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What has gone wrong at Boro?

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Paul Fletcher | 06:05 UK time, Thursday, 14 October 2010

After his appointment as Middlesbrough manager late last October, Gordon Strachan repeatedly stressed he did not need the job. Instead, he said he took it because he wanted it. I wonder if he feels the same way now?

The results of a survey published in Middlesbrough's Evening Gazette last week delivered a damning verdict on his first year in charge.

Participants were asked to rate Strachan's performance as either poor, satisfactory, good or excellent across a range of categories, from the signings he has made to the entertainment value of his Championship team.

He was rated poor by the majority of people in all of them, although 2.7% of those polled rated his relationship with the media as "excellent". The fact that this is a notoriously thorny area for Strachan perhaps says it all about his current travails.

Oh, and a whopping 78.1% said Strachan should be sacked.

Boro legend Bernie Slaven then put the boot in by claiming chairman Steve Gibson "will have the gun in the drawer - he may not have loaded the bullets yet but he will if he needs to".

Middlesbrough manager Gordon Strachan.

Strachan's policy of buying Scottish players has not yet worked. Photo: Getty Images

It is not surprising that Strachan is coming in for some serious stick. Boro have won just 13 of the 45 games since he succeeded Gareth Southgate. The club started the season as favourites to win promotion from the Championship after a busy summer in the transfer market but are 18th in the table after 10 games.

They have yet to win away, have a negative goal difference and, perhaps most alarmingly, crowds at the Riverside are falling sharply. More than 21,000 witnessed the opening-day defeat against Ipswich but fewer than 14,000 bothered to attend the last home match, a 2-2 draw with Portsmouth. To place that attendance in perspective, crowds dipped below the 17,000-mark for a league fixture only once at the Riverside last season.

"For a lot of Middlesbrough fans, the steep fall from the heights of reaching the Uefa Cup final in 2006 has been hard to take," said BBC Tees presenter Alastair Brownlee.

It could get worse. Defeat by Leeds on Saturday could see Boro slip into the bottom three. This is not the way it was meant to be.

The Teesside club were one point off the top of the Championship when Gareth Southgate was dismissed on 21 October, 2009. But results tailed off after Strachan's appointment and the new boss quickly concluded that he had inherited a side with a soft underbelly. The Scot bemoaned his side's habit of leaking late goals and talked about a lack of fitness, fight and, particularly, leaders on the pitch.

Strachan sought to add some steel to his squad by signing Barry Robson, Willo Flood, Chris Killen and Stephen McManus from former club Celtic in January, as well as striker Lee Miller from Aberdeen.

Nicky Bailey (Charlton), Matt Kilgallon (Sunderland) and Mickael Tavares (Hamburg) arrived in the summer but the Scottish theme continued with midfielder Kevin Thomson and striker Kris Boyd arriving from Rangers and Andrew Halliday moving from Livingston.

"Scotland is a great breeding ground," argued Strachan, who has now signed eight players from north of the border. "And when you have played with the Old Firm, that is character testing. You are not allowed to lose one game. That is the kind of attitude I want in the dressing room here."

Boyd, who arrived on a free transfer, was arguably the Championship's stand-out signing of the summer. He is the all-time highest scorer in the Scottish Premier League and, echoing Strachan's theme, said on his arrival: "If you have played for Celtic or Rangers, you develop a real mental toughness."

Kris Boyd in action for Middlesbrough.

Moments of celebration have been thin on the ground for Boyd at Boro. Photo: Getty Images

So far, Strachan's tactic of relying on Scottish steel to form the backbone of a promotion-winning team has not worked, with Boyd's woes indicative of Boro's struggles. The striker has scored only twice in 12 appearances and, since moving to England, has lost his place in the Scotland squad. He is at a club that has produced quality wingers such as Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson but, with those two gone, Boyd seems to be suffering from a dearth of quality balls from wide areas.

"Boyd does not get the same number of chances at a struggling club like Boro as he did at a successful side like Rangers," added Brownlee. "The rebuilt side has not clicked but hopefully if they do gel they will have enough quality to move up the table."

I asked 606 users what they thought had gone wrong. Nicht-Andy wrote: "All this may be a sad indictment of how far Scottish football has slumped." I suspect quite a lot of people feel like him and, if true, it suggests that Strachan is guilty of a major misjudgment on what it takes to succeed in the Championship."

Former Boro skipper Didier Digard certainly thinks so. The midfielder has not started a match since Strachan took over and is now on a season-long loan at French club Nice. "Gordon Strachan blamed the foreigners for poor results but what about now?" said Digard in Monday's Northern Echo.

Others have argued that Boro will live to regret Strachan's decision to turn his back on an academy system that regularly produced first-team players. Strachan has felt the need to overhaul his side with players brought in to the club. In his defence, four former trainees were in the team that started against Pompey, with another two on the bench.

Plenty of 606 users reckon Boro's troubles began before Strachan's arrival. I was surprised by the number who pointed to the decision of Gibson to appoint Southgate as successor to Steve McClaren following the 2006 Uefa Cup final.

Parmopleasemate said: "It's funny really, I remember sitting on the grass outside the stadium in Eindhoven [after the final] thinking Gibson is going to mess this all up. The Southgate appointment is when it started to go wrong."

Southgate was a respected defender but he had no managerial experience. Some saw him as the cheap option at a time when the club that was looking to reduce its debts. Perhaps, as parmopleasemate went on to argue, Gibson should have sacked Southgate after their 3-0 defeat at West Brom in January 2009. A new manager would have then had 16 games to preserve Boro's Premier League status

Others suggested the club has suffered because Gibson shows too much loyalty to the managers he has employed, particularly Bryan Robson, while some pointed to the role of chief executive Keith Lamb and the big fees spent on mediocre players such as Afonso Alves.

Focusing on the current season, supporters highlighted a lack of creativity in midfield, players played out of position, the use of a zonal marking system and an injury list that currently includes influential players such as Flood, Thomson and Rhys Williams.

Strachan himself recently spoke of his frustration. "I've tried everything," he said after the 3-1 defeat against Derby on 29 September. "We're doing loads of things but what we try isn't working."

Almost a year after Strachan arrived claiming that there was nothing cosmic about Championship football, he is still working out what it takes to launch Boro back towards the Premier League.

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Gordon Strachan leaves his job as Middlesbrough manager after less than a year in charge.

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  • Comment number 1.

    The "one point off the top when Southgate was sacked" is a false argument. Yes, we were fourth in table but as Southgate admitted in the post-match interview, minutes before he was sacked, we could have ended up 10th in the table had we not won against Derby that night.

    Being only 19, Southgate is my all-time favourite Middlesbrough player. I had extraordinary respect and admiration for him as a captain. He will not just be remembered for being our first cup-winning captain but also the man who led us to a UEFA Cup final (Middlesbrough got to a major European trophy final - it still doesn't feel real)!

    There is no one I would have wished to see succeed more than Southgate as manager. I stuck with him through the first two seasons, where it was clear we had gone backwards by six/seven years, through the relegation season, through the first turbulent month where we started strongly only to sell Tuncay and Huth and fall right away. I even dismissed the 5-1 defeat against WBA as a bad day at the office which every team has at least once a year.

    The match that changed it for me was the 2-2 draw against Coventry. We had been winning 2-0 until the 78th minute. We then conceded the equaliser in the 93rd (if I remember rightly). This was not just a bad day at the office; this was maybe the fifteenth occasion since Augustu 2009 where we had lost points in the last few minutes of a match. (In fact, I would claim that we would have probably got into Europe the year we were relegated had it not been for matches being played for longer than 87 minutes)!

    Ultimately, we were not fourth in the table. We were 24th, because Southgate had taken us from being an established Premiership and European side to the second division.

    I thought Strachan was the right appointment. The first few games were atrocious, but most of us believed that it was merely a hangover from Southgate. But things got worse. Performances got worse. Signings got worse.

    We're now left with the worst football I have ever seen played by any team I have had the misfortune of watching. We seem to be going nowhere. The demoralisation is virtually indescribable, even for someone like me who has temporarily moved away from the area (I'm at university for the next three years) and, consequently, can't get to every match.

    NB: the attendances issue really winds me up. Yes, they are embarrassing at the current time. I do indeed find it difficult to defend them, even though Middlesbrough - yet again - has been hit disproportionately by the economic meltdown. But, in per capita terms, up until this year we were still getting a pretty decent crowd for most games. Middlesbrough's population is only 135-140,000. Birmingham's is two million. Yet Villa and Birmingham "only" get 40,000 per game. We were still getting 23-25,000 per game in the premiership.

  • Comment number 2.

    For as long as I've been following the club (45 years), Middlesbrough have had one of the best academies in the league. We always seem to breed the players that other clubs buy. Now this miserable and uninspiring man has instead drafted a bunch of second-rate players from a third-rate league. What is hardest to work out is which is the greater error - Strachan's overestimation of the Scottish League or Gibson's overestimation of Strachan. Yes, Southgate was useless but there were other options to both him and Strachan. And still are. Mr. Gibson needs to fix this matter forthwith or the club will takes years to recover.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think Strachan would get it right, given enough time. He knows football and has done well wherever he has managed, until now.

