Palace Coup: Deja Vu

By Anthony Vickers on Feb 16, 13 08:52 PM

AS SHELL-shocked Boro retreated in disarray from Selhurt Park, a dejected Tony Mowbray talked about a sorry sense of deja-vu.

Most of the 1,600 away fans who watched the horror unfold through their fingers from the stands will have certainly have felt they had seen it before. More than once.

Boro had been left tattered and torn after a bloody Palace coup that left any hopes of an end of season coronation hanging by a thread.

The boss admitted the abject display had been littered with individual and collective errors, a scenario that has become frighteningly familiar.

It was a wretched replica of the fragile empty shell of a show at Ipswich, a 4-0 thumping by the strugglers two weeks ago.

There were echoes too of the dismal dismantling at Derby, the first footing flop on New Year Day that signaled the annual nosedive.

Both those displays smarted but Palace was particularly painful, partly because the stakes were so high in a play-off six-pointer and partly because the meek surrender followed hot on the heels of a gritty, spirited scrap to beat Leeds that showed real steel.

At Palace, disorganised Boro were woeful at the back, over-run in a pedestrian midfield and toothless up front in a display lacking spirit.

Bar a 10 minute spell before the break the misfiring engine room had next to no possession and hence little chance to impose a shape or tempo that suited Boro, let alone threaten the Palace backline. And frontman Lukas Jutkiewicz was isolated and got little service while Mustapha Carayol, playing off him, barely featured.

But the defence, that is where the real problems lay. They conceded four for the second away game on the bounce and never looked capable of staving off defeat.

They struggled from the off as the Palace pace ripped them apart repeatedly with tormentor in chief Wilfried Zaha having free reign. Poor bamboozled Stuart Parnaby will be having dizzy nightmares about being spun around like a waltzer by the £15m Manchester United bound winger's bewildering step-overs. In them, he will be wearing clown shoes.

In mitigation, Parnaby was up against a red hot player in top form. And it wasn't just him that was floundering. The entire brittle back line was woeful, lacking shape, spirit and organisation.

Palace tore down either flank at will. Crosses rained in. Balls flashed across the face of goal and Glenn Murray - who got two - could have had a shedful if his legs were a few inches longer.

Time after time through balls carved them open and sweeper-keeper Jason Steele had to rush out of his box to clear. It was embarrassing.

Boro got a well worked late face-saver through Faris Haroun - set up by an excellent back-heel from much maligned Ishmael Miller - but Palace quickly hit back as OAP hitman Kevin Phillips sealed an emphatic win, using his zimmer frame to wheel round and fire in a shot that grazed the toe of George Friend.

Friend, who now looks unrecognisable from the rampaging Robocop that earned plaudits as a Premiership prospect four months ago got a touch on the opener too.

In fact, with all the deflections plus tackles, headers and screwed clearances that squirt the ball to opponents feet I think he probably has got unwanted assists on a third of the goals against Boro this term.

His slow shrinking from cavalier fans' favourite elect and top flight talent tip to looking every inch a bargain buy from a relegated side pretty much tracks Boro's withering over the winter.

So, deja vu. Tony Mowbray will no doubt look back to Ipswich (or Barnsley) and see the lapses of concentration and poor decision making that leads to the fatal mistakes.

Or maybe look back to Derby and see how his team is too easily thrown off kilter when faced with a revved up team that fly out of the blocks.

Or maybe there is a more striking precedent looking back to Black September when a poor run of successive away defeats ended as a sluggish and demoralised looking side were left in a bloody pulp after a good beating at Blackpool.

That game - a comprehensive 4-1 beating that could easily have been seven or eight - saw Boro monstered by another Ian Hollway side ruthlessly applying the same template.

That demolition was also based on a solid pair of holding midfield ball-winners lightening pace and quick diagonals down the flanks for zippy flankers to rip into and turn flat-footed full-backs and get the ball in the box quickly.

Boro must learn to deal the lessons of that frightening formula very quickly because opposition managers certainly will note their struggle.

To be fair, Boro responded with real zest and determination to the bruising at Blackpool and went on an impressive ten game run that saw them beat the then leaders, beat a top flight side in the cup and claw up to the automatic promotion spots. Hold that thought, omen fans.

So, deja vu. Many frustrated fans now believe they are seeing last season's second half slump being played out on a tape loop and fear the boss is powerless to prevent it.

There are uncomfortable but obvious parallels with 12 months ago when injuries to key players left Boro literally limping through a spring of struggle, slowly sliding down the play-off ladder until they slipped out of the reckoning.

Then, in quick succession, Nicky Bailey, Scott McDonald and Matthew Bates were crocked - Stephen McManus was brought back from a loan at Bristol City - leaving the squad threadbare and forcing some square-pegging and strange shapes.

Now Justin Hoyte is out and Jonathan Woodgate is intermittently injured at the back , McDonald is an absentee again up front and human shield Bailey is fit but has become a peripheral benchwarmer - and has become a totemic figure around which discontent has focussed.

What it shows is that for all the forward autumn momentum, the team is still a work in progress and lacks the strength in depth to make a sustain pushed for automatic promotion. But we knew that.

When fully fit and confident this Boro have shown can match the best of the division but patched up and with morale dented, the flaws and limitations show.

Incredibly, after an abysmal run of five defeats in six since New Year, Boro are still in a play-off spot which is both a searing indictment of the division and a reason for hope.
The season is not over, no matter if it feels like it right now. We need a fully fit team and a spark to reignite morale to regain momentum. And it can be done.

Meanwhile Deja vu fans may want to look back a bit further. On this weekend just gone in 1999 Boro had been crushed 5-0 at Everton - a fifth successive Premier League loss.

That run sowed the seeds of Bryan Robson's demise and fans split into pro and anti factions that drew up the battle lines for almost two years of bitter in-fighting.

And on this weekend back in 1996 Boro were battered 4-1 at Bolton, a club record EIGHTH successive defeat.

But it was early days for Robbo. The team had done enough early on to not be in trouble. The manager still had complete backing from the chairman, most fans were happy with progress over last few years and most could see the potential for the future. Deja vu.


@Dendog_uk said:

Pathetic performance. How come we have fell from being the best footballing team in the league to the utter shambles we are now?

Something not right somewhere. I still fully back Mogga but he needs to get us back to basics quickly.

I can't believe we concede so man goals by poor mistakes and deflections. It was the same last season as well. Round pegs in round holes please. Put Rolls Rhys in auto trader.

Colin said:

It's not as if we believe this team to be world beaters. Yes we know that ability is limited, a lot of championship sides lack the necessary ability to make a sustained push for promotion, most sides have at least 75% of their squad who couldn't cut it in the Premiership should they win promotion.

Yes we know that injuries have taken their toll on a paper thin squad. We also know that sides have blips, go through bad patches, don't get the rub of the green all the time.

All this and more applies to the Boro, Just as it applies to other clubs. Nothing you can do about it, it happens.

But you expect when things are not going your way that the very least you're going to get from a group of players is desire, commitment, effort. Full blood and thunder for 90 minutes.

Teams with limited ability have often overcome better opposition by the will to win alone. By closing down early, denying space, winning personal battles, being willing to run themselves into the ground, get up and run some more. This seasons FA cup results are a classic example of lesser teams triumphing with sheer work rate and belief.

The famed class of 86 wasn't brimming with talent but had the never say die attitude of a group of players who had already been to hell and back and played without fear, breaking teams down through sheer workmanlike effort and bloodymindedness.

Brawn over Brain ? No, just effort effort effort, belief belief belief, refusing to lie down. They had talent, Raw talent, but more important than that , they never knew when they were beaten.

