Boro's Tactical Gridlock At Leicester

By Anthony Vickers on Jan 19, 13 11:24 AM

SO ANOTHER 'tactically interesting' game where we have the edge for long spells but can't finish - not even from the spot - and end up empty handed.

The balance of play was different but the outcome was similar to the televised Friday night game at Birmingham when Boro were getting plenty of post-match plaudits for playing with panache but went away frustrated. Bloody repeats.

Leicester have the red hot form team in the division but Nigel Pearson admitted afterwards that Boro's striker-light Spanish style Teesside tiki-taka set up had stifled them for long spells and that the game could have gone either way. Tony Mowbray agreed that it was another 'fine margins' game and Boro had played well.

And they did... up to the box. With no out and out striker - "Jose" McEachran was often the furthest foward with Scott McDonald and Emmauel Ledesma wider and deeper to pen in their attacking threat from the full-backs - Boro's best slick passing interchanges were in the middle third. It was fluid and mesmerising at times but at the crucial points, that is, when it picked into the box, it broke down.

Both Boro full-backs went one on one in the box but took a crucial poor final touch to lose the angle for a shot while McDonald and Ledesma both missed the target from good positions. Several times. Their keeper only had to make two real saves - in the first half, the best when he clawed away a Bikey header - before the penalty.

Incidentally, it has become the vogue to slag off Emnes and the penalty was the signal for a cyber free-for all. Fine, get the frustration off your chest, but it was a great save. There is no point scapegoating Emnes for the failures of the full 90 minutes. Boro looked far brighter in the final third after he and Jutkiewicz came on. There is no point slagging Ledesma either. He "is what he is"... a tricky but inconsistent prospect who was in League One last year. Mogga is not playing them out of bloody minded determination to spite you. We all know that Boro need a clinical finisher - a Chris Woods, A Mataj Vydra, a Charlie Austin - and no doubt Mogga and Steve Gibson know that too. But right but we haven't got one so we have to crack on with what we've got.

Boro played well at the back too. There were some fantastic blocks and tackles from Hines and Bikey and Rhys slotted in at righ-back like a natural (he could do a job there long term "when" everyone is fit). If you like icy sliding challenges it was great. Largely Boro contained Leicester. And Steele made some good stops in very difficult conditions for a keeper. It was entertaining stuff.

That said, it is getting boring leaving games with glowing references but no points. For all the talk of Boro's tactical edge Leicester hit the woodwork four times and had two ruled out for (very narrow) offside decesions while Knockaert and Nugent seemed to have a free run at the Boro defence and our own attacks were far rarer and far blunter. It felt far more torrid and obviously tilted towards them than either manager suggested.

Not that it should even have been on. The pitch was fine - Leicester was grid-locked. Both teams struggled to get there through the static nose-to-tail traffic with Boro taking two hours to cover two miles and Leicester players (and the Gazette posse) ditching cars on the ring road to walk the last few miles. Just under 9,000 fans made it through but over 19,000 tickets had been sold.That tells a tale.

With those conditions widely predicted and with police throughout the Midlands and in the North-east putting out "no unneccessary travel" APBs why was a realtively trivial sporting event not postponed in good time to prevent thousands travalling in very dangerous conditions? Because the cameras were there? For the sake of an £85k facility fee? It shows a cavalier and outrageous disregard by the man paying the piper for the safety of supporters. Utter contempt for the travelling fans again.

HERE'S my snow-shoes and thermals extended icy blast at the stupidity of letting the game go ahead from today's paper.


AND here's Leicester City's satement on Friday's chaos - ironically on Sky's website


Masham Wiggy said:

Agree with most of that AV, but the penner was poor, perfect height for the keeper.

I like Emnes but he's a confidence player and someone so obviously short on that should not be taking a last min pen in such a crucial game. Leadbitterr would surely be a better candidate and Emnes will be shattered now. It's going to take some real Mogga therapy now to bring him back up to speed.

Can anyone tell me who r last 25+ LEAGUE goal striker was? Has it ever happened?

**AV writes: LAst 25 goal scorer in league was John Hickton in 70-71. O'Rourke did in it 66-67 too. They are very rare beasts. That won't stop fans demanding we bring one of though. We have only had one 20 plus league striker in 40 years and that was Benie in 1986-87. Anyone who scores like that at this level is in the Premier League within the year.

James Emmerson said:

"Incidentally, it has become the vogue to slag off Emnes and the penalty was the signal for a cyber free-for all. Fine, get the frustration off your chest, but it was a great save."

I cannot agree AV. It was a dreadful penalty, poorly aimed, stroked casually at an easy pace and very saveable height. Despite the frustrations of our missed chances and the relief of their ill-fortune, Emnes had the best opportunity of all, which full time professionals should never miss. His careless and shameful effort is the final straw in a series of increasingly lightweight displays. Sell him as soon as possible.

**AV writes: It wasn't a masterclass or a rocket but it was on target and was squeezed just inside the post and demanded a full length save. It wasn't blasted over or passed weakly at the keeper like Big Ish's one against Hastings.

tom thumb said:

Schmeichal's save was as routine as you'll see. The classic lazy slot to the keeper's left at a nice height. Awful.

Another article which neglects to cover the fact the team continues to carry McEachran, no doubt due to a contractual obligation to select him.

A waste of space with nothing to offer in the vital games away at Brum/Cardiff/Leicester/Leeds when the chips are down, the forwards are missing and we are screaming for goals from midfield.

Tosh said:

Excellent summation piece AV The point about Sky's all pervading power in the game trodding on even the public's health,safety and comfort is well made.

One point about the Boro's deficiencies; finishing or the lack of it.

How much work goes in on trying to improve in this department? On the evidence so far however much they do it's clearly not enough. The whole team should work very hard on it, not just the strikers.

peterboroangel said:

Appalled the game went ahead. I was checking all afternoon expecting to see a postponement. Totally unfair on the team and supporters and showing little regard for safety.

Being only 40 miles from Leicester, I can confirm conditions were unacceptable.

Redcar Red said:

Were we so close and unlucky to lose at Leicester by a single goal?

We were treated to lots of Mogga’s trademark windscreen wiper possession football but laughable finishing that would have had Leicester Tigers quaking in their boots. Was it another tactically overindulgent master class from Mogga?

McEachran up front? Surely not, I mean he’s just about the only player in the Boro squad apart from Friend and Steele not to have scored all season. There again was he actually up front or only nudging his way there occasionally. Yes that was it, the occasional striker, now that’s a new one even for Mogga as Big Nige admitted afterwards it certainly confused them for a while.

Just as well for Leicester then that it wasn’t actually going to result in anything remotely resembling a shot. Justin Hoyte was apparently fit again yet lasted only 20 minutes, unusual that, I mean its not as if it was a freezing cold night where susceptible muscles and tendons were going to be tight after excellent pre match preparations and warm up now was it?

I guess Hoyte’s injury was the excuse why Reach didn’t get any game time especially with the rehabilitation requirement for Tommo in a nothing game. Come on Mogga.

Bails was made for that game or failing that Richie Smallwood would have got stuck in and set up a few chances himself. Tommo looked unfit and totally lost out of possession, failing to pick up runs leaving us fragile and outgunned under pressure and not very confident either when the ball did occasionally break to him.

Ledesma looked more like a Circus act rather than a professional footballer, his penalty dive was an embarrassment and his finishing produced a déjà vu moment with an almost identical glaring miss as the Watford game. Mind you his conversion (sorry free kick was almost as sublime).Was Ogbeche really worse than this lot? In fact where is Oggy now because he was certainly better than at least four on display.

Where was the captain (Leadbitter\Williams) when we needed him\them in the dying moments to take charge and for a calm head to take the crucial penalty instead of Mogga’s other lost rehab project. His body language was so laid back the outcome was never in doubt.

Sky reporters were ecstatic over Boro’s slick interplay and passing movement but that’s as far as it went. No ideas in the final third, no tactics in the final third (yawn is it just me or is this starting to sound like Groundhog day), just pass them to death in the middle and they will collapse with monotonous boredom hopefully.

Leicester had two marginal offside’s go against them that on another day may have stood, the paintwork saved us on three more occasions and Jason Steele at least another twice. 5-0 would not have flattered Leicester, that was the harsh reality that the scoreline concealed.

We passed it around like a hot potato and held onto to it for long periods of time by passing back to Steele but there was more chance of a ray of sunshine suddenly breaking through the snow laden night sky than Boro scoring.

Personally I’m getting sick of square pegging and over thought game plans, its not entertaining any more nor a cause for optimism. Its just simply predictably tedious, frustrating and ultimately fruitless. Jaffa football at its finest; big, orange, beautiful, and juicy all the way through but no seeds!

Role on Aldershot, about the only thing we haven’t seen tactically yet this season is Pamela Anderson in goal (insert your own Baywatch/Skating joke). Oh and just in case Mogga reads this, I‘m not serious about Pamela, honestly, please, no, it’s a flippant comment, not to be taken seriously, besides one afternoon at Rockliffe and we would be calling her Hammy Anderson.

Phil, Norton said:

Poor team selection , poor formation , and possibly the most unwarranted and unwanted substitution (Thomson) since Lennie Lawrence took Slaven off
for Andy Payton back in 1992

R.I.P play offs

SamBrum said:

I was watching with a couple of neutrals and they agreed with the Sky pundits that we look a good team and that it was a good championship game.

Couldn't believe some of the levels of anger and abuse at aimed at the team by some fans on twitter after the game. Yes it was gutting and very frustrating to miss the penalty at the end but was no need for some of the reactions I was seeing (including a very racist comment).

At the end of the day - it was a game of fine margins. Both teams played well and had and missed some great chances and the two defining moments in terms of the points were a brilliant goal by them and a penalty miss by us.

Some results have been very hard to take this season. So many games have seen us play the better football and let poorer teams (Brum, Leeds etc etc) win by us not being ruthless. I'd rather see us less pretty but punish teams more. Will Curtis Main help the situation or will he go on loan?

Finally, is Kevin Thomson always that bad? I very rarely criticise Boro players but I thought he was awful last night. He was a liability. The only pass he looked confident doing was sideways and a few yards and he missed tackles or got caught in possession repeatedly. Due to his injury record I think I've only seen him play a couple of other times, but if that's how he usually plays I can see why he is unpopular (although still think booing him won't do any good)

A du said:

My comments not good enough then AV?

**AV writes: I don't know. I haven't seen them. Nothing in the system from you. Do you want to try again?

Forever Dormo said:

Both Bailey and Smallwood offer more in midfield than Thompson. More bite, more commitment, more vision, and less slothfulness. So it is baffling to see them on the bench and not Thommo. Not trying to be critical of Thompson, it's just that he isn't as good as the other two.

Grove Hill wallah said:

On the crest of our usual winter slump, yet still handily placed in the Play Off positions, I'll settle for that.

Watching the game on TV, the worrying part for me was how easily a lot of the players were dispossessed and the startling amount of 50/50 balls that were lost.

Grove Hill wallah said:

Sign up Tom Pope from Port Vale. If the criteria from Guy is that he must be better than we already have, then he fits the bill. If as suggested Pammy Anderson is signed she could play up front as twin strikers. Better than the "snip" that are currently filling the role.

Grove Hill wallah said:

And before all the Knockers come on, she could bring a couple of Cups to The Riverside. I hear the two Bristol clubs are sniffing after her as well.

adymac said:

I expected another defeat, so this result doesn't hurt me that much.

The problem for me is that it came following two previous defeats. I fell off the mogganaut earlier in the season after we showed a lack of consistency by winning then losing every week. Then we went on that great run of 6/7 games before reverting to inconsistency again.

I cannot see a serious promotion push this season, our only saving grace is that the other teams around us don't want to go up either, apart from Cardiff. I thought about buying a ticket for Leicester but decided against it after two unacceptable results.

