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Boss Blasts Wheater Airmiles Boost... Huth Makes Team Shock

Posted by on October 16, 2008 3:18 PM | 

BOSS Gareth Southgate has rightly had a pop at England for whisking David Wheater off from England Under-21 action Villa Park to bundle him on pointless night flight to Minsk - just to watch the seniors play Belarus live.

With an already patched up back line Boro need the strongest defence possible against Chelsea - yet the key man in that unit was sent scurrying across the continent on the milk train to get a taste of the senior set-up when he should have been recharging his batteries at home. If he needed to rub shoulders with the big boys why couldn't he have done that before the game against Borat's boys? Had he been needed on the bench there may have been a case. But just to rack up his air miles? Crazy.

Wheater played the full 90 minutes of England's second leg against Wales then whizzed off to Birmingham Airport with Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart although Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor, also called up, had to decline his place in the jump seat after suffering a tweaked anterior diplomatic muscle. As it happen neither of the duo had any role on Wednesday and while Wheats may now have a snazzy stamp in his passport Wheats would have been far better off catching zeds, clearing the cobwebs with a brisk walk to the Mungle Jungle and watching the game on the box from his settee.

Stewart Downing was also a passenger in the party but didn't play on Tuesday as the Redcar Rock did (which must have been frustrating but not gruelling) and didn't have to rush through the departures gate and fly overnight. Instead he had plenty of downtime in the hotel on Tuesday and Wednesday. He didn't even have to deal with the demoralising effects of booing.

At Boro's pre-match presser an angry Southgate - well, a bit annoyed, well his dander was certainly rising - said of Wheater situation: "I have to be very careful about my reaction. I don't want to detract from what was a marvellous England performance. I am absolutely delighted for David on a personal basis because I know how much it means to a young player to be called into the full squad.

"But as manager of Middlesbrough, I am in a situation where I am trying to prepare for a Premier League game so I am not too impressed when one of my players is asked to take a flight to Belarus to watch the senior squad play, immediately after taking part in an Under-21 match."

This is the second time that Wheater has racked up the air miles to be be involved with a full England squad and not seen any action. Last time was a lengthy trip to Trinadad and Tobago for the summer friendly in which he was one of only three players in the party not to get any pitch time. Although to be fair, he got a bit of sun on his back at a time when it was lashing down in Teesside.

Southgate said: "It's great for David, but it's an example of a circumstances where we as a club have to defend ourselves. As Middlesbrough manager I feel that we have to fight our own corner. We are playing Chelsea at 12.45pm on Saturday and it's important to galvanise everything we can against one of the big boys.

"It's difficult to reason how if you have been playing in two games for the under-21s and you have done your job, how you can then be asked to watch the first team. You are either in one squad or you are in the other, for me. I have to be very careful in what I do.

Then mysteriously, and possibly mindful of the Boronoid fear of a points deduction for a disrepute charge, he started a guessing game by glancing furtively side to side and adding. "I have been advised by a very experienced Premier League manager not to say too much."

"But then I am looking at one of my players who would have no sleep on Tuesday night and who was dropped off at Luton Airport at 3am this morning," he went on. "I have told him and Stewart Downing to go home and get as much rest as they possibly can today, and then report tomorrow."

Southgate is currently short of centre-backs as the Alpine hardman Emanuel Pogatetz is banned while Berlin Wall Robert Huth has developed cement fatigue and is ruled out for a month with scaffolding up while remedial work is done underpinning an ankle injury so the last thing we need is the only fit first choice defender anything less than raring to go. Thanks for that Team England.

Of course the situation is fraught with politics, as discussed by poster John Powls on the Gazette Boro Banter sister site. Southgate could hardly refuse when it was put to him that Wheats should travel while player was naturally happy as Larry to be asked and could hardly get through check-in quickly enough. If nothing else it shows Wheater he is still very much on Capello's radar. Besides, players are young and daft and fit as a lop and want to play every single game possible and they are not charged like the manager with juggling the team's resources to the best effect and putting collective interests ahead of individual egos, ambitions or short term urges.

Bernie Slaven argued in today's Gazette that Wheater would have flown there and back feeling ten feet tall and that the buzz of being considered important enough for the shuttle run would out-weigh any prospect of fatigue. We must hope so. Given the opposition we will need him fully fuelled and ready to put in a display of international class.

