In our last game here against Derby, we were very creative, although what we didn’t do was really punish them and that’s something we look like we’re going to do to someone soon.
We created 28 chances and that’s says a lot for the way we played on the day. Gus’s goal was tremendous, it was really inventive play to see the keeper off his line and chip him like that. It was a great way to send everyone home because a 2-1 victory wouldn’t have been a true reflection on the match.
That win took us up to Newcastle in good heart and I thought we had a lovely balance throughout the game. We said before that you can’t just pick up the reins from the last game, you have to earn the right and I felt we got a great response and passed the ball well.
We were spot on for 45 minutes, had a good look about us and created a lot of openings. There was a lot of good movement and possession, Darren Anderton had probably his best game for the club this season and it was great to see Gus get what was a good team goal.
His one against Derby was totally individual but at Newcastle, his strike was the product of beautiful movement, good running off the ball and superb execution.
We defended well in the second half and dug in when we had to. We lost Tano but Simon Davies and Sergei went on and made valuable contributions. It’s important to say to the substitutes that it’s not the team that starts that’s the most important team but the one that finishes. That’s the one that determines whether we win, hold on or turn a game around.
Sergei could have had a couple of goals and Simon played his part. Substitutes are important, if they’re not playing they’re disappointed but substitutes are a major factor these days. Games can be won or lost on substitutions and it was good to see that happen for us up there.
We’re building a foundation at the moment. We’ve now won at Sunderland and Newcastle, but what we’ve got to do is get back to back home wins and get a good run going here. These away performances won’t mean much if we don’t start winning regularly at home.
It’s always hard here at the Lane, it’s not as easy as people think. But I feel the supporters are really getting behind the team and are enjoying watching the football on show. They’re more patient now, more patient than I’ve seen them for years and that gives us time to deliver the goods on the pitch. There’s a unity between the staff, players and supporters and that’s got to continue because it means a lot to the success of the club.
We’ve been drawn away to Fulham in the next round of the Worthington Cup and that promises to be another special London derby. Strangely enough, John and I watched them play against Derby in the build up to our last game here, so we’ve had a look at them already.
Cup football is very important to us and this will be a big game. Fulham knocked us out of the competition a couple of seasons ago, so it represents a chance to go and put things right. It’s funny how football works. Just recently, John and I had the chance to lay the Tranmere ghost on an individual level and now the club has the opportunity to do the same to Fulham. But it will be a tough game.
We are slowly bolstering the squad back up to full strength with Goran Bunjevcevic, Tim Sherwood, Anthony Gardner and Ben Thatcher all back in the frame, although Goran is probably not quite ready yet. He’s still a bit unsure, although he has played a couple of reserve games in his mask but is still in a bit of pain. Tano’s injury at Newcastle is not as bad as first thought which is good news, whether he’ll be fit for today remains to be seen.
The long-termers are coming on as well. Steffen Iversen and Stephen Clemence have both started their rehabilitation with light running, Gary Doherty has had his plaster taken off and Stephen Carr is making progress, so that’s encouraging.
The stronger squad we have, the more we can achieve at this club. We’ve got a lot of belief at the moment and we’ve got to bounce off that and use it to our advantage. But we’ve not achieved anything yet, even though our results are good.
We’ve allowed young Matt Etherington to go on a month’s loan to Bradford, purely to give him experience. I think he’s really been playing well for our reserves without quite breaking into the first team. I don’t mind sending players on loan when I feel they’ve got a bright future and I think he’ll benefit from the experience of playing at that level and will return a better and mentally stronger player. I’m sure it will all work in our favour in the end.
Welcome to Steve McClaren and his new staff at Middlesbrough. Steve and I go back to when he was assistant at Oxford and I was Swindon manager and he’s done fantastic to come up through the coaching ranks very quickly. He’s a smashing lad and I’m really pleased to see him do so well, I like to see people like Steve succeed in football. I wish him well, but obviously not for this game.
It will also be good to see Paul Ince today, I’ve always had a lot of respect for Paul, he was a terrific player for his country when I was manager of England and he’s a good player for Boro. They’ve got some wonderful players, such as Alen Boksic, but they’re still in a bit of a false position although I’m sure they’ll get themselves out of it.
That’s why today’s game is so important. In the past, Tottenham have gone away and got good results but then let ourselves down in the home games everyone expects us to win. That’s why we can’t afford to be complacent today. Every single game in the Premiership is very difficult to win the points. We must be positive.
I’ve been delighted with our last two Premiership games, not only because we’ve won them but also because of the way we’ve performed in both.