AK to Sunlun – this week’s Scurrilous Link

Forgive the unwanted videos and heavy advertising in this Gazette link, but the astonishing news/rumour/blind conjecture coming out of Spain is that Aitor Karanka is ready to re-enter management at no less a place than Sunderland! Why he would want to… Why they would want to, for that matter. Actually, he ticks some of the boxes – has gotten a Championship team promoted, will happily weed out the elements he doesn’t want, produces hard-working line-ups with a safety-first mentality… I’m more of a Karanka fan than he probably deserves, but this doesn’t sound like fun for either party.

Otherwise, a nothing news day and tiredness is mine. It’s been a long day, capped off without watching the Madrid derby in the Champions League. By the end of that, Atletico’s players looked as desolate as I feel, but still if they will insist on giving space and time to the one of the deadliest forwards in the world then perhaps they deserve all they get. What a talent that boy has, but either he’s a master of off the ball running or Los Colchoneros were having an off night when it came to marking, it was just too easy.

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Getting by Without Help from Mr Friend

Middlesbrough 2 – 2 Manchester City (Negredo, Chambers)

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A consequence of being ill over the Bank Holiday weekend is that I’ve done very little. Yesterday I spent watching Manchester United against Swansea, before turning to our encounter with City and finally the Norf Landan derby. The latter produced an all too predictable result, the aftermath to which I’m looking forward to hearing over at Arseblog (for some reason, it comforts me to listen to supporters of other clubs moaning, like it isn’t just us feeling the pain this morning).

Perhaps appropriately, both the United-Swansea match and ours featured two decisive moments of incompetent refereeing, appropriate because they affected two sides involved in the relegation battle that could and should have deserved better from the officials. The Swans at least have a better chance of staying up than we do. For me, they spent long swathes of their game looking the better team, certainly playing as though it meant a lot more to them to bag a result.

As for us, it was one of the more surprising and pleasing displays I’ve seen from Boro in some time. If we go down having at least fought like mad dogs along the way then I can’t have too much to complain about, and here we certainly played with heart and conviction. Too little of this throughout the season, but at least we gave it a proper go against illustrious visitors who showed exactly why everyone talks about them and also why they’re far from the finished article.

But it’s impossible to approach the game without discussing the referee, and the significant supporting role given here by Kevin Friend, our old pal from Leicestershire. Mr Friend has long been a buddy of Boro’s, always helping to make  the challenge of prevailing that little bit trickier – lots of incidents he ‘failed to see’ or ‘had a hand in’  during our encounter with Stoke at the start of the season, such as his intervention that allowed the visitors to equalise. Thanks, buddy! Here, he gave a penalty that levelled the match following Negredo’s opener, a penalty that quite clearly wasn’t and Boro players let him know their thoughts in no uncertain terms. Good to see Ben Gibson doing a captain’s job as the players’ complaints grew in veracity, good also to see how much it mattered to them, especially to the lively Fabio. Aguero drilled it home without aplomb nor making a fuss about it, knowing a steal when he saw one. They were getting away with it, having failed to make the advantage of their superiority count and falling behind after the Beast had scored from Downing’s cross, a perfect example of the slack-jawed defending that has undermined City too many times. Negredo was in cracking form throughout, working his arse off, challenging meatily and having an important hand in Chambers’s goal when he just refused to give up possession to a host of Blues surrounding him. He’ll be missed. City’s second equaliser, a slightly soft strike from Jesus that showed you can’t shut your eyes for a moment against a side like this, was a blow. We’d worked so hard and showed we could be better than nineteenth. It’s not much consolation, but it’s something and all the damage had been done long before this match was played.

A manful performance then, something to enjoy amid ruefulness over the cack-arsed officiating and the sense we’d left it too late to put in a battling display of this sort. You think had there been more of this then perhaps we would be okay, just about anyway. The limitations in the side are clear enough. It would have taken 38 showings akin to that given here for us to prevail, and we just haven’t produced that. I think it’s highly significant that Gaston Ramirez was nowhere to be seen, not on the bench and certainly kept away from the pitch, which is exactly how it should be. And what a shame for all concerned; when you watch the highlights of our opener against Stoke, Ramirez was all action and involved in our best attacking efforts, which shows what he can do when he tries.

