Boro's Dates With Destiny Revealed
WE'RE OFF... the fixtures make it real. After weeks of speculative musing in a vacuum we suddenly have context again, a framework on which to build our annual delusions of imminent glory or inescapable fears that Boro will crash and burn. So get the diary out, start shuffling those work shifts around, whack in your lieu days and planning the away days.
Here's the full fixture list and a quick match-by-match preview of what is sure to be yet another crazy, frustrating and emotionally draining charge towards the Holy Grail of a UEFA spot....
11 Blackburn (H).... the traditional tedious grind at home to Rovers in which Tuncay misses a couple of sitters before the visitors win 1-0. "The new boys are still bedding in," says Gareth Southagte.
14 Wigan (A)... Boro romp to an emphatic 4-0 win over doomed Wigan as Tuncay hits a hat-trick and Titus Bramble puts through his own net. Headlines proclaim "Turkish Delight" for the first of 1,276th times to come.
18 Fulham (A).... another easy win, 2-0 with Lee Dong Gook on target. A national holiday is declared in Korea. Queudrue is booed throughout after an early two footed tackle sees Tuncay stretchered off before Yakubu scores two farewell goals.
25 Newcastle (H)... a tetchy 2-1 win is marred by ugly 'Judas' and "just a fat Mark Kermode" chants aimed by Boro fans at shirt-switching striker Mark Viduka. The Aussie isn't there to hear them having diplomatically pulled his Ziegel tendon through excessive driving.
1 Birmingham (H)... Boro fans boo when Stuart Parnaby's name is read out, though more from habit than malice. Steve Bruce slams the linesman for three poor offside decisions as Boro win 3-1 to go joint top with Sunderland.
15 West Ham (A)... Boro collapse to a 4-0 as the new look £200m Jellied Eels merchants go nap. Pogatetz is sent off for a sustained violent attack on Hammers new boy Craig Bellamy but the red card is later rescinded after FA chiefs say it was "justified".
22 Sunderland (H)... Tuncay returns to seal cult status with both goals in 2-0 win then on the whistle charges across the pitch to plant a Boro flag in front of the visiting fans.
29 Man City (A)... Boro do everything but score as they lose to a very poor City side managed by charismatic former England boss Sven Goran Eriksson.
6 Everton (H)... with Tuncay banned for his flag antics and Lee on Korea duty a new look lightweight attack of Aliadiere and Yuell is chewed up and spit out by David Moyles Dogs of War in a dreary 2-0 loss.
20 Chelsea (H)... Robert Huth returns from injury to face his old team and scores from a corner before limping off in the second half as Boro slump to a 2-1 loss.
27 Man Utd (A)... spirited Boro out-think, out-fight and out-play United before losing to a controversial stoppage time penalty as Ronaldo goes down 30 yards out.
3 Tottenham (H)... Tuncay returns from his ban to score twice and set up two more as Boro batter struggling Spurs. Martin Jol says we were "schhhuper".
10 Bolton (A)... Boro play out their first draw of the season in a tedious 0-0 that gets a new record low of just 18 seconds on Match of the Day.
24 Aston Villa (H)... Boro move back into the top three with a one-sided 4-0 win over a shambollic Villa. George Boateng scores the fourth and stewards are slow to react as a furious visiting supporter jumps out of the South Stand and ambles drunkenly 50 yarsd to throw his Claret and Blue Book at ashen-faced Martin O'Neill.
1 Reading (A)... Reading race into an early two goal lead but Boro battle back to win 3-2. David Kitson misses a penalty then suffers a jaw injury from excessive moaningabout how Boro have destroyed his career.
8 Arsenal (H)... with Woodgate and Huth injured Seb Hines steps in and shackles Thierry Henry in a display reminiscent of Steve Baker on Steve McManamanaman then scores a late leveller in a 1-1 draw.
15 Derby (A)... Tuncay dribbles from box to box and rounds the keeper to slot home a wonder winner as Boro go second. Boro fans are spotted wearing "Better Than Juninho" t-shirts. Teesside airport opens new route to Istanbul.
22 West Ham (H)... with Man United not playing until Sunday, Christmas come early for Boro fans as a 2-0 put them top. An emergency meeting of Premier League chiefs is called after London based tabloids question Tuncay's eligibility saying "he is too good to play for those Norrrvern Monkeys."
