October 2006 Archives
"STUART Pearce once took Gareth Southgate to a Sex Pistols concert". I wish Alan Parry hadn't reminded me of that just before kick-off at the City of Manchester Stadium because it sent me off on a bondage-trousered nostalgic pogo through a chaotic two chord thrash of a game that was more about noise and energy than finesse and artistry.
Of course it wasn't a real Pistols concert, splashed with adrenaline, creative juices and a naive zest to smash the old order they went to. It was one of those tacky 'tourists are money' soulless paunchy punk anniversary revival tours, a pale imitation of what the fans know and love and still deep down belive in and aspire to, a cynical imitation of the real thing starring millionaires going through the motions. A bit like the shiny new football.
SKY SPORTS cameras with access all areas were at Villa Park today following manager Martin O'Neill through first team training. It was just a gentle session with a few warm up exercises and stretches, a couple of runs through set-plays and a half-hour training match between bibs and non-bibs that looked to be three touches and non contact.
More interestingly the lower tiers on two sides of the ground were jammed with spectators as 5,000 or so kids on a half-term break were invited to come along and get close-up with their heroes. They got to watch training, many got a first ever glimpse inside the ground and afterwards they could collect autographs before heading off to the club shop.
What a brilliant and simple bit of PR. Why can't Boro do that?
SOME THINGS transcend the petty parochial squabbling of football rivalries. Whatever team you support and however passionately you express it, most people are still bound by the norms of society and remain on the same moral spectrum that guides their every day life.
Only the uber-zealots fail to see that fans on the other side of the segregation line are basically the same as them. Only the real hardcore idiots believe the opposition are dehumanised scum and that anything goes. Only the really ignorant dregs of humanity believe that being at a football match means you can set aside all decent civilised standards of behaviour and have free licence to indulge in the basest of offensive behaviour. You know, the kind of people who chant "You're just a town full of peados" and think it is incredibly witty.
IS THE Newcastle game a derby? Only if Boro win.
Victory either way will spark passionate open top bus paradesque gloating on the Three Legends and in workplaces region wide from one side and that will be met by furiously feigned indifference and a series of history and geography lessons proving conclusively that the result is irrelevent on the other. You know the script; the scoreline just determines who plays which part.
Of course it is a derby. The fierce denial of that by terrace ideologues on both sides is just soccer spin doctors trying to distance themselves from the glaringly obvious fact that this is a match of paramount parochial importance. It is pre-emptive damage limitation aimed at reducing the pain should the unthinkable happen.
"SMOGGIES at home, watching The Bill". You just know it will be thrown right back in your face on Sunday. I thought I heard a muted practice run echo around a half empty St James's against Fenebahce but at the Riverside it will ring out with real venom from the away end. These taunts always come back and bite you in the bum.
It happened on the opening day at Reading too as sprint starters Boro raced into a early two goal lead and the travelling Teesside contingent laughed through a prematurely arrogant chorus of "we are Premier League" only to skulk off home with badly bruised egos as the new boys hit back to win and the same song was given back in spades, along with a caustic but accurate analysis of our heroes display stated concisely as "two nil and you, er, messed it up."
It is a kind of football karma. As soon as you start sneering and lording it over other fans you are inviting retaliation in kind when the balance of fate tips against you - and as Boro fans know that happens only to often.
HAS LEE Cattermole solved Boro's long standing problem on the right?
Certainly the defensive midfielder turned makeshift wideman showed more of an attacking threat down that flank against Everton than Stuart Parnaby, Gaizka Mendieta and James Morrison have mustered between them all season. Added to that, his willingness to track back, his ability to close down quickly and his bite in the tackle gave the right flank added protection and a reassuring solidity about it that has been lacking for years.
Cattermole was a revelation - but his barnstorming display in an alien position role must raise big questionmarks over the current trio of contenders for that role.
MOGGA is a Baggy. Middlesbrough's peoples' choice as manager elect has stepped up a level to take over from axed Bryan Robson at Boro-connection junkies West Brom. Oh well, there goes the January safety net.
Boro fans with a soul, an appreciation of history and a keen sense of destiny will keep a very close eye on Tony Mowbray's progress at Albion. It is hugely important for manys fans still emotionally charged by the Brucie babes' bottle blond revival that he does well there and proves himself ready for bigger tasks of historic and spiritual significance back here where he belongs.
Because, make no mistake, Mogga is a future Boro manager.
SQUARE pegs, round holes; substitutions that make the team worse; just one chance created in the entire game because the most creative player has been dropped; a delusional post-match analysis suggesting that "we controlled the game out there"... magnificent.
Boro fans won't need educating about the tactical tinkering and second guessing of opposing coaches' systems that led to the cock-up in Croatia. We've been there. But it will be a shock to the system for the press pack... not least because they picked the team.
WHAT HAS England ever done for us? Alright, but apart from the roads, sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and public order... what has England ever done for us?
As long as I can remember the national team has been cruel to Boro. Players who get called up invariably get injured, tapped up or monstered in the press and suffer a catastrophic collapse in form. At best an few England caps will push up the price, as it did with Pally. At worst it provokes an insidious media campaign aimed at levering our man away from the shackles of his impertinent upstart provincial backwater outfit as we appear to be facing with Stewy.
As far as I'm concerned, England can get stuffed.
ANYONE who knows me would tell you that opinions are not something that I am short of. Most would add that I probably have too many and am far too willing to voice them.
I am a conscious dissident against the football industry's relentless quest to package the people's game as a soulless and emotionally neutral entertainment. I spend all my professional and much of my personal life immersed in the cultural, political and economic analysis of every minute and mundane aspect of life on Planet Boro. I strive to subject the machinations of the club, the body language of individuals and the carefully crafted language of official pronouncements to the kind of forensic academic scrutiny that the serious papers give to the inner workings of government. I am pro-active and promote the activity, organisation and empowerment of fans at every opportunity. And I elevate the opinions, passions and dynamics of the crowd to the position of importance within the game they deserve but so rarely get.
So boy, does it pee me off when people say all I do is rip off the Fly Me To The Moon board.