Sixer’s Middlesbrough Soapbox: ‘another depressing, dispiriting day’

Happy New Year?

As Boro coasted to victory against SAFC in the FA Cup, Gary Bennett could be heard tellng listeners to the BBC Radio Newcastle commentary that it was the travelling supporters – no fewer than 4,476 – he felt sorry for. One of them was our own Pete Sixsmith, who emailed his report with a GLUM reference to another ‘depressing and dispiriting’ day. At least the SAFC Ladies team won (3-0 vs Birmingham), prompting my mischievous tweet:

Middlesbrough (away) FA Cup, 6/1/2018

Think of the word flat, used as an adjective rather than an adverb or a noun, and you have a pretty accurate description of the way that we played at the Riverside. My OED defines flat (adj.) as

“dull and lifeless, lost all its effervescence, without energy or enthusiasm.”

The last one may be a little harsh, but let’s go with all three.


Dull and lifeless; that basically describes our play for 90 per cent of what is turning into a season of such abject wretchedness that I am considering having the red and white blinds at Sixsmith Towers changed.

Here, in front of 4,500 supporters, we were certainly dull. There was little evidence of the crisp passing and penetrating through balls that a side needs to break down a decent, but hardly outstanding, Middlesbrough side, who could well be two divisions away from us next season.

With the players at our disposal, we were hardly going to be in the business of playing an expansive and flowing game. Indeed, when have we done that for the last two years? The last “flowing and expansive” performance that I saw was at Norwich in April 2016, when Defoe, Borini, M’Vila and Kirchhoff ground Norwich’s faces into the dust in that splendid 3-0 win. The fact that we now have to rely on Maja, McManaman, Wilson and Honeyman to replicate those positions shows us how far we have fallen since that romp at Carrow Road.

Three of those mentioned did as well as could be expected. Josh Maja is not a line leader; his game has not developed in that direction. Up against two experienced defenders in Gibson and Ayala, he worked hard but is too slight and he left exhausted after 70 minutes. By that time, he had failed to clear the ball after Steele had made a mess of yet another corner, allowing Braithwaite to poke home the second goal and had narrowly missed with a near post header that might have got us back into the game.

only two years ago
Wilson worked hard in the Gibson role and did well enough. His passing was reasonably accurate and he worked hard to retrieve the ball when he, or one of his colleagues, lost it. Decent player but nowhere near the level of a Yann M’Vila or a (fit) Jan Kirchhoff.
Left: Sunderland warming up at Spurs, 16th January 2016.

Defoe, M’Vila, Lens and Pickford (his league debut) started. Kirchoff made his debut when he came on as sub.

Wilson worked alongside George Honeyman who also put a decent shift in and at least tried to go forward. But once again, his slight frame and inability to make a telling pass were clear to see. He should be able to cope with whatever Division One throws at us next season.

On the other hand, McManaman showed exactly why Tony Pulis refused to play him at West Brom, as he turned in a performance that made Will Buckley look like Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney rolled into one. No heart, no commitment, no ideas; it was a relief when he was hauled off on the hour to be replaced by Joel Asoro who put a bit of buzz into the attack. McManaman is another player, signed with reasonable expectations who has done absolutely nothing. One cameo at Hull does not a footballer make.

As for the rest, they were comfortably outplayed by a Middlesbrough side that did what they had to do. The fact that they were aided by yet another poor performance from Jason Steele made it far too comfortable for them.

He should have been off his line quicker and more positively for the first one, although it was an excellent pass from Traore that even the lumbering Gestede (a typical Tony Pulis player – they will bond well) could not fail with.

The second goal was just weak goalkeeping. He came for a good cross from Downing, never looked like getting to it, was blocked by Gestede and palmed it back into the box, where Braithwaite killed the game off. He was given a chance by Coleman, failed to take it, so back he goes to bench warming duties for the foreseeable future.

Ethan Robson made his full debut and did as well as any young player could in this rag bag of a team. He was too easily dispossessed by Traore for the opening goal, but he stuck at his task and he looks as if he may offer some energy and fizz in midfield.

Flat means no fizz – think of a cheap bottle of champagne- and that just about sums us up. We have not got a single player who can take hold of a game and give us a toehold in it. Middlesbrough had Braithwaite (I like him) and Traore (maddeningly inconsistent by all accounts) and they back it up with solidity from Leadbitter and Howson.
They look a well-balanced side who should make the play offs; we look a lopsided bunch who look more likely to be heading for the third level of English football for the second time in our illustrious history. And the worrying thing is, that it could get worse, much, much worse.

