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Frustrated Flanker In A Fix

Posted by on August 28, 2008 12:52 PM | 

SOMETHING'S got to give: players who want to be starting for the first team and who know they have something to contribute to the team and managers who need to stick by a team that is performing well and find a shape and selection that gets what they believe is their best team on the pitch.

Frustrated flanker Adam Johnson told me after the Yeovil match how hard it was being left kicking his heels when he is anxious to play. He was very frank about his situation and I must admit I have a lot of sympathy for the lad. He is not an habitual cage-rattler in a huff because he is not getting a game. He is not a super-ego serial ship-jumper putting his own needs ahead of the team. He has been remarkably patient but there comes a point when even the most tolerant individual loses heart.

He is desperate to be part of what he sees as exciting times at Boro, a club that he has a deep emotional investment in having been at the Academy since he was a nipper, and wants to contribute but fears he will not get a chance, especially as he is behind the number 19 from Pallister Park, Stewie Downing.

Likewise Boro want to keep him. Gareth Southgate has repeatedly gone on record knocking back putative interest from a host of clubs and insisting that Jinky is a special talent and one that he wants to harness at the Riverside. But can he drop Downing? And is Johnson as effective, as consistent, as productive on the right as frontman turned flanker Jeremie Aliadiere? And what about Marvin Emnes who the club have splashed out £3.2m on and who can also play on both flanks?

Johnson's situation has actually got more frustrating since last year's impressive loan spell at Watford that should have steeled him ready for a first team place. Since then Downing has signed a new deal and shown sizzling form to cement his on the left while competition on the right - long considered a problem position - has increased dramatically since the days when we wondered how Johnno wasn't ahead of George Boateng.

With just a few days to go to the transfer deadline day who could blame the highly rated England U-21 for wondering about how the season may unfold for him and whether his future may be brighter elsewhere. It is all very well us advising him to stay and stick it out but he is a highly training athlete frustrated by having his talent shackled and his ambitions thwarted. He is an artist having his muse gagged. He has probably never been happier than the three month spell at Watford last season when he was winning games and winning plaudits and basking in the spotlight and the knowledge that next week he would still be in the team. And he is at an age where he knows he should be doing that every week if he wants to fulfill that potential.

And the young lads he came through the ranks with, who arguably do not have the raw talent and awesome potential that he possesses - James Morrison, Andrew Davies, Lee Cattermole - are all merrily spending their signing on fees from big money moves AND playing regular first team Premiership football after biting the bullet and moving on.

It may be that another long term loan in the Championship may be the solution, offering Johnson the action he craves to hone his skills and build up his experience levels elsewhere but also holding out the carrot of a return to the Riverside should the situation change. It can't be ruled out that Downing may pick up a knock and we will need Johnno full match fit at short notice. It can't be ruled out that next summer the annual Stewie saga may end with his departure to a far bigger stage. A loan will tick a lot of boxes and head off the possibility of him becoming so cheesed off that he sees a clean break as his only option.

I don't envy either his own position or that of the gaffer. He doesn't want to leave but if he waits around too long on the off chance that Stewie may be injured and he gets a shot as a stop-gap to be harshly judged against the regular in that role or that Downing moves onward and upward. By then his moment may be gone. The club may buy again. Or Emnes may blossom and stake a claim. Or Tuncay may slot in there.

The gaffer too must find it hard. He rates Johnson and has turned down bids to keep him - but how can he keep him happy? Downing if fit must play on the left while his choices on the right have so far done the business. Meanwhile, the new economic climate that saw the club cash in on Cattermole and Luke Young with offers 'too good to turn down', may make any approach for a frustrated fringe player equally compelling.

It will be hard to square that particular circle. Ideally we would keep Jinky as a vital and active part of a first team squad that is well balanced but at from some angles looks painfully thin, certainly enough for you to worry that it may be logging on to pro-anorexia websites when you are not looking. Ideally he would get enough first team football to keep him fit, focussed, fired up and happy to stay.