But being ten feet tall carries risk when flying, even in club class. We should think ourselves lucky it wasn't Robert Huth answering a later international call up or he would have come back suffering deep vein thrombosis or would have tripped getting his case off the carousel.

Poor Huth. He is fast shaping up as one of Boro's most injury prone players ever - and that is against some stiff competition.

Since arriving at Boro in a £6m fail-to-beat-the-deadline-but-it-is-linked-to-an-Arsenal/Chelsea-deal move in August 2006 he has played just 36 games. There is no doubt that when fit and at his best he is an international quality defender and a shoe-in for Boro and Germany but he is 24 now and in his seven year career to date has played not yet played a century of club games - he is on 98 while in contrast Stewie Downing will play his 200th Boro game against Chelsea - and without going through the big book in Uncle Eric's special locked drawer I couldn't tell you what his record of consecutive games would be, although I'd be very surprised if it was in double figures.

In the summer Huth worked very hard to put his glass foot problems behind him and Boro backed him all the way. A bio-mechanical fitness specialist was brought in to work with him, complex computer virtual models were constructed of his posture, his frame and his running action in a bid to crack exactly why he was so susceptible to foot injuries. He was given an individually tailored training programme to strengthen and develop specific muscle groups and alter the weight distribution and stress he was putting on an area of weakness that has been football's equivalent of the San Andreas Fault - and that had succeeded. Huth was fully fit, playing well - and regularly - and his foot was holding up. Then he turned an ankle.

Sell him, people scream hysterically like jittery stockbrokers looking to short Huth futures. But who too? Who would buy him with his current record? (Incidentally the answer, as it is to most of football's 'who would be crazy enough to do that' questions, is probably Newcastle). And, besides, when he is fit, isn't he the best we have got? He is imposing, unflustered, cultured, has an excellent sense of positioning, good distribution, is strong in the tackle and is excellent in the air in both boxes. When he is playing he is brilliant. If only we could get 30 games a season out of him!

Alas, that seems a pipedream. Instead he has joined a doomed list of Boro permacrocks who spent as much time on the treatment table as on the pitch; the sick-notes, glass legs and mirror smashers who were constantly, regularly, depressingly injured with a tweaked this, a broken that and a bruised the other.

He would certainly make the Sidelined XI that I have just scribbled on the back of an elasticated support bandage packet. Malcolm Christie and Matty Bates (how many cruciates can one man tear?) are the first names on the team sheet then comes unlucky Tony McMahon and Huth. Woodgate had his share and Arca has had one bad one per season since he came. Juninho was hardly an ever-present either.

Here's my team. I went with wing-backs to play to our strengths in that department with Phil Stamp and Keith O'Neill. I put Viduka, who had lots of genuine injuries, especially in the hibernation months, ahead of Boksic up front, if only because you suspect the Croatian was only ever taking Robbo for a ride. Certainly his record improved dramatically when Venables arrived. Have I forgotten anyone?


Comments (25)

John Powls wrote...

Glad Gate has caught up with yesterday's Boro Banter and some of us on this blog.

Do we think he posts as well as reads?

Posted by: John Powls  | October 16, 2008 4:10 PM

Ian Gill wrote...

As I posted elsewhere the irony of the Boro boys trips whilst Terry and Cashley stayed at home getting ready for the Saturday match up against the Boro will not be lost on the fans.

And I dont believe in conspiracy just thoughtless incompetence.

Posted by: Ian Gill  | October 16, 2008 5:45 PM

Aberdeen Brian wrote...

I don't want to say too much about the Wheater saga, it's over and done now and the real test will come on saturday.

Bernie has a point, a young fit lad like Wheats should be ok in the short term and will probably be running on the adrenalin buzz. Mind you he might be wrecked come Sunday!

What I'm really posting this blog for is to comment on the way that Capello's style of management seems to have injected a new mental toughness into the England squad.
I'm not saying that they look like world-beaters yet,not by any means, but it's not so long ago that achieving such results would have seemed far-fetched.

If being round the England manager provides such a fillip I'm all in favour of as many Boro players as possible spending as much time as possible in his company.

I posted some weeks ago that Boro's proclivity to concede late goals might be more to do with mental attitude rather than technical ability. Those Boro players associated with the England set-up, at all levels, should pick up this mental toughness and hopefully transmit it to their team mates at club level.

I've no doubt that the win in Croatia and the style in which it was achieved also gave the England players a massive boost before the Belarus game.

All we need now is for Boro to do the same against Chelsea and set us up for the run up to Christmas and a top half placing!


