Posts Tagged ‘Boro’

Middlesbrough v Nottingham Forest, Saturday 7th April 2018, 3pm

May 2, 2018

I’d had plans whilst back in the UK to take in a Northern League fixture or two. However, stuff got in the way and so the only match I saw was the Boro’s home game against Forest.

There was a ‘fanzone’ outside the ground for this game. It was nothing like the fanzones that I’ve visited at World Cups, with just a small bar, a few umbrellas and not much else. Still, as Tom was in the South Stand whilst I was in the West Lower it meant we could have a pre-match Heineken outside of the Riverside.  That’s a step in the right direction I suppose.

I’d chosen the West Lower just for a change. There aren’t any spare seats near Tom and, if the truth be known, I was happy to be in a part of the ground with a better view and a chance to sit down.

I suppose the main talking point was the return of Karanka. I noticed a Basque flag in among the Red Faction banners being waved before kick-off and I suppose that was probably for his benefit, although they might very well wave it every week.

Aitor kept a low profile until about ten minutes in when he got up and moved from the bench to the technical area. He seemed surprised and emotional at the applause that rang around the ground, followed by the singing of his name and then a request for a wave.

By that time Danny Ayala had already put us a goal up and half an hour in Stewie added a second. That was enough to beat a limited Forest side. I imagine Karanka will tighten them up at the back fairly sharpish but I wonder whether he will be able to develop them into a team that can recover from going behind. I hope so, but despite all his success in the Championship, he never really managed it with us.

Athletic Bilbao v Celta Vigo, Saturday 31st March 2018, 4.15pm

April 24, 2018

Jen and I often call into Spain for a few days when flying in or out of the UK. In recent years we’ve stayed in some of the bigger cities such as Barcelona, Seville and Granada, as well as some of the quieter locations in Tortosa, Toledo, Girona and Baza. This time we were staying a couple of nights in each of Vitoria-Gastiez and Laguardia and we landed at Saturday lunchtime in nearby Bilbao.

In a stroke of good fortune, or more truthfully a consequence of sensible planning ahead, Athletic Bilbao had a La Liga game that afternoon against Celta Vigo at their newish San Mames stadium. I’d bought a ticket online a few days earlier and after leaving Jen in a coffee shop made my way to the game.

It was busy outside the five-year old stadium, with fans drinking in just about every bar in a long street leading to the ground. I was surprised at how many away supporters were there. Fans don’t really travel in numbers in Spain, or at least they didn’t in the past, and it’s a fair distance to Galicia. Maybe it being Easter weekend made a difference.

San Mames is an impressive stadium with a steepish incline to the seating that keeps you close to the pitch even if you are towards the top of your stand. I’d paid sixty euros for a seat in row seventeen of the upper tier of the tunnel side of the pitch. I could have got away with paying forty euros if I’d been prepared to sit a bit higher up and alternatively if I’d wanted to be in row fifteen or lower it would have cost me eighty euros. The fifty-three thousand capacity ground was around two-thirds full.

As ever I’d had a look in advance to see if I knew any of the players and it turned out that Bilbao had an ex-Boro player, Kike, on their books.  It wasn’t the Kike that played for us for a couple of years though who due to the quantity of Kikes in Spain now has to call himself Kike Garcia, but the other one, Kike Sola. My Spanish was never brilliant and is getting worse these days, but I’m reasonably confident that Garcia must mean ‘genuine’ or ‘original’, whilst Sola will likely translate as either ‘fake’ or ‘spare’.

I actually saw the entire Boro career of Fake Kike. It began with a forty-five minute debut at home to Blackburn where if I recall correctly he looked what might be politely described as ‘well off the pace’. He got the hook at half-time before concluding his contribution to our promotion campaign with the last five minutes away to MK Dons. I have no recollection of him whatsoever on that occasion, but I trust he enjoyed Jordan Rhodes’ injury time equaliser as much as the rest of us did.

He sat on the bench for the Boro a couple more times before quietly disappearing back to Spain. I doubt he’ll bother attending the promotion team reunions. I didn’t hold out much hope of seeing him today though as despite being allocated the number nine shirt the nearest he had been to a game had been a spell on the bench a few weeks ago. In the Boro v Blackburn photo below he’s the fella being marked by two players.

Celta Vigo provided the opposition. I’d watched them a few times when I lived in Spain, but that’s twelve years ago now so I wasn’t expecting any of the players that I’d seen then to still be at the club. However, that Iago fella’s name seemed familiar. A quick check suggests that may be because he had a season at Liverpool that had either passed me by during our Championship years or I had completely forgotten about. However, a further check showed that he’d made twenty-one league appearances for Celta’s reserve team in the 2006-07 season.

