DUNLAVY: Boro bore me but they will go up

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - Chris Dunlavy

BEN AINSLIE is a fine sailor. I ad­mire his achieve­ments un­re­servedly. But do I want to watch him ply his trade? No thanks. Sail­ing may be skil­ful, but it is crush­ingly dull for spectators, a snail-paced pro­ces­sion de­servedly con­signed to mid­week af­ter­noons on Eurosport.

Same goes for Garry Kas­parov. The fella was a strate­gic ge­nius but you didn’t see 70,000 peo­ple flock­ing to watch his show­down with Deep Blue.

Achieve­ment and aes­thet­ics are a rare com­bi­na­tion in sport. Try watch­ing Mid­dles­brough un­der Ai­tor Karanka.

Do they win games? Ab­so­lutely. Can they de­fend? Bet­ter than any­one in the divi­sion. And, when it comes to shape and or­gan­i­sa­tion, they make Kim Jong Un’s march­ing troop­ers look like a pri­mary school play.

The Teessiders are a coach­ing man­ual on legs. But ex­cite­ment? In­spi­ra­tion? Go some­where else.

Boro don’t so much play with the hand­brake on as bar­ri­cade the garage door and refuse to leave the house. It’s why they re­cently went 921 min­utes with­out ship­ping a goal.

Karanka, a for­mer Real Madrid de­fender, learned from Jose Mour­inho and is a dis­ci­ple to the tips of his toes.

Cau­tion and con­trol. Dis­ci­pline over dar­ing. Two sit­ters, one up top, keep it tight and grind, grind, grind. The Spa­niard even has the same mirth­less de­meanour and sour de­liv­ery.You’re top of the ta­ble – crack a smile for God’s sake!

For the neu­tral, it’s frus­trat­ing. Bournemouth showed last sea­son that at­trac­tive, at­tack­ing foot­ball and pro­mo­tion to the Premier League are not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive. The Cher­ries scored 96 goals and passed op­po­nents off the park.

Karanka may ar­gue that Ed­die Howe had ball-play­ers. He is sim­ply wring­ing the best from a squad high on tech­nique but low on pace and in­ven­tion. Maybe, but he has done pre­cious lit­tle to rec­tify those is­sues. He was the one who signed Ste­wart Down­ing, Cristhian Stu­ani and David Nu­gent, all ei­ther nudg­ing or the wrong side of 30.

He was the one who re­placed Lee Tom­lin – the cava­lier spirit Boro had – with Diego Fab­brini and con­signed him to the bench.

He is the one who per­sists in play­ing two hold­ing mid­field­ers at home against even the most mod­est op­po­si­tion.

It may sound harsh to dig out a guy whose side sits se­cond in the ta­ble, es­pe­cially one in such a per­ilous pro­fes­sion. But I be­lieve a man­ager has a duty to en­ter­tain. Howe crafted an en­ter­tain­ing side. Karanka has not. That is a straight choice.


So what, you might say. If it wins pro­mo­tion, who cares? Cer­tainly not the River­side reg­u­lars ach­ing for an end to six years of top-flight ex­ile.

Yet Karanka’s con­ser­vatism cost Boro pro­mo­tion last sea­son. And, af­ter see­ing a five-point lead in the Cham­pi­onship be­come a one-point deficit, alarm bells are jan­gling again.

For­est played their op­po­nents like a fid­dle last week­end. Dougie Freed­man knew that, if his side sat deep, forced the ball wide and nul­li­fied Down­ing, Boro lacked the pace, in­ven­tion or per­son­nel to do any­thing about it.

He knew that Karanka wouldn’t de­vi­ate from his tried and trusted for­mula.

What’s most in­fu­ri­at­ing is that Boro can play.The 2-0 de­struc­tion of Derby was a per­fect dis­play of at­tack­ing foot­ball.Their play­ers were like grey­hounds let off the leash.

I still be­lieve Boro will go up. That back four is sim­ply too good. But they won’t win many hearts along the way.

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