I know you don't like it AV but I'm voting with my feet when I lose faith. I never used to be like that, I used to go every week because I was a season ticket holder. Is it just me but I really miss the days of the old Boro when we had players that could dribble like Ripley, Hendrie & Moore. I still love the Boro, always will, but I don't feel a connection with this team......

Dejected :-(

BoroPhil said:

I hear people ranting on about the team selection, the tactics, the style of play, worrying about the opposition, but Mogga got all of those absolutely spot on last night. His tactics were perfect. We created chance after chance after chance after chance, yet put none of them away.

Kevin Thomson didn't have a great game, but was he the reason we lost? Of course not. The reason we lost was Marvin Emnes missing a penalty, Jukebox missing chances, Williams missing chances, Ledesma missing chances and most of all McDonald missing chances.

Mogga can't put the ball in the net for them. We outplayed the form team in the division for long spells, but until we learn to be more clinical we won't win anything and bar replacing them all I don't see what else Mogga can be expected to do.

Oh, and Redcar Red, your posts get more ludicrous by the week. 5-0 would not have flattered Leicester? I increasingly think you are on a massive wind up.

Bob said:

"Nigel Pearson named an unchanged team". These are the words that struck me most from the match report I read.

I wonder if he applied for the job when Strachan left? May have been a missed opportunity, I think he'll be enjoying first division football before Mowbray. That's not a criticism of Mowbray, simply a comparison of the two managers. I like Mowbray and think he's done a good job, but I'd have been happier still with Pearson.

There's no doubt Mowbray has done a great job, and we'll be in the top eight again this season, but I think it's going to take another year.

The one area of Mowbray's management I'm yet to be convinced about is his purchases. The best players this year have been Steele (home grown but brought into the team by Strachan), Hoyte (bought by Southgate) and McDonald (bought by Strachan). Last year the best players were Bailey (bought by Strachan) and Emnes in the first half of the season only (bought by Southgate). Mowbray's signings haven't yet convinced...maybe Leadbitter?

Anyway, onwards and upwards. As someone above mentioned I don't think many expected any points from this match so no harm done, and a lot of draws on Saturday means we didn't drop too far off the pace.

I actually think the real important part of AV's blog was the comment on Sky. I agree wholeheartedly and it's an absolute disgrace.

Borobadger said:

So disappointed after Friday it's unreal. I think we all knew it would be difficult, but we played well enough to deserve at least a point. I wouldn't of had Emnes taking the pen, but you are right in saying we can't blame him for the loss as a whole.

Roll on Aldershot

boromadloon said:

As for the game, I thought we looked comfortable away at a form team who would hope to be around the promotion spots come May. We're never going to dominate a game like that, but I thought we looked composed with the ball in their half, and but for a couple of heavy touches at inappropriate times, could have nicked a goal.

On the flipside, we looked hesitant when we had the ball in our own third. Heskey, out in the A-League, has commented that he applauds that the teams out there try to pass it out of defence and play football 'the right way', but that it's sometimes a bit suicidal. Same for us I think. Bikey and Hines are class defenders, but not exactly the same distributors as Woody and Rhys.

I'm sure KT is an excellent footballer, but a lack of match experience and knackered confidence are causing him problems. I think he's genuine when he says he wants to show the fans what he can do, but is this causing him to try a be a little too ambitious in game?

He made a couple of slips, but I don't think anyone out there had a bad game. It's just unfortunate that no-one had an outstanding game, the majority of players working hard to stifle Leicester without having much opportunity to show off their own talents.

On Williams at RB - this might be me imagining things - I seem to think that despite Australia insisting on playing him there, he really doesn't enjoy it.

Chris in Kansas said:

We recently got a new cable tv channel here in Kansas and two weeks in a row I found that Boro's game was to be their Championship game of the weekend. Well I'm going to stop watching !

Seeing the home defeat last week and yesterday's tepid performance at Leicester are too much for me. This is a team that just does n't cut the mustard. Mid-table mediocrity at best.

Steve said:

It's getting to sound like a broken record really. The Boro play well and look 'neat and tidy' then come away with nothing. I fully agree against Brum, Cardiff, Leeds, Watford and now Leicester we have done more than enough to get three points never mind one yet somehow we have come away with nothing.

Now I am a positive guy and try to look for positives even in defeat but it is now getting beyond a joke. We should maybe start to stop talking about the positives and start adressing the negatives. We can only go on like this for so long and when all said and done 'positives' don't get you's points. We maybe all 'nice and tidy' but in the final third we look toothless.

I read almost weekly that Cardiff are not playing well or that we are the best team in the league based on the fact that we have given Cardiff and Leicester a good going over yet we have picked up no points in these 'going overs'.

I will never claim to be a manager so therefore I will not tell Mowbray what to do but looking at Cardiff and Leicecster it seems they play weekly with the same players and same formations. Why do we pick a team that changes weekly to 'nullify' the opersition? It's not just the team but also the formation that changes. Now every time we go behind and go back to 4-4-2 we seem to improve from what I've seen. I feel sorry for McDonald as are only actual 'goal poacher' stuck out on the wing.

That said despite are toothless attack it's ate inability to keep clean sheets that's costing us. We have to score more than one every match. Just look at Cardiff who constantly win 1-0 or Leicester who have five straight clean sheets. If you have a solid back four and keep clean sheets you only need to nick a single goal and you win or at worst it's not rocket science....if you don't concede you do not lose.

As you stated in your artical we clearly need a proven goal scoring centre forward. We also know that this is not going to happen as they are expensive and hard to come buy. Also with Curtis Main back we have five on are books. The five strickers all give us a different option yet looking at there careers they do not get enough skippy but that's in Scotland so hardly relevant.

We must have looked at the 'stats' when we bought these players? None of them are proven. Why not gamble on a lower league proven forward who actually knows where the goal is? Last season I remember when Reading bought Adam Le Fondre for £375. I said them we should have take a punt as the guy was or goal every two games for Rotherham. Same as when Billy Sharp left Donny....proven and still cost less than skippy or Marv.

As with most posts on here I am not jumping on the Thommo band wagon yet surely Bailey or Smallwood are a better option? He slows everything down with his sideways 'pretty passing' and is so far off the pace it's unreal. Apart from his many injuries and £20k+ a week he is on, what exactually has he done in a Boro shirt? How many goals has he scored (none)? Or even assists or matches you can say he 'effected' the game?

Ok now I said I like to be positive. So positives I did see were the welcome return of Bikey who I think proved is are first choice partner for who ever Mogga deams to pick. He adds a physical element and a vocal voice to the back four and I for one think we've missed him as much as Woody(who)?

Also I thought Wiliams did ok at RB and gave a good attacking outlet down the flank. Jason Steele was once again superb and for me despite Friend or Leadbitter still my vote for player of the season. I also really worry that some one will come in for him this month. I keep reading that a host of clubs are lining up bids for Butland at Brum yet without being biased Steele is far better and more experienced. I also thought Juke did well in his cameo.

I also see to new signings on the horizon. Ok not new really but we have Muzzy the flying machine who looked a real class act and a real threat before he got injured. I just hope we don't bow to pressure and rush him back. Also I am a fan of Curtis Main and again he offers something different to the others. He can lead a line and has two great feet so not putting any pressure on a young lad but who knows? He has to be better and more confident than Marv at the mo. I read we are looking to send him out in loan though? I can think of others we should get rid of first.

As for the penalty? I think most people agree the last person you want taking a pen is someone low on confidence and for me Marvin looks a shadow of the player he was last season. He offered nothing after coming on and had not played well this season. It says it all when even Beagrie said he was suprised Emnes took it as he had been awful. I suppose he had the 'balls' to take it as he did against Wolves but I just felt he was going to miss.

Despite my rant its not all 'Doom and gloom'. We are fith and just three points off second. We are six points ahead of the team in 7 th that's the more important thing. So it's not been a disaster of a season and with all the change and lack of funds we are still on track.

We are up against a Cardiff and Leicester sides who have spent a fortune and unlike Gordon Trashcan actually spent it well. So it was akways going to be hard. That said this can only go on for so long we have to start picking up points even if they are ugly ones. I still think we will make the playoffs, but in typical Boro style it will be edge of your seat stuff.


Never give up on Boro said:

Like I have previously stated rapidly throwing our season away again!,

Don't know why people defend Emnes, he has offered nothing to the team for over a year now since his form declined before Christmas last year!

I am sick of hearing how he is "out of sorts" "needs an arm around his shoulder" "is a confidence player" For goodness sake he's doing a job he is supposed to love,living the dream and getting well paid for it,but his attitude stinks,laid back,no enthusiasm,no fight in him and if reports are right that he laughed when he missed the penalty that some people claim he did then he shouldn't pull another shirt on for he club again!

Using Thompson instead of Bailey or Smallwood was another huge mistake,the latter has done no wrong in recent weeks when called upon to replace McEachran, Leadbitter for injuries/suspensions etc. both of them know how to roll their sleeves up and battle for the points. Surely Mowbray can't believe that Thompson is better than the both of them?

Rushing players back from injury silly too,Williams doesn't look fit,it shows in his play,too many mistakes and madness to bring Hoyte back in those conditions,may have set him back a few more weeks now too!

Strikers are always going to be a problem and if we are stuck with what we have for the rest of the season,it's very worrying unless Main recaptures his goal scoring form from last season or Caryol has a huge impact on his return and lives up to expectations.

Can someone tell me why McDonald the smallest player in the team can win over 90% of headers and score with his head but Juke fails 90% of the time and can't hit a barn door??

Agree we played some nice football,but that isn't going to get us promoted if we don't hit the back of the net. I've been to Cardiff, Birmingham, Swansea, Leeds, Leicester now got zero points or a cup exit when we shouldn't have lost any of them. That gap between the play offs and 7th is getting increasingly smaller but even more amazing the gap between 5th and 2nd is just four points despite our run of defeats.

Question is where are we going to end up come 4th May??

Ian Wood said:

From the off i was Not sure about Rhys Williams playing in midfield. When I first watched him during a pre season friendly at Hibernian he played at right back and I thought he looked as classy as ziege when he first came to the club, so a square peg in a round hole to start off with.

Reasonably happy with the performance, one of those things i guess. But for me, bringing Thomson on when Bailey and Smallwood were on the bench, beggared belief. It wasn't a bad penalty by emnes. In Mogga i trust BUT he needs to drop Thomson out of sight, he is a liability.

We are getting pulled into a scrap for the play offs now even though we are only three points from 2nd but look at our goal difference. Hopefully this is out blip and we will push on from here.

Nikeboro said:

BoroPhil -

'Redcar Red, your posts get more ludicrous by the week. 5-0 would not have flattered Leicester?'

In defence of Redcar Red, Leicester did hit the woodwork three times on top of scoring. Also Steele kept the score down with some notable saves. Consequently three or four goals to Leicester would not have been an unreasonable return and five was conceivable.

In contrast, despite all the illusion of pressure from Boro, I can remember only one significant save against us apart from the penalty.

If we'd had one of those games when most chances are converted, we'd have lost something like 3-1 or 5-2.

Jarkko said:

BoroPhil -

I agree that Mogga did his job correctly against the form team of the division.

Actually I liked the match on TV, even saw Carltonp on the stands. Of course the penalty miss left us all dissappointed but still. A good advert on the Championship.

We must start to score goals. As like in the beginning of the season. It will come. Perhaps we won't win an automatic promotion, but still in the mix for play-offs.

Up the Boro!

Ian Gill said:

Midlands followers of football especially Baggies fans would recognise the Boro performance.

As Mogga started rebuilding at the Hawthorns his teams always received plaudits for their football. In the play off final they were undone by a Derby side who barely had a kick but the one they did have won the match 1-0.

They won promotion next season but had a torrid time in the top flight with plaudits from opposing mangers matched by thanks for the three points. Well, Gate excepted. Dont forget they were worse was than us and if it wasnt for our profligacy in front of goal (aka Alves) they would have been well adrift.