As he says, he can't wait for ever.

Comments (26)

PhillyMac wrote...

Vic...what are the options of either playing Johnson or Downing in other positions?

Like Downing in the "Zenden" inside-left role, or Johnson on right-wing?

I'd love to see Johnson get more of a game but we in the happy position of having too many talented players to squeeze into the 11 starting spots.

Posted by: PhillyMac  | August 28, 2008 2:40 PM

Werdermouth wrote...

If Gareth wants to keep Johnson then he'll need to put his money where his mouth is and play him in enough games to keep him happy rather than promise him a better tomorrow.

To start with he can bring Johnson on as sub for the last 30 minutes either as a direct replacement for Downing or by moving Downing either inside or playing him on the right.

Also Johnson should start all Carling Cup games and then he can occasionally start premiership games against the lesser teams who we tend to have a problem being up for - it's probably why we did so well against Yeovil as the team included quite a few players out to impress.

Finally, I agree with your main point that Downing will probably move on in the next year or two and we won't find a better replacement without spending a fortune - although if Porrit comes good then maybe Johnston is destined to be the best player never to be a first team regular for Boro.

Posted by: Werdermouth  | August 28, 2008 3:33 PM

Forever Dormo wrote...

Some good thought-provoking points, Vic.

Most of us would all like to see just how good Johnson is – I think he might be the real deal and he can make things happen, he certainly likes running at players which is a good sign for a winger - but proof will require a reasonable run in the team. That is difficult when the Man In Possession has been our most consistent performer, maker of opportunities for others and our top scorer for the last year at least. The MIP is also our most valuable asset (though if Wheater continues his consistently upward development that may come under threat).

I can see it might look attractive to put Downing in the middle, where he might well cause problems for opposition teams, so as to make room for Adam Johnson on the left wing. I can see we could do what the players have seemed to do for themselves when Johnson has come on as a later substitute over recent months – have one on the left and the other on the right, switching over from time to time to confuse their markers, but in the hope that both of them could do what was needed.

I suspect that what will happen in the long run is that Downing will perform at an even higher level this year, hopefully a successful year for the club, and that he might (in our dreams) do the same for even one further year, though that really would be pushing it. At that stage, however, he will move on to one of the Champions League teams for a high fee that MFC could hardly refuse. None of us could begrudge that lucrative move, and it would result in Downing being suddenly considered good enough to be a regular starter in the England team for several years to come.

At that stage finding a Premier League quality left winger who wanted to play for the club would not be easy. If we arrived at that position in a year’s time, it might be feasible to keep Johnson sweet – more money often helps in these troubled times - but to wait two years might be too much to expect from a young athlete whose career could always be at threat of ending with one mistimed tackle.

If we were to work on the assumption we have a year, then it might be possible to play Johnson in all the League Cup games (but remember, there might only be one more of those – has the draw been made for the next round yet?), to have him on the bench in all the League and FA Cup games and bring him on for as many of those as makes tactical sense at the time. That wouldn’t mean coming on with 10 minutes to go.

As I have said before, and probably others have said, bringing players on with 10 minutes to go doesn’t give them much chance to get into the game let alone influence it (and even Pele might have struggled with only 10 minute cameos on offer). It means a good half an hour at least, if not more.

On the assumption the current incumbent of the left wing continues to play as he has been, it would be a brave man to take him off with 30 minutes to go, to make way for Johnson who MAY turn out to be as effective. You’ll tell me next that little Jamaica might replace a tried and trusted world class athlete like Asafa Powell in the sprint race because they have found a tall lad who looks a bit nippy (let’s call him Usain Bolt, if you like). Lightning might strike twice for small islands in the Caribbean, but is it likely in the case of a Small Club from Yorkshire?

In which case, if it isn’t to be a straight substitution on the left wing, presumably we would have to see Downing move into the middle or one of the other midfielders make way (in which case why would we be spending money on such as Emnes?).

