, I must have nodded off because I had a horrible dream that Lee Cattermole and Steve Agnew were been discussed as the management team,
@paulinboro Have you forgot that we also have Grant Leadbitter at Boro? And we can alway bring back Woody and even Downing ...
But seriously, I do not mind having a manager like Mogga who has the club in his heart. Or a committed guy like Leo.
BTW, Leo's full name is Galileo Galilei Percovich Lopes. Nice. Up the Boro!
@jarkko we could do with leadbitter playing in midfield at least he shows passion
Thanks Andy for your starter not only covering the excitement (?) about our vital match against Blackburn but the even more exciting (?) search for a new manager to save us from impending collapse into relegation.
I had been wondering about a change of formation as Wilder was trying to convert Giles into a wingback and seemed to have a long way to go defensively while his crossing ability is very much needed whoever plays upfront. Last season Jones regularly made fast runs back to tackle but this season his loss of form has resulted in more clumsy tackles and bookings so we have had problems down both wings and no Tav to get back fast for covering. Perhaps 4-4-2 would be better if the 2 fullbacks/centre backs are capable of doing that job. Like you I assume Howson if a fixture in midfield but for the 2nd player the choice between McNair (getting caught out for speed and booked for pull backs), Crooks (hernia resulting in loss of speed and bookings again though that was not an excuse last season), McGree (good for joining the attack but I'm not sure how good he is helping out defensively where it looks like he will be needed) or Hackney who I don't know much about. I also would be inclined to at least start with Hackney and would be looking for other academy players rather than the over 30's we have brought in. Upfront I suppose Akpom would have to be first choice as he is our leading scorer and though his time out injured means we don't yet know whether this is the "new" player. I thought Muniz has looked promising without receiving much service to his feet, McGree has scored a couple of goals and does work hard as a striker while Watmore is still useful as a late sub to worry a tiring opposition.
On the new manager front I will just leave it to the club (Gibson) to announce the fall guy as I am not impressed or don't know anything of the candidates on our list.
I am sorry that I will not be at the match but as normal the room price has gone up a bit more than the amount I had decided earlier was too much so it will be Radio Tees again. Strangely I find it more tense listening than being at matches. Maybe when I can actually see how poorly we are playing I become resigned to us conceding goals. I will be at the relegation battle against Huddersfield on the 22nd!
Sorry but hope you will indulge me with the devastating news I received from my consultant today that my PSA level has increased from 44 to 74 in 8 weeks resulting in the withdrawal of my controlled drug of enzalutamide being withdrawn as it has now become effective in the treatment of my prostate cancer after a period of several years. I have now been prescribed with a non-controlled drug of diethylstilbestrol which thankfully is available from my local pharmacy although I had to wait 90 minutes to receive my first 4 week’s supply in an uncomfortable wheelchair hoping that I wouldn’t have a bowel accident due to my incontinence at James Cook this afternoon. This new drug as most drugs do have side effects, the most serious being the risk of blood clotting.
I’m in no pain as yet but intrepidly consoled myself by watching the a DVD of the 2006 Ryder Cup from the K Club in County Kildare where captain Ian Woosnam chose Darren Clarke as one of his wild cards only 6 weeks after his wife Heather had died from breast cancer. Not only was this the first Ryder Cup to be played in Ireland, but the greatest triumph 18 1/2 to 9 1/2 including the final day’s singles score of 8 1/2 to 3 1/2 plus the most sporting and emotional Ryder Cup as the weeping Ulsterman played the game of his life as at the closing ceremony the European team all wore pink jackets in support of the Ulsterman. Paul Casey was the first ever player to win his match with a hole in one, and the camaraderie between all 24 players was the best I’d ever seen.
What’s more an inspiration for yours truly to carry on despite the going’s on at Middlesbrough FC. Whether this new drug will stabilise my PSA I’ll probably find out in 5 week’s time when I next see my consultant, but que sera sera as I keep my fingers crossed. Nevertheless death comes to us all, and I’ve had a good and fortunate life with my holidays and music, but just a pity that the fortunes of Middlesbrough FC, Yorkshire CCC and the future of golf especially the Ryder Cup has reached the present situation.
Saddened to read your news Ken. Like you say nothing is forever, but hopefully the new drug will be effective for you without over bearing side effects.
Let us at least hope for some turnaround in Boro's form to at least give us all some hope for a more positive future for our chosen team.
i just saw your note and wish you the very best of luck with the new treatment. I’m counting on you to celebrate Boro’s climb up the table with us.