He was part of a rebuilding job (as he is here) but went to Celtic before it was completed. His Baggies side passed well but were porous at the back and toothless up front. They were a work in progress and if he had stayed I am sure they would have had the same success they have enjoyed.

Not all of our problems are at the back or upfront.

We lined up at Leicester a bit like Arsenal with Henry. Basically playing 4-6-0 and
hoping to flood forward. Scottie has done well but he is not Henry. He only has little legs and doesnt have the speed to terrorise from wide left.

The rest are not Vieira, Lundberg or Pires either.

With the players set out as they were we dont have the penetration to keep the opposition penned back. We dont have the pace, width or instinct to put them on the back foot.

Going the other way we dont play with someone to mind the shop. When the passing breaks down they are at our back four.

It will come but it will take time. The players we have are what they are. Dont expect Carayol to come back and turn our fortunes around. For starters he is coming back from injury, secondly he has come from a lower league and hasnt the consistency to do it week in week out.

Mogga is the man for the job but he will do it his way and we will give him the time he needs. He may frustrate some of us with his Mystic Mog tendencies but we will go up in the next season or so.

PS AV this my third attempt, they say they are received but dont appear. I have tried not to criticse Mogga so please let it through!

Ian Wood said:

Btw, did anyone else pick up on the commentaor's "YESSSS" when Leicester scored? V naughty

borojim said:

BoroPhil -

"Jukebox missing chances" - not this game - thought he did well when he came on, a bit late.

I thought Emnes was going to fail when he moved sideways before his run up - like sending a telegraph. Why Tommo instead of Bailey/Smallwood?

Hope we give Main a chance - if it fails so what. Hoping to see 2 wingers occasionally - Caryol, Reach. McEachran certainly flattered to deceive.

angry_pirate said:

Good summary of the match and point well made that the English game is now the property of Sky. However the first substitution was also pivotal to the outcome IMHO and I would agree with the above posters about the strange perseverance with Thomson and preference over Bailey and Smallwood.

**AV writes: I think Mogga believes Thomson is a better 'passer' than the others and when he made his changes he wanted a 'passer' rather than a battler on the pitch to maintain the shape, ball rotation and the gameplan going.

Redcar Red said:

BoroPhil -

I wish it was merely me being ludicrous but what I see from my seat each week it isn’t. Sure we have improved since the Strachan era and Mogga takes full credit for that but its like driving with the handbrake on. What is our style of play, what exactly are the strengths of our players and their abilities and are we maximising those attributes? I don’t think so.

Mogga had a fantastic time at Hibs and worked miracles, at WBA he is still adored, respected and was the Grand Architect of the foundations for the success they are now enjoying. At Celtic things didn’t go so well, although revered as a player tactically he didn’t convert the Parkhead faithful as a manager for very similar reasons some have disembarked from the Mogganaut already here on Teesside.

Taking Tommo as an example, from what I have been told he is a smashing bloke and a true professional. As a Boro player his unfortunate injury record allied to what are assumed to be big wages has not endeared him to the masses. His ability we started to see in this pre season and hoped for a “re-born” signing. Continual injuries and some unconvincing performances since hasn’t helped to restore confidence with the majority of the 16,000 or so at the Riverside. That’s not the lads fault but I question the management of his situation (and to a different extent some others).

Bails and Smallwood would be forgiven for an errant pass or over hit shot, they are also more match fit and match sharp (based upon recent game time), bringing on Tommo the other night was going to have one of two extreme reactions. He was either going to pull strings and make the whole team tick with a MOM performance or he was going to struggle to get up to the pace of the game through being ring rusty.

Leaving his performance aside my concern is that given those set of absolutes and the importance of that game and the undoubted ability of the Leicester side was it fair to Tommo to throw him in? I strongly don’t think so. That’s my opinion as an experienced and seasoned manager in my chosen field. It was a gamble and it bombed badly, was it predictable? I think it was 80% likely to crash and burn and only 20% possibility of success.

There was a pre game clamouring from posters on this site and others to see Bails restored to protective duties in front of the central pairing (who incidentally along with Steele were excellent). Speaking for myself I had hoped but didn’t believe Mogga would actually restore Bails as it would almost be an admission of some sort.

Moving on to the attack I don’t believe we are seeing the best of the Juke (who is now getting the early signs of disdain from the Chicken Runners) in part due to his ability to control a ball first time but in my opinion more so because he is not being played to his strengths.

As a consequence we are seeing a player who is not a natural wideman but doing his best and as a striker not getting enough attempts on target (due to him being out wide rather than in the box). Now the Juke’s strike rate per games played is not bad but his total for the season for a team pushing for promotion is not great (in fairness injuries have plagued him) but the fans focus is on his lowly position in the Championship scoring charts. Opportunities for him to shoot are few and far between out wide and so I can see this ending only one way.

Staying on the striker theme McDonald again is playing too deep and out wide collecting the ball to deliver but again there is never a striker in the box (our number of goal scorers this season gives credibility to this). The rights and wrongs of the situation with McDonald early season we are not party to but I am confident that had he been played before October we would have had a few more goals and a few more points. Could it have been resolved sooner? I don’t know but it would have been desirable in my humble opinion.

This all brings me back to the bit of Mogga which I feel is a bit bloodyminded, Mourinho, Cloughie and Fergie all fall into the same category so I’m not having a pop at him just for that trait. What I am seeing is some strange compulsive desire to instil in our players that from game to game we completely reinvent our strategy, tactics and DNA. What message is that giving to the squad in terms of their self belief?

Contrast with over a year ago, when we were a goal down we believed it was only a matter of time before Boro would pull one back and the fans were 100% on side with the players almost sucking the ball in. There was total unity and belief on the pitch and in the stands, now there is from my perspective a degree of organised disjointed and uncomfortable forced looking tactics which nearly work but just somehow falls short and doesn’t get the fans on board, the tension is transmitting to the players instead of solid belief and unbridled confidence.

In the face of that backdrop individual players shouldn’t be subjected to being thrown in to that scenario (citing Emnes and his body language pre penalty, score and phew, miss and the pressure cooker effect is intensified). Its not good for the players themselves, its not good for the team and its not good for the supporters.

I don’t want anyone other than SG and Mogga at the helm of our club. I believe them to have the same interest and desires for the club as I do along with the dias Boro, just that we may disagree about how those goals and ideals are achieved.

If we were 20 points clear at the top with a plus thirty goal difference then I am sure I could forgive Mogga the odd eccentric line up or selection teaser with a shrug of the shoulders and a wry smile for his self indulgence. As Mogga would say we are where we are and it is what it is but I believe that it could be a whole lot more even with the limitations of the individuals we have at our disposal.

Tactically I think we should be focussed more upon what we have and what we can do rather than what are the opposition going to do to us. If we were playing Manchelskiarsepool City then fine but with all due respect to the Championship any one can beat anyone and if we play to our strengths rather than theirs (without going gung ho) then I believe we would see more belief, confidence and goals in the for column.

Mogga gets more right than wrong, our league position is testimony to that but he does get some things nearly right but not quite on a few occasions and it has happened before in his career as ludicrous as that may sound.

Andy R said:

Between either penalty areas we are arguably the best side in the division. Unfortunately there are no points for that and as such we are an inefficient team, playing some good stuff most weeks but ultimately only creating as many genuine goal scoring opportunities as the the next team. Sometimes we take them and win, others we don't and lose.

We are 5th on a limited budget with mostly average players. That is a good achievement but Mogga's team have progressed further in style than with substance at this point.

To my mind there are a couple of ways to improve on substance and efficiency. The first is for consistent team selection but in order to do that you need players who are consistently available to play, as well as a manager inclined to name unchanged teams. We don't have either, though I am an advocate of TM's horses-for-courses approach on the whole.

The second is to bring in better, more consistent players but that requires money that we don't have.

As Mogga would say then, it is what it is.

A finish in the playoffs would be a solid and fitting achievement for this nearly team.

BoroPhil said:

NikeBoro -

"In contrast, despite all the illusion of pressure from Boro, I can remember only one significant save against us apart from the penalty.

"If we'd had one of those games when most chances are converted, we'd have lost something like 3-1 or 5-2."

Totally disagree. The only reason there wasn't any significant saves was because we either wasted chances or made the wrong decisions at crucial moments.

McDonald had, I think, five good chances and hit the target once. He should have scored in the first 10 minutes and then we have a different game. Performances like that are why he isn't a guaranteed starter up front. It's not good enough for our supposed best striker.

Jukebox had pretty much a 1-on-1 where he didn't test the keeper enough and could have even laid Emnes in.

Bikey's header off the line, which was pretty unlucky although you could argue we should have anticipated the rebound better.

Ledesma wasted a free kick from a fantastic position where we've seen him score before. I think he also missed another decent chance.

Williams was in 1-on-1 and fluffed it with his control.

And of course the penalty.

So yeah, if everyone had taken their chances, 10-5 to us?

**AV writes: After a defeat you generally get two schools of biased hypotheticals. One camp count ALL the chances the opposition have and say "we should have been battered five or six nil." The other look to all the Boro chances and say "if we had taken our chances we'd have won." It was ever thus. It is part of a delicate psychological balance. I don't mind either camp so long as it is consistent.

Plus of course, the picture depends on whether you count hitting the woodwork as on or off target (this really screws up our match stats depending on who does them). Clearly, while exciting, a shot that hits the bar has missed.

Ian Gill said:

Whatever the what ifs and biased hypotheticals the result stands at 1-0.

Fine margins are fine but if a pattern starts developing you can discount coincidence. Eventually playing 'well' and losing morphs in to playing not so well.

The Gate team came apart at the seams because it kept wasting points when in the lead and belief drained away.

JB 1986 said:

Whichever way you look at it, missed chances ultimately cost points and if you look at all the games we've lost this season there have been enough clear cut chances in all of them to ensure wins/draws. The lack of a prolific goal scorer could once again prove costly.

BoroPhil said:

Redcar Red -

I don't think Thomson had a great game on Friday, but if we had brought Bailey on instead, would McDonald have suddenly turned into a clinical striker? I don't think so. So I don't think it would have made a great deal of difference.

As AV touched on, I think the reason Mogga persists with Thomson is he retains the ball well. He's very similar to McEachran in that respect, he gets it, he passes it, he keeps us moving. Yes, he doesn't score goals or create assists but that isn't his role.

We all love Nicky Bailey for his combative spirit but the problem with him is he gives the ball away too much. He showed that when he last played in midfield at the Riverside. Mogga's teams are all about ball retention; last season we gave it away far too much, moves were breaking down all the time. This season it's been miles better, the only problem we have now is making mistakes in both boxes.

And the reason we are retaining the ball better is he has brought in players like Leadbitter and McEachran who don't give the ball away very often. I think Mogga sees Thomson as a similar type of player, and while I don't think he had a great game, we still played very well for the rest of the game with him in the midfield so he can't have been doing everything wrong.

As for this idea that we should concentrate on our own strengths and ignore the opposition, I've said this before but I think it's naive in the extreme. If we play the same tactics week in, week out, we'll become predictable and easy to play against. Are you actually saying we should ignore the opposition totally and not even attempt to identify where we could gain an advantage against them?

I hear it called worrying about the opposition, but what it actually is, is trying to exploit weaknesses, and I just can't see why people have a problem with this.

One of the papers (I think the Mirror) ran an interview with Fergie recently and he said before every match he identifies the weaknesses of the opposition and targets them. That's exactly what Mogga does. Sometimes he gets it wrong, fine.

But if he churned out the same team, same tactics every week, and we were totally predictable, he'd get slated and rightly so.

I actually look forward each week to see what our approach is going to be, I'm glad we have such a forward-thinking manager, and it's a shame some of our fans don't appreciate it. The only thing that is letting us and him down at the moment is individual performances and mistakes and without a £20m transfer budget there isn't a lot he can do about that.

nikeboro said:

BoroPhil -

'Totally disagree. The only reason there wasn't any significant saves was because we either wasted chances or made the wrong decisions at crucial moments.'