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not criticising Emnes. He looks handy and if he is the fastest runner on the clubs books then he is fast indeed, and will terrify opponents (do I let him go past me or do I pull him down and risk a card/penalty?).

Morrison might make a Premier League regular if WBA can stay up, but time will tell. He had to move on to get a regular start. Cattermole seems (at this early stage) to be poor man’s Digard, without the passing ability or the striking power, but still at best a squad player here rather than a regular. We got a good price for him and most of us will wish him well. Davies, for all his guts and what seemed like great loyalty (remember the club seeming keen to off-load him to QPR a couple of years ago?) was also destined to be a squad, bit-part, player rather than a starting regular. So I can see why the club wasn’t too reluctant to sell those players.

Johnson, on the other hand hasn’t yet had the chance to prove himself and is obviously straining at the leash to do so (which I think is a good sign, he won’t be happy to pick up wages without being able to play).

Johnson MIGHT prove himself to be a really good player, like Downing, but whereas it’s necessary to have at least two or three good centre backs (and more if you want a good Bench to cater for injuries), there is only one left wing slot. In the league generally, how many decent left-wingers are there anyway, for a club our size to be hogging the national supply?

Another problem for Johnson is that Downing last year was an ever-present player, fit and growing stronger and better. If Johnson was waiting on the Bench behind a 30-something Ryan Giggs, sometimes not fit and sometimes rested to keep him sharp for the big games (with a Champions League to plump out the season’s fixtures anyway) a young left winger might feel confident of getting enough games to show his progress and keep him happy. That is not the position at our club.

I suspect it might be better for Johnson to go out on loan to a decent Championship side for a full three months. Long enough to get the best part of 20 games under the belt as a starter. I suspect if he had stayed for longer at Watford, who were going like a train before he was brought back, last year Watford would not have seen their season wither away and our player would have returned better and more experienced and more able to challenge for a regular start at Middlesbrough.

If he did go on loan, though, it would have to be on the basis that this particular diamond was going away for polishing before returning to adorn OUR crown next year. It might hasten Downing’s departure, but we could have the confidence that he would be replaced as near as can be, like for like, with one of our own.

I would love Downing to stay, for the England manager to realise he is something special, and for him to be part of a continuously improving Boro team that will break into the big time. That might be a dream, but if football supporters can’t dream, there wouldn’t be much point in supporting at all. In the real world Downing will go (hopefully not just yet) for a fee to compensate for his undoubted talents and which will assist in the further development of our club, to pave the way for more success in the future.

The difficult job will be will be to ensure that when that time comes, we have our ready-made replacement (hopefully Johnson) already on the books and bedded in.

At the end of the day it might be a difficult ball to juggle with. But it’s better than the alternative of NOT having a left-winger at all, or having no choice. We are constantly told managers prefer to have too many good players and to therefore have selection problems, than not to have competition for places in the team. The fact we are having this debate means we must be in an enviably good position.

And finally, who says Downing isn’t good enough for Man U? He deserves to play at the highest level but please, Sir Alex, not just yet.

Better go now as I can smell the final touches being put to dinner (looking forward to those prawns!) and, far from the football glass suddenly looking half full, I am worried it might start to overflow. Sometimes it’s good to be a Boro supporter.

Posted by: Forever Dormo  | August 28, 2008 7:08 PM

Neil M wrote...

Dormo's posts are longer than yours AV. He makes some good points though.

Like you I feel desperately sorry for Jinky. He is a great player but like he says he his just very unlucky to be behind the best left sided player Boro have had in decades.

SG is not going to 'rest' Stewie or move him inside and out of his best position just to give Johnson the odd run out to stop him getting cheesed off. We would be weaker all round then.

And he is not going to play him on the right either because we have Ali out there now and doing well and he looks like a definite starter if fit.

Jinky is also caught in the old trap of young players at any club which is that managers who buy players have to justify themsleves by playing their signings, even if we have better at the club.

