November 2007 Archives
THE CREDIT crunch looks set to bite Boro's bum in January. We've all been there: belts are being tightened as the post-Christmas bills have arrived and the splurge on the plastic has to be paid for. And all the while the temptations of the January sales.
Well, Gareth, unless it really is something you really, really need and it's in the mad, mad, mad double blue cross sale or in the bargain bin rummaged through and rejected by more fashionable and well heeled shoppers, you can forget it. Unless you can get rid of a few useless ornaments in a car boot sale before then that is.
WHAT stage of the season are we at? A frustratingly familiar one.
One where Aston bloody Villa come here and twist the knife with a St Valentines Day Massacre or a drubbing that sends the Red Books flying and makes Catt cry.
One where the annual Mogga bandwagon starts to creak into motion fuelled by a potent two stroke mixture of rampant sentimentality and rising desperation.
One where people hope Gibbo still has El Tel's number on his mobile.
One where the gulf between boo-boys and rar-ras opens up and all ambitions for the season fall through the gap.
One where the main defence against the increasingly vitriolic and pained denunciations of the manager is to weakly ask who the alternatives are, a mitigation that rests on the idea that the team are listing like a cruise ship that failed to dodge the iceberg and no one worth their salt would come here anyway.
One where the only hope is to start a pathetic search to find three teams worse, shut our eyes and hope for the best.
I WON'T launch into any sanctimonious rant about the calamitous harbinger of apocalypse that is England's seventies retro failure to qualify for a major tournament. Firstly, I am not really an emotional stakeholder in the FA XI, and, secondly, there will be a tsunami of hypocritical bile and blinkered patriotic self delusion to contend with in the next few days anyway.
I'm not that bothered about England. I think it is a distraction from the passionate engagement of club football and comes enveloped within layer upon layer of preposterous media hype and expectation that rubs me up the wrong way. It doesn't hurt me if England lose. It hasn't ruined my week. I won't be changing my holiday plans for next Summer. If anything I will enjoy the European Championships more now that we won't have to put with the foaming mouthed xenophobia and rabid tabloid tub thumping that comes as standard with games against nations we once waged war against back in the mists of time.
But I will say this: anyone who believes that England have a divine right to qualify for every major tournaments just because they invented the game and won the big one once needs to seriously examine both the realities of world football and their own unfounded expectations.
YOU JAMMY nowt! That was the collective laugh of recognition on Teesside as Israel got a last gasp winner and Brian Barwick slammed the draw with Steve McClaren’s P45 in it. A Russian shot that could have dumped England out of Euro 2008 and ended his unpopular reign hit the post at one end - then Israel went straight up the other end to score and give Mac a helping hand to climb off the hook. For now.
The pundits, especially those frustrated that they had wasted so much time writing their unused vitriolic obituaries on England’s Dead Man Walking, immediately pronounced McClaren The Luckiest Manager Ever in tones that were a poisonous mixture of begrudged delight at keeping their holiday plans open for next Summer and thinly veiled contempt that it should come down to second hand fortune, a conclusion and a cocktail that many supporters will echo
Especially on Teesside where the heated debate on just exactly how spawny Steve McClaren has been in recent years is an old bone of contention.
BREAKING NEWS... JOHNNO IS BACK... BREAKING NEWS... JOHNNO IS BACK...
FULL STORY IN THE GAZETTE TODAY...
MY BID to rehabilitate Gaizka Mendieta in the forlorn hope of creating some options on the bench - described cruelly but possibly correctly in the pub as "a sad last act of madness by a desperate man" - has been given short shrift at Hurworth.
Pressed on the possibility of a return Gareth Southgate dismissed it curtly. "At this moment in time I don't see him being involved with the first team," Southgate told the Gazette. "His attitude to training is fantastic and his training has been brilliant. But I've discussed his situation with him and I think it is best he moves on." In fairness, Mendieta has accepted his internal exile with good grace, says he will keep plugging away in limbo and remains unimpressed with the suggestion that he should find an "exit strategy" detrimental to his bank balance.
But we still need something to inject a spark, offer the possibility of tactical changes within the game and an ability to switch styles and tempos on the pitch in a way that will create space, opportunities and those elusive goals. And we need it NOW. January may be too late - and we have an appalling record spending then anyway! We need that spark now and that leaves us with little choice but to shaft Watford and BRING BACK JOHNNO!
EMANUEL Pogatetz came on as a substitute just before the half hour of the goalless draw at Bolton and almost immediately crunched into the ribs of Danny Guthrie as they chased a ball running out of play then barely a minute later Boro's Terminator wiped out his old sparring partner Kevin Davies with a sliding tackle and left the striker in a heap.
The ref called the Alpine hardman over - eventually - and sensibly dished out a stern lecture accompanied by the international sign language palm down gesture for 'calm down'. Two minutes later Pogatetz touched the ball for the first time.
It was a perfect game for the imposing Austrian to return to action ahead of schedule to a no-quarters-asked encounter in which battling Boro matched the robust challenge of possibly the most physical and direct side in the league. It wasn't one for the purists but it was a game in which Boro stood up to be counted in the kind of scrap in which they are usually muscled out.
BOLTON'S eye-opening result in Munich was a disaster for Boro. Not only did they get a creditable 2-2 draw against mighty Bayern but they did so with a spirited show of industry and unity of the kind that had helped them defy football gravity in recent years and which been markedly and almost fatally missing under Little Sammy.
The return to a those direct battling qualities - we all know how Nolan, Hunt, Davies play, just ask Poggi - were given a reward as Bolton weathered a storm then snatched a late equaliser for the second game running and that will have been a massive morale booster that makes Boro's task in Sunday's basement battle that much more difficult.
LEE CATTERMOLE is robust and tenacious, never scared to go flying in where he could come off worse and no one could question his passion. So his crunching throat-high tackle on the Boro boo-boys in his no-nonsense post-match interview on BBC Tees after Saturday’s 1-1 Riverside draw with Spurs was par for the course for the youngster.
Of course, critics may call that rash, as they do with some of his challenges on the pitch. It is never wise to take a pop at the supporters as even the most well intentioned statements have the potential to inflame terrace politicians adept at scoring points and turning words into weapons. Even the well crafted arguments of wily Keith Lamb about the relative economic status of season ticket holders and casual fans earlier this season - logical in themselves - caused a furious backlash so a relative media novice with a microphone shoved under his nose with the adrenaline still pumping is always going to be a hostage to fortune.
But in his short impassioned outburst the Stockton-born midfield terrier pointed squarely to a contentious and divisive issue that goes right to the heart of the cultural conflict deep within a Boro crowd that is frustrated, angry and increasingly divided against itself.
BOOOOOOOOO! Battling Boro came from behind to take a point from a team that the pundits universally agree "will not be down there all season". And against the added impetus of a new manager lauded as a tactical genius.
Boooooo! Admittedly, it wasn't like watching Brazil but neither was it like watching the worst excesses of ultra-cautious McClarenism - or even the hapless Robson team as it unravelled.
After five defeats on the bounce a point is a good result. Not losing was massively important and while it is not a short term objective that set the heart racing it was achieved.
It has stopped the rot and set up next week's equally important basement battle.