Actually I think we're largely agreeing - and probably Redcar Red too. We're all making the point that Boro don't take enough of their chances.

The difference between us is in how we're looking at what happens to goalscoring chances. I'm distinguishing between those chances that are at least lead to a shot on target, compared to a chance that ends up not even troubling the keeper. Boro usually hit the target no more than once or twice a game.

At Cardiff we had more chances than them but had only one moderately dangerous shot. Yesterday we matched Leicester for openings but converted that into only one shot on target from open play. As AV says, it's a moot point whether a shot that hits the woodwork is on target or whether it's missed. For my money, Leicester worked our keeper on many occasions, in contrast to our puny effort.

Regardless of how we measure it, it seems to me that all three of us are making the point that we lack players who can reliably put the ball in the net. Good MF play is pointless if, when an opportunity is created, there is nobody who can convert it.

lenmasterman said:

Another edition of Knee-Jerk Corner.

Only saw the game on TV, so can't make any definitive judgments. But we played well, should have had a point, and for substantial periods controlled the game against a team who have far greater resources and are widely expected to be in the Premiership next season, but who are only this one result ahead of us in the league.

Tactically Mogga got most things right, but you can only feel for the manager when individual mistakes undo the best laid plans. Not Mogga's fault when on four separate occasions we manufacture one- on-ones with the keeper through creative passing and movement , but the lads concerned could not finish.

Not Mogga's fault that we miss a penalty in the last minute. Nothing you can lay at the manager's door when your skipper tries a long range shot with the last kick of the match with the whole team amassed in their penalty area waiting for a cross.

As a manager sometimes all you can do is put your head in your hands, and wish you were working with lads with a bit more common sense, and a smidgin more ability. Mogga, I think, did all that could be reasonably expected. The team looked well organised, played fluid and fluent passing football, caught Leicester on the hop with our formation, should have had a point, and might have won in a canter had we taken half of our gilt-edged chances. We were beaten by an exceptional strike that wasn't even a half chance.

Of course there were disappointments. I am a big fan of Bailey and would like to see him in every starting line-up. Thomson and Emnes were both very poor and contributed little. I continue to believe that we haven't a decent defensive full-back on our books, since we lost McMahon. Contrary to unanimous opinion, I think Friend is hopeless defensively, leaving large gaps behind him when he goes forward. strolling back to his position in his own time, continually getting on the wrong side of his man, and with a penchant for dribbling or making risky passes around his own penalty area. Have seen him get the run-around by a catalogue of journeymen wingers, but have yet to see him put in a decent tackle.

So I'm no starry-eyed optimist, but this is a team which has exceeded the expectations of most of us this season, is currently playing pretty well, and has just completed a tricky run of fixtures with our hopes of automatic promotion still intact.

Always appreciate the views of Redcar Red, but disagree with him profoundly this time. I don't think even the most die hard Leicester fan would think their team were five goals better than us on the night.

BoroPhil said:

nikeboro -

Ok, I'm glad we are agreeing, but if it's the case that we aren't making the most of our opportunities, that's not Mogga's fault, or the tactics' fault or the team selection's fault, or Kevin Thomson's fault, it's the fault of individual players.

In that case I don't see why we have people complaining about tactics or Thomson or worrying about the opposition because it doesn't make any sense.

Redcar Red said:

Len -

I agree that even the most die hard Leicester fan would not think they were five goals better than us on the night but reality is that despite all our possession and pretty passing in midfield (which at times looked edgy) in the box where it counts we were saved by a lick of paint three times, plus they had two marginal offsides where the ball ended up in the net and most importantly they actually scored one.

Added to that Steele pulled off a couple of brilliant saves yet again (whom we have had to rely on in several games of late).

We worked Schmeichel with Scotty's tame effort, Bikey's scrambled header and Emnes's penalty. None of our efforts, had me out of my seat apart from the penalty. Contrast that with their attempts which had me holding my breath and deep sighing with relief. I watched the entire game with angst and uncomfortable throughout never convinced we were in the ascendancy.

There were not five goals between the sides overall but where it counts in and around the penalty box there potentially was. Unfortunately nobody gets points for artistic impression in this league which our passing at times perhaps merited. We will not win games with players who do not have a winning mentality or tactics that preclude us from playing with conventional strikers.

Tommo and Emnes should have been kept under wraps for Aldershot where they could perhaps have found their Mojo, Bails or Smallwood should have been brought on for Hoyte (who shouldn't have been anywhere near starting the game and perhaps McEachran falls into that Category as well injury wise) and we needed Reach to try and unlock with his pace and drive and shooting intentions with Scotty up front where he has proven he can sniff opportunities in and around the box.

With just a bit more positivity and belief and shrewder use of the bench we could have won that game. Throw in the Birmingham and Cardiff games and the table would look a whole lot different.

I don't believe that Cardiff, Hull or Leicester are that much if indeed any better than us individually but I do believe they have a formula which they stick to and believe in and that's the difference that will decide who goes up and who sticks. Would Vydra or Woods be as prolific with Boro stuck out on the flanks?

Forever Dormo said:

Len at 10.01pm -

"I don't think even the most die hard Leicester fan would think their team were five goals better than us on the night".

You know, the remarkable thing about football is that people can have remarkably different opinions, having watched the same match.

As an example, I was at the pub with a mate a few weeks ago and, after the match we had been watching on Sky, conversation turned to football topics generally. We talked about former players etc. One chap stunned the pub (admittedly there were probably only about 10 of us still in the pub at the time...) when he came out with the view that "George Best wasn't really a good player at all" and that he's struggle to play in the current game.

He really meant it. There was a deafening silence as everyone else in the pub looked into their beer, got up to go to the lavatory or managed to find a way of avoiding making eye contact with him.

So I guess there would have been quite a few Leicester fans who would have ventured the opinion their team was five goals better than us on the night. I don't necessarily agree with them, but I can hear the arguments: "We hit the woodwork four times, scored one, put the ball in the net to see it ruled offside, and Steele played quite well and make some saves...whilst Schmeichel only had one save to make apart from the penalty..."

I think we played quite well in the middle of the field, without looking anything like sharp enough in their penalty area. Football teams aren't given points for artistic impression or for their performance generally. Although points victories happen in boxing, in football it is the number of knockdowns (goals) that count.

If we put their team down twice and their team, despite all the fancy-dannery, doesn't put us down, we win the game 2-0. The Opta stats may show they passed the ball 297 times, 165 times in attacking areas, and that we had seven shots, but the only stats that count are how many we scored and how many we conceded.

I'd love us to play good football. But I'd also like to see us win games.

Despite their uncharacteristic surrender of a point in injury time on Sunday, when Manchester United seem to be under the cosh and not playing well they generally still scrape through with a win. Of course that is when they are playing not so well - when they are really on song they tend to stuff the English opposition. They will lose the odd game, but only the odd game. There will be precious few games a season in which they are on top most of the game and THEN lose.

Now, obviously, I am not making a direct comparison between Boro and Man United. They are literally in different leagues. But if we are seeking automatic promotion from the Championship we need to be in the top two, just as Man United are perennially in the top two of the Premier League.

We can't dream (at present) of being as good as Man United. However we are not playing (as they are) against Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, Spurs, Swansea etc. If we are seeking automatic promotion we must try to be as good in our league as Man United are in theirs. The problem is that, whilst losing every now and then will happen to most teams despite "being on top", if it keeps on happening then that is not just a coincidence but is something that must be sorted out.

Football - a game of opinions. Mind you, there will be very few who'd think the sacking of the Southampton manager last week made any sense. I am, of course prepared to eat my words if Southampton qualify for the Champions League this year or next.

Redcar Red said:

BoroPhil -

I'm not suggesting that we do not pay any attention to the opposition that would be ridiculous in the extreme. What I am saying is that it should not be the sole overriding dominant feature and it is looking to me like it is. Consequently in my opinion it is having a negative effect on the pitch and frustration on the terraces.

Missed opportunities or poor individuals are certainly not Mogga's fault but as Manager it is his responsibility and I'm certain he would agree with that.

As nikeboro suggests we are not so far apart in our views. We have some very good players for the Championship but are not getting the best out of them and I believe our tactics do not play to their strengths on too many occasions which ironically is something that Strachan himself pointed out this week as one of his errors when at Boro.

Historically when Gareth was struggling it was pointed out on here regularly before our demise from the Premiership, "Rabbits in Headlamps", the home game against Blackburn where he played six or seven centre backs (I'm probably exaggerating the number a bit) to supposedly cope with Blackburn's physical threat. Likewise Stricken/Trashcan were coined on here prior to GSII taking us to 3rd bottom.

Maybe our complaining, emotions and analysis of tactics doesn't make any sense but historically they have been chillingly accurate way before the event.

timfromsa said:

This result would have sat a little better if prior results had gone our way. But its the normal thing we need to win 8-0 away to Cardiff to get into the last play off place. We only got six - not good enough.

Most of us have been around the Boro for years this is how it is. I was more down after Watford knowing it was the Foxes away next and now really needed something in a game a draw would have been good.

Anyway once again the pack are waiting for us bar Cardiff so lets see. We did well against a team scoring for fun and nearly got a draw out of it.

John Dobson said:

How to telegraph a penalty in one easy lesson.

Mogga, ban him from ever trying to take one again. I know we were trying to scramble a point from a close game with both teams playing well in patches. But just replay that penalty and you willl see that Marvin could not have been clearer with his intentions, if he had shouted in the keepers ear. What is wrong with these pros.

They are pretty well clueless. He still had time to slot it down the keepers right hand side after the keeper had moved left.

Pedro de Espana said:

AV, your script as always is excellent, and has certainly produced some very good and varied respones. This is what makes this blog so readable.

However as with some I agree in part and others disagree in part.

Your claim that Williams looked a "natural" at right back, is one I cannot agree with, not on his showing in this match. For me he does not have enough pace to be a RB, and since coming straight back from injury with no reserve games to speak of, is a couple of yards off the pace. Also his formation in the team was erratic.

As I have said before, in my opinion the constant changes in defence do not help, allied with very little cutting edge up front always leaves us vunerable, as has been proven these last number of games.

I did not think Leicester were that much better than the Boro, but however they always looked more likely to score.

Thomson would never be in my team, I think others offer more, especially from having additional pace, which we do not have in abundance.

But for me this has been one of the best threads for awhile, certainly racking up the debate level.

lenmasterman said:

I'm strongly of the BoroPhil persuasion in this debate.

If we miss a penalty and McDonald, Ledesma, Williams and Friend all join Emnes in missing chances when it looked easier to score then I'm not sure that the manager can be held responsible, unless you argue that these players should not be on the pitch in the first place, and that there are other five other players on the books who would have been guaranteed to put the ball away.

Of course Mogga is entirely to blame for not having signed a centre forward who would score us 20 goals a season, and a midfielder who would weigh in with 10.

Be more positive? It's hard to imagine that we could have done more to take the game to Leicester. Indeed the anxiety that Redcar Red and the rest of us felt whenever Leicester did manage to attack was precisely because we had so many men going forward that there was always a danger that we would get caught short at the back.

Tactics? They worked very well. We weren't just pretty in midfield ,but created plenty of openings. Scotty may have played wide, but he had plenty of chances to score and he created a wonderful chance for Williams. The idea that we would have been better served by putting little McDonald, the Juke or anybody directly up against Wes Morgan I find unconvincing. Playing around the big man actually worked for us.

Get a formula and stick to it? That sounds like a call to play with monotonous predictability, to be easy pickings for most Championship teams, and to kiss goodbye to our chances of a play off place.