The problems we are seeing at the moment stem from too many players unwilling to put in a shift week in week out. They simply don't fancy it. Forget talent, forget ability. They may or may not have it. What they haven't got and it is patently obvious to all and sundry, is backbone and a stomach for a fight.

Not a short term fight, not a fight against someone who is willing to match them punch for punch. They lack a leader on the pitch and they lack guts and a work ethic . Very surprising given who the manager is.

This season will go down as one of missed opportunities by a group of players who just don't fancy it.

Clive Hurren said:

Absolutely not good enough.

I said on a previous thread that it was the away form that concerned me. We have seven away games left - how will we ever pick up enough points to make the play-offs? I'm seriously regretting buying a ticket for Burnley on Tuesday. We'll have to play a lot better than we have done in recent games to get anything at all. Some hope of that.

That's 14 defeats now. Not good enough. And 10 defeats in the last 15 games. Five away defeats on the trot, four goals conceded in each of the last two, and only one goal scored away in the last four games. Not good enough.

Play-off hopes almost terminally dashed. At what stage does the manager start to take some responsibility for this debacle?

Grove Hill wallah said:

At the end of any season, the goals for statistic will determine where you finish in the league.

It's not looking good.

peterboroangel said:

Looked extremely lightweight to me!

Our Gary said:

As I said in my post after the Barnsley defeat, does TM have the overall class as a a manager to make it in the top flight? Yes, the local lad has done well in many respects - but no, he hasn't quite got what it takes to reach Premiership standards.

Whatever decision Gibson makes, I will continue to support the Boro. But let's face it.. unless or until there is a major change, we are going to remain in the Championship.

**AV writes: The major change needed is a big injection of cash and that won't be happening any time soon. It may not be palatable in days when people demand instant solutions but we have to dig in and get through it with what we have got.

Dave said:

Why has the paper stopped facilitating comments on stories? Has the feed back been so critical that the paper has stopped it? Must we find a different forum for expressing our views.

If the gazette is styling comment from the public then what role does it have to play in public views?

**AV writes: It is a national Trinity Mirror group policy decision. I think they are rolling out a new Facebook based registration system soon. It is to prevent nasty anonymous posts on news stories that open the various papers in the group to potentially expensive legal action as well as poisoning the debate around a whole of host of subjects that should be publicly aired without rancour.. It should be said it is news stories rather than sports that tend to the problem.

As press people we instinctively support the widest possible public debate but with "free speech" comes responsibility. Some people - "doyles" as we call then - don't understand or accept that and think it means they have carte blanche to repeatedly spout the worst sort of bile under a variety of identities. It needs to be stopped. .This is not a move to stop debate but to encourage an atmosphere on forums where it can be conducted in a more civilised manner.

Werdermouth said:

Just watched the game on TV - Boro just didn't turn up and brought nothing into the game from the Leeds victory - Palace have been struggling of late and were unlucky not to get six or seven.

Boro are now nine points adrift of an automatic promotion spot, so we can safely forget about that and retaining sixth place is probably only for the most optimistic supporters now.

Our away form is practically a mirror image of our home form with only a 1-0 defeat at Burnley required to complete the symmetry:

Home W11 D1 L4 F32 A19
Away W5 D1 L10 F19 A31

OK we had players missing but Boro just don't seem to have the energy and tempo to put pressure on the opposition - It's going to be a big ask for Mogga to find a way of playing away from home that will rescue the season - unfortunately there's no respite with such a busy schedule ahead so where is the training pitch time going to come from?

Anyway, Mogga looks weary and has had too much to think about as players who would be obvious starters a few months ago are barely considered worthy of a place on the bench whilst others are shuffled around out of their natural positions resulting in a general lack of continuity - Is there time to regroup and find a better blend? I'm finding it hard to be optimistic!

Art of War said:

When Emnes failed to convert a penalty a couple of weeks ago the manager said he could not give him any advise on how to take a penalty since he had been a defender.

What advise can he pass on to the MFC defence? If that is his forte, why isn't he doing what he supposedly does best?

Bringing Bailey on once we where three nil down is laughable, we all know the saying "Shutting the gate when the horse has already bolted".

I'm very impressed by the apparent lack of knowledgable and pre-planning that seems to go into all matches. We all knew how quick Crystal Palace are when attacking and the threat in front of goal, my grandmother knew what to expect yesterday and she has been dead twenty years!. Are you seriously telling me ALL the fans on this site have a better knowledge than the manager?

You have to have your troops (players & fans) one hundred percent behind you, to have any realistic convictions in what you are saying and trying to accomplish, and to be able to win the fight.

Miller raised the banner two days ago and was up for the fight, and guess what, he was warming the bench with Bailey until we where three nil down .The Duke has been out of sorts for a few awhile, so why on gods earth would you play him before Miller, Miller made his mark in the sand, ready to fight and Mowbray told him to stand back!.

At least the King of Spin is trying to start the season ticket sales off early, "Hurry-up and buy a season ticket in our new atmospheric stadium, with a big television before they are sold out!".

I would rather see four loan signings in through the front doors before a television set.

**AV writes: If you can find a sponsor to pay for a player, go ahead..

Art of War said:

Nero springs to mind

Ian Gill said:

Reach? Smallwood?

Sandy said:

Had the misfortune to watch this debacle. AV mate you hit the nail squarely on the head with your usual accurate reporting. Palace not exactly in a good run of form themselves were a yard faster to the ball all over the pitch, apart from a 10 minute spell before half time Boro were so never in the game, it was embarassing.

Defence utter garbage (Palace leading scorer Murray left all alone to tap in the first), midfield didn't turn up (did we have a midfield), and in Juke and Miller we must have the two most useless strikers in the division.

Why oh why do we persist with players such as Parnaby who was never on the hill to be classed 'over it'. Mogga, Zaha is a known threat and yet Parnaby was directly opposed to him - absolute no brainer mate, my wife pointed this out so why didn't you.

Rose coloured glasses brigade sorry: this is relegation form, its just as well Boro accrued points early in the season. I also pose the question why such a disastrous slump when just before Christmas Boro were flying.

Jarkko said:

Werdermouth said "Mogga has too much to think about as players who would be obvious starters a few months ago are barely considered worthy of a place on the bench."

I think this is the main reason. We have - Arca and Hoyte apart - all the long term injuries behind us now. So we cannot blame the injuries anymore. I think our "big" or most important players are just not performing on the pitch. We need a LEADER over there, too.

Before the season started I would have expected a few experienced or extra talented player to get us through the line (to the PL).

Rhys Williams was our most valuable player. But since his injury he has barely played well. Someone said yesterday he has played seven games since injury and we have lost six of them. But really he hasn't been able to get to the rhythm since coming back.

Marvin Emnes was our best goalscorer last season. And he is our most talented player if we believe in Mogga (and we do!). But he has had his niggling injuries this season and hasn't really hit the ground running this season. A confidence issue?

Nicky Bailey haven't played much recently. OK, some claim he should have played more but there must be a reason why he hasn't been an ever-present under Mogga. Anyway far from the level compared to last season.

The last two away defeats show we leak goals like a disorganized relegation bound team. So I think we need Woody more than ever. I think Bikey is exceptional talent but he needs a fully fit Woody to guide alongside him. We knew Woody woulnd't play all games but I was expecting more appearances from him, anyway.

We need more goals also. So the back injury to Scott McDonald is a bad thing. We know his temperament but we need his work rate as well as goals. Bring him back soon!

Muzzy Carayol was away for a very, very long time. He scored a goal on his return but yesterday he lost possesion far too easily. Perhaps still a bit rusty, but we need a quick player like him. So missed for most of the season so far.

