Steel yourselves

Date published: Monday 14th December 2009 2:19

Dan Gilgan fears a return to the dark old days at Boro

Local steel workers paraded around the pitch before Yesterday’s game at the Riverside. They were campaigning to save their jobs in the Teesside steel works which are threatened with closure. The workers were warmly received by the few hardy souls that turned up at the game. I’m sure they carry everyone’s best wishes for the future.

It is difficult not to draw comparisons between the demise of the local steel industry and the current plight of the football club. The Sky Sports cameras were there to witness a scrappy game played out in front of oceans of empty seats on a cold December afternoon.

The official attendance of 17,232 was the lowest ever for a league game at the Riverside and another home defeat saw us slip further down the league table, completely out of touch with the automatic promotion places.

It has to be said that the performance was an improvement on the previous home game. We started quite brightly and had the better chances during the first half. Dave Kitson shot wide, Marcus Bent had the ball at his feet in front of the goal but failed to get a shot away, and Mark Yeates had a curling free kick saved by Marshall in the Cardiff goal. Yeates and Adam Johnson were lively enough on the flanks and looked most likely to provide the breakthrough.

Sadly though, that breakthrough didn’t materialise and when Chris Burke swung a curling free-kick into the Boro penalty area the defence froze and Brad Jones watched as the ball spun into the net. Middlesbrough tried to respond and nearly grabbed a quick equaliser. David Wheater headed against the bar and Leroy Lita’s follow-up header was cleared off the line.


When Adam Johnson limped off midway through the second half with a hamstring injury, Middlesbrough slowly fizzled out as an attacking force and never really looked likely to equalise as the game went into the later stages. Let’s hope Johnson’s injury is not serious because he is one of the few genuine match winners in the squad. Watching him limp out of the game dragged the mood down further.

The occasion reminded me of my earliest memories of supporting the Boro, back in the early 1980’s. The club had been recently-relegated from the top flight having sold its star players. Fans were disillusioned with the club as local industry went into steep decline, attendance collapsed to around the 7,000 mark. It took years before Middlesbrough Football Club and the wider community got back on its feet.

With the dreadful home form showing no sign of abating, (Gordon Strachan is yet to record a victory at the Riverside), we are in danger of sliding back into obscurity. The manager desperately needs to get some wins and build some momentum or he is going to find it very difficult to attract players in January.

Strachan and his players will be pleased to escape the Riverside gloom next week when they travel to Newcastle for Tyne-Tees derby. I wonder if an away victory at the home of the old enemy could spark a revival and help avoid a 1980’s-style collapse.

Do you agree with Dan? Have you been staying away from the Riverside and if so, why? Let us know your thoughts and we will publish the best below…

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