Friday, 14 March 2014

Cherry Chimes talks to For the Love of Boro

Match Preview
AFCB V Middlesbrough
Blogger Interview: For the Love of Boro

Cherry Chimes has been hunting out yet another blogger this week to give you readers another Rival Lines interview ahead of the Middlesbrough game. This time we speak with James Stevenson who has updated his blog that is now called For the Love of Boro. James has been doing a lot of work on his new look site and it really looks top dollar now. But what we want to know is what he thinks of his new manager and have Boro been deceiving us all this time with their mid-table league position?

CC: Boro threatened to climb the league in early January but do you feel your players are good enough to get a top 10 place this season?

FTLOB: Definitely. Although I think top ten is probably the limit now. We have never been good at stringing results together one after another and to get up towards the play-offs at the end of this season we will have to do that. So I can't see it happening. The players are good enough on their day to cause any team in the Championship problems. But they struggle to play at a consistently high level and we haven't got a 20-goal-a-season striker to bail us out of trouble when we need a goal to win a game or save a game when the team isn't performing. Hence why we have drawn so many matches - most commonly with a goalless scoreline.

CC: What have you made of the management style of Aitor Karanka?

FTLOB: He is still finding his feet and I think it would't be fair to be too critical too early. He needs time to build a team that suits his style and he made a few inroads in January. However the major changes look likely to happen in the summer. He has a formation that he likes to play and he has stuck with it since he arrived no matter if we win, lose or draw. His decision-making during a match at times can be a little puzzling. For example against Forest on Tuesday, having taken the lead, he tried to defend it with half an hour still to play by taking off Emmanuel Ledesma and bringing on Dean Whitehead. This ultimately backfired as Forest equalised. I suppose the defensive side of his management style comes from the fact he himself was a centre half. It could be that it is something we are going to have to get used to. Certainly a change from Tony Mowbray who was keen to play open, expansive, attacking football.

CC: Karanka recently accused the players of over confidence but do you agree with him?

FTLOB: Not really. We have players who play well when they are on form but I think to accuse them of being over-confident when our season has been so up and down and no player has been particularly consistent was a little harsh a must say.

CC: Were you pleased to see Lee Tomlin come in to the squad from Peterborough?

FTLOB: I didn't know a great deal about him. But having played at this level before and done relatively well for a team like Peterborough who, while they have been relegated on the occasions they have made it to the championship in recent years, did score a lot of goals in this division, I am hopeful he can replicate that form for us. Some around the club are saying he could be the Championship's best 'Number 10' but we will have to wait and see about that.

CC: Who has been you best player so far this season?

FTLOB: Before the turn of the year I would definitely have said Albert Adomah. However his form has slightly deserted him. Shay Given was immense during his loan spell and despite an ever-changing centre-back pairing the defence has been resolute since Karanka took charge. Ben Gibson continually impresses me at centre-back and is a shoe-in for our young player of the season. But the player that has been running rings around teams at the moment is Mustapha Carayol. A burst of pace and a bundle of tricks - he may not have been our best player overall this season but he is certainly our key player right now. If he plays well there's a good chance the team will too.

CC: When AFCB came to the Riverside stadium we had a high scoring 3-3 draw but you have had a lot of 0-0 games of late why do you think scoring has become so difficult for your team?

FTLOB: Karanka knew the best way to arrest our slide down the table was to stop leaking soft goals and that's what he has done. It has meant sacrificing some of the attacking play we had become accustomed to under Mowbray, however it needed to happen. But yes it has been frustrating that we haven't scored many goals. We are still lacking up front to be honest. Danny Graham finally got his first couple of goals at the weekend against Ipswich but he often gets isolated up front on his own so goals are hard to come by. And the options are limited with Kei Kamara the only other experienced forward we have. If Graham and Tomlin can form an understanding hopefully the goals will start flowing again before the end of the season.

CC: Is Shay Given a big loss to the team?

FTLOB: Without a doubt yes. You can't buy experience and Shay has been there and done it. He was top class for us and we were all sad to see him go. We moved fast to replace him with another goalkeeper, Tomas Mejias, who made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday but then got injured. Luckily we have an abundance of riches in the goalkeeping department. Although it has been a surprise that Karanka currently prefers Dimi Konstantopoulos over long-time number one Jason Steele, who has just returned from injury

CC: Is it annoying to see Steve McClaren doing so well at Derby County or do most Boro fans wish him luck?

FTLOB: I think we have moved on from Steve McClaren. He will quite rightly be remembered for what he achieved with us and of course we will be forever grateful. We know he is a good coach and during his career he has proved that, even if he didn't with England. Derby have a good manager and I wish him and them well. We can look back on the good old days with fondness but right now it is about striving to get them back.

CC: Do you expect an exciting summer with plenty of new players coming in or do you think 
Boro have to get their youngsters through to the first team?

FTLOB: Our young players will always have a chance to show what they can do. But we haven't had too many that have gone on to star in the first team recently like so many others have done in the past. This season only Ben Gibson has made any sort of impression. Quite a few are at a crossroads in their careers so this summer will be make or break for them. A lot may depend on the changes Karanka makes. He wants a small squad - quality over quantity - and has already shown that if he doesn't feel a player is ready they will be allowed to go out and gain experience on-loan. Our squad lacks strength in depth and I'm sure this is something he will address in the summer.

CC: Another set of great answers from James. You can read more about his opinions at For the Love of Boro which talks about Boro's recent goalless run before the Ipswich game and Lee Tomlinson. It looks like Middlesbrough are still a team that are evolving and like Bournemouth are striving for that golden word - consistency.

Mike Dunne has been busy recording another Kangaroo Court on the Bournemouth win at Blackburn. You can visit his site to listen at All Departments or listen while on Cherry Chimes by visiting the right hand panel and scrolling down to the All Departments sound bar.

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