Wembley Woes.

On Monday I was proud to be a former player and a fan of Middlesbrough Football Club.
The atmosphere,scenes and noise amongst a sea of red and white was incredible, it made me immensely proud to live on Teesside.
The game itself unfortunately passed us by.
The phrase used by every Boro fan I met after the game was, “We didn’t turn up.”
Since the final whistle, I have not read a paper or listened to national radio.
I was absolutely gutted, not for the team or myself, or the fair weather fans, that made their first away trip of the season to Wembley. I was gutted for all our loyal hardcore fans including my two sons and Chairman Steve Gibson.
When the second goal went in I felt like crying for them.
On the day we had no zip or zest, we looked lethargic and heavy legged. There was a lack of spark throughout the team. The amount of square balls we played was infuriating it looked like we had half a dozen Ray Wilkins in the team.Every time Lee Tomlin picked the ball up he was in his own half and he either played it square or gave it away. Bamford barely got a touch and looked way off pace due to injury, the gamble of playing him never paid off.
The first goal conceded was schoolboy stuff.
Ayala got robbed of the ball,stood complaining instead of continuing to defend and then Dimi left a gap as big as The Thames between himself and the right hand post.

Two goals conceded in a five minute period knocked the stuffing out of us and even the most ardent,blinkered sycophantic Boro fan could not see a way back.

I was quoted months ago in my Gazette article saying that goals would get us promoted as opposed to our defensive qualities and so it has proved.
Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich have confirmed that.

Bringing in two defenders, a midfielder in the month of January and no forwards for me was a massive gamble and a big mistake. We were linked with Jordan Rhodes of course but it did not materialise.
I have said all season fortune favours the brave, but we weren’t brave enough on the big occasion as we witnessed on Monday.

So what now?
The squad will be dismantled
Loanees will head off, a couple may be sold.
So what do we need to be a success next season?
We need Karanka to stay, we need a creative central midfielder,we need a injection of pace and goal scorers that you can hang your hat on this is easier said than done.
We simply have to pick the pieces up and start again.

UTB
Enjoy the summer, get ready for next season.

A Wembley victory would put us on the map for the right reasons.

For me Friday nights battle against Brentford was the biggest game played at The Riverside to date and what a fantastic game and spectacle it was.We totally dominated and dictated the pace of the game and we were driven on by a capacity crowd.
The atmosphere was electric and the Boro players from the off looked in a possessed state of mind. There was only going to be one winner and outcome. Scenes at the end were eye watering and the pitch invasion rightly or wrongly added to the occasion. If I could have ran onto the pitch myself without being recognised I would have joined the jubilant thousands.
We can now only hope and pray that we can finish the job off with a victory over Norwich City and a return to the premier league.
We as fans have certainly gone through the emotional wringer in recent weeks.But spare a thought for our loyal Chairman, owner and ardent Boro fan Steve Gibson. He is one game away from an estimated £100 million for the football club. How on earth does he sleep at night? It’s difficult enough for us fans without any responsibilities, if anyone deserves it he does.
To clinch promotion would also be fantastic for the area,it would put us on the map for the right reasons and boost the local economy.
We as a town over recent years have been exploited and ridiculed in the national newspapers and surveys as one of the worst places to live. Outsiders have constantly knocked the town, area and people.
Benefits street on national TV recently exposed the vulnerable and the poor and painted inaccurate pictures of our area. I have always believed that certain people out there regard us up here in the North East as the arsehole of Britain.
Well until they have lived here they will never be able to give a true assessment or judgement. I have been here a total of 30 years so I would like to think I’m in a position to judge. The countryside side is magnificent there are some lovely eateries, the people are warm friendly and passionate and those that are fortunate enough to have jobs are ‘working class heroes’ so to win promotion would not just be profitable for the football club but for the town, area and its down to earth people.

Apologies for very little activity on the site over the last few months. The reason for this is I have been writing my next book about my last 30 years on Teesside it’s a no nonsense hard hitting,warts and all autobiography due out September/ October.

Signed personalised limited edition canvas.

