So many emotions… excitement, anticipation, pride, anguish and ultimately – and perhaps inevitably – disappointment. The Euros had them all and a lot more besides, but the team gave us a lot of pleasure over the four weeks and performances up to – and including – the final can be seen as a positive stepping stone on the way to hopefully greater things next year.
Sadly, though, it was once again the ignorant and disgusting minority that became the major topic of conversation when it was all over. There was little doubt that after sixteen months of enforced lockdown these utter morons were going to emerge and create the kind of troubled scenes we had to endure at the final. But with almost fifty arrests we can only hope the authorities have the courage to make a vivid example with at the very least life bans from football. The correct punishment would hopefully show the rest of their peers that decent people despise their twisted attitudes. Sadly, though, history will probably show they once again got away with it. We can, however, hope!
At ‘Boro, meanwhile, we have at least seen a little bit of progress in the attempt to rebuild the side for hopefully a competitive season, and though it might only have been Bishop Auckland, new striker Uche Ikpeazu’s goal in his first match must surely have given fans a glimpse of what might be if he can show that kind of shooting power when we kick off in earnest at Fulham. Combine Ikpeazu’s goal with the only ‘Boro goal we’ve seen from another potentially exciting recruit – Sammy Ameobi – and we have a couple of possible match winners. They are, however, the kind of low value signings that are indicative of the current financial restraints not only at ‘Boro but also throughout the football league. But Neil Warnock’s ability to attract free or bargain basement players who share a combination of experience and potential are one of his main attractions. The important thing is to bring out that potential on a reasonably consistent basis. And while it may not be Lionel Messi, it’s possible we may also be able to enjoy watching an Argentinian international if Martin Payero finally puts pen to paper over the next few weeks or so. His presence will certainly give us Boro fans an extra interest in the Olympic football tournament whenever he dons his country’s shirt!
Perhaps the biggest coincidence in the forthcoming season is that for the fourth consecutive campaign we are beginning with a televised away game in the capital. Fulham will join Millwall, Luton and Watford as the fourth on the list but probably the most disturbing aspect is that we failed to win any of the games to date. OK, we were very unlucky at Watford last year having been the better team for most of the game, and we should certainly have beaten Luton when at 2-1 up with seven minutes remaining Assombalonga hit his penalty into row Z before Luton equalised a couple of minutes later. But at this stage does any of that really matter? The most important thing is that – barring a disaster with the new found freedom – football as we know it will be back and I’m really looking forward to that first game at the Riverside on the 14th of August v Bristol City. Having fans back is going to be tremendous and I’m pretty sure Neil Warnock is looking forward to it even more than we are!
What really matters is that the past year has shown us all how much we miss the Saturday afternoon anticipation, thrills, after match discussions and arguments that epitomise what live football is all about. The excitement of its return almost makes results irrelevant. Not completely, though. …. Come on ‘Boro!!!!!