Well, that was a week that was.
It had it all- heroes and villains, late home pain and away day joy, some scrapping and a sacking.
Here’s the story of Boro’s amazing week in seven chapters:
1.Clatt’s A Free Kick Surely
Five minutes into injury time and Boro are on the brink of beating Blackburn to go joint top of the Championship.
All they need to do is see out a last minute Blackburn corner and the job is done. As the cross comes in Blackburn’s Shane Duffy climbs all over Ben Gibson to head the ball while Rovers’ sub Chris Brown barges Dimi Konstantopoulos in the back knocking him to the ground. The ball falls to Rudy Gestede who fires home.
Amazingly, demoted Premier league referee Mark Clattenburg misses both fouls and also a possible handball and the goal stands. An awful decision.
Boro fans were livid but can take some comfort in the fact that if we do get promoted it is highly unlikely the increasingly discredited North East whistle-blower will be officiating any of our games.
2. Aitor Kar-ban-ka
In the wake of Clattenburg’s howler we witnessed that rarest of sights, Aitor Karanka losing his cool and doing something stupid.
Karanka doesn’t do stupidity. If it’s not professional, calculated and thought through it’s not on his radar, yet post Clattengate he pushed the fourth official and faces a lengthy touchline ban.
It was uncalled for, unprofessional and most unlike him….. and I absolutely loved it.
For perhaps the first time we saw a bit of raw passion from our Basque Tactician. He reacted to the silly smirking of an overpaid petty official in a way we’ve all wanted to do. AK may have blotted his copybook but he enhanced his reputation with the fans.
3. Higgy, Pop!
The biggest shock of the week was the sudden departure of assistant coach Craig Hignett.
He had a serious run in with the ruthless Karanka and in those circumstances there’s only one outcome; the bloke who isn’t Karanka leaves.
It’s sad to lose a real Boro hero and a genuine guy but was his role that crucial ? Is an assistant manager all that important in a regime where the head coach has such a determined focus and attention to detail. Moreover, hasn’t Leo Percovich been de facto Karanka’s second in command and main sounding board – they share a common language and football identity after all.
Higgy’s exit could turn out to be the focus for resentment and a cipher for abandonment of our club’s heritage. It’s far more likely to be an untimely stumble on a journey to better times.
4. Don’t Take Him For Grant-ed
Midweek and things began to look up with the announcement that skipper Grant Leadbitter had signed a new contract until summer 2018.
It was smart PR on the club’s part to rush this out thus mitigating post-Higgy chuntering.
Grant deserves the new deal. He’s been the standout performer in a good team, topping the goals and assists chart. It’s more than that though, he’s the heartbeat of the team and the embodiment of all that Karanka holds dear. Nobody presses like he does, he’s always available to receive a pass and everyday he’s striving to compete and improve; he’s never satisfied.
Grant’s AK’s perfect captain and our best since Southgate retired.
5. Sweet on Jelle
Ah Jelle Vossen – a typical Boro story in the making.
The scouting team’s “must get” European star was pursued with admirable diligence by the club over umpteen transfer windows. Eventually he arrived courtesy of a substantial loan fee, the final piece of the promotion jigsaw. And then…..well………….. not much. Sharp, hardworking , good link up play but……….. no goals.
A waste of time! Send him back to HMP Genk! He’s an Alves from Brussells, just with more muscles!
You should know by now that Karanka doesn’t do typical Boro and at Millwall the real Jelle finally arrived … and how. A sublime chip for his first goal follwed by two tidy finishes meant a hat-trick with 10 minutes of the first half still remaining. Stunning stuff. Although I am getting a trifle sick of the dessert based puns.
6. Hail Glorious St Patrick.
He’s young, good-looking, an ex-public schoolboy, bright and he plays for Chelsea. I have every reason to despise Patrick Bamford.
The reason I don’t is that he is a fine footballer who is proving a very shrewd loan signing.
After a mixed start Bamford has blossomed, adding a work ethic and strength on the ball to his already substantial talents. He was our best player against Blackburn and very good in the mauling of Millwall.
He’s totally bought into Karanka’s vision and has praised the level of intensity in training which he says is better than at any loan club he’s been to.
Both Chelsea and Boro are making the right noises about extending his loan till the end of the season. If he continues his current form that deal could be the difference between automatic promotion and the play-offs.
7. The Olly and The Ivy
Rent a quote Hobbit extra Ian Holloway has had the Indian sign over Boro for far too long.
His teams have delivered some absolute pastings to us since our relegation from the Premier League.
Remember Charlie Adam running the show in Blackpool’s three nil win five years ago? What about Tom Ince feasting on Friend on Toast in 2012 ? Or Zaha inspired Palace taking us apart in 2013 ?
We’d never beaten a Holloway managed team – until Saturday. All the pre-match talk from the Middle Earth dweller was about how Millwall were going to take the game to us with a new formation and start quickly,not letting us play.
After 35 minutes we were four nil up and Olly’s grand master plan was in tatters, his tactical errors cruelly exposed by buoyant Boro.
Afterwards Holloway described the drubbing as “his worst day in football” ………….Good.
An incident packed week of what is turning out to be an enthralling season. Next up is a home game against leaders Derby followed by a visit to second placed Ipswich Town. Short of Mrs Karembeu returning to model the kit I don’t think I could be more excited.