Friday, 25 November 2011

It's The Hope That Kills You

CHARLOTTE: Seriously, all I want is a boyfriend like you. I mean, you're funny, and you're sweet, and you're kind to me... I think I'd be happy if I had someone in my life just like you.

WILL: Well... what about me?

CHARLOTTE: (Laughs) No, not you! No, someone like you. You're so funny. Not you, obviously...

It's an unusual thought, relating a situation from hit comedy The Inbetweeners to modern football in the lower leagues. But I've somehow managed to do it.

Not too long ago, I'd just watched The Fashion Show episode again (the one at the start of series three, if you're curious) when I came across this interesting piece from The Mirror's Ian Winwood. As a Barnsley fan, he talked about the brilliant goal Victor Moses scored against Barnsley for Crystal Palace nearly two years ago, and also how he was aware that Moses wouldn't be at Palace for much longer. And sure enough, Moses was soon on his way to Wigan. Admittedly, Palace entering administration didn't help matters, but with five goals in eight games, he'd become a hot property anyway, so one of the bigger clubs was bound to snap him up.

Barnsley lost star winger Adam Hammill to Wolves the following season in similar fashion (which is just what Winwood was fearing when he wrote at the time). Just like we had lost our own young Adam, Johnson, to City a year before. And despite improvements to their games (well, alleged in Hammill's case), not to mention lucrative wages, of course, neither Hammill nor Johnson has gotten anywhere near the amount of first team football, and fan worship, that they would have had at Barnsley or Boro respectively.

There's many more examples I could give you. Look at Ziege when he moved to Liverpool. Look at Ross Turnbull, who almost never gets a game at Stamford Bridge. And here is where I give you my analogy - Charlotte is to Will what star players are to smaller clubs.

I'm sure that deep down, Will knows that Charlotte is out of his league. Especially after his previous "encounters" with her. And yet, in the episode that I've mentioned, she convinces him that he has a chance after choosing him to take part in a fashion show, something that he previously condemned for its "exclusive vanity". (See? He chucked his morals out the window for her.) And yet, after everything he's done for her, and everything he supposedly means to her, she effectively tells him he has no chance whatsoever. Then comes the "someone like you" remark, which completes the analogy (read on and you'll see why)...

We sensed that Adam Johnson was out of our league not long after he finally made Stewie's much vaunted place on the left-wing his own. He was a frustrating individual, Jinky was - he blew hot and cold - but he had class. And even though he was in the final year of his contract, I believed that if we could sustain an automatic promotion chase by around January 2010, we might just have been able to persuade him to stay for a little longer. Of course, we were virtually out of the race for the top two by just after Christmas anyway, so you know it can't have taken long for him to make up his mind.

And yet - and yet - you sense that players like he, and Turnbull, would be happy to play for a club like ours. One that has nurtured them, stood by them, and given them first team football - yet isn't able to offer them as much financial security or as big a challenge. Just like Will... for all the love he can give Charlotte, he isn't as much of a challenge to her as the Mark Donovan's of this world.

That's the bottom line in football these days - the money men, or muscle men, always tend to get their way. Sad, but true.

It's even crueller when there's enough promise from the whole team to convince you that your club has a chance of holding on to its best players. As Ian Winwood (and Boro's own Anthony Vickers) have previously said, even when you know, or think you know, that the final act is coming, it is the hope that kills you.

We find ourselves in a similar situation today. Back in late August and early September, when Marvellous Marvin Emnes was on his red-hot scoring streak, rumours of a transfer away from the Riverside began to surface. Thankfully though, he signed a new deal soon after (although what do these "new deals" really mean? Look at Merson and his "commitment to Boro for life" back in '98, and how that turned out). Nowadays we have the Rhys Williams contract situation to contend with. Even though he's committed to the club 'til 2013, talks over a new deal have stalled... and Liverpool and Bolton have been alerted.

But who can say this wasn't inevitable? How can we hope to ward off bids from Premier clubs unless we can maintain Premier ambitions ourselves? And something tells me that unless we can remain on the heels of the top two until at least the end of the year - which these days, is looking less likely - Rolls Rhys will get itchy feet again. Brace yourselves.

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I couldn't sign off for the evening without paying tribute to the club, for an article I read this week made me very proud to be a Boro fan.

Former Boro full-back Gary Parkinson has been left paralysed by "locked-in" syndrome, meaning that he can only communicate by blinking. And yet, with the help of Mogga, the coaching staff and his wife Deborah, he has become a talent scout for the club! It is, as Shaun Wilson said on Twitter, a "touch of class" from our manager.

It's also hoped that Parkinson will get his speech back, after an operation on his vocal chords.

For those of you who are interested, the full article can be found here.

* * * * *

Oh, and before I forget, here's the answer to Monday's "game": From left to right, we have Afonso Alves, Gary O'Neil, Mido, Jeremie Aliadiere, Andy Taylor, Mohamed Shawky and David Wheater. Be honest: how many did you get right?

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