I go back to the days of Raich Carter, a great footballer, who, as Boro manager, did not believe in tactics, coaching or any of that kind of nonsense. His team possessed at least one great player, Ian Gibson, and many others bought for fancy fees, mainly (shades of Strachan) from Scotland. Get good players, put them in their right positions and let them play. That was Raich's formula and he stuck to it.

As a result Raich produced, at no little expense, the worst Boro side within living memory, and took us down to the old Third Division for the first time in our history. That is one of the many reasons why I really appreciate the current manager. I do not necessarily agree with everything that Mogga does , but I do appreciate the thoughtfulness and tactical astuteness with which he approaches every game, and the organisation and discipline he has instilled in the squad.

And incidentally there are plenty of Championship teams who have stronger squads on paper than we do. That was the basis on which most of us predicted that we would finish about 8th or 9th in this division before a ball was kicked.

Take the three promoted teams , Cardiff, Birmingham, Forest and Leicester for starters. To be where we are is a major achievement, the team is playing well, and I suggest that we should get behind the project and give Mogga and the lads the credit they have worked very hard to deserve.

Percypieblocks said:

I don't understand the comments regarding playing the same system and the same players, will play into the hands of the opposition. How many sides over the years have won the title using only 14-15 players in a season?

Don't give me any rubbish about playing too many games, the likes of Liverpool used to play 60 odd games a season no problems, again playing a small squad of players.

The likes of Cloughie generally picked his 11 best players and if he changed his tactics for whatever reason, it was the tactics that changed and not the players.
We need the best 11 picked (injuries permitting) week in week out, a centre forward playing central and I'm sure we will see far more positive results than we are seeing now.

Masham Wiggy said:

Well said Boro Phil and Len.

It amazes me that this debate seems to centre round Mogga's selections and his tactics when the fact remains that if any of our players could hit the target 20% more often we'd be well clear in 2nd place.

**AV writes: "Fine margins..."

spartakboro said:

Looks like my original effort went zooming off into the stands of the internet void and missed its target of ending up between the sticks that was the Untypical Blog.

Regardless, my thoughts on the Boro are now tempered with time and thus hopefully a little reason. Still, the pattern is set, loss after loss, mistakes made and goal difference so stark in its indicative state that even a blind donkey with dyslexia can read that we will soon be shafted in terms of not getting auto promo.

I have to say (and I'll eat my words if I'm wrong) that the Ra Ra posse are annoying in their blind (there's that word again) faith in the most positive of outcomes for the season. When will people sit up and acknowledge that the tinkering and lack of quality investment (maybe the same for most of the division, mind) will result in the same situation as last season?

My one big regret is that Woody is more often out than in because I believe his quality and experience alone would guarantee a promotion by giving more confidence to the rest of the team.


Grove Hill wallah said:

Les Miseraboro -

Prisoner 24601, known as Guy Mowbray, is released from servitude in Scotland after serving a two year sentence and breaks parole to create a new life for himself in Middlesbrough. Set post-revolutionary Teesside, the story reaches resolution against the background of the May Play Offs

Based on the novel by Anthony Vickers, 'Les Miseraboro charts the progress of Guy Mowbray as he runs from the ruthless fans on a journey beyond the Terraces,

Soon the sins of his previous tactics and squad rotation come back to haunt him, after rejecting a motley crew of mercenary jocks, his new revolutionary army of idealistic students start to waver in the face of bourgeois opponents.

These superior forces start to expose their shortcomings. At this point he must galvanize support for his revolution, but trying to generate backing proves difficult. He then turns to the Comte De Gibson for help. Armed with a new financial and vociferous backing, he embarks on a journey to storm the terraces of Le Championat,

The Populous are swept up in this majestic journey of a sweeping Tika Taka philosophy that becomes an unstoppable mogganaut which finds itself entrenched outside the battlements of Castle Wembley.

The scene is set for one last battle, one last magnificent victory, that will go down in the annals of Teessside folklore, that will have grandfathers telling their grand children, YES! I was there when the downtrodden fans of Middlesbrough FC were finally victorious on the hallowed turf in Londres!

Vive La Revolution!

**AV writes: Indeed... Vive La Revolution! But for God's sake, don't ask me to sing.

Ian Gill said:

Emnes penalty? I dont remember any criticism when he knocked the one in against Wolves. Even Hicktonite occasionally didnt reach critical mass.

I am going to confound BoroPhil and Len Mastermind. I think the approach of the team has been more positive at home since the Derby match. Well, putting aside Mystics Mogs bizarre Bristol City cunning plan.

Here is another bizarre thought. If Macdonald plays as a striker - you know what I mean, in the middle so his little legs get him within shooting distance - than he may get the mythical 20 league goals. Ten from 19 games of which only 15 were starts.

The 10 from a midfield player looks a bit unlikely.

Consistent line ups? Does that mean where players can develop understandings and partnerships. Most good teams have a spine but that requires players to be fit.

Now there is a quandry. Mogga with a fully fit squad. The choices available, the permutations that would become possible. I must launch a Mystic Mog website.

BoroPhil said:

Right, so if McDonald plays on the wing and gets 5 chances against Leicester, he misses them all and hits the target once. But if we play him as a centre forward, he'll suddenly start banging them all in?

I don't understand.

John said:

Anthony you write in your article largely we contained them...... Is Gibbo paying you to write these deluded positive words? Leicester hit the woodwork gods knows how many times, scored a goal, had a perfectly good goal chalked off for offside and made Steele make a good few of his usual save the score line from being embarrassing saves. You are definatley a glass is half full man aren't you?

**AV writes: Is Gibbo paying Pearson too? After the game Big Nige explain in depth and with a lot of respect how Boro's shape - without a striker and with two wide men - had penned in their main attacking outlet, the full-backs. He said Boro had stifled them and that he had been forced for one of the few times this season to change his own shape to a 433 to try and throw off the shackles.

Yes, Leicester, we are a very good team and had some good chances (although if you hit the woodwork you have missed the target) but so did Boro. Not least a penalty. Once again Mogga got it "right" tactically but was left frustrarted and empty handed because players failed to take chances.

And yes, generally I am a glass "half-full person". I see no reason to be particularly jittery because a few results go against the team. I don't get depressed by a defeat or two. That way lies madness. We are not Barcelona. We can't expect to win every game. This is the Championship. We have Championship players with all the faults, flaws and inconsistencies that implies.

At the start of the season I set my bar and am honest enough to judge progress against that, not some shifting standard based on an emotional reaction to a subjective snapshot of the table at any given time.

Back in August I expected a better balanced Boro to be challenging to go at least one place better than last term and make the play-offs playing better football than last season. Right now they are on schedule, trying to play a positive, passing gamel and are in touch with the automatic spots. I'm happy enough for now,

Forever Dormo said:

But, despite it all and deep down in our hearts, we still love the Boro.

We might reserve the right to get annoyed from time to time, and to say "Typical Boro" every now and then. The odd moan is par for the course. But we still love the Boro, and hope the team does well.

The dream is not dead. It's just had a bit of a cold, a sniffle and a sneeze or two. But at the weekend the journey starts again and many of us who contribute to this Blog will be fully behind the team, Even against the mighty Aldershot (ticket activated today).

Carltonp said:

Interesting how differently people see things, especially the different views from the terraces and the television audience.

On our coach everyone I heard from bar Rob Nichols felt we had played rather poorly, especially up front and on the defensive flanks (and, sorry, Rhys, sorry Gorgeous George, you were both skinned time and time again!). The TV audience seems to have been much better pleased. Was it something they put in the free Pukka pies or pints?

One skill Leicester managed far better than us (and better than we have done for years) was taking corners. Quick, accurate and sometimes whippily swinging in on the six-yard box, at other times inswinging nastily into far post positions, but almost always causing us to scramble and flap.

We need to train someone to do the same with our corner-taking; furthermore, our passing in the final third remains poor, our strikers' movements or lack of movement are predictable in equal measure and, above all, the shooting remains woeful! All these are things we need to work very hard to improve, especially if we cannot bring in a proper goal scorer. We lose possession too often from throw-ins as well.

Set against all these deficiencies, Mogga's comments could seem complacent, although he is very much the man for the job, and I know he cares deeply about the club, never stops thinking about how to go about our challenges and is far from complacent in reality.

Someone said of his team, though, on Friday night that they looked rather as if they were surprised to be playing, and this observation drew a fair measure of agreement from Coach One.

Never-give-up, you won't ever give up on Boro, but your frustration is very understandable, especially on such a cold night.

A propos of that cold night, I might just add that the good folk of Leicester were very warm in their welcome for the Boro fans.

Incidentally, do bloggers know that the Leicester club shop offers for sale a selection of ladies' knickers with "Foxy Lady" printed on the front? Thought you might like to!

Let's hope Aldershot do not embarrass us on Saturday.

**AV writes: Interesting observation of the difference between live and TV viewing. In theory you should be MORE critical when watching on the box because you get more angles and replays so any flaws should be obvious and magnified. On the other hand you are insulated from the collective herd instinct so won't feel the irrational waves of anxiety that surge around a crowd inside a ground.

Ian Gill said:

len -

First of all a quick apology. I hadn't realised I had called you Mastermind until I reread my post. Oops.

BoroPhil -

I can't see the problem with saying that if Scottie plays in the middle and around the box he will score goals. Most of his shots were from Ronaldo distance and if he isn't Henry he certainly isn't Ronaldo.

Most good strikers score one in four at best. Some years ago stats were released that showed Henry was scoring one in four, Shearer was way ahead at one in three but was getting loads of penalties.

I think we would take Lambert on loan and look at the chances he didn't take last night.

Currently Scottie is scoring a goal in every 143 minutes. If we keep challenging and get over our current blip (I think we will) then it isn't beyond the bounds of probability he will get up around the twenty mark.

lenmasterman said:

AV at 11.11pm, Jan 21st.:

Bravo. Couldn't have put it better myself. As, indeed, I didn't.

timfromsa said:

Its a pity people get on Emnes back for the penalty miss. Lets imagine Rooney was in our team and he grabbed the ball to take the spot kick having missed four already this season. Even the best miss penalties.

Ian Gill said:

My glass is half full, just want it topping up a bit.

We are ahead of where I expected us to be. I thought the changes would have knocked us back but would finish the season well to just miss out but go up next season.

It is unfortunate that we choose post festive season to have a slump, hopefully of the mini variety. It reinforces typical Boro sentiments.

Here is a wicked thought, as we have more players coming back we start losing matches. Only joking, keep your Mogga wigs on.

lenmasterman said:

Get Barry Robson signed up again, Mogga, before any of our promotion rivals do.

Put him straight into the team, send him on an anger management course,fine him heavily for every yellow or red card, impose a Trappist vow of silence during matches, and watch us fly into an automatic promotion spot. At the very least we would have someone capable of scoring regularly from penalties and free-kicks. It's the 10 goal a season mid-fielder we thought was a fantasy figure.

Won't happen,of course, but I suspect a majority of fans would support it.

**AV writes: Boro didn't activate their one year option on his contract so we can presume Mogga was not that fussed. His positional discipline, eagerness to berate and card collecting activities undermine shape and morale. He has a three game ban outstanding. He would wind snarling Scotty up again just when he has relaxed. I'm not sure he would either fit the new slick passing and retention philosophy. I'm not sure we even need midfielders, let alone a slow 34 year one who wanted out. Apart from that, yeah why not.

What is it with Boro fans and the obsessive need to sign up players who have been and gone. Is it a comfort blanket? A lack of imagination? It would be a massive backward step just when we are making progress. Discuss.

Redcar Red said:

AV said:

"What is it with Boro fans and the obsessive need to sign up players who have been and gone. Is it a comfort blanket?"

I think its a deep down yearning for another Merse or TLF. Someone who will excite and lift us, nostalgia ain't what it used to be!

timfromsa -

A few things on Rooney over Emnes. Rooney constantly delivers penalties aside and rarely looks indifferent in his attitude (I am fully aware that it is probably more Emnes's general demeanour rather than his genuine state of mind but his laissez faire appearance doesn't help his cause).

