Morning all. It’s the day after A-Level results day, and my son picked his own up – two As and two B grades, which by my standards is close to miraculous but for him wasn’t quite good enough. He was especially disappointed with his B in Mathematics, but speaking as an Exams Officer I have seen those papers and all I can equate it to is looking at a book without the ability to read and seeing lines and squiggles… The results weren’t good enough to get him in to his preferred university, but his back-up choice welcomed him with open arms so he’s off to Edinburgh, and their term starts in a fortnight’s time. Suddenly it all feels very real.
I haven’t been to Edinburgh since a ‘lads’ vacation in the early 1990s. We camped in Musselburgh and spent a couple of days drinking heavily and taking in the sights. For my part it was a wonderful place. Before the licensing hours in England were trimmed back, Scotland was somewhere you could carry on boozing ‘after hours’ and I really enjoyed that – the people couldn’t have been more welcoming. We were accosted at one point by a dude who’d had a few too many (in the morning!) and insisted on serenading us with ditties from his favourite beat combo, the esteemed Orange Juice. And you know what, that piss artiste was right! Orange Juice have since become one of my favourite bands.
On the whole, I might prefer Glasgow (maybe it’s a consequence of my roots, but the rough and ready elements of that city captured my heart), yet I’m looking forward to hearing about his time in Scotland’s capital, and I am slightly envious of the three years he is about to experience in higher education.
As for Boro, the frustration we are all experiencing with the lack of transfer movement may be tempered by the prospect of a visit to Ashton Gate this weekend. Last season, Bristol City were a very tough opponent and challenged for a playoff place until very late in the season. A 2-1 defeat to Boro in mid-April kind of sealed their fate, just as Tony Pulis was steadily guiding us towards the upper reaches of the table. Given such a positive season, how do you capitalise on your work and build for the following season? Well, if you’re the Robins you sell a bunch of your best players, the sort of reward we will be well used to but appears to have cut them deeper. Their hulking centre back Aden Flint was Boro-bound, but they also lost the likes of Bobby Reid and Joe Bryan for considerable sums, and though they have shelled out more than a million each on a couple of additions all that proves is that a seven figure fee ain’t what it used to be.
Consequently, City have opened the new season with two draws (Forest and Bolton) and there’s a certain sense of optimism among Boro fans that this might turn out more positively than in the past. It’s uncertain whether Jordan Hugill will be fit and ready following his hamstring injury, but he’s been speaking also about his anticipation of getting onto the pitch for his hometown team, and I’m sure we are all keen to see what he can produce.
Pulis was manager of City briefly in the 1999/2000 season. It’s fair to say this wasn’t the happiest of times for the club, and the appearance of a former player for Bristol Rovers no doubt exacerbated the fans’ ire, made worse when TP was linked with the Portsmouth job and quickly moved along. It should therefore be a ‘fun’ reception for him, and little wonder that the manager has been overly complimentary towards our opposition in his press conference. Pulis also used his time before the cameras to elaborate on his thoughts concerning Boro’s need for additional players. To my mind, his comments were fairly conciliatory, talking about the issue as a matter of common sense that is shared among everyone at the club, including the players. This seems a far cry from the media talk of an angry firebrand who is on the verge of walking out because of the lack of movement. While such an occurrence would be up there with the best ‘typical Boro’ moments, you draft in a good manager and then conspire to ruin his prospects, my sense is that he’s as realistic about the situation as anyone.
In the meantime, we have landed a home tie against our friends at Rochdale in the next round of the Carabao Cup. The Dale are capable of making the day difficult for anyone and of course beat Boro 3-2 in pre-season, and while I was about to suggest they will be facing an altogether tougher side on this occasion, it’s just as possible that the kids will get another run out.