    I also belive, thoguh, that two things have happened - the rot had well and truly settled in long before he came, and he mis-judged the needs of the team. He has brought in a large number of signings that have not clicked together. Your point about Boyd is fair - he's a striekr that thrives on service, and is unlikely to carve out his own chances from nowhere too often.

    Gibson has a history of loyalty, and I'd imagine he'd be reluctant to pull the tirgger Bernie Slaven spoke of. If nothing else, can he afford to?

    As a Huddersfield fan, I hope Boro give Leeds a good thumping on Saturday...

  • Comment number 4.

    The Gazette poll last week was pretty damning, fans now are just indifferent, and are voting with their feet.

    The football is uninspiring, the results are poor, the team spirit is lacking, the defence is porous, the midfield has no pace, the attack can’t score goals, the manager doesn’t know his best team.

    All in all, not a good combination! Especially when there is no stand out team in the Championship and the quality of football is pretty low.

  • Comment number 5.

    I am sympathetic towards the Boro fans, not because I'm a fan, but because I knew how poor they were to become under Strchan. I had the pleasure of watching him turn Coventry from a competitive Premiership side into the dire mid table Championship side that they are now . . . we have never recovered from the damage he did . .
    Strachan was a fantastic player, one of the best i have seen . . he was one of my heroes, until I met him on the training groung at Ryton, when the myth was blown apart, an ignorant and rude man, who rather than accept criticism and opinion from paying fans, chose to belittle and abuse. Sadly, his teams are destined to play dour unattractive football, with no invention or craft, or most importantly . . . direction !!

  • Comment number 6.

    # 2 One of your clubs most famous periods in living memory was a time when you guys were famous for buying in flashy players and paying big bucks.. Juninho, Emerson, Ravanelli.. I bet you weren't bleating about academy produce then..

    The usual attitude toward the Scottish league is seeping through your post.. I read figures recently about the number of Scottish players currently playing in the English League and it was high.. at least now you have a group of guys who will fight tooth and nail to escape their situation and not sit and pick up a wage.. Killen and Flood were always going to be bad buys but in Robson, Thomson, McDonald, Boyd and McManus you have players who have played at a serious level for some time between them.. and a higher level than the majority of your Middlesbrough team will ever see..

  • Comment number 7.

    Strachan, in relative terms, has only achieved success as a manager with Southampton... and even then, he got out when he sensed the expectation levels were rising.

  • Comment number 8.

    The Championship may be 'nothing cosmic' but it is very competitive: all could be promoted or relegated.

    Gibson was wrong to give Southgate the job, we needed a 'world class' appointment that he stated he would appoint. Southgate took the club backwards at a massive rate, too inexperienced & a poor judge of a player: he couldn't find room for Johnson! Gibson needed to sack him in the Christmas, but held on until the summer when relegation was confirmed.

    Strachan was a decent appointment, he'd have been way down on my list, but I expected him to have the team running hard & working as a unit: competitive and industrial. He's not been able to avhieve even those traits. Of his signings Robson is very good, a proper footballer, the rest have everything to prove.

    Strachan has failed to inform & inspire the players with his plans, vision and direction. The players have failed to perform, many as individuals, all as a team. Strachan bought leaders, a good move, but as a German national coach once commented 'how do you motivate millionaires?' motivation has to be within. How many enjoy the uber reward$ and look at their team mates as the weak link rather than themselves? Too many it seems.

    Will Gordon do the decent thing, unlike Southgate who ruined the club rather than admit his failings, & resign to allow a manager with vision and leadership to be appointed before it's too late.

    The club released a financial statement indicating that promotion this season was imperitive. Gibson needs to get this one right, 3rd time lucky we hope!

    Long ago, it seems now, in Eindhoven I was sat a few seats away from Tony 'fly me to the moon' Mowbray a legend that along with Rioch & Gibson in '86 rescued a dying cause. Mogga still has much to prove & more to achieve, but he can get teams playing football, knows how to get promoted, he'd be my choice now as it's almost back to the future at Boro.

  • Comment number 9.

    'All this might be a sad indictment of how far scottish football has slumped'...........I might have guessed that this argument would crop up as it smacks of lazy analysis and typical english arrogance. The players that have been brought in from the old firm have played in the champions league knock out stages and uefa cup final.........or is the championship a higher standard than that?!

    As a celtic fan I was ecstatic with Strachan initially but was glad that he left when he did, although he was replaced by a manager who was brilliant in the championship and absolute rubbish for bringing in players that would grace one of his championship teams. The irony!!

    Football is never as simple as those players aren't good enough because they have come from Scotland, look at Dorrans at WBA and Chris Burke at Cardiff City. Dorrans wasn't wanted by the old firm and Burke was allowed to leave Rangers on a free. Dorrans went on to get rave reviews and linked with moves to top Premiership sides whilst Burke has been arguably the best winger in the championship.

    Football is all about using players to their greatest potential, which Strachan wasn't doing when he left Celtic. I don't know what is happening with Boro as I don't watch them but although Middlesbrough might be 18th, it's still only 9 points or 3 wins off an automatic promotion place. It won't take too many results to turn that around and I hope that Strachan does it just to get it up ye!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Its 'Journalists' like you that put unnecessary pressure on managers and in turn leads to them getting the sack...its only October and hes under pressure already? Give me a break

    At least give him until the end of the season and then judge him

  • Comment number 11.

    I think there would have been a few Celtic fans who could have predicted these developments at Boro. That said I think 'new' teams need time to gel and Boro may get a season of watching turgid stuff before it gets any better (if at all).

    Comments about how this reflects the slump in Scotland are just lazy and ill-informed though. WGS hardly bought the better Scottish players.

    He did a decent job at Celtic (won the title and got the club into post-qual CL) and sustained the club after MON left but with each year the momentum diminished and we were left with a side that was just uninspiring, inspid and lacking in leadership. He didn't have access to much money compared to MON and did a decent job but there were problems with WGS: the combative media style, the continual bust-up's with good players that may have undermined the squad as a whole (Balde, Graveson and McGeady) and a tactical inflexibility that was infuriating.

    He also had a tendency to buy players you never saw and I was very surprised to see some of them at Boro. For example, Flood was so rarely played at Celtic as was Chris Killen (about as mobile as a very un-mobile thing). And while Robson was a good purchase (though a little on the old side now) McManus was always too slow. McDonald is decent (thoigh lacking a first touch) but Kevin Thomson will prove an astute purchase, though there were always doubts in Scotland about Kris Boyd.

    Even Walter Smith at Rangers was reluctant to play Boyd as he had some major fitness and attitudinal problems: fine in games when you can afford a forward who doesn't work and just wants to 'finish' but not in Europe or against Celtic. Boyd's goals mainly came against 'weaker' teams and the guy was legendary for his lack of effort to help out his teamates. There were times watching Boyd that you felt he just couldn't be bothered and the guy had a tendency to look as if he was in a 'huff' about something. Paul Le Guen didn't play him in big games and neither did Walter Smith and they were not both wrong about the guy. Fine if you want someone to hang about the penalty box and finish moves off but not if you want your team to work from the front.

  • Comment number 12.

    The problem is unequivocally Strachan. His managerial career has been poor bar Celtic where he was lucky enough to inherit 'the club that Martin O'Neill built'.

    Comments about the ex-SPL players at Boro are lazy. McDonald, Robson, McManus, Flood, Killen and Thomson were pushed out of their clubs when Strachan picked them up. Rangers couldn't afford Boyd, and it says more for his ambition that he chose Boro than the other way round.

    At Celtic, Strachan bought players off one good performance against Celtic. At Boro, this transfer policy seems to still be in place while Strachan refused to buy a 'proper' winger (or two) this summer which has nullified Boyd and the other strikers.

    Robson, Thomson (just coming back from injury, of course), McManus and Boyd are all good players but without wingers and decent quality fullbacks, that Boro team is a sitting duck in the Championship. And the reason for that is 100% Gordon Strachan's tactics both on the pitch and in the transfer market.

  • Comment number 13.

    Whats gone wrong at boro?

    Everything that can!

    time for Mr Strickan to go i think, its just not working out. it hasnt from day one

  • Comment number 14.

    Boils down to Gibson. He should have either sacked Southgate in January 2009 or allowed him to carry on when his side were second in the championship. One poster was right, a loss in the match that made them 2nd would have made them 10th but not as low as 18th, where they are now, fact remains they didn't lose.

    Also to no 10 saying wait til the end of the season, I'm all for giving managers a chance but he had nearly all of last season as well as the start of this one and things are going from bad to worse for him.

  • Comment number 15.

    I remember watching Coventry lose to Everton at Highfield Road towards the end of Strachan's tenure there and think this is a different situation.

    Strachan was new to management then and I dare say that his experience from that time is serving him quite well now. That Coventry team were bereft of ideas and talent. It looks the opposite at Middlesbrough, they have the talent and ideas, but they're just not quite coming off. We've all seen from the likes of Real Madrid and Man City, what happens when you overhaul an entire squad, it takes a long time for them to gel. I believe it's the same story here, although on a different level.

    He took over a team in decline and has perhaps tried to change too much, too quickly, but the discontent in the club is at least encouraging. By this I mean that at least they are not satisfied with what is going on there.

    On the up side players like wheater, Boyd, McDonald and Robson are all used to playing at a higher level and receiving the adulation of their fans. I'm sure they are all striving to get back to that.

  • Comment number 16.

