Dazed & Confused

by Dave Hearn

I think this must be about the fiftieth attempt at writing something to go on here since Sunday morning but, until now, things have felt too confused to able to put into words my thoughts and feeling towards what is going on with the Boro at this moment in time. I’ve thought about trying to work out exactly where things may have gone wrong for Tony Mowbray, where they’ve gone wrong for the team and how we try and put things right, and I’ve thought about how best to articulate exactly how much Tony Mowbray is a huge part of our club’s rich tapestry but it’s not been easy.

I won’t lie about it; I’d reached the conclusion that we should probably start looking to change things during the Huddersfield Town game a few weeks ago. The attitude and application, and the lack of intensity, from the players was, particularly in the first-half, thoroughly lamentable. It was another night where the same mistakes were being made on the turf with our defence being wide open constantly. The substitutions the gaffer made were baffling. The general feeling in-and-around the ground itself was as apathetic as I can remember it and, to be honest, I couldn’t see any way back for Mogga from that point on. I felt we’d entered ‘it’s only a matter of time’ territory, an area where a win, rightly or wrongly, was simply delaying the inevitable. A 4-1 win against Yeovil Town should’ve gone some way to dampening down the fears but it didn’t; it actually had the opposite effect. The way our defence was exposed time-and-time again, and by a side widely-expected to slip back into the third-tier this season, was both incredible and alarming to watch. It’s a bizarre feeling to come away from a 4-1 thinking that the manager is in serious trouble but that’s how I felt.

There are so many questions swirling around that I’ve never quite felt sure about where to begin; why were we making so many mistakes at the back and why hadn’t this been addressed over the summer? Why had we spent £2.5m(ish) on attacking players and not invested in the defence? Why don’t we have a captain in the side? Why do we have three senior right-backs and only one left-back on the books? Why had we signed so many central-midfielders when money was tight and the gaping holes at the back had been evident for months? I’ve still not been able to work any of those things out. And there are other questions, too; how on earth could a slide enter such an appalling run of form after Christmas and not be able to address it to the point where it spreads into the following season and into what is, to all intents and purposes, a brand new playing-squad? And why is Peter Kenyon going to our games? What is his role in things? Indeed, does he even have a role at the club?

Perhaps some of those questions will be answered in the coming days and months but what is important now is trying to look forwards. Of course, a club icon has departed and I’m gutted, I think most Boro fans are bitterly disappointed that we’ve had to admit defeat and start the process of moving on from Mogga, and it’s certainly a very difficult time for the club, but it’s also a time where we can perhaps allow ourselves to be a little excited about the future. Although there are genuine concerns with regards to exactly what’s gone on in 2013, Tony Mowbray has assembled the makings of a decent second-tier side and I think it’s fair to say that whoever takes over from him is only a couple of defensive adjustments away, whether they be loan-signings or just downright hard-work on the training pitch, from having side that can challenge at the right end of the table.

The hope would be that the man who takes the job on next will feel the benefit of all of the difficult, exhausting, gruelling and plain ugly work that Mowbray has had to plough through off the pitch and build on his admirable efforts. I don’t see us as a club that requires yet another ‘root and branch’ rebuild; I see it as a good job to be coming into, in truth, with the chance to work alongside a patient chairman who has restructured the club in such a way that we ought to be ahead of our rivals in terms of Financial Fair Play from next year onwards. There is also our hugely productive academy to dig into, a chance to work at a splendid training facility on a daily basis and a big stadium to work towards filling. To an outsider looking in, I’d say we’re a attractive proposition with lots of good things going on.

So right now I’m feeling pretty dazed and confused, certainly, but it does feel like I’m coming round from the knockout-blow of what has been a torturous few months for all concerned; for the club, for the supporters and, of course, for Tony Mowbray himself. There are feelings of relief that we won’t have to see the great man’s name being dragged through the mud any longer, that a line has been drawn under what was fast becoming a thoroughly frustrating affair, that my head and my heart are no longer in full-on conflict with each other and that we can start thinking about where we go from here.

There are questions to be answered, of course, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking there is no hope for the club post-Mogga because I genuinely think we have the makings of a decent set-up in place. It’s a big shame that Tony Mowbray won’t be the man to lead us back into the top-flight but, if we do go on to bigger and better things in the coming months and years, then Mogga’s role in rebuilding the club won’t be forgotten at my end, that’s for sure.

Up The Boro.