I could continue the list longer. But all I try to say we need some experienced heads or extra talented players to carry us through games like yesterday. We need match winners.

Beside, who is the leader on the pitch now? I am afraid that my favourite player is not the one currently. Our Rhys Rolls is coughing at the moment.

I don't blame Mogga. The most important players are just not carrying us on at the moment. I don't think we can ask Luke W or Main to be the only answers in a run like this. We need the senior players or the marvins to do that.

Up the Boro!

HonleySmoggy said:

A sound summary of what appears to be another shambolic away performance, matched only in its ineptitude by Derby and Ipswich (possibly Barnsley at home also, where we expected to be the better team). Have said elsewhere that such performances are becoming the norm.

Even with a four point gap the play-offs look a big ask. And that's not just a glass half empty view. Our form is woeful and players confidence looks shot. I'm not sure if players have been playing through injuries, but the likes of Rhys, friend and josh (when he's on the pitch) are shadows of those who started the season so well.

Changes required and fast, although that's not usually a problem for the tinkerman. Any word whether Woody will be fit and ready to walk straight back in for 60 mins or so? How far away is Scotty Mac, and why is Adam Reach on the naughty step?

spartakboro said:

Grove Hill wallah said: "At the end of any season, the goals for statistic will determine where you finish in the league.

I believe i said this last season round about the same time for what it's worth!

Still more worrying is- AV said "Some people - "doyles" as we call then.'

Now what's that all about? Am I considered one on the aforementioned 'Doyles' because I suggested there was a link between what was being reported in terms of the Boro's performance and what I saw as 'spin'. Was this the reason two or more of my comments went astray because it could well be deemed critical to the present management structure at MFC?

I live in the big world where I acknowledge you can't always have what you want but it's a little scary to think that people in places of responsibility and influence are doing just that, influencing storylines and thus public opinion to bolster their own dubious actions.

Sad but true, we have always been lied to and manipulated. Still it does create grave concern when the untruths (when and if proven) are coming from your own club.

The main question is - Will this comment see the light of day?


**AV writes: I publish evefrything that comes here. I sometimes tidy up the spelling and occasionally take out a libellous comment, swearing or gratuitous insult aimed at another poster. Anything else goes. I think regulars will attest to the fact that the opinions on here can fairly robust in their stance against the club, the manager, the team and myself. I don't and never had a problem with that (feel free to go through the archives.) That is reasonable free speech. Spouting bile is not.

BabelFish said:


Made the trip to London for this one, and it was insultingly horrendous. A complete no show performance and leaves the season dangling by a thread. Something very fundamental is wrong with the side at the moment, as shown by the inept performances and the statistics of 2013. Six defeats in seven, conceded eight goals away from home in two matches. They're all, pretty awful.

But to go from a team battling for 2nd and playing the best football in the league, to this, is baffling. Which is what seems to suggest a fundamental issue somewhere. Is it a fall out with the manager? Doubtful.

Is it a lack of confidence and belief? Definitely now but how did it start? Is it a few bad eggs wrecking the place? Possibly - I subscribe to the Bailey/McManus/Thomson theory that they're making an unhappy dressing room - one has gone already but damage done?

Regardless, something has changed and needs to be fixed, because we're plummeting in relegation form style out of the playoffs. I'm not in the Mowbray out camp because frankly I'm not a moron. He is the man long term for our club. But I do demand an inquest.

The players need to take a long hard look at themselves. The teams and the tactics are good enough to win games, it's the ones on the pitch who are letting the club, the manager, the fans and the chairman down.

Interested to know where exactly you think it's gone wrong Vic? We're pining for consistency in this league, seems we've found it...

**AV writes: It is hard to get consistency when the team changes so much from week to week. The defence is woeful at times... yet against Leeds they dug in and battled and worked so hard. It is baffling.

Pedro de Espana said:

AV said, "we have to dig in and get through it with what we have got"

I can accept that easily AV and not having any money, however I think Colin @ 9.59 sums it all up quite well. Even the most limited player can put a shift in, given that he is not injured, but time and again, you have said in your comments about the Boro not turning up. Surely they cannot all be like Emnes and have head problems.

I am sick of repeating myself but the defence is a shambles, yet TM does not appear to have any idea how to get in some type of consistency. He signed or resigned nearly all these defenders, and the one who could for me make a difference he refuses to play. But that seems typical of him at this moment, as with playing some of the other younger ones, who would put a shift in.

Never Give Up On Boro said:

Normal service resumed??

What a truly awful display that was,worse than Ipswich,can't think of anything positive to say except maybe it was fortunate we didn't concede eight!

From the whistle it was again like at Ipswich it was obvious what the outcome would be: half asleep, dozy, slow, pedestrian, uninterested, take your pick. Palace players full of energy wanting the ball, 5th v 6th? More like 5th v 24th!

Every time Palace got the ball we stood aside let them play,there was no closing down attempts to get the ball off them, giving up! As soon as we had the ball Palace chased, closed down and won it back without having to put much effort in.

Defence terrible, midfield... what midfield? Haroun,McEachran, Williams were abysmal. How they survived the half time rollicking is a mystery - but then the same could be said for the defence too. Why weren't changes made then? What was the point until waiting until we were 3-0 down? Why give them 15 minutes of the second half when it was obvious it wouldn't get better and it's now standard for us to concede in that time?

Steele - Don't blame him,no help from his defence

Parnaby - Easy to see why he couldn't get a contract anywhere last season

Bikey. - Physical commanding presence but no concentration and more often than enough a liability

Friend. - No where near the player he was since back from injury,needs to recapture early season form quickly

Halliday - Played ok in parts,best of a bad bunch,no help from McEachran in front of him

Haroun - Clueless! "Haroon on fire"? The fire is well truly out

Leadbitter. - One of the few triers but can't do anything on his own

Williams.- Awful,not worth a place on the bench,passing woeful,not a tackle in sight and so far off the pace

McEachran. - Should have sent him back to Chelsea,looked good early season,is he doing a better job than Smallwood could? No!

Juke - For a big lad doesn't win enough balls and distribution is poor

Carayol. - Quieter than his other matches working his way back in after injury,showed a couple of flashes.

What of the regular bench warmers? If they do look promising,play well as in the case of Reach,Smallwood and Main before injury, that's where they usually stay, on the bench. Especially in Smallwoods case. He won a MOM aw hile back and has never been seen again. Is Dyer doing any more than these for £10k a game?

Smallwood and Bailey yesterday would have done a far better job than Haroun, Williams or McEachran, none of these three won a ball all afternoon. If McManus can't get a game now when we only have one centre back fit then why is he here? Should have paid him off like Thomson.

Missing the work rate of McDonald too. Any chance of him being fit for Tuesday to pair up with Main? No doubt Main will be benched after his mom performance against Leeds in keeping with the norm!

After Burnley we have two tough home games against Millwall and Cardiff with the predicted Chelsea cup game sandwiched between. Can't see much there to restore the players confidence!

How have we gone from being the oppositions view that we have been the best team to have played them this season to "can we play you every week"??

paul said:

Championship mid table mediocrity and still no hope of winning a real trophy of note for the first time in our history - unless we can gub Chelsea and (most probably) Man United in the cup.


Ian said:

Three more self-inflicted goals costing us dear. I would like to know how any goals and points thats has cost us this season. Something is unsettling the team......

richard evans said:

AV, how accurate a barometer, of the the average Boro fan, do you feel ‘Untypical Boro’ contributor posts to be? Do they lead opinion, or merely follow, and do they represent what the man in the stand is thinking?