If I was a Manure fan there is absolutely no way I would want Rooney taking penalties as quite simply he is garbage with them. Whether its the pressure he can't handle when the ground goes silent and all eyes are on him I don't know but his composure with them is poor and it will be interesting to see what happens next time Fergie instructs the officials to award a penalty and who takes it.

My guess is that if they are 3-0 up it will be Rooney but if its a tight game I would reckon on Giggs or someone else being given the task.

BoroPhil said:

From what I remember, McDonald had a chance after about 8mins from inside the box when he should have at least hit the target. I think he had another one from inside the box that he skewed horribly wrong, and finally a chance when one-on-one before he got subbed that he got horribly wrong.

The chances from outside the box I'd expect him to at least hit the target, and they weren't from impossible distances.

You could actually argue that he will get more chances coming in from the wing and playing between the defenders and midfield than playing as a centre forward and having someone like Morgan sticking tight to him.

Oh and I love that being 'a glass half full man' is seen as an insult!

gt said:

AV is absolutely spot on with Barry Robson. A very selfish player who was even worse at Vancouver regarding fitting in. Vancouver have even took the hit on his salary against their cap because they realised everything about him is negative,

Ian Gill said:

Barry Robson is history, thanks for the contribution but we have moved on.

I wouldnt have expected Mogga to have kept him as he moved Robbo on when he succesfully turned Rangers championship hopes around. We could do with his goals from midfield and deadball expertise but he is past his sell by date.

Leadbitter must start scoring soon, once he does he will get on a roll. At least he is doing well on the card count

Forever Dormo said:

AV at 12.16pm cheekily tosses a pin-less hand grenade into the Blog, then retires to observe from a safe distance....

Incidentally I loved the reference in one of AV's tweets earlier today to an article in a Vancouver newspaper : "The angry little redhead with the world-class left foot". Well, perhaps not really world-class in a Messi sort of way, not even in a John Collins sort of way, but then that is "football inflation" for you.

Nikeboro said:

Forever Dormo at 12.55 -

'One chap stunned the pub ...when he came out with the view that "George Best wasn't really a good player at all"'

Yeh, but he was ratted. The chap in the pub that is. Although Best was probably hammered too.

Nikeboro said:

Ian Gill at 2.47 -

'I wouldnt have expected Mogga to have kept him as he moved Robbo on when he succesfully turned Rangers championship hopes around.'

The trouble is, Mogga managed Celtic. Or did you mean he was so bad there that he turned Rangers into Championship prospects?

Never give up on Boro said:

Have Barry Robson back at the club and destroy the rest of our season completely.

All he did was shout and argue with every one of his team mates especially McDonald and Hoyte. Hoyte's improved form this season I believe only came about with his departure!

All he was was a disruptive influence,too many yellow and red cards,which led to too many banned games and charged aimlessly around the pitch in a foul temper like a headless chicken.

No thanks!!!

David said:

Hi all, Leicester fan here. Here is my take on the game:

You reminded me of us from last season a lot of huff and puff in midfield with so little chances created.

Sven had the same idea pack the midfield with no width and lots of passing,it was nice on the eye but then soon as we got in the final third no end product...teams became aware of this and played a counter attacking game against us.

In the end the fans started getting frustrated...and as a result Sven was sacked as results were not good enough.

I am not sure a new striker is going to help. I think you need to re-address your tactics or teams will play you exactly the same as we did.

**AV writes: Welcome aboard... you do realise you have stirred up a right hornets' nest now don't you?

Ian Gill said:

Borophil -

I admire your Mogganacity.

Scottie ten league goals:

Watford - twelve yards middle of box.
Bolton - 6 yard box tuck in plus near post header
Charlton - central run and finish.
Huddersfield - six yard box plus centre of box.
Brum - six yard box.
Wolves - inside right in box
Blackpool - central run and finish outside box
Watford six yard box header.

Weaving runs from wing - nil, zilch, zero, nowt and fat chance.

Somebody said we needed a 20 goal striker and all I said was that if he played centrally and around the box he could score 20 goals.

Take off your Mogga mask and say after me - fox in the box.

Ian Gill said:

Great result for Bradford, lets hope Swansea get to Wembley as well.

Smogonthetyne said:

I spend most of my life confused, and the Boro offer no respite.

To try and keep things simple for me I try to remember that football is a game. The game last 90 minutes, and the team that has scored the most goals at the end is the winner.

So what is the key? Playing the 90 minutes? Keeping a clean sheet? Or scoring goals?

What is the objective of this current Boro team. Of course it is to win games, but how do we try and achieve this?

For me it's pointless looking good for a spell, keeping the ball and having the odd chance. It's not effective enough. We can all see what is short in the team at the moment, pace, width and the rarest commodity a goal scorer.

If for whatever reason MFC cannot aquire the squad to allow the manager to play to his preferred utopian style, we will always fall short where bigger and more effective sides will win out.

What to do?

Forever Dormo said:

Well done, Bradford City in getting to the League Cup Final. It will give them some money, and some good publicity, and no-one can say they have had an easy ride as they have beaten three Premier League Clubs to get there.

And as to the second semi-final, there is a reasonable chance after their 2-0 win at Chelsea, that Swansea can qualify for the final, too. Bradford v Swansea would be good for football.

There is no point to the game if everything is predictable before the season begins. If we can name the top four in the Premier League in August, if we know the domestic cups are going to be won by a handful of teams (chief of which will, not by coincidence, also be the top four), if we have a fair idea which teams are going to be struggling at the foot of the table....

There are so many cliches it would be remiss not to polish a couple and bring them out into the daylight! Good to see that money can't always buy success. Good to see that even minnows can dream and sometimes those dreams come true. Good to see that the magic of the cup still exists.

The paupers beat not one, but three sets of Premier League Royalty in the same cup run, and will now face a fourth in the final. Well done to them. I hope they enjoy their day at the new Wembley (Boro haven't been there yet...). And they can dream one more really BIG dream, and when the Final comes, only the supporters of one other team, out of all those who entered, can say that.

Our final win against Bolton at Cardiff was one of the days I will never forget. It's good that these things can be shared around. For once, we can put aside some of the worst attributes of professional football: like the arrogance of some of the big clubs, the obscene amount of money sloshing around in the game, agents playing the system and players being so frequently "misquoted" abroad, the berating of officials for failing to make the decisions this manager or that manager thinks they should have made, the rearrangement of fixtures with little regard to the supporters etc.

Almost makes you feel good about football again. I wish it was us!

BoroPhil said:

Honestly don't understand your post Ian. McDonald had three good chances in the box or as a one-on-one on Friday and missed them all.

Yes, he scores goals, but he misses a lot more than he scores. Playing him as a centre forward didn't work too well before this season did it?

BoroPhil said:

Yes, we created ZERO chances on Friday!! ZERO

McDonald x5
R Williams
Ledesma x2

Yes, we had no end product but to suggest we created 'so little chances' is just ludicrous. And to compare Mogga to Sven is even more so.

Ian Gill said:

BoroPhil -

One last time.

This is the most important part. Someone posted we needed a twenty goal striker.

I made the comment that Scottie could get twenty goals, he has ten from 19 games of which only 15 are starts. To do that he would have to play in the middle because he isnt an Henry or Ronaldo.

If he plays on the left or right of a midfield five for the team needs he wont get that number of goals. He doesn't score the type of goal that comes from a wide player, he is a fox in the box.

So he had three chances and didn't take any. So did Defoe against ManU. He isnt the most prolific of strikers but has the odd good season and it appears he is in one of those.

I didn't post he is the worlds best striker, I didn't post he could play in goal and score twenty goals. To repeat. I posted he could get twenty goals in response to a previous post about needing a goalscorer to score twenty odd goals.

End of story.

Bob said:

Ian's got a good point re McDonald, and it's not just this season.

He's scored 36 goals in 108 appearances for Boro...that's exactly 1 in 3. He's got 10 goals so far this year. We've got 18 league games left (so six goals?) and at least 1 (surely at least 2?) cup games left, so he could sneak another. That would be 17, so he'll probably fall just a bit short of the magic 20...but as AV has pointed out there are not many that reach that mark.

Of course, injuries could disrupt him, he may not get to play all 19-20 games. And of course Mowbray could go off him like he did at the start of the season when he decided not to play him, even though he'd played and scored freely in preseason.

Amazingly enough, he may well miss some chances in his remaining games as well, maybe even four or five in a single game. I'll take those misses if he can keep up his very respectable average.

Steve said:

Interesting that we have invited Robson to train with us.

Ok from what i can gather Mowbray has done this before and i guess if i was Robson then were better to train than Boro's fantastic training ground.

That said...he was Boro's player of the season and his record of goals per games is better than some of the centre forwards have (roughly one in four from midfield). Ok his 'negatives' are his whining and of course disciplinary record (he has to serve a three match ban when he does sign for someone)

Yet as he would join on a free and I guess on massively reduced wages, would he be worth a punt?? Unless he really disrupts things then why not? I can count many times in games were he was Boro's stand out player last season. Also he has shown he has the ability to win matches single handedly.

Do not get me wrong I am not saying I want him back but it would not be the end of
the world?. I would rather we got a decent centre forward but hey.

I can safely say this is the first transfer window where i have pretty much heard no players even linked with Boro.

You heard of any AV??? Even crazy or hear say??

**AV writes: He is only training with Boro whil ehe looks for a club. It has been close season in the MLS so he is well short of fitness. I don't expect it to lead to a signing - we have had Aliadiere and Mido training with us in recent years, Mogga is nice like that - unless Leadbitter gets seriously crocked. Even then there is the ban to consider. And the wages. My money is on a return to the SPL. Or a coaching role in Strachan's new Scotland set-up.

Grove Hill wallah said:

"What is it with Boro fans and the obsessive need to sign up players who have been and gone. Is it a comfort blanket? A lack of imagination? It would be a massive backward step just when we are making progress. Discuss"

James Morrison
Lee Cattermole
Stewart Downing
Adam Johnson
Danny Graham
Ross Turnbull
David Wheater
Tony McMahon
Luke Young
Joe Bennett

Could be the makings of a half decent team there.

lenmasterman said:

Yes, AV, you are probably right about Robson. No positional discipline, undermines the team's shape, gets lots of cards.

I was side-tracked into thinking that peripheral issues like scoring goals, being creative, exuding class and confidence on the ball, being totally committed to winning, and being Boro's Player of the Year only half a season ago might sway it. But you're right . The really imaginative solution is to do nothing.

On goals by the way, Barry scored as many in the league last season in 39 games as Zemamma (who always keeps shape), Haroun, Leadbitter , Smallwood and Ledesma combined- combined- have managed so far this season. Currently, lest anyone forget, we can't even put the ball in the net from penalties. Barry's efforts in this department should not be too easily dismissed ( didn't he put two away in one game?), and we certainly haven't anyone to match his skill with a dead ball. And his goals against Hull and Sunderland last season were literally unforgettable.

Here's a hypothetical: would you personally have a shot at man- managing the Scot for a generous fee? To pick a random number out of the Sky, say for £60 million minimum? I think you might just be prepared to give it a go. I know that I would. Me and Martin Narey would sort it out in no time.

Robson is no safety blanket. On the contrary he is a faultily wired electric blanket who could set fire to your entire home. But the prize for a successful bit of rewiring is scarcely calculable.

There are major risks in not giving Robson a chance. I, for one,,would not wish to be in Mogga's shoes if Robson is picked up for nothing by Leicester, Cardiff, Forest, Hull or any of our other rivals, and is then instrumental in their being promoted at our expense. It would be seen, correctly, as a monumental, career- changing gaffe. It would certainly be a failure of imagination.