If Stewie got injured he would think he is a shoe-in but SG might feeel under pressure to play Emnes there (or even Tuncay) because otherwise people would ask why he spent the money. That might make his mind up for him.

Posted by: Neil M  | August 28, 2008 10:41 PM

Tony P wrote...

Boro should cash in on Johnson for me. Two years ago he was the next big thing but when he has played he has never delivered. Lots of running but no end product.

He is just the latest in a long line of Boro kids from the ressies who did well a few times from the bench and everyone raved about but who never did it when they got a start (Burke, Marinelli, Morrison, now Johnson coming soon Porritt and Franks)

If Spurs, Rangers or Watford or whoever want to give us £4m for a squad player we should take it. Spend it on a keeper.

Posted by: Tony P  | August 28, 2008 10:51 PM

Holgate Ender wrote...

Get him out on loan in the Championship where he can get better. That will keep him fit and keep him happy. He is a good player and we will need him next summer when Stewie goes to Man U.

Posted by: Holgate Ender  | August 28, 2008 10:53 PM

Nigel wrote...

My guess is this will be Downings last season at Boro, particularly if his form continues as it has for the past year. He has stated that at some point in the future he will move on and no doubt a champions league side will submit a bid.

He must be worth £20 million if Barry is valued at £18 million which if so would be hard for Boro to resist. Also Southgate has stated in the past that he believes it is good for the club to move its players on once in a while.

So for me the trick is to keep Jinky satisfied this year, a loan spell with a championship club looks the obvious answer, so long as he can be recalled at short notice. Personally I would like to see him back at Boro after Christmas once the season has some shape to it and he can get some games in.

Posted by: Nigel  | August 29, 2008 9:52 AM

Richard wrote...

Another "solution" to the Adam Johnson "problem" and that of any other talent that's getting itchy heals, is to create the opportunity for them to get involved. This means more playing opportunities and this in turn means more games. So, you can see where this is going.

If the squad is to stay together, as the best squads tend to do for a number of years, albeit with the occasional updating and tweaking, European competition is essential.

If we don't secure European competition on a regular basis, it will be harder to satisfy the likes of Johnson and Mido, who are champing at the bit for regular and more frequent action.

I'm guessing, because I don't have access to the corridors of power at MFC, but I suspect that this is part of the longer term strategy that Boro is pursuing. We may be close to making that vision a reality, but to enable it, we must hang onto the players that have the potential to convert the ethereal dream to 4D reality. To do so, is partly, an act of faith on the part of the players, but they also have the responsibility to deliver that vision. SO it is also an act of faith on the part of the club to persevere with the players, if they believe they have the ability to achieve that goal.

It is my guess that Southgate and Gibson's vision for the future of the club lies in achieving a greater number of matches through European competitions and being able to satisfy the requirements of all concerned - including the playing staff.

But of course the playing staff have to prove themselves worthy and capable of getting into Europe in the first place. Otherwise, perhaps they're not a good as they thing they are - yet?

The alternative strategy for a club like Boro, is a less exciting future of being a "feeder" club, selling off your best playing assets before they have had the opportunity to deliver the club to the next level. If good players jump ship too soon, the club will never achieve it. But then, players who seek individual glory with other clubs willl be faced with the same dilemma all over again - unless of course they join a club already established and "secure" in Europe.

A tricky business for Gareth and the executive. But what an incentive for a bunch of young lads, many whom are locally groomed and who have the JOINT responsibility of delivering a step-change in the future of MFC.

They can seek to achieve individually (for themselves) by manipulating their contractual positions off the field, or they can seek to deliver sporting glory as a TEAM. However, they'd do well to remember they'll always be part of a team if they are to achieve anything as individuals. It's the nature of the game.

So, if they should be focusing on anything, it ought to be delivering on the field of play for their colleagues, the supporters and the club and rocketing Boro into Europe. That way, they're much more likely to fulfil their ambitions and be part of ours as well.