I’d watched the B team play Ferrol at the Campo Municipal de Barriero that season, and there’s a two in three chance that he will have played in that match. I certainly remember his brother Jonathan turning out for Celta’s first team at that time, as much for his name I think as anything he’d done on the pitch. I checked my photos from way back then, but most of them were of the crowd rather than the players and so I’m none the wiser if I’ve seen Iago before or not.

As expected, there was no sign of Fake Kike. The first half was goalless, with Williams posing a bit of a threat for the home side. He picked up a booking for diving that seemed a bit harsh, but the ref was a little closer to play than I was. There’s no alcohol served in the higher divisions in Spain, but I was driving anyway, so it didn’t really matter. I was tempted by the pork bocadillo, although not quite enough to bother queuing.

In the second half Williams risked a second card when he went down in the box in a similar way to the way he had done before the break. He didn’t get the penalty but avoided the card. Iago put himself about for the visitors but never looked like getting on the score-sheet. I moved down about a dozen rows to sample the view from the more expensive seats.

Athletic took a lead early in the second half that you could probably say was deserved but an injury time equaliser left the home fans well and truly pissed off. I don’t know why, neither side was in danger of relegation or of reaching a European spot. Save your anguish for when it matters. Mind you, it could have been worse for Bilbao as in the remaining added time Celta went on to hit the post and then have a goal disallowed. That would have given the Basques something to complain about.

Middlesbrough v Wolves, Tuesday 22nd September 2015, 7.45pm

October 18, 2015

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I’d planned to go to a couple of Northern League games whilst we were in the UK. I’d actually planned to do a lot of things, more I suppose than was realistic, but in the end as far as the football was concerned my second visit of the trip (and season) to the Riverside was as much as I could manage.

Whilst we missed out on the lower-league action, Jen and I did get around to doing another section of the Cleveland Way, this time from Battersby Moor to Clay Bank and back again. It raised a few eyebrows amongst other hikers when after descending Clay Bank we turned straight around and went back up it again, but I like doing these trails in both directions and it would have been cheating if we’d missed a couple of hundred yards out to avoid the steep bits.

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The walk was pretty good, with grouse breaking cover as we passed by. Unfortunately for them there was a shooting party out for the day and so they’d have probably been better sitting quietly.

After some light rain early on it cleared up nicely and by the time we got back to the car at Battersby Moor just after lunch we’d managed fourteen miles, our longest walk of the year so far.

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In other news, we celebrated my Mam and Dad’s diamond wedding anniversary whilst we were in the UK. Sixty years. I’ll need to live to be 108 if Jen and I are to reach that milestone.

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And so to the match.

If I mention Boro v Wolves in the cup what do you think of? That’s right, 1981 and John Neal’s team going out in a quarter-final replay at Molineux. As we waited for the teams to come out I cast my mind back to the home tie nearly thirty-five years ago.  George Berry and Billy Ashcroft with their afros, Craig Johnston and his straight-backed running style, similar, come to think of it, to that of Diego Fabbrini.

We’d arrived three hours early on that occasion so that we could be in the centre of a packed Holgate. Ever the fashionista, I was wearing an afghan coat and by half-time I was close to needing an intravenous drip to re-hydrate.

Andy Gray headed them into an early lead, before Terry Cochrane and his rolled down socks started and finished the move that drew us level and earned the replay.

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This occasion in the Carling Cup third round was a lot less of an ordeal. A goal from Adomah close to half-time set us on our way before two more goals early in the second half made it a relaxing last thirty minutes.

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That was it, UK-wise, or at least it will be for the next few months anyway. Two days later we flew out to Australia. Next stop, the A-League.

 

Middlesbrough v Brentford, Tuesday 15th September 2015, 7.45pm

September 29, 2015

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Within a day of arriving back in England I was able to get along to the Riverside for my first Boro game of the season. Jen and I stayed about half an hour away in a cottage at Ingleby Greenhow. It was close enough to Teesside to be convenient, but with the benefits of being out in the countryside. It also had an open fire so I was able to burn stuff, something that Travelodges tend to frown upon.

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We’ve been walking the Cleveland Way in stages for a couple of years now and on the morning of the match we slogged up a hill from the cottage to Battersby Moor, where we joined the trail and then covered a section to Kildale and back. I’d been hoping to spot a deer or two but over the course of eleven miles we saw nothing more exciting than a rabbit. Plenty of sheep and grouse, though.

