What a week, defeat at Sunderland, Pally going for a record fee before making an arse of himself on his Manchester United debut. But most important of all and a real tonic for the Boro faithful, we get a plum tie in the Littlewoods Cup 2nd round, Halifax Town.
After the predictable disappointment at Leeds, Sunderland was an enigma; we were so much better in the first half it was embarrassing. Maybe the players let the embarrassment get to them and stopped trying when the going got tough? One bright spot was the continuing good form of Putney and Comfort, if Bruce spends his 2.3 million as wisely as he appears to have, then we should have little problem regaining our position in the top flight.
In all my away trips following the Boro, I have never encountered such an abrasive attitude as that usually displayed by the police at Sunderland. Usually I say, as on this occasion some of the lessons of Hillsborough appear to have sunk in, with the police being both courteous and helpful instead of the usual ‘treat them like the scum they are’ attitude.
Today sees our first run of the mill fixture against Sheffield United. Following two disappointing away defeats, we should get some idea of the crowds we could be in for this season unless things take off, another 6-0 victory would be a good way of doing that. Thinking back to that glorious 6-0 victory a couple of seasons ago it’s worth drawing the comparison in form and attitude of one Stuart Ripley.
The then golden boy was playing as though the world was at his feet, scoring a hat-trick and bringing Slaven and Senior into the game with his constant running and skill. So far this season he’s done sod all, he’s looked lethargic yards slower and barely interested. Mowbray too has been only mediocre in the games so far. With the possible exception of the Sunderland game where he played a bit more like his old self, he’s scarcely looked like the ‘Captain Courageous’ of old.
With Pally now gone is it not possible that a couple of our England Internationals have got superiority complexes about playing in Division 2. If this is the case then it doesn’t need me to tell them that they are doing themselves and the team no good, and I would suggest a spell in the reserves to bring them back down to earth.
So Pally’s gone and the general consensus of opinion believes that we got a very good price for a player desperate to get away.
Most Boro fans recognise him as being a class centre back, with excellent heading ability, as fast as any player in the country (a former schoolboy sprint hurdles champion) and having not just a little bit of skill. The Leeds fans who eee-awed at him, as seems to be the case with most famous centre backs these days, could not have picked a more unsuitable candidate for the treatment. We are all aware of his major floor, a tendency to be over casual but this has diminished since the start of our First Division campaign where he soon learnt the cost of such mistakes at the top level. Eventually I believe he will have this problem licked and regain his place in the England squad.
The transfer affair, now that the details are out, has done nothing to endear Pally to the Boro faithful. The fact is that he signed a four year contract that contained no clause releasing him should we be relegated from Division One. In asking for a transfer, he should have requested one formally and when turned down got on with playing football. That would allow Brucie and Col to tell other clubs that there was no deal to be done unless silly money was offered, as it was eventually.
Instead Pallister showed undue eagerness to get away from the club that had given him his break in the big time. That is not to say that I agree with him choosing to leave but i believe he didn’t conduct himself in a proper manner.
His use of John Smith throws up another issue regarding the role of agents in the modern game, are they professionals striking top deals for thick footballers who would otherwise be bought on the cheap, or are they parasites after a cut of ever increasing transfer and signing on fees.
Another distasteful aspect of the affair involved the Gazette’s reporting and subsequent gloating. They pointed out that their 26th of August edition had stated that Pallister was going and then pointed out that their local rivals the Northern Echo and said that there was no deal. In their glee they seemed to forget that they had previously urged acceptance of the original £1.8 bid pre-season, but then i suppose that is typical of a newspapaer that pats itself on the back.
I pay very little attention papers who show a cutting from a previous day to show how right they were, They can have 100 guesses and are bound to get a few right. We are never reminded of the ones they didnt get right, like the News of the World about a year ago saying that Pallister had gone to Man Utd for £2m and that we had already spent half of it on Wayne Clark. Read and be entrertained by all means but have have several large piches of salt to hand.
Seeing as Bruce will probably decide against making a 2.3m donation to the FMTTM Destitute Editors Foundation i suppose he’d better spend it on players (note the word players rather than player). Big Col will surely have told him not to spend it all in the same shop.
The priority must be a defendeer seeing as the defence wasnt performing too well even with Pally. As has been suggested he may need to look abroad, partly through the lack of quality players in Britain and partly because foreign clubs will not necessarily know how much dosh he has.
Pallister went for a ridiculous price but being the sycophant i am, i can not help but agree with Bruce when he said “its better to have players in your squad than money in the bank”.
Friends and family of Radio Cleveland DJ Mark Page are still concerned today after he was mysteriously struck down by a very severe case of funniness a fortnight ago. An aide to the Middlesbrough born personality told us that Mark is still cracking jokes. “It’s no laughing matter”, said his wife, Mrs Page from there home next door to their neighbours. “Mark has never been funny before, quite the opposite in fact, he’s one of the unfunniest personalities around, i can’t understand it”.
Thousands of people heard Mark, who was considered not funny enough to keep his job at Radio 1, being funny during the half time break at the match between Boro and Wolves. As fans roared with laughter it soon became apparent that something was drastically wrong.
