Nightmare before (and after) Christmas

Tony Mowbraxy

One famous northern philosopher once wrote: “so here it is Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun.”

Well that is certainly never the case when Middlesborough turn over their November calendar page.

As soon as that page is turned all of ‘Boro’s hard work and playing well as a team suddenly disintergrates.

It is associated with the club’s history as much as the transporter bridge when Boro fans hit the height of November 30, then it takes someone to say: “We never do well in December!” the town is deflated. It’s a yearly event, I think Boro fans should write it in each others Christmas cards!

Stretching back as far as the era of Big Jack Charlton as Middlesbrough manager in the seventies, where the club were sitting pretty in the top three of Division One. Only for their form to tail off by Christmas and the players to stock up on turkey and Cameron’s Ale (as was seventies culture… I think) where after December they began to slide down the table and ended up finishing halfway.

1995-96 was a great season for ‘Boro. New stadium, Juninho and Robbo’s revolution, fourth come December. Then eleven games without a win saw the club again finish twelfth. The dizzy heights of Europe flirted with us supporters and led us on until finally settling for a different team. Christmas heartbreak once again.

2004-05 now, and again Boro are flying high in fourth – this time the Champions League was in sight! Whisper it quietly though, its November. Surprisingly December came and Boro battered Aston Villa 3-0, but that was a false dawn as the team lost ground again with a point at relegation-threatened Southampton and defeat from Manchester United deterring Boro from any hopes of unrealistically playing Real Madrid. Fortunately the club did finish 7th and gained automatic qualification for the UEFA Cup.

In December 2005-06 an already struggling Middlesbrough lost to Blackburn in the league and where knocked out of the cup by them. A draw against Tottenham and Manchester City saw Boro stay closer to the bottom then there usual mid table tendencies.

Under Gordon Strachan in 2009 Boro had just hammered QPR at Loftus Road 5-1 and optimism was high, with a game to come Blackpool at home and the thought that the team may have finally blended under Strachan. Cue St. Ledger and Brad Jones – ‘Boro suffered four straight defeats with defeats to Blackpool, Cardiff City and rivals Newcastle United. The club eventually slid from fifth to twelfth to miss out on promotion, which looked so promising under Gareth Southgate.

Last year Boro had a mixed December as they picked up important wins against promotion chasing Cardiff as well as a 3-1 win at fellow strugglers Preston North End. Defeats against Doncaster Rovers and Swansea City soon put a dampener on proceedings though.

However if there is anyone who can banish the Christmas hoodoo it is Tony Mowbray, the Messiah Mogga. He has worked miracles for the team in the last year, turning them from relegation battlers into promotion chasers either side of cutting the wage bill. I think I speak for all Boro fans when I say that all we want for Christmas is the Reds to still be in the play-offs still come January 1st.

Written by Scott Easby, We Are Going Up’s Middlesbrough blogger

Scott tweets at @SEasby12

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