For example I feel there are the stirrings of a sway against Mogga on here but people are talking around the issue and there is understandably none of the direct, personal invective we saw with Strachan, so it’s difficult to be sure.

Are we all too polite to say something against Mogga given who he is? Or are most Boro fans still with him?

**AV writes: I think it is a decent barometer and posts tend to be a bit more thoughtful than the more naked and extreme emotive outburst on some other forums but not immune to the general zietgeist. I dread to think what the Tees phone-in was like, especially with no Ali Brownlee to counteract the vitriol.

That said, there has definitely been a marked swing "against" Mogga in recent weeks on here, especially immediately in the aftermath of another defeat. That is natural. As you say though, it has lacked the personal bite of previous upswings against the dug-out and again that is natural.

The fact that it is pre-moderated and that posts don't go up immediately (but when I get round to it) means opposing points of view don't develop into personal sniping between indiividuals and so threads don't become dominated by bitter point scoring and descend into obscenity and insults. That makes it seem a more considered and thoughtful environment. I think people know on here they can outline a position without being hammered personally.

I do think also though there is more understanding and willingness to appreciate the bigger financial picture on here though and the restrictions he is working under. I think he will get more time on here.

Redcar Red said:

The midfield was an unmitigated disaster. Leadbitter looks fed up and knackered, McEachran just looks knackered and played out of position to “accommodate” our right sided CB in the middle of the midfield alongside the dispirited Leadbitter. And Faris, well he struggles to convince me what his best position is full stop which probabably explains his inconsistent and disjointed at times displays.

The right side of our defence was decimated with Woody and/or Hines injured along with Hoyte. Ideal you would think then to slot Rhys back into his prime position alongside Bikey . He and Woody were after all our supposed “preferred 1st choice dream CB pairing” so restoring the Captain to the heart of the defence was obvious, or so you would think.

And there’s the rub, it was so obvious that Holloway would have expected it so to confound him we will shuffle our first choice LB inside to the left side of CB and our third choice but almost only ever-present CB who plays the left side CB was then shuffled across to the right side CB position thereby disrupting the settled and established left side understanding and stability of our defence…… genius!

Parns was the only choice in his position and lets face it Zaha would have skinned every RB in this division so all the more reason to at least try and have some sort of stability in the rest of the defensive positions. Bearing in mind our defensive frailties I won't even mention Bailey playing his destroyer role in front of the back four.

Up front Carayol ran at defenders but to little avail and that was our sole attacking game plan apart from the by now predictable role Juke satisfies his boss by getting pushed all over in splendid isolation with zero support from another striker or midfield player.

So normal Mogga service was resumed, no bite up front, chaotic keystone cop defending with the added spice of disillusionment in the middle. Certainly confused me and I’m sure Ian Holloway was as equally bemused for at least the first five minutes when the formation became apparent. Just a shame the formation wasn't apparent to the Boro side in over 90 minutes.

After the first goal went in you could see the entire team to a man had resigned themselves to getting through the rest of the game but with zero belief or confidence in their roles or the likelihood for success. It takes a special style of management to completely disengage with your supporters and playing staff so totally.

In February 2009 when WBA were plummeting out of the Premiership Mogga was quoted in the Mail as saying "I've got the world telling me I'm doing this wrong and that wrong and playing the wrong formation. But I will stay single minded and focused on what I believe in.” He then added “Possession of the football allows you to dictate tempo of the game which is why we like to keep the ball. I do what I do and I don't listen to what they or anyone else tells me.”

Fortunately we are not plummeting out of the Championship but we are plummeting out of any hope of promotion and it may be our best chance for some considerable time to come.

I want Mogga to stay and sort this and take the club forward but like his untrusted “youngsters” who he says need to learn the game the same advice needs to be heeded by himself. Tactics with a limited shelf life which once worked over five years ago in a different club with a different squad don’t last forever, the squad he has is what it is and he needs to play to their strengths individually and collectively. He can’t face the future looking backwards, the time warp tactics and groundhog day performances are testimony to that.

They haven’t worked since WBA, they failed at Parkhead and they have had some success at the Riverside but this season and last like West Brom they were found out and burnt out by February.

Forever Dormo said:

Sorry if this is boring, but we should NEVER hear that players "didn't turn up", "didn't look up for it", or that there appeared to be a lack of effort. We shouldn't hear that we appeared disorganized. We have heard comments like this for most of 2013 (the Leeds game being the exception).

Sorry if this is boring, but "turning up", being "up for it", showing effort, and attempting some organization are all cost-free attributes we should expect from every team that ever takes the pitch. Amateurs show it in Sunday leagues up and down the country. A professional who doesn't, should be looking for another profession.

And sorry if this is boring but, if the ones starting the game don't show those attributes, why don't we start with others who remain on the bench or who don't make the match-day squad? It's not as if we are winning games. If you are losing games anyway, why not try a few players who give the impression of "putting in a shift" (as the summarisers would say)? The worst that could happen is that we would lose - but we are doing that anyway!

I realise that, when teams go through a bad spell, some of the players in the squad who DON'T play appear to get better by not being implicated in the serial disaster that is played out in front of our eyes.

They may not be world beaters, but you could never say that Smallwood or Bailey failed to put a shift in. I know that Main was suspended yesterday, but I guess that many on here would like to see the names Bailey, Smallwood, Reach and Main start the next game. No lack of effort from those players.

If we are going to lose, I'd like to see us go down fighting, rather than meekly surrender. At the moment it is 0-0 between Chelsea and Brentford in the FA Cup replay. I think you'd have to be very one-eyed to think Boro would be nailed on to beat Brentford at home (if Brentford get through).

Some people have called for the heads of Mogga and Steve Gibson on a plate. I don't agree with that. I wonder whether any of those expecting Gibbo to move aside have any ideas how to raise the funding to buy him out, or if they have a list of other potential owners with the funds to do that? It would be wonderful if Bill Gates (the Microsoft one, not the former sports shop owner/centre-half) decided to pump money in the club, but that is a dream for cold winter afternoons, not reality.

Mowbray will have to sit down and work out why so many players who were doing well earlier in the season all seem to be playing poorly at the same time. Friend was one of the best players in the division. McEachran was showing skill and always managed to put through a few really telling passes to make opportunities for others. Leaditter may not have been the worst on the pitch yesterday, but earlier in the season he stood out as the fulcrum of the team - nearly everything that happened came through him. Are they only 90% fit?

The FA Cup, and the League Cup, show us that lesser players and lesser teams can beat better ones. The Blackburn players are clearly, man for man, lesser players than Arsenal's team - yet they beat them yesterday. Bradford City's players are clearly, man for man, lesser in terms of ability than Arsenal and Aston Villa's Premier League stars that they beat on the way to the League Cup Final.

The technical ability of the players from those "lesser" clubs couldn't match the ability of their Premier League opposition, but their commitment to the cause and their organization more than matched them. The question that needs to be asked is why Boro can't have an organized team showing commitment and 100% effort throughout the 90-odd minutes of a game.

We are playing teams on the same level as us. We don't have too many like Zaha lining up against us from week to week. I have some sympathy for Parnaby in the Palace game. I know he is injured now, but he hasn't featured in all the other defeats we have had recently (six out of the last seven league games?).

I never realised how pivotal a player Hoyte was. Look, I'm not TRYING to be sarcastic but he is an example of a player getting better the longer he is on the treatment table.

If we were winning every week, it might be considered foolish to change the team. If we are losing every week, the opposite might be the case. Doing nothing is not an option. Obviously Mowbray must decide whose bums deserve to meet the toe-end of his size 11's, which players need to have a spell with the "development squad", and which need a friendly arm around the shoulder and a confidence-building chat.

