Sunday, 5 May 2013

Busted Boro Bow Out On Bum Note

So that's it then.

What a way to celebrate Si's 100th Insight.

I have spent the weekend covering the City Of Derry Jazz And Big Band Festival, so I have had little time to pay attention to what to me was ultimately a meaningless match.

Well, surprise surprise, I missed nothing. We were dreadful. We had pride to play for and we could still - albeit cruelly - have relegated Sheffield Wednesday. Yet we rolled over and handed Championship survival to them on a plate. 2-0 Wednesday, and it could have been more.

I'm not going to dwell on the tactics. Rather, I'm going to focus on a few images from Saturday instead.

It was very late at night, in fact, early on Sunday morning, when I saw the words "Sheffield Wednesday" and "Middlesbrough" pop up on a TV screen in the basement of Derry-Londonderry's River Inn club. Already knowing what had happened, and claiming not to care - I might as well not have, because the players obviously hadn't from what I'd heard - I probably would have been better paying attention to the music in the bar.

But, like the ever curious Boro fan I am, I switched my focus to the TV.

I watched a guy who couldn't get a game at a relegated League One side run on to a through ball that carved open our "defence" with ease and power Sheffield Wednesday into a 1-0 lead. I watched former Boro hero Leroy Lita grab the second. I watched, and cringed, at the wasteful finishing from Wednesday and lazy defending from Boro that could, and probably should, have turned the game into an utter whitewash.

It was almost heartbreaking to watch Tony Mowbray's face on the screen after the highlights.

It was a sad, weary face of a man who looked older than his years. A man who was gutted that the season had fallen apart in the manner it had. And a man who once seemed unstoppable, but now did not seem to know what the future held for either him or the club.

If only that were the whole story.

On Saturday, I saw a lovely young lady beat the drums in the corner of a Derry bar with the skill and nous of an experienced professional. I saw a not-so-well known Parisian jazz band bring spontaneous joy to many people in the basement of a club. And I saw the UK City Of Culture's Artist In Residence, Neil Cowley, a powerhouse pianist who pounded and tinkled the keys as if his life depended on it.

These artists, and several other people who turned up to sing at, play at, blog on, write on or photograph the events at this terrific jazz extravaganza put our now without doubt overpaid players, our "heroes", to shame.

"Heroes" whose wages currently eat up an unsustainable 119% of our turnover.

"Heroes" that were not fit to wear the shirt at countless away grounds - particularly Hillsborough, Ashton Gate, Selhurst Park and Portman Road - or even, for most of 2013 so far, the Riverside.

They are now packing their bags for summer holidays they have not earned.

Grant Leadbitter, Jason Steele, Mustapha Carayol, Richie Smallwood and perhaps George Friend aside, few of our players can really hold their heads up at all this season.

Boro, once so buoyant, now look burnt out and busted... a club that has gone backwards.

I am not about to continue pretending that we "belong" in the Premiership, if we ever did. No one has a divine right to a place in any top division, in any country.

But Boro's bipolar 2012-13 has been hugely frustrating and disappointing even by our standards. What we thought might end in a promotion party has actually ended up as a humiliating endurance test.

For more than four months of the season, we dared to dream. We genuinely could dream. And then, for some unknown reason, the players switched off. From Mogga. From their goal. From... everyone. From everything.

It is unbelievable. It is deplorable. It is inexcusable.

No organisation. No drive. No leadership. Very low morale. Very little confidence. And much, much paranoia and fear.

It's no way to end a season, and certainly no way to drum up confidence for the next campaign.

Where do Boro go from here?

* * * * *

On the other hand, we could be Wolves. Yes, Steve Morgan, I'm looking at you, the same man who decided that redeveloping the Stan Cullis stand was more important than building a team...

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