Speculation on Bruce Rioch’s future at the Boro has been rife these last few torturous weeks, one victory away to Blackburn is not going to change that as long as the board remains so reluctant to tell us exactly what’s going on. We’ve all heard the rumours e.g. “our lasses boss told her that his cousin’s brother-in-law has been told by a friend who used to be an apprentice at the club in the 70′s, so he must be in the know, that Riochs out”. Or the even more bizarre “Howard Kendalls already got the job, I saw them in the Green Tree having a pie and a pint”.
Who’s to say if there is any truth in these rumours? Although they are bound to fly around when the club officials are so reluctant to talk openly. The way the Callaghan deal was handled, with manager and Chairman apparently divided and the confused explanations afterwards have only fuelled speculation. I do tend to believe that Riochs job is safe, at least for the time being, not least because we haven’t heard the customary pre-sacking chairman’s vote of confidence.
It is now surely obvious that the cause of so much player dissatisfaction is borne out of Riochs tough disciplinarian style and that he’s not particularly approachable when certain players have had grievances. If he’d had no success here then his sacking would make sense but this style has brought success and there is no evidence that he has become a bad manager overnight.
I believe the present problems can be traced back to liquidation and the loss of several experienced players who were replaced by youngsters, who although were at least as skilled as their predecessors, had very little to offer to the next generation of juniors coming through the ranks to earn pro contracts. In our present injury crisis we should have been able to look to the likes of Trotter, Fletcher and McGee to come in and hold their own, but with the possible exception of McGee none appear ready.
That is not to say mistakes have not been made by the manager. The sale of Deano was admirable for a 700% profit in a short space of time, but it did not account for our good luck with injuries running out as it did. Then there’s the Davenport signing, a risk worth taking at the time. But should thought have been given to the petty jealousy this would cause with players on a lot less money, despite them having given their all for the team in two successive promotions.
Most football supporter would like their team to be ran like Liverpool, knowing that success is not just here for today but liable to be here 10 years hence. Liverpool achieves this through stability in their coaching staff, allowing good systems and routines to build up over a number of years.
To lose Bruce Rioch could work in the short term but everything he has built at Boro would be eroded in the process, necessitating a new boss to start the building process all over again.
What with divots at Leeds, floods at Blackburn and mysteriously enlarged penalty areas at Port Vale it seems the groundsmen of the Football League are becoming the Boro’s most consistent opponents. Armed with little more than a spade these mindless muck spreaders have transformed groundsmans huts from their previously bland, uninspired appearance to intense battlegrounds where the plans for Boro’s humiliation are spawned.
Poor ol’Bruce, if he hasn’t got enough on his plate – that age old disease of referee blindness has reared its head again, whilst another long standing cancer is also back – mindless bickering by seemingly mindless players. The way his luck is going I wouldn’t be suprised if Bruce has booked a package holiday to San Francisco or been invited to join Maggies cabinet. Perhaps while pondering his plight, consoling himself that at least dick heads like Colin Harvey still exist to make his own transfer dabbles respectable (Beagrie £750,000?) Rioch may wonder how the current situation can be improved.
I have a suitable solution, instead of needless training sessions or public slanging matches why doesn’t Bruce test his players in the ‘Toughest Quiz In Football’ – The Kernaghan Factor. The game show that goes to the heart of players character based on 4 principle disciplines: effort, guts, intelligence and loyalty. Why the Kernaghan Factor you may ask. Simple really, in recent weeks Big Al has shown all these characteristics and more, in helping his beloved Boro while many of his colleagues, having stared adversity in the face have promptly burst into tears.
Take the first category – effort. While A.K has grafted like a good ‘un and sweated blood for Teesside, others notably Ripley and Burke have only sweated blood in their vital battle to reach Brucie’s office first and place their transfer requests in the most prominent spot. Their efforts have concentrated on the most pathetic excuses for leaving, with gems like: “Im not happy to be left on the bench even though i’m 3 stone overweight”, “I need first team football badly enough but i never produce the goods when it really matters” or more honestly, “i’m a glory grabbing superstar who works harder on my hair in the morning than i do for the team in the afternoon”
In the second category – guts, again Alan takes most to the cleaners, diabetes has been overcome but more significantly the more difficult handicap of two wrong feet and many wrong haircuts have been overcome. Only Trevor Putney and his nose can claim similar victory in the face of adversity.
