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The Championship's biggest disappointments

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Paul Fletcher | 14:39 UK time, Saturday, 15 January 2011

Ashton Gate, Bristol

Back in the sunny days of pre-season hands up supporters of Bristol City and Middlesbrough who thought Saturday's match at Ashton Gate would have more to do with avoiding relegation than winning promotion.

City started the campaign as many observers' outside bet for promotion. They had the wily and experienced Steve Coppell in charge and had signalled their ambition by pulling off the sensational signing of England goalkeeper David James.

Boro had been rebuilt over the summer by manager Gordon Strachan, his side shaped around players forged in the Old Firm rivalry of Celtic and Rangers. The Scottish Premier League's record goalscorer Kris Boyd had arrived - a transfer to rival James's as the stand-out signing of the summer. As they prepared for their second season in the Championship, Boro were the bookies' favourites to win the division.

Fast forward to Saturday's fixture and survival was the buzzword as the two teams met under the leaden skies at the old but atmospheric Ashton Gate. Boro went into the contest one point above the bottom three, while City were perched in the relatively heady heights of 17th. The visiting team ended the contest 4-0 winners, in the process recording their biggest victory of the season and inflicting on City their heaviest defeat.

Bristol City boss Keith Millen watched his side's horror show unfold from the edge of his technical area. Afterwards he kept his players locked in their dressing room for the best part of an hour. Around the ground there was the unmistakeable fear of a return to the disasters of the early part of the season.

The Robins lost their opening game 3-0 at home to Millwall and Coppell stunned City by walking out after the Carling Cup defeat at the hands of Southend the following Tuesday. Millen was swiftly put in charge but a dreadful serious of results followed, with City mustering just one win in their opening 11 Championship fixtures.

City were bottom through most of October and Millen's position was under scrutiny. Thankfully, Robins chairman Steve Lansdown is not prone to the sort of panic, knee-jerk decisions that we have seen so often already this season and stood by his man. He was rewarded with a run that, until Saturday, had seen City lose just their three of their previous 14 Championship fixtures. Millen was manager of the month in December and before Saturday his team were unbeaten in eight Championship home games.

Boro boss Tony Mowbray (left) and Bristol City counterpart Keith Millen squared up at Ashton Gate

Mowbray (left) and Millen have had their struggles this season

Millen, who had a brief spell as caretaker manager towards the end of the previous campaign, has so far shown sound judgement in the transfer market. Towards the end of August he brought in strike duo Jon Stead and Brett Pitman, both of whom have enjoyed good seasons. Steve Caulker and Danny Rose arrived on loan from Tottenham and have also impressed.

By the turn of the year it was starting to look as though City had withstood those punishing early season blows and, with eight points separating them from the top six prior to kick-off on Saturday, even had a puncher's chance of a play-off place.

But Saturday's defeat came a week after they were dumped out of the FA Cup 3-0 by League One Sheffield Wednesday and Millen is keen to impress on his players that their league situation still remains perilous.

"I've told the players that this must be the low point of the season, we cannot afford to be this bad again," said the City boss after Boro's win.

"Maybe we are guilty of believing our own hype. I want us to be tougher, stronger and more aggressive both with and without the ball.

"We turned it around after our poor start and we have got to remember how we did that."

Prior to Saturday's game I asked City fans on 606 what they had made of their club's season and several were quick to point out that although it has been disappointing it was unrealistic to expect their side to win promotion. The arrival of Coppell and James led to a surge in publicity and expectation but the squad lacked the overall depth to mount a serious challenge.

Nicky Maynard, the club's record signing who scored 21 goals last season, has been injured since the summer, while the side has recently been ravaged with injuries in defence. Kalifa Cisse, a midfielder brought in by Coppell, played in the centre of defence on Saturday and had a torrid afternoon. He scored an own goal and was repeatedly caught out of position before he was withdrawn after 65 minutes.

Having conceded seven goals in their previous two home games, City now face a crucial trip to third-from-bottom Crystal Palace next weekend. A victory at Selhurst Park should ensure they put their recent blip behind them and progress towards the welcoming security of mid-table. Lose against the Eagles and the hard work over recent months will continue to unravel.

