Don’t we all remember a time when we simply didn’t care about Middlesbrough? Play Newcastle and the sheer passion of the fans would rub off on our players, instilling in them a do-or-die spirit that would be apparent whatever the result. Boro? Just another little club, geographically close but no real threat and not really worth considering arch-rivals.
So look what happened. Our players play like kittens at St James’ Park, Boro roll over to Bolton and suddenly we desperately need to care about, and beat, the Smogmonsters to make as sure as we can that nothing goes catastrophically wrong at the fag-end of an up-down-down-down-up-down season.
Mick Sheehan* is a close friend. He makes boots. He supports Boro. So here is our friendly Boro Boot Boy’s assessment of a vital game and our two clubs
At the start of the season I was very positive. I thought we had a good chance of qualifying for Europe. I thought Sunderland might struggle, while Newcastle with Sam Allardyce looked like they might go all the way.
By December it all looked a bit grim. However, at least Newcastle and Big Sam were in melt down so there was some Christmas comfort in that.
The last game I saw at the Stadium of Light was 2004/5 (I think) ….. I’d got a lift up to the game with some Sunderland fans…. Gianluca Festa scored with a glancing header in the first half, Jimmy ‘the hitman’ Hasslebank in the second half …. and I had to get a taxi home…… The half time entertainment was provided by Sunderland fans fighting each other in the West stand – definitely a great game. Well it was if you were a Boro fan.
There’s something strange going on with Keano and Southgate. At the start of the season Keano was without question a believer in gonad-crushing as a motivational technique ….. now he’s gone almost Buddhist like …. ethereal …. has he started drinking camomile tea instead of rotweiller’s blood????
Gareth on the other hand was more of a New Age man relying on incense burners, a nylon string guitar and singing Kum by Yah to sort things out at half time ….. now he’s actually criticising referees …. whatever next? Will we see Keano in orange robes levitating during games? or Gareth physically assaulting Rob Styles for which he gets a three month suspended sentence …. increased to four months on appeal?
Sunderland played well in the second half against Newcastle but never really threatened to score – apart from Kenwyne Jones’s header. You’re also missing Evans & Bardsley who have been key players at the back.
I think we’ll win the game on Saturday. We have been playing really well since the Cardiff defeat, which still hurts. However last Saturday against Bolton we were poor, but we have a habit of bouncing back ….
Prediction: two-nil to the Boro …. scorers Alliadiere & Tuncay. Sunderland fans chanting Buddhist mantras at half time and Keano having an “out of body experience”. By the way, does anyone know what he has been smoking? I’d like to try some of it.
And now for your questions………..
What did you think of our respective clubs’ prospects before season
I thought Sunderland would struggle but with Keano taking bites out of the under-performing players’ ear lobes you might just avoid relegation.
Earlier this season I was impressed with Sunderland’s work rate and never say die attitude – bit like Keano as a player.
With Alliadiere’s pace & Gary O’Neil on the right I thought we’d at least get a good cup run and possibly qualify for Europe – thought we’d end up in the top half of the table ….ah, well.
When did you last see a SAFC v Boro game home or away, and what
happened? Any other memorable games between us?
All Boro home games – including your only away win in your last relegation season, which was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Have you been to the Stadium of Light? If so what did you make of it?
What do you think of Sunderland itself? Had you ever been to Roker Park?
I was at the Stadium of Light on Jan 31 2006 where Boro beat Sunderland 3-0. Pogatetz got the 1st goal followed by Parnaby and Jimmy Floyd.
Good stadium – seats and facilities for away fans are good, unlike Newcastle where away fans get a really raw deal …. how do the Geordies get away with it? Oxygen masks & binoculars – it’s not easy for us Smoggies climbing all those bloody stairs! Personally I prefer the older stadiums like Roker Park and Ayresome Park and I prefer standing places like Villa Park. That old ground still retains something of that old ground feel, especially the seats which were designed to fit blokes brought up during the 20s and fed on bread and dripping – average height five foot, average weight three stone six …. The bloke next to me got deep vein thrombosis last time I was at the Villa. They’re a bit like the economy seats on a long haul, low cost airline taking you to Nepal.
What about the signings each club has made?
Keano has spent quite a lot of money and if he had to sell the same player tomorrow I don’t think he’d get a lot of it back. Best signing … Kenwyne Jones, but he needs to be in a more creative team. Best signings for boro … Arca looked really good earlier in the season but he’s been less impressive since he came back fro injury. Mido and Alves have got a lot more to do next season to prove they were worth the money. Luke Young has done a really good job at right back and selling Woodgate to Tottenham was good business …. it released funds to purchase Alues.
Your predictions for both clubs for rest of season
We survive …. that’s about it
Do you regard Sunderland much as we regard Boro? Or are you more
grown-up about such things?
Absolutely. I think all Sunderland fans are fun loving, friendly and generous in their sportsmanship and non partisan attitude to visiting teams and supporters. I’ll stop now before I vomit. Next question!
Memories of players and/or management linked to both clubs? Brian
Clough, Alf Common, Stan Cummins, George Hardisty (wasn’t it?), Julio
Arca spring to mind but there are many more
Brian Clough obviously and Stan Cummins, great player. Julio Arca – although he’s had some great games for us I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him. He may have saved his best game for Sunderland.
Club vs country. Who wins for you, especially given that your country could be either the Irish Republic, England or both?
You can’t really compare. Internationals are different they pull everyone together. So it’s possible I’ll support Sunderland when they turn out as the Republic of Ireland.
Who will win? Score? How will you keep tabs on the game?
Boro 2-0 and I’ll listen to the game on radio and watch the highlights on Match of the Day, when as usual we are the very last match to be on and we get about one minute thirty seconds of action and a load of condescending post match analysis from the non partisan, totally unbiased Man Utd/Chelsea/Arsenal loving so -called experts
* Colin Randall on Mick Sheehan:
Great bloke with dodgy football-supporting tastes, close examination of which would reveal a darker, indeed bar-coded secret from his past. In real life, Mick manufactures walking, military and other specialist boots at his Alt-Berg factory in Richmond (ours, not the south-west London one). He is also a fixture of the North-eastern folk music scene, having progressed from basic Irish balladeering (the name explains that background, and also his support for the Republic of Ireland) to his own perceptive songs. They are are perceptive because they have no connection to his sporting tastes. Salut! Sunderland takes no responsibility for his spellings of Boro players.