Saturday, 19 November 2011

What I've Learnt In The Past Few Weeks - And What Boro Haven't (And What I Fear They Never Will...)

So here I am, back to blog after quite an eventful couple of weeks. Eventful in that we've seen a certain Aussie break his long awaited goal drought, Ireland qualify for a major tournament for the first time in a decade (that's brought a smile to everyone's face in these parts, let me tell you, quality of the football be damned) and Boro failing to learn... much.

But first, it's been a bit of an enlightening experience for me too. After the poor response to the Watford Live Commentary, I realised that it didn't work as well as I thought it would - after all, the BBC can offer the exact same service, and Twitter, as my colleague Brandon Arcuicci has rightly pointed out, is more interactive and has access to more information. So I decided it made more sense to set up a Twitter account for Si's Insights and run a live Twitter feed on the right hand side in the blog. I have a feeling it will be especially lively on match days.

And today was one of those days. After the dourness of the Watford match, not to mention the desperately poor attendance at said game, you wouldn't have been surprised if the powers that be at Sky never wanted to cover another Boro match. Well, today's game was everything the Watford game wasn't - exciting, eventful and heart-stopping, with a higher attendance. Oh, and we didn't win.

It was easy to approach today's game with a little trepidation. Our recent record against Blackpool brings back painful memories. There was the massive fall down to earth three days after we thought Gordon Strachan had finally got it right, and then there was Scott McDonald missing a penalty as we collapsed to a spineless defeat at Bloomfield Road later that season. Turned out that for all their spine, Blackpool didn't have as much in the tank as they needed. Their football may have won them many fans, but neither their squad nor their game plan was equipped to last a season in the Premiership.

Just like I feel that neither our squad nor our game plan is good enough to consistently last the full season alongside the automatic promotion challengers. We may be a very different team since Blackpool last played us, and Scott McDonald may be a very different player, but it's not quite amounting to as much as we hoped it might.

I've read some fans saying that they would be more than happy with a play-off place, and that automatic promotion is a pipe dream anyway. But look at it like this - if both the league table and our style of play tantalised us with the promise of automatic promotion, as it has done this season, wouldn't you feel more than a little disappointed if we didn't get it? Wouldn't you be more than a little down if we didn't capitalise on numerous chances to win games that finish in either draws or narrow defeats? Which, let's face it, has happened far too often under both Mowbray and Southgate.

Like today. Despite the more than welcome return to form of Scott McDonald (that's three in two now for the Aussie after none in 12 - and I'll bet you he's lovin' it) the game should have been out of sight long before his second goal. Shades of the Coventry game, where Boro target Lucas Jutkiewicz made our wastefulness pay - and this time, it was Liverpool loanee Jonjo's turn to Shelve (okay, no more bad puns) our chances of victory. After that, we were kind of lucky not to surrender the game to them altogether.

At the same time, Southampton were capitalising mercilessly on a Brighton sending off to move even further away from the chasing pack, and Big Sam's substitutes were turning a defeat into a win for the Hammers at Coventry. They can bring on Cole and Piquonne while we can bring on Nimely and Ogbeche. Proven Premiership forwards against unproven goalscorers at any English level. That seems to be the difference, folks.

Yeah, I know I said a few weeks ago that running the Saints and West Ham close is probably the best we'll be able to do - but it's so frustrating when the team hint that they might, might just prove me wrong.

And, of course, every late goal we concede brings back memories of the previous one. In fact, me and Brandon Arcuicci have been delving into the list of players who have broken Boro hearts with late goals in recent years. The list is, frankly, endless. But I think I can come up with a Top Five, by, say, Monday? All suggestions are welcome...

* * * * *

As a post script, I'll spare a thought for poor ex-Boro man Brad Jones, who lost his four-year-old son to leukaemia yesterday. My thoughts are with him and his family at this difficult time.

Here's a link to an emotional interview with Brad and partner Dani on the Liverpool website, that took place last month.

RIP Luca Jones.


Brandon said...

Cheers for the mention mate. Live tweeting is the way to go. I scrapped the illustrious Post-Match Fag in favour of just tweeting anything and everything I'd put in my notes during the match - it's unfiltered, potentially provocative, and immediately relevant, for a few minutes anyway.

We should chat about building on the experience - selected matches in addition to the Boro: Prem, Champo, Spain, internationals (Euros!)

You know how popular the BBC live commentaries are, plus Guardian MBMs - they've spawned spinoffs like The FCF and LiveWire Sport. There's definitely a market there...

Anonymous said...

No problem, Brandon. There *is* a market for live commentary - but you need to have a really good following, or run a service that stands out, to really be successful at it. And this blog is still in its infancy. So yeah, Twitter is definitely the way forward.

That said, I remember when Vic (Anthony Vickers) did a couple of "live blogs" on the Basle and Steaua games - and (a) his blog was in its early days back then, and (b) I'm sure they're still read today. On the other hand, Twitter had yet to be launched in those days. And those games were both very special occasions, unlikely to be seen again. It's worth noting that when we *did* try to repeat the Steaua experience - Vic's live blog, full Riverside, "SPORTING GLORY" message and all - against Cardiff in '08, the team meekly surrendered.

(I also think it's a shame only 24,521 attended the Basle game, but there you go.)