Well done against Leeds.

I WAS delighted with the superb result against Leeds.

It was a really spirited show from the team, the side looked much better balanced with everyone in their natural position and Curtis Main sealed with a fantastic goal.

I’m delighted for the fans who saw their side dig in and show real spirit to end the wobble by beating Leeds on Teesside for the first time in decades.

The last victory over the Yorkshire rivals was so long ago that I played in it!

And the fans deserved that big result and big atmosphere after a couple of disappointing games at the Riverside.

I’m delighted that it has ended Boro’s slump and slide down the table and put them back in the play-off reckoning.

But most of all I’m delighted for Tony Mowbray because it is a big result that will take a lot of undeserved heat of him.

Poor Mogga came in for a lot of flak during the five game losing run and dear me, some of it was well over the top.

Some of the criticism was just this side of hysterical. A few defeats and some people lose all sense of perspective. It’s all doom and gloom.

I heard it on the Legends. I read it on the message boards and blogs. I got it from people who stopped me and spoke to me in the shops and streets.

That’s not to say supporters can’t criticise. Of course they can. They are passionate and they care about their club.

And hey, I run a phone-in show and it would be a dull affair if the fans weren’t allowed to get things that are bugging them off their chest

And if things are wrong at the club – one or off the pitch – then you are right to criticise.

Look at me. I criticise Boro. If something is wrong in the team or at the club then I am going to call it as I see it even if it upsets people. I have criticised Mogga. I have criticised the chairman. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong at all with supporters having an opinion.

But hey, you have to be realistic about your opinions.

And for me, Boro fans who have been calling for Mogga’s head, that’s not realistic. For me that’s just absurd.

People have to remember that even when Boro were having their wobble they were still in the play-off spots, still in the promotion scrap. The bad run was disappointing, it was painful and at times it was rank bad but it wasn’t a crisis.

A crisis was what the club was in when Mogga arrived!

Remember, under Gordon Strachan the team was a mess and it was heading towards relegation to League One.

Mogga has come in has done an incredible job to turn that around, to trim and tidy the squad and get us at the right end of the Championship table while selling players and slashing the wage bill.

People have to remember that before he could even start to think about building his own team he had to clear up the mess left by others.

Gareth Southgate and Gordon Strachan were allowed to go shopping in Harrods and they wasted millions and made a mess of the club and we are still paying for it now.

Mogga has had to shop in Netto and dig around in the bargain bin but he still done a far better job than them.

Given his restrictions Mogga has done a remarkable job in reshaping the squad.

People complain and say that he has bought rubbish players, that it is “his squad now.”

But hey, this isn’t the squad that Mogga would have chosen. It is not the squad he would have now if he had half the money to spend that the previous managers had.

This isn’t the squad he wants, it is the squad he can afford – and he’s doing wonders with it.

I’ve been looking through the squad over the time he has been here. Not including the Academy lads he has had 30 players to deal with and most of them were inherited.

He has personally brought in 14 and of those he has only paid a fee for three: £100,000 for George Friend, an undisclosed fee of about £200,000 for Mustapha Carayol and £1.6m for Lukas Jutkiewicz.

They are three good players at this level and among the best performers thsi season.

The rest of his players are free transfers or loans. He didn’t cherry pick those. He’s working with what he can get.

So it is wrong to slate him for that. People always say you can’t judge a manager until you see him get his own team out. Mogga is nowhere near being able to do that yet.

He has done a great job as far as the suits are concerned. On the business side of the club no-one can fault him.

And despite that he is doing a good job on the pitch too. The team is not yet the finished product but he’s getting there.

So before people go over the top after a couple of bad results they should remember all that. Criticise, yes. But keep it in perspective.

********

JASON Steele played his 100th league match against Leeds.

That is a brilliant achievement and puts him up among Boro’s senior players.

It feels like he has been around for years but he is still playing for the England Under-21s.

I think he is a terrific keeper who is growing in stature and for me, he is right up there among the best in this division – and he has time on his side so he’s only going to get better.

He could easily go on to be the replacement we never had for Mark Schwarzer, the keeper who dominates between the sticks for a decade.

He was heavily criticised at the start when he first came in and that was harsh.

He was only a teenager then thrown in out of necessity and he made all his mistakes in the glare of publicity when most young keepers make their on loan well out of the way on loan at a lower league club.

But he learned quickly and for me he has been one of the best and most improved players in the last few years.

He has made some unbelievable saves. He has won countless points for Boro. At times it has looked like he was taking teams on single-handed.

He is a superb shot-stopper, he’s brave coming out and when he adds a bit of experience he will start to command his box and take control of the defence more.

Yes, he took a lot of stick from some fans on Saturday against Barnsley and people pointed the finger at him for Barnsley’s two second half goals.

But for me, you have to look at what is happening in front of him. That’s usually where the fault lies when goals flew in.

But for the first a long throw from Rory Delap sailed into the box without anyone attacking it. And no one can say they didn’t expect it. It is what Delap is on the pitch for.

And the other one, the winner, yes he slipped and gave away the free-kick but he should never have had to deal with that back-pass. Seb Hines should have just hoofed it over the Transporter.

I’m amazed that he still gets stick after what he’s shown since he broke through.

It’s great that he’s clocked up 100 games – let’s hope he is here to celebrate 200, 300 and more because believe me, big clubs will be watching him and one way or the other he will end up in the Premier League. Let’s hope it is with Boro.

******

THE CLEAN sheet against Leeds was important and should be a massive boost to the morale at the back.

Confidence must have been very low after shipping seven goals to two teams in the bottom four – and against two of the lowest scorers in the division as well.

That was disastrous to the team. Has got to hurt your pride if you are in that unit.

And there can be no excuses, they will know that. The performances by the back line in both games was terrible.

Now Boro have stopped the rot with the first clean sheet since before Christmas they have to build on it with more. Blanks have to become a habit.

And that means they have to find some consistency. Not just in performances but also in selections.

Part of the problem at the back is the constant chopping and changing from game to game, in personnel and shape.

Have we turned out the same back four two games running? I don’t think so. That is a real problem for Mogga.

A defensive unit has to be given time to settle and gel. They have to learn how each other play, they have to have time to develop a telepathic understanding. Especially the centre-backs. And Mogga will know that more than most.

But you can’t get that when Jonathan Woodgate is in and out, when Andre Bikey is playing alongside him one week then Seb Hines the next. Or Rhys Williams. Or even Nicky Bailey one occasion.

And the full-back positions too. We had a problem when George Friend was out and Justin Hoyte, Stuart Parnaby and Andy Halliday were slotted uncomfortably in there.

And at right-back there has been a problem while Hoyte has been crocked with Williams and Bailey played there as makeshifts ahead of Parnaby who is a specialist.

That’s crazy. Mogga needs to settle on his best back four and, injuries apart, play it week in, week out.

You can tinker in midfield and up front, change your tactics a bit, move players around a touch to get the best out of the shape and the squad.

But not at the back. The defence is the foundation of the team and has to be rock solid. It underpins everything.

If Mogga wants more clean sheets – and he does – he needs to get the defence sorted. And stick with it.

***

THE Legends show, with my fellow broadcasters Micky Horswill and Malcolm Macdonald, is now back on air across the North-east, from 6pm-8pm Monday to Friday.
On Teesside, you can listen to us on 104.5FM via Community Voice FM, but we are on air in other regions via Star Radio, Koast Radio, Hartlepool FM and NE1 FM.

Thanks to Evening Gazette.

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