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As Tom and I approached the Riverside that evening I noticed the Tuxedo Royale was moored next to the stadium again. It looks as if it someone has started scrapping it, a far cry from its days as a pre-match drinking venue where the barmaids would step in if the strippers didn’t turn up.

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The upper tier of the South Stand has sold out to season tickets this year and so Tom and I bought tickets for the lower section. I felt fairly confident of a result against Brentford. We’ve improved our team substantially from last season, particularly up front, whilst Brentford’s results to date suggest that they’ve gone backwards a bit. I wonder how long it will be before their owner realises that Mark Warburton hadn’t been doing such a bad job after all.

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We looked by far the better team, going a goal up early on before a mistake from Dimi let them back into the game. Two more goals in the second half, including a cracker from ‘back in the fold’ Albert Adomah secured the points and kept us up at the right end of the table.

 

Blackburn Rovers v Middlesbrough, Sunday 28th December 2014, 3pm

January 15, 2015

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Blackburn is usually a pretty good away day. It’s not too far from Teesside and tickets tend to be either cheap or plentiful. Sometimes both. This year had the potential to be one of the best, with it falling between Christmas and New Year and Blackburn offering us seven thousand tickets.

Jen and I were in the UK on holiday and as we had to stay somewhere we thought we may as well make it near Blackburn for the night. If I’d had a look as to where our hotel at Mellor was located I’d probably have gone across to the M6 and arrived from that direction, but as I hadn’t paid attention we ended up on the M62 and had to drive through Blackburn and then out of the other side.

Jen has less enthusiasm for watching football at close to zero temperatures than I do and so I left her at the hotel and took a taxi to Ewood Park to meet up with my son Tom and his mates. The Indian fella who was driving me had more interest in cricket than football but was intrigued to hear about the Hero Indian Super League football that I’d seen on telly a couple of weeks earlier, particularly when I mentioned that Tendulkar was in the crowd. Or more accurately, an executive box.

Jack Walker statue.

Jack Walker statue.

There’s a fanzone area near to the Jack Walker statue where you can watch the early game on a big screen whilst having a beer. I imagine it’s quite handy for the smokers who like to get to the ground early.

It wasn’t really a day for standing outside though and we gambled that the concourse inside would be a little warmer. As kick-off approached there was a minute‘s applause for all the Blackburn fans who had died in the previous year. As we stood and clapped, dozens of photographs were flashed up on the big screens, each of a different fan who had passed away in 2014. It’s no wonder there were so many empty seats in the home stands. Living in Lancashire doesn’t seem to come with much of a life expectancy.

It was full in our end though, with the entire seven thousand allocation having been sold. There was a decent atmosphere too, with the heartwarming sound of pensioners and small children alike singing their hearts out to “…they play in red and white, and they’re fuckin’ dynamite…”

Boro fans at Ewood.

Boro fans at Ewood.

Karanka had made a few changes to the Boxing Day line-up, but we’ve got a decent squad and I’d like to think that being able to rest players whilst still being competitive will benefit us later in the season. Whitehead at right back seemed an unusual choice, but I’m not going to be overly critical.

Some late action

Some late action

It was one of those days when it didn’t quite go our way. You could say we were unlucky not to take the three points as Kike and Bamford both hit the woodwork in quick succession, but on the other hand Leadbitter cleared one off our line right at the end. So, we could have won and we could have lost. A draw was probably about right.

 

 

Middlesbrough v Nottingham Forest, Friday 26th December 2014, 3pm

January 11, 2015

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This was the first game of the season for me. Well, the first Boro game anyway and with it being a rare sell-out I suspect that there will have been quite a few others in the crowd also making their seasonal debuts.

I picked up Tom, Paul and Mike and we parked near the University before calling into the Southfield Hotel for a pre-match drink. If I’d been in there before, I’ve forgotten about it. It was quiet though and we were able to get  served quickly and sit down.

Southfield Hotel.

Southfield Hotel.

A couple of pints later and we were off to the Riverside. It’ll be twenty years old in the summer, but I still think of it as a new stadium. I suppose most people of my age will see it the same way. I wonder if I’ll have got used to it in twenty years time.

On the way to the ground.

On the way to the ground.

It’s been a good season so far. Gibson has backed Karanka to what I imagine are the absolute limits of FFP and the money looks to have been well spent. We also seem to have made very good use of the loan system, particularly with Bamford and Omeruo.

Tom and I were in the South Stand and were able to stand and sing all game. The relaxed stewarding has been one of the biggest plusses of the last couple of years for me and has contributed to the improved atmosphere, even when the ground is less than half full

A full stadium.

A full stadium.

The game was goalless at the break, but three second half goals secured an easy win for the Boro, keeping us up there in the play-off positions.