Boro's season has arguably been more traumatic than City's. The Teesiders lost 3-1 to Ipswich on the opening day and won just three of their first 14 league fixtures, including a sequence of six defeats in seven matches that ended with a 2-1 home defeat against City - Tony Mowbray's first match in charge. Strachan had admitted defeat by mid-October, ripping up his contract and walking away without asking for compensation.

Nobody was more emblematic of Strachan's failure than Boyd. He has been dreadful all season and now looks likely to return to Rangers. He has scored a meagre five goals in 23 Championship appearances and was awful on Saturday. His movement was virtually non-existent, his work rate poor and he had the look of a man who would rather be anywhere else other than the Championship.

At first glance, Boro do not appear to have improved all that much under former fans favourite Mowbray, with five wins in 13 league games as well as an ignominious FA Cup exit at League Two Burton. However, the 47-year-old former West Brom and Celtic manager is adamant that there has been a definite improvement in the general standard of play from his team.

"The performance on Saturday was par with what we have been producing for the last couple of months," said Mowbray.

"The team has been playing pretty well over that period but you might not have noticed that if you had not seen us for a while. Hopefully the goals at City will give us the confidence to score a few more."

Conceding costly late goals in recent matches against Burton, Leeds and Doncaster has undoubtedly skewed the picture, but there have been many positives since Mowbray arrived. He has adopted a more attacking approach than Strachan, tried to deploy players in their natural positions and rebuilt the confidence of players such as midfield duo Julio Arca and Nicky Bailey.

I asked Boro fans on 606 what they thought of Mowbray. Djarchard was typical of many when he noted that the commitment of the players has improved. However, he also argued that the defence will lack height and presence if David Wheater, rock-solid on Saturday, is sold in the January transfer window. The uncertainty surrounding Wheater is a good example of the problems that Mowbray still faces. The defender is out of contract at the end of the season and has been the subject of an offer from Bolton. Mowbray does not really want the defender to leave but he needs to reduce the wage bill. As such, he would rather cash in now than lose him for him for nothing in the summer.

"It is a complicated one but the sooner we redress the finances and sort out the bottom line, the sooner I can start to rebuild the club," added Mowbray.

Boro's next three fixtures are against the bottom three sides. If they continue the form they did at Ashton Gate then they could end the month in a much healthier position and spare their fans a tense end to the season.

"It is telling how far we have had to lower our expectations that staying up would now be seen as a reasonable achievement," said tylergomez on 606.

Boro have been the most disappointing team in the Championship this season, while City have also failed to deliver on expectations, even if they were slightly over-hyped. Sheffield United are another club for whom the campaign has been distinctly under-whelming, while fans of Ipswich and, increasingly, Derby may feel the same way.

Almost half the season remains, yet for plenty of supporters it cannot end quickly enough.

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Despite Bristol City's poor start to the season (and today's dreadful result) they have been playing much better in recent weeks and deserve to be higher up in the table than they currently are. If they have a good run of form between now and May they might just sneak into a playoff place...after all this is the Championship...

    This blog post I read recently typifies Bristol's form this season...A Tale of Two Cities

    http://upper90magazine.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/a-tale-of-two-cities/

  • Comment number 2.

    The reality is Middlesbrough hit their glass ceiling after winning the Carling Cup, finishing 7th in the Premiership and reaching the UEFA Cup final in the last decade. To sustain such a level for such an 'unfashionable' club which will always struggle to maintain decent crowds due to the basic economics of the area.

    Without the incredible generosity and commitment of Steve Gibson, none of the last 20 years (by far the most successful in Middlesbrough's history) would have been possible. It will take a while for Mowbray to right the errors of Strachan's reign, but i've every confidence he'll get there. A great win today, never mind the quality, they've lost and drawn enough games over the last 3 seasons where they've deserved far more from their performances than they've got.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    As an SPL fan I was looking forward to 'Boro's season to see how WGS and Boyd coped (along with the numerous other recruits). It's fair to say I had some optimism.

