Well it all seems a little meaningless now doesn’t it? The events at Hillsborough last weekend have left us all in a state of shock and sadness and I for one have a very foul taste in my mouth as to the reasons behind it. Though it is a little early to apportion blame, one thing in the midst of this tragedy is clear, fans have once again suffered at the hands of the football authorities who repeatedly refuse to consult with those to whom they owe their living.
Already those in power at Middlesbrough Football Club will be making future decisions on crowd control at Ayresome Park without the merest consultation with the fans. As for the perimeter fencing, charmingly adorned with Stalag 17 spikes, they are to stay indefinitely, so we can only hope as we plough our money through the turnstiles that the club have got their sums right.
An old adage occurred to me last week, as I enjoyed the spacious and civilized facilities at Loftus Road. “If you treat people like dogs, sooner or later they’ll behave like dogs”. Their toilets put ours to shame. Covered and lit with toilet paper and soap in the basins, the club had made a real effort to treat fans decently. One observer made a comment that saddened me even more, “Oh they’d just be thrown on the pitch at Boro,” and that’s probably true, because soap and toilet paper is not normally associated with Football Grounds in Cleveland. Unless your in the 100 club of course, but then they’re decent people aren’t they.
p.s. There are no fences at Q.P.R
I should like to offer my deepest sympathy to all the victims of the Hillsborough disaster and try, however inadequately, to express the full horror that all football fans have felt this week, surely the saddest week in footballs long history.
Whilst we must accept that there will be an element of risk in all facets of daily life, the scale of Liverpool’s tragedy is quite appalling. What has shocked the authorities is that this disaster could still occur even after all the stringent safety controls imposed over the last fifteen years since the 1975 Safety of Sports Grounds Act. Up until Bradford, league attendances in England totalled 1100,000,000 with only 50 deaths from accidents. With reduced ground capacities and generally lower crowds, did we neglect safety for security against hooliganism? Looking at the statistics did the authorities feel a disaster on the scale of Bradford was very unlikely to happen again? Well they should have asked us fans.
It is to be hoped that there will be a speedy yet thorough inquiry into Hillsborough and that all police video and T.V coverage will be stringently analysed. Several important points must be addressed. Firstly, how was such a massive scrum allowed to form outside the ground? As far back as 1924 a Departmental Committee on crowds recommended that “The approaches to grounds were to be divided by barriers to channel spectators towards clearly designated turnstiles”.
This was done last year at Hillsborough, so why not this year? Why has such a clearly common sense recommendation never become standard practise? It is rubbish to say that grounds must be moved out of Towns since channelling to turnstiles is possible anywhere.
So just why did so many Liverpool fans turn up en-masse so late? A lot has been made of the terrible hold ups over the M62 but there is a policy by the police of directing away fans into grounds at the last minute. Indeed Justice Popplewell in his Bradford report recommended that fans should not enter grounds until half an hour before kick off time. So coaches are often stopped on motorway exits before the police escort them in convoy at the very last minute. This policy is at odds with more sensible policing where away fans arrive at matches in good time. In fact even the governments own I.D scheme says that any delays at turnstiles caused by I.D cards should be avoided by fans arriving earlier. But facilities will need to be improved within grounds so that security problems do not arise from bored early arrivals.
Why did so many Liverpool fans arrive without tickets? Well first off, the allocation was totally inadequate. Any wholesale change from terracing to seating can only make matters worse, smaller capacities, higher prices. Anyway, people always turn up to sporting events without tickets. Look at the F.A Cup Final, every year a T.V. presenter gives out tickets to a few of the thousand hopeful fans. People turn up because there is always a good chance to get into a match and not just through police opening a gate. Go to Old Trafford or Anfield and there are touts everywhere. Steve Beauchamps has a good idea here to prevent touting. The clubs could offer refunds on unused tickets and then the real touts can be isolated.
Why did everyone pour through the same death-trap tunnel? Well anyone who attended the Middlesbrough game at Old Trafford will remember how it took a full 20 minutes to file out of the one tunnel exit from the terracing behind the goal. This is an absolute disgrace. We need more entrances and exists, more stewarding and better / clearer communications all round (including tannoy systems) inside and outside the ground.
Finally we come to the fence and this is the saddest point of all for me. A couple of years ago the Football Supporters Association produced a damning report on the safety implications of fences around the Wembley pitch. The pitch should be there as a natural escape route, not scared turf that must be saved at all costs. We need to look at how Arsenal and Q.P.R, West Ham along with most of the Scottish Premier Division have managed without fences and without pitch invasions. Certainly fences with spikes on as at Ayresome Park should be outlawed immediately.
So, some general ideas. Well we need better organisation, from departure point to inside the ground itself, who remembers how the Boro Travel Club coaches couldn’t find Old Trafford? Better communication, treat fans with more respect and we must respond positively to this. Games should always be delayed if necessary and closed circuit T.V. should be monitoring the situation. Not even live T.V deadlines should interfere with public safety. There needs to be a rethink on ticket allocation, in West Germany a sell out is reached well below ground capacity leaving plenty of space inside. Fans must now have more say in how they wish to watch the game. Remember it can take a long time to evacuate a seated area. Last year in an alert at Grimsby, it took a full eight minutes to clear the stand. The Government must help in footing the bill to make our stadiums safe.
