yes, sorry, i know, look you see, that this look back (rather than glance forward) at a match of association football i went to is rather late in respect of a worthwhile match report. i've just not gotten around to doing it until now. and now is here where we are, so since i've got the pictures let us have a look.
besides, there are images of James, who is one of the 75% of my family that you all like more than you like me. although do be warned, for some pictures of me do indeed crop up here, but no not at first.
Middlesbrough, my most beloved team who i have supported no matter where i have found myself in the world, are presently a going concern in what many consider the pinnacle of the game, the English Premier League. it might well be that we are not this for quite so much longer, but whilst we are a consequence is that you get to play a match against the rather famous Manchester United. how famous? just ask the Pope, but that's a song for another time.
whilst i have encouraged James that supporting Middlesbrough is a most wise, astute and class thing to do it is the case that for a number of reasons he has a proclivity for all things Manchester United. reasons? well, the behemoth marketing machine behind Manchester United means that their brand and products really do dominate the international market. in spending so many of his formulate years overseas, it was inevitable that the young mind of James would fall prey to the push of promotion for this team.
a break from that briefly to bring you a picture of James outside the ground, proudly holding two copies of the match day programme. how much does such a magazine cost? £3 to buy, and then just slightly north of £5 to post one to the other side of the world, which is what has happened with one of them (happy reading, Dad).
another reason for James having an interest in Manchester United might have something to do with me. a very dear friend of mine supports the team with some passion (he has fought in defence of the team in places such as Johannesburg, Israel and Leeds). he also happens to have a daughter around the same age as James. as part of the agreement to united our two great families through our children getting married it was decided that James should embrace Manchester United as his team. in truth i wasn't quite sure how i was going to do this, so when it naturally started to happen i just stood aside and didn't complain too much.
if you can see where this match was, the question now is perhaps one of when it was. Sunday 19 March, no less, with a 12pm or if you like noon kick off set for the match for the benefit of television audiences around the world.
a picture of James and i sat in the ground? sure, why not.
this was the first ever Premier League game which James had attended. up until now we had just gone to see the Boro and their quest to get on in the Championship - where we could well be featuring again soon - and of course in the FA Cup, in which we shall feature again next season as we've now exited it this.
on the first instance of us going to a match James was most eager for us to be in our seats more than an hour before kick off, in case he missed something. since then he has learned that there is no rush and so we don't have to be there quite so early.
but still, it was a lovely day (if a little bit chilly), and so we went to our seats before many do, so that we could watch the relevant stars of the starting line up of each team warm up in preparation for the match ahead.
he must surely be one of the most photographed men in modern football, but if for some reason a long distance, zoomed image i took is of interest to you, sort of in the centre there in that above picture is indeed one Jose Mourinho, the incumbent manager of Manchester United. and, you suspect, the manager for a bit no matter how their season ends, for it's unlikely a manager of similar capabilities would be available to replace him.
speaking of replace, this match was the first since we parted ways with our manager, Aitor Karanka. whilst he had done a good - no, excellent - job for us for some three years, he had badly lost his way in the last few months, with the club going nowhere but down and fast as a consequence.
Mr Mourinho happens to be a good friend of Mr Karanka, so of course he used the instance of his interviews before and after this game to bad mouth us, saying how his friend should have gone to a "much bigger" club. well, we've never proclaimed to be anything but a small team (we're a town, not a city) capable of punching above our weight. for Mourinho to take the time to bad mouth us puts us in the same bracket as the likes of Barcelona and Arsenal. i am very happy to be in this company.
another look at James appreciating and enjoying watching some of his footballing heroes live, in the flesh and up close for the first time? sure, why not.
in terms of seeing the stars of Manchester United, not to be in some cases. the man everyone wished to see, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was alas banned for this game due to an incident with an elbow. Wayne Rooney, who whatever flaws he has as a person and must surely have a question mark over "legend" status since he's asked to leave Manchester United at least twice is still a big name, was missing, presumed injured.
but still, there were enough players for James to be interested. everyone, after all, appreciates and respects the gent who is Juan Mata. Marouanne Fellaini is worth seeing for the novelty factor alone, and one suspects that Marcus Rashford has a long and successful career ahead of him.
plus, as i pointed out to James, he was also getting to see some Boro greats. with Karanka gone the local hero Stewart Downing was restored to the team, featuring alongside fellow hometown talent Ben Gibson. and then of course there was the matter of Negredo still being our player.
what exactly happens in a warm up, for those of you who have only seen matches on television and not been at a game? mostly a lot of practice at shooting. here's a short video clip for those of you able to play back video.
the result of the match? 3-1, as i would suspect if not assume is widely known by this time. it was a match that few gave us any chance of winning, but all the same it is a result which has left us deep inside the relegation zone. in order to survive in the Premier League we must effectively win more games in the next two months than we have managed to in the last seven, and hope that the teams around us suffer a dramatic drop in their own form.
but that said, there was promise in this performance. you may think that us getting 1 goal isn't much, but that's the first league goal we have scored since the last week of January. of this, hope, i suppose. to be realistic about it, for me the result suggests that we are to go down fighting at the least, rather than simply just sulk off with the whimper that we seemed to be about to do.
as you may have worked out already, James and i were sat behind the goal again, as was the case for the FA Cup match against Sheffield Wednesday. once again, as was the case then, we featured on Match Of The Day on the BBC, as you can kind of make us out in the footage of Fellaini's opening goal and then th eone Gestede got for us.
sorry, no screen shots or video editing of it this time, alas. to do so would take quite some time, and delay this even further. you are, however, very welcome to have a picture of James and i at half time.
indeed my hair is getting somewhat long, and a trifle wild as a consequence. some friends have speculated that i might soon well require to do a ponytail or "man bun"; something that i have historically accused gents who do that of being absolute wankers. well, times change. perhaps a focal point of my mid-life crisis, for if the years i have achieved now are half of my existence then i will have done well, will be doing something like that with my hair.
wrong and strange it seems to find myself saying this, but it happens to be true - despite the defeat, this was one of the best matches of football i have ever been at. with Boro all of a sudden being focused on driving attacks and trying to score goals (ostensibly the purpose of football), this really was an exciting match. the reality is we were outclassed by an understrength Manchester United team, but my word did the team give it all that they could.
it did at one point look like we were going to force a 2-2 draw, but in pushing for it they caught us on the break and Jesse Lingard slotted in the third for Manchester United. much to the delight of the very vocal and passionate travelling Manchester United fans.
other than the defeat, any blemishes on the day? nothing worth grumbling over. Chris Smalling wasting time by trying to work out how to tie his own shoelaces killed the pace for a bit, and he did seem to be at the centre of tensions bubbling over towards the end. but hey, it was Smalling's mistake that helped us score.
also, language. this wasn't really a problem, but as we were unable to secure seats in the family stand we got to hear some rather colourful and expressive things being shouted at the Manchester United fans and playing staff. this is part and parcel of football, and it must be stressed that James had absolutely no problem in listening to it. he, in truth, found much of what was said entertaining and educational, if not insightful.
a blemish for me, and many others, is the cost of going to the match. i appreciate supply and demand dictates the price, but still it was just ever so slightly south of £60 for me to take James. we would go to a lot more games if it was more affordable, but then i suppose if they made it any cheaper there would be no tickets left to buy, what with demand high.
so, a brilliant match, a result one of us was happy with, and all around a fantastic day out.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!