Keep Calm and Topple the Tykes
By Robert Nichols
Friday 21 Feb 2020 16:29:00
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It doesn't take long to get to Barnsley and fortunately the Yorkshire side are always very generous with their away ticket allocations; 4000 tomorrow, perhaps? So, whenever we happen to find ourselves in the same division it can often be just about the most popular away trip of the season. Many Boro fans will make this their big away day of the season and with a very generous bar adjacent to Oakwell it can be a very enjoyable trip, all round. But not always the most sober.

Oakwell is also the only stadium where I have seen Boro fans deliberately topple fellow fans like dominoes over the front of their seats. The supporters that started the ripple were so amused by it all when the end result was a pensioner falling over and his glasses falling off. It was hilarious to them.

In fact three or four years ago the guy next to me told me gleefully he was on drugs. He didn't need to, it was completely obvious from his bizarre behaviour. Why was he telling me? “Oh no, am next to the guy from Fly Me To The Moon and I have been taking... you are going to put it in the fanzine now, aren't you.” No. Why should I. He turned to his mates behind and loudly repeated this.. and then again and again. Thankfully he disappeared for good at half time.

And if the football on the pitch isn't quite going to plan then things can get heated in the stand. Oakwell was the ground where Tony Mowbray waved goodbye to Boro as a player, it would also be the venue where the legendary player saw his managerial tenure hit a brick wall. Barnsley is one of only a handful of grounds where the teams and managers must walk past the away end. It can be walking or running the gauntlet, as it was for Tony Mowbray. I hope I never again experience a repeat. For me that was one of the lowest points ever as a Boro fan, right up there with going down and out at Shrewsbury in 1986 and crashing out of the cup quarter final at Wolves in 1981 or losing two cup finals and experiencing a relegation funeral in 1996.

The incredible hostility shown towards a man who had been a Boro saviour was really hard to stomach. There were fights within the away end as passions spilled over and people were baying like wolves at Mowbray as he tried to walk past to the exit. After everything he had done for the club and a man who is all about respect. He surely deserved so much more than that.

The reason I am writing this is almost as an appeal that we don't experience any repeats of these scenes tomorrow. Take a look at the division, every club seems capable of winning or losing to any other side. Our opponents and bottom club Barnsley's 3-0 win at Craven Cottage last week was the perfect case in point. The division is like a game of snakes and ladders. Teams like Sheff Wed or Preston or Leeds or Fulham go on back to back to back winning runs. Then a team like Barnsley or Wigan or Boro comes along shocks them and then suddenly the wheels come off and they are falling down almost as fast as they climbed up the mountain in the first place. It is not just us.

In this world of EFL financial fair play the table has been evened out. There is not much to choose between the sides. One key player getting injured like Daniel Ayala can tip the balance. Confidence is king and if you lose one of your anchors you can spill backwards fast.

This has been a hugely frustrating season apart from that golden patch around the festive period. Wins at WBA and Preston did show what we can deliver when at our best. Can we rediscover that winning form?

We have tough games after Barnsley against Leeds and Forest and obviously following both our results last weekend Saturday's fixture is a 6 pointer. At least. It is almost do or die for the Tykes. The win at Fulham surely means it is last chance saloon for them to build a ladder from the foot of the table. So, if we can find some form or even fluke a win then that will come close to sealing their fate. Or rather it would do in any normal season in any normal league.

We must keep our heads at Barnsley. We must use the experience of players like George Friend and Jonny Howson to settle all those around us and try and keep the ball on the ground and stop it being blown around in the gales. We must show discipline and stay solid in midfield. If we should get a lead then we need to manage the game until the final whistle and escape south Yorkshire with points and our pride. And hopefully we return to Teesside having enjoyed the short hop to the south ready to shoot down Leeds next week. Let's keep the ball on the floor and keep our calm. And don't let ourselves get drawn into a drama.

Come On Boro and Up The Boro

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