As ever, when Boro come calling, it’s to ex Match of the Day editor Paul Armstrong we turn. A lovely chap he is too and nothing like that seething “yous are cr@p” Boro fan who ignited the internet after we’d beaten his heroes 1-0 at Carrow Road early in the season (if you need a giggle). Since departing MOTD, Paul has turned author and written a book on his life behind the camera called “Why Are We Always On Last?“.
I’ll give the ‘tell everyone why you were once the most hated man in football’ a swerve for once, 1) because it’s not true, and 2) because if they want to know the full story they can read your book ?. Perhaps you could tell us instead what’s been going on since we last spoke in mid-September. You mentioned then about top six being a plausible target and that’s where you are. It’s tight though and that game in hand you have could be crucial.
Paul: Mid-September seems a long time ago, doesn’t it? I’ve never seen Boro win at Carrow Road – I missed the controversial Karanka “dark arts” victory the year you eventually beat us at Wembley, and I was there to see us blow a 4-1 Premier League lead (as you do) – but I travelled optimistically
In September. Boro were top and unbeaten, Norwich hadn’t won a game and the natives were restless (or at least some of you were, though I bet no-one wants to admit it now).
In retrospect, I should probably reassess my reaction on the day somewhat. Boro played one up front, surrendered almost all possession, and allowed Norwich to build confidence the best way possible, by keeping the ball, scoring before half-time, then keeping the ball for the rest of the game.
At the time I was furious with Pulis’s timidity, but maybe, just maybe, he knew your results had been misleading and that you were due a dominant performance. Nah, we showed far too much respect and your season has never looked back.
Ours has been pretty much as much I’d have expected, in that we’re top six contenders, and solid but with no stars since Adama Traore left to acquire a splintered bottom on the Wolves bench.
Unfortunately for Pulis, while Carrow Road was a rare poor away performance, home form has not been at all good. We can generally absorb pressure and break but are fairly clueless when expected to take charge of a game against ordinary teams. The sort of games in which Norwich go a goal or two down but win in the 98th minute often end up 0-0 or 0-1 at the Riverside.
That said, the best recent home performance was against Leeds who came to play, but only forced an equaliser 10 (yes, ten) minutes into injury time. Maybe this weekend’s game will be more in that vein. Or maybe not.
How are our old boys doing? Was reading in the EDP this week that Jonny Howson has been the recipient of some stick from the locals? Surely not, although he doesn’t strike me as a natural fit for Pulis-ball. Is that part of it?
The ex-Norwich players should feature on Saturday. Jonny Howson has played out of position – at right wing-back – most of the time since John Obi Mikel arrived in midfield, and has done so without complaint, so if anyone’s blaming him for three defeats in a row, they’re being extremely harsh.
Having got away with some overzealous tackling at times this season, Daniel Ayala was then sent off in the last home game v Preston for a beautifully-timed covering tackle. The fact it was rescinded next day doesn’t nullify Preston’s equaliser or the fact they went on to win a game in which they hadn’t had a sniff until then. The upshot is that he won’t be suspended on Saturday. So you can expect not-so-fancy Dan to clog your all-too-fancy dans.
The locals still hopeful of a playoff place, or does seventh have a certain appeal is it will guarantee you no more Wembley heartbreak? ?
It’s getting very tight now for a playoff spot, having looked a shoo-in for a long time. Some big beasts – Villa and Forest – are only a modest run away from squeezing us out. Villa have given us our only two batterings of the season and strike me as likely play-off winners if they do finish in the top six.
I honestly think you guys will be fine for automatic promotion, but for differing reasons I fear for the Yorkshire club that misses out. Leeds, because despite Bielsa, the DNA of the club is programmed for bitter, angry failure and Sheffield United, because they’ve overachieved wildly (or Wilderly, if you like) and surely couldn’t sustain it to the end of May in a knockout format.
Then again, I’ll probably be completely wrong and they or Leeds will beat Boro on penalties at Wembley. Our record at Wembley (no wins and only one goal in five visits) means we’d probably lose the FA Vase Final if we somehow made it to that by mistake.
When we spoke last, we were both uncertain as to where Farkeball was taking us. We agreed that ‘hhmm’ was a fair description of where we were. Can you believe what has happened since? We can’t!
You think we’re going up automatically? *gulp*
You’re going up – don’t worry about it. Boro’s last promotion came off the back of three or four injury-time winners. You’ve had about twenty and have actually been great to watch, which Karanka’s finest never were.
Your win at Leeds – and a few other live games and highlights I’ve seen – featured some of the best football I’ve seen in the Championship in recent years. Maybe not quite the Wolves of last season, but they had access to a massive budget and half the best players in Portugal, so Farke’s achievement is arguably of a greater magnitude.
And finally …. you know the last question.
My head says you’ll win on Saturday, but I can’t allow myself to predict that, so I’ll go for the same 1-1 we got against Leeds. We beat Sheffield United 3-0 at the Riverside in August and drew at Elland Road, so we’d actually have boosted your overall automatic promotion chances across the season if it ends in a draw. Can I take that as agreed? Good. We’d better just let the managers know.
Cheers Paul… I’ll pass that on 🙂
Penney predicts: Boro rarely concede but don’t score a lot either. Pulisball will be to the fore so I might be tempted to bring in TK for Godfrey, but that’s Daniel’s call, not mine. Their natives are restless so unless we nick one I reckon a most unusual 0-0.
Andy assumes: My initial thought was a tough, grind of a game, but based on recent results and a season of Pulisball I think an early goal for City could rock the hosts, upset the fans and open the floodgates. I’m going for a 3-1 win for our boys.
Gaz guesses: For some time this has looked like one of the biggest run-in hurdles, and Boro’s stuttering home form has not changed that one iota. A proper tough Saturday teatime awaits. I’m going for a 1-1 nerve-shredder.
Cookie concludes: The international break may have given Boro a chance to regroup after their recent dip. I’m heading up to Teesside with a sense of nervousness and would settle for a 1-1 draw.
Stew suspects: Will it be typical Boro (low-scoring) or typical City (high-scoring)? Irresistible forces and immovable objects come to mind. Our confidence may just give us the edge: 1-0 City
Siri says: Boro 2 – City 0
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