It may be necessary for Steve Gibson to do what he had to do when McClaren did not fancy the return of The Little Fellah, and persuade his manager (of whom I am a great supporter) to overcome his prejudices, and seize this unexpected opportunity to get what we have been crying out for: a creative goalscoring midfielder, and a wonderful dead ball specialist whose commitment to the cause cannot be doubted. For nothing. It fits our budget perfectly.

Smoggy In Exile said:

Another wandering sheep returns to the flock by the Rivers side. This one with a rare red-tinted wool...

In reference to Grove Hill Wallah's list of ex-players, although it's en vogue and part of the Boro DNA to moan about youth-team products who have been and gone - I would bite your hand off if you offered me Morrison, Cattermole, Downing, Johnson, Graham or Wheater on loan.

Can you imagine Wheater alongside Woody, or Bikey? In a leaugue of cloggers there wouldn't be a single centre-forward who would dare get within five yards of them. That is, of course, if they've made it through Clattermole with both legs intact. Pass it from the back to Morrison who threads classy balls along the wings to Downing and Johnson, who either cut inside and drill one in the top corner, or plonk it on the head of Graham, back of the net, job done.

I reckon any of the top five in that list would walk into our team, no problem.

On the subject of transfers, I heard wild unsubstantiated talk of Danny Graham on loan (as well as the Downing loan nonsense#. I understand that Swansea are desperately trying to sign Kenwyne Jones #why???), which would surely drop Graham down the pecking order perhaps enough to make him available? I would definitely have him back here - his scoring record at this level is very good.

As for the rest of that top five they're probably too important to their current Premier League clubs to be spared. What might have been ey?

Pedro de Espana said:

Sorry BoroPhil, but I am with Ian on the McDonald saga.

As Ian said he may not be the worlds best, but he certainly is the best forward we have got. And to get the best out of him, he needs to be playing in and around the box. Subject to injuries (and no fallouts with TM) he will get near to the 20 goals mark.

He is in someways his own worst enemy in that he is a tireless worker, and can adapt well to playing in other postions. You could argue that he may be the most versatile player we have??

Andy R said:

Reading won the league last year with Le Fondre as top scorer with 12. The previous year it was QPR with Taarabt scoring 19. Before that the skunks had Carroll and Nolan with 17.

Ebainks-Blake did manage 25 with 2009 champs Wolves, and Mogga's WBA won the league in 2008 with Phillips getting 22.

But previous to that in 2007 Sunderland won the league with a top scorer (Darryl Murphy) getting only seven goals!

That's as far back as I've looked but in four of the last six seasons the league champions have not had a 20 goal striker. On two occasions they weren't even close.

It doesn't matter where the goals come from - sometimes, as Reading and Sunderland showed, you don't even have to score many at all - just score more than the other lot.

We've done that in just over over half our games this season. Continue what we're doing and add a few points away from home and we'll do well. Maybe for away games it's time to revert to last year's predominantly counter-attacking tactics (with Bailey restored?). There's certainly little need for panic and recriminations though, surely?

PS Cardiff’s top scorer this season is Whittingham, with seven.

Forever Dormo said:

Time for the Tortured Toad and a pint of a Single Hop ale. I think this month it is a Kentish Single Hop. Should go down nicely as we watch Swansea v Chelsea League Cup semi-final...

When I get back I fully expect to see a flurry of posts from GHw and others, to take us up to 100. How that will amuse us all.

**AV writes: Oh, i sthe thread moving into what FIFA have officially disignated "GHw territory"? "He'll fancy his chances from here....."

On tonight's game... if Chelsea win there will be so much hate directed at them by romatic neutrals who want Bratfud to win the David'Goliath clash that it will reverse the polarity of the Earth's axis and usher in a new Dark Age. Possibly.

If Swansea win then a lot of people will have a soft spot for them, their style of football, ownership model and their own rags to riches fairytale and that may split the sentimental karma rays.I think Bratfud will actually have a better chance against Chelsea. Let's face it, you couldn't dislike them and John Terry more if they wore a full Nazi uniform as their away strip next season.

Forever Dormo said:

AV -

I picked up the last sentence of your reply at 7.39pm as a Tweet when in the pub. There was a tame Chelsea fan present (there always is, isn't there?) so I had to read it out to him.

I must say that he took the result (Swansea 0 Chelsea 0 - so Swansea go through 2-0 on aggregate) quite well. There was, however some heated debate on the red card for kicking a ball-boy incident.

For my view, I'd say the ball-boy was foolish to try to avoid handing the ball over to Hazard, but the referee had a stopwatch and was well capable of adding any lost time and in any event kicking the ball-boy never seemed a sensible course of action. There might be some comments about the fact that the lad seemed "well nourished", but I think you will find that is not a defence known to English Law.

It isn't a criminal offence to delay returning the ball to a footballer, but it can amount to any number of offences to kick the person concerned. I guess someone might be hoping a policeman isn't required to investigate. To put a different perspective on it, what do you think would have happened if a lad had run ONTO the filed of play and kicked a footballer who was laying on the ground?

A couple of things: firstly there was no Kentish Hop Single Ale but it was Marstons EPA (at 3.6% a session beer though some might say without a great deal of "body", but certainly pleasant enough to warrant a few). Secondly we now have the "Cinderella Final" - Bradford City v Swansea City. A game for the "neutrals" and a new name on the cup. All in all, not a bad couple of days.

Percypieblocks said:

All ball boys at away grounds waste as much time as possible when their team's leading. They all need a good kicking. You can't tell me that they aren't instructed to do what the fat kid did last night, they are becoming a problem, get rid.

**AV writes: A bit harsh, There's was one at Leeds deliberately fumbling the ball and kicking it away that looked like he had been personally coached by Warnock but I wouldn't advocate a good kicking.

Andy R said:

Swansea for me Vic, for the reasons you mention in response to FD.

The ball boy incident last night was hilarious. Personally I think all players should have to wrestle the ball boys from now on.

Ian Gill said:

The ball boy incident was the best part of the match.

The fact he is a directors son and tweeted his friends, allegedly, before the match that has was going to time waste is irrelevant to the entertainment that followed.

He had the ball then turned his back. As Hazard tried to get the ball he turned the other way. So Hazard reached round the other side but the directors son turned away again. In rugby this is called a maul.

Having gone to ground he kept twisting one way and another on the ball to stop Hazard getting it.

As the ball is on the ground in rugby that is termed a ruck and he should have released the ball. If you hold on to it then it becomes a penalty, repeated infringement will result in a sin bin for ten minutes. That is unless you are 'rucked' off the ball as so well done by the All Blacks. Otherwise known as a shoeing.

Hazard was entirely wrong and should get an extended ban. Whilst he kicked the ball it is the wrong thing to do.

Now to the other problem. If the ball was in the crowd and the fan wrestled with a player to stop the game going on the FA may be inclined to ask the club for a meeting for failing to control the fans.

When it is a ball boy who is representing the club and is deliberately interfering with the match there may a case to answer.

We all look on with a mixture of disbelief and amusement and dismay. As away fans we wouldnt be best pleased if it happened to our team.

The fact his dad took him to the Chelsea dressing room to apologise was the right thing to do as were the Chelsea apologies in return.

I dont think it will end there. I suspect football clubs will be briefing their ball boys with more care in the future. I also suspect Hazard will be getting a personalised mid winter break.

**AV writes: The problem arose because Hazard was silly and closed the lad down and when he turned his back, bumped into him. In terms that pro footballers will understand, the ball-boy "felt contact" ,so he "had the right to go down." That sparked the ridiculous bad acting and frustrated kick to claw the ball out. Result, apologies all round, Swansea's big moment over-shadowed, several minutes wasted, Chelsea's shape disrupted and any hopes of salvaging the game gone.

Had Hazard not rushed in, the lad - who is clearly a bit of doyle - would have maybe gurned at the crowd a bit then slowly rolled the ball back to the keeper having wasted five or at tops 10 seconds. Hazard would have been better employed doing a watch mime to the referee and getting back into position for the goal-kick.

Chelsea fans who are directed cyber-hate at the daft lad and searching for dark twitter planned conspiracies pointing to the Swansea boardroom should instead be directing their frustration at a stupid £32m professional footballer who has cost a big game they were still in and earned himself a three (and maybe six) match ban and without any gain for the team. Gross stupidity.

Nikeboro said:

AV, in reply to Percypieblocks at 9.43 -

'There's was one at Leeds deliberately fumbling the ball ...looked like he had been personally coached by Warnock but I wouldn't advocate a good kicking.'

Of course you're right, AV. Child Protection dictates we must safeguard all children, even including ball boys, fat or otherwise. However the same protection is not afforded to adults. Now Warnock - there's a man in need of a good kicking.

Ian Gill said:

Gross stupidity is generous.

If it was your two sons separated by four years of age and they had done the same in the garden you would tell the oldest to grow up and the youngest what do you expect? I was going to say cuff them both but that is politically incorrect.

I would disagree about the feeling the contact and going down. There was a bit of now you see it, now you don't. I think the Michael Owen was to hide the ball.

I suspect the lads dad read him the riot act somewhere private. When he read about the alleged twitter reports Mr Morgan wont be best pleased.

Mr Hazard will be embarrassed, so are Chelsea and it is interesting Swansea don't want any action. Hair driers will be in operation at both clubs. I suspect ball persons will be getting reminders all over the country after this ludicrous incident.

spartakboro said:

Not one to comment too loudly on this issue but I think we have an encroachment of the Latin American footballing ethos that states the only reason to play is to win and that can be done by whatever means necessary as long as you're not caught.

So ballboy keeping ball instead of passing it back would fit this previously stated rule. As would using yer hand/arm to put the ball in the net aka the Henry arm shuffle and the Suarez knock on.

Add to these examples the general rolling around like a salmon flapping out of the water, the collapsing in a heap when opposition player comes anywhere near your head with his and of course the very famous examples, the Maradona hand to ball sweep into the net past a dismayed Shilton and the aftermath wink to the manager from Ronaldo acknowledging he faked injury and a near death experience to get one W Rooney sent off.

Basically its all a case of 'Percypieblocks' thats turned the game we all love into a theatre of absurdity - and for that we can blame the Argies.

I suggest any member of any team caught doing so should be banned for ten games and his team docked 10 points. The Chelsea v Swansea game should be re-played with said rotund ballboy hoisted up by his feet and left dangling for the full period of the game from the roof of the highest stand so that the crowd and via TV the rest of the world can see how we punish such scurrilious actions here in Blightly.

Having said that in this wet kipper of a country where PC rules, that's simply not going to happen is it?

Ian Gill said:

Spartakboro -

One incident described on the radio may not be entirely true but gave the flavour of your posting about johnnie foreigner.

A caller claimed to have seen a game in Spain where the ball went out in similar circumstances.

In this case the ball boy stood with his foot on the ball and when the opposition player came to collect it he promptly passed the ball behind the goal to another ball boy near the other corner flag.

That ball boy promptly launched it in to the stand full of home supporters.

Going back to Ayresome Angels days in the old third division we were playing Shrewsbury I think it was. They parked the bus and started timewasting before the match started.

After aboout 88 minutes we scored from a goalmouth scramble after a corner. Poetically I think it was an own goal. Bill Gates got the ball, ran to the dug outs and threw the ball down the tunnel in celebration. I dont know why I told you that but it sprang in to mind - plenty of space you see.

Forever Dormo said:

Well, it's been a bit of fun giving views on the Hazard of being a Ballboy.

A few points:

Loved the reference to "feeling contact" and having the "right to go down". Have any of the ex-professional players who criticise the lad for rolling around as if he'd received several broken ribs watched much professional football these days? That's what the players do every week.

It is routine to see players fall over dramatically in the opponents' penalty area (when they would never fall over in their own because they know that would be likely to give their opponent a free shot at goal), or to see players hold their face when there has been a glancing contact to some other part of the upper body.

A player who has made a mistake grabs a limb and limps around for a minute or two after treatment etc. The lad was only copying the reaction we see every week at stadiums up and down the country.