As for “lacking energy and enthusiasm”, that sums me up as I look very carefully at my footballing watching for the rest of the season. I stopped off at Dean Street on the way home and took in the last half hour of Shildon v Team Northumbria. It ended up 5-3 to the Railwaymen and I think I shall be seeing an awful lot more of them in the coming months.

Clicking on the image takes you back to Salut! Sunderland’s home page


Acknowedgements: Sunderland at Spurs, John McCormick. Salut graphics, Jake. If there is any other copyright claim, not answered by ‘fair use’ exemptions, on the images used to illustrate this report, please make us aware and we will add credits or remove as requested

5 thoughts on “Sixer’s Middlesbrough Soapbox: ‘another depressing, dispiriting day’”

  1. I feel in such utter despair over our current situation and future prospects of even existing as the club we’ve known and supported for so long. I see a badly managed empty shell of a club called SAFC dying of neglect and I don’t recognise it. The McMenemy days we thought were so bad just pale into insignificance against our current plight. At least back then we had hope. Today I see none. Just a continuing decline in massive debt, players not wanting to play for us, no money for transfers and an underperforming academy that can’t feed the first team. Two years hence and we won’t even have the experience of the likes of O’Shea and Catts to help youngsters develop.

    My last hope is to follow the Southampton model. Drop down to the third tier of football and along comes a hedge fund billionaire with no interest in football fancying a bit of a dabble. Sticks a pin in a list of washed-up clubs with potential and, hey presto, your name comes up. He pays off all your debts, appoints a ruthless CEO and then promptly dies. Such was the turn around in fortunes that successive promotions to the PL, Wembley and upper table safety bred an expectancy in the supporters who now demand that heads roll during their current lower table “crisis”.

    My New Year’s wish? hope it happens to us and I promise not to be ungrateful and demand heads roll when we’re back in the PL in three years time.

    Does anyone else have any floatier straws to clutch than mine?

  2. If SAFC were a child we’d have been taken into care by now to prevent further cruelty and neglect. Our only hope is Chris Coleman and however bleak things appear he deserves our full and unequivocal support.All the club’s many failings are now staring us in the face and at the moment another relegation looks very probable.

  3. I don’t believe the majority of billionaire foreign businessmen buy English football clubs because they have concern for the club, the area or the fans. They buy into English football for financial reasons, to offset tax or reduce tax bills, make money from loans in ways which I don’t understand or maybe in the case of the ultra super rich like Abramovitch and Thai or Saudi oligarchs as a hobby. Those in that category may look to accumulate trophies but it would seem to me that Americans in particular aren’t bothered how successful the club is.

    Add to that the dummy throwing attitude of players like Grabban, and the apparent inability to recover from relatively minor injuries, of the likes Kone, Rodwell and Ndong who despite being paid handsomely don’t seem to want to play the game most of us did for nowt means that my disillusionment with the top levels of a game I have followed all my life is now almost complete.

    O’Shea and Cattermole have their detractors and neither may be the player they once were, but at least they appear to care and show commitment on the pitch. Coleman gives the impression that he appears to care about the club, how it is run and the fans. If he can get the backing he needs, weed out the shirkers, bring in players who are committed to playing and instill a good work ethic he may be able to get us punching above our weight.

    Not so long ago giant killers Coventry were a Premier League club. Looks like we’ll be making similar headlines over the next few years though I wouldn’t bet on us being able to beat any higher ranking clubs in the immediate future, the way things are going.

  4. Another accurate and all too correct analysis of the latest shower.

    First goal was schoolboy stuff (and it gets worse the more you watch it), the second was just very poor defending.

    No bite, no flair, no passion or pride.

    Without reinforcements we are condemned to League 1 without the prospect of redemption, parole or hope and it could continue to get a lot worse.

    Mr. Short/ Bain take note, on our current trajectory and without a serious commitment of cash there will be only one outcome. Mr. Short you have always claimed to have the best interests of the Club at heart, now is the time to show that and act.

    • Wasn’t Short saying a matter of months ago that he wanted a top six premier team ? I hope that means he’s selling up and inflicting himself on someone else as we’ll be lucky to be a top 6 Conference team at this rate .

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