26 Birmingham (A)... "Cold Turkey" screams the Gazette as Boro's traditional post-Christmas slump kicks in with a shocking collapse to a 5-1 defeat.
29 Portsmouth (A)... Yakubu ends his long goal drought back at Pompey and scores all four as Redknapp's strugglers rip Boro apart.
1 Man City (H)... Huth returns from injury to poke an agonising late own goal past Schwarzer as the winter wobble continues with a 2-1 defeat.
12 Liverpool H... the Twe12th Man stage a big card protest before the game after the Premiership announce a three point deduction after Boro's contract with Tuncay is found to have poor syntax while misplaced commas lead to a suspended £500,000 fine. Boro pick up a point in a turgid 0-0 draw. Boro reject a £10m Chelsea bid for the Turk.
19 Blackburn (A)... Boro lose 3-0 in a snowstorm at Ewood Park to slip out of the European places. Huth is injured. Bernie refuses to give out the Man of the Match champagne. Chelsea bid £20m for Tuncay.
29 Wigan (H)... Boro celebrate the first real calendar anniversary of winning the Carling Cup in 2004 with their first win of the year, courtesy of Rochemback scoring one of those Zenden style two footed sliding penalties.
2 Newcastle (A)... Geordie fans turn on Sam Allardyce as Boro win a bad-tempered derby after three former Bolton players are sent off and an Emre back-pass sets up Tuncay for the 95th minute winner.
9 Fulham (H)... Huth returns from injury to concede a penalty as Boro throw away an early lead to draw 2-2. Queudrue and Pogatetz are sent off in the tunnel at half-time after fighting over who was Boro's most rash hot-headed foreign left back ever.
23 Liverpool (A)... Boro fight out a respectable 0-0 draw but are rocked before the game as Liverpool legal eagles discover a secret clause in Tuncay's contract that prevents him playing at Anfield.
1 Reading (H)... Alistair Brownlee's voice gives out again midway through the second half of a pulsating 3-3 draw and with Gordon Cox also nursing a sore throat Bernie takes the mic to bark gutteral Glaswegian slang as it reaches a climax.
8 Aston Villa (A)... Martin O'Neill puts three men on Tuncay and plays six in midfield to snuff out the Turkish threat. Lee Cattermole heads the winner to put Boro back in the UEFA Cup spots.
15 Arsenal (A)... Boro put in a sterling defensive display at the Emirates Stadium but are beaten 1-0 by Arsenal's new look young team as Theo Walcott, their oldest player, nets the winner.
22 Derby (H)... rock bottom Derby stun Boro and knock them out of the UEFA Cup spots, former Boro players Andrew Davies and Chris Riggott both on target.
29 Chelsea (A)... Robert Huth returns from injury to put in a show of defnsive steel but stands near Drogba late on to concede a harsh penalty winner before limping off.
5 Man Utd (H)... ref Chris Foy awards Ronaldo a penalty within 15 seconds but Tuncay scores either side of the break before ... sigh... a late spot kick won by Scholes earns United a point. Graceful loser Sir Alex refuses to talk even to MUTV and calls for Boro to be kicked out of football for "trying too hard to beat us."
12 Tottenham (A)... Boro overtake Spurs on goal difference in the final UEFA Cup spot after a 3-0 win. Evening Standard refuses to print result and the national tabloids don't update the league tables in a bid to ignore Boro's late surge.
19 Bolton (H)... nervous Boro slip back out of UEFA spots with a dull 0-0 draw. "Boro bubble bursts" report press gleefully, noting relegation is still possible.
26 Sunderland (A)... Boro put the Mackems back in the second tier with a sizzling 4-1 win and another Tuncay hat-trick. Roy Keane faces an FA rap after angrily wading into Boro fans chanting that the unshaven sullen supremo with psychopathic tendencies and access to a thermonuclear temper was just "a fat president Ahmadinejad".
3 Portsmouth (H) ... Yakubu scores his first goal since December to peg Boro back for a 1-1 draw leaving Riverside fans punching anxioulsy at calculators working out their chances of qualifying for Europe.
11 Everton (A)... Boro need to beat Everton to qualify; or if they draw need Spurs, Newcastle and West Ham not to win; or if they lose they can still get through if the other three all lose by more goals......