Signed and personalised by Bernie a great Easter gift available in the shop for £30 plus postage. 72cm x 61cm

20150324-114854 AM.jpg

Celebrating 30 years on Teesside(who would have believed it?)

On March 20th 2015, I am celebrating 30 years on Teesside with a night at The Riverside Stadium in the Legends Lounge.
A host of my former team mates will be present.
Former Middlesbrough captain and manager Tony Mowbray returns to The Riverside for the first time since his departure.
On the evening there will be a meal.
I will be doing the guest speaking followed by a no holds barred question and answer session.
100 of my goals will be shown on the big screen.
There will be an auction.
Pictures and autographs with the lads (my former team mates will be welcome).

Arrival 6.30-7pm

Tickets are £40 per person or £360 for a table of 10.

To book please click here for single tickets or here for a table of 10.
bernieslaven.co.uk
Or Email seven.enterprises@hotmail.co.uk

Celebrating 30 years on Teesside.

Celebrating 30 years on Teesside.
I’m holding a dinner in the Legends lounge at The Riverside Stadium on Friday March 20th.
I will be the guest speaker and a host of my former team mates will be present on the night.

Tickets are £40 each or a table of 10 for £360.
For booking please email seven.enterprises@hotmail.co.uk.

No fear going into the New Year.

Aitor Karanka has proved in the year just gone, that he has what it takes to lift us out of the Championship and into the Premier League.
At the start of the season before a ball was kicked I was fortunate enough to be sat alongside Karanka at an event and I found him warm, straight laced, charismatic and funny.
But behind this exterior there is an ultra professional, ruthless, dictator like individual, who stands no nonsense and doesn’t take any prisoners.
I witnessed such credentials when I was managed under Bruce Rioch and looking back it quite clearly worked and the team was successful.
I see similarities not just between Karanka and Rioch, but the team itself, like back in 86 there is a togetherness off and on the pitch. There are no big time Charlie’s the players appreciate the supporters and they celebrate with them when a goal is scored.
The gulf between the club and the fans has closed and both are reaping the rewards.
Karanka recently was quoted as saying everyone at the club is important whether it’s the Chairman, Manager or Tea Lady and that nobody is bigger than the club.
I admired those quotes and I also admired his quotes after the recent Ipswich defeat when he said he was embarrassed, I found it refreshing, no spin, no bull, no propaganda, could you imagine Steve McClaren saying that when he was in charge.
On the field he has a squad who have a great attitude, mental toughness and have a inner belief without being arrogant and cocky.
All over the field there are partnerships blossoming on the left side Friend and Reach, central Gibson and Ayala, Leadbitter and Clayton, on the right Fredericks and Adomah and up front Tomlin and Kike, Vossen and Banford.
The one position I am still concerned about is between the sticks, if Dimi were to get injured, have we an able replacement?
Overall we have a beefed up squad which has proved it’s worth and I see no reason why it can’t continue into the New Year, of course you still need a bit of luck and rub of the green.
Karanka like the team, the club and the fans are in the spotlight and enjoying the attention and thoroughly deserve the plaudits.
Not so long ago I was asked via my Evening Gazette column what mark I would give Karanka between and A and a F, I gave the Spaniard a C.I received a bit of stick via the social network and from some of my ex team mates.
There is no doubting we are heading in the right direction, but my reasoning was that we have won nothing as yet and that dreadful barren run, of ten and a quarter hours or 615 minutes without a goal, the longest run in the clubs 139 year history, cannot just be swept under the carpet.

If Karanka and his team can gain promotion and I EXPECT them to automatically, they will all receive an A+.

Happy New Year to everyone.
UTB.

Lets turn The Riverside into a Fortress.

Fourteen games into the Championship campaign and we are sitting pretty in fifth position,two points off the leaders.I have always believed that twelve or fourteen games into a season, gives you a rough idea as to which direction you are heading, thankfully it is the right one.

