Mixed feelings about Patrick Bamford.

I’VE got mixed feelings about the Patrick Bamford back to Boro transfer.
On the one hand, to me it’s like someone leaving their missus because they think they can find something or someone better, and then returning to the household a couple of years later when they realise that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Bamford has been to other clubs of near or equal stature to Boro – Norwich, Crystal Palace and Burnley – and he has been out in the wilderness and still hasn’t scored a Premier League goal.
I thought Boro have a worldwide scouting network, but over the years we’ve had a habit of bringing players back to Teesside.
Juninho had three spells here. Pally, Colin Cooper and Mark Proctor were here twice and that’s naming just a few.
Bamford is going to need a to get his rhythm back because he’s hardly played any first-team football of late.
But he does have a lot of attributes. I’ve met him a couple of times and he’s a lovely lad, clued-up and intelligent.
He played a lot of games in the Championship up front and out on the right and did very well for Boro and scored goals, although his record in it isn’t as good as Jordan Rhodes’ in the Championship.
But we are in a different league altogether now.
We’ve had an issue out wide, where even natural wingers like Adomah, Carayol, Wildschut, Downing and Fischer don’t seem to have been entirely trusted to do the job.
That’s an area that still needs addressing as far as I’m concerned, and I would still like to see a creative midfielder and winger come in if I was being greedy.
Managers do have a habit of going for players who they know and feel like they can trust, so I’m not surprised to see Bamford back at the Riverside.
The transfer still has an element of gambling about it, because he hasn’t scored in the top flight.
Do I think he has got the ability to? Absolutely.
I definitely think that there is a case of if you can score goals, you can score them anywhere – I’ve done it myself.
But I don’t see Bamford playing a lone centre forward’s role back at the Boro.
The centre halves are a different proposition entirely in the Premier League, and I don’t think he’s strong enough for the lone front man position.
And I don’t see the manager changing a system that has been set in stone for three years and going with two up front, I just don’t.
I think Bamford would be most suited to playing in the hole behind Negredo.
I think he has got the technique and eye for a pass to do that.
Wherever Bamford plays, I hope his return to the club is a success and he breathes new life into his career.
If there is movement in January, it’s an indicator that a manager isn’t entirely happy with his squad.
So full marks to Boro and Karanka for being pro-active and trying to improve the squad in the areas where they think it’s needed.
January is exciting for fans with so many links and rumours doing the rounds, but Gaston Ramirez is one player I want to see stay.
He’s one of our best technicians and someone I would pay to see play.
The Chelsea link to Adama Traore is an eye-catching one.
He’s our most exciting player with his lightning pace, but he’s not the most intelligent from a football IQ point of view yet.
He still needs to get his head up and polish his end product.
Speaking of polishing, I’m sick of hearing the apple-polishing brigade bang on about how good draws are for us.
The rule change from two points to three that was adopted in the English football league in 1981 was designed as an extra incentive for teams to go for victories, ones that can have a big impact on their season.
There’s this mentality that every point is a good point.
Of course it’s better than none, but who’s to say that the potential other two points we haven’t nailed down on numerous occasions in games won’t be just as crucial come the end of the season?
One Boro shot on target against Watford and one against Leicester just isn’t good enough, and I want to see Boro raids forward against West Ham on Saturday have some sort of decisive end to them.
Whether that’s a corner, a shot or whatever.
Boro will have to be on their guard at the back, because Andy Carroll showed what a handful he can be when he is fully fit with that spectacular volleyed goal against Crystal Palace.
I’m still keeping busy with the Reds Academy which a few of us ex-Boro players like Jim Platt and Gary Pallister run for youngsters aged five to 16 at Middlesbrough Sports Village, and in Billingham and Ingleby Barwick.
For further details, phone 07403 478998.

I wish my Da could have seen me pull on the Celtic jersey.

