February 2008 Archives
IN KEEPING with the nostalgia overload on Teesside on this auspicious day, I have been rifling through the vaults for pre-enjoyed articles celebrating our day of glory at Cardiff.
The Boro website have a highlights package of Carling Cup final match action that will have the hairs standing up on the back of your neck while gazettelive have an excellent slide show that captures the colour and passion of the 40,000 strong Red Army there on tha glorious day and the aftermath back home, while today's paper is full of features, memories and analysis of the impact of Boro's Great Leap Forward. Even Fly Me To The Moon have reproduced their home page lead article from the following day, in which I get a namecheck.
On top of that, here's the Gazette's back page stories the following day in which graceful loser Fat Sam blamed everyone bar the CIA and six foot shape- shifting lizards for his defeat and triumphant boss Steve McClaren hailed his heroes. And not to be left out, here's another chance to read what I hammered out live and direct from the Millenium Stadium press box through a teary haze of alliterative adjective heavy emotional hyperbole:
IF YOU believed the habitual moaners in the underpass, Boro had just spawned their way through a turgid slug-fest and the result could be overturned on appeal by the massed ranks of the national media on the grounds that it was dull, dull, dull. Get real. It was a fantastic cup tie. Boro stood up to a team of spirited underdogs that came to the Riverside to spoil the game - and, in fairness it must be said, almost snatched it - and they created a flurry of excellent chances playing some delightful attacking football.
Sometimes I wonder what people - fans and journalists - want from a game. Boro had 27 shots on goal and nine on target, had 12 corners and brought some excellent saves from Paddy Kenny; Afonso Alves made his first start and showed some sublime skills, some brilliant touches and excellent movement plus a stinging free-kick to show a delicious potential that should excite all but the kind of stony hearted killjoys that populate FA committees; two young lads played in a makeshift back four and were outstanding against a robust, experienced and direct Blades side in a demanding, high-risk atmosphere; the always amusing sight of a keeper coming up for a last gasp corner and then having to peg it all the way back when it is cleared; Stewart Downing was simply brilliant; a bizarre winner from "one Paddy Kenny"; and - most importantly - Boro are through to FA Cup quarter-final (again) at home to a lower league side with Wembley beckoning and the season poised to explode into orgasmic joy. Who cares if the nationwide armchair army of big club groupies didn't enjoy it?
TEESSIDE was rocked by a seismic tremor ranked 5.2 on the Richter scale last night. But despite early reports it is now clear that the bed-rattling disturbance was no earthquake... the furious subterranean activity was in fact Boro digging themselves in deeper
Some determined nocturnal spademanship by the club's big hitters has transformed what should have been a routine dust settling period after the rejection of the "frivolous" appeal against Jeremie Aliadiere's red card at Anfield and the additional punishment into a full on movement of football's political tectonic plates. Outraged Steve Gibson and Keith Lamb both switched to full-on bloody-minded Teessider mode and gave the FA's assorted 'amateurs' and 'silly little men' both barrels in a blast that will reverberate through the day.
Now we must brace ourselves for the aftershocks.
SMALL MINDED Teessider alert! Look, I have no time for Chelsea whatsoever. That long pre-dates the current preposterous rouble stuffed arrogance that has made them the team of choice for puffed-up playground glory-hunters: the Battle of Stamford Bridge, Bad Santa Ken Bates's electric fence, three Wembley heartbreaks, Dorigo, Di Matteo and Sinclair... it is all pretty much imprinted in our cultural DNA to hate London's self important fourth biggest team. But I really, really want them to batter Spurs in the Carling Cup final on Sunday.
I make no pretence that this defection from traditional positions is some objective scientific judgement based on an appreciation of their tactics or technical ability. Neither is any emotional Epiphany that life is too short to harbour grudges and we should let draw a line under petty squabbles and celebrate the Blue Machine's contribution to the beautiful game. No way.
The switch against all instincts is just short-term tactical support born of parochial self-interest. I just want to protect Boro's status as last team outside the Big Four to win something.
FORGET my earlier wild speculation based on random bits of paper pulled out of an Ayresome Park mug by primary school children.... it's a Riverside reunion with cardiff and with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, possibly the only man in football who could realistically wear Mido's shorts without them flapping like a tea clipper in full sail.