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I’d far rather focus on a decent day’s work from Boro over Mr Friend’s influence. It’s impossible, however, to omit the elbow Fernandinho shoved into Clayton’s face, an instance of the dirtiness sometimes deployed that was entirely missed by the referee. Others have suggested a level of bias from the man with the cards, such was his insistence on giving Boro nothing here. I would question his competence rather than his loyalties, but it amounts to the same thing, a scurrilous performance that played its part in snatching all three points from us. In general, I hope that wrong decisions even themselves out, but at times like these – when we fought like a team that really wanted to stay up and deserved better – I think about what we’ll lose from going down and I tend to feel less generously disposed.

Elsewhere, I think I would field Traore all the time now until the season’s end. Stuani started here, again on the right, which Karanka and Agnew appear to have decided is his position whether he wants it or not, whether he can do a job there or not (he can’t). With Stuani on the side was pressed back into its own half; Traore at least kept the City defenders honest by the simple virtue of running at them.

It’s Chelsea a week today, an evening at the Bridge by which point our overall fate will probably have already been decided because Hull are playing Sunderland on Saturday.

Jesus and Friends

First, an apology for not posting yesterday. I’m still struggling with this cold and slept very badly on Friday night/Saturday morning, which made the following day a bit of a bleary write-off. I’m used to bleary write-offs, but normally they’re self inflicted, indeed if I hadn’t had this bug I probably would have aimed exactly for that status via the middle class drinkeries of Hebden Bridge. Not that anyone cares because no one reads this, so I appreciate I’m more or less saying sorry to myself, and that’s the kind of delirium one endures when inflicted with the horrible pain of man-flu, right lads? I did manage to rise from my sick bed long enough to go to the movies and see Their Finest, starring the future Mrs Smog, Gemma Arterton. What a lovely film, rather old fashioned, nicely performed and blending the practical problems of living during the Blitz with a tone of gentle satire to overall winning effect. Also, what a pleasure – a rare one these days, sadly – to visit a cinema where my fellow patrons want to sit quietly and watch the picture, rather than fiddle with their phones, chat throughout, fail to control their spawn, etc.

So sometimes before a match I like to write down some general thoughts about the team we’re playing, memories of past matches, whether I like them or not and why. These critiques can be long or short depending on the opposition, and I have a lot of feelings about Manchester City, so bear with me.

To be honest, the Blue half of Manchester didn’t make much impression on me at all before I moved there. I knew of their existence, and occasionally we would play and beat them – I’ve linked above to the highlights from our Rumbelows encounter in 1991, which I recall watching at University and having a laugh at the bluenoses complaining we’d only won because of the Teesside smog, as though Lennie was using his managerial wiles to call on the elements in aiding our cause.

When I moved to Manchester in early 1994, it was my luck to fall in with a bunch of City fans just as the other team based there – you know the ones, not Stockport County – were celebrating their first league title in donkeys’ years. There was definitely a logic to supporting City. I don’t think it agreed with my Boro sensibilities to follow any team that was successful, and the fans’ belligerence and loathing of the Rags sat well with me. The build-up to a derby match felt genuinely thrilling – this was a proper cross-city rivalry, both sets of fans looking forward to it and all logic flying out the window as everyone believed fully they would win. I caught my first derby at the Crumpsall Labour Club with a City pal – a pound a pint, can’t go wrong – and quickly learned how much of the atmosphere was based on fresh air and bullshit. United won 5-1. And it wasn’t even deceptively close. As soon as SAF’s lot took hold of the action the result was never in any doubt and they cantered to victory.

It didn’t matter. I was in love, and tried to ignore the irony that as I was starting to attend Maine Road on a regular basis Steve Gibson was embarking on his project of pumping money into Middlesbrough as the dream days of Bryan Robson’s aegis began. City were pretty dreadful, truth be told. The haunted, trapped in headlights look of Brian Horton wasn’t good enough for new Chairman, Francis Lee, and he was replaced with Lee’s old buddy, Alan Ball, for the 1995/96 season. Ball, squeaky voiced and carrying a reputation for mixed fortunes in management, oversaw a year that ended in relegation and the growing cult of Georgi Kinkladze, in reality a poor man’s Juninho who was naturally insisted upon as being better than Cantona. Perhaps in terms of pure skill he was the superior footballer, perhaps, though he had little of Eric’s heart and a fraction of ‘the kings’s’ force of personality. I was no United fan, but it was impossible not to love Cantona. When he retired, I wrote an article about him for the student magazine at Manchester Metropolitan University, for whom I was working at the time. Of course, none of this meant anything to City. As United’s successes aimed for the stratosphere, culminating in their European Cup victory, City endured years of ignominy and spent a season in the third tier, struggling to go back up at the first attempt. Their eventual win in the playoff final was tinged with black humour, as they only forced the match into extra time through two very, very late goals and prevailed ultimately on penalties. Manchester City, never making it easy for their supporters when dragged out drama and soul searching would do.

