Spyin' Kop: Middlesborough (Away) 12/01/08

Posted by Walter Sobchak on January 10, 2008, 11:52:54 AM

With our league winning aspirations taking a couple of knocks recently we need to get back on track fast. So the last fixture most of us would want to see down as our next game would be Middlesborough away. There have been few less fruitful hunting grounds outside the other top four teams in recent years than the Riverside Stadium. For the record (those of a nervous disposition look away now) we haven’t won there since the 01/02 season, when goals from Michael Owen and Paddy Berger sealed a 2-0 win. Both teams have suffered from inconsistency this season but after beating Arsenal here last month boro will be confident of snatching an unlikely win and compounding the Reds current downturn in form.

Middlesborough FC vs Liverpool Football Club
Riverside Stadium
Capacity: 35,100
Referee: Andre Mariner
3.00 kickoff

Boro Honours:
League Cup
Winners 2003-04
Runners up 1996-97, 1997-98

Runners up 2005-06

FA Cup
Runners up 1996-97

Football League First Division
Champions 1994-95
Runners up 1997-98

Football League Second Division
Champions 1926-27, 1928-29, 1973-74
Runners up 1901-02, 1991-92

Football League Third Division
Runners up 1966-67, 1986-87

FA Amateur Cup
Winners 1894-95, 1897-98

Anglo-Scottish Cup
Winners 1976

Zenith Data Systems Cup
Runners up 1990

This week Spyin Kop visited the very helpful http://www.comeonboro.com/ and got answers from the editor, Andy Morgan and contributors to the site Tom Warnock and ‘Smog on the Tyne’.

SK: 15th in the league, is it fair to say this season hasn’t shaped up the way you expected?

TW: With the singings we made and the loss of Viduka and Yakubu there was only one way the season was going. We have been unlucky in some games this season like Newcastle and Sunderland, but we have got equally fortunate against the likes of Fulham and Birmingham at home. So we are about where we deserve to be.
ANDY: It's pretty much what we expected. Going into the season we had sold Viduka and Yakubu was unsettled. It was clear he no longer wanted to play for us.  We replaced these players with untested players (Tuncay) or ones not deemed good enough to play for their old clubs (Mido, Aliadiere). That was a risk. I predicted 13th this season so not too far off.
SOTT: I had hopes for an easier season than the last one, however deep down I knew it would be tough losing our main goal threats. I think we'll get slightly better but it's highly unlikely we'll finish higher than 12th.

SK: You've been inconsistent this season (sounds familiar) and there have been question marks over Gareth Southgate’s ability. What’s your opinion of him and opinion amongst ‘boro fans in general?

TW: My opinion of him as a former captain of the club is very high, and he is without doubt a Boro legend, but he is not managerial material yet, he could be in the future, but I feel he is learning from his mistakes at the club's expense and detriment. He would've been better off starting at a lower league club much like Paul Ince has done.
ANDY: We all want Gareth to succeed but many of us wonder whether taking on a Premier League club as your first managerial job is wise. It sort of worked for Bryan Robson though but we needed an experience manager to push us beyond our UEFA Cup Final experience. That didn't happen.
The fans believe that Southgate is not tough or ruthless enough but many have the patience to allow him to see what he can do. We're not like the Geordies up the road who demand instant success. We all want Southgate to succeed and are willing, within reason, to give him the time to show his mettle.
SOTT: Personally, I have a lot of time for Gareth. He knows how the game should be played and is a very decent bloke. I'll support him because, despite the noisy pessimists saying otherwise, I think he will eventually take us forward. After all more experienced managers than Southgate have struggled at times before achieving success - see Moyes, Mark Hughes, O'Neill.

SK: The FA Cup. After being drawn against league two Mansfield Town how do you rate your chances of winning the cup? and what’s more important a good cup run or an improvement in league form?

TW: We seem to be a cup team, and the league is a lost cause in terms of acheiving anything, what we need to ensure is that we aren't relegated - and realistically that is the only important thing. A good cup run certainly lifts morale, but as we found in 1997, it can also be disastrous. As it stands we have a good chance of progressing, but you don't know what the next round's draw will hold.
ANDY: It's certainly a positive tie. Boro are a better side away from home this season so we are looking to qualify for the fifth round. A favourable draw here and a few Premier League teams being knocked out and it is distinctly possible. Despite this though, I'd just be happy if a trophy was won by a side other than "The Big Four"
SOTT: Doubt we'll win it, but we're a decent cup team so you live in hope. We'll probably go out to a penalty from a Ronaldo dive versus Man U.

SK:Any young up and coming players in the squad that we should look out for?