Some, of course, might simply have to face up to the fact that they are not up to the job. No doubt the rest of the football world will be beating a trail to Boro's door to offer untold riches for the signatures of those players (*cough*,*cough*).

Forever Dormo said:

I have now read the post of Richard Evans at 11.54am. I agree that comments on this blog tend to be more thoughtful and less extreme than views which might be heard in pubs and workplaces around the locality. That is a good thing.

We all get annoyed sometimes, feel depressed about a particular performance etc and then we might fire off a quick post. But at least we don't see (perhaps due to editing) personal abuse and obscenity.

For my own viewpoint, although the post I have downloaded a few minutes ago might be seen as asking some questions, I am not shouting "Mogga Out!". There isn't the feel of despair and helplessness we had at the end of the Strachan era, thank goodness.

I am sure Steve Gibson and Mowbray are both aware of the constraints within which Mowbray is operating and therefore Mowbray's job is safe. It might also mean that, as some contracts come up at the end of the season, and as the opportunity arises to make transfer moves, a number of players will move out - those whose value in terms of contribution on the field and their effect in the changing room is weighed in the balance against their financial cost to the club, and found wanting.

And as I type, Chelsea have gone 4-0 up against Brentford in the FA Cup Replay. Looks like we will face the Rich Boys. TV money and a reasonable crowd? Should at least put a few quid into the club's coffers.

**AV writes: The indication is that it won't be on TV. The TV companies are only allowed to pick a certain number of matches per round and have used up their fifth round allocation already.

Andy said:

Sure, give Mogga more time but let's stop all this specious talk of promotion, this or any other season, until money is available to buy half decent players, something that as you state is never likely to happen whilst Gibson owns the club.

We should ask ourselves what is the ultimate aim of a football club? Middlesbrough's delusions of grandeur of the 90's have now turned to delusions of adequacy and the euphoria of the Juninho and Ravanelli years has morphed into the despair evident here.

Should we not just accept our lot and hope for an upturn in fortunes at some point and if it doesn't happen, well hey, there's always next season? Let's not beat ourselves up about it. I believe Gibson's ultimate aim is to provide the best club he can within his means, and that right now signifies that we cannot expect an influx of quality playing staff to take us to the next level.

He has asked Mowbray to do the impossible with extremely limited resources and now we are all angry because of results that should not be unexpected when we are pitted against clubs who have made an investment to improve their chances of promotion. Balanced against our acquisition of players who hardly ever play, or have hardly played for years, regardless of how good they once were, doesn't give rise for much hope really; after all, players need to be on the pitch to affect the result.

The self-fuelling angst that blogs such as this generates just serves to get everybody wound up. So maybe a return to the old days when we talked about the match in the pub beforehand, celebrated or groaned following the game, discussed at work on a Monday morning and forgot about it until the next fixture, would reduce the blood pressure readings in us all...

Clive Hurren said:

Seasoned readers of this blog might by now be forgiven if they're wondering which Clive Hurren is going to turn up, such has been the extreme variablity of my responses to Boro's performances this season.

My knee-jerk reaction to the hammering away at Blackpool was all angst, antagonism and anger. I had an equal and opposite reaction after we thumped the same Blackpool at home.

I was unapologetically apoplectic after the Ipswich humiliation yet instantly reacted with unbridled enthusiasm to the defeat of Leeds. Now, after Palace, I'm back in the slough of despondency (which I understand is an unfair slur on Slough.)

My apologies, mates. You see, such has been the erratic nature of Boro's performances this season that I actually don't know whether I'm coming or going. I don't know where we are as a team. How can we go from such a dynamic win over Leeds to an abject, whimpering hammering by Palace in the space of four days? WHY?

I've come to the conclusion that the manager is no longer playing me in my best position. Earlier on in the season I was his best defender, willing to die for his cause, fully believing in his project and in his ability to motivate me and my fellow team-fans. Now, though, it's all gone pear-shaped; he has tinkered and chopped and changed and tinkered some more; I've lost my belief, I've lost my confidence, and finally he's ended up playing me up-front, where of course I am square-pegged; so instead of defending him, I've ended up having to go on the attack.

I really didn't want to do that - it's in my nature to be positive and supportive, and I genuinely feel that Mowbray had done wonders until recently with the extremely limited resources at his disposal. But now I'm no longer so sure; I'm no longer convinced as I was when I was in his defence; gradually,as defeat follows dismal defeat, I find myself no longer buying into his tactics and his team-talks.

Let's all hope he can somehow get us back in that positive all-conquering frame of mind we loved in the first half of the season, and quickly, starting with a result and an improved performance at Burnley tomorrow night. I really would like to get back to my role in the centre of your defence, Tony. It's my best position.

Art of War said:

I didn't realise the Television was sponsored!, if we can afford a television are you telling me we can't afford some lone signing for a couple of months.

If they had been serious about signing Danny Graham, how where they going to finance that deal......buttons!

**AV writes: Player (Emnes valued at £3m) plus a structured series of payments for the balance with the first not due until the summer. His £30k wages would have been paid by Emnes wages with the chairman personally paying the balance until the summer when McManus' wages would be off the bill.

kev B said:

Basic organisation, spirit and fight. I think your final comment sums it up Vic. Aside from the Leeds display (Crisis? What crisis? You wrote, but we ARE in a crisis) we have lacked basic organisation, spirit and fight since New Year’s Day.

We have lost our chance of automatic promotion, and are now clinging desperately, sweating like a gambler, to a play off place.

I think the frustration for Boro fans this season, me included, is that we have seen a glimpse of what the team can offer, and that is why we dared to dream, as many years before, that we could make automatic promotion. The stupidity of that, is that the season has unfolded all our frailties.

Most other Championship teams have that same fragility of course, and that is why we remain clinging onto the last play off place. How does Mogga turn it around now? He could start by using your words Vic, and try to get some basic organisation into the team, with players playing in the positions they are most comfortable. We can fight and show spirit, and we did against Leeds.

So where does it go in so many other games, particularly away from the Riverside? And we were so good on the road last season, it’s heartbreaking! So what has Mogga done to the fabric of the team to make us so vulnerable on the road? I’m angry by yesterday’s capitulation, but not surprised.

I want a play off place as much as any other Boro fan. But are we seriously ready for the Premiership if by some miracle we make it up? I know nobody is quite ready in reality, but we have such a long way to go, it’s depressing.

Onto other matters. We’ll enjoy the challenge of the Chelsea game, won’t we? Who knows in a one off game which Boro will turn up! But the evening should be a great one, with a near full house Riverside.

Next season’s arrangements for changing the ground for the first time is interesting. However, just how close to me will those away hoards be in the East Upper? And in a cup game when teams are entitled to an increased share, how will they be accommodated, and will SC holders be asked to move?

How will they segregate the area outside the ground, with the approaches for Boro fans probably blocked off? The way they segregated the area for the Leeds game caused quite a stir outside. The big screen is also an interesting concept. How much of the capacity will be removed? If we were in the Premiership (don’t laugh), would we regret that move?

**AV writes: There is an overflow area in the South Stand (where segregation architecture is in place) where no season tickets will be sold so the away allocation could easily go up to 5,000 which would be the FA Cup maximum allocation. If we were in the Prem we would probably only get anywhere near that figure for Sunderland, Newcastle and maybe Man Utd.

I think the plan is to create a sterile zone in carpark E for away coaches and then a walkway to the ground. Shouldn't be a problem bar two or three games a year. The screen will take out a block of about 700 seats or so. In the Prem I think we would only average 22-24k in the Prem anyway so the new shape wouldn't take too much out of potential capacity.