    Great blog Paul...The general gist of it suggests Strachan's attempting some sort of 'Scottish Experiment' - filling his side with players from north of the border to see just how realistic it would be for the 'old firm' to survive down south? On the evidence so far it's not promising, but ofcourse the loyal support of the two Glasgow giants puts Boro's to shame despite the general North-East 'hot-bed of football' mythology. Credit to Gordon for his faith in his own countrymen, but the character and fight he talks about just isn't being reflected on the pitch. I suppose fighting for Celtic or Rangers calls on an inner passion missing when taken elsewhere?

  • Comment number 17.

    I believe he has only 6 of his 'own countrymen' in the entire Boro Squad. And not all are ex-OF!

    Attempting an experiment to see how the OF would compete down South? A gist that is so way off the mark and would be just lazy journalism if that was being suggested. Boro are trying to get to the EPL. Rangers and Celtic have two of the biggest supports in the UK and with access to better TV money would comfortably compete down south..if any of their fans wanted them too..and there and there is no evidence that their fans do.

  • Comment number 18.

    "The players that have been brought in from the old firm have played in the champions league knock out stages and uefa cup final.........or is the championship a higher standard than that?!"

    #9, well to be frank - yes, yes it is.

    Or would you like to extend that argument to the Israeli, Romanian, Slovakian or Serbian leagues? The SPL isn't what it was, and is certainly behind the remarkably competitve Championship in terms of quality.

    Not that the status of the SPL has much bearing on Boro's current troubles.

  • Comment number 19.

    #1. - Southgate is my all-time favourite Middlesbrough player. I had extraordinary respect ... but also the man who led us to a UEFA Cup final (Middlesbrough got to a major European trophy final - it still doesn't feel real)!
    That was actually Steve McClaren mate.

  • Comment number 20.

    Great blog Paul.
    I hope Boro remain patient until the turn of the year at least, no real advantage to making a change just yet. 18th looks bad but they're still only five points off a play-off place. Perhaps he's trying too hard to change things quickly and should stick to his managerial principles, to aid consistency.

  • Comment number 21.

    I saw a magazine column from Strachan saying that he was impressed with the standard of the football in the Championship. I tend to agree, it actualy shows some decent teams these days.

    However, for me, he signed his own death certificate when he said that Rangers and Celtic would win it every time. If that is so, why are players (with a range of experience and abilty from Boyd to Flood) from these clubs failing to make an impact? I would guess because the calibre of players they are playing against is greater in the championship week in, week out, than against the scottish teams outside of the Old Firm.

    I think it says more about Strachan and Scottish football than anything about Boro.

  • Comment number 22.

    I should add that I'm not saying Celtic and Rangers are bad teams; far from it. However the standard of opposition they play against is inferior to that across the championship. To clarify I think it says more about the players from scottish football than the clubs.

    Don't hate me Glaswegians, I love your city!

  • Comment number 23.

    As a Boro supporter I am completely and utterly fed up of expecting another loss every weekend when really we should be promotion contenders.

    People are saying that Southgate should have been sacked earlier than he did, but I doubt we would have avoided relegation anyway. At least with Southgate we won games in the Championship. Now with Strachan it's back to how it was in the Premier League - losing every week and being somewhere near the bottom end of the table.

    Strachan has changed the entire team, but clearly it hasn't worked. He has a lot of experience, so seemed like a good appointment. The fact that he has bought most of his players from the SPL makes me think that he had no idea how to succeed in the Championship in the first place.

    Of course attendances are dropping. If the team performs as it did in the first half of the match against Sheffield United (even TV commentators were getting frustrated, how would actual Boro fans react??), who will want to pay £30 to watch their team not even try to win? Until Boro start putting in winning performances than attendances won't go up, especially with the current economic situation as it is.

    It now feels we are left with a manager and a load of players who don't care about the club and about its future. My fear if Strachan leaves is that he will leave Boro in a bigger mess than we were in when he started....

  • Comment number 24.

    As an Ipswich fan I see many similarities between Boro's situation and our own. Ours didn't start with a Uefa Cup Final granted, but the appointment from within with no managerial experience didn't work (Southgate/Magilton), and the appointment of a name to try and get us out of the mess (Strachan/Keane) didn't start well at all, due in part to an insistence on ploughing the same furrow in sourcing players (Scotland/Ireland and Sunderland).

    Interesting to note your point though about Strachan truning his back on the Academy though.

    Keane has had his hands tied financially this season compared to last and as a result has played 8 or 9 'kids' so far this season who have not looked out of place at all.
    Wickham gets the headlines but Hyam has been superb. Made his first team debut away at Boro on the opening day of the season aged 18 and looks like he's been playing for years.

    We've had more money invested in our squad these last two or three years than ever before but it's only now we've gone back to the 'Ipswich way' of bringing good kids through the youth system that we're starting to perform.

    Keane may well have discovered this by accident but Strachan would do well to learn the lessons that Keane has.

  • Comment number 25.

    this blog is worth checking out regarding the Boro

  • Comment number 26.

    'Boro is a club crying out for a manager like Neil Warnock or Sam Allardyce!

  • Comment number 27.


    I thought the same but guess he meant Southgate was captain?

  • Comment number 28.

    Yes, of course I meant as captain!

  • Comment number 29.

    Strachan made a huge mistake in taking 4 players from celtic that were considered as being bad buys for celtic. Its hard to say this but the SPL is not at the same level of the Championship, the crowds are bigger and there is a more even playing field between the teams in the championship. Strachan should have added a few players not a brand new team that has no connection with the club.
    Boyd for most was a good signing in the summer, but if according to the ex-Old Firm players/manager, that playing in the old firm games is of way higher standard then the championship, then boyds goal scoring record in the old firm says everything, and i wish Middlesbrough all the luck cause they will need it unless there is a real change in fortunes.

  • Comment number 30.

    Boro are skint, thanks to appalling mismanagement off the field. The chairman has burned himself out with off the field 'ventures', including his golf/hotel complex which he claims will help finance the Boro ! But it has helped to clean out the coffers over the last number of seasons. Southgate was forced into fire sales, ripping the club out of balance. Strachan needed and obviously believed he was going to get more signings; they couldn't do it, and the loan signings then anticipated have likewise failed to materialise. In this respect, Strachan is safe, because the club simply hasn't got the money to fire him, and who on earth (worth his salt) would want to come to club stripped of all credibility (and cash).
    As with a lot of people in the last decade, the chairman had too much money too easily, was comfortable as a younger, inexperienced man with younger, inexperienced managers. But his dreams, delusions, of being like another Arsenal are long gone. Strachan must be pig sick by now, as were others before him. Presumably the chairman will comfort himself by being described by 'pundits' as the best chairman in the league because he didn't interfere. When he has interfered, he has lashed it all up. He may do nothing, he can't, but there is still time for the fortunes to change for the genuine Boro fans out there, and time for more fire sales in January. (when the goalkeeper Jones was sold to Liverpool for £2m plus, none of that went back into the team - the management had miscounted again).

  • Comment number 31.

    i have not seen Middlesborough this season. We are having similar issues at Bristol City.
    We did notice however that when we brought Scottish Internationals down to Bristol. MacCallister, Hartley, Clarkson and even Johnson the managers son they were all off the pace of Championship football.
    It took them some time to adjust.
    Perhaps this is an issue not only for Middlesborough but Scottish football in general.
    Middlesborough can only get better, i just hope that it is not at the expense of Bristol City!

  • Comment number 32.

    Strachan signed Scottish because he knew and trusted them AND Boro had no money to waste on dubious 'fancy' players. There are still many young, promising players at Boro, but they are being loaned out desperately to save on wages, even when they are struggling to put defenders on the field. When they can play, they will be desperately sold.
    The Scots have had to cope with two culture shocks - moving to England and English football with its relentless competition. They need some time, and there are so many new faces in the team (it is a team game). But Many believe that Boro are living on borrowed (literally) time, which is something the Scots probably didn't realise when they came. Over to the non-interfering chairman.
    By the way, I do believe Southgate's comments, when he makes them. He is made from different stuff than the club's management.

  • Comment number 33.

    As bad as Boro are (I havent seen them that often so I can't comment) their defence cannot be as bad as ours (Leeds), If we are to win the game it'll have to be 3-2 or 4-3, because we will certainly concede.

  • Comment number 34.

    I'm a Celtic season ticket holder who was delighted when Strachan got the job but soon became totally disillusioned.
    I was more delighted when he left as he was soon discovered to be tactically inept,believed he was always right, stubborn and rude.
    We won the SPL 3 times under him but the majority of fans were happy to see him go as his lack of nous cost us the 4th title and he didn't have any idea how to halt the slide.
    He's a man who believes that only those who have played football at the highest level, i.e. him, have an opinion worth listening to.

    The players he bought are a mixed bunch. Flood, Killen,McDonald were not wanted at Celtic,Robson wanted to play and the security of a longer contract,Rangers couldn't afford to keep Thomson & Boyd nor Aberdeen Miller.
    None of the above are top class players but it's madness to sign Boyd, a player not noted for his workrate but who has an ability to score goals,and not play with wingers to provide the service he would thrive on.
    That doesn't appear to be the tactics of a manager who knows what he's doing.

    I've always had a soft spot for Boro but am afraid that unless Gibson gets rid of Strachan the bottom half of the Championship is the best you can hope for.

