January 2007 Archives
GARETH Southgate probably won't get the Manager of the Month award. Liverpool and Arsenal have both won all their league games - and Arsene can claim two convincing cup wins over Rafa to boot - plus if the LMA have any imput at all they certainly won't be voting for a badgeless boss that has dented their self-proclaimed standard of excellence. And besides, given the curse that traditionally comes with the bottle of Bells maybe he won't want it anyway.
But Southgate can lay claim to a more elusive accolade this month. He has laid to rest the ghosts of Christmas past and shattered one of the pillars of the "typical Boro" menatlity by steering Boro unbeaten through the entire month of January - incredibly only the third manager since World War II to pull off the feat in the top flight.
"HE'S COMING home, he's coming home; Mogga's coming home". Everyone's favourite iconic future-Boro-manager-to-be and the embodiment of the Spirit of '86 looks set for an emotional homecoming when - if! - West Brom come to the Riverside in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
It will be a strange night heavy with symbolism. Tony Mowbray's dugout debut against Boro will generate the loudest, warmest and most sincere reception any opposing boss is ever likely to recieve, unless Juninho ever returns in charge of anyone bar Newcastle or Sunderland. Mogga is unique. He is universally respected by fans as not just a playing legend and one of our own, a passionate Teessider who unequivocally loves the club, but also as the inspirational figure on the pitch as the team, the town, Bruce Rioch and the Steve Gibson consortium pulled together to haul Boro from the brink of oblivion. He is a man who crystalises a moment that many loyalists still regard as their touchstone as Boro fans.
And that stockpile of unconditional affection combined with the widespread unspoken understanding that one day he will be in the Boro dug-out could make the game a political minefield for Gareth Southgate.
CALLING all number-crunchers. What are the odds on Boro getting an away trip in today's FA Cup fifth round draw? Yeah, yeah, I know, its 50/50, the simple probability of a random event with only two possible outcomes. I can do that one.
But Boro's ball coming out second in the FA blazers' bingo pairings would be the TENTH successive away draw in the competition. What do those acquainted with the mathematics of sequential coin-tossing reckon are the odds on that?
BORO should repay the fans loyalty and use next season's TV cashcade to slash ticket prices.
Bloated Premiership clubs will get an average of a £40m bonanza next season from new global broadcasting deals - double what they get under the current scheme. Given the crisis of faith in the game among the supporters it would be an act of suicidal arrogance to pour that money straight into the Armani trouser pockets of already super-rich players and parasitical agents. It would lead to widespread revulsion and speed up the defection away from the game.
The only moral, decent and sensible thing to do would be to use the jackpot to bring down exhorbitant prices and reward fans for their endless sacrifices over the years and make the game accessible to new generations of fans. If clubs waste the money by adding a nought to the wages of average players then the trickle of fans away from the game will become a flood.
MACCARONE wants first team football. He wants to end his Riverside hell. So why didn't he go to Siena when they were desperate to have him last summer? When he was the hero fresh from his goal-scoring burst that kept them up then? Oh yes, he would have to take a pay cut.
Now, calculator in hand and slapping his forehead in belated recognition of the obvious, he has finally worked out that his Boro career is over. Now the maths of staying don't add up he is suddenly relishing the appeal of that fresh challenge back home. But for Massimo the time to take up that particular challenge was two years ago. Now there is a danger that he is too late, that he has missed a golden opportunity to be one of the calcio greats.
"OW VICKERS, why was there no interview in the Gazette with young Seb Hines?" It's a fair question but not neccessarily one I wanted to answer when I was packing the bags in Asda and the lass at the till, noticeably twitchy that I was stopping to talk, was shotting the fruit and veg down with the no-frills speed and determination of a last ditch Hull attack.
In short it was because the club were "protecting" him from the media scrum lest some unscrupulous hack put undue pressure on to reveal state secrets by asking him any trick questions about whether he was chuffed to bits to have scored on his debut.
THAT WAS CRAZY! A failure to kill the game and a string of ridiculous defensive errors almost cost Boro dear. Three nil up and cruising then suddenly the team came all over Norwich away and they were left hanging on nervously in stoppage time.
Sloppy at the back. No sense of urgency. A failure to clear the danger in the box. Dawdling over the ball in the area. No-one picking up runs down the flank. Stupid free-kicks conceded in dangerous positions. Men over in the box. Balls played across the face of goal... it was a masterclass in how not to defend - and if Boro do that against Bolton they will get hammered.
OVER the past few days I have been musing on the nature of collective public hate in football and the strange process by which Boro's legitimate terrace targets are selected for systematic monstering. The Big Picture column in the Gazette this week looks at the demonisation of Nick Barmby - a possible visitor with Hull tonight - and the sustained creative bile he faces from some less cerebral sections of the Riverside crowd. It also riffs on the theme to bring in the gallery of ghoulden greats like Zenden, Merson, Ziege and Beagrie.
All those have become instantly recognised anti-heroes among the Boro crowd with public pledges of unending animosity towards them a rite of passage on the journey to uber-fandom. They are pantomime villains to be booed and vilified on their every appearance. They are the personification of various degrees of foul treachery, unforgiveable disrespect and deep and lasting unanticipated damage to the club. Worse still, they are heretics from the one true club.
No wonder the tunnel visioned defenders of the faith have a religious zeal in hounding them.
A CRUCIAL win has clawed Boro away from the basement battle - but we are not out of it yet.
Seasoned Boro watchers will know that eight points above the trapdoor with 15 games to go is a precarious position and both Bruce Rioch and Lennie Lawrence's teams were dragged down from what looked like the security of the 'comfort zone' to be relegated at the death.
The away win at Charlton - the first triumphant league trip since April - has taken Boro's recent return to ten points from five games and made both the league and form table suddenly look a lot more reassuring. But there is a long way to go.
IT'S A must-win relegation six pointer! What, again? Boro may have had a much needed upturn of late but make no mistake, Charlton IS a must-win basement battle that can have far reaching implications for the rest of the season.
Don't be lulled into a false sense of security by Boro's best spell of the campaign so far. The situation remains critical and will be escalated into full-on Century switchboard meltdown mode should Boro lose and get dragged back into the cut-throat melee at the bottom.