The Day Before Sunderland

Back to work and I’m not sure how long I’m going to last. From somewhere I’ve acquired one bastard of a cold. My nose won’t stop running. My head has that distant, pummeled feeling about it. You’ve been there, I’m sure. It isn’t pretty. I work as an Exams Officer in a high school and exams start in less than three weeks so the timing could hardly be more perfect. Loads to do and yet my body is preparing a little white flag. It’s too early to be up. I have a podcast on, featuring two Americans discussing the merits of The Matrix Reloaded. They’re taking their sweet time in doing so, which is sort of appropriate as the film did the same. I remember taking a day off from work due to the sheer excitement of going to see it. A new Matrix movie! Wow what fun, it’s going to be great, it’s going to be… oh wait, they’re talking philosophy again….?


And so onto some tidbits before tomorrow’s crunch game against the Mackems. I call it that. In a normal world, or the churn of football hype in which each fixture has to be billed as a major event, a nailbiter, a six pointer, this one’s key, the platform for the winner to mount an unlikely late charge towards safety. In truth I think we all know better. It’s a case of determining who avoids the indignity of finishing last. Up until Bournemouth I might have had this pegged as a home win because Sunderland can hardly buy a point. The hangdog gait and forlorn expression of David Moyes says it all. If ever you want to know what despair looks at, you will probably find that any photo of Mr Moyes from this season pretty much covers it. Now though, I don’t know. Boro weren’t very good before we parted ways with Aitor, but the bounce that should have come with having a new manager has instead been a thud. We’ve been dire. Here’s some bullets from recent news coming out of the club, and beyond…

  • Stewie Downing talking shit to the press about how Steve Aggers Agony Agnew should be appointed as our permanent new manager. Now, Craig Shakespeare at Leicester City can quite rightly believe he’s in with a shout for his club’s top job, but Aggers? Six matches. Two points. When Karanka left we had just slipped into the bottom three for the first time. Now we look as though we were heading there all along, like we belong there. Do us a favour, mate.
  • According to most bookmakers Agatha indeed remains favourite to get the job, a worrying sign of the malaise currently taking place at the Riverside. In second place you can take your pick between Nigel Pearson and Paul Ince. The latter – forget it. Big Nige I’d probably take, because at the very least he knows how to be irritated by defeat. If that irritation spills over into outright anger, perhaps at certain players who aren’t pulling their weight, then I wouldn’t even be upset. Some of our lot deserve a good bollocking.
  • Alan Pardew remains a decent outside bet, and as much as I dislike Pardiola it’s frightening that the appointment actually makes some sense to me.
  • I’m sure it’s symptomatic of the often eccentric managerial appointments we make that Bryan Robson (sixth favourite) is somehow quite high on the list. And Steve McClaren (seventh). Woodgate is up there, and just to show how mental it’s all becoming Sir Alex Ferguson is apparently a stronger candidate than someone you would in fact want to see get the job, like David Wagner and Garry Monk.
  • Please, please, please, please, please no giving the role to former players who don’t have any proper managerial experience. We’ve been there before. It didn’t work. No Ryan Giggs or Steven Gerrard. Definitely not Massimo Maccarone, Mark Viduka or George Boateng.
  • Hell, I’ll do it. In my Football Manager game I’ve just got Boro through their Champions League group. Yeah, you read that right. That’s what you can expect with me in charge.
  • Nice to read some biting stuff from the Gazette about Boro recently. The foam finger has most certainly come off, and that nearly makes up for the fact I can’t read half their material because they want me to pay for the privilege of doing so. That aside, is it only me who gets annoyed at opening a Gazette story only to spend good seconds clicking off videos, pop-ups, scrolling around adverts, etc?
  • In the kind of piece that must have most fans replying ‘hey, no shit’ Sky Sports assert that Ben Gibson will leave if Boro go down. Apart from the nice touch of using the word ‘if’ surely this is blindingly obvious. While we’d all miss Ben, I can’t imagine anyone but the most hard faced loyalist wishing him anything but well. I just hope it doesn’t turn into one of those protracted sagas as summer drags on and buying clubs play a game of brinkmanship, waiting to see when they can offer the least money while we depend entirely on the incoming funds to source new talent. Remember the debacle in 2009 when we all knew Huth and Tuncay were on their way and yet it took Stoke City until the dying embers of the transfer window for Pulis to make his move?
  • You know what? If it was up to me, and you’ll have read above that Boro could do worse, I would spend my close season replacing huge swathes of the set-up. There’s a hardcore of players and staff who are too close to the Chairman and clearly this makes them feel as though they’re almost untouchable. You know who they are. As a priority I’d break up that particular cabal. Hell, it’s not like it has brought us much joy.
  • Seriously, congratulations to Newcastle in achieving promotion last night. We’ve all had a laugh about the hard work they have made of it, a season in which they invested a shitload of cash and retained the services of a man who recently managed football’s biggest team, so it follows he knows what he’s doing. But they’ve done it, having looked throughout the campaign like they’re going to do it, and I’m happy at least to see the north-east represented in the Premier League after what has been a turgid year elsewhere for our region. I’m also relieved we won’t have to play them in 2017/18. The Championship doesn’t look as though it’s become any easier, so need the Codes in there we do not.
  • A nice story emerged yesterday that unveiled Armand Traore as the world’s best dribbler this term. That’s right, better than Messi, Hazard and Neymar. Clearly the scoring takes into account absolutely nothing about end product, but it’s good to see us emerge top in a category other than one that sees us fall flat on our faces.
  • It raises a cruel grin from me to see they’re nicknaming Barragan ‘Barrabolix’. That’s almost as tangential and surreally wonderful as ‘Crap and Poo’.
  • I used to do jobs in which I could waste hours playing daft football games on my work computer. One of my absolute favourites was this one, if only for the bits of sage advice conferred from a smiling Roby Baggio after each effort that flew, Kernaghan style, high into the ether. That was only bettered by the time I was once able to install Premier Manager II and plotted Stafford Rangers’ rise to the top. Those were happy, responsibility-free days. Now if I last five minutes without getting a call from someone who needs my help then I count that as a bonus.
  • Because I work with data and have the time on my hands I made a chart from Transfermarkt’s year by year information on transfer spending to show how Boro stack up in the time since Steve Gibson took over. Take a look – here’s a larger version. I’m not trying to prove anything here, but it’s interesting that despite moaning we needed to invest more this season the club actually made a bigger net loss than at any point in its history, even the early 2000s when Steve McClaren was gleefully chucking cash at Serie B clubs for goal-phobic Italian forwards. For the most part we have stayed afloat by spending money. Only the period when we went down and Boro tried to balance the books saw this situation change, and we could all see that it would only guarantee more years of Championship football. The moral? Who’d be a Chairman? As always, citation is needed when it comes to looking at transfer data, but it isn’t far out.



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