Bernie Slaven is backing Boro for a good season. Restored as a radio legend on a new platform via Koast Radio and Star Radio (North East) I caught up for a chat with Bernie just before the first league game of the season. I asked Boro’s stringly different forward for his thoughts looking ahead to Tony Mowbray’s second full season at the helm of the Boro ship. Here is the interview with Bernie as we ran through the players. One thing he was most incredulous about was some of the antipathy towards forward Marvin Emnes. He was genuinely quite amazed when I told him that the flying Dutchman is not universally popular with all Boro fans.
Bernie is as outspoken as always and has no doubts what Tony Mowbray’s biggest task is and that is getting us to win far more games at home.
You can listen to Bernie Slaven week nights on Star Radio
Anyway, without any more a do here is Bernie Slaven talking to Fmttm and that means you.
Fly: Are you excited about the new season?
BS: I am. The first signing Leadbitter, I thought, smashing signing. Roy Keane paid a lot of money for him £2 and bit million to go to Ipswich. I think he has a lot of good qualities, leadership, he is strong box to box, gets a few goals, he can tackle and track back.
Fly: Do you think he is a good replacement for Barry Robson?
BS: Yes, Rosbon for me was the biggest star that came from Scotland but yes I think he can replace Robson. So he’s a good signing.
I was in Australia when I got wind that Woodgate had signed 3 year and I thought 3 year, dear me that is a long contract for someone that is injured regular. Nobody can question Woodgate’s ability. Woodgate as a footballer is top drawer. When he’s fit. Not even open to debate. But the downside is we all know and Woody knows it is his injuries. If we can get 25 games from him this season then that is a good return.
Fly: And his experience could be invaluable couldn’t it?
BS: If Woody plays 25 games we will learn a great deal. If he plays 5 or 10 that could be disruptive. Because young lads are looking to him as a guiding light if he is sitting in the stand injured every week then that is not a good example. Experience wise cannot buy that. Invaluable.
Parnaby – question mark against him because he has been out for what 2 years?
Fly: But Boro know all about him as he has trained here for the past season.
BS: Of course and he has been through the Academy, a cup final etc.
Ledesma – Mogga assures me he has a left foot like myself, so he must be crap. No. He has got a good left foot. Plays it round corners. Can get a goal. Scored v Bury. And then you’ve got Carayol, right winger.
The young kid I’m looking forward to most of all is Adam Reach. I’ve been hearing all these reports. Descriptions like a certain Premier League player; I’m not going to say who it is. I am going to watch him. The guy they describe him as is a very good Premier League player and I want to see if there is any truth.
We’ve brought a keeper in. So we’ve brought about seven and I think there are ten gone. So the downside is we’re three short. We had a small squad last year and now we are even smaller the following season. That’s a downside especially with the injury prone players I have mentioned. I will say it again and I said it last year and it came true, injuries, suspensions, loss of form that catches up with you and it might catch up again. It might not but you have to prepare for that.
Fly: I’m not quite as concerned this season because I think he is opening the door wider for a lot of younger academy players who are a lot closer to the right level now.
BS: Cameron Park, Luke Williams, Adam Reach. I agree with you and they are a year older now. A year more experienced.
Yes, Curtis Main. A couple of good games and he is the best player ever. Get him in. Typical fan. Calm down. The couple of games he played and goals he scored were excellent but still a long way to go. He looks like he could do it, strong, a good striker of the ball. He could be a real star.
Fly: I know he was on the bench but it will surely have been a good experience for Jason Steele being in the Olympics.
BS: Yes. When Steele first came in he was in for a fair bit of criticism. A lot of people didn’t take to him…
Fly: They forgot how young he was.
BS: That’s right. I think that he has turned that round. He’s had a few smashing games, excellent saves, man of the match awards, then he got picked for the GB team. So hopefully his stature is even greater now and he can cope more. He has improved a bit in the last year and a half. And I don’t think the stick and criticism does you any harm. It hardens you. So hopefully he has blossomed as well with another year’s experience as well. I’m looking forward to him as well.
Fly: Do you think the teams relegate from the Premier will be the biggest opponents or could they have financial problems to tackle?
BS: Yes they will have players on a few quid. We don’t know the financial structures we can only speculate. But we can only surmise they might have a few quid to spend. But we know our position. We’ll go with what we’ve got. Hopefully steer clear of injuries and crack on.
Fly: And learn lessons from last season.
BS: Yes, learn lessons from last season. The biggest job Mogga has got is the home form. The home form has been abysmal. Not good, not pretty. Some poor results. Away from home, great. But the guys that pay for season tickets, if you want to rope them in and create a better atmosphere you need to do it at home. You want guys saying, tell you what, what a game you missed yesterday, the quality, flowing football, goals, great entertainment. That’s the only way we will get them back. And Mogga knows that and I know Mogga’s style he wants to play good football.