In the intelligence stakes to, Al leaves ‘em standing. Mind you, it didn’t take much doing. A simple recognition of the need to battle hard and work together, forgetting past glories and transfer speculation (from let me guess, Spurs, eh Stuart?) was enough to get Al an IQ over 10 and hence double the quotient for the whole team. Sadly, when the Almighty created your average footballer he gave them more feet than brain cells and consequently in the Kernaghan Factor Part 3 – Boro players perform as well as Palace minus Ian Wright.
Last but by no means least – loyalty. Here A.K is a rare breed at Ayresome, one of the few players who doesn’t have to pinch himself as he passes the managers office in a vain attempt to prevent entry and plead for pastures new. Even the Wolfman couldn’t hold back the urge. Perhaps by abandoning his tee-total attitude and supping a pint of Guiness he can drown his Second Division sorrows, whilst at the same time assure qualification to play for Eire.
The ‘grass is always greener at (insert big name club)’ syndrome is alive and kicking but inveitably departees end up kicking their heels on the bench of one of the big 5, ironically the reason they left in the first place. Are they rats deserting the sinking ship? No folks, just rats and flea ridden sewer dwellers at that, who deserve no sympathy when they become the laughing stock of Div One (see Man Utd for details).
All in all it seems to me a few hard lessons can be learnt from this jaunt into TV quizland. 1) Attitude and determination are a pre-requisite of success not a minor part of it. 2) Talent and technique guarantees nothing. 3) Alan Kernaghan gets a raw deal from Boro fans for simply doing exactly the kind of things that make clubs promotion material. Until his principles are put into practise don’t call Bruce Rioch a psychopathic fool for changing the team every week. For until recently finding 11 players committed and mentally prepared to play for Boro, let alone the same 11 was as likely as Wendy James saying “Ouch” on her wedding night. Thankfully that situation seems to be improving but whether the improvement is too late is a mute point.
I’ve had a great season but this isn’t it!
Since Bruce Rioch took over this club nearly 4 years ago, it has enjoyed its first success since 1974. A lot of this credit has been given to the manager and deservedly so. However, the last year has been something of a disaster, culminating in relegation. If the manager takes credit for the successes, he must also take blame for the failures.
The success of this club in Bruce Riochs’ first two seasons in charge was built of team spirit. The same players who played in the relegation season of 1985-86 formed the backbone of the team that won promotion in consecutive seasons. What can make an apparently bad player into a good player? Confidence. Players need to have confidence in their ability. They need to be motivated, Bruce Rioch is obviously a good motivator, he is also a very strict disciplinarian and the two qualities seemed to work well together, although to take discipline too far can be dangerous and result in players reacting adversely. Bruce Rioch has a history of going too far (just ask the Torquay players). Has that happened here?
Many reasons have been offered for relegation. The signing of Peter Davenport and the sale of Dean Glover are two of the more popular choices but can they cause the club to go from 11th in Division One to to 20th in Division Two in less than a year? I think not. Either way Rioch was responsible for both the deals mentioned above. So the real reason for our demise must lie elsewhere. The recent story in the Gazette about the ‘bickering’ between players seems much nearer to the truth, although the story didn’t go far enough, it didn’t look at the reasons for the bickering.
There has always been cliques at this club, ever since Rioch took charge. It seems he either took a liking or a disliking to each player and that impression has stuck. Certain players always seemed to take the blame for poor team performances. Gary Gill is the biggest victim of this but he os by no means alone, Gary Parkinson and Mark Burke are also constantly at fault. Where as it seems Gary Hamilton can do no wrong (could this be because he and Rioch once lived together?) Nor can Tony Mowbray.
New players seem to become immediate favourites – Peter Davenport, Trevor Putney and Alan Comfort are three recent examples, although Peter Davenport is now right out of favour. If Mark Burke had played as badly as Comfort has recently, would he still be in the team? I doubt it. Why did Bruce try to sell Gary Gill to Scunthorpe and then seem prepared to make him Captain for the game at Blackburn? The manager seems to have taken complete leave of his senses. It is easy to see why players have become disillusioned with the club. as for Gary Pallister would he have stayed if we hadn’t been relegated? He was another of the ‘whipping boys’ and it seems he had simply had enough of the manager.
The cracks within the club have grown steadly since the Third Division, although the success of the team papered them over. Last year though, the team were naturally going to find it hard and the fact the team was struggling seemed to bring things to a head and team spirit has now apparently disappeared, resulting in six transfer requests.
Now, 4 years on, we are almost in the same league position as when Bruce took over, although we are in a much better state of health financially. But it is the league position which counts, not the bank account. Rioch brought initial success to Middlesbrough, but lately he has failed. Unless the team and the manager can turn things around dramatically it could be time to give Bruce the O.B.E – out before Easter.
