Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Let's Do A Denmark!

Well, well, well. Boro have done it again!

Just when it looked like any hopes we had for yet another frustrating season were about to die, up popped Curtis Main with an absolutely brilliant finish. For all our endeavour, it was his priceless goal that was the difference between leaving a team with no hope and injecting a team full of hope... which we must now hope is genuine, and not a false dawn.

It's a common fact that football is full of swings and roundabouts. Yet few teams seem to conform to this particular rule of the game to quite the same extent that the Boro do. And that's what makes following them so infuriating sometimes.

But hey, we're back in the play off hunt. And after Saturday's display, few can say that our chance, however slim it is - realistically, we still need to rely on Blackpool, Cardiff or possibly Birmingham slipping up while not dropping points ourselves - wasn't deserved.

So what can we do to carry our new found momentum (or false hope? Take your pick) into the last three games of the season, starting with Doncaster tonight? Simple, really...

We can do a Denmark.

It's one of the great football fairy tales. Eleven days before Euro 92 kicked off in Sweden, Denmark's footballers were on holiday, having failed to qualify. But civil war had ripped Yugoslavia to shreds, and UEFA decided they could not compete. Hence, the team that finished second to them in qualification - Denmark - was left to take their place.

It happened so close to the finals that you would have thought the management would have no time to prepare a team. But it worked in precisely the opposite manner. All the other teams involved in Euro 92 had been caught up in the hype and build-up around the tournament, but the Danes arrived under no pressure whatsoever. They knew that every point gained was a bonus - after all, they weren't meant to be there to begin with - and with that in mind, they gradually went from strength to strength, to the point where they were able to record a convincing win over then World Champions Germany in the final.

Now... let's look at our present situation. Our form - just five wins since the turn of the year - is hardly inspiring. Nobody - especially not the pundits - is giving us much of a chance of breaking into the top six at the moment. So why not channel such low expectations into a great finale to the season, just like we did with those four straight wins last year? Especially away to Cardiff, when we convincingly turned over a side cocky enough to have prepared their automatic promotion lap of honour in advance.

That way, whether we lose the play off battle or not, we can at least go out on a high.

It would also be a great way for Lukas Jutkiewicz to finally prove his critics wrong. His hard working performance against Derby, coupled with his absolutely rotten luck in front of goal, has led me to conclude that he's suffering from Peter Crouch syndrome. That is to say, he's trying far too hard to impress, just like Crouch did in his early months at Liverpool before he finally found his way. The price tag (high by today's standards) and expectations ("He's the answer to our goal scoring problem!", thought everyone) haven't helped him, sure, but if he lets the pressure affect him a little less, and the team helps to take such pressure off his shoulders, who knows what may happen for both him and us?

* * * * *

As an aside, Si's Insights has learned that one of the best Boro blogs on the web - Mike Baker's Smog Blog - has reached the end of the line. This is sad news, especially considering how thorough, compelling and passionate Mike's writings have been over the years. In particular, his take down of Gordon Strachan's reign ("Goodbye Gordon. You were awful.") is a must read for anyone, as is his take on "The Year That Had It All", aka 1996/97.

I will also be grateful to Mike for publishing three of my own posts on his site, including the western-themed tribute to Mogga at the end of the gaffer's first year in charge.

So long, Mike. And thanks very much for your efforts!

You can read Mike's final blog post here.

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