The Glasgow boy is adamant he would have done the same for his beloved Celtic — if only he’d got the chance.
Slaven has few regrets in life. The Middlesbrough legend had a long career at a high level in England and starred for the Republic of Ireland.
But the lifelong Hoops fan would have loved to play just one season with Celtic — for late dad Hugh.
Mr Slaven took his Celtic-daft son all the way to Milan’s San Siro for the European Cup final against Feyenoord in 1970.
Jock Stein’s side lost 2-1 but young Bernie was hooked on the Hoops for life and remains a fan.
There will be split loyalties on Sunday as Albion face Celtic in the Scottish Cup and Slaven just wishes he could call them both former clubs.
He told SunSport: “It was a dream of mine to play for Celtic as a boy and sadly it never happened for me.
“As the years went on and I was doing well for Middlesbrough at a good level, I must admit that the dream evaporated a bit.
“But in hindsight, when I look back on my career, it would have been great to play for Celtic even just for one season and have a go at an Old Firm game.
“My late father would have been so proud to see me out there playing for the club and he did mention that a few times.
“He introduced me to Celtic and even took me all the way to Milan in 1970 for the European Cup final.
“My dad had promised me he would do that if we beat Leeds in the semi-final — and kept his word.
“I was only ten and that was an unbelievable experience that will always live with me.
“In the late 1980s and early 1990s when Billy McNeill and Liam Brady were the managers, there was always a lot of speculation about Celtic being interested in me.
“I heard talk of a £750k bid but there was nothing concrete. I also got the feeling that some people were putting the knife in, saying I was too opinionated.
“I did have an opinion but I know I’d have scored goals for Celtic.
“It was amazing because I saw my Middlesbrough team-mates, Tony Mowbray and Andy Payton, sign for Celtic during that period.
“I was doing the business in England but strangely, I never got the chance to make the same move.”
Slaven spent the early years of his career with Morton, Airdrie and Queen of the South — but shot to fame with Rovers in 1984/85.
Under manager Andy Ritchie’s guidance, he netted 31 goals to become the top scorer in Scotland.
But his time there ended soon after on a sour note — with Slaven leaving after a bitter dispute.
Inspired by a journalist friend, he wrote to dozens of clubs in Scotland and England asking for a trial. Incredibly, Hearts were the only Scottish club to even acknowledge his letter as Slaven headed south to Middlesbrough.
The striker impressed and spent the next eight years scoring goals for Boro — becoming a cult hero in the process.
Slaven said: “Big Andy gave me a free role at Albion and I have a lot to thank him for because I enjoyed that period.
“It was a chance to do something in football and I was grateful to Albion at the time.
“But we didn’t part on good terms. I won the top scorer award and got a bit of publicity off the back of doing it. I wanted to move on and they offered me peanuts to stay there. They then banned me from training and I had to get fit on my own.
“Andrew Gold, a reporter from the Weekly News, did a piece asking why Scotland’s top scorer didn’t have a club.
“It was his idea to send all the letters to the clubs across Britain. A lot of the English clubs gave me the courtesy of a reply.
“The big disappointment was that the only Scottish club to get back to me was Hearts. I had just been the top scorer in the country!
“But I scored a lot of goals at Middlesbrough and it was a great move for me. And over 30 years on, I still work at the club on a matchday.”

Slaven also keeps a close eye on Scottish football and has been impressed by the job Brendan Rodgers has done at Celtic.
Famous for his outspoken views, the 56-year-old labelled the football played by the Hoops under Ronny Deila as “dross”.
Rodgers has brought the swagger back to Celtic — but Slaven insists the Treble-chasers can’t be too cocky against Darren Young’s League One Albion.
He said: “There are always upsets in cup competitions but Albion Rovers winning would be one of the biggest giant-killing acts ever.

Striking dilemma

We travelled to Southampton knowing that the Saints would adopt similar tactics to ourselves and that a goal fest was never on the cards.A 1-0 either way would satisfy either manager. Unfortunately for us Southampton grabbed it.
After conceding early into the second half I was expecting a couple of substitutes to come off the bench to try and change the course of the game and our fortunes.Traore came on with nine minutes to go, not enough time to make an impact.
I will be honest I was probably as surprised as Jordan Rhodes that he started.His confidence must be rock bottom,lower than a snakes belly.This season he has been overlooked, neglected and isolated. He has been on the bench, left out and been introduced for four minute spells.Should he be in before Negredo?No.
Should we have bought him? No
Does he have the qualities to play upfront on his own? No.
Is he a natural goalscorer? Yes.
Has he been given a fair chance? No.
Could he form a partnership with Negredo? Yes.
Will this ever happen? No.
Will he be off in January? Yes.
I would question why Stuani who arrived at the club as a striker and who continues to play on the wing did not start up the middle in the lone furrow role?
For me he continues to be a square peg in a round hole.Rhodes and Nugent are clearly not rated or equipped to play the lone striking role and by failing to play Stuani through the middle when there was an opportunity is maybe a indication that he doesn’t fit the bill either.
My concern is and has been this season is what happens if Negredo gets injured and is ruled out for two months rather than one game? Let’s hope and pray this doesn’t happen .
But what do we do who fills the gap?
The dynamics of the side goes to pot.
Let’s hope when the window opens a striker with the qualities to play that isolated, demanding,unrewarding role arrives.
In my heart of hearts I think there is more chance of a central defender being signed.