If they get us into Europe again, they'll showcase their talents that have got us there and they'll benefit too.

Posted by: Richard  | August 29, 2008 11:05 AM

stockton red wrote...

What Adam Johnson and Mido for that matter need to remember is that at the moment we are in the very unusual position of having only one senior outfield player on the sick list. I didn'nt want to tempt fate by mentioning it really given our injury problems in the past.

All premier league clubs have squads. I have no doubt they will get their opportunities. At the very least Boro must keep Adam Johnson sweet by whatever means until next summer for the reasons set out in the above posts.

Posted by: stockton red  | August 29, 2008 12:20 PM

Becky Angus wrote...

The amount of raw talent middlesbrough have produced is a rare credit to English football. What other clubs are faced with the situation of having so many hot talented locally groomed specialists in their hands?

Middlesbrough honestly are one of the most exciting teams to watch if you take into account what we are doing. You know that Boro players are playing for the fans, because the majority of them have sat up in those stands and dreamt about playing for our club one day. Forget all the big dogs, give this young bunch some time and you will see a true heartfelt sucess story.

Maybe Middlesbrough have the grounds of a break through in football today as we know it. Imagine if we were one day to get in that all exclusive Champions league one day, with a bunch of local boro boys... it makes the hairs on my arms stand on end.

So yes, Jinky, you may be frustrated, and honestly, I feel your frustration, but he needs to see the bigger picture. Southy obviously sees him as a part of this new generation and who on this planet wouldnt want to be involved.

Yes alot of it is on faith, but i think every boro fan has a true belief it is possible! It would be the ultimate high, to play for your local club, stick with your local club, and be part of the possibly the biggest wake up call football has seen in a long time.

I have 100% belief in every player that is stepping onto that field, and if Adam feels the same way it should be no doubt he wants to stay, if it is at the point where its just too much, then he should go, and I would wish him every success because I believe he is one of the hottest young talents around, and he has loyalty, and he would be an asset to ANY team out there.

Exciting times at the Boro these days eh? I wouldnt want to associated with any other club in this world. We have got something special in all these young guns!

Posted by: Becky Angus  | August 29, 2008 12:30 PM

Matt wrote...

It is a great irony that while teams all over the country are unable to find left wingers, we have a seemingly endless supply of them at the Riverside. Downing & Johnson are well known, but if Liverpool & Chelsea saw fit to contemplate breaking FA poaching rules for a 15yo (at the time) like Porritt, he must have something about him too!

I feel certain that Johnson will soon be leaving for another loan spell in the Championship, until xmas. As long as we are able to recall him in the event of any substantial injury to Downing, it should be worthwhile for both club and player.

It was interesting to read AV's comments about our squad being very thin. As far as I can see, we have decent options in every position.

Mido off the bench if Tuncay or Alves get injured.
Arca, or Digard, if a central midfielder needs replacing.
Jonnson & Emnes to cover the wings.
Three superb central defenders to fight for two starting places.
Pogatetz or Grounds to cover left back.

Only goalkeeper & right back would be short, in my opinion. Those to come in might not be at exactly the same level as the first team regulars, but think about this...

Do Liverpool have a striker on the bench anywhere near as good as good as Torres?

Do Man Utd have a winger of Ronaldo's ability playing reserve team football?

If not, why should we expect to have a winger of Downing's ability or a centre back of Huth's quality on our bench?

Typical Boro fans, NEVER HAPPY ;-)

Matt

Posted by: Matt  | August 29, 2008 12:41 PM

jc wrote...

Lawro says - "I like Middlesbrough." I don't know how to react, this is too confusing, are all my assumptions about reality wrong?... HELP!

**AV writes: I think it is a Doctor Who style parallel multiverse inversion thing.

Posted by: jc  | August 29, 2008 1:06 PM

Ed Barker wrote...