Last year he would be as gutted as anybody with the poor football at home. He played under Rioch and Rioch used to say, we entertain the public. It is not just about winning the game but doing it with style and flair. But unfortunately at home we have not been able to do that. So that for me is Mogga’s biggest job this season, home form, get it right. No hit and miss with the fans turning up and saying I wonder what we’re going to do today, we’ll maybe win or be crap again and maybe nick it.
When I used to do all the games and I did 500 commentary games. I used to watch Juninho, Ravanelli, Emerson it was a different calibre of football. But I knew what the team was going to be, who was playing where. It didn’t matter if we got beat, I knew we would be good, we would be entertaining. And that was a thrill going to the game. Home and away. We might get beat but it will be a good show. And that was a good feeling. It wasn’t a good ending to that season but week in week out was entertaining. That’s what we need to strive for.
Fly: The players feed off the fans and the fans feed off the players.
BS: Of course they do. The players need the fans and the fans need the players but the only way to rope the fans is to try and get good performances at home. Away that is great but at home.. The reason I think we’ve not been able to do it at home is because teams come and just put up two banks of four. We do it on our travels and counter attack and we’re good at it. But then at home when we’re asked questions, come and break us down, we’ve not really got that. We’ve no real width. I wasn’t live at a lot of the games but I know there was no real width and there was a lack of creativity in the last third. That is why we struggled at home. Other teams just play banks of four.
Fly: Width and pace?
BS: Yes for me you need that. I wouldn’t like to play in the Middlesbrough team with no wingers, with guys cutting in and having a shot. I would be saying give me the ball, I am here to put the ball in the net.
Fly: So hopefully we have changed that..
BS: Carayol and Reach. If Mogga goes with the wingers and those two blossom I think we are in for an interesting season.
Fly: Halliday also can play on the wing.
BS: Yes. I’ll be honest I thought is he still there? He needs to start stamping his authority as well.
Fly: I think he was a player that suffered because he was bought as a young teenager but billed as a first team buy.
BS: Yes, hopefully he blossoms this year. He could be like a new signing even though he has been here for two or three years.
I see Kevin Thomson is saying he wants to play and get a run of 10 or 12 games. He needs it because I know the coaching staff rate him very, very highly but I’ve never seen it. I’ve seen it in Scotland at Rangers and Hibs but at Middlesbrough nothing, not a jot. So, hopefully he can keep clear of the injuries and he can start playing as well and show us what he’s got.
Fly: And what of Rhys Williams being given the captaincy.
BS: I think that is a good thing. He’s an elegant, stylish player. He knows he’s good and he is good and he can get better. But the question for Mogga is where does he play him? I think he is a better centre back than he is a midfielder. I’ve watched him midfield and he just does enough. I think he has got more in his locker but he just does enough but when he’s centre back I think he looks the part.
Fly: For him it will be a great experience playing alongside Woodgate.
BS: I would say that Williams and Woodgate, if both of them steer clear of injuries, that will be the best centre back pairing in the Championship without a doubt. I would say that confidently.
Fly: Someone who gets a bit of stick at times from some sections of the fans is Marvin Emnes. But he has to be one of the best goalscorers since your time.
BS: Does he get a lot of stick?
Fly: Yes, not everyone appreciates what he does.
BS: You know I’ve mentioned this to guys at the club that when I’ve seen him I don’t think he looks strong and they say he is as strong as an ox. Sometimes I look and I don’t see that but they’re seeing it on a daily basis, every game and pre season.
Fly: I think you see a very different player in the flesh to on tv because of his movement off the ball.
BS: Last season Emnes, 18 goals that is a great return. This year I believe he can do it again. He will have to do it again. If he is going to get a tag as a goalscorer. And then next season he needs to do it again. Am just delighted he’s still here, I thought he would have been off. There were a few sniffing about. But he is already on the scoresheet, as a striker that is all you want. And he is back in the groove and I’m sure he will be looking to beat the 18 goals he got last season.
But you say his movement is good. The lads assure me he is strong, despite when I see him he looks weak. He’s not great in the air but he has got quick feet and he gets goal. So for those that are giving him stick. What do you want? Eighteen goals last year. Do you want 18 goals or do you want to be running about like a headless chicken?
Years ago if you were a goalscorer you lived or died by your goals. Now people camouflage it. They try and make it as if goals are not important, as long as he is working hard. Nonsense, if I was a manager I would want a striker to score 20 goals. If he is not a great worker it doesn’t really matter I will get someone alongside him to work. So, if you are a striker you need to score goals and Emnes is scoring them so long may that continue.
For those giving him stick.. well, obviously they don’t know what it is like to score a goal. There is no better feeling and he’s good at it. He scored a great goal at Bury 20 odd yarder. So good luck to him. I call him Bob Marley because of his locks and every time he scores I say to my mates, “we’re jammin’” Good old Bob.
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