The Boro View
Q. The last time we met, Palace won at the Riverside. Perhaps you could share your thoughts on the game?
Well it was definitely a disappointing result for us, given those general football cliches that you need to win at home and you need to beat the teams around you. It was actually our first league defeat of the season and maybe brought with it the feeling of coming back down to earth after promotion and the sobering feeling that the Premier League might not be a walk in the park! I remember being disappointed on the day and thinking that on another day it could have easily swung our way, but our back line clearly wasn’t at its best as we are usually pretty tight.
Q. How has the season gone for you since then?
Since then it’s been a bit up and down – we’ve gone on a decent FA Cup run but all attention is really on our position at the foot of the league, sitting just above the drop zone. I’m hoping this season doesn’t have hallmarks of 1997 where we went to Wembley but also got relegated! We’ve put in some great performances this season but it hasn’t always shown in terms of results and points, which is worrying. We have the best goal difference in the bottom half of the table but we are barely hitting the back of the net which is a real talking point at Boro. A disappointing January transfer window has also caused rumblings of discontent but we just have to crack on and work with what we’ve got.
Q. Is Aitor Karanka the man to take the club forward?
I absolutely believe that he is – he’s a bit of a funny character and many fans have found themselves annoyed by his perceived stubbornness or maybe his ‘negative’ approach to games. I understand what he is trying to do, which is to set up a team for long-term success and to always build from the back. It’s no surprise that Boro have a pretty impressive back line given that Karanka used to work with Jose Mourinho and was an accomplished defender himself. Some may think that he needs to pay more attention to his strike force, but he is never going to switch his focus like that. You must think that there is plenty of sway in the popular argument that some of the best teams in the world (at least in Spain) set themselves up in a very defensive manner, too. And of all of the British football chairmen, I can’t think of anyone more likely than Boro’s Steve Gibson to put faith in a manager and offer him a large number of years to fulfill his strategy.
Q. How do you feel the club did in the January transfer window and were all needs addressed?
I think I’d be speaking for most Boro fans when I say that there was an air of disappointment when the window closed. Many were disgruntled that Karanka appeared to ignore our striker Jordan Rhodes, rarely giving him a chance to prove himself, before shipping him out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday. Alvaro Negredo hasn’t really set the world alight in terms of notching up goals so it did seem an odd choice not to try with Rhodes, given his proven goal scoring record. That said, we did bring in two other strikers, Rudy Gestede and former Boro loan star Patrick Bamford, but both are currently what you might call ‘Championship quality’ and don’t immediately seem the type to really propel us forward to league survival.
Q. Do you think the standard of refereeing is getting worse and if so, how can it be improved?
Actually, I’d say that it’s getting better! I realise that there is an increased focus on officials these days, with the notion of ‘celebrity
referees’ and the amount of analysis coming from pundits. However, I’m a bit old-fashioned when we come around to discussions about the likes of goal line technology. I feel like one of football’s greatest attributes is the element of unpredictability and even human error, and I would hate to see those lost from the game in favour of maths and certainty. Sure, bad decisions do go against your team from time to time but I’d like to hope that they even themselves out across the course of time.
Q. With Chelsea looking likely to win the title, who do you think will be the three to go down?
This is tough, and something I’m changing my mind on an hourly basis! Obviously I’m desperately hoping that Boro can make the grade. I think it’d be good for North East football in general to have all three teams in the top flight but I also really hope that Sunderland don’t pull off another of their great escapes. The downfall of Leicester is starting to look very interesting and Bournemouth have also hit the rocks lately. So much will change again before that last day, but I’ll go with Sunderland, Hull and Bournemouth to drop.
Q. What is your view on the decision to appoint Sam Allardyce as the new Palace manager?
I do feel like it’s a bit of a short-termist one from Palace, although you can’t argue with Allardyce’s CV in terms of getting this type of job done before. Whether or not he’s got it in him to win round the fans and rally the troops will just be another test of his patented management style. If you do stay up, I can’t see Big Sam being the man to move you on from there.
Q. Name one Boro player that we should watch out for?
For all of our opponents this season it has been Adama Traore – the winger is an absolute speed sensation! While his final output might not be best, his pace is devastating and players just can’t get near him so he always has the potential to cause some trouble.
It’s such a tough call and I think it will be a cagey affair from the off with neither team wanting to concede goals – I’m going to go with 1-1.
Q. And finally, the floor is yours to promote what you do along with any projects that you are working on.