Friday, 29 March 2013

Boro Lack Lucre... And Leadership

The news about Boro's finances, thoroughly, painfully and professionally explained by Anthony Vickers last week, made exceptionally grim reading for every Boro fan. (Words like "unsustainable" do not even begin to describe supporting a wage bill consisting of 119% of turnover.) But much more of an issue to me is not so much whether or not Boro will mount a successful bid for promotion, nor whether or not we will have the funds and wherewithal to make it to the Premier League.

It's who will stand up, be counted, and lead us, successfully, to the "Promised Land".

It's no secret that Boro have been lacking in truly dependable, determined leaders since Gareth Southgate called time on his playing career in advance and, arguably against his will (though that is for another discussion), entered the managerial dugout. When looking back on Gareth, we tend to try and remember the player, and not the manager, and rightly so; for there was no better club captain in the Riverside era, before or after him. The sight of him placing a hand around future Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole's shoulders as the then 17-year old bawled his eyes out during Operation Season Ticket Throw will live with me to this day.

Roy Keane had the right idea when he said that a perfect manager always recognises who needs motivation most of all, or a simple pat on the back, and such responsibilities spread through to the perfect leader. A truly legendary captain must be more than just an effective figurehead, a la Eric Cantona or Alan Shearer - he must be inspirational, organisational and unflappable. It's no surprise that despite Dino Zoff and the aforementioned Shearer's deserved reputations, the best captains have been defenders or midfielders.

Bryan Robson had all kinds of faults as a manager, but he had a good eye for a player. And, being one of England's most famous captains himself, it was little surprise that one of his first signings was Boro's finest captain of the Riverside years, barring Southgate - Nigel Pearson. Two promotions and three cup finals speak for themselves. In my colleague Mike Baker's words: "Without (Pearson), the defence descended from being a machine to separate parts waiting around to be gelled together." On its really bad, Pearson-less days the Boro defence could be anything from confused to statuesque to dangerously incompetent. His injury during various stages of 1996-97 contributed majorly to our relegation.

Robson maintained his eye for strong leaders with the signing of Andy Townsend and later Paul Ince. Even though their best years were clearly behind them, their effectiveness in the centre of the park was never really in doubt. And, going back to the 1980's, what of the local lad who became captain at the age of just twenty-two and led the club, along with Bruce Rioch, from liquidation to the top division in the space of two seasons? He's the same local lad who is sitting in the Boro manager's chair today, struggling to find a way to salvage our season; and that may well be because he has been unable to find a club captain worthy of the position in 2012-13.

Admittedly, neither him nor Gareth Southgate have been dealt the most fortunate hand. George Boateng and Jonathan Woodgate seemed ideal leaders during the early Southgate years, but the captaincy only appeared to hamper their game. Cue a lot of "armband swapping", from Arca to Pogatetz to Downing to even Tuncay in the years ahead. When Southgate actually did find a classy leader - Robert Huth - he was out the Riverside door after four league games as captain, bringing poor Gareth back to square one.

Fast forward to the present season, and the club captaincy has been swapped around four times, from Rhys Williams to Grant Leadbitter to Nicky Bailey to Woodgate (again). But no one in the team seems to look up to them in the same way as Mogga's previous leaders, let alone our great captains. Matthew Bates and Barry Robson may have had injury and temperament problems, but they were genuinely inspirational. In that regard, our four captains this season have failed, and have a lot to answer for.

Hopefully, tomorrow at Molineux, one of them will step up to the plate and be the leader we long for. And we really do need that to happen.


Anonymous said...

Regurgirtated garbage. How many games have you actually been to? Typical PC warrior... you spout the same pessimistic shit every week. Stop repeating the same Charlton quotes and stop trying to make a name for yourself (an exiled Boro fan, giving his opinions on games he doesn't even watch) off the back of Vicker's blog. Massive Twat!

Paolo said...

Anonymous.......why are you staying anonymous? Cos you've not got the balls to actually name yourself. This is actually a decent article and a good indicator why the boro are struggling this season.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous go for a walk enjoy the sunshine. Whether you enjoyed the article or not (I did) getting that angry about it can't be good for you.

Si said...

Hi, Anon1:

I welcome all comments, good or bad, here at Si's Insights, and you certainly have the right to your opinion. But why the abusive tone?

Additionally, I am not quite sure where that criticism came from, as it doesn't appear to have anything to do with the article itself. Nor do I keep "repeating the same (Jack?) Charlton quotes" even though I hold both his achievements, and Anthony Vickers' writing, in high regard.

Furthermore, despite living in Northern Ireland, I have been to a handful of games at the Riverside and make every effort to stay in touch with as many Boro matches as possible. I am merely writing my best points of view on the Boro and if you don't happen to agree with them, fine. But I sincerely hope next time you comment (if you do) it's about the substance in the articles and not an out-of-place, angry, unexplained rant.


Thanks for the comment, and I agree with you. On today's evidence, do you think Grant Leadbitter could be the answer to the Leadership Problem? Or may we spend forever looking for another Southgate/Pearson?


Glad you enjoyed the article. Still not sure what Anon1 saw the need to get angry about myself.

Anonymous said...

Nice article although I believe a little off the mark. Lack of leadership is evident but one clean sheet in 2013 speaks volumes (even Hastings and Aldershot managed to bang one past us at the Riverside). We have a poor/non existent central defence. Every strong Boro side in the past had 2 x very effective central defenders: Mowbray/Pallister, Pearson/Vickers or Southgate/Ehiogu. Even last season Williams and Bates were a force, this season? Bikey - slow and clumsy, Woodgate - like a Lillet (in for 1 week out for 3), Hines - a cross between Bikey and Woodgate. We scored 2 goals away from home today to a struggling side and still lost. We will not finish top half of the Championship table this season - FACT.

Si said...

Hi Anon:

I agree completely about those effective Boro CB pairings of the past, but I think it goes a little beyond that.

If a strong defensive leader is playing, he can inspire no matter who is playing alongside him, as Pearson did with Whyte, Vickers, and later Festa, Pallister with Cooper and Vickers, and Southgate with Ehiogu and Riggott.

But the other, possibly more serious, problem, IMHO, is not so much the quality of our defence. Hoyte, Woodgate, Bikey, Friend, Hines and McManus, to name but a handful, are all capable performers. It's that injuries and possibly tactics (who knows) have seen the back line chopped and changed so many times this season. Mogga never seems sure of his best back line. Hence Steele has been overworked and we are conceding many more goals than we should.