April 2006 Archives
BORO: Everyone's favourite other team? Don't be preposterous. It will take more than consecutive script-ripping four goal thrillers to break generations of instinctive hostility and have us dubbed the new 'Entertainers'.
And yet there seems to be a wave of goodwill aimed at Teesside from all points on Planet Football. The pulsating UEFA Cup miracle fightbacks have cracked some ingrained prejudices and won a lot of friends. And you can see why. We live in an age of stultifying, soperific, predictable, user-unfriendly ultra-cautious football that has dulled the nation's love for the game with a diet of televised top flight tedium that has medical science invesigating possible use as a sedative
So Boro's galvanising blend of nerve tingling drama and cavalier to-hell-with-tactics passionate all-out attack is a powerful Roy of the Rovers antidote to the satelitte dark age of dull, dull, dull matches.
IN A month's time the tabloid press will be engaged in a cut-throat circulation war that will centre around "backing our boys" in the World Cup. In their dreams it will be 'the Sun wot won it'.
With super soaraway reader giveaways, competitions to win win win, free Wayne Rooney masks and those essential cut-out-and-throw-in-the-bin supplements they will be chasing sales and a massive advertising revenue boost. Vast sums rest on Team England's progress. A successful team means profit for the papers.
So why the hell are they doing their best to disrupt the national team? What is the point of an unprincipled rummage through the metaphorical dustbins of candidates for the job of England manager? The self-appointed, self righteous moral guardians of the nation are showing themselves to be the most salacious, unscruplous and sleazy gossip mongers imaginable. The intolerable tabloid zest for a shock horror expose is out of control.
ILIE NASTASE, Nadia Comeneci, Gheorgi Hagi, Vlad the Impaler, Dan Petrescu, Nicolai Ceaucescu, the Cheeky Girls, can you hear me Cheeky Girls... your boys took one hell of a beating.
What a match. Pulsating. Dramatic. Passionate. Crazy. Four goal last gasp come back kings Boro salvaged the dream again. In this surreal season that defies any rational analysis is theer anyone with a smile as wide as the Transporter today who doesn't believe we are fated to win this thing?
Here's my emotionally inconitent impressions from last night, written live but never posted because of the post-game frenzy of celebration and quote gathering. It is a long one, pull up a chair and pour yourself a cuppa...
IS BORO'S current success by accident or design? Certainly the season has not panned out as it was intended. The Red Book renewal spin stated emphatically that we were aiming at the top six and beyond but back in January suddenly we were deep in the brown stuff and it was time to start digging. That wasn't in the script.
I raise this not to muddy the waters before our UEFA Cup moment of truth but because, well, HE started it. Gareth Southgate is a player to be admired for his insight and integrity and willingness to answer a question honestly. Some people may suspect his timing is questionable after he started picking at the barely healed scabs of January in the Sunday Times but we shouldn't forget where we were at back then.
"Well, there was so much going on behind the scenes," he recalled. "The chairman deserves a lot of credit because at that point it looked as if important players were going, and he put a block on that. Otherwise we’d have lost Mark Schwarzer, Ugo Ehiogu and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, who have all played significant parts in our revival. The manager wanted to bring in new blood and felt he had to sell those three to do that ... It was the dressing room, as much as the manager, that put things right."
GUTTED. But defiant. And determined to put it right on Thursday. That's how I felt and that's how I wanted the players to feel. And for once the boss came out and said something that echoed what I was hearing all around me.
"There's a lot of battered and bruised egos and bodies in there," he said. "But we have to pick ourselves up. There's nothing I can say or do to make them feel better now but they will come in on Tuesday and will start working hard again because we don't want to feel like that again on Thursday."
In an ideal world he would then have snatched the microphone off a surprised Gordon Cox, jumped up on the press room desk and started bellowing: "I get knocked down! But I get up again, you´re never gonna keep me down" while gesticulating to the cockney media that he would "have them" before going into a chorus of "We Shall Overcome" .
SO, lets assume that the bookies are right and Stevie Mac is off to England leaving as his Riverside legacy a second bit of silverware and a third successive European adventure. What next? More importantly, who next?
Obviously the media will speculate over the usual suspects and will spin more than Rapunzel as they seek to out "exclusive" the opposition . Martin O'Neill has already been revealed as the new man. David Moyes plus England rejects Alan Curbishly and Sam Allerdyce will no doubt get their splash unveiling too while there will be a sentimental parochial bandwagon rolling for Mogga, possibly in a dream ticket with Brucie. Or Cooper. Or the Gate.
The day after Mac departs the postbag will contain 100 applications for his job. Half will be from no-hopers, has beens and joke candidates boasting Championship Manager glory or Teesborough League triumphs. One will be from me looking for a cheap and easy column from the rejection letter.
But ten will be very good candidates. And two or three will be staggeringly good candidates, the best the game has to offer. That's what we want. Boro can do better than a tired list of mid-table maestros. Boro can go galactico.
DO YOU believe in omens? Me neither. But at times like this I'll take anything that you've got it. Any smidgeon of unscientific nonsense that helps build a positive white noise in this week of destiny must be a good thing.
Go on, admit it. You'll clutch at anything to add flesh to the otherwise far-fetched belief that this team can win three semi-finals, two finals and book a place in next August's Super Cup in Monaco against Barcelona. Having grown up watching dreary home defeats to Grimsby and being kicked in the teeth by fate a dozen times along the way that serial silverware scenario is so preposterous that it makes finger crossing, odd sock wearing, unchanged underwear, lucky dressing rooms and blood sacrifices to primitive Gods seem perfectly rational.
So when you find out that at the heart of Boro's defence there are two players who have already beaten Steaua in the UEFA Cup, well that kind of omen is a big boost. I mean, it's not mumbo-jumbo is it? It is based on sporting science. And history. It is fact I tell you. FACT!!
TO SOME minds the sight of a bedraggled queue snaking around the Riverside is a sign of success. It shows there is a real hunger for the hottest tickets in town. It shows people are willing to jump any hurdle to be part of the dream. It shows that there is a demand. Tthe assumption is made that the club must be therefore doing something right.
Wrong, wrong wrong. The sight of a queue is a patently visible sign of the failure of Boro's ticket distribution systems.
In an multi-media date-base age where the retail sector is sussed and sophisticated and the consumer is king, something is badly wrong when dedicated fans must take time off work to stand for hours to buy a ticket.
BORO'S last FA Cup semi-final was marked by that spectacular display of colour with the Big Cards. Remember?
Dozens of volunteers got to Old Trafford early to lay out 14,000 cards that when raised just before kick-off created a striking image of a red background and a white band. Red hot iron, white hot steel. I am convinced that was the moment the penny dropped with Boro marketing chiefs that the chest band was a simple, distinctive and very marketable motif that struck a chord with the supporters of this club.
With another FA semi-final on the horizon can we make a similar splash? Have we got the time? Have we got the will?
OPERATION Riverside: the most catastrophic attempt to smash the Red Army since Hitler launched Barbarossa.
It was a great PR stunt and refreshing to see the club invest in their travelling support. That will reap future goodwill but ultimately it just meant there were more of them there to see their side steam-rollered.
There were 5,000 Charlton fans in the Riverside and they were making a right racket. Early on at least. But it was jubuilant Boro fans that were left celebrating another thriling four goal display by our heroes and rushing back to the war room to plan operations Brum, Bucharest and beyond.