    Boyd has been a terrible disappointment. There was always suspicion about his work-rate at Rangers (and before) but it was felt he was a genuine finisher and this would be his way to prove the doubters wrong.

    Both have failed.

    I guess this has proved he is a one-trick pony - SPL record goalscorer no doubt, but not a quality player.

    As for WGS, I guess tearing up and walking away was his way of admitting the blame - but the "quitter" attitude after so few games stinks.

    Sorry Boro.

  • Comment number 5.

    As a Boro fan, I'll just pick up on a few things;

    a) Had we not thrown away points against Leeds and Doncaster, perhaps even beat Norwich if Hoyte had scored, I agree we would be in a much better position than we are now. The luck which deserted us in those previous matches, finally came around yesterday. Karma is a funny old thing.

    b) Before anyone mentions the whole "should have stuck with Southgate" claptrap let me just say this. The guy asked to be judged in three years and in those three years the record speaks for itself. He was given the money by Gibson and squandered it. Such was his genius of shipping off Lee Cattermole and bringing in Didier Digard and Mohammed Shawky as replacements. That just about sums it up.

    The financial austerity measures we are under is primarily down to Keith Lamb's genius tactics of trying to retain our young players and Southgate's rubbish signings. As much as Strachan has been maligned as a mistake, his overall signings have not been that bad (with the exception of Lee Miller who tbh has hardly played.) Even a misfiring Boyd was a free transfer and thus we can gain some profit if we sell him on at the end of this season or whenever. Strachan bought far better overall signings to the side with 4m than Southgate ever did.

    I still think had we appointed Mowbray in 2006 when McClaren left none of this resulting mess would have happened. Putting a rookie manager to learn on the job into that situation was a complete mistake.

    c) Most Boro fans, before the season began had realistic aims of the playoffs. I, and many other supporters took the bookies and media predictions with huge pinches of salt. There was nothing to suggest that we would mount any type of promotion push this season to challenge the likes of Cardiff and QPR. obviously nobody anticipated Strachan to muck up that badly and get us in the relegation dog fight we are in. Hopefully if we take some good points from our next three crucial matches this whole episode can be a distant memory.

    d) Injuries have and will cost us this season. Kevin Thomson when he is fit, looks like he will become the boss of our midfield and could easily tear up the Champo but he is constantly injured. The same goes for Willo Flood.

    e) Its worth mentioning we gave a league debut to young Cameron Park yesterday, who won the penalty for the 4th goal. We have quite high hopes of him at the Boro, and hopefully he can progress to the same level our previous wingers have done (Morrison, Downing, Johnson etc.) Along with another season debutant Jason Steele, the hope is to try and invest a lot in the young players to build up a good enough side for promotion. We may not be able to match the financial power that Hull, Leicester, Cardiff have etc - but we have a very good academy at our disposal.

    f) UTB! :-D

  • Comment number 6.

    Like #4, I watch the SPL and thought Boyd would have been ideal for the Championship. He doesn't have the all round game for the Premier League but is the type of player whose goals could have made the difference for a team going for promotion.

    One or two of Strachan's SPL signings were strange, like Flood and Killen, neither of whom he rated at Celtic. The best of the lot is Robson, an excellent player who ironically, was sold by Tony Mowbray.

    http://footballfutbolfitba.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 7.

    He won't be going back to Rangers. Walter won't want him now even with Miller likely to be leaving. Boyd was never Smith's favourite though the fans loved him. He found out the grass wasn't greener.

  • Comment number 8.

    I went to ashton gate yesterday and had a good view of the game. Im a Bristol City fan and have to say neither team played with any urgency, City lacked any passion and were simply uninterested. These players are on unbelievable amounts of money these days even in the second teir of english football and it was a total withdrawl of respect for the badge.

  • Comment number 9.

    Boyd's problem has always been he does nothing but score goals , lots of them usually , sounds a great problem to have , but watch him week in , week out and you start to see it differently !
    The reason he doesn't look like he wants to be there is because he never wanted to leave Rangers - he sabotaged a move to Birmingham to stay at Ibrox , he turned down a fortune in wages from Turkish clubs and I would assume he choose Boro as a compromise between what he could earn and travelling time back to Glasgow.
    You should have sacked the agent Kris and took whatever the Gers were willing to offer.