Denis said:

My reaction to yesterday's game is one of puzzlement rather than anger. How can a team within the space of four days be devoid of the qualities that took us to victory against Leeds.

It is impossible to make judgements about the team if you cannot see the match with your own eyes but the description of the match beggars understanding. You cannot legislate for individidual errors whether one or a couple but the whole set up and attitude of the team in the match is deeply worrying.

Are there tensions, splits within the squad? Has Mogga lost credibility with some or a majority of his players? Something is not right within the club, something I feel rather than any evidence to substantiate this intuition.

What I do know is that we did not have to be too ambitious to gain a point yesterday and adopting a more defensive, pressing style with Smallwood and Bailey in midfield might have suited.

We failed to do the basics, covering,clearing, being organisedd, doubling up,play simple passes. Straightforward football intelligence in dealing with Palace could have achieved a point at least, but another goal from a corner!!

Somewhere between the manager and the players lies the answer but on present evidence we are flatterd by our play off position.

David from Redcar said:

Palace were just too good for us - they have the best pair up front by far, a hard yet mobile midfield and a back four that tend not to make too many mistakes. I had them shoe horned into the top two and surprised they fell away.

In contrast we have an upper mid-table team that when the sun is shinning the wind behind them, all fit and all firing on all cylinders could make the 6th spot.

Alas, they are not all fit, and those that are are firing on just the three - so a gently slide into our top mid is inevitable. What is needed is patience from us, persistence from Mogga and courage from Gibson.

I still think the rest below us are so similar that we may yet scrape enough points to claim sixth; and next year third or fourth, the year after automatic top two !!!

Keep Calm and buy a Ticket

**AV writes: What he said ^^^^^^

Maggie Robinson said:

why did Friend who cannot head a ball play centre half when McManus was on the bench? And where is Arca? Has he had his foot amputated?

Simbar3 said:

Well said David from Redcar!

We'll be in the play offs. We need (as fans) to take the rough with the smooth. I am constantly surprised at how poor we are at dealing with the rough. Boro are going through a bad patch, we'll come through it! UTB

gt said:

Dear Fan

I am the Chairman of a club currently plying its trade in The English Championship,

About 25 five years ago,I had a vision to turn my archaic local football club into one of the most forward thinking brands in Europe. We were the first club in England to build a State of the Art modern football stadium in eighty years.

I hired a former iconic England international footballer as manager and he in turn pursuaded top European and South American players to join our club. Fans from all over came to watch,30,0000 gates on a regular basis,

I poured millions of pounds into the club (going into debt to the tune of hundreds of millions) - I wanted to create local community pride in what we as a people could achieve.

However, like in all team sports everyone depends on the collective and although we achieved some success, even losing money after working so hard to gain an entry into a major European football competition final (fans didn't show up for most games)I realised that the initial dream had to give way to reality. I had to rethink what the collective wanted. Most of those 30,000 fans left me.

Yes some decisions made on the management side were poor.and I hold my hands up and say I was part of that,

Lately the club has fallen away on the field of play.and we find ourselves today looking up at where we once were

I now find myself in a dilemma. At first I tried to buy our way back into the Premiership, but the man I put in charge to do it was a disaster, putting the finances of the club in a serious financial situation. I have clawed most of that back now, which meant the current manager has worked under strict restrictions.

So once again, what do I do? Continue to work within our means based on income and our ability to gain public support through the turnstiles, having faith in the manager finding the right players with character and ability to get us promoted. This of course will make it harder

But then again promotion will mean fans expectations will be higher,indeed the financial side of running the club will once again become an issue, Do I wish to put my personal financial solvency at risk again?

That is the dilemma

**AV writes: Well, football agony aunts, can we help this unnamed chairman?

ron in the delta said:

Chelsea then Man no problem there then

Nigel Reeve said:

We know we're in the sticky stuff when people start asking why Arca isn't in the team!

Supporting Boro at the moment is a bit like going through a bereavement, all the emotions are there, anger, a sense of loss, bewilderment, trying to make sense and find a reason for why what has happened has happened. It's tough, hopefully we'll scrape enough points together to finish in the top six, but I dont think even the most optimistic among us would count on it.

Still, we've got Chelsea in the FA cup followed probably by Manure, clearly Boro's name is on the cup this year........

simon in stockton said:

I'm going to contribute about as much as the players did on Saturday...

Nowt. cant be bothered.

Premiership? We're having a laugh with this group

jiffy said:

Holloway in charge:

Blackpool 3 Middlesbrough 0
Blackpool 4 Middlesbrough 1
Crystal Palace 4 Middlesbrough

Coincidence? Or does Holloway really know how to put out a side that will tear us apart

Ian Gill said:

Dear Chairman

This is a classic story of initial romance not surviving the humdrum, day to day realities of life.

Your true friends will always stick by you so even though it is painful at the moment it will get better.

I have one idea that might help though. When you are back in Jersey I suggest you have another rummage down the back of the sofa.

Hope this helps.

Percypieblocks said:

Mogga has stated that he is not concerned about the teams below us.
Quite right too, give it a couple more games and they won't be there anymore.

Werdermouth said:

There are many theories now floating around as to why Boro's form has taken a dive from Mogga losing the dressing room and want away players causing unrest to players out of position or others being overlooked, too much tinkering and too many injuries or the whole bunch are just not up to it... the list goes on.

Can we say that there must be something wrong with this season's preparations for away games. Boro have one of the best home records this season and had one of the best away records last season - so it must be possible for the management and players to win games away from home.

Mogga insists his footballing philosphy will win more games than it loses - and that may well be true - however when it comes to away games something is not working.

We hear it's fine margins that separates winning from losing. Other sports agree and when the British Cycling Team employed sports scientist Matt Parker with the rather grand job title of 'Head of Marginal Gains', his remit was to break down everything that goes into riding a bike and try to improve it by one percent in the knowledge that all these minor changes would add up to a significant increase in performance - the resulting 14 medals proved the thesis.

So can Boro start making some marginal gains? Mogga is known for his tinkering to get the edge in certain positions on the pitch. However, the effectiveness of changes need also to be quantified as they won't always have a positive effect - they may sometimes reduce a player's effectiveness in other unforseen ways.

It's probably more difficult to get less able players to perform well when they are given different tasks to what they're used to - maybe at this level some players are only good at a few things.

Also, how realistic can it be to train for new tasks when you have to play every 3-4 days or when you need to form a new partnership on the pitch with a different player - whether or not it was injury or tactically induced.

Michael Owen commented yesterday that it's always hard when a new player comes in for other players to anticipate how he plays and makes runs.

So no wonder a modern football manager looks like his head is about to explode - perhaps the keep it simple approach is needed in circumstances like these as how can you assess their effectiveness with too many variables in play.

(Disclaimer: Theories can be disproved as well as proved - your club may be at risk).

Smoggy In Exile said:

For me, the key phrase from AV's excellent summary is "annual nosedive".

Anyone waking up on Sunday morning would be forgiven for thinking they'd travelled back in time 12 months, such is the beautiful symmetry between this and last years season. That, more than anything is the definition of the well-worn phrase "typical Boro". It's been happening since the Robson years, so why we continue to be surprised each year that we have an abysmal January and February is surprising in itself.

I want to raise my hand up now and say that we will not make the play offs. We will huff, grab the occasional win to lift spirits, draw a couple of hard-fought matches, and then drop out of the play offs in mid-March.

Optimists will respond "but we're only three points from the play off places", then "but we're only two wins from the play off places", to be followed in April with "but we have a game in hand, and if we win that, and Watford lose their next game then there's only four points between us and we have them yet to play so it's still all to play for".

