Filed: Thursday, 20th October 2005
By: Matthew Coker
After a month on international duty and on the road, we all get to bundle back to the Boleyn this weekend to play hosts to Middlesbrough. As we are trying hard to avoid an unfashionable Saturday 3pm kick off, this game takes place on a Sunday, though as a consequence of our guests UEFA cup game rather than because of a Sky executive decision.
It has not been an ideal start to the season for the Boro and has certainly thrown up a few unexpected results. They currently lie 10th in the league, one place behind us on goal difference, having beaten Birmingham and Aston Villa on the road and, surprisingly, L’Arsenal at home. They have lost at home to Charlton, and away to Spurs and surprisingly, Sunderland. They have also drawn with Wigan, Liverpool and most recently, with Pompey.
Hopeful/Ironic Middlesbrough chant at Sunderland game
The manager is Tin Tin look-alike, Steve McClaren who has been at the helm for four years. He began his managerial career as assistant at Oxford and Derby and became junior hairdryer at Man Yoo, before trying for his own post. He appeared to be on the verge of succeeding Harry Redknapp as West Ham manager before Steve Gibson intervened and McClaren opted for the bottomless transfer budget in the North East. McClaren is also assistant manager to Sven-Goran Eriksson and he must consider that he has made good progress in a short space of time.
He has had a tendency to tinker with team line ups this year, partly as a result of unfortunate injuries, suspensions and drug bans and because he has a few options in some positions, at least. He usually makes full use of his complement of substitutions and often the team that trudges off the field at half time is slightly adjusted post the half time oranges. No doubt this is something that he has picked up from coaching England friendlies.
In goal will be Boro’s longest serving member of the playing staff, Aussie, Mark Swartzer. He has been first choice for some time and kept 13 clean sheets in 43 appearances last season. He has enjoyed mixed fortunes this season, a few top class performances mixed with a few gaffes (Mido taking advantage of one). He missed three games with a shoulder injury but was back last week and should feature against us.
The defence line up is a little difficult to predict, only Gareth Southgate has been ever present so far this season. His preferred partner is Ugo “A-Go-Go” Ehiogu, but injuries and suspensions have left him unavailable on a few occasions. Chris Riggott , Austrian, Emanuel “2” Pogatetz, academy product Stuart Parnaby and Frenchman with a discipline problem, Franck Quedrue will all be hoping for a place in the starting line up.
It will not have escaped many people’s notice that Abel Xavier has failed a drug test this week, though at the time of writing this I am not aware whether it is for recreational or performance enhancing. The key mystery in this case is why a man who looks like a psychedelic Captain Neptune thought that he would be exempt from drug tests.
The midfield is far from first choice with Ray “Massage” Parlour and Stewart Downingthedumps both out for the foreseeable. Dutchman, George Boateng has been in good form, controlling the midfield and put in a good performance against Aston Villa, topping it with a goal against his former employers.
Recent signing, Brazilian, Fabio Rochembach has established his place in the side and mirrored the team fortunes by having a few splendid performances and a few largely anonymous ones. McClaren seems to see him eventually becoming a replacement for Boro legend, Juninho but only time will tell. One point to be aware of on Sunday is that if he lines up to shoot and you are in row Z, get your head down.
Fellow Brazilian Guidoni Junior Deriva is a defensive midfield option, though in a midfield already featuring Boateng, his use is questionable. Gaizka Mendieta is available but not looking particularly match fit and academy product James Morrison has also made a couple of appearances.
The strike force should be the strongest area with ex Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink, Italian Massimo Maccarone, Mark “Outback (and front)” Viduka, £7.5m AiyegbeniYakubu and Joseph Desire Job all being available. Yakubu has been the top scorer including a brace at Villa and Maccarone and Viduka have also weighed in with one and two respectively. The Nigerian is the main threat as he has scored 5 despite only starting 8 games, though you can expect him to be first choice striker at present. Viduka has shown a few decent performances, especially when he hauls his fat Aussie carcass off the bench.
Following the last two performances, it appears our heroes have gone slightly off form. I’d expect that Coach Alan will be looking to address a few key questions. In his mind, he will need to decide whether he believes that Thomas Repka will ever complete a successful pass to a team mate again, whether Yossi is capable of sticking to a single position and what exactly is it that Sheringham is supposed to be doing out there. I am expecting there to be a couple of key changes in personnel, Zamora must be in for a shout and maybe a change at the back as well.
I think that this is going to be a slightly more nervous performance than previous home ones, with a Sunday afternoon atmosphere not helping matters. I am tempted to go for the draw, but had better stick my neck out and go for a 2-1 victory. Looking at the games coming up, we probably need this one a bit more than it initially appears, so I have my fingers crossed that I get it right for a change.
Enjoy the game.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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