    Mowbray failed with us because he refused to compromise but he does know how to get out of the Division.

    Good luck, you need it.

  • Comment number 35.

    As far as chairmen go I used to have immense respect for Gibon at Boro, he's loyal, patient and backs his managers in a way other chairmen would do well to learn from but I thought at the time to sack Southgate with Boro doing so well in the Championship was ridiculous. I was pleased when he wasn't sacked following relegation but surely if Gibson wanted rid of him he should have done it then and not during the season. I know it's easy to speculate with the benefit of hindsight but I do believe Boro would be back in the Premier League if Southgate had been retained or at the very least they wouldn't be in the mess they are now.

    As for the decline in Scottish football it's been going on for years. Celtic and Rangers squads are stocked full of former Football League players and whenever an Old firm player leaves Glasgow he almost never walks through the door of a Premier League club. I remember laughing during the UEFA Cup final a few years back when Rangers lost in Manchester, playing in goal was Neil Alexander who I used to watch at Ninian Park, Cardiff back in the old second division not long before. Says it all really.

  • Comment number 36.

    Grimois, Strachan has done well wherever he's managed?! How about him being the only manager in our history to get us relegated and spending stupid amounts on mediocre players - the main reason we almost went into administration a couple of years ago and a legacy that we still have not recovered from. The man may make entertaining vewing in press conferences but as a manager he is a joke. Yes he did well at Celtic but I could manage one of the old firm the the SPL title with my hands tied behind my back!

  • Comment number 37.

    Great blog mate.
    Appointing Southgate without support.
    Alves, Gook Lee, Emnes,
    Sacking GS1 one point off top.
    GS2 lack of knowledge that the Scottish Prem "aint all that"
    Failure to buy creative players to deliver
    ANd bad man-management.
    Hence my name.

  • Comment number 38.

    #35 Think you need to check your facts mate,would you like to list former Football League players now playing for Celtic & Rangers?

    Don't see how Alexander playing for Cardiff in the second division is any reflection on his ability now. You now have David Marshall playing for Cardiff in the Championship, Celtic reject,Burke/Rae Rangers rejects,McNaughton/Aberdeen reject.

    Need I say more?

  • Comment number 39.

    " "The players that have been brought in from the old firm have played in the champions league knock out stages and uefa cup final.........or is the championship a higher standard than that?!"

    #9, well to be frank - yes, yes it is. "

    #18 - Wrong. If that were the case then English PL sides would roll up the UEFA cup every season. But they don't - they get eliminated, often by teams from some of your leagues that you list.

    Nationality is irrelevant as you say, but hubris is universal.

  • Comment number 40.

    #38 I was thinking about the likes of Daryl Murphy, Glenn Loovens, Anthony Stokes, Gary Hooper etc at Celtic and Rangers' Bougherra and Kyle Lafferty. I didn't mean to cause offence but you would expect a clubs of Rangers' and Celtic's supposed statures to be employing better quality players than ex-Championship players and goalkeepers like Neil Alexander who was decent at best for Cardiff and doesn't look much better now.

    As far Cardiff's legion of ex-SPL players I agree, their not the best.

  • Comment number 41.

    #18 - to say that the championship is a better standard than the champinos league and uefa cup is absolutely ridiculous. It might be richer than the leagues that you mentioned, but that doesn't translate to quality.

    Check out the results of the premiership teams in the UEFA cup, aside from Fulham they have been shocking in recent seasons. Often beaten by 'poorer' teams.

    #40 - why was Neil Alexander playing in the UEFA Cup Final? maybe you should check that out as well. City fans loved Alexander and he is an excellent keeper......'Scotland's number 1' was the chant was it not?

    And to say that City's legion of ex SPL playere are not the best is another nonsense! McNaughton and Rae got City to an FA Cup Final and the current squad got to the Play Off Final. And all the time none of the players were deemed good enough for the Old Firm!

    It all goes back to my original's how the players are sent out that matters and not the fact that the players came from the SPL.

  • Comment number 42.

    Scotty, are you trying to say that McCormack Burke McNaughtin and Marshall have been a failure at Cardiff? If so you dont know much about Cardiff and Football in General.

    Also remember Teams play with a 11 Players and this season Boro have played with around 3 ex Spl players per game. So what about the other 8 players in the Team??

    People cant keep given the SPL as their reason for Boro's failings. In my Opinion Wheater and Co have been having a Nightmare So why not blame them for a change

  • Comment number 43.

    I didn't for once say that they were failures but to call them the key players in City's promotion bid and FA Cup run is also wrong, their decent players but thats all as has been proved by McCormack's decline after one good season. The keys players for Cardiff in recent seasons have been Whittingham, Ledley (who should be playing in the Premiership if anywhere), Johnston and Chopra etc.

    As for blaming the SPL on Boro's failings, I wasn't. I addressed that as a seperate issue in response to it being raised earlier on.

    #41 Neil Alexander was a fans favourite, granted and i've nothing personal against him but again he was just a decent keeper suited to the second division and maybe not champions league qualifiers like Rangers. If he didn't play in the UEFA Cup final then I apologise but he was certainly in or around the team during that time.

  • Comment number 44.

    Great Blog - for me neither Southgate or Strachan are fully to blame. In January 2009 a decision had to be made by Gibson and Lamb to let Southgate go and give the team a fighting chance of staying up under a new manager -they gambled that we'd stay up and lost.
    We lost our PL status, the club lost 10,000 season tickets holders, the 60m sky money (which had been propping us up for a while) and 6 key players relatively on the cheap to fund the 'house position' which they finally achieved. We were one point off the top during the early period of 2009/2010 season whilst these players were being offloaded- what has happened since then is a reflection of the legacy of what was left under SM and to a lesser extent GS and the underlying weakness of the club from top down.
    Strachan was an appointment that at the time I was happy (content) about, other than Curbishley, he was the best man available in the market (and AS was never coming north) at the time - his record upon closer inspection at every club south of the border has been consistent and has remained so- the problem is- that record is not likely to lead Boro into the Premier League any time soon and just could see us return to where we came from in 1986. As a lifelong Boro fan I'll always support them - Sacking Strachan - I say not (for now), managing the team is only half the issue - let's start focusing on managing the club for the benefit of the supporters and the town and not in the self serving manner of the past five years.

  • Comment number 45.

    *addresed Scottish Football in response to it being raised earlier on.

  • Comment number 46.

    Didn't Burke and Marshall in particular get you through to the Play Off Final?? If that dosen't make them Key Players I dont know what does. Ross was a Hero 2 seasons ago and I think 23 goals in a season kind of makes you a key player also.

  • Comment number 47.

    Interesting sub-debate about the quality of the SPL vs Championship. I think there are a couple of things to take into account when using Strachan's signings as an indication, particularly that he didn't cherrypick the best players from the SPL but got players that were available, and that it takes time for a team to develop.

    Anyway, having lived north and south of the border, I'd say that the SPL is a strange league that, even with only 12 teams, is both better AND worse than the Championship. One can never be sure but Rangers and Celtic - with current sides - would be at least competitive for promotion from the Championship. However, bulk of the teams would struggle in the Championships and the weakest would be lucky to survive in League One.

    I'd argue that (as a supporter of neither) the current Rangers and Celtic sides could both probably survive in the Premier League, but we'll never know, because even if they were allowed in, that would open up access to finances that they currently can barely dream of.

  • Comment number 48.

    1. "NB: the attendances issue really winds me up. Yes, they are embarrassing at the current time. I do indeed find it difficult to defend them, even though Middlesbrough - yet again - has been hit disproportionately by the economic meltdown. But, in per capita terms, up until this year we were still getting a pretty decent crowd for most games. Middlesbrough's population is only 135-140,000. Birmingham's is two million. Yet Villa and Birmingham "only" get 40,000 per game. We were still getting 23-25,000 per game in the premiership."
    Birmingham's population is only in the region of one million. If you combine the areas of Birmingham and the Black County then we're talking around two million but then you also need take into account the attendances for West Brom, Wolves, and Walsall. All in, this year's average attendances for teams in this area total roughly 116,000 (Villa 35k, Birmingham 25k, West Brom 23k, Wolves 28k, Walsall 5k) or about 5.5% of the population.
    It's also pretty simplistic to only count the population of Middlesbrough alone as your clubs support base. The Birmingham and Black Country area does not just include Birmingham, West Brom, Wolves and Walsall but also a number of smaller towns without a significant football club of their own. It's therefore more appropriate to view Middlesbrough's attendances in line with those clubs in the immediate vicinity (Darlington and Hartlepool) and the combined populations of the towns and cities in the immediate area (Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton on Tees). The total population figure in your clubs catchment area is then closer to 640,000 and this year's average attendances for major clubs in this area is 21k (Middlesbrough 16k, Hartlepool 3k, Darlington 2k) which is just over 3% of the population. Even with the attendances of 23-25k you used to get, you'e still only talking of around 5% of the surrounding population.

  • Comment number 49.

    Strange I recall when many fans thought the football was dreadfull under McClaren and were delighted when he was appointed England manager but then they were at least playing in the PL! I hope Boro get back on track and very soon even though our record at the Riverside was frustrating!

  • Comment number 50.