At first it was thought that he was drunk or had consumed one of the many chemicals on offer from club chairman (you wannit i gotit) Henderson, but the club doctor Mr L.E (Quack Quack) Dunn, on inspection confirmed he was physically sound. It was suggested that during the close season he did have plenty of time to think up and rehearse his act but this theory was dispelled on the grounds that he’s never been remotely funny before in a lifetime of thinking up and rehearsing his act.
Some claimed that it was not in fact Mark Page at all but his idol Roly Poly comedian Roy (Chubby) Brown. Scores of concerned fans reported to the general office after the game to check up on Marks well being and well wishers have bombarded his home with ‘Get Unwell Soon’ cards.
Meanwhile it is hope that Mark has recovered in time for this afternoons match against Sheffield United, when he needs to make a poor account of himself to avoid becoming a regular fixture at Ayresome Park on match days.
The Wolves game saw the debut of not only Comfort and Putney but also the ‘new improved’ programme, the Boro Magazine. Some people had suggested to me that the reason for its publication was as a result of last seasons programme sales being affected by increase in popularity of Boro fanzines. I disagree, most people who stopped buying the programme probably did so because it was the worst for years and at £1 was a joke.
As a build up to it’s first issue editor Alan Berry, formerly sports editor with the Gazette, referring to the Boro fanzines told the Gazette, “They show that there is an interest and enthusiasm on the terraces for something to read before the match” fair enough comment i thought. He continued, “There is a demand for well written and thoughtful articles on the Boro that we can meet”.
Yeah, well we’ve been known to string the odd sentence together without splitting too many infinitives. “Our close relationship with the club gives us an insight that they can’t match”. Which leads me to believe, that folk in the Peoples Republic of China, should read their Government run newspapers to find out what’s happening in their local square.
The Gazette went on to talk about a professional journalistic approach by the team producing the magazine so it was with eager anticipation that I bought the highly polished finished article on Thursday afternoon before the match. Brilliant start, first page and Sir Bruce’s piece contains a World Exclusive – it would seem that Graham Taylor has left Aston Villa and joined our opponents Wolves.
Surely that must be the case; the professional journalistic approach would never let the Boro Magazine team confuse the surnames Taylor and Turner. A similar error occurred later on in the magazine when Big Col Henderson talked about the sports centre having been commissioned by the old board under the leadership of “Chester” Amer. Obviously their insight to the club being put to good effect there.
That’s enough of the cheap shots, for this article anyway. The Boro Magazine is a definite improvement with many new features which should prove popular although there still seems a little too much advertising. The colour reproduction is excellent quality on the fold out poster but surely they could have found a player more pleasing on the eye than Mogga for the first issue?
Another plus was the team listings on the last page. Next to each name they gave a little bit of up to date information on the player, so much better than the syndicated nonsense that appears in every programme about the visiting team. Unfortunately the mag also includes the aforementioned nonsense. Another new idea is the A to Z of Boro players since the war, which if you keep up top date with your buying of the mag each home game should serve as a useful source of reference.
Now for the important question… will I buy it again? No i will not… but then I’m just a tight git who wouldn’t even buy Fly Me To The Moon if I didn’t get it free.
David Hodgson just beats John Hickton as my favourite player of all time and i’m sure this is the case for many people. I gave him the award after a cup game vs. WBA ten years ago. The previous week after a shirt tugging tussle with Man City’s Nicky Reid at Maine Road Hodgy was sent off, thereby banned for the cup game. Other players might have moped at home. Most would have opted for the dugout sitting next to the manager in a sheepskin coat eating Opal Fruits and getting sympathy all round, not this man. He took the terraces, Holgate End to be precise, lending his voice to the rest of the Kop.
The fact that Boro ended West Brom’s cup aspirations for that particular season was almost immaterial; the act endeared him permanently to many fans.
This wasn’t an isolated display of street level love for the club and fans, several more confirmed it. Pre match warm ups / kick abouts at away matches invariably finished with him kicking a match ball into the Boro fans. Clearly a deliberate act intending someone to have a free ball. One other memory was relayed to me by a long standing friend and Boro fan, who after a defeat at Elland Road decides to drown his sorrows at Maddo’s. Seemingly Hodgy had shared the idea. My mate, with several pints of courage inside him had a word with the Boro man regarding the game in general and the dirty play of Kenny Burns. Expecting a brief reply he was surprised to find Hodgy frank, warm and keen to talk, at no point looking as if he wanted to be elsewhere.
On the field the Gateshead man never gave less than 100%. Who can forget those lightening raids down the line to retrieve that ball he had no right to get to. He never scored enough goals but the ones he made justified his 6 England U21 caps.
Inevitably he ended up at Liverpool (Boro’s sister club at the time) for £500,000. He couldn’t reproduce the form he showed for us, though he was a popular figure at Anfield due to his bubbly personality and never say die attitude. For a few seasons he lost some credibility by going to Sunderland, then Sheff Wed, Norwich and several unpronounceable foreign clubs. A brief return to Boro on loan was cut short when he was sent off against Bristol City and returned to Norwich City.
I’ve two lasting memories of him. Firstly, completing a fine hat-trick against Spurs in a 4-1 victory. Secondly being carried shoulder high around Ayresome Park after our final game of the season 81-82. We headed down, he headed to Liverpool. I firmly believe he didn’t want to leave but was forced out because we wanted the money.
For the record: Played 116 games. Scored 16 goals.