Middlesbrough Preview

Thus is an incorrectly named blog. Brighton But Mainly At Home would be more accurate but I’m almost a brand now, what with the running and the Albion Roar, so the name stays.

As The Boy has got older so I’ve slowly returned to away games, mainly with him but not exclusively. This is why Fulham away is lovingly recalled in these very pages and QPR isn’t. At Fulham there were child minding duties included. Not so QPR which, to be honest, is a bit of a blur.

About three quarters of the way in to this amazing season Steve and I decided we were going to take the boys to Middlesbrough if we could. We figured, even at that stage, that it would serve one of three purposes; purpose one, massive party to celebrate our already secured promotion, purpose two, to thank Chris and the lads for a magnificent effort even though we’d just missed out or purpose three, game that decided our whole season.

It was a plan that only half came to fruition. When the tickets were released we had enough points but they didn’t. Since the tickets were released block by block, stand by stand we couldn’t be confident of sitting with them if we managed to pick some up later, which we didn’t. So, tomorrow, Steve’s wife is graciously having a herd of boys from the school round to hers to watch the game on telly while Steve and I bugger off to the biggest game we’ve played since Hereford. Result.

A result is what we will need though for, as anyone who has been in Brighton over the last few days will know, we are going up for purpose three, the result of which will then turn the remainder of the trip in to either purpose one or two. It’s tears in the stands, a trudge to the station and a mournful, reflective beer on the way home. Or it’s delirium, a light jog and champagne. There doesn’t really seem to be any scope for anything else.

So far Steve has put it in much better perspective than me. We bumped in to each other on the school run yesterday and the trip was the only conversation. His perspective was that it was ninety minutes of football in which anything could happen. They could get an opener in thirty seconds, deflected off Greer’s arse and park all eleven players in front of goal for the remainder. Knockaert and co could completely overrun them and have us three nil up at half time. Ayala and Rhodes could do the same to us. Or we could have a corner in the ninety seventh minute, still at 0-0 with Stockdale once more charging forward in to their box to cause mayhem. In this season any of these things are possible. Our only influence from the stands is to make as much noise as possible.

But I over analyse things. There is a lot of history. We are a club who have needed a specific result away from home on the last day of the season on a few memorable occasions. Hereford is one, where we were down and out at half time, but look what happened there. At Forest a couple of seasons ago we left it rather late, but that shot of Kaz leering in to the camera at the end is as iconic as any in our pre-game montage. Then there was that rather more comfortable away win in the North East in 1979 to go in to the top flight for the first time.

I am – for information purposes rather than lecturing or debating ones – an atheist and sceptic. I do not have lucky rabbits feet, I will happily walk under a ladder or across a cat and I have never found the power of prayer. Don’t get me started on homeopathy. But I have always understood religious and superstitious people because the one place that all that goes out of the window is football. I make regular pilgrimages to my temple, The Amex, in my lucky socks and trainers. I believe that I can will the ball in to the net just with the power of thought. I constantly look for signs and pivotal moments, on and off the pitch. I am a hypocrite.

Why do I mention that? Because, of course I am looking at all those previous important final away games of the season and not seeing a lot of failure. Half my brain is telling me that’s a great omen. The other half is telling me we’re due one. I wish I was as rational as Steve.

Oh, sod it. The actual worst that can happen is that we get another crack in the playoffs and that, if that goes well, the boys might get their first trip to Wembley. That I shall get drunk with a good mate, that I shall be in the only place I want to be on Saturday. Most of those at the beam back would swap with me in an instant. It’s not THAT bad, so long as you ignore the BBC headline that says that £170 million is riding on the game. That would be a small payback for Mr Bloom eh?

So can we do it? Can I produce rational analysis on the game? I’ve written a few previews for other sites this season and all of them ask things like “who should we be worried about?” and “what’s the score going to be?”. I can’t do that here. The most I can say is that we will miss Dunk but that we are likely to replace him with the club captain, a current international. So not that bad really. That we will not remotely be the same proposition as the team that was wiped out at The Amex, 3-0. We will have a real left back, a tricky winger and two midfielders who have been imperious. Boro will be every bit as worried about us as we are of them. After that, Steve’s right. It’s down to the roll of the ball, the luck of the deflection, the accuracy of the refereeing decision. All that stuff you just have to watch from the stands. Argh.

I may write a match report and I may not. The day after I have to take nine excited boys to a five-a-side tournament in the sun. Should we win I will need all the extra sleep I can get before I set off to do that. Should we lose I might not be capable of words at all. This may be over and out for the season. I may see you again. I hope, in the nicest possible way, that I do not, because I am spending Sunday morning wandering in a daze looking for a bag of bibs and some sun-lotion and wondering where that kebab came from.



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