I think that the championship may be at too low a level for Adam Johnston

Maybe it would be better for Adam Johnston to go on loan to a Scottish Premiership side such as Rangers or Celtic (since he would get European football experience) or maybe another European side.

**AV writes: I think there is an issue with international clearance making it harder to recall players at short notice if they go 'abroad.'

Posted by: Ed Barker  | August 29, 2008 1:23 PM

BLT wrote...

Sell Johnson for £4m? Are you touched Tony P? He is worth double that.

He is an England U-21 regular. Milner has just got to Villa for £12m and he may be a Prem regular but he has no end product and will never get a sniff of the full England squad where Johnno might. Think about the others who have moved - Pennant £8m, Ashley Young £9m... they are no better than Johnno.

He is worth far more than £4m. He is genuinely left footed, only 21, as had rave reviews and with supposedly a dozen clubs after him to push up the price he would be worth much more.

Not that we should sell him. We need to keep him sweet because as others have said Downing will be off next summer.

Posted by: BLT  | August 29, 2008 1:46 PM

mark wrote...

Again, and like all the others blogging here, I have much sympathy for Jinky. What he needs is a good arm round his shoulder and another 5k a week in his pocket. I find in football these two reassurances go a long way.

We must be all realistic here. This is SD's last year at the boro before a big move to a Champs League team. He would have been/will be a great asset for us on the pitch this year and at the end of it he will be a huge asset when he moves. Good luck to him, good business for the boro.

Jinky, if you are reading this, keep the faith, because I can assure you we are keeping our faith in you. You are the long term left winger for MFC and you will get your chances to prove that this year. Keep your head up and the ball at your feet.

Posted by: mark  | August 29, 2008 6:34 PM

BoroMike wrote...

Why is it that some people on here seem like they wouldn't be bothered if Downing was sold next season?

When we sold Luke Young to Aston Villa most people, including myself, were shocked at the fact that we had sold one of our best performers of last season. I think we have been lucky to find a player like Hoyte to replace him but where can you find a left winger as good as Downing that would come to Boro at the moment? Even the pundits said we shouldn't have sold Luke Young.

Downing has been one of the best performers for the past few seasons. He was our top goal scorer last season. He gets many assists and he plays a part in the majority of Boro's goals. Why sell one of our best players in the hope that one of our youngsters can instantly do better or as good as him?

I think Johnson is a great player with talent but he is unproven, he needs experience at a club like Celtic or Rangers on loan for a season. We wouldn't even need to recall him if Downing does get injured because Marvin Emnes can play on the left as well.

Some people on here are even talking about Champions League football which is ridiculous. I know you can dream about it but come on, who is seriously going to be able to (or have the money to be able to) break into the top four in the next few years? Middlesbrough are playing brilliantly at the moment and are pleasing everyone but we should take it one game at a time.

Posted by: BoroMike  | August 29, 2008 10:31 PM

Jarkko wrote...

I haven't seen enough of Jinky to have an opinion. But he has a lot of support here I see! And GS rates him highly, too.

I don't think SD will be leaving Boro next summer - especially if the season goes so well that Boro are back in Europe next season. I think he fully believe in GS's mission.

So a very interesting season to come. Can the full potential of the squad be fulfilled in years to come? A trophy first - then maybe Stewie needs a new challenge...

Posted by: Jarkko  | August 30, 2008 9:04 AM

David Morrison wrote...

I think most post on here about jinky go hand in hand with Downing. It is unfortunante for a player of jinkys potential and quality to be competing with a player who is established and produces week in week out.

It is also wise to look at the future and hand on heart if Man Utd or Chelsea came knocking with a big bid of say £15 million then the player and Boro would surely take it seriously. No body at the club would begrudge downing the chance of champions league football and it is surely only a matter of time before he goes.

This is why jinky needs to stay and must stay. he is a ready made replacement for downing and surely may even turn out to be a better player given the opportunity.
we must keep him and do whatever it takes to keep him at the club.

3-1 to Boro today.

