The Carling key - midfield - 25/02/2004

The Carling key - midfield
Happy memories of this place!!

Having looked at the teams and the likely formations for Sunday’s game, I feel that game will be won or lost in the midfield. I fancy Bolton, and the reason being is that in both Okocha and Djorkaeff, we have two highly technical players who can take advantage of Boro’s lack of bite in the centre. Don’t get me wrong, Middlesbrough are a very well organised unit – and their defence is definitely their strongest attribute, but players such as Juninho and Zenden are not on the pitch to track back. It’s also fair to say that Mendieta is a more attacking player than a defensive one.

For all their flair, they’ve struggled up front this season. Job, Ricketts, Maccarone, and Nemeth have only 15 goals between them, whereas Nolan, Davies, Pedersen, and Djorkaeff can total 26. Cup finals usually spring a surprise performance, and I wouldn’t discount one of the lower profile players grabbing the headlines. Whether it’ll be a classic or not, I don’t know. There’s a lot riding on this game – and that can mean nerves. It’ll be interesting to see who settles the quicker – both sides have a mixture of youth and experience, with Boro probably just edging the latter.

Bolton have enjoyed the Millenium Stadium in the past, whereas Boro won’t be able to look back on such an experience. But it’s what happens on the day and in football – anything can happen.

The ticket situation has been very unfortunate. With the benefit of hindsight, I’m sure the club would have done things differently. It might have been an idea to issue a voucher to all the fans who attended the semi-final game at the Reebok. In addition to rewarding loyalty, it would also have boosted the gate from a disappointing 16,000 to nigh on capacity – but again, I’m writing this with the benefit of hindsight. The Club made a decision that has since proved to be wrong, but this was made with good intentions and it’s not as if the Chairman was trying to pull a fast one and make a quick buck or two. Phil Gartside shouldn’t be castigated, he’s done very well for this club and one mistake shouldn’t threaten his popularity.

As for me, and as you can guess, I’ve been inundated with requests from friends, family and fans for tickets. I went to club and I can say hand on heart, they’re not holding any back for corporate purposes or anything like that. I’m taking my immediate family only and they’re regular attenders and season ticket holders! So apologies to everyone who I’ve had to turn down, but I’m sure they’ll understand the situation.

Football is about days like these and we’ve done well, I can think of many a club who haven’t had a sniff of Wembley of the Millenium Stadium over the last ten years or so. So whether you’re inside the stadium or not, lets get together and enjoy both the game and the occasion.

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