Rangers home defeat to Liverpool was their biggest ever home defeat since the 1-7 defeat in the very first match at Ibrox in 1897 against the all-conquering Preston team 1-8 albeit in a friendly match. However their biggest away defeat was 2-10 in a friendly match against Airdrieonians in 1886, but 1-7 in a competitive match in the Scottish League Cup match against Celtic in October 1957.
I’m dreadfully sorry to hear your news. I’m always amazed at how you manage to keep your chin up in the face of so much adversity, so this is another cruel blow you could do without. I do hope the new drug works for you without harming further your quality of life.
Hang on in there. We’re all rooting for you. Talk soon.
On another matter, has the world gone mad, or is it me? I’m hearing that Cattermole and Agnew is now the favoured managerial team to take over. I mean, yer jokin’ arn yer? On Twitter, some long-standing, very passionate supporters are saying that if this comes about they’ll give up on the club and avoid The Riverside like the plague. Surely….. SURELY….. it won’t come to this, will it?
Ken, sorry to hear about your health news (though I had to Google PSA) and I'm sure everyone wishes you all the best and hope that your new medication will have a positive effect!
Just take care Ken.
@ken. Sending best wishes and positive thoughts that your new treatment will be positive and without side effects. 😎
@ken sorry to hear this. I'm always impressed by the detail and hard work in your blog posts despite your health issues. Sending you best wishes from Scotland.
All the best, Ken. Everyone is with you.
Best wishes Ken. You are in the thoughts of everyone on this blog. What shines through is the way in which you continue to be inspired by sporting and many other memories in spite of all of the blows that flesh is heir to. You are an inspiration to us all. Keep on keeping on.
Sorry to hear your news, stay positive. That's difficult in your circumstances and when you do feel down and desperate think of the support you have from the DiasBoro family.
@ken. I’ve just caught up on your news - my thoughts are with you and I hope the new drug proves effective.
Thanks to all for their good wishes, but although the wonder drug Enzalutamide has kept me alive for the last 5 or 6 years it has obviously been a drain on the NHS financial resources and I knew from the beginning that eventually it would be withdrawn when it became ineffective in stabilising my PSA readings, though to suddenly jump so dramatically still came as a shock. When I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer I was informed that the Gleason reading was permanent and never changed. A reading of 6 or 7 was low risk of cancer spreading whilst a reading of 9 or 10 was termed aggressive. My reading was 9 in 2020 so I consider myself very fortunate to have lived this long.
The new drug is NOT a controlled drug and therefore available from any pharmacy. Like all drugs there are side effects but the worrying one is blood clotting, so for the next 5 weeks I’m living on a life edge. I’ve always been open about my health issues so yesterday watched the DVD of the 2006 Ryder Cup to remind myself how Darren Clarke dealt with the blow of losing his wife to breast cancer only 6 weeks previously. Yes it was emotional, and occasionally even now there’s the odd time when something triggers and my eyes swell up with tears over the death of my wife. But I have NEVER shed tears over my own health problems and yesterday was no exception, just the realisation that death perhaps is just around the corner and if I suffer too many side effects from the new drug I will stop taking it and let nature take its course.
So as I say, although I’m too weak to fight for my life I’m prepared to continue to be my usual cheery self if occasionally arrogant at times, as there’s no alternative. So again thanks for everyone’s concern most graciously accepted, but yes I might be worried about what may befall me in the future I do realise that so many people are in much direr straits than me, and nobody likes a moaner.
Amazing post, Ken, courageous, and, in asserting who and what you are, not even slightly arrogant, but, as I've said, inspirational.
Hi Ken, sorry to hear about your news. Thinking of you at this difficult time. Very best wishes and take good care.
Belated thanks to Andy for his match preview which, as always, is an enjoyable and informative read.
Well we struggle against Blackburn at the best of times and given our current predicament things are not looking good. In particular if you take account of their record and form which suggests after their loss to Wigan they are now due a win!
So at best we might sneak a draw but are more than likely to lose; that being said it could also be a ⚽️-⚽️!
Whilst I mentioned long ago that our defence had become less robust as each season has past and that we needed to get back to basics and consider a back four, I don’t think Leo will change the set up but more likely tinker with personnel leaving any major changes for the new incumbent to put in place.
If he changes it now and then the new manager has other ideas then that to me could be a recipe for disaster. Stick to what they know but get them to execute it better. Changes for me can be implemented and worked on during the World Cup break and tried out during the friendly games in that period.
The Caddymaster at our Golf Club is both English and a Rovers supporter so you can imagine the banter that has passed between us given our recruitment of Lenihan and subsequent position in the league table!
Monday morning’s round of golf could be preceded by some interesting dialogue, I just hope I am not on the receiving end. 😎
Most definitely not a moaner, but a bit of a poet as I recall.....