COME ON BORO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: David Morrison  | August 30, 2008 10:16 AM

stockton red wrote...

Although we all believe that Stewy will one day move I wouldnt be too certain of a "Big 4" move next summer.
Wenger does not like paying top dollar for players and Liverpool are in the process of buying a left winger for £8 mill.Can't see him going to Chelsea so unless Sir Alex suddenly decides he's Giggs replacement we might find the assumed move is not on the table .

Posted by: stockton red  | August 30, 2008 11:44 AM

Redcar Red wrote...

Jinky needs the opportunity to shine but to "fit" him in I think it more likely that he could adapt to a Zenden type role easier than Stewy. He seems to be more of a dribbler than Stewy and Downings crossing ability would be hard to better so for me I would give him a go at what used to be called inside left.

We all believe he can potentially succeed at this level but as Richard hit on above we don't play enough games for all the squad to be satisfied. Its only a matter of time before we have Arca/Digard/GON/Emnes joining Jinky and Mido in wanting regular starts. Then there is the Pogi/Taylor or Pogi/Huth/Wheater/Riggot dilema looming.

Strange but Gareth may actually be relieved to pick up a few suspensions and injuries in the coming weeks to give him a break. It all adds up for a defining season for Boro which if succesful in having two cup runs as well as a UEFA league position achievable could go a long way to solving Jinky's and others frustration in the future.

Posted by: Redcar Red  | August 30, 2008 12:07 PM

chris wrote...

Why do Boro always seem to get Man u in the cups? I would be interested to see how many times Boro have played them over the last ten years....Or maybe i just remember the bad taste everytime we get beat in dubious circs...

Posted by: chris  | August 30, 2008 12:52 PM

chris wrote...

Good result today although it worries me that 3 of the 4 goals scored against us this season were by our own players!

Posted by: chris  | August 30, 2008 5:30 PM

Forever Dormo wrote...

It might be a surprise but I acutally have some friends. Some of them would find themselves a little out of their "comfort zone" in deepest Dormo, though they might occasionally take a trip to "Impressions" in the hope of finding a bargain before sloping off to the Stray for a walk with the Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Keep away from the Stray, dear Reader, these dogs are bigger than most of the horses running around Redcar Racecourse.

Anyway, one of my friends has a wife who seems these days to be banned from the Riverside on the basis we had a bad result the last time she attended (you will appreciate this was last season, but it's still early days). Her husband tends to be accompanied by whichever of his mates offers the most drinks or the guarrantee of a lift to the game. I wouldn't mind really, but it's his wife we most like to see.

Anyway, this week he brought a particularly swarthy member of the human race, someone who needs to shave 4 times a day. Worse, much worse, he is a supporter of Southampton FC. He hasn't been happy in living memory. "Swarthy" was even pleased they had sold Andrew Davies (and if you have seen any of Southampton's games until he was injured you will know he was the only one on their team who seemed remotely concerned about the result, so maybe it was no surprise they sold him).

His words of wisdon after today's game was that "Boro won it ugly". This goes to prove that even people who are usually wrong can sometimes get it right. Three points! It should be Boro's slogan. And although it was never ever going to be attractive, an advertisement for "the beautiful game", for our club to move forward we HAVE to beat the clubs who have just been promoted.

The odd win against "The Big Boys" is fine, something to be remembered for a while, the cream on top of the cake. Wins against the "lesser clubs" are the bread and butter. No point winning the odd game against our "betters" if we then fail to see off the teams who would like to have the deeds to our Premier League position.

So it might be ugly, but it's three points. We can always be beautiful next week. And we start off higher up the table. Beauty can be overrated. And it looks at though "Swarthy" might get the nod for the next game, even though he didn't pay for the season ticket.

Posted by: Forever Dormo  | August 30, 2008 9:29 PM

Redcar Red wrote...