Basically, EXACTLY the same thing we did last season. I've decided not to have my hopes toyed with my Boro for the next two and a half months and to adopt a Teessiders bloody mindedness and superb soothsaying by stating here and now that we will finish 7th.

Of course, I'd love to be proved wrong, but I'm just not going to waste the energy worrying about it. After all, the starting 11 on Saturday didn't waste too much energy did they?

Andy R said:

Werdermouth -

Interesting post. If memory serves when Venables came in he kept it very simple - we went ultra defensive and just tried to pick up the odd point and knick a goal if we could, however it went in.

There's no Alen Boksic this time though, although against Leeds it looked that we'd gone for something tactically similar - graft first, craft later.

I suppose keeping it simple only works if you can do the simple things well. Individual errors can complicate any game plan.

Smoggy In Exile -

I vaguely predicted 6th pre-season. Starting to sweat now.

I don't know how others feel but gone are the days when I think it's the end of the world when we lose. It's not apathy, just an understanding of where we are.

Whatever is happening on the field, I think the club are making great strides off it and that, in time, will bear out.

AytonAyresomeAngel said:

This has all gone horribly wrong and the stats tell their own story. We have now lost 14: you have to go down to Ipswich in 18th place to find a team that has lost more. And only 2 draws: no other team in he division has drawn so rarely. Why haven't some of those defeats been converted to draws and why are we shipping four goals with such reguarity?

A team with promotion aspirations should not be in this position, yet amazingly we remain 6th. We are seing the same old problems as last season. Not getting ahead and finishing weaker sides off. Not putting in preformances against promotion rivals that show that we can compete with the best.

This seems to me to be largely a matter of morale and self-belief, the belief that we can beat anyone and the reverse, that teams coming to play us know that they're going to be getting good going over, so that we have a moral goal start even before the first ball is kicked.

We aspire to the Premiership, but sadly I fear that the current squad will be cannon fodder for the canon fodder. Chelsea soon, then we'll know about it. Sod's Law will of course operate, and we'll put in a blnder that will have Manyoo and the Auld Geezer quaking. Sorry, I just dozed off...

Football is actually a simple game: you just have to score more goals than the oppositon, whilst letting fewer in (was it Cloughie who said that?). But even more fundamental than this obvious truth, is that you need self-belief and the killer instinct. No evidence of either just this year. Sort it out and sort it out fast. Let's see some pride and fire and let Burnley have the backlash.

**AV writes: It's a crazy division. Only the bottom four have lost more and only the top four have won more. And for all the leakiness Boro remain the fifth top scorers. It's a funny old game. Especially in this league.

Masham wiggy said:

Maggie -

Julie arca is on his annual holiday to Christmas Island with his good friends Ray Wilkins and Michael Carrick.

**AV writes: I've heard of that place. It is near Okon-owa

Jarkko said:

How does the money poured into Cardiff fit into to the new rules, AV? How they can invest so heavily as all the others are cutting the cost accordingly?

Some reference from the BBC:

As well as wearing red rather than blue home shirts - for the first time since 1910 - the Championship club say they will now look into expanding Cardiff City Stadium and upgrading the club's training facilities.

The club's Malaysian owners have pledged £100m investment for squad strengthening, debt repayment and upgrading facilities to get the side to the Premier League.

The scarf promotion, which will only take place ahead of the visit of the Seagulls, will also see supporters given the chance to win a season ticket for the 2013-14 season.

Strange me thinks. Up the Boro!

**AV writes: They have taken a massive gamble to spend heavily to get up into the Prem before the FFP rules kick in and to be fair it looks like it will succeed.

There is however some serious questions to be answered about exactly how the deal is financed, how much of the 'investment' comes from debt leveraged on the club and, crucially, how much of the revenue is being exported in dividends, commisions and service charges to not only the owner but also the shadowy presence of former owner Sam Hamman who is being paid an annual levy.

If - a long shot I know - if Cardiff don't go up (and they have bottled it before) then the club will be an absolute basketcase. I would still be worried for then if they go up and come straight back down to find the windfall has all been swallowed up by the investors leaving toxic debt behind. High risk strategy.

Ian Gill said:

It is ever so easy to have a pop at sundry targets in our current situation.

Why cant Steve Gibson not front up with more money? There isnt any. Simples!

Unlucky with injuries. I have been reminded by award winning journalists in the past that we are no worse off than other clubs. Mind you, the last time he did that was when old blue eyes hadnt been long in the job and we were Mogganauting forward.

The players are not good enough. When you shop in the Primark remnant box what do you expect? (other value brands available) They havent been playing because they were not fit enough or not wanted. Some of the Celtic contingent had both characteristcs.

Mogga is tinkering. Understandable charge from many. Should we always match up the opposition? Should we play our game? Mogganistas will say SrAlex does that. People like myself will say that we should worry about what we do and leave the worries to the oppostition especially in this division.

Many issues spring from this question. If the opposition keep playing the same way wont they be more settled? How come we can think we can counter what they have been doing all season in three days of preparation?

If we dont adapt wont we be vulnerable?

What if the opposition have sussed us out?

That leads us on to another issue. It wont account for post Xmas slump as an historic issue but if other teams looked at how we have played and learnt that may make the return game of the season trickier.

Other teams coaching staff are not dim. They will notice trends as well, they dont just watch goals on Sunday to get an idea of waht to do. Maybe they are better.

What if our players are confused? It only takes a fraction of uncertainty for the edge to go off the game.

People have mentioned how poorly Emnes has played but his style creates problems. There is no harrying to offset poor touches and decisions. This is only one player, I am not picking on him indivudually, others are the same.

Some fans may argue players are not given a chance. Typically academy players. Strachan would have been slaughtered if he didnt give more chances to Main (he was gulaged before he was injured so be quiet), Reach, Williams, Smallwood etc.

As Wenger said we are not as good as people say we are nor are we as bad.

It is very easy from here but a regular comment has beem commitment.

Very difficult to know what to do.

nikeboro said:

There are many opinions on Boro's marked downturn. Conspiracy theories abound, on the lines of 'Mogga has lost the dressing room'. My own opinion is the reverse of the prevailing judgement.

I think Mogga worked minor miracles for the first half of the season but it couldn't last. With a squad comprising a few talented players (at least at Champ level) but mainly made up from freebies, rejects, lower league punts and past-its, he managed to make 2+2=5 for several months.

The harsh reality is that these players aren't good enough. Never were. The odd thing was that they had the degree of success they did until December.

As always, the early success bred confidence and led to a virtuous circle for a while. The good form was based on sheer effort and tenacity that couldn't be sustained. The final nail in the coffin was the constant team changes, enforced by injuries and exacerbated by tinkering.

Once the momentum faltered, confidence evaporated. The house built on sand quickly subsided. The players realised that promotion was a mirage, they weren't good enough and the club wasn't going to remedy the weaknesses by, for example, buying a goal scorer.

Mogga has done well to get out of them as much as he has. We won't see promotion this season but there is the basis for building over the next season or two.

Smogonthetyne said:

Not going to post anything to do with the match. What's the point, all been said many weeks ago.

What I would like to ask is, does anyone have the pass completion stats for the chimpship? Are we even anygood at what we are trying to do?

**AV writes: I'll try and find some.

Werdermouth said:

Further to my previous post on 'improvement through marginal gains' - the flip side to this theory would be 'regression through marginal setbacks'.