Posted by: Aberdeen Brian  | October 16, 2008 6:21 PM

Forever Dormo wrote...

John Powls at 4.10pm - maybe he posts to THIS blog under a pseudonym (well, there might be a few pseuds here, certainly a few odd nyms).

Maybe he puts outlandish ideas on the blog as a method of establishing the reaction, in case he did the same thing in a game? Using the blog as a sort of focus group, he might rule out some possibilities in light of a poor reaction, whilst giving the green light to others which are better received.

He could plant a stream of support for himself, maybe using multiple nyms giving variations on the theme of "Southgate is turning it around with quiet planning and a more attractive style of football". If he wanted a player out with little fuss, he could set off a stream of "So and So was rubbish AGAIN, and isn't fit to wear the shirt" posts.

The question is, which nym is he using? Of course, he would give the game away if the pieces were too knowing, too reasonable. Could it be Beamish Bob, or Geordie Lurker -incidentally, where is he now? Might it be that terminal Tyneside depression has set in?

Mind you if you get a post sent by "Tired Rock" from Minsk, I'd be a little suspicious. We will have to examine this blog a little more carefully in future.

Posted by: Forever Dormo  | October 16, 2008 9:31 PM

Forever Dormo wrote...

And another thing, Vic, you got back from BBC Tees tonight and switched on your laptop a bit sharpish didn't you? Just don't get the idea you can leave your written-media first love for the alluring bright lights of broadcasting, OK?

People from Baku to Beamish, Dubai to Dormo, Warrenby to wherever, will miss the old "Oh my God, it's disappeared before I could post it" ritual, and we have a suspicion Tallentire spends all his evenings doing macrame.

**AV writes: He does, he has made us all really neat laptop cases in Gazette livery. Very smart.

Posted by: Forever Dormo  | October 16, 2008 9:42 PM

tim from sa wrote...

Has anything come up about our marauding Turk is he in the frame for Saturday.He would make a huge impact even as a sub.

Posted by: tim from sa  | October 17, 2008 7:45 AM

John Powls wrote...

Forever Dormo @ 9.31 pm

Nice one!

If I could add to the pseudos & nyms the use of the 'symbolic' - a mixture of 5% 'sym' and 95% 'bolics'!

Wallpaper stripping and macrame! Is there no end to this team's skills!

**AV writes: Well, no one ever said it was all glamour.

Posted by: John Powls  | October 17, 2008 8:41 AM

Ste Mac wrote...

AV you say Bates and Christie would be the first names on the team sheet but I think you are wrong. Huth is the biggest crock of the lot by a country mile.

I feel sorry for Bates (young lad, good player, probs never make it now and we'll always wonder what might have been) but the truth is that even fully fit he wouldn't have been near the first team. Fourth or fifth choice at best.

Same with Christie. He was only ever a benchwarmer or played in an injury crisis. Most of the time when he wasn't on crutches he was battling it out with Danny Graham and Ben Hutchinson for a game in the ressies.

But Huth isn't a bit part player. He was bought as the main man and if fit is guarenteed a start so his injuries really hurt the team and cost us more.

You did a bit in the Gazette a few weeks ago saying it was Southgate's 100th game. Well Huth was one of Gate's first signings so should really have been heading towards his own ton by now and how many has he played - 36? A third? That is proper shocking.

For £6m, plus signing on fee plus £40k (?) a week over two years how much has he cost us so far? £10m? For a player who can't get three or four games in a row without his foot falling off?

Disasterous signing all round. And as you say who will buy him? We are stuck with him for two more years (and £4m).

Posted by: Ste Mac  | October 17, 2008 9:59 AM

Holgate Ender wrote...

There's loads you could have in that team.

What about Gazza? he was never fit when he was here. At the end was only playing one in three when he got a pass out of the Priory. What about Pally? He was two on, three off, like he worked on the rigs.

I remember a few others from the Ayresome days who were never fit. Kevin Beattie only played about four games. Putney was always injured. Mohan was always injured. Nattrass and Gary Hamilton towards the end.

Let's face it, we've always had at least two or three sicknotes at any one time.

Posted by: Holgate Ender  | October 17, 2008 10:05 AM

BLT wrote...

This thread is an open goal for self appointed fitness expert tony black. If only Huth had warmed up on a bike....

Posted by: BLT  | October 17, 2008 10:21 AM

Ian Gill wrote...