Home form is key.

Once again Boro have proved that we can compete, battle, scrap and create against the Premierships big guns. Traditionally that has always been the case during my 30 years on Teesside when people write us off, don’t give us an earthly, that is when we as a club are at our most dangerous.
Against Arsenal and Man city its was proved that you write us off at your peril.
Against Arsenal, in my opinion, that was our most impressive team display for a long time. After the initial 15 minutes, we were terrific, we were solid in defence, direct and creative in attack. To be brutally honest we should have won. Traore’s pace was electric and terrified the Gunners rearguard every time he ran at them.
Against Bournemouth, our 2 goals were top drawer. Ramirez showed all his qualities, pace,trickery and composure to score the first. Some say it reminded them of my ex-team mate John Hendrie’s goal against Millwall back in 1990. For me Hendies just shaded it. The second wasn’t bad either, Traore’s pass outside the foot, Negredo’s cushioned header into the path of Stu Downing and he finished it off.
Against Manchester City on Saturday at the Etihad we took a pounding for 45 mins, we sat very deep a mixture of poor finishing and Valdes heroics kept us in the game. Our passing and distribution out of defence at times was poor.
In the second half, we came to life and went into attacking mode and had players flooding into City’s box at every opportunity. We got our reward thanks to a De Roon bullet header after a great cross from George Friend. We richly deserve the plaudits for our last three performances. Now we have to address our home form starting with Chelsea. We have to turn the Riverside into a fortress. Average sides this season have come to our patch and mugged us. 3 defeats, 1 draw and 1 win is a poor return no matter how you try to camouflage it. Our home form is what will rubber stamp our Premier league status.
My biggest concern, 11 games in is scoring goals. We have not got one player we can hang our hat on to score goals on a regular basis. Negredo has not scored in his last 9 games, in any other team he would probably be left out but as it stands at the minute he has no competition. Rhodes is being frozen out, Nugent very seldom features and Stuani when he plays is out wide. I’m a Negredo fan for me he is the only player in our squad who has the credentials to play the lone furrow up front.
So there lies a problem and one that needs addressing in January. Negredo is very good at leading the line, he is strong,good at holding the ball up and looking to bring his team-mates into play but he should and could have scored more than 1 goal. He has had chances, for me he works so hard competing against two centre backs chasing lost causes and inaccurate passes that when a chance comes his way he isn’t sharp enough. I watched MOTD on Saturday night they highlighted the poor service to the Spaniard and how he was isolated in the first half. I have witnessed that picture since he arrived.
I’m peeved off and frustrated as an ex-striker and a Boro fan so how must Negredo feel?
Goals and home form will keep us in the Premier so let’s hope we can start by beating the team we relegated back in 1988.
UTB

My Ma

After a short illness, my Ma Alice passed away on 2/10/2016 at 12.10pm aged 82.

She was smart, articulate, organised, charitable, opinionated and religious.

Throughout her life, she was never a massive football fan but was more or less forced to take an interest because of my involvement.
She heard many a heated debate and argument between my late father and myself regarding Celtic and Middlesbrough but would never get involved.
My Ma was brought up on the South Side of Glasgow and hailed from the Gorbals.

When I was considering my move to Middlesbrough, my Ma arranged for me to talk to Celtic legend Bobby Murdoch, who had went, on to play for Middlesbrough after fourteen glorious years at Parkhead.
Bobby’s mother went to the same Church as my Ma and was more than happy to pass on his number.
As a twenty-four year old getting handed a Celtic legend and European Cup winners, phone number was overwhelming daunting and scary.
I picked up the phone and quizzed him about life in Teesside and about Middlesbrough football club. He was very complementary and the rest is history.

My Ma only attended two of my games throughout my football career. Albion Rovers against Dunfermline Athletic and Middlesbrough against Chelsea at Wembley in the Zenith Cup Final.

While lying in her hospital bed I asked her a few questions, one of them was, what was your proudest moment?
She replied,”You receiving your first Republic of Ireland cap.” This shocked me as I thought it would have been something that she had achieved that would have been her answer.
I find it amazing that she never uttered a word about that don’t forget it was back in 1989/90.

Rest in peace Ma. (Alka)
I hope wherever you end up there is a good singsong.
Thanks for all your guidance support and love along with my Da.
Without both of your support, I would have probably fallen by the wayside.

Everton game highlights our deficiencies.