  • Comment number 10.

    This captures the predicament of both teams precisely.The fear of failure emminates throughout.
    Under Strachen the Boro team lacked confidence, on paper the players are capable but their confidence was shot to pieces under GS2.
    Mogga is slowly making changes, the word on the street here in Middlesbrough is that when asked by the top brass who should we listen to offers for our players in the transfer window Mogga replied " all of them"
    He will limp through to the end of the season and build his own team.
    Slowly ,slowly catchy monkey
    UTB

  • Comment number 11.

    Boro certainly peaked under Steve McClaren, but there's no reason they couldn't do it again. When you look at the sort of players that have come out of the youth academy, you wonder why Strachan even bothered bringing players in from Scotland, especially second-string ones like Boyd. I watched several Rangers games back when he was there and honestly could never understand the hype.

    #5, Forget a pinch of salt. More like a pillar!

    I never really rated Tony Mowbray as a manager either. Then again, all I really remember of him is his getting West Brom promoted and then dramatically failing to keep them in the Premiership. Frankly, that's not what Boro are after.

  • Comment number 12.

    Interesting that Boro have been so poor this season, they have some good players and are certainly one of the better placed teams financially in the Championship. Kris Boyd, I never rated him, always thought that he was playing in a league that was too easy, he never scored goals in the CL.

    http://thetacticalview.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 13.

    Rose has not impressed at all. He has a showboat mentality, does not track back when he loses the ball - which he does with alarming regularity - and dives whenever anyone breathes on him. The sooner he goes back to Spurs the better.

    There are plenty of reasons why we're underachieving this season. Injuries may be one of them but then there's the sheer imbalance of the squad, we have 5 right wingers on the books for example, no left wingers and are in dire need of a creative central midfielder to feed that multitudes of decent forwards we have. Out of the 8 players used to fill the defensive spots this season there are maybe 3 of them that are anywhere approaching Championship standard and even those are having poor seasons. What good is it having such a top goalkeeper (and he is still a top goalkeeper, some of the saves he has pulled off this seaosn have been nothing short of spectacular) if he is continually exposed by a defence that is all at sea?

    My only hope is that Millen can forge some sort of a team unit out of the dross he has in the squad and enable us to avoid relegation. We can then have a clear out in the summer and bring in some actual footballers and footballers who have the hunger and the passion to compete at this level.

  • Comment number 14.

    What posters on here and the media fail to understand is that in the northeast we are very close to OUR OWN, now MOGGA is one of our own, he speaks our language which is as it is, not airy fairy. He is from our area he was our captain for many years, nearly all the fans wanted for several years him to be our manager, now he has returned home. The Boro fans know he will and already has started to turn things around. We might not be a fashionable club but we are honest one with the best chairman.

  • Comment number 15.

    Your point about Boyd most likely coming back to Rangers is a silly one. That's pure speculation. Would rather he didn't come back. We've looked a better side without him, not that he played in any of the important games.

    Been dissapointed to see Thomson's injury problems at Boro haven't let off, he could have been a top player in my opinion. But with the amount of injuries he's had, I doubt he'll reach those heights.

  • Comment number 16.

    It's quite simple what happened to Middlesborough, they sacked Southgate when they were fourth and ended up in 14th. Now they are paying the price for the dreadful squad assembled by Strachan.

    Bristol City are paying the price for the unlucky play-off defeat at the hands of Hull a few seasons back, and if they do not improve rapidly I think we can expect an exodus of the more talented players (Maynard) at the end of the season.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    It's quite simple what happened to Middlesborough, they sacked Southgate when they were fourth and ended up in 14th. Now they are paying the price for the dreadful squad assembled by Strachan.

    -------------

    the same southgate who relagated us and lost some of our best ever players and prospects?
    the same southgate who, yes, was 4th, but on a run of 3 home defeats, bad performances adnd 3 pts off 11th?
    the same southgate whos signings, despite costing many mnay millions more, look no better and in most cases worse than what WGS did with around 4m and in the championship?

    clearly its not quite simple is it? and its middlesBROUGH

    UTB

  • Comment number 19.