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Even their ground was a bit of a laugh. I loved the sheer crapness of Ayresome Park and always relished standing in the Holgate, sharing the delights of winning 6-0 against Leicester (whatever happened to them, huh?) and the ignominy and gallows humour that came with losing 5-1 to a Portsmouth side inspired by a pre-perma-injured Darren Anderton. Of course, all that was replaced with the modern sheen of the Riverside, an essential part of the club’s overall renaissance under Gibbo, but neither compared with Maine Road, City’s old home in dodgy Moss Side, its four stands that appeared to have been designed and built by different architects, making for a disjointed and cobbled together effort. It was the perfect home for a team put together in much the same way, and it ended with the club’s move into Manchester’s Commonwealth Games stadium. We all know what happened next. A slow upturn in the club’s fortunes was kicked into touch with money from the United Arab Emirates. Suddenly, City could compete with anyone when it came to signing any player they wanted, leading to the situation we have now.

It might appear that City haven’t lived up to the gazillions invested in the football club. They’ve had a couple of league titles, but the team is still punctuated with the relative failure of being gazumped by others, whether it’s Chelsea this season or Leicester’s unlikely triumph in 2016. Despite having a manager many consider to be the best in the world, and a squad that is filled with football glitterati, they aren’t quite the sum of their parts. But it’s worth considering their real achievements. They are now Manchester’s premier club, which is saying something with United still up there. And they have transformed the area of the city in which they’re based, new buildings and landscaping replacing the irredeemable shithole it used to be. None of it means very much to me, though. I liked them when they were that Laurel and Hardy outfit, demanding attention during the United dream years and delivering season after season of depressing fare on the pitch. I kind of got it. Even in the doldrums City were fantastically attended, and I realised for many fans it was all about unloading their frustrations on the shoddy football served up by the players. Also, Maine Road was pretty near Rusholme and it became part of the match day ritual to follow a game with curry in one of the many restaurants on the stretch. Where do they go to now? The big Asda?

So that’s me and City, a sort of on-off love affair that means I’m always looking out for their results while feeling a curious disconnect with the Goliath they’ve developed into. I have to say I’m not expecting a lot from today. If Stevie Agnew fields any side other than one designed to soak up pressure and counter-attack then I think we’re stuffed from the off, and whatever we do we’re likely to be overwhelmed. They’re a frightening side, in particular their attack that can play the likes of Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane and Silva, oh yeah and Aguero or Jesus up front. Sane especially terrifies me. The lad’s built for speed and I think of him torturing our defence with his pace and wake up in a sweaty mound of post-nightmare tension. They’ll be compelled to go for it too, as Guardiola aims to salvage the team’s top four status from an underwhelming campaign overall. Hey, let’s just enjoy it. When we’re playing the likes of Burton and (possibly) Fleetwood we’ll look back to welcoming Manchester City to the Riverside with rueful nostalgia. Remember when we were rubbing shoulders with the best…?

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Elsewhere, a sad day in Sunderland yesterday when their beating off of Bournemouth officially relegated them after an uninterrupted decade of top flight football. Remind you of anyone? In fairness, they’ve been flirting with relegation for years. Late season run-ins were defined by the Mackems changing managers and a doomed cause sparking into life, just about keeping their heads above water while beneath it all the long running problems within the club continued. They’re a bit of a basket case all told. Their wage bill is massive, definitely in the Premiership’s top ten, and there’s been some logic in reducing what they spent this season as an attempt is underway to reduce their huge losses. The dressing room is divided, morale is low and it’s becoming clear that only a wide reaching overhaul will resolve anything. They could be down for a while as all this plays out, probably without David Moyes as the manager hinted he would be on his way shortly, most likely as Scotland manager when Trashcan steps down in the summer. I say all this to illustrate that while Boro have their own set of problems, things here are relatively stable and it could be a lot worse. We could be Sunderland.

It sucks to be Peter Beagrie right now.