I hope we can all help in some way to support the grieving friends and relatives in Liverpool.
“We are men of iron we are men of steel” So says the ignominious song but are we really? I’ve had my doubts over the last couple of months. I know our back four have had their problems lately, like Coopers niggling injury and the occasional ineptitude of the midfield (which thankfully appears to have receded in the last few games). But what really strikes me at the moment is when we do concede goals and i accept it is a simple fact of football life, that we inevitably go on to concede a few more.
The players, perhaps only momentarily, hang there heads and blame themselves. They give the impression that they feel sorry for themselves. I don’t see anyone pointing the finger at anyone else, each readily acknowledging their own shortcomings. Maybe its not such a bad thing, especially as too much bellyaching can do more harm than good. But with no one accountable the players do not seem to be angry enough, be it at their team mates or themselves.
What they need is a crash course from the John McEnroe school of public relations and etiquette. Don’t get me wrong i hate the little toad but his self motivation is second to none. Tony Mowbray should be screaming instructions left, right and centre whenever there is a sniff of danger in our penalty area whilst the others should be screaming back at him if he’s not in position himself. Nothing personal about this, just hard facts. Like Kevin Sheedy’s goal against us in the Everton match. A lot of people blamed Gary Parkinson for ball watching but why weren’t other players bawling at him that there was a man on?
I don’t think the trip to Bermuda did us any favours either. Anyone whos done some metal work at school knows that to harden steel it needs chucking into cold water when its red hot, not to simmer it nicely under a warm grill. If i had my way they’d have gone to Greenland or Iceland and been given a short, sharp, shock.
Also you don’t play piss passy football in your own penalty area, you hit it with a sledgehammer and attempt to send it into orbit. It may not look pretty but it wins prizes. I want the players to take each goal against us as a personal insult, not just to say “sorry about that” to us fans. I want to see so much pride that you’d rather wring the neck of an opposing forward than let them have the audacity to even think about putting the ball over our goal line.
C’mon Boro, you can do it, we all know that, just get out there and prove it
It’s October 29th 1988 and the people in Ayresome Park are cheering wildly as a certain Peter Davenport walks upon the playing surface. For the first time in many a young fans memory and the first in a long while for older ones too, a player with a big reputation from a so called ‘big club’, has agreed to join Middlesbrough F.C because he sees it as a club that is going places. The transfer is all the sweeter because his winging Scots get of a manager (one of a couple from the Yorkshire-Lancashire border) didn’t want him to go.
105 minutes later the ecstasy of the same people could probably be heard on the other side of the Pennines after the Boro had trounced a formidable Millwall side 4-2. The omens were good, eighth place in the league looked easily beatable especially with Dav coming into the team looking to be a consolidating piece in the Championship jigsaw.
That, as they say is history. Some five and a half months later, the opposite is true. Instead of challenging for the Championship we are battling relegation and the man upon whose shoulders so much faith had been placed was out of the team having scored only 2 goals in 20 league games.
It’s very easy to point the finger of blame in his direction but i believe he deserves the benefit of the doubt. He was bought as an out and out goal scorer, with his goal scoring record at Forest the inspiration, but that assumption is wrong. He is not a target man to hustle and bustle in the penalty area upsetting goalkeepers and defenders alike. He’s the bloke who comes in behind the striker and latches onto the rebounds. Unfortunately for him, this club has already got a man in this position. A bloody good one too. Bernie Slaven.
So what do we do now is the question. I believe that to find the answer we must go the root of the problem which is simply that he’s had it too easy since he got here. He didn’t have to fight for his place; his massive transfer fee ensured that.
At the beginning of the season all the talk was about having a good team, but also having a wafer thin squad. Davenport’s arrival had the fans thinking he would shine like a beacon and every touch he made would glitter like gold dust. That’s unfair; thankfully he is now regarded as a mere mortal like ourselves and therein lies the key to his future success as a Boro player. Stick him in the reserves, show him that if he wants first division football so desperately he is going to have to roll up his sleeves and fight for it, then and only then should he be given the right to fight for a first team place. I don’t really care if he doesn’t play again for us this season as long as he’s there fighting for first team recognition and putting pressure on the current team.
The seven hundred and odd thousand quid that he cost is a heavy cross for him to bear but it’s for us fans to assist with that burden. Forget his price tag and treat him as one of the lads. He’ll come through in the end. I’m sure of it
Arsenals Tony Adams has taken a fair bit of stick this season which has been well reported and to some extent promoted in these scribes. However the latest efforts to undermine Tony’s flagging reputation really take the biscuit, it seems plans are afoot for Boro fans to bring along carrots with the sole intention of tossing them in his general direction during our forthcoming game with the Gunners.
FMTTM wishes it to be known that they completely and utterly disassociate themselves from any such plan. It is absolutely disgraceful that the dignified folk of Teesside should even contemplate enhancing Tony’s reputation as a Donkey.
We would also like to point out that carrots can be purchased at 5 or 6 pence cheaper when bought from Honeymans in the village rather than Prestos supermarket
Don’t forget lads: Aresenal next, so no carrots.