    City`s problems are longstanding, we flattered to decieve in our first season, and if you remember where we were 6 weeks from the end of the season before we imploded then beaten play-off finalists is not so hot, but something we could have only dreamed about at the begining of that season, but I digress, over the last three and a half seasons we have struggled with a Div 1 midfield in a championship team, with the possible exception of Paul Hartley on occasions last year we have had no-one who can boss the midfield and create on a regular basis, we have defensive and wide midfieldrs by the bucketload.This imbalance has been plain to those who have been watching week in week out over the last few seasons but 3 managers seem to not see it as a priority. The blame cannot lie with Steve Lansdown,he seems to have backed all managers with cash, what he did disappoint with was the stating at Xmas that the seasons aim was to avoid relegation, and this with half the season still to play, surely a top 10 or at least top half would give an attainable target with a bit of ambition, and send a message to the players, staff and fans that the present position was unacceptable.

  • Comment number 20.

    Boyd will not come back to Rangers...we dont need him!

  • Comment number 21.

    Now then,

    Thanks for all your thoughts so far. I reckon that, on balance, City are in a slightly better position than Boro. I say this because they have more financial stability.

    Both have committed men at the top - Steve Lansdown remains determined to bring success to City, while Boro have had great long-term support from Steve Gibson.

    However, as Tony Mowbray was quick to point out on Saturday, there is a financial restructuring under way at Boro and only once that is complete can he properly rebuild his squad.

    As for City - I guess one of the long-term issues hanging over them is whether or not the must-discussed move to the new ground at Ashton Vale comes off.

  • Comment number 22.

    I love the football geniuses or genii who are always wise after the event. Kris boyd has been spectacularly poor this season but to say they always knew he was a poor player is ridiculous. I wonder if these are the same people who "always knew" Diego Forlan would come good when he left Man Utd.

    As regards the southgate saga. There has been a lot of speculation that he wasn't entirely in control of signings. Was he the one who okayed the £13m signing of Alves for example. The rumour is that he didn't want him.

    I have no problem with Southgate selling Cattermole, Downing, Morrison etc, but the prices we received for them were way below market value. £900'000 for Morrison to west brom, £7m for downing and now it looks like around £2m for wheater!!! I don't think he was the one who decided the selling price!!

    Were we right to get rid of southgate? In hindsight maybe not, or certainly not when we did and certainly not in the we way did it!

  • Comment number 23.

    Like a phoenix we will rise again. Mogga will sort us out. When we've restructured and got rid of players that haven't done it for us and are on high wages he will know what sort of players you need in the Championship. He got West Brom out of this division and with the right players at his disposal and the use of players from our academy we will be able to return to the promised land of the Premier League. In Mogga we trust.

    Fly us to the Premier League please Tony.

  • Comment number 24.

    I've had an spl season ticket for several seasons and have therefore seen alot of Kris Boyd. The description "His movement was virtually non-existent, his work rate poor" sums up his performances for rangers, he is a striker who only scores from inside the 6 yard box, and the fact that he never scored in an old firm game shows you his real quality.

  • Comment number 25.

    I thought that maybe Bristol City might be about to make an unlikely push for promotion http://caf510.blogspot.com/2011/01/promotion-push.html but now it has all changed after two terrible results against Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough. They must make sure that this is not the beginning of another slump like they had at the start of the year.

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm pretty shocked, to be honest. There discussions mostly turn into a slagging of the SPL whenever the subject is brought up, so well done so far everyone!

    The signings from the SPL have pretty much panned out as we all knew they would.
    With regards to Kris Boyd, 'Boro, if they'd watched any SPL games, would know that he's not much more than a flat track bully. He scored a lot of goals, but they almost always came against the bottom six. In his last season he scored 30+, but almost a third of them came against Inverness Caley!!!!

    There's no doubt he can finish when presented with a chance, but he's incredibly lazy, and a relic of the days when teams played with a Lineker-esque poacher - a style that's twenty years out of date.