Five league games in and our tried, tested and successful style of play and formation are looking suspect and are under scrutiny in the top flight.
Teams seem to have cottoned on to our set in stone formation, our distinct lack of pace has been highlighted and our frailties in defence exposed.
Everton showed us up in the cup last season and again on Saturday. The Toffees have shown how playing one up front should operate. They have a centre-forward who is big, strong, quick, aggressive and who scores goals on a regular basis. They have full backs and midfielders who flood their opponents box at every opportunity. They can play it short or long and they are also littered with pace.
As a former striker and an attacking minded person, our style at time infuriates me, slow, laboured, square with back passes galore.
On Saturday when were trailing 3-1 down, we would play the ball from fullback to centre back, then into the midfield, back to the defender, then back to the goalkeeper. I understand that totally if you are winning 3-1, but that wasn’t the case. With only Negredo up top against two centre-backs we are reluctant to hit it long for fear of coming straight back, so we keep possession and eventually give it back to our opponents when we venture over the halfway line. I honestly believe that Boro has got some very talented players who have got the shackles on and look restrained from expressing their attacking influential credentials. I said the same things last season despite our success, at times it looks as if we have six Ray Wilkins in the team with our crab-like passing. Watford have proved you can stay in the top flight playing two up front and in Ighalo and Troy Deeney they have two centre-forwards who are good on the eye, create, score goals and they harass and hunt as a pair. Since their return to the top flight, they have scored 64% of Watford’s league goals.
If under-par performances and results continue to go against us something will have to give. I would love nothing better than to see Rhodes or Nugent be given the opportunity to form a partnership with Negredo obviously, that decision is down to the manager.
Lets put things in perspective it’s still early days, players are still finding their feet and the manager and players are still trying to become accustomed to top flight football.
At home we need to be more influential, attacking minded and more creative. I think our premiership status will depend on how well we do in our home games.
Let’s hope we start on Saturday against Spurs.

Don’t forget the Gary Parkinson night on 6th October, we still have 70 tickets to sell Parky still needs our help desperately so please come along and support him.
Don’t forget Parky is a local lad who played for his home town team and wore the shirts with pride. He helped us through difficult times during the liquidation scenario.
Now it’s our turn to help him.

Gary Parkinson evening

DATE OCTOBER 6TH
Doors open at 7.30pm

Petch’s Pie and peas will be served.

Evening to include the 86 team as guests.
A comedian, auction and raffle

TICKET COST £25 Per person.

Venue
Whinstone View
Great Ayton
Middlesbrough
TS9 6QG

For more info click on shop bernieslaven.co.uk
Or call 07403478998

86 TEAM RALLY ROUND TO HELP OUT.

On Thursday 6th October, I am arranging an evening to raise funds for my former teammate and friend Gary Parkinson.
Parky was tragically struck down with locked-in syndrome.
He can only communicate with his eyes and is paralysed from the neck downwards.
Despite being greatly supported buy his loving family Parky still needs 24hr professional care to be able to remain in his own home.
For those who don’t know Parky here is a brief summary. He grew up in Thornaby and played over 200 games for his boyhood heroes Middlesbrough FC. He was a cultured right back, who chipped in with several special goals. He was involved in the liquidation scenario and gained 3 promotions the last was when we got promoted into the Premiership back in 1992.
I have personally been in touch with all the 86 team and they have all confirmed that they will be there on the night to support Parky.
The night itself will be informal, Petch’s pie and peas will be served and we will have a comedian and a chat with the players, then an auction and raffle.
All funds from this evening will go to Parky.

TICKET COST £25 Per person.

Venue
Whinstone View
Great Ayton
Middlesbrough
TS9 6QG

For more info click on shop bernieslaven.co.uk
Or call 07403478998

Please come along and help Parky out let’s have the spirit of 86 back for the evening.

If any businesses would like to donate raffle or auction prizes please also get in touch.

New season new players new goals.