Of more pertinence is the misdiagnosis and treatment team, one where we have got it wrong after the injury.

I will throw in a few for starters.

Ugo - go away and rest over the summer, cruciate knee injury
Huth - pick an ankle, any ankle
Arca - off to argentina and now just going to run it off.
Downing - knee, off to USA, jar it, rest over summer, jar it, totally unrelated we are told by MFC (llocks bo - rearrange), his dad spilt the beans
Boat - broken toe, oops we never noticed it had healed at 90 degrees to the foot (ok, it hadn't healed properly)
Christie - the paracetamol kid

Blood Pressure soaring so must lie down in a darkened room, add some more to the list please.

Posted by: Ian Gill  | October 17, 2008 12:47 PM

Nigel wrote...

We would certainly be getting points deducted every week with this team.Remember Blackburn away the fixture that never was, with this team it would be the season that never was.

Posted by: Nigel  | October 17, 2008 1:27 PM

Nigel wrote...

BLT - Warming up on a bike wearing ankle warmers presumably with 'Flashdance' playing on his iPod!
Tomorrow we'll have Tuncay back and a 'ten foot tall' Wheater, should be a good game.

Posted by: Nigel  | October 17, 2008 1:39 PM

Forever Dormo wrote...

Lunchtime, so time for a quick look here.

Juninho - a little unfair. I always felt if he had a broken leg, he would suggest strapping it to the other one in the hope he could "hop it off" after a few minutes. If he took a knock, you always felt he would be back next week.

Boksic, on the other hand, was the player by whom all other sicknotes are judged.

Picture the scene. Breaks into a jog for the ball...pulls up sharply holding left side....has a rub down and a blast from the magic sponge before carrying on...a few minutes later an anguished look on the brow and the hand starts to rub the affected area...next the trainer comes on and has another look and applies the anaesthetic spray (which seasoned observers in the North Stand note is applied to the RIGHT side).... he plays on for a couple of minutes before bending over and, at the next break in play beckons to the Bench that he cannot carry on.

He leaves the field with a face that looks similar to someone who has lost a couple of limbs, and is worried for the other two. We do not see him again for two months (well, to be fair, it was probably cold and damp at that time of year). We are told the strain had spread to both his earlobes, and he had suffered an injury in shaving when not properly warmed up, hence the longer than anticipated absence.

No, I'm sorry Vic, but in terms of talent that COULD have been deployed and the cost to the club, the Daddy of all sicknotes was our resident Croatian. McMahon may have suffered a lot with injuries but we all get the impression he was gutted to be injured (as we were) whereas with Boksic, well, we did not feel that he was gutted at all. Some of the paying public might have been happy to gut him, if we could only have got him to Picknett's.

Mind you, there is hot competition for the lesser places. Remember centre-back Whelan, he of the glass jaw joining us from East Anglia (the extent of whose fragility became clear on the morning of his anticipated debut for the team). It only later became apparent that the team was better when he was injured, and suspicion must be that a group of highly motivated but undercover supporters were ambushing him at regular intervals to injure him on purpose, to keep him out of the team.

At least it gives us something to smile about afterwards - long afterwards.

**AV writes: I left Boksic out because I always felt that he actually WASN'T injured. He just didn't fancy it. And when he told Bryan Robson his thigh was hurting or his groin had gone Robbo always believed it because Robbo would play with a broken leg and it never entered his head that a player might be swinging the lead.

The most interesting thing about Boksic's general fitness was the way it dramatically improved when Venables arrived and told him if he was injured he wanted him in at Hurworth at 8am to be assessed and for treatment and no, he couldn't go home to Rome for the weekend and that even if he wasn't playing he was going to travel to Wimbledon/Southampton/Coventry with the squad.

Posted by: Forever Dormo  | October 17, 2008 1:59 PM

bewarethespin wrote...

I seem to remember Boksic always having the flu or some other unspecified virus rather than an injury. These infections seemed to flare up when the team bus arrived to travel to away games but you are right that Venables got more out of him. I reckon he must have sent him off for a flu-jab.

Posted by: bewarethespin  | October 17, 2008 2:34 PM

Doug wrote...

Branco? Sick note? We ended his career. He said he was fit to play but Boro canceled his contract

Posted by: Doug  | October 17, 2008 2:54 PM

Ian Gill wrote...

To set alongside the Prince of Darkness is the Australian Croatian.