What a Rollercoaster, we started off abject at best, outfought, outbattled, outjumped and second to every ball. For the first 35 minutes we could hardly string a pass together, our midfield went AWOL in the middle of the park. GON was running around like a headless chicken being simply bundled off the ball and Shawky looked lost and way out of his depth. Ironically it was Shawky being nearly Hospitalised that turned the match. The resultant goal from Alves’s free kick started a comeback that coughed and spluttered up to half time.

The second half versus ten men gave us the upper hand and an avalanche was looking inevitable. Then Stewy’s miss from the spot gave Stoke hope and dented Stewy’s confidence for 10 minutes or so and from then on we struggled to regain our rampant momentum. Then horror of horrors Turnbull nearly gifted them and worse was to come when a breakaway down their right and a cross which went right across the face of our goal was somehow bundled into our net via a Kitson/Hoyte combined body part. Typical Boro, here we were back to Boro of old!

Something strange took place from the terraces though that was definitely not Typical Boro. When Stewy missed his Penalty and his head went down there was a resounding chorus of “Stewy Downing on the wing? offering support and standing shoulder to shoulder with our comrade.

When Turnbull made a good save in the 1st half there was an overt overreaction from the North Stand giving him an almost standing ovation in an effort to boost his confidence (clearly the Stoke fans in the 2nd half at the opposite end had the opposite effect).

When we were expecting the historical Typical Boro capitulation to the Premiership whipping boys and gifting them at least 1 if not all 3 points Digard started to scrap and battle and Aliadiere started terrorising them down the left and hope was being restored. Eventually it was Tuncay who had battled from the start who deservedly found his name on the score sheet and restored Boro hope.

More amazingly 4 minutes of “injury time? was conjured from nowhere and to follow was even more amazing, instead of a mass exodus the Boro faithful stood and gave renditions of “You are my Boro? and “Come on Boro? right until the final whistle.

Boro winning ugly, Boro not being intimidated by a lesser, hungrier side, Fans staying with the Team and together battling for the 3 points. Saturday was not pretty and it did not live up to the newly borne optimism but it was an indication that fortunes and attitudes are changing on and off the field. Liverpool beat us ugly the previous week perhaps we learnt from that that when things do not go as planned you have to stay strong and battle it out, grinding out results.

Posted by: Redcar Red  | August 30, 2008 10:27 PM

bob wrote...

I think Downing will go in January so keeping Johnson is essential. Even if not January I agree with other posters that this is almost certainly his last season. BoroMike - it's not that we're "not bothered" if he goes, just that realistically we can't see how it won't happen.

Happy with the result again yesterday, even if by all accounts we nearly returned to 'typical boro' territory. The good news is we've scored 10 goals in 4 matches (13 if you count the og's!) - AV, how many games did it take us to get to double figures last season?

I'm looking forward to this season, and not just from a Boro perspective. I think it will be much closer than in previous years and I think a break in the top 4 hegemony is on (with Liverpool the most likely to fall away).

Looking around elsewhere it was a good weekend all up - Hartlepool, Darlington and Carlisle (with a Danny Graham hat-trick) all won and Newcastle lost. Hopefully Sunderland can deliver a defeat today to make it a perfect weekend.

A final note as I peruse the news - I note that Derby lost again. I recall that during one of last seasons frequent 'sack Southgate' outbursts that a few posters put forward Paul Jewell as the answer to our prayers and praised Derby for biting the bullet and changing their manager whilst they still had time. Fortunately Steve Gibson wasn't paying any attention!

Posted by: bob  | August 31, 2008 1:24 AM

Andy wrote...

Does nobody on here think that Johnson's performances are against lesser opposition( so what he had a good game against Yeovil), whenever the lad has had an opportunity in the Premier League he has failed to perform and he has got to realise that himself. It is like all the carry on with Porritt. At the time people were complaining of him being tapped up as he is even better than Downing and Johnson, but lets be honest if he was/is that good he would of being playing for the reserves sooner. Some people are so blinkered!!

Posted by: Andy  | September 1, 2008 12:19 PM

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