They might be Giants

Not a lot to report today, with Stevie G’s press conference focusing on very little and offering about the same in terms of hard information. Honestly, is this what the world has come to? Has everything just been reduced to a series of soundbites and slogans – the next time I hear the phrase strong and stable government I’ll, well, I’ll, well that tub of paperclips on the desk will get it! And get it good!

I suppose what we really want to know is whether he’ll let Chief Mugwump Gaston Ramirez anywhere near his first team again. Christ, I hope not; think about the message that sends out to everyone else… All this ahead of Manchester City’s visit, and almost certainly a return to our regular form of winning nothing and looking slipshod in doing so. That front line of City’s – Aguero or Jesus, supported by the likes of De Bruyne, Sterling, Silva and Sane – is completely terrifying. You’d need to have a defence of Italian veterans, or be Manchester United, to prevail against it, and we can call on nothing of the sort. Worse still, defensive woes continue with Valdes and Ayala both considered doubtful. I think it might be best to follow this one from the bottom of a bottle. Please, no Barrabolix. No one deserves that.

This makes for interesting reading, and if nothing better illustrates the gulf between Boro and City then this will. The visitors’ squad cost £497 million. Ours came in at £57.7 million, or 11.6% of the sum lavished on Manchester City. For the entire amount we paid for our Lions, you could afford perhaps De Bruyne and Bacary Sagna, or at least Sagna minus his dreads. Remember when we regularly beat this lot, when we were a genuine bogey side for Manchester’s blue half? Well, all that’s done with. At least we spent less than the £82.1 million lavished on Sunderland’s excuses for players, though the fact we paid more than Burnley and Hull, and both have shown us how to survive a Premiership campaign, points once again at coaching deficiencies.

Glimmers of Hope (just a glimmer, mind)

Morning all. I’ve decided to do what I probably ought to have done a couple of days ago and taken a day off due to this bloody cold. Currently I’m providing a fine service to Kleenex and my nose feels like it’s taking out a subscription to the Daniella Westbrook Club of Nasal Abuse right now. Oh well, hopefully a day of rest, sugary drinks and Dr Beecham’s life-restoring powders will do me good. Maybe it’s time to get back to that marathon rewatch of Mad Men – honestly it’s really great, though it’s the kind of show that I can’t describe without making it sound impenetrably boring. That might be down to my own descriptive skills of course – the world of copy-writing is not forming an orderly queue at my door…

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I am dedicating today to Joey Barton, to his commitment in finding crazy ways to hit new corridors of controversy. Gambling is one addiction that I’ve never succumbed to thankfully (always been too skint; also I used to work in a bookie’s so have seen first-hand the damage it can cause), but betting on your own team’s results strikes me as bizarre, almost a wish to be discovered. I’d like to have any sympathy, and the testimonies given by Matthew Etherington – a footballer I always admired due to his sheer willingness and efforts to maximise on his limited talent – do shine a light on gambling problems, but this? And that it’s happened to the always lovely and unfairly disliked Barton? Just not feeling it, sorry.

Then there are the reports of Newcastle United and West Ham being investigated for tax fraud. I don’t know a lot about the Hammers, former workplace of Sam Allardyce (just saying), but I do feel for Mags supporters whose celebrations at getting promoted have suddenly come with a hard edge. That there’s an innate distaste for anything that involves Mike Ashley – the sort of club owner who makes me want to set up pagan shrines to Steve Gibson, sacrifice goats in his honour, etc – should be clear enough. He’s a nasty piece of work, isn’t he, and his very presence at St James’ Park (or whatever it’s been rebranded as these days) is a black mark on a huge and well supported club that seriously deserves a lot better. Ha, and indeed, ha. In the meantime, Rafa Benitez has gone public in his declaration that Newcastle need to spend heavily in order to make their promotion more than a mere bounce. Based on our own experiences I heartily agree and knowing Ashley has hardly been ‘Cashley’ in his chairmanship previously, I’d hope they take him seriously. What I wouldn’t do for a manager who possesses even a fraction of Rafa’s nous and cachet…

Instead we have Stevie Agnew, and a first win for our bald headed mastermind. Okay, so he’s hardly emerged as Boro’s answer to George Patton as a result of beating Sunderland. We were pretty terrible, but we weren’t as awesomely poor as the Mackems and that was the difference. Any shoots of hope should be levelled by the prospect of Man City, Chelsea, Southampton and Liverpool to come, making this game a restoration of some pride, hopefully a guarantee that we at least won’t finish bottom of the table, and little more than that. We’re still going down. All we’ve proved is that we are slightly less awful than the visitors, and just to pile a little more misery on David Moyes he should consider that two of our five victories this season were against his team. That’s bad, isn’t it?

