September 2006 Archives
GUTTED. A stoppage time sucker punch. A sickeningly late sizzling strike fit to win any game denied gritty Boro a deserved point in a game where they beavered away, created some golden opportunities and, on the whole, defended well.
In the aftermath downbeat Gareth Southgate and the sullen players tried to take some positives out of the game: Boro set out with a 4-4-2 and two strikers and that given the chance for a Boro Idol phone-in facility the Teesside public would have picked; they set out to attack and created chances and showed embryonic signs of the offensive instinct the boss is seeking to make first nature; the off-colour Yakubu scored; and the attitude and endeavour was a vast improvement on the insipid display against Blackburn.
But hold on a minute.Trying to take positives out of nearly getting a point from Sheffield United? Sheffield bloody United? We should take heart because we could have had a draw at the relegation bound whipping boys who had yet to win? Oh dear.
THERE were some colourful quotes from Steve Gibson today as he laced into Steve McClaren's agent Colin Gordon with the Park End passion of a tenderly nursed grudge .
The confirmed Macophobes will feel vindicated over the revelation that furious Gibbo did an abrupt U-turn on the airport tarmac and called the former boss in to read the riot act over his agent playing footsie with Leeds just weeks after the manager had splashed out a reckless club record £8.1m on Massimo Maccarone.
And in the stinging rebuke that will play well with a public increasingly hostile to agents, Gibbo - annoyed that the agent had applied for the West Brom job on Steve Round's behalf - insisted that Gordon was banned at Boro four years ago.
So how come he not only represents Round but also four of Boro's brightest young stars?
WHAT price 'continuity' when the club is willing to let a key behind the scenes figure leave?
Captain Clipboard, the coachaholic Steve Round, was portrayed as the beating heart of Boro's bootroom culture of scientific sporting excellence, a man possessed who listened to audiobook training manuals on the car stereo, doodled set piece diagrams over the freezers in Asda and watched the Prozone screen with the dedication and attention to detail of a Star Trek saddo.
We were told his retention on the coaching staff was a non-negotiable part of the job specs when Boro had a managerial vacancy and it was darkly hinted that that had been a factor when Martin O'Neill and the club failed to find common ground. But now, it appears the club are ready and willing to let him talk to other clubs. Why?
IN SPINAL Tap there is a moment when the spandex clad hairies explain that their tour being downsized from massive stadiums to cosy 3,000 capacity halls is because they "are being much more selective about their audience."
That is where we are now with Boro. The once trendy football phenomona has been forgotten by the fickle fashionistas now the glamour has worn off and is now left with just the downsized hardcore audience. Less than 25,000 for a Premier League game at the prime time of a non-televised Saturday afternoon? Don't worry, Middlesbrough isn't a big football town anyway.
The 24, 959 crowd for Blackburn Rovers was the third worst ever for a league game at the Riverside. Portsmouth, the game before, was the second worst behind the 23,189 at home to Charlton in February 2002. Those marks will go this season. We've still got the ratings-killers that are the Robins, Watford and Bolton to come.
TWENTY four hours later and there is some sensation returning. The numb outrage at being dumped out by one of the better teams in the lowest division is fading now to be replaced by a creeping fear that the fringe players - and especiall the big names - are just not good enough.
The Notts County game was illuminated by the flames from burning bridges as Massimo Maccarone showed he was not up to providing any sort of threat when he starts a game while Gaizka Mendieta floundered against journeymen to underline the yawning gap between the stratospheric level he once graced and the one that is now woefully beyond him.
And some of the wonder kids we have been raving about over the past year or so scattered questionmarks in their wake as they struggled to impose themselves on a game perfect for them to stake a claim for a first team place.
IT WAS an early round crowd but was it to be an early round atmosphere?
The Notts County clash in "our" Cup was a testbed for the experimental 'singing section', the latest venture from the creative matchday enthusiasts of The Twe12th Man, the new Boro fans group aiming to tap into the rich heritage of the legendary Ayresome Angels and the echo of a hostile and intimidating Holgate. Did it work?
WHEN an agent adds a nought on for his own commision, when someone accepts a generous 'gift' in return for opening doors, when a hefty slice of a transfer fee works its way back through the offshore accounts of a parasitic chain of advisors, it is theft. Pure and simple.
You can disguise it anyway you want - consultancy fees, facility charges, business expenses - but artificially inflating figures so that there is enough for everyone to get their noses in the trough is cynical, dishonest and criminal.
It is theft. And ultimately it is theft from you.
SOME things need no comment. Here's some brilliant and passionate quotes from Jonathan Woodgate on playing for Boro....
"IF WE get off to a good start we can be up there and challenging". Yeah, right.
Have we had a good start? That was the debate over a few beers tonight. From an Ali Brownlee ra-ra perspective we have. We've deserved beaten the champions for a second year running at the Riverside - and been the first team to beat them after they took the lead in the league since the increasingly tetchy Mourinho arrived - and come away with a point from Arsenal, a fixture that usually heaps misery upon humiliation. So that bodes well right?
But from the Chickenrunning fence-climbing Slaven position things don't look so great. Boro collapsed into disarray and threw away an early two goal lead to lose at promoted Reading then capitulated in quite spectacular fashion to lose 4-0 at home to Portsmouth and. Four points from four games is relegation form right?
How does that start measure against other early season returns in recent years? Let's go number crunching...
WE SHOULDN'T be sat on here today scouring the internet and pretending to work. It's Thursday. It's a UEFA Cup night. By rights we should be sat in the sunshine at a pavement cafe in Lisbon now, Superbok in hand. Or laughing as the daft lads put dobey in the fountains in a square of a beautful unspoiled medival walled city on the Danube.
I'm gutted. I had got used to the excitement of planning jollies across the continent, looking at the logistics of flying from obscure airports at the dead of night to cities well off the beaten track. I had got used to playing legendary names and being high on expectation.
Look at tonight's fixtures in the first round, first leg: Newcastle go to Tallin, the cheap beer capital of the Baltic, West Ham host Palermo, Blackburn are in Salzburg and Spurs, the jammy gets, are in Prague to play Slavia. Ow, that should be us!