    Strachan done well initially for Celtic, signing players of the calibre of Nakamura, Gravesen, Jarosik, Vennegoor of Hesselink etc. Albeit he was up against 2 Rangers teams (under McLeish & Le Guen) who had great potential and allot of fanfare but delivered nothing. It is hard to tell whether Celtic were so dominant or Rangers were so mediocre. But then, against a shrewd old head like Walter Smith he began to sink. Maybe, it might be the other way round for Boro??? He might start poorly and eventually learn how to play in the Championship??? He made some rotten transfer decisions (i.e. selling Kenny Miller to Derby, who then sell him back to Rangers and he's been on fire ever since). To see how good your team could be Boro fans type into youtube, Celtic 3-0 Benfica 2006 (best FOOTBALL display you'll ever see in the Champions League), and to see how stale use might become then type in Celtic 2008/09.

  • Comment number 51.

    Another great blog Fletch, and (despite comments to the contrary) a year in charge is the perfect time to be reviewing WGS's tenure.

    Rather than blaming Southgate, the quality of the SPL or even the Chairman, I think the different thing here is the attitude of Gordon Strachan himself. I have long been a fan of his, but in his comments & approach to the Middlesbrough job, something has always seemed different.

    His comment upon appointment of "I don't need to be here and I don't have to be here" neatly brings us back to an earlier posters comment of "How do you motivate millionaires? Motivation has to be within."

    Perhaps this is the problem, as WGS certainly seems to be missing the fire in his belly which made him such a great player & has made him a great Manager so far.

    Strachan undervalued, and possibly underestimated, the level of competition in the Championship just now. To win any good league, you need battle-hardened pro's who also have the experience of the league they're playing in. This is where Boro struggle. They either boast imports (Boyd, Thomson, McDonald) or players used to playing in the Premiership (Wheater, O'Neil, Arca) neither sets of whom have the necessary experience of this league. Boro need players in the mould of Chris Morgan, Rob Hulse, Paddy Kenny - players with experience of going to Scunthorpe on a windy Tuesday night & grinding out a win.

    Criticism of the SPL is simply ignorance, and that has nothing to do with the troubles at the Riverside. There are some top players & clubs in the SPL, just as there are some poor players in the Championship.

  • Comment number 52.

    #41 "to say that the championship is a better standard than the champinos league and uefa cup is absolutely ridiculous."

    We've crossed wires. I didn't mean to reply that the Championship is of a higher standard than those European competitions, more that it's of a higher standard of the leagues dozens of the teams involved play in. Saying the SPL is better than the Championship because Rangers got their token Champions League place is silly.

  • Comment number 53.

    To be fair to Scottish Football, Boyd was not seen as a great by most Rangers fans. He was slow, lazy and moody with an ability that when he gets a chance to put it away clinically - just as his left-foot goal for boro showed.

    The problem lies in having players who can create chances for him because he can't do it alone.

  • Comment number 54.

    Anyone who has listened to Radio Five Live's 606 programme in recent weeks will have heard Robbie Savage's take on the state of Scottish football. In a nutshell Savage reckons that not only is the SPL nowhere near the standard of the English Premier league but that it also falls short of Championship standard too. No doubt this has resulted in the gnashing of many teeth north of the border. Not that I am a Savage apologist but if you want evidence in support of his theory look no further than Gordon Strachan's McBoro.
    Strachan's strategy plainly was to give Boro an SPL/old firm spine in the belief that this would be enough to gain promotion back to the top league. League tables take time to develop shape but after 10 games, no away wins, negative goal difference and sitting in 18th place it is hard to describe Strachan's plan as anything but a failure. I have been watching Middlesbrough since Jack Charlton's side of the 1970's and in that time have seen plenty of rubbish and trust me this current side are up there with the worst of them. It's not that the current players don't show spirit and determination, on occasions some of them (Barry Robson) even show touches of genuine class it's just that collectively they are way too slow. On the ball passing is ponderous, sideways and when the players eventually get bored followed by a punt up-field to no one in particular. Off the ball the players are leaden footed.

    Robbie Savage is right to believe Scottish football is in poor shape and Strachan is wrong to think and recruit the opposite, his Boro team are all the proof you need. It's time for Steve Gibson to be ruthless and show Strachan the door. Tony Mowbray has Boro running through his veins and should be given his chance to turn this season around.

  • Comment number 55.

    @ 48
    I think the catchment area you're referring to is excessive. If you want to include places as distant as Hartlepool and Darlington you'll then have to factor in the relatively significant number of people who support Sunderland and Newcastle in these areas, as well as their own clubs, of course.

    Even if you want to refer to the Birmingham/Black Country catchment, that's four premiership clubs straight away, automatically a far more attractive proposition than Middlesbrough. Factor in the extreme poverty and social deprivation found in certain areas on Teesside, truly abysmal football (cf opening game vs Ipswich of 22,000 with real excitement and anticipation/recent attendances with such resentment) and - probably more than anything - a genuine sense of boycott until the running of the club improves, I really do not believe that our crowds are as atrocious as made out. I'm not saying I do not get annoyed with fair-weather fans who, as soon as things start going wrong, depart and I'm not saying that with the change in levels of expectations experienced at the Boro in the last fifteen or so years the number of these people has not increased.

  • Comment number 56.

    This article should have been one sentence long.

    "The thing that has gone wrong for Boro is signing woeful Scottish players"

    Killen and Flood were shocking in SPL, Boyd scored loads but was hated due to his laziness, Robson was average and Halliday was unproven.

    Having said all that players such as Bates, McMahon and Williams aren't good enough. Lita and Wheater have gone off the boil and Emnes, Alves and that other clown whose name escapes me were so out of their depth they needed armbands.

    Bring back Mikkel Beck!

  • Comment number 57.


    Your logic is poor. Lots of English players (or English-league based) have played in Scotland recently and been absolutely atrocious. It has no bearing on the state of English football - although maybe because the best are usually foreigners.

    The reverse is also true, guys like Charlie Adam were hounded out of Scottish football for (at the time) being hopeless, yet set the Championship alight and is comfortably playing in the EPL.

    Also, how many goals did Man Utd put past Rangers this season? Even the last time Man Utd played in Glasgow they lost.

    With 10 times the population and 100 times the TV money English football will always be better, but Scottish football does comparable (if not better than most) for it's population size. In fact, ratio to population Scotland has a higher football attendance than every nation in Europe bar the Germans.

    I think you should come to this with an open mind and not one of national stereotypes.

  • Comment number 58.

    What has gone wrong at Boro?


    Duff gaffer.

    Said he'd flop when they hired him.

  • Comment number 59.

    "All this may be a sad indictment of how far Scottish football has slumped."

    I'm rather annoyed by this can Boro having a bad season be a reflection on how good or bad things are in Scotland??

    All the "big" players that Strachan has purchased from Scotland are:
    McManus, Thomson, McDonald, Boyd, Miller, Flood, Robson and Killen

    McManus - Strachan is the only manager that rated McManus at Celtic, Mowbray didnt, he stripped him of the captaincy and sold the national side just played Spain on Tuesday, a certain McManus sold the jersey's with a moment of stupidity, McManus is far from being a solid dependable centre half and has showed as much on a number of occassions, some Celtic fans were over the moon when he left!!

    Thomson - Injury prone as he was a Rangers, out with yet another long term injury at the moment, he's hardly played a game for Boro so I just dont see how he can blamed for anything!

    McDonald - decent wee player, tries his best but at international level he does struggle, again tho, McDonald is a player Strachan bought and rated at Celtic, dont get me wrong he did well in the SPL for Celtic where the service to him was excellent, but as soon as Mowbray came in, McDonald took a back seat.

    Boyd - was and never will be a great player, he played in very few big matches for Rangers because Walter just simply deemed him not good enough. He's a player that needs a chance served up to him on a plate becaus he will very rarely create a goal scoring opportunity himself. Excellent player to have in your side when playing the cannon fodder in Scotland, but against decent opposition (when playing for Scotland, and with Rangers in Europe, against Celtic and even a team like Aberdeen away from home) Boyd is hugely ineffective.

    Lee Miller - he was the best player in a poor Aberdeen side, but there are a lot better strikers than him both in the national side and the SPL, and I dotn think Miller even plays that much for Boro anyway

    Willo Flood and Chris Killen - They both did well at Dundee United and Hibs respectively, but they were never ever first team players at Celtic, and in terms of quality, Celtic are a team that need to be and are about as good as Middlesbrough need to be to compete in the Championship....considering Strachan was the man that signed both of them for Celtic and Boro, again, he is the man who rates them highly.

    Barry Robson - Along with McDonald and Thomson, those three are probably the best players Strachan took down south with him, Robson more than anyone tho is the one player I was glad to see leave Celtic because he is a worker, a grafter and very rarely lets games pass him by.

    I fail to how why Boro's struggles reflect badly on Scottish Football when many of the players Strachan has taken down there with him are players that he himself rates but never really done anything of note up here (McManus, Miller, Flood, Killen), and those that did do good things up here, either did them against much poorer quality oppostion than most Championship sides (Boyd), are out injured (Thomson), or are merely another two names that make up a 25-30 man squad (McDonald, Robson)

  • Comment number 60.

    On the SPL Championship debate - something most have seemingly missed...

    Out of all the Old Firm players Strachan signed, only Kevin Thomson was a guaranteed starter each week. The rest left because they couldn't get a game - so the suggestion in the blog is wrong and you should do more research Paul.