The lad shouldn't have held on to the ball and what he did was wrong. Mind you, it isn't right for players to time waste either, or to kick the ball away or take any other action to prevent the other side taking the free kick intended - all activities we will see repeated many times at many matches this weekend. I agree the "wristwatch mime" would have been more productive for Chelsea.

And are people saying it is acceptable to kick out at a ball-boy who has eaten well, or who has an unfashionable haircut, or who is Welsh, but unacceptable if he'd been a short, bleached-hair Pakistani? Or if it had been a girl?

The outrage was "fun whilst it lasted". Normality will resume shortly. Back to a chilly, damp, underpopulated Riverside for the visit of Aldershot at the weekend. Let's hope for a few goals (in "their" net).

Forever Dormo said:

Knock, knock....100 is wobbling into view.

**AV writes: GHw will be stretching and doing star jumps round about now, warming up ready for his fabled well timed run to the back stick....

never giver up on Boro said:

The ball boys at the Riverside wouldn't know how to help us by wasting time. More often than enough they watch the ball roll by them whilst they remain glued to their stools!!

Never give up on Boro said:

Just reading that Aldershot have the worst attempt at goal record in the football league and also the worst goals scored in their league only hitting the net in 12 out of 28 games.

Change of fortune predicted for them on Saturday then as Boro usually like to boost the oppositions confidence!

Grove Hill wallah said:

Puts out fag and fumbles around for shooting boots.

lenmasterman said:

Ballboys frozen their stools? Is it really that cold in the Riverside loos?

Grove Hill wallah said:

Watched Tom Pope for Port Vale on the telly tonight. That boy would be perfect for us. Come on Steve and Guy, have a punt.

lenmasterman said:

The ball boy should thank his lucky stars that he was trying to keep the ball away from Eden Hazard and not Barry Robson.

**AV writes: It's there. The veteran goal-getter pounces, EIO EIO EIO

lenmasterman said:

Congrats. GHW.

**AV writes: Yes, I think his assist should be acknowledged.

CroydonBoro said:

Are we signing Bechio?

Grove Hill wallah said:

Wrestles ball from recalcitrant ball boy, never touched him ref! Puts ball down for quick corner.

Grove Hill wallah said:

Well done Len. On a more serious note it should be applauded that this blog can attract 100 plus comments. It's all down to you AV, long may it continue.

Forever Dormo said:

Ah, but in all this joy at hitting the 100, where is the evidence of youth coming through? Where are the young posters to replace the "golden generation" which must now be described as being at least "mature"?

Isn't that what the Academy is for?

FD (29 and three-quarters)

**AV writes: I'm blooding the kids on twitter ... @untypicalboro

Forever Dormo said:

Good thinking, Batman. When they can write a piece with more than 140 characters, you give them the password to the Blog, and carte-blanche to be controversial on any topic? Might catch on, this Blog thing...

lenmasterman said:

Yes, the ton is a great tribute to the inspiration of AV.

I have never before been described as mature. Old, yes...

Ian Gill said:

Never Give up

I have a come upon the reason for the ball boys lack of motion, it is the safety policy.

The Ball Boys have been told that they have to sit in their nominated seat and are not allowed to stand or move around. If they do they will be evicted from the stadium and will not be allowed to attend again.

No spokesman was available from the safety committee.


Well done on the ton.

lenmasterman said:

My antipathy towards Michael Gove could scarcely run any deeper, but his proposals to have the quality of students' grammar, punctuation, and spelling included as part of the assessment of all subjects at GCSE and A Levels, and his determination to restore the pre-eminence of extended pieces of writing, rather than breaking examination papers up into a multitude of mini-answers,might play a part in ensuring that young people have the skills in the future to contribute to blogs which allow you to go beyond 140 characters,and to compose sentences that are far too long and too complicated. And highly pretentious.

**AV writes: I did my journalist training course with pompous tweedy Tory slashbot Michael Gove. He would have out-sourced that sentence to competition. But only after making sure that you had been to a good school that gave you a good grounding in the classics before being allowed to pen it.

Redcar Red said:

Len well done on the ton but I think that if AV had played you down the middle from the start instead of having to come in from wide right you would have notched that number by Wednesday easily.

GHW I'm afraid done a George Friend, plenty of pace and excitement but failed to deliver once he got inside the box. GHW at Left Back, what were you playing at AV? The lad was never going to score from there, Square pegging again!

**AV writes: In my mind a good player can play in any position. It is what it is.

lenmasterman said:


You may have mentioned that the Leeds ball boys looked as though they had been personally coached by Neil Warnock as a bit of a joke. But you were spot on.

The young Villa full back Matt Lowton confirmed this morning that this is precisely what happened to him when he was a ball boy. Personal coaching in the arts of gamesmanship, or cheating , as some might prefer to call it, by Mr Split Personality himself. How much lower can those with responsibilities within and towards the sport that gives them their very good livelihood go?

Jarkko said:

Congrats to Len. Well done.

And well done, AV. But of course MFC did they part, too. Unfortunately.

We need three successive league defeats to hit the ton. And a FA Cup home defeat to hit 300 mark. I think I have posted 300th post once!

But a 5-1 win tomorrow to delight us all tomorrow. If only we score early. Up the Boro!

**AV writes: If we win 5-1 we will struggle to hit 30.

lenmasterman said:

Many thanks for your acknowledgements, gentlemen.

Redcar Red: Great post.

My preferred position is extreme left, but I'm happy to do whatever the boss asks for the sake of the team,safe in the knowledge that Ian will control the centre of the park.

Defeats do stimulate the postings rate, but for me twin defenders Borophil and AV were joint Men-of -the- Thread.

Powmill said:

Many Happy Returns Len ...... oh, sorry 100th post not birthday ;-)

gt said:

You may have answered this in the past AV but I was wondering when a player has what could be considered along term injury, say eight weeks or more, are they still on full salary or does an insurance policy kick in?

**AV writes: Statutory sick pay after six weeks? Yerjokinarnyer? No, player contracts are very complex but even if a player is injured for year or more - like Kieron Dyer to throw in a name that has been bandied about today - they are on full basic pay.

That said they will miss out on appearance fees and win bonuses which can be substantial sums, and for the youngsters, the bulk of their wages. At the new austere Boro a young pro may be on a relatively 'low' wage - back of fag-packet mode - say £1,000 but they may get a £1,000 appearance fee if they are in the first team squad and then maybe another £1,000 win bonus. Being out of action then can be very expensive. An established player may be on £5-10,000 (and more for the Strachanovite elite) and so the bonuses are a smaller portion.

Clubs can only claim against the insurance if the asset gets written off. Just like us with our cars/buildings.

Forever Dormo said:

I do take the point AV makes in his response to Jarkko at 2.19pm. We get some happy posts in the event of a Boro win, but if we lose or, better still, play badly AND lose, a veritable tsunami of posts descend onto the Blog.

However bad we might think things are, if we try to look objectively at the situation we have a good chance of getting to the 5th round of FA Cup and despite some disappointing results we are still in a play-off position. So a good cup run (following on from a very good League Cup run) and possible promotion to the Premier League, still lie within our grasp.

Now, imagine if we were supporters of Darlington. Not just people who keep an eye out for their results, who've watched the odd game at Darlo, and would quite like them to do well - apart from the Hartlepool supporters in our midst, obviously - but real, die hard Darlo supporters.

Darlington are currently about 10 league divisions below ground level. Even if they had a team made up of 19 year old Gordon Banks, Roberto Carlos, Beckenbauer, Bobby Moore, John Charles, Souness, Bobby Charlton, Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Pele and Messi (admittedly a fairly attacking set-up), and even if they played to their peak season in, season out, they'd still not have enough time to get promoted to Boro's level whilst any of those players were young enough to pull on a pair of boots.

If Boro were in Darlington's present position, imagine the torrent of posts that would swamp the Blog!

Mind you, I think I'd be tempted to buy a ticket. Imagine that line up turning out at the King George V ground at Guisborough for a relatively near away game!

**AV writes: It is a truism in newspapers that NOBODY writes in to say that, all things considered, they are generally more or less satisfied with a situation. The silent majority are so named for a reason. Correspondents write in either because they are furious about something or someone falling short of some abstract standard the writer has applied, feel personally disadvantaged or slighted by a situation, to point out a mistake or in response to some previous writer who has expressed forceful opinions they disagree with.

In my experience when you talk to people - even those who start out spitting blood and denouncing you as a quisling and lickspittle - you quickly find the extreme edges are smoothed and you soon find common ground.

Forever Dormo said:

On the other hand, Villa's local Blog will probably break all records in the next few days...


Redcar Red said:

Following on from Forever Dormo's theme; in a week that has seen some angst, passion and fervour on here we were also treated to two extreme faces of the game. The embarrassing scene down at Swansea where we seen petulant unsporting and ungentlemanly behaviour to the heart-warming and example setting of Gary Jones at the end of the Bradford/Villa game where he gave his shirt to a young fan.

The action and more importantly the mindset of Gary during probably the most euphoric occasion of his sporting career to date to notice and single out the young fan in the crowd amongst all that hysteria does himself his family and his club proud. It sets the bar for the rest of this sport and all its participants and characters both on and off the field. A reality check if ever there was one.

John Dobson said:

What next, Kieron Dyer !!!! Old crocks united coming up. What can he add to our squad other than loyalty to Mogga and permanent injury. Come on Mogga, get real.

**AV writes: It is a short term pay per play deal with no committment at all unless he is on the pitch so Boro have nothing to lose financially. If he can play the creative passes and add something special ever now and then, he could earn his corn, who knows? You have to back the bosses' judgment on it. If he's not fit enough or not good enough or not mentally tuned in then he will soon be gone.

John Powls said:

Dyer? Yerjokinarenya!? Well, I suppose if it is really, really a 'pay if you play deal'. But even then......

I suppose Becchio's out of the question as he seems set on The Foreign, a no account league and a big bag of loot. A big mss when we could have got him, though.

**AV writes: Our understanding is that he will not be paid a penny if he doesn't play. Not even a small basic retainer. I don't think he needs the money. It is more about proving something. He has played for QPR this month and scored against West Brom so he must still have something.

Nikeboro said:

AV at 11.20 - 'I did my journalist training course with ...'

You trained as a jounalist? So you're not a plumber, care worker, barber or brickie then? Or, the best bet, a publican? Who knew?

P.S. You did pass the course, didn't you?

wiggy's mate said:

Keiron Dyer: We always get our man, any word on any of Robbo's other deals? Is Diego Forlan on his way now?

Percypieblocks said:

Regarding the Dyer signing, as long as he doesn't live up to his name, it's a no brainer, it's got to be good business.

Grove Hill wallah said:

Kieron Dyer!! Is he still around? I'm surprised his DNA wasn't found in Tesco's Burgers!

We might as well sign Danny Dyer.

If Douglas Bader was still around I can imagine Guy's comments....

"His legs might have gone but his aerial prowess will help the team."

JB1986 said:

Kieron Dyer? Although I've always stood by Mowbray's decision making on the pretext he knows more about football players than me, I still cannot see:

A) why Kevin Thomson gets a game

B) what , if anything Miller really offers us compared to other strikers we could have gone for at the time, and now

C) are we expected to enthuse over the arrival of a player who has spent more time off the pitch than on it!.

Agreed, the deal of no play, no pay might be good for the club's bank balance, but from my eye's it doesn't fill us with confidence that the only player deemed necessary to give our promotion campaign the push required is someone who has been out injured more than the rest of the squad combined!

But then Mr Mowbray does know more about players than me, I just pay £300+ every year to watch them.

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Jarkko said:

What is the problem that we are heading for a ton (posts to the blog) and Boro haven't lost a match?

It's either AV's writing skills or the #Mogganaut is starting fly again soon. Let's hope is both.

Up the Boro!

**AV writes: We're nowhere near a ton. Quick someone... start an argument!

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