    Killen, Flood and Miller - every fan in Scotland was left scratching their heads at these. Strachan had Killen and Flood at Celtic, but clearly didn't rate them, so why sign them for 'Boro?!? As for Miller, the least said the better.

    McManus would offer whole hearted commitment, but always good for at least one rush of blood to the head every game.

    McDonald would work hard, and if you could combine his work ethic and movement with Boyd's finishing ability, then you'd have a hell of a player!

    In fact, as just about every Celtic fan who took it upon themselves to vist the boro forum at the time said, Barry Robson was the only one that they could really understand. He was getting on a bit, but would offer effort, pinpoint free kicks/crosses, and a never-say-die attitude, and it appears that Mowbray doesn't rate him!

    I think Boro's main problem is that they don't have enough Barry Robson's! It happens to all teams that fall into the championship. They think that they have the players, but it's a completely different mentality. They have to scrap to get out, not play pretty football, and how quickly a relegated side find their feet depends on how quickly they come to this realisation.

  • Comment number 27.

    Some players are just so damn good that they can afford to be lazy and disinterested. Boyd is not one of these.

    If he'd lost weight, polished his build up play and generally had a personality transplant he could have been sensational in England's second tier. However, as it stood, almost every Scottish football fan saw this coming. The difference in quality between the SPL and the Championship isn't as substantial as some would have you believe; the top clubs in the Scotland would probably survive this season in the Championship. The only true difference comes from the bottom teams in the SPL. These teams are often so financially poor and bereft of creativity that their centre-halfs tend to be little more than glorified bouncers. It was against these teams that Boyd scored the lions share of his goals, which allowed him the opportunity to inflate his goals-to-games ratio to the unmistakeably impressive level it reached.

    He rarely performed against Celtic and was next to useless for Scotland against any team of any quality.

  • Comment number 28.

    Rather disappointing for supporters of both teams, and personally I have been stunned by the failure of boro to perform.

    The most telling statement of this entire scenario, imo, is what is says of the relative standard of football in Scotland to that in England.

  • Comment number 29.

    26) He scored a lot of goals, but they almost always came against the bottom six. In his last season he scored 30+, but almost a third of them came against Inverness Caley!!!!

    Hmmm a bit of an Alfonso Alves moment there. Scored 8 in one game and Boro prob bought him only seeing him on YouTube

  • Comment number 30.

    Inbalance is the word for Bristol City, we have a huge squad, of which a dozen or so players dont get a look in.

    As somebody else pointed out earlier we have three (at a push four) central midfielders on the books, fighting for two positions and five right wingers fighting for one, with no natural left sided midfielders at all.

    We need to ship on around 10 players and buy in three or four of quality that will actually help the first team.

    Its also worth noting that Steve Coppell hit the club for six with brief stay, players like Cisse, Hunt, and Stewart that cant get near the first team but are at the top end of the earners are a real disaster. Coppout is back East doing his garden and the Mighty Reds are still sorting out his mess and are likly to be for a while.

    I think the club needs to reassess what we hope to achieve in the next few years and give Millen the chance to prove himself, I dont think he is the man to get City promoted now, but maybe he could be in time.

    If the club sack him and go for a proven manager we could end up costing ourselves a load of cash without getting any better, I feel we just have to sit tight, stay up and have a good clear out in the summer, but break the trend, make it the players.... not another manager.

  • Comment number 31.

    I find it almost pathetic that City fans still harp on about promotion being attainable. From our position it would take a team of Barcelona's ability to drag ourselves into the playoffs. As I mentioned on your post on 606 Bristol City fans are probably the most optimistic bunch in the Championship, and many fans believed that with Coppell we would win the title.

    Yes, we have a great chairman in Lansdown, but a lot of fans praise him almost out of fear that he will leave us. Under Lansdown we've not spent extravagantly because we believe in an organic rise up the tables with a good squad. However, to the realist (and most other fans of teams in this division) we were lucky to hit the playoffs under Gary Johnson and mid-table has suited our ability just fine. A new stadium is a fine thing, and we've got the best man for the job in charge in Millen, but if we want to play like title contenders we're going to need to spend like them too.