    Boyd always struggled against the better SPL sides and in Europe. McDonald had been benched by Mowbray. Robson was getting a game but this was due to injuries at Celtic. The rest were way out of the picture, most of them always had been since the day they signed.

    So no, I'm not sure what it says about the quality of the Scottish game at all. That some players not good enough for the OF aren't good enough for the Championship maybe? Plenty have done well who struggled in Scotland in recent years. A "black and white" analysis is over-simplistic and unfortunately for the soundbites out there, football just isn't like that.

  • Comment number 61.

    Boro punched above their weight for a good few years because they got their new stadium in situ before a lot of clubs in that lower top flight/second tier bracket. Where they are now is pretty much where they slot into the football pyramid but the club has been spoilt by the good work put in by Gibson and Robson and in some respects McClaren.

    With relative heavyweights Newcastle & Sunderland on their doorstep and Leeds not far away plus medicore attendances even when in the top flight some of the bellyaching at Strachan is unjustified especially given the closeness of the teams in the division which means a couple of wins = a significant rise up the table.

    Can Boro honestly look at their gates and history, look at the league and say they expect to be outperforming clubs with pedigree like Leeds, Forest, Sheff Utd, Derby & Ipswich let alone rejoining the top flight.

  • Comment number 62.

    Forget the Scottish debate.

    Middlesbrough were playing poor football when they were in the Premiership, and I see their current situation as a reflection of what has been a slow decline.

    Firstly, let's get things into perspective- Middlesbrough are a small club. They're not the rivals of Newcastle and Sunderland, more the rivals of Darlington and Hartlepool. Don't let the presence of Bryan Robson, Steve mcClaren, UEFA Cup Finals and Steve Gibson's money fool you in that regard. They only ever sold out the Riverside when the likes of Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal came to town. For every other game in the Prem, the ground was half-empty.

    Another fatal mistake was appointing Gareth Southgate as their manager. His attitude to football coaching was so negative and lacking in inspiration that it has completely blighted Boro. The £12m investment on Afonso Alves was an absolute disaster. Why Southgate couldn't see the potential of Adam Johnson is a mystery. Real Madrid were being linked with Johnson when he was still in Boro reserves.

    I think that Strachan came into a club with a lot of problems, traumatised by relegation, and he's trying to change it quickly, bringing in 'his' people. The problem is that there's no patience in football and now Boro are a team in transition. Strachan is struggling to find consistency but let's be clear- the wreckage at Middlesbrough is not his fault, it was caused by Gareth Southgate in my opinion.

  • Comment number 63.

    i was in favour of the sacking of southgate. the guy was clueless as a manager and the reason we were second was due to still having good premiership players throughout august such as huth, tuncay and johnson.

    i believed we had a good enough team to get promoted, we just needed one or two buys. we needed an attacking midfielder and a top striker. strachan, whom i was in favour of, thought differently. we did not need a complete overhaul and by doing so said to the players "you are not good enough, i don't want you", which seeing as how he couldn't do anything until january was stupid and must of damaged morale.

    in january i was pleased with the signings. flood, killen, robson, mcmanus and naughton all did well. we became tough to beat. we failed to sign a replacement for johnson, which proved costly in our promotion challenge.

    this summer, we needed a goalkeeper (although the form of steele proved otherwise), to re-sign naughton on loan, permanent deal for the impressive mcmanus and 2 wingers. a striker would have been a bonus but lita and mcdonald could grow into a good partnership. what did we get? a lot of defensive midfielders (we already had williams and bates) and a striker who relies on wingers to score goals. we have no creative players and our defence looks very weak. you can get away with having no wingers if you have attacking full backs but hoyte is discouraged from attacking by playing on the left and playing 2 central players out there in bates or kilgallon.

    we are in the same position as a year ago. we need 2/3 players to be promotion challengers. 2 wingers and a left back. players such as walker, naughton and rose could have fitted here temporarily but we have not shown an interest. our lack of loan signings shows that gibson has lost faith and is waiting for a better option, although there are none out there at the minute, which is why we still have strachan.

  • Comment number 64.

    Boro fans you have to wake up and realie you are now a championship team, your not even a yo-yo club. You do not have a devine right to win every game, the footbll on display at the riverside is the same as whats on display at most the championship grounds, I'd argue probably better. The championship is a poor spectacle of football because the price of winning and failing in this league is potentially greater then whats on offer in even the PL in terms of club survival. 4 wins your back in it, the league table changes month on month, is Strachan the right man, right now no!!, imagin 4 wins in 6 finds you in 8th place 3 points of playoffs I bet some of you think he will be. Were all to fickle with dillusions of grandure, give that Boro team to Mourinho, Ferguson, Ancelloti and I guarantee you'd be no better off. Your 9 points of the play offs. If you were in the premier league and 9 points of 6th place at this stage in the season strachan would be a god!! You need, like I have had to get a reality check. You missed out on the springboard back after 1 season which means your more then lkely going to be hanging around for a while whilst you transition. Support the team, turn up and shout and scream you may well find your support is woth 6 points!!!

  • Comment number 65.

    To the posters saying how Boro's poor performances reflects on Scottish football:


    There's plenty players who are a product of Scottish football doing just fine in the Championship and Premiership. Anyone can look this up. To suggest the Scots at Boro aren't up to the mighty level of the Championship is an easy cop out and dare i say a predictible excuse.

  • Comment number 66.

    Boyd highest scorer in SPL history but cant score in a brothel in the championship says it all about the standard of football north of the border

  • Comment number 67.

    Without wishing to get involved in any slanging matches I think that blaming Scottish football for Boros current plight is a pretty lame excuse.

    Some of the players Strachan has brought are, and should hopefully prove to be good signings. Robson, Thomson, Boyd being the three best.

    I do however agree that part of Boros problem is the fact they appear happy to play one of the worst central defenders in the universe in Stephen McManus. Granted in Scotland some, not many, considered him to be a good defender, when the truth is he shouldnt get a game for the girls brigade under 12's 2nd team. But basing a defence round him is a major act of folly.

    Im surprised at Boyds lack of goals, at Rangers if he was delivered the ball in or around the box, he could score. Not just tap ins either, a search on YouTube will no doubt find some gems, (Partck, Dunfermline, Celtic, Dundee Utd)

  • Comment number 68.

    as a proud scot, strachan shouldnt have signed so many scottish players lol. one or two maybe, i.e. at birmingham, ferguson for some steel in the midfield and mcfadden who is a genuine (and rare) class scottish player. loads of premier league and championship players have a couple but i wouldnt base a team around us, it hasnt worked for the national team haha

  • Comment number 69.

    The man may make entertaining vewing in press conferences but as a manager he is a joke. Yes he did well at Celtic but I could manage one of the old firm the the SPL title with my hands tied behind my back!
    Utter drivel. If the likes of Tony Mowbray and Paul Le Guen couldn't manage the Old Firm then it can only be complete ignorance that makes you think you can.


    This article should have been one sentence long.

    "The thing that has gone wrong for Boro is signing woeful Scottish players"

    Killen and Flood were shocking in SPL, Boyd scored loads but was hated due to his laziness, Robson was average and Halliday was unproven.
    I'd try and distinguigh between Scottish (Boyd, Robson and Halliday) and non-Scottish (Flood, Killen) players first before doing your one sentence thing. Just as well you didn't do the blog eh!?! You struggle with facts.

    And in case you are wondering there are only 6 Scots in the Boro squad and in the Boro sides to date only 3 have featured in the first team at any one time.

  • Comment number 70.

    "i have not seen Middlesborough this season. We are having similar issues at Bristol City.
    We did notice however that when we brought Scottish Internationals down to Bristol. MacCallister, Hartley, Clarkson and even Johnson the managers son they were all off the pace of Championship football."

    McAllister was a reserve player at a mid-table Hearts side, Clarkson was a mundane player at Motherwell and Johnson, again, was a Hearts reserve and only played a handfull of times. And Johnson is English. And none of these players are Scotland internationals.

    Hartley was a decent player but was clearly past his best at Celtic, let alone by the time he joined Bristol City.

    People can be nostalgic for Southgate all they want, but he took you down with a squad which included numerous international players. I think Strachan can turn it around, but time will tell. He did a good job at Southampton and Celtic, and generally so at Coventry too despite one poor season.

  • Comment number 71.

    As A sky blue fan I am fed up with all the blame for our demise being laid at the (little) feet of WGS. As a player he single handedly kept us in the Premier League towards the end of his first season in his late thirties. As manager when he took over from Big Ron he kept us up on the last day of the season against all odds. He then went on to build an excellent team with the likes of Keane, Huckerby , Dublin ,Hadji Boateng , McCallister to name but a few. Had he not been forced to sell those players it would have been a different story. As for our financial plight, that boils down to the people running our club. What happened to the money we received for all those players?

    Post 36

    At Celtic WGS is the 2nd most successful manager in the clubs history (more so than MON) leading to the last 16 of the champions league on 2 occasions working on a reduced budget.Could you do that with one hand tied behind your back?

    Some of the Celtic fans did not take to him because he was not "Celtic minded" whatever that means or because he used to beat them on a regular basis as an Aberdeen player.

    Ask any Southampton fan and I am sure they would say he is a decent manager.