With the Boro being in the state they are at the moment, it’s not surprising that booing is on the up and up. The trouble is there are some people who don’t seem to have the hang of it. Mainly it’s the young bucks in flares (i knew if i wore mine long enough they’d come back in). So being the kind hearted type, i’m lending some advice from my forthcoming book “The Joy of Booing” available from Chicken Run Publications.
Equipment – You don’t need much, so long as you’ve got your membership card. Thank god you can obtain it free, although it does cost you a quid to get your photo taken to go into it. A self portrait in Biro is no good, i’ve tried it. Oh and a T-Shirt two sizes too small to go around your oligatory 46 inch waist is also essential.
Preparation – Most of this is done in the ‘Yella’ consuming vast amounts of gob lubricant and picking out targets for today. Normally it’s one of the big five, namely Pooley, Parkinson, Slaven, Kernaghan and last but by no means least that Davenport bloke.
Knowledge – Like the old saying goes, too much knowledge is a dangerous thing and when it comes to booing that’s dead right. I mean if i knew a good pass from a bad one i wouldn’t be able to slag off every pass a Boro player makes.
Preconceived Ideas – It’s a common mistake to think that preconceived ideas are a bad thing. Well what a load of Gary Gill. If you don’t have them you might change your mind and then where would you be?
Contradiction – It is very important you don’t have any preconceived ideas. One of the most irritating aspects of a good Boo Boy, is he says one thing and in the next breath contradicts himself. The best example of this is the Pears / Poole syndrome. Towards the end of last season Pears was crap, so Poole got his game. “I’ve always said he’s the best of the two”. Now Pooles even worse, “Get Pears back, everyone knows he’s number one”. Get the idea?
Timing – This is the most important part of booing. It’s no good shouting your tonsils out when the rest of the crowds giving it E.I.O. The best time is when it goes deathly quiet, so quiet you can hear the wallets rustling in the North Stand. Then you shout something like “Bloody hell Boro, if this was on the radio i’d turn it off!” or something worse if they’re losing.
Company – Groups of three or four are best. You don’t have to like each other either, in fact its best if you hate each others guts. This makes it easier to argue all through the match.
Gross Stupidity – When all else fails and you haven’t driven the people in front of you to distraction this is what you fall back on. For example, say it’s been a bad day with nothing much to boo at (it’s only an example), you shout “I’ve got you’re number Rioch, you want the sack so the club will pay your contract out”. Mind you, it doesn’t sound so stupid now.
A Brain – This is the one thing must not have. The ideal IQ for a standard Boo Boy falls somewhere between that of the lesser spotted sea slug and the nasty black stuff you used to get under the table in the Linthorpe. If you do have a brain, get a frontal lobotomy immediately, or if you can’t afford that listen to David Mills on the radio, it has much the same effect.
So there you are, a few hints on how its done. So lets have less of this “We Love You Boro, We Do” and more “Your bloody rubbish Boro” mind you, most of you don’t need me to tell you that.
This was not so much a classic performance from Boro but it was definitely the first game i saw where i thought the Boro were on their way to something good. Everyone had just been relieved to see the lads run out at Hartlepool against Port Vale and im sure most people didn’t really care what the score was, it was just great to see the Boro were still alive. But at Wigan, the Boro really turned the corner.
The first half saw Wigan run all over us, with Pears making numerous excellent saves. At half time it was reported that as the players walked down the tunnel the Wigan captain audibly declared that “Boro were rubbish and there for the taking” and to be honest it seemed he was right.
The second half started in much the same way but Boro gradually began to gain in confidence and believe in themselves. Turnbull was running around like a madman, Mogga had got a grip of the defence and Bernie, Ripley and Gilly were all running confidently with the ball. Then came the goals, a (now) typical Mogga headed goal from a Hamilton corner and a Turnbull cool finish after a good run and through ball from Bernie.
The 500 or so Boro fans behind the goal were going mad and the lads were spraying the ball abut all over the pitch, completely taking the mick out of Wigan. It could have been 4 or 5 after that and this was one of those rare occasions when you didnt want the final whistle to blow. This was, i’m sure a crucial game for Ripley, Coops, Parky and Gilly who all visibly grew in stature and confidence as the game went on and who all went on to have superb seasons.
Undoubtedly a turning point in Boro’s future. Brilliant. I wonder what that Wigan captain had to say after 90 minutes?