July 2007 Archives
I'VE BEEN out of the loop for a few days. What have I missed? You know how quickly the emotional temperature changes on Planet Boro with every unfolding detail. I won't know whether to practice my booing or book hotels in the North London area for FA Cup final weekend.
Shall we rattle the recent developments off?
THE BOO Boys will feel they have been disenfranchised by Boro’s controversial decision to pull the plug on Century. The club insist it is a sensible commercial decision that benefits the club to end the Century coverage and hand the BBC a matchday monopoly and given that we have not seen the figures it would be churlish to question that.
But reception of that message among Ali and Bernie’s sizeable armchair audience has been patchy at best. There is a widespread feeling that the club have miscalculated in shelving an important force for promoting the brand, the wider Boro experience and for capturing unforgettable aural snapshots of the emotional turmoil that surrounds the team - and that there is plenty of room on the dial for two stations.
Worst still, right or wrong there is a strong belief among the grumpier element of the Boro fan base that the move is motivated by a desire to silence the troublesome dissident voices that Century often give airtime to.
SEASON ticket sales UP across the Premiership? Well there's a trend-bucking statement I never expected to hear. Given the widespread anger at wages, prices, stewarding, daft o'clock kick-offs, the Sun's relentless tabloid campaign to drive prices down, supporter alienation, passion fatigue, a lack of a competitive league and a perception of vested interests trampling over natural justice as seen in the Tevez panel fiasco most observers, even the generally optimistic ones, expected a marked downturn.
Yet a Channel 4 on-line survey today has come to just that conclusion, although admittedly after a far from scientific approach of asking the club spin doctors for a rough estimate. It is the kind of lick-finger-and-stick-in-air approach that passes for news in a dumbed down infotainment era.
I am sceptical of the methodology, sceptical of the conclusion that has been drawn and especially sceptical of the line from the Riverside that sales are expected to be "slightly down" on the 21,000 sold last season. That is a very optimistic expectation taht flies in the face of the mounting body of anecdotal evidence that has been confronting me all summer.
PLAY UP You Washers. Come on, knack the dirty Scabs! I have always fancied myself as an Ironopolis diehard. Had Teesside been torn apart on historic fault lines of loyalty come derby day - there would have been hell on in the lower divisions throughout the seventies and eighties - then I am convinced I would have stood with the team that echoed our proud industrial heritage against the suburban glory hunters that backed Boro.
Equally there is no doubt that a town of Boro’s size with two teams would leave the dreams of both fatally flawed, a derby to rank down there with Bristol, Nottingham or Stoke, played only rarely and usually in lower leagues... or in the worse case scenario, a case like Bradford where PA went under after a century of struggle.
MARK SCHWARZER has picked a bad time for his contract brinksmanship. The golden oldie keeper wants a new deal to give him "security" up to the next World Cup in 2010 and has been rattling the cage Down Under to nudge the club into action.
The Socceroo shot-stopper has just 12 months to go on his current deal and you can't blame him for looking to the future but thinly veiled threats that he will let his contract run down and walk away on a free - "doing a Viduka" as it is now known on Teesside - if he does not get what he wants will force the club into making some tough decisions at a time when several underlying factors are starting to conspire against him.
The Golden Oldie - he wants a deal to take him up to the age of 37 - is raising the stakes at a time when the club is taking a conscious turn to youth and to players who are committed and want to play for the club .... and a time when there are a lot of quality keepers on the market.
IT COULD be clever marketing holding back the release of the new shirt to build excitement before a calculated commercial coup at the start of the lucrative school six week summer holiday/ beachwear retail boom. It could be shrewd product placement waiting for the high-profile billboard of a "spectacular" signing to unveil the club's new colours and new sponsor to the waiting world media. It could even be a bold artistic statement against the commercialisation of the game to not join the catwalk circus and cack-handed attempts at hype in favour of a subversive low key launch. It could be.
Equally it could be that Boro have missed a sitter. The shirts have been manufactured and are ready to roll but are sitting in the warehouse in Italy and losing precious shelf life because Boro failed to secure a smooth transition in shirt sponsorship. It is a major opportunity missed. Most teams have the major backer tied up long before the season ends and the new kit on display and on sale for the final home game. Boro shop staff are reportedly telling customers to expect the shirts in August - when a quarter of the potential selling cycle has already expired.