Yes it would have been nice to draw Bristol Rovers or Barnsley - realistically they have shot their bolt - but come on, Boro playing a mid-table Championship outfit at home for a place in Wembley. What more can you ask for? If Boro hold their nerves and play to their potential now we can realistically think about Wembley. I know you shouldn't because it may put the mockers on and the Blades could yet spoil it but go on, dare to dream.
STEWART DOWNING has agreed a new five year contract at Boro and is hoping to sign it on Monday. As he is the the most potent creative force at the club and the ideal man to ping the crosses in for goal machine Afonso Alves to score from that is excellent news for everyone.
Everyone apart from Ian Elliot that is. Having painted himself into a corner by saying his boy would not sign a new deal, wanted out and would run down his contract and leave on a free then rattling the cage with talk of legal action he has made himself look a bit of a prat. He may well have forced the club back to the table with a new deal with talk of Downing exit (although they were always going to stump up) but he has burned his bridges with the very people he is supposed to be smoozing in order to get the best possible deal for his client.
HANDS up who fancies doing one extra shift of their job for a whopping £10,000 windfall. Just one shift. All expenses paid. One. In Dubai. Or Florida. Or Manila. Money for old rope. You can see why the cash-blinded turkeys were persuaded to vote for Christmas. I'd be there like a shot with the laptop, clicking away like crazy and no mistake.
But it is not going to happen. The Gazette are not going to pay me ten grand to do a colour piece on Boro v Everton in Pheonix - mainly because the aggressive Gam£ 39 global product placement will never happen, not as part of any normal Premier League matchday programme anyway. The political and logical objections and hurdles of sporting integrity will prevent the charade of a travelling circus. But that is not really what the Trojan Horse proposal is about.
The proposals, and the white noise of hysteria from supporters, are a smokescreen for other pernicious money making ventures in which clubs like Boro will not get to share.
WALKING UP to the Riverside there was a distinct lack of a samba beat. Thinking back to the Little Fella's bow there seemed to be an almost tangible air of excitement in the underpass . Maybe that is just retrospectively enhanced sentimentality. Maybe we are just more cynical now, less easily impressed by Brazilian internationals, after all we've had a few. Maybe I am over analysing it and the heat and expectation have been taken out of the situation by the general consensus that Afonso Alves will start on the bench and LDG will play.
Closer to kick-off the tingle gathers strength. The odd little kid wanders past with green and yellow face paint, there is a scattering of vintage Juninhobilia - scarves, shirts, flags - plus a healthy presence of brand spanking new Afonso Alves number 12 shirts and the odd Brazil flag being fluttered. In the stadium there are plenty of the Garmin sponsored half-and-half paper standards and a new 60 foot 'Boro Goal Machine' banner at the back of the East Stand, turned out with impressive haste by the kids at Our Lady and St Bede's, old hands at this game now.
HALF-and-half Boro/Brazil bobble hat.... check. Portuguese phrase book... check. Laptop.... check. Carnival sized bag of latin football cliches.... check. Let the Samba beat begin.
The club had called an impromtu Riverside carnival to unveil the £12.7m new Boy From Brazil and Boro fans obliged. The faithful had a rummage around the loft to find their old Brazil scarves and join the hastily recruited samba band and flambuoyant carnival queens to welcome Afonso Alves. With bunches of balloons in clumped in red and blue and yellow and green molecules of hope and ambition and half-and-half paper flags flapped by an army of excited schoolkids there was a colourful and noisy backdrop to the arrival of our latest latin superstar and a crowd of maybe 2,000 in the West Stand lower.
NERVE settling news come from Hurworth that the Redcar Rock David Wheater is close to signing a new contract with Boro.
The man out straight out of the Tony Mowbray mould is the new idol of the crowd because he exhibits all the old attributes that were demanded from the Holgate - grit, bravery, commitment, physicality, a TS post-code, a willingness to take a knock and a burning pride in the shirt - but is completely comfortable doing the retro ruthless no-nonsense thing on the shiny sophisticated stage of the star-studded Premiership.