Being completely honest, I feel sorry for Mr Moyes. There’s part of me that believes he would be a fine Boro manager. With us, he’d be outside the spotlight, especially in the Championship, and he’d be working for the sort of Chairman who, a bit like Bill Kenwright, would give him time. There’s the possibility it would be like Everton all over again, a scenario in which he shone. I think his poor record at Sunderland should be balanced against the innate problems he inherited within his squad, the sort of deep rooted issues that have been skirted over with the rotation of managers in the past. There are fundamental troubles within the Stadium of Shite. Anyone taking charge would want carte blanche to weed out the bad elements, instigate a massive overhaul of the playing personnel and end the era of footballers who feel they are entitled to earn fabulous Premiership salaries without working for them, which is most certainly the case up there. But that’ll never happen because the Board is looking to sell and move on, and therefore won’t fund such a sweeping change, leaving Moyes in charge of what he has to work with. A depressing situation. Not that I think he’d be perfect, and that’s especially the case when it comes to his brand of football. The last time I went to Goodison Park – home of the self-appointed People’s Club; pass the sick bucket – was a 1-0 win for Everton over Southgate’s Boro. It was moribund, parochial fare, and while you might argue Moyes achieved much with the resources he had it was a dull afternoon. My son started crying out of sheer boredom. I wasn’t far behind.

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Speaking of which, there should be no mistake about Boro’s general dreadfulness last night. Admittedly I’m getting this from reading trusted sources and the bits of Boro+ I heard last night as the service went down with Tees’ phone lines and the side’s attacking fluidity. We got lucky with de Roon’s moment of magic and Sunderland’s utter poverty when it came to ideas. Had this been against a team with more about them it would not have been this good. The disjointed nervousness that punctuated the (lack of) performance at Bournemouth continued here. Stuani was selected and was rubbish. Downing played manfully but was flattered by the opposition. Agnew went for a classic Karankian three-man midfield, starring Clayton, de Roon and Forshaw, which said more to me about the line-up designed to protect its goal rather than go for the jugular. Worse still, when the game cried out for more attacking prowess and pace, Traore was ignored and the manager instead replaced Negredo with Gestede, subbing off our one decent source of goals up front. Beanpole did what you expected him to, holding up long balls and little else, one of the more bizarre changes you’ll see and at odds with the spectators’ feelings over what was needed. This happened in a second half that somehow had Boro defending desperately against Sunlun’s half-baked forays. More than one person described it as two bald men fighting over a comb and it’s difficult to disagree with that assessment.

So what have we learned? Number one is the continuing belief that Agnew should not get the job permanently. This match was a gift and we accepted it, but a number of incomprehensible managerial decisions and a clear lack of confidence and belief within the side – which we need; at the very least a ‘nothing to lose’ mentality would be something – indicate the club needs to look elsewhere. Nigel Pearson’s stock has risen with punters; easy enough to see why. There’s an ominous shortening in Ryan Giggs’s odds, implying Gibbo going down the Robson route again, but on the plus side David Wagner appears to be a name on more people’s lips. Make no mistake. This decision is more crucial than any other. Second, whoever takes over has to oversee a decisive clear-out, and quickly. My list of players to sell keeps lengthening. Also I would love to know why Patrick Bamford remains at best a bench warmer. What’s going on there? Someone, tell me.

Anyway, back to bed…

De Rooooooooooooooooonnnnnnn

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I worked a thankless and frustrating twelve hour day, left vexed with my lack of progress, struggling with a mental head cold, got home in time to tune into the match only to discover Boro+ wasn’t working, nor did it until the game’s dying embers, so I relied on dodgy feeds and text commentary to learn that it was awful fare…

But it doesn’t matter, because Marten de Roon scored against Sunderland and Boro actually won a match! At long, long, long, long last. All right, so it took a terrible opponent that walked into the Riverside already looking defeated, a home team bereft of any kind of confidence, spending the second half defending against a team that hardly warranted our barricades. By all accounts it was no classic and I can’t see it being committed to DVD for a fans’ special purchase, but that’s fine. We broke an unwanted duck for 2017 and for now that’s good enough.

Can you believe it? Even Mike Dean looks nonplussed (see above). What’s that? He always looks that way…?

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….?

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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.

spendsm