I will be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of pre season games and I witnessed nothing on Saturday against Real Sociedad to change my opinion. The games are simply for the players not the spectators. they are about fitness, working on your touch, getting to know your new team mates. If you are a striker it’s good to grab a goal and defenders thrive on keeping clean sheets. I had to laugh at the team sheet and the substitutions which included three goalkeepers. The team that started the game should be pretty much the team that lines up against Mark Hughes Potters.
I am really excited for the start of the new season after a seven year absence it is fantastic that we are back in the premier league.
Boro’s transfer business has got me fired up especially Victor Valdes and Alvaro Negredo, both of those transfers have the wow factor. Negredo fits the bill perfectly with Aitor Karanka favouriting the lone striker.
He is a big powerful lad. he is good with his back to goal, a good link up player and he has proven at this level he can score goals. Rhodes and Nugent are less suited to the role. I am first to admit that I would have struggled to score goal in the current Boro set up. I did not have the physical strength or ariel power to cope with the demands of being a lone front man.The arrival of Valdes and Brad Guzan have cast doubt over Dimi and where that leaves him next season. If I was him I would be knocking down the managers door asking him to judge me on my merits and not against backgrounds, fees or reputation of the new arrivals.I did the same when £1 million signings Davenport and Payton arrived at Boro under bruce Rioch and Lennie. All sorts of question marks get attached to players when a side has being promoted to the top flight. Will they be good enough to cope with the difference in levels, can they score goals? Pundits openly doubted whether I would be able to score consistently in the top flight back in 1989. I remember been asked if I was confident about hitting the back of the net on a regular basis and I said that if I got the service I was sure I would. The goals are the same size after all! I ended up finishing third top scorer behind Liverpool’s John Aldridge who’s team finished second and Arsenals Alan Smith who won the league and don’t forget we were relegated. You don’t know if some players can handle the step up unless you give them a chance. Some players you might have doubts about end up handling the transition with ease, while others that you thought would strive end up struggling.
Our goal this season is to stay in the division and I’m super confident we will achieve that especially with the continental style of football we play.

Fulham in the Cup away from home, let’s hope we don’t neglect it, let’s hope we can stay in all competitions for as long as possible.

Premiership here we come.

7 has always been my favourite number ever since I was a kid.
I was fortunate enough to wear the no 7 jersey for the majority of my 382 games for Middlesbrough FC.
Now after 7 years in the wilderness, we have finally made it back into the Premier League.
Gaining promotion is not just about the football club, it’s about the town and the community, its great for the area and it puts us back on the map.
The game and the occasion was very emotional and nervy.
I have never witnessed an atmosphere like it since the days of the road to Eindhoven.
I was delighted for everyone concerned, the players Aitor Karanka and his staff, the fans and of course chairman Steve Gibson.
During my 30 years in the area I have regarded Steve Gibson on many occasions as the King of Teesside and after our return to the promised land his crown is firmly in place.
Since his appointment of AK he has backed him financially to the hilt and steadied the ship during the choppy waters of the walk out.
To witness the sheer delight on his face at the end of the game was a joy to behold.
I have known Gibbo for years and he has no airs and graces, he is a down to earth guy, he loves to play the game and loves this football club.
He is passionate, loyal and addicted there is not a guy in football that deserves it more than him.
The one thing that I admire greatly about Steve is that he supplies the goods, for his team and then sits in the shade, he never craves media attention.
I’m sure he had a restless sleep on Friday night with a reported £200 million riding on the result.
He will be able to sleep well over the summer knowing that we will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United,and Arsenal next season.
It was great to have the fans chanting Ali Brownie’s name again and very emotional to see a pic of Ali on the big screen.
I would have loved to have heard Ali’s comments after today’s success on Heaven radio.
That pleasure will go to all them Boro fans alongside him they will all be having It will be one hell of a party.

BERNIES BOLT 27th April 2016

Last week I praised the away point at Burnley, but on Saturday, a point at home against an average Ipswich team, in front of our 30,000 plus crowd, was majorly disappointing.
As we all predicted, it turned out to be a tense, nervy affair both on and off the pitch.
Boro’s passing was erratic, and example of that was Ayala four times in succession, he tried to pick out Adomah on the right and four times the ball went out of play.
The left side looked frail with the absence of George Friend in the last third.
On another day, we would have scored four or five, but we could have played till next Saturday and not scored, it was just one of those days.
Of course, it is still in our hands, but we all know we cannot afford any more slip-ups.
I read quotes after the game that we’re tired, and the legs and heads are tired. I understand that to a degree.
With the stakes been so great, it creates pressure, nerves, and vulnerability, which in return can disrupt performances and drain energy levels.
I have, to be honest, and say, in my eight years at Middlesbrough, whether we were chasing promotion automatically, via the playoffs, or we were involved in a relegation dogfight. I never once heard the manager or players mention the work tiredness.
Talking about tiredness publicly I have always thought is an insult to the paying public. And it hands the players an excuse if they don’t deliver.
If certain players are tired, it is of paramount importance that we go up automatically, as opposed going into playoffs, with possibly three extra games.

Good luck against Birmingham.
UTB.

Reds Football Academy is growing.
We have opened more venues this week and look forward to seeing any new footballers that want to be coached by the best coaches in the area at our Middlesbrough, Billingham or Ingelby Barwick sessions.
For more info, please call 07403478998.