    Millen has stuck with this team for years, and now he's made the most of his chance with a bunch of fantastic signings. I would like to see him given the cash to not only fill the gaps in our squad, but to build our resurgence with them. We're in desperate need of two midfielders, one with the stopping power our defense requires, and one with the ability to orchestrate the game. Our defense is seriously lacking, and we're in need of both a capable left-back and most importantly, a defender to play off James and ensure that we stop conceding.

    Yes, Maynard will return, most likely by March as the club has been quiet on his supposed progress, but after so long out I cannot see him being the same player he was before. Lansdown has supported Millen, but now he needs to support him with his cheque book in order to keep us in the Championship and to match the, frankly overambitious, City fans.

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm amazed that teams like Boro and City, both bankrolled by wealthy chairmen, can be so poor. How can so many millions be spent for so little return?

    Also, City fans' dreams of the sunlit uplands of the Premiership through a new stadium are wide of the mark. The Championship and League 1 are littered with Premiership standard stadia without the Premiership standard teams to play in them or the Premiership standard crowds to fill them.

    A lot of money has been thrown at the City squad, far more than most teams with an equivalent fan base, so I fail to see how a new stadium will provide the fuel to propel the team into the Premiership

  • Comment number 33.

    ''Almost half the season remains, yet for plenty of supporters it cannot end quickly enough''

    -

    Are you joking? Bristol City and Boro are only 9 and 11 points off the play offs respectively with 20 games to play... I guarantee you neither team will go down so the only way is up...

  • Comment number 34.

    #33 totally agree do we give up half way through now? Boro's next 3 are against 3 teams that will probably end up going down. We win those we will be up the good end with plenty of games to play.. Nothing is over till its over

  • Comment number 35.

    As a season ticket holder at BCFC I consider:

    1. Lansdown provides the funds and therefor approves all transfers and appointments, starting at the top he recommended the appointment of Coppell (aka Copout) despite his pre-arranged holidays, languid body language (he wore a new suit for his first game several sizes too big), facial expressions based on Jack Dee, giving off such negativity that I guess he had a body double attend the interviews for him.
    2. Lansdown approved all transfer dealings and re-appointing Millen was a panic move.
    3. There's sufficient squad members to provide a mid-table position, problem is Millen continually picks the wrong team and gives off such stoical vibes (witnessed in all his bland press comments....I'd like to see Warnock give him a few lessons in enthusiasm) that the team are disjointed and not motivated. Cisse in central defence and Johnson in mid-field are appalling.
    4. Most fans don't rate Rose because he learnt his trade at Spurs and that doesn't transfer to Bristol City, he should go back for his own sake.

    Apart from the above, the 14k of us fans keep turning up.

  • Comment number 36.

    normally quite like your blogs paul but this is poor on the Boro side.

    You obviously didn't watch us play under strachan. Granted there's a long way to go and hopefully a signing or two to be made but Boro are playing a hell of a lot better under mowbray.

    The passing for starters was lacklustre under both strachan and southgate, particularly with players that took us down like Wheater and O'neil.

    He's brought the best out of players who were getting boo'd by their own crowd, Bailey looks like a totally different player.

    We're still missing pace, essentially down the flanks and we're in dyer need of a central midfielder who get on the edge of the opponents box, but we've most certainly improved

  • Comment number 37.

    i really like your blog!

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 38.

    As a Chesterfield fan, I feel sorry for the fans of Middlesboro and Bristol City in which promised to be a fruitful season hasnt quite gone the way both sets of fans intended.

    In the case of Bristol City, it has the potential and certainlty the ability to reach for the Premier League. I remember it was in the 1990s / early 2000s going to watch the Spirites play against City and each game was always a fierce and close encounter. City fans are wonderful and always behind their team. Ashton Gate is a credit as a stadium and I think will not look out of place amoungst stadia in the top flight.

