Guest Blog – Chris Newton

Welcome to the first monthly guest blog, never thought I’d get this up and running and Chris will tell you I’ve bugged him to get it going.

I introduce to you, Mr Chris Newton, aged 25, avid Middlesbrough and Barcelona football fan, huge Cricket, Boxing and American Football fan amongst other sports.

Take it away Chris……

Where did it all go wrong?

Wednesday 10thMay 2006, Philips Stadion, Eindhoven.  Middlesbrough has come to a complete standstill for the biggest and most high profile games in the long history of one English footballs oldest clubs.

Monday 11thMay 2009, St James’ Park, Newcastle.  A 3-1 defeat all but condemns Middlesbrough to relegation from the Premiership and life in the dangerous minefield of the Coca-Cola Championship.

Of course, relegation is nothing new to any seasoned Boro fan, but the common feeling around the town is one of frustration and confusion as to how the club have gone from such heights in 2006 to the impending brink of oblivion in just 3 years.

The easy thing to do would be to blame Steve Gibson for appointing as new manager somebody who had absolutely no management or even coaching experience to replace the departing manager.  Or even to blame that man, Gareth Southgate, for dismantling what was unquestionably a winning team and replacing it with one a pale shadow of it.

That would be too predictable and easy though.  The problems were much deeper set than that, and this has been encapsulated by the amount Southgate has been asked to cut the wage bill in such a short spell. 

To replace players of the calibre, and wages, who have departed in this period is impossible when it is glaringly obvious the club cannot afford to pay the wages it has in the past.

Maybe the problems started with the Carling Cup victory in 2004.  That isn’t to belittle that achievement, because it truly was a historical and never to be forgotten day, especially for those who were inside the Millennium Stadium. 

But what happened that day was that expectations were raised inside every Boro fan.  And it easy to forget that a decent percentage of Boro fans these days only came onto the scene in the Robson years and when the Riverside Stadium was built, so didn’t see 1986, or weren’t used to years and years of mediocrity outside the top flight.

This sense of inflated expectation was reinforced the following season when Boro finished 7th in the Premiership, only 6 points off a Champions League place and 3 behind eventual European champions Liverpool.  An astonishing achievement for a club who were hours from going out of existence 20 years earlier

But in the UEFA Cup final season, the season after the 7thplace finish, the cracks were beginning to appear.  The big signings had stopped, and an already ageing squad continued to pull away from the age of 30 together. 

This was a season which saw Boro suffer their heaviest ever Premiership defeat, 7-0 at Highbury, and also the sad sight of a fan invade the pitch and throw his season ticket at Steve McClaren at home to Villa in February.

Looking back now, whilst it was great at the time, the runs to the UEFA Cup final and Carling Cup final certainly did paper over the cracks of a football club living beyond its means. 

The finger can be pointed at Steve Gibson and Keith Lamb, but only for chasing a dream that, lets face it, as the rich get richer, is further away than ever for any club outside of the big 4. 

And the blame for this can be put solely at the door of Sky Sports.  But that is an entirely different argument for another day…

Whilst it’s easy to point the finger at the way the club is run and say we have meekly accepted relegation this season, and some of the noises coming from the club don’t exactly contradict this, have a think about this as a final thought: in the bottom two divisions of English football next season there will be 6 teams who have played in the Premiership.  

It is worth wondering how many of these teams were always “chasing” financially, not preparing for life outside the top flight.

If Boro are to get relegated, which looks extremely likely at the time of writing, I would be very confident of a fairly swift return.  My reason for this is because while you could point the finger of reason for our impending relegation at cost cutting, it is just that.

You wouldn’t see mass sales, because our financial situation wouldn’t demand it, and that should ensure a fairly immediate return.  Just look at Birmingham this season, they kept the majority of their relegation squad because their financial position allowed them to, and they have bounced straight back.

Cheers, Chris

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