Our away form up untill the Wolves game has been terrific, as a unit we are solid, competitive and creative and our set in stone formation works a treat, our counter attack play has also been very impressive on our travels. At home however we continue to huff and puff and at times flatter to deceive. Eleven points out of twenty-one at the Riverside doesn’t make good reading but there is still a long way to go, if we are going to make it back into the promised land (Premier League), it is something that we have to sort out and address.The onus is on us to break the opposition down.To be fair we have scored twelve goals at the Riverside, including four against a poor Brentford outfit.

I have always believed in the saying fortune favours the brave and at home at times, I don’t think we are brave or adventurous enough,we are cautious and hesitant and the formation suits our opposition as much as ourselves.

Lets get this straight I am a fan of Karanka. The people I know within the club rave about his training methods and his overall demeanour . I was in his company for an hour at the start of the season and he came across as bright, intelligent and honest, laced with a bit of charm, I personally like all his traits.

After the Wolves game recently he said publicly that he had got it wrong, referring to the line up, but he did not actually say who or what was wrong.In my humble opinion Tomlin should have definitely started against Wolves, after all he did score his only Championship goal three days earlier against Brighton and yet found himself on the bench. He could have had a slight strain or injury unknown to us, but if he did not, why was he left out?

Scoring a goal gives you a massive personal boost, ignites the fire within and instills a confidence, I can only talk from experience. I can honestly say I can’t recall been left out after I scored a goal, whether we won, drew or lost the game.I have always believed you should be rewarded when you have scored a goal.

On the subject of strikers, despite having Tomlin, Kike, Vossen and Bamford we still lack a fox in the box type striker, a Jonny on the spot, a sniffer, call it what you like.

Against Watford on Saturday the amount of quality balls that went into our opponents box and were not finished off was criminal. I have witnessed that several times at the Riverside this season.

Karanka continues to chop, change and rotate the squad system, I am personally not a fan of this from the outside and certainly would not like it if I was in  the squad, but that is only my opinion. Karankas opinion is the one that counts as he is the manager and up until now, in the main he has got it right, we must congratulate him along with the team for their efforts. Hopefully we can turn the Riverside into a fortress and if we can achieve that we could be looking at a top two finish.

League and Cup double so close.

Saturdays performance at home to Brentford was what the home fans have been craving for a long time, entertainment, excitement, goals, a clean sheet and 3 points.
After an hour it crossed my mind to dial 999 and report a murder taking place at the Riverside.The Championship new boys huffed and puffed, created nothing and totally looked out of their depth. Leadbitter continued his sinsilating form with another fantastic finish and lead by example throughout. On loan spurs defender Ryan Fredericks looked the real deal at right back,obviously it’s only one game but he certainly looked the part and it was great to see Patrick Bamford open his account.

Last night we switched our attention to Capital One Cup action.
Over the years for me the competition has lost a bit of its shine with diminishing crowds, weakened teams and average performances.
Well last night Liverpool v Middlesbrough at Anfield put the shine back into the competition, it had the lot, atmosphere, drama, excitement and just under 42,000 spectators,oh and an extraordinary penalty shoot out.
Each and everyone of the Boro players showed nerves of steel in front of a baying Kop to take their penalties and they all deserve huge praise and credit.
Despite our tremendous efforts, unfortunately we bowed out of the competition.

Now back to league action at Charlton on Saturday, lets hope we can keep our impressive away from going.
Last night Middlesbrough made 6 changes in total from the side that beat Brentford, no doubt Karanka will make more against the Addicks .I have never been a fan of constantly chopping and changing, but so far it’s working a treat.

Apologies for no Bernie does the Boro on Cvfm 104.5 last night, due to extra time and penalty shoot out it was too late.
I will be back this Saturday between 6-7pm so give me a call on 01624 688104.

Sarcastic applause uncalled for.