Viduka seemed to suffer from long flight hamstring, it always broke down on the flights with Quantas. Oddly it was only a one way condition because it never affected him on the flights out, only on the way back.

Luckily Hurworth had a great success in treating this condition but sadly could not get a permanent cure. It always seemed to get better as a new set of international matches loomed on the fixture horizon only to strike again on the long flight back from Oz.

I must also give great credit to the treatment gurus because they certainly got him into great condition for the last half season of his contract, just a shame we didnt offer as much as Toon. It is a real shame for him that no sooner does he get a big new contract he has broken down again. He really would want to get into the trenches to help Toon out.

Truly unlucky.

Posted by: Ian Gill  | October 17, 2008 4:14 PM

Malc wrote...


Branca not Branco. Big difference.

Posted by: Malc  | October 17, 2008 5:50 PM

Mr Average wrote...

I hear a lot about Boro's track record with injured players and I have to laugh and how blinkered people are and how willing they are to bend the facts to suit their own prejudices.

Does anyone seriously think Boro don't look at past medical history these days? Or they don't give players top to toe medicals? That we don't agonise over every detail before they invest five, ten million or more in fee and wages?

Anyone who seriously thinks that is a fool. Managers, scouts, physios, doctors ... all their jobs are on the line if they get a big one wrong. Why would they be so reckless?

There are plenty of players who fail medicals and the club don't go a ahead (Seth Johnson, Padovani) and dodge the bullet but sometimes the manager and the chairman sit down together and do their calculations and see that there are potential problems but decide to take a risk and I have no problem with that.

The top quality superfit ever present players go to the Big Four or Champions League sides. We are left to rummage through the rest and sometimes that means buying one shop soiled, with a bit of a bruise or a battered box.

Some of the best and most influential players I have seen in a Boro shirt were those that the medically qualified among the critics would say we shouldn't touch with a bargepole - Bobby Murdoch, Terry Cooper, Nigel Pearson, Mark Viduka, Jonathan Woodgate in his first season, Juninho second and third times around.

If a player of that quality was on offer to Boro now and they were fully fit would you turn them down because they had two bad injuries in the past?

Posted by: Mr Average  | October 17, 2008 10:18 PM

Aki wrote...

Alun Armstrong would get my vote in there somewhere. What a great player he would have been if he'd stayed fit.

Posted by: Aki  | October 18, 2008 11:02 AM

2 Otterburn Gardens wrote...

After watching that inept embarrassing display, I think that Derek Downing would have been better off playing than Stewart Downing, Wheater is going to be nicknamed Titus if he doesn't get his act together soon and Aliadiere should change his name to Ardlyeverthere.
I wont even mention the clown who plays in goal.

Posted by: 2 Otterburn Gardens  | October 18, 2008 2:53 PM

London-based Boro fan wrote...

Boro 0 Chelsea 5

I listened to the match commentary on R5 Live: outplayed & outclassed! Pat Nevin during the commentary: "men against boys"! Sounded to me as they though they never turned up! The moral of the story? Money buys success...! :(

Posted by: London-based Boro fan  | October 18, 2008 4:30 PM

London-based Boro fan wrote...

And another thing: canny Steve Bruce seems to have bought a much more influential Egyptian! :(

Posted by: London-based Boro fan  | October 18, 2008 4:39 PM

chris wrote...

Well......we were awful. Keystone kops at the back and clueless up front. Mido battled but did anyone see him speaking/moaning to Taylor after the break? The guy is gone in January. He is doing a Viduka trying to look good so he can get a buyer. Seen some good high lights in the past of Alvez but the guy cannot dribble he can just hit the ball.....

Posted by: chris  | October 18, 2008 7:45 PM

Phil ex Warrenby wrote...

That was dreadful, worst display by a mile this year. No one expected us to win this one but we did't expect a flogging either. Sure we were short of experienced players but did we manage to put two passes together? I think not.

And who came up with the bright Idea to make Downing Captain?? He has a hard enough time lifting his own game, if someone looks sideways at him let alone asking him to rally the team to pick up their game.

Digard should have started, he can put players through gaps. And when are we going to get a look at Emnes? Jinky must get more game time or he will be off. I can see Roy Keane taking him up the road so he would'nt have to leave home.

At the end of the day tho' we did'nt suffer to badly as the other results went our way to a certain extent UP THE BORO.

Posted by: Phil ex Warrenby  | October 19, 2008 2:33 AM

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