    When you see how far a team like City have come in the past 5 or so seasons, I think that they have the way forwards only a few teams can dream about. They have a good board and a good neucleus of players who on their day could possibly beat any one. Bristol City not long ago had one door in the Premiership but were beaten by Hull and that hunger I think hasnt gone but the Right Now factor is that promotion isnt going to be there unless a huge change in results come. I would be proud of where City have come and gone. They havent had a sugar daddy or those stupid parachute payments.

    All it takes is a good unbeaten run and you could find yourselfs back in contention with the play offs. You just need some self believe and luck with injuries and things can look up but only if your going to have the self confidence to believe so.

    Middlesborough

    Middlesborough I think shot themselves in the foot when it came to getting rid of Southgate. They were fourth and to sack him when the players responded to him was pretty pointless. Many relegated teams stuck with the same manager to see them come back up at the first time of asking. Strachan came with his own ideas and his own set of principles and unfortunatly they didnt happen in the manner he thought.

    Middlesborough have an amazing chairman and during the reign of Bryan Robson when they went down in 1997 after spending so much he stuck with Robson and they came back with a vengence. True its not the same story now but Boro dont have any excuse really for being where they are. Strachan took away who Southgate thought could do the business and brought in Old Firm players who were reserves aside from Boyd and a few others. Middlesborough fall into that trap of they think their too good for this league and take it for granted that next season they will be up. Their fans have been long suffering and its a great family club and it does bite to be in the shadow of Sunderland and Newcastle. Maybe this will be motivation enough to see them decide to fight for a place in the elite once more.

  • Comment number 39.

    As a City fan the season has been disappointing and so frustrating. A season which began with so much promise! Steve Coppell, a manager who had been there and done that in his career. David James, England number 1 and a great keeper. Nicky Maynard, after a few seasons without an out and out goal scorer we finally had a man to lead the line (Leroy Lita in 05 was our last 20 goal a season striker). After a difficult preaseason with little success against some weak teams thought it might just be a case of time for the team to settle under new management with a few new editions (at this time the likes of Cisse, Stewart & Adomah).
    The first disappointment was Maynard's injury losing our goal scorer. Then the Copout dilema and the rough start to the season didn't help! There have been a few plus points on the season, the signings of Stead was good as he is perfect to partner Maynard. Signing Caulker on loan has saved us from lying still in bottom 3. Pitman and Adomah bring youth. The the other signings I don't see the need for them and expect them to be offloaded. I main aim is survival and start rebuilding for next season, get Maynard fit and with a few games under his belt before the season is over and with a clear out of alot of players in the summer.

    Team for 2011 and where we need to build

    GK: James (if he stays)
    RB: Riberio
    CB: Fontaine
    CB: New signing
    LB: New signing
    RM: Sproule/Adomah in a rotation/form role
    CM: Skuse
    CM: Elliot
    LM: New Signing
    ST: Maynard
    ST: Stead

    Offloaded in summer:

    Nicky Hunt, Lee Johnson, Kalifa Cisse, Damion Stewart & David Clarkson

    Ohh, typical City! Sell Danny Haynes and he goes and scores twice for Barnsley tonight!

  • Comment number 40.

    I am sure David James regrets moving to Bristol City but I do not hear of anyone trying to sign him up in this window - oh well he can always stick to the link building service lol

  • Comment number 41.

    Somebody has just stated that David is also into Painting as well as the article writing services. Perhaps he should hang his boots up at the end of the season as he certainly does not look like he will get bored!

  • Comment number 42.

    Re the SPL v championship debate, the point that Middlesbrough are struggling proves nothing on this in my opinion. Flood, Robson and MacDonald were on there way out at Celtic and Miller was playing for an Aberdeen side who are absolutely struggling at the moment. MacManus was a regular starter and was likely to continue to be only because Celtic had struggled to get decent centre backs for a considerable time. Only Boyd was rated before then and never rated by Celtic fans when the Old Firm matches came around as he struggled to score against decent defenders. Besides which I have heard that the Scottish players were among the best performers at the start of the season! A player like Charlie Adam proves a point about the standard of English football and even the Premiership not being as good as everyone in England seems to think outside the top 4 or 5 clubs!

 

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