This would be the gradual erosion of the team's ability to perform though a steady increase in setbacks beyond the control of the management (e.g. losing a player through major injury, a player having a reduced performance level through minor injury, a player losing form, a returning player not match-fit, heavier pitches, increased frequency of games, unable to train properly because of weather, bad decision at crucial times, untimely error by a player, loss of concentration and confidence of a player etc)

As with the marginal gains, each of these setbacks are not significant enough alone to create a downturn but when added together they tip the team from being winners into losers. The management maybe adding positive influences to address the problems but they are not sufficient to offset the downward trend until either they outweigh the negatives or the setbacks start to decline.

All I know is the best managers have the best players, with the biggest squads and get the luckiest breaks - If Mogga and Sir Alex swapped places would they make a dramatic difference? Other than with the wine bill probably not as much as you'd think - whereas swapping players would make a far bigger difference!

**AV writes: I'm with you on this. Could throw in a few other pyschological factors too: fear of January, nervousness at crowd becoming more vocally discontent, some players edgy because their contracts are up and they face being unemployed in the summer, local lads spooked by unremitting pressure of doom and gloom shrouding the area... a percentage point here, another there...

ron in the delta said:

Cardiff have been there abouts for a couple of seasons now, and then losing out or bottling it. But this year seems to be it, Granted major cash investment helps but how many times do you see the also rans for promotion then finally come good.

What about Watford who I think will nick second place, how many loan players from their parent club in Italy, Udinese i think it is. Last count was five. Is this within the rules?

For my opinion Boro are still a work in progres, what has been acheived since the departure of the ginger marvel has been extremely credible, but for a full season in the Championship you need more cover.

My opinion is we shouldn't have considered Woodgate. When fit, then fine, but let's count the games he actually plays in by the end of this season. When he is out then it's a re-jig of defence. I thought McManus would have been back in favour by now.

What galls is the spirit and commitment found for the Leeds game just totally evaperated against Chrystal Palace.

6th place and 4 points clear staying in the play offs is in our hands but sadly I believe we'll fall short.

Next season will be the one.

**AV writes: Watford have 11 players on loan from Udinese. The rules only limit the number under the age of 21 from domestic clubs (four) and the total number that can be used in the matchday squad (five). There is no total upper limit.. But their should be, especially with FFP coming in as it offers a big loophole to be exploited, not least by third party owners.

Ian Gill said:

AV -

"A few pyschological factors?" An understatement I suspect.

Something will change for the better, we probably wont even know what causes it. Everyone will be scratching their heads just like they are now but off we will go on a run of decent results.

Dave said:

I think we all need to take a step back and gain some perspective. The reason for the consecutive slumps is largely due to overachieving in the first part of the season with a limited squad.

We were flying before Christmas but we were never hammering teams by 3 or 4. Most of them were tight encounters and it's taking it's toll on already depleted squad.

We're all frustrated but seriously think Mogga's worked wonders with the club since he arrived. He's had to work within tight constraints and he's not had the benefit of the open cheque book that others have had.

Mogga can only be judged as of next season when you can say it's more or less his squad. When the squad is fully fit he normally gets it 100% right. We've had a good run in both cups and have been competitive for most of the season. Just think we've ran out of steam and Mogga's hands are tied to do anything about it.

Maybe Reach and Smallwood are just not ready yet. It's easy to make judgements without seeing them train day to day.

Did anyone really think we'd beat Palace?

Anyway still lots to play for but give Mogga a chance to turn it round. You'll miss him when he's gone.


Percypieblocks said:

Just out of interest AV, could you tell us when was the last time we played the same side in consecutive games. Thanks.

**AV writes: I can only remember writing it once this season. I think it was Bolton. When was that? October?

Ian Gill said:

Dave -

There is a lot in what you say. I never expected us to be so high at Christmas nor in the play offs.

Pre season I thought that with all the players coming in many of whom were unproven or retreads that we would be mid table around now.

I then expected a decent run just like when Mogga took over from Strachan and to just fall short of a play off spot.

Next season was where my hopes lay.

joburgred04 said:

You have to ask what is different. That, for me, is Woody.

He controls his fellow defenders and without his guiding hand they seem to be incapable of making the right positional decisions. Bikey is all heart but needs to be reined in. Williams is a confidence player and when Woodie is beside him there is rarely a panic. The same can be said for George who goes forward with confidence when he knows the gaps are covered behind him.

Hines is out of his depth and is exposed far too easily. Stuart Parnaby is a better bet than Hoyte defensively but lacks real pace now. We don't have a character who can grab the other players attention such as Robson. A one year contract on the same rate as Sheff Utd must have been possible.

If, as is looking very likely, we're not going to make the play-offs, then its time to blood the youngsters.

CroydonBoro said:

At least we won't have to face Zaha every week who is the only player in this league who is guaranteed Prem experience next year.

As for the rest, back to training ground basics and get Main and Reach on.

Redcar Red said:

Just hope we don't fall victim to Burnleys daisy cutter corner again tonight.

Forever Dormo said:

Well, in a few hours we might be euphoric as Boro storm back to form with a great three points - cementing our place in the play-off positions and even starting to look higher.

On the other hand, if we continue our run of bad form and therefore go on to defeat at Burnley, we are then almost certainly looking down at the teams coming up behind us outside the play-off positions in the knowledge, after such a start to 2013, promotion remains possible but is no longer likely.

So - which team is it going to be? Certainly a changed one with Emnes, Bailey, Smallwood in the starting 11 and, believe it or not, McManus!!

I probably would have started with Main. Actually I'm sure I would have.

I agree with Friend at full back, not in the centre of defence. And if we had started with a Juke or Main up front, I would have tried Halliday in the gap behind the striker. He sees himself more as a forward than a full back.

We will see......

nikeboro said:

Team for Burnley: Smallwood, Bailey and Leadbitter all in the same MF. Let slip the dogs of war!

Any said:

Reading all this, I am minded of the Stones song, No Expectations...

Your heart is like a diamond
You throw your pearls at swine
And as I watch you leaving me
You pack my peace of mind

Perhaps 'realistic expectations' might be more in order but I fear those should not feature promotion without a significant influx of there's another song of despair...

GC said:

Dear Unnamed Chairman,

The 50% reduction in attendances from your peak is most likely down to the “fair weather” supporters. Undoubtedly the remaining “dyed in the wool” supporters are very appreciative of the support you have given, and continue to give, to your team.

We are all, at times, susceptible to errors of judgement. Unfortunately, as with goalkeepers, those committed by senior management invariably result in disproportionate consequences for the whole team.

In football, as with other professions, the most capable gravitate towards the highest rewards - job satisfaction, kudos, remuneration whatever. As you have obviously learned from a most salutary experience providing such rewards in football does not guarantee success.

Failure to do so, however, invariably leads to lack of success. You finish up with a squad whose members, with very few exceptions, do not possess the skills or ability, the fitness, physique or stamina, or the positional awareness and footballing nous to compete at your level for an extended period.

There is no simple remedy for your dilemma. Had there been you would have effected it and your open letter would not have been written. In the final analysis the decision as to the course to adopt must be yours, however palatable or otherwise.

You should, however, be reassured that the true fan will find no criticism for your course of action but will appreciate the good times they were privileged to enjoy. Any adverse comments will come from those who always know how to dispose of the finances of others but are quite unable to manage their own to the same degree.

I wish you well in your cogitation as to whether you should continue to plough your own funds into the venture, seek an alternative investor to assume your mantle or reduce the out-goings to meet the income and accept the resulting playing level whatever it may be. I would only recommend that you and your senior management are honest with yourselves and your supporters by discouraging dissemination of expectations which are patently unattainable or excuses which are obviously fallacious for non fulfilment of declared objectives.

Good Luck

A Fan

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