It’s the Hope…

I meant to write this after Swansea-Everton last night. Instead I discovered Game of Thrones Series 6 is on Sky and binged it. Also wine. My mouth feels like sandpaper and this morning it’s the usual cocktail of strong coffee and full-fat Pepsi, coupled with a pack of Skittles that I’ve found. FML. I mean that. Many plans for the weekend and now it’s nearly over. I might try and catch the Premier League games this afternoon. Both intriguing ties. Liverpool have been a mixed bag against teams that don’t have big names, so Southampton could be a challenge for them. And then it’s Arsenal v Manchester United. Remember when this used to be the game? Remember this? The personal battles between Keane and Vieira were always a big highlight for me. The tie has diminished greatly since those heady days. Even the Mourinho-Wenger club of mutual antagonism no longer carries much cachet. The former’s lustre isn’t what it was. AW shouldn’t even be there anymore, I’d argue.

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You’ll recall that yesterday’s matches held some key ramifications for Boro. Hull had a routine game at the KCON against Sunderland, or so it seemed as the Tigers fluffed their lines and Sunlun suddenly grew a pair, playing with an easy slickness that must be doubly frustrating for supporters because they were always capable of this. Swansea then entertained Everton and won 1-0, which puts them above Hull and extends the points required to at least seven where we’re concerned. In a sense it’s an ‘as you were’ type situation. We still need to go to Stamford Bridge and pull off an unlikely victory, though in a weekend of unusual results that now seems slightly more do-able. If we somehow manage that then we’re three behind Hull and Swansea are a further point ahead. Simple. Bloody hell.

Some interesting stuff from the Gazette recently, where they are beginning to talk about Steve Agnew as though he’s already been handed the manager’s job permanently… from a certain perspective. In this interview he’s asked all the usual questions, and gives the pat string of answers that means he’s saying nothing at all while talking incessantly. His managerial idol is Sir Alex Ferguson – revelation! 0-4 to Bournemouth was the only disappointing result – not Hull then? Not that pulsating 0-0 against Burnley? Not losing at home to an Arsenal team that was on its arse? I suppose you could argue that Boro have improved a little on the pitch. There is more attacking intent. We’re starting to score goals, and SA has been unlucky with injuries at the back and this has undermined everything, but I fear he’s the answer to a question no one wants to ask. He isn’t my idea of a solution. Considering the talk of him waiting in the wings for so long, his constant titting around with the side and indeed the performances he’s coaxed out of them have just prolonged our downward trajectory. Put it another way, if Steve Gibson phoned me and said Agnew and Nigel Pearson were stood behind him and I had to choose which one, I’d go for Big Nige every time. And I don’t think he’d even be my ultimate pick, but to my mind he’d be better than Aggie.

The whole thing smacks of the Riverside around a decade ago, when Boro were trying to cut their cloth and picked Gareth Southgate as a cheap option who would oversee a period of selling off the big stars. We know the consequences of that, and I have a horrible feeling we’re taking the same route again. Of course, beat Chelsea and I’ll admit I’m wrong. Pull off a great escape and his position becomes a lot more tenable, yet I fear we’re down already, have been for some time, and we’re just waiting for it to be made official. A great man once said there’s always hope, and I would counter by stating it’s the hope that kills you in the end.

And in a difficult season for north-east football on the whole, confirmation yesterday that Hartlepool were relegated from the Football League. They beat promoted Doncaster 2-1 but could do nothing about Newport winning, which left them in 23rd place and down. A real sickener for former Boro defender Matthew Bates, who was recently installed as player-manager following the disastrous reign of Dave Jones. Sad times everyone, especially for this celebrity supporter who has never seen Pools play outside the league.

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