Saturdays home defeat against a poor Reading side was majorly disappointing to say the least.
On the day we created numerous chances and time after time we failed to convert.
Kike and Co could have played until next Saturday and not scored a goal, a mixture of poor finishing and wrong selection of pass were costly.
We now have a two week break to get our act together and get back on the rails.
I am delighted that Patrick Bamford has finally signed, disappointed that its only till January.
I don’t know much about winger Yanic Wildschut, but lets hope he is a hit.
Signing Ryan Fredericks is important for competition in the right back position, but the biggest scoop of all would be getting the signature of Jelle Vossen.
Going back to the game it wasn’t just the result that was disturbing, the sarcastic applause and the odd boo directed at our first team keeper Mejias every time he collected the ball, in my opinion was uncalled for. It’s quite evident that the Lynch Mob are out to get him after his clangers against Leeds and Sheffield and they won’t be happy until he is dropped.
It’s clear that the Spaniard is lacking in confidence and he looks jittery at every opposing attack. But having a go after 5 or 10 mins into a game is totally uncalled for. It’s either a lack of education or too much alcohol on the fans part.
I have been booed myself on occasions and my own personal mentality was, if you want to pay money to watch me and boo me when I’m having a bad time, carry on, it certainly won’t make me play better.
I don’t know the keepers mindset, but he doesn’t seam to be coping very well.
If I am being brutally honest I am surprised he is our first choice keeper and the longer his confidence drains the more it will filter through the team.In fact the uncertainty is evident now.
I have always believed that the fans pay their hard earned cash and are entitled to air their views whenever they feel like it. But no one has ever convinced me of the benefits of having a go at one of your own team after 5 or 10 minutes into a game.
Its interesting to see that Kei Kamara has had his contract terminated.
I was quoted months ago as saying if he put as much effort into his Middlesbrough career as he did on his twitter account, he would end up one hell of a player. Its quite clear he didn’t take note.

No 1 still up for grabs.

There are three occupations in life I have never considered and in fact I would never do, policeman, referee and goalkeeper. Why? All are difficult jobs, you need to make rash decisions, which can be costly and the majority of people don’t like you, well the first two jobs anyway.
There has been a lot of discussions during and after the game on Saturday against Sheffield Wednesday regarding the Tomas Mejias clanger after 6 mins.
That’s one of the downsides of being between the sticks, you can be isolated for long periods throughout the games and when you boob your isolated even greater and hung,drawn and quartered by the critics.
Mejias made a great save not long after his howler, but everyone forgets that.
If I am being honest I am surprised that Mejias is our first choice keeper.Whenever I have watched him, he has looked nervy, uncomfortable and uncertain, with these deficiencies it causes unrest and uncertainty throughout the side as a defensive unit.
To be fair to the lad, when he joined us on loan last season he only played one game and then dislocated a finger in training and was never seen again that would have knocked his confidence.
I was also surprised that Boro made his loan deal permanent and up until now, four league games in, I have seen nothing as yet to convince me he is the chosen one. Of course it’s still early days and he may turn out to be a top class keeper.
Karanka has defended his under fire keeper saying, “Tomas is strong enough for the championship, he is good enough for Middlesbrough and has a big future here. He is a player who grew up playing for Real Madrid and is a strong character.”
The managers reference towards his signing is glowing and I wouldn’t expect anything else, but actions speak louder than words and two clangers in four league games, puts pressure on both the player and the manager.
As far as I’m concerned we continue to search for a genuine replacement for Mark Schwarzer, who departed to Fulham in 2008. In his six year absence we have had a host of keepers, Ross Turnbull, Brad Jones, Carl Ikeme, Paul Smith, Danny Coyne, Jayson Leutwiler, Shay Given, Jason Steele, Dimi Konstantopoulos and now Tomas Mejias. The only one that stood out for me was Shay Given.

Saturdays performance, especially after the fine start to the season was majorly disappointing. The Sheffield duo of Nuhui and May created havoc and mayhem in the back line,with their movement, hold up play and finishing. I still personally don’t like to see Whitehead and Leadbitter start at the Riverside. Adomah once again was off the boil on the right. Tomlin was caught too many times in possession. Kike was isolated for long periods.
The only bright spark for me was Adam Reach on the left.

Cup action tomorrow against Preston let’s hope we can get back on the rails and progress into the 3rd round.

I will be hosting Legends lounge at the Riverside on Tuesday, my guest will be John Coddington former Middlesbrough first team coach and his son former reserve keeper Matthew, tickets £99 each includes a 3 course meal, match tickets and a free bar, call 08444991234 to book.