May 2008 Archives
FIVE PLUS six equals boom time for Boro? No chance. There is a feeling in some quarters that new FIFA plans to make clubs field more local lads could suit a club like Boro who have put great stock in the academy production line, that somehow such legislation would level the playing field by preventing the cash-bloated Big Four breaking the bank in their crazed real life version of collecting Euro 2008 Panini stickers. But it won't.
In fact such legislation would be a disaster for Boro. It would simply prompt Manchester United and Chelsea to switch the focus of their shopping sprees to domestic talent and they would ransack the Riverside for Stewie Downing, Luke Young and David Wheater, burgle Blackburn for David Bentley and ambush Aston Villa for Agbonlahor, Young and Barry rather than spend in Portugal or France.
DAVID WHEATER and Stewie Downing are poised to make history and become the first Teesside twosome to play together for England since local legends Wilf Mannion and George Hardwick last teamed up in 1948.
The duo are in the frame to feature when Fabio Capello takes a squad trimmed of seven of Man United and Chelsea's Champions League finalists on the long trip away to Sunderland nursery club Trinadad and Tobago on Sunday. It would be a first full cap for Wheater and a fairytale finish to an incredible season - and another eyebrow raising first for Boro's productive academy.
SOME interesting theoretical mathematics in The Times as their number-crunchers get in some early guesstimates of how much Premiership cash will be splashed in the summer sales - although if their assessment of Boro's spending parameters is anything to go by it needs taking with a pinch of salt so large the health fascists will be coming swinging through your windows on ropes SAS style throwing stun grenades and taking you into protective custody.
SO, SERIAL transfer-listee and much misspelled Mark Schwarzer finally got his wish to join one of Europe's giants, as predicted by his agent. Not Juventus. Not Bayern. Not even Bolton. But Fulham, former Anglo-Scottish Cup finalists and occasional InterToto Cup qualifiers Fulham. That's a bit of a come down for a shot-stopper who always gave the impression that he thought he was bigger than Boro.
It is not the end of the world for most Boro fans... although starting the new season with Ross from Friends between the sticks might be.
IT WAS a stuttering season of frustrations and false dawns. It finished on a fairytale high to send us smiling into summer but before that went through a series of facial expressions from tortured angst to boredom, via deep felt pain, relief, indifference, gobsmacked disbelief and sullen resignation.
And now the dust has settled a bit it might be time to sift through the debris and look back at some of the key moments and events.
AS FAR as 'papering over the cracks' goes, you can't do better than that. An 8-1 hammering at home will certainly send the supporters home smiling, even it is only in bemused disbelief at the on-going perversity of a side that has averaged less than a goal a game at home signing off with an avalanche of net-busting action to send the anoraks rifling through the record books.
Yes, it was against ten men. Yes, it was against a crisis club with a manager and board at loggerheads and the fans in open revolt. And yes, it was the last day when there was nothing to play for and with no pressure on. Who cares! It was a glorious goal glut the memory of which will be handed down in Teesside folklore for generations, with each and every strike getting better with every telling. It offered sublime skills, magical movement, a string of sizzling goals - and it offered hope that next year can be far more rewarding than this.
SO, TO THE last home game of the season at the relieved Riverside and the now traditional lap of cynical indifference. The fans get to express their begrudged appreciation for their heroes or berate the boss (as when beleaguered Robbo was roundly booed) while the players get to salute the supporters they have variously entertained, let down or slated over the season. As a demonstration of the contradictions inherent in the relationship between the players and the fans it is hard to top.
"CHEER UP Kevin Keegan
What can it mean
To a sad Geordie realist
And a trapped football team".
Eternal optimist Kevin Keegan has spoken a great truth: that the Big Four have the Premier League stitched up like a kipper and that even with sustained spending "the eighth biggest club in the world" are still light years away from catching them. How does he think we feel?
PHEW. Job done. Pompey seen off in a fixture that could so easily have been staged at Wembley if the season hadn't taken a frustrating and disappointing detour. Still, two good goals - ironically from set pieces and against a poorly executed man marking system - after a jittery start and the full three points that make the table a less painful read. Sighs of relief all round.