TW: Benjamin Hutchinson is scoring for fun in the reserves and he recently scored in the Premier League, it’s about time our academy produced a striker, so I hope he can become a player of huge talent.
ANDY: Our Academy is one of the best in the country and there have been many good products coming out of it. Nathan Porritt (SK: we know about him already!) is the one shining star but we have yet to see much of him. David Wheater came in this season unannounced and done well. There may be many other similar unsung stars the ranks too.
SOTT: Wheater has looked impressive. Johnson was good on loan at Watford, hopefully he can start testing Premier League defences. Cattermole is at a crossroads; he can be either the next in a long line of decent English battling midfielders... or the next Phil Stamp

SK: Who have been your best performers this season?

TW: Julio Arca was instrumental before he was injured, Downing has been a reliable goal scorer aswell, and more recently Tuncay has started to fulfill his promise.
ANDY: Wheater all season, Tuncay since the end of November. The former has been the revelation of the season, the latter, once confidence was boosted after his first goal against Reading, has been revelationary for us.
SOTT: O'Neil looks an excellent buy. Tuncay has started to deliver after some early promise. Downing is showing his mettle despite the idiotic few shouting him down.

SK: And who has been most disappointing?

TW: Aliadiere should have more goals, and Dong Gook Lee has been extremely poor
ANDY: Jonathan Woodgate seems to be running on auto-pilot for whatever reason. Dong Gook Lee doesn't look Premier League standard but he is steadily improving. He does have some good skill and can hold the ball up. Shame he can do very little else and is too lightweight and easily knocked off the ball.
SOTT: Dong Gook has been poor, he's just not cut out for the English game judging by his displays. Woody has been inconsistent this season, but his class is there to see.

SK: If you could buy one player in january (realistically) who would it be?

TW: What defines realistically though haha - I would have to say a young, energetic striker such as the likes of Defoe.
ANDY: Jermain Defoe if it's realistic. Any striker will do though. Alves is being rumoured but is he tested in England or the Premier League? Perhaps two or three Championship players may be an idea - they're cheap and little will be risked. I personally like Misfud at Coventry.
SOTT: Alfonso Alves is being linked but for the money its a big risk. Defoe would be useful if he could be tempted from the big smoke.

SK: What are your favourite memories of past boro liverpool matches? (I’d imagine you’d have quite a few going by our record at your place)

TW: One of my best memories was when I was at Anfield when Geremi scored that fantastic free kick, just a shame they had to pull it back.
ANDY: The 3-3 match on the opening day of the 1996/97 season was magical. Ravenelli's debut gave us hope of a fantastic season to come. We then got relegated, but got to two cup finals, then lost them both. A ridiculous campaign.
SOTT: League cup semi final 97/98 season - Merse and Branca - awesome.

SK: Mystic Meg time - Where do you expect boro and Liverpool to finish in the Premier League?

TW: I daren't say where Boro will finish, but I would say 5th for Liverpool.
ANDY: If we get a striker, 11th, if not 16th. Liverpool 5th.
SOTT: Boro - 13th - typical run to survival and possible top half breakthrough, followed by end of season tail off.
Liverpool - 4th - I always tip Liverpool for a sneaky title but it never happens, I don't think it's too far off but I reckon this season Arse and Man U are picking up the wins, while Chelsea are to consistent.

SK: Which of your players should we look out for on saturday and which of ours do you fear the most?

TW: I'm very impressed by Babel everytime i watch him, and our best performers at the minute are Downing, O'Neil and Tuncay.
ANDY: Torres. He has been revelationary for you. Gerrard always seems to play well against us too - the goal in the 1-1 draw at Anfield a couple of seasons back was the best goal I have ever had the privilege of seeing live.
SOTT: Downing - even when he's not playing well he still seems to whip dangerous balls into the box - even if there is no one gambling on them.
Gerrard and Torres are a quality pair and if they play well then you could dish out a spanking.

SK. Finally, care to predict the score?

TW: 2-2
ANDY: 0-0. You're not firing in the League and the Boro are not firing at all. It will be a close game as we always seem to do well against the "Big Four". Had we been at Anfield I would have more confidence though, due to our inability to play well at home at the moment (Arsenal result aside).
SOTT: Gonna be optimistic and say 2-1 to the Boro. We often play well against the bigger clubs and I have a feeling we could dash your title hopes. Good luck for the season though, i'd love you to defy the critics and win the league.

Once again thanks to Andy and everyone at comeonboro.com who replied.....even if most of you reckon we'll only finish 5th!

Good luck in the relegation scrap  :D

© Walter Sobchak

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