    Things have not gone well for WGS at Middlesbrough and my gut feeling is that that is a club whose problems go a lot deeper than the manager.

  • Comment number 72.

    I fully agreed with Strachan's observations last season (soft underbelly, leaking late goals, lack of fitness, fight and, particularly, leaders on the pitch). These had been problems throughout the Southgate years and I was delighted we now had a manager who was acknowledging these obvious faults.

    It's what has happened since that I take issue with. If anything, these problems are even more apparent in the current squad than in the players he inherited. It's looking like even the better SPL players are not of Championship standard and the result is a 'fundamentally flawed' squad.

    However, in my opinion, the malaise is much deeper and longer term than anything to do with Strachan or Scots players. Looking back over the last 15 years, it seems to me that Gibson set out on a strategy that didn't work and was never going to work.

    He thought that, with an injection of big money, he could catapult Boro into the big time. With top players, trophies and glamourous football, he thought there would be a groundswell of support, helped by sponsorship, that would make the club self-financing thereafter.

    The shock struck when the pinnacle finally came into sight. Having achieved the dream of European football, the attendances were dire. How many people realise we averaged crowds of only 22,800 in our two EUFA seasons? And that was at a time when league attendances were over 30.000! OK, so none of us had heard of Litex Lovech - but 9,436 attendance?!? Even for the last-16 game against Sporting Lisbon, only 23,000 turned up.

    I believe it was then that Gibson belatedly realised he was working with a sow's ear and the best he could hope for was a better-than-average sow's ear. I offer the 'Tesside will eventually get the club it can afford' comment as evidence of this realisation. The appointment of Southgate was further evidence: cheap, malleable and didn't have the clout to demand financial backing.

    Since 2006, we have suffered from a strategy of retrenchment. This has been greatly exacerbated by economic decline on Teesside, lousy managerial appointments and some dreadful player recruitment. Most of all, the issue is one of anti-climactic disillusionment - we suppoters finally had a taste of paradise and then had it snatched away.

  • Comment number 73.

    What's gone wrong at 'boro? Two words: Gordon Strachan

  • Comment number 74.

    It really bugs me when people, like 'Someone Less Imaginative Stole My Username' criticise Boro's attendances. Below are the average attendances for the 7 seasons up until Southgates relegation season. Doesn't look like it was half empty to me, yet we always took flak about this - even though clubs like Wigan's ground hads lots more empty seats.

    Yes attendances have dipped sharply in the last couple of seasons, this is an area with high unemployment and a team that has served up some truly dreadful football lately. So I suggest getting your facts right before claiming fans only ever turned up for United or Liverpool.

    Season Attendance
    2002–03 31,025
    2003–04 30,398
    2004–05 32,012
    2005–06 28,463
    2006–07 26,092
    2007–08 26,657
    2008–09 28,428

  • Comment number 75.

    Understanbly, some of the contibutors (presumably Scottish) have made very prickly comments about 'lazy analysis' in blaming the standard of the SPL. Quite rightly, they point out that many of Strachan's signings were hardly top players in Scotland. On the other hand, several are Scotland regulars and Boyd is the all-time record SPL scorer . . .

    There sems to be a belief that there's a prevailing anti-Scottish football prejudice - sorry, it's just not that important. Personally, I remember the days of skillful, cultured Scots players in English football (Charlie Cooke, Gilzean, Dalglish, Strachan) with a smattering of warriors (MacKay, Souness) and look back on that era with nostalgia.

    No, if you want a benchmark of the SPL standard, even a cursory examination of European results reveals its dire state. What we hadn't appreciated was just how much it had declined. Surely their players are good enough for this mediocre Championship?

  • Comment number 76.

    "Especially when there is no stand out team in the Championship and the quality of football is pretty low."
    Apart from QPR of course who really gave you a proper going over at ours this season. We were surprised at how bad you lot were and Strachan looked completely devoid of ideas. I would suggest that his gamble on tough nuts from North of the border has not worked and that you need something a little more than that in this league. Think of the teams that have gone up and recently all have had a nice blend of grit and skill and surely we all go to football to be entertained??

  • Comment number 77.

    I am a Celtic fan and believe Gordon Strachan was one of the best managers we have had in the modern era. Whereas MON spent millions on established Premiership players, Strachan was forced to rely on a good scouting network and other SPL clubs. For example Chris Sutton cost £6 million alone whereas Strachan's whole transfer budget the year after narrowly losing to the eventual CL winners in the 06-07 season was reportedly £8 million. He brought on McGeady to the standard of being worth £10 million despite their personal difficulties and revitalised Maloney to become Celtic's best player in the 05-06 season.

    Although his transfer record has always been iffy at best and this has continued at Boro, he did manage to bring in some great players to Celtic such as a pre-injury Magic Zurawski, the brilliant Artur Boruc, Vennegoor Of Hesselink, McDonald, Robson, Hartley, Hinkel, Roy Keane and of course Nakamura. He subsequently qualified Celtic for the last-16 of the CL for 2 years running something which had never been achieved before for a Scottish club, was the first Celtic Manager since the great Jock Stein to win three consecutive league titles and managed to get the team punching above their weight generally. The Tony Mowbray saga says it all about just how good a team Strachan built that it all came crashing down when he left.

    AS for those who say Strachan merely continued MON's good work it should be noted that he inherited a first team squad of only 14 players, a majority of whom were over 30 and had just lost the Club Captain after a contract dispute. O'Neil also had the good fortune of inheriting both Larsson and Moravcik, whilst Strachan had no players of the same match-winning caliber until he bought Nakamura. What Martin O'Neil did for Celtic should never be belittled but Gordon Strachan wasn't half bad either, all things considered.

    On Middlesborough, I'm sure Strachan will get them out of this mess sooner rather than later but tactically they are a mess. He therefore may not be kept long enough to sort it out.

  • Comment number 78.

    Scottish players doing well in the Premiership:

    Barry Ferguson
    Graham Dorrans
    James Morrison
    James McFadden
    Darren Fletcher
    Craig Gordon
    Gary Caldwell
    James McCarthy (born Scottish and SPL trained)
    Christophe Berra
    Steven Fletcher
    Matt Gilks
    Charlie Adam
    Stephen Crainey

    At Championship level:

    Chris Burke
    Gavin Rae
    Kevin McNaughton
    Kris Commons
    Stephen Pearson
    Paul Coutts
    Graham Alexander
    Danny Fox
    Chris Iwelumo
    Ross Wallace
    Don Cowie
    Stephen McGinn
    Chris Porter
    Robbie Neilson
    David Marshall
    Barry Robson

  • Comment number 79.

    #76 - I wouldn't know as I didn't attend the game this season, but I was at the 5-1 victory (under Strachan's tutelgae) handed out to QPR at the Loft last December. I do believe that the game was pretty evenly poised during the 1st half (although i accept that objectivity is hard to achieve when supporting opposing sides!)

    I would suggest that the success QPR have enjoyed this season is as much down the quality of the manager (and his ability in getting the team to play for him)as anything else.

  • Comment number 80.

    Don't get me wrong I'm not lamenting Scottish football because its full of Scottish nationals or any other nationality it's just that for a number of reasons, principally financial the current overall standard is not high. My criticism is of Strachan for thinking that signing players from the SPL would improve Boro and lead to promotion contention.

    Keep your kilts on folks!

  • Comment number 81.

    Chin up Boro fans you've got us (Bristol City) coming soon! :(

  • Comment number 82.


    Firstly you don't know what you are talking about. O'Neil played a major role in the Portsmouth side that won promotion to the Premiership in 2003. Arca, another player won promotion with Sunderland in this division in 2005. Wheater, as is the case with many of our young players from the academy, has played on loan at a lower level. No experience of this league? Absolute nonsense. They've played at this level and done it successfully.

    I would shudder at the day when we went down that route of buying players such as Morgan and Hulse. I would rather see us play League 1 football than pay wages to them. The vast majority of sides who go up and more importantly stay up, do so because they have quality not combative spirit. This has been the problem so far for us this season, enough graft and work-rate but nothing in terms of flair or creativity.

    Primarily what Strachan has done has built a solid core of a team but has left it woefully unbalanced. No out and out left-back, no real wingers apart from Kink, no creative midfield player and no experienced goalkeeper. He's had to resort to sticking players out of position and playing inexperienced youth players and as such the whole shape of the team is atrocious and looks like it will concede. No balance, no cohesion, hard to implement a game plan. This is definitely the case when we travel away from home where having that balance and rigid cohesion is paramount. The only point we got away was at Leicester who really should have beat us by about two or three that day.

    With regards to the signings the only bad player Strachan has bought so far imo has been Lee Miller. Robson, MacDonald, Boyd, Kink etc have all been warmly received. Its clear that he is working under forced restraints after the incredible mess that Southgate put us under.

    It also kinda sucks that Jonno Franks got injured at the start of the season. I think this would/should have been the season for him to step up.

    Btw Paul, Digard never captained us - at least not as any type of permanent appointment. Unless 'skipper' is French slang for constantly injured.

  • Comment number 83.

    @62 - You do realise our biggest ever attendance at the Riverside was against Norwich right? Do keep up.

  • Comment number 84.

