April 2007 Archives
SIMMERING Boro supporters will rightly feel a deep sense of injustice over the Premier League’s two-faced judgement on West Ham.
The decision by league chiefs NOT to dock points from the Hammers after they were caught bang to right using ineligible players and then lied about it is a kick in the teeth for Boro fans.
It has picked off the scab on a wound to the heart that still hurts after a decade.
And in a game awash with cash the idea that the 'right and fair' punishment can be commuted to a heavy fine is tantamount to inviting the rich to bend the rules at will. West Ham changed hands in a £100m buyout earlier this season. A £5.5m fine will be accepted as a reasonable part of the purchase costs if those three points can buy their survival.
"HE''S A CROCK!" That was the instinctive cry of the Chickern Runners as Boro's £7m new boy put pen to paper and set his sights - somewhat optimistically it must be said - on taking his home town club into the Champions League.
But is he a crock? The perception is that Woodgate struggles to get through games, can't play two games a week, needs to be rested before the big ones and that his fitness record has put off the big boys from signing an otherwise excellent player. The facts suggest that he played more games than the injury prone defenders of the Premiership elite.
WOODGATE to put pen to paper. Yesterday's rumours were true. Raul and Beckham were seen in the Tontine with Keith Lamb. A Real Madrid delegation has visited the Riverside this week to tie up the loose ends and a confirmation is imminent.
Details to follow.
Is that half of Southgate's transfer warchest spent?
Will he be made captain?
Will it nudge Viduka to sign?
Can he stay focussed and maintain his form?
Has he downsized his own ambitions?
Will it influence other players to sign?
And is the news being leaked now to bury the news that season ticket prices are being frozen? Because they are...
HAS A BORO player ever made the PFA team of the year? Has one even come close to breaking into the big club magic circle? Has one even deserved to? Ever?
The annual glamour boys' mutual back-slapping beano produced a list of the usual suspects that was predictable and flawed with an unscientific bias towards using the league table as a guide. Like giving the Manager of the Year award to the boss who starts with best players and the most money and merely meets his objectives rather than to a Sam Allardyce or Steve Coppell figure who have done more to earn it by far exceeding expectations despite financial limitations and starting from a lower base, it is all deeply unsatisfying and suggests that whatever the merits of the case, employees of provincial and middling clubs need not apply.
Must we accept then that as Boro have never threatened to land the top four spot needed to even register in the game's consciousness, that the club have never had a player worthy of a place in the elite XI? Surely that can't be right?
JULIO Arca voted for Ronaldo in the PFA player of the year ballot. He said so in the Manchester United programme, even though he admitted that some of his Boro team-mates were "not happy" at the Portuguese prima donna with the spring loaded spine.
Ronaldo was a shoe-in for the players' gong because, despite his RADA acrobatics leaving furious fans feeling cheated in his wake, he has been head and shoulders above the rest. Technically he is brilliant. He skills are sublime. He devastates opposition defences with his mercurial trickery but he is not just a fancy Dan: he is athletic, effective, astute and has a fierce will to win. Those are the qualities that the players have voted for in droves, even those who have left the pitch fuming at his penalty box theatrics because - and here's the rub - professional footballers see wha the does as not cheating but 'gamesmanship'.
Unlike fans, the players are not morally outraged by Ronaldo's ability to win free-kicks in the most dubious of circumstances in the way supporters are. In fact, they see it as a skill that is central to the armoury of the professional. In essence ALL players cheat.
CAN BORO ever make the Great Leap Forward into the top six? Or will the weight of history, the resources at their disposal and the limitations of the potential crowd forever condemn them to bang their heads against the glass ceiling that prevents provincial upstarts from getting to the game's top table? Worse still, will the force of football gravity pull them back into the abyss?
History - even recent history - is littered with the debris of clubs that got within touching distance only to be whisked away and cast back down into oblivion: Sunderland and Ipswich both broke briefly into the top group only to slip through the trapdoor within two years. Now Boro - UEFA Cup finalists less than 12 months ago - are anxiously looking over their shoulders at the cellar dwellers and hoping results go their way. Is top flight survival the best we can hope for? And does that constitute success?
WELL, THERE goes another one thousand season ticket renewals chuntering away early through the underpass. Boro could have gone tenth - and above Newcastle - and set up a morale boosting last month of the season by beating Average Villa and Martin O'Neill, the man who could so easily have been the Riverside supremo last summer.
Instead the glaring weaknesses of the squad were exposed and ineffective tactical changes exploited in a second half slump that cost Boro more than just the points. The feel good factor from last week's demolition of Watford has gone, the Southgate honeymoon is over and the best we can hope for now is lurching towards safety aided by the ineptitude of the teams below. It is hardly the Great Leap Forward envisaged when the Dark Age of McClarenism ended.
DONG GOOK Lee.... it's Korean for Missimo! Top Gazette soccer brains have had the cuttings book and calculator out today and worked out that The Lion King has now played five hours and 13 minutes of football in England and not scored a goal. That's long enough to watch two thirds of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (the new tabloid SI unit of football time, just as football pitches and countries the size of Wales are official measurements of area), eat three full parmos or build a scale model of Ayresome Park from matchsticks.
Of course, that damning time tally includes several stints in the stiffs, one full half in the Premiership and a few brief cameos plus extra-time in the cp against West Brom. In the first team it adds up to barely 90 minutes (and certainly not 90 continuous minutes) yet in the hot-house world of football snap judgements that is more than enough for many to decide GD Lee is not up to the job. And don't confuse the issue by pointing to the fact that Yakubu has gone seven games - that's ten and a half hours, or a whole season for Robert Huth - without scoring.
He hit the post against Reading in his first outing, hit the upright again from the penalty spot in the shoot-out wit the Baggies then at Newcastle he was repeatedly brushed off the ball - once by Nobby Solano - and the optimism drained away to be replaced by cynicism.
BUBBLING BORO battered rock bottom Watford to ease lingering relegation fears and restore pride after the hurtful capitulation at West Ham. And I mean really battered them. The Gazette stats - which are as official as they come - showed 23 Boro shots in all and 11 on target in a game that but for superb shot-stopper Ben Foster could have been a Riverside record score.
It wasn't all plain sailing. There was a spell after the ludicrously easily crafted opener on five minutes when the sun appeared to have got to Boro prompting an overly relaxed Bank Holiday approach in which they seemed mentally sat outside the Dickens with their shirts unbuttoned and one eye on the student girls. Watford's route one goal slapped them back to harsh reality and as they stuttered back into top gear prompted an exhibition of crisp passing approach play and shots from all angles that was a pleasure to witness.
Even more pleasing was the awesome display of makeshift right-winger Adam Johnson.
WHAT will it take before European football acts to stop the thuggery of Italian fans? Will it take innocent women and children to come back from Rome in body bags before UEFA act?
What will it take before the Italian football club owners break their silence on the Ultra games that have made their own stadiums warzones with firebombs and knives and missiles being used routinely and almost without comment ? Before the Italian government confronts this endemic lawlessness on the streets and the blind eyes turned and even collusion within their own police? Before the British government stands for its citizens when they come under vicious cowardly attacks in what is supposed to be a civilised capital city in a modern Europe?
Boro fans will be disgusted with the Rome police, angry at the memory of their own treatment in Rome and shocked by the viciousness of the baton-wielding cops. But they won't be surprised.
On the streets of the Eternal City and inside the Stadio Olimpico ordinary travelling Teessiders were treated like scum and it is only because of their commendable restraint that they did not react to the provocation, did not give the Carabinieri the excuse they so clearly sought and were not subjected to the savagery we saw unleashed on Manchester United supporters last night