    As a Celtic fan, it's not really surprising that Strachan is failing at Middlesborough. True he did have a lot of success in Glasgow but it's fair to say that was more down to Rangers falling apart under McLeish and then Le Guen. The football we played under Gordon was horrendous, aimless, baffling rubbish. A seemingly endless series of 10 yard passes that left you wondering if anyone on the pitch had been told any sort of gameplan. His signings also terrible, at one point we had 4 right backs and one left back (Naylor) who he had to play every game, but couldn't pass the ball for love nor money. He also wasted money on players who never got near the first team. Still, at least he's not our problem any more!

  • Comment number 85.

    My criticism is of Strachan for thinking that signing players from the SPL would improve Boro and lead to promotion contention.

    Keep your kilts on folks!
    Apart from Thompson and the ageing Robson he bought cheap fringe players from the SPL.

    As had been said before this blog is 'lazy' journalism which displays a real ignorance of the Scottish leagues and these players. Paul should really stick to commenting on the Championship.

    And keep going with the Morris Dancing!

  • Comment number 86.

    Aarfy_Aardvark wrote:

    "@51 Firstly you don't know what you are talking about."

    All entitled to an opinion buddy, that's what makes this blog & comments so interesting! Lighten up.

    Anyway, I didn't say they had no experience of this level - I said they didn't have ENOUGH experience of this level. Wheater's 1 match on loan at Wolves (as a sub) does not count as enough. Gary O'Neil & Julio Arca have both played plenty of games in the Championship, but those two (plus perhaps Coyne & on-loan Kilgallon) does not constitute enough experience for me.

    And perhaps Morgan & Hulse are bad examples, but hopefully you get my drift.

    I completely agree with you though that there is a solid basis of a decent squad there, it just desperately needs the addition of a little guile & balance. WGS bought Nakamura & Maloney at Celtic, it is this sort of player required to add something extra to Boro.

    As for a left-back, what happened to the boy Taylor?

  • Comment number 87.

    As a Leeds fan I have to revere what Strachan did for us when he came in the twilight of his career (with his bananas). It is apparent he cannot manage - the Celtic experience was excrutiating for the fans where he fell out with many of the players and seemed jealous of McGeady particularly. I got fed up of the supposedly funny quips to the press which were essentially assinine in my opinion. I felt that Steve Gibson's appointment of Strachan was another bad one - which is a shame as all clubs would want a committed fan like Gibson. However, his list of picking the wrong man is legion and I feel sorry for him. Strachan out asap before he does more damage but the next manager will have a problem shifting all the dead wood he has brought to the club.

  • Comment number 88.

    Strachan has not fulfilled his potential since he took over at Middlesborough. However, he is undoubtedly a great manager. He has underestimated the Championship. He should not been seen as an awful manager just because of one job. He had a great few years at Celtic (coming from an Aberdeen fan)and they would still be at the top of the Premiership if he hadn't left.

  • Comment number 89.

    I don't wish to defend the SPL. I think the standard of football in the SPL is poor and declining with every season that passes.
    However, linking Boro's bad start to the season to the standard of the SPL just doesn't make sense when the starting line up so far this season has averaged 3 former SPL players.
    How does that logic reconcile with Blackpool's promotion last season featuring 3 players who didn't make the grade in the SPL - Charlie Adam, Stephen Crainey and Stephen Dobbie. Is Blackpool's promotion symbolic of a resurgence in Scottish football? No, and neither is Boro's start to the season symbolic of the decline in Scottish football.
    Most of us would rather have Barry Robson, Kevin Thomson and Scott MacDonald in our teams over Adam, Crainey and Dobbie. However, it's down to the manager to set the team up in the right way and create the right spirit in the dressing room. This is where Boro would seem to be falling down at present - eg. Boyd and MacDonald aren't a strike partnership, they're too similar and one of them needs to play alongside someone more mobile.
    Incidentally, while the standard of the SPL is poor, there are a few very good players in the league and many decent players. #78 mentioned a few Scottish players but there have been plenty other non Scottish SPL players who've had success in England in recent years - for example, Carlos Cuellar, Stilyan Petrov, Jason Scotland, Noel Hunt, Roman Bednar and Patrick Kisnorbo.

  • Comment number 90.

    Very simple answer: we have no good wide players. Poor wingers and poor full-backs. He has signed far too many central midfielders, and has been forced to play central players out wide as a result. You can't play 4-4-2 without proper wide men. When you do you're left with the stodgy, unimaginative and unsuccessful football we're now playing. Throw in the lack of a genuine playmaker and we've got a team of slow-paced grafters who aren't supplying chances to a lazy front man.

  • Comment number 91.

    All these comments about 'how this is a sad a indictment of how far Scottish football has slumped' is such a poor analysis of Middlesbrough's plight, and smacks of arrogance. Yes quite a few of the players Strachen has signed have been disapointing so far...however to say that is an indictment of Scottish football is nonsense. There are lots of players who have come from the Scottish leagues and made it in the championship...If I remember correctly last season two of the best midfielders in the championship, Charlie Adam and Dorrans, were Scots. Ross Mckormack was top scorer in the championship 2 years ago with 23 goals in his first season for Cardiff... barely got 10 goals for Motherwell the season before. Did that suddenly make the championship a mickey mouse league??

  • Comment number 92.

    Any suggestion that Boros poor form is a damning indictment of the state of Scottish football is patently ridiculous for a number of reasons.

    1) Any team with a major over haul is going to go through a period of transition.

    2) One of the biggest signings, Kevin Thomson, has a long term injury and hasn't contributed.

    3) Some of the players signed were just not very good, not even in Scotland. Celtic were quite happy to get rid of Flood and McManus.

    4) If you're not going to give Boyd chances he won't score.

    It's baffling som are linking the failure of Middlesborough to Scottish football. Steven Fletcher was a fairly decent player at Hibs - with a considerable inferior scoring record to Boyd - and yet flourished in the Premiership. McCarthy, McArthur and Caldwell made the move to Wigan straight from the SPL.

    Players like Adam, Burke and McCormack were average in the SPL and yet flourished in the Championship whilst for years Dorrans and Snodgrass were squad players at Livingston in the first division.

    As well as the vast anecdotal evidence, two Scottish teams have reached European finals in the last decade. An amazing record that far surpasses all nations of similar size, and is higher than the number of finalists produced by the likes of Belgium and Denmarkand I believe it is on a par with the Netherlands, France and Russia. Scottish football is criminally underrated.

  • Comment number 93.

    The quality of the SPL is not dropping every season, in the last decade we had two finalists and in the 90s we produced none.

    Scottish football is improving.

  • Comment number 94.

    I am not in the least surprised at Gordon Strachan's failure. He was a failure at Coventry and was mightily relieved when he walked through the 'out' door. He was OK at Southampton and obviously at Celtic, but who wouldn't be?

    At Middlesbrough he has returned, along with his ex Coventry coaching staff, to a style of mismanagement bordering on incompetence. Strachan was certainly a great player, but clearly does not have the brain power to be a good, long term football manager. I have always been impressed by Steve Gibson. Quite why he appointed Gordon Strachan is something he probably asks himself every single day.

  • Comment number 95.

    post 94

    He was OK at Southampton and obviously at Celtic, but who wouldn't be?
    How about Tony Mowbray and John Barnes for starters and although the Celtic faithful hate to admit it, Strachan had a better record than MON and on a smaller budget....FACT!

  • Comment number 96.

    Judging from many of the comments, it would seem that part of the reason why Scottish football is so bad is because nobody up there even knows it is bad so they could start to do something with it.
    Gordon Strachan bought Wilo Flood to be one of the key players in his team in a push for promotion from the Championship even though Wilo could not get near a start for Celtic. This shows very poor judgement on the part of Gordon. Wilo managed only a relatively small number of games in the Championship in 3 years when at Cardiff.
    I saw Wilo play for the Ireland under 17 team. At that time his skill was enough to enable him to cope with guys who were much bigger but I fear that his small physical stature makes it very hard for him to be competitive in high level professional football.

  • Comment number 97.

    And you could add Lou Macari, Kenny Dalglish and Liam Brady.

    Mowbray with a decent record in England was an unmitigated disaster at Celtic. And WGS' record at Celtic was better than MON on less money despite the latter having Lubo and Larsson at the club. WGS still had the benefit of having McGeady and Naka both of whom were so often his saviours.

    Reading some of the above posts it seems that WGS has failed to adequately replace Downing and Adam Johnson. WGS is very good on the TV at tactical analysis in matches but he's a rigid 4-4-2 and needs wingers.

  • Comment number 98.

    at #69...apologies...I meant Scottish League players.

    As for you defending Scottish players (never though defend and Scottish would be in same sentence), Scotland's best player is 40 years old.

    If the SPL clubs came to play in a proper league then Celtic and Rangers would be top half of Championship, Hearts and Hibs top of League One, Aberdeen and Dundee United mid table league one and the rest would be playoffs in League Two. 80% of the rest of Scottish clubs would be below the Blue Square Premier.

    Scotland should stick to sports they do best...caber tossing and curling.

  • Comment number 99.

    Will people please learn how to spell "Middlesbrough"?

  • Comment number 100.

    Scotlands best player is not 40 years old. Bizarrely enough, Scotlands best player is a regular at one of the largest clubs in the world.

    This Rangers side that recently reached a European final and has 4 points out of 6 in the CL would be a championship side?

    Scotland had an advanced footballing rule book before anyone else, football is a Scottish sport and anything else is merely an incarnation of that.


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