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Fans have been calling for Grant and Patrick to get in the team... and duo didn't let them down.

Byline: ANTHONY VICKERS @untypicalboro

JURGEN Klopp sparked a spat with the press after his side were pegged back by what he thought was a dodgy penalty.

The frustrated Kop boss asked the assembled hacks to raise their hands if they thought it was a spot kick and when most in the room did just that he had a bit of an emotional wobble.

When a reporter pressed the issue, Klopp argued then got stroppy saying: "We can stop the interview, because I only want to speak with someone who has a little bit of understanding of football."

Bosses can get tetchy under pressure.

It is a high-stakes business and in the immediate aftermath of a heated moment they can bubble over a bit.

That is part and parcel of the game.

But it did flag up an interesting point: people within the professional bubble think those outside don't know the game.

BOSSES DON'T THINK FANS UNDERSTAND THE GAME MANAGERS often let that truth slip under pressure of results.

Steve McClaren several times said Boro fans 'needed educating.' Gordon Strachan bridled whenever he was asked about what the fans may be thinking.

Aitor Karanka got sniffy and said he was sure fans "would be happy we have lost because at least we have played with two strikers" after a defeat at Blackburn.

Managers, coaches and a lot of players don't believe supporters who may have watched their team for 10, 20, 30 or more years understand the nuances of the game. Sometimes that is true of course. There are tactically illiterate individuals who shout and point angrily from the stands who seem to be berating players in a different game with different rules and tactics.

We all know one of them.

Sometimes they are the first and loudest on the phone-in or the most belligerent of keyboard warriors too and so it is easy for the professionals to sit a fume as they listen or read and get the impression of average fan being permanently irate and armed with a vitriol tipped agenda but little knowledge.

NO-ONE KNOWS THE TEAM BETTER NOTHING could be further from the truth. There is wisdom in the crowd.

As a collective, a group of scapelminded football supporters read the mechanics of a particular game incredibly sharply.

The don't just watch a game dispassionately - or through the prism of Prozone stats - but they experience it in a visceral way, feeling the slightest shifts in mood music and the neural network often reacts before the bench does to a subtle change in dynamics.

They are highly engaged and active observers. They have a huge historic backlog of forensic case histories of previous performances. They know the players' foibles intimately. They know the shapes and systems and how effectively they fit the skill set of their squad.

They know the strengths and weaknesses of players and which ones are a good fit together - or are not.

And they can see a game unfolding in minute detail. No-one knows the team better.

Everyone may see a match differently and have a unique psychological and emotional position on the supporting spectrum but put a group of well informed fans together and you quickly get an enlightened, informed and intricate reading.

By thrashing out contrasting views they arrive at a broad consensus on who played well or poorly, what worked or didn't work tactically and what the key issues were in shaping the dynamics. Fans know.

FANS HAD BEEN CALLING FOR DYNAMIC DUO TO RETURN TAKE the Ipswich match. Boro were more positive, more urgent and played with more hunger in a must win match.

They were more fluid up front and more driven in midfield with Patrick Bamford and Grant Leadbitter vital cogs in the machine.

Fans have been calling for the restoration of that dynamic duo to the team for weeks, if not months in the striker's case. The pair have been the subject of quite strident soap-boxing in the build-up to every game for what seems an eternity now.

Garry Monk has chopped and changed his midfield duo and the front four looking for the right balance in a stuttering side while frustrated fans have pointed and shouted to what seemed the obvious solution.

Of course, supporters don't see the players' pass completion, milage or ball rention stats on the gaffers iPad or how they perform in training. But they do see what they bring to the table when they are in the team.

And, more importantly, what is missing from the team when they are not in the mix.

MORE THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS BAMFORD is an intelligent player who drops deep and dips into pockets of space and knits together a fluid front line with deft touches and clever movement.

On song he brings the best out of those around him.

He had dropped down the pecking order because in strict tactical and technical terms he is behind Britt Assombalonga as the lone striker, and he isn't really either a No10 or a wide midfielder in the three behind. For a coach he may seem a spare part.

But against Ipswich he was the player who made the front end tick.

He was exactly what fans - and the team - had been crying out for.

The stats may show Leadbitter is slower or covers less ground than his engine-room rivals, but he is packed full of intangibles.

He is the emotional fuel that drives the team.

Against Ipswich he was shouting and pointing from the off at teammates, pulling them into position, geeing them up, urging them on, demanding more and better.

Seconds after the opening goal when the team were all back-slapping and high-fiving he was wagging fingers and giving pep talks, ensuring they stayed switched on.

Leadbitter brings drive, grit, nous and leadership, all things that have been sorely lacking during the recent stutter.

Boro have taken 23 points from 11 games he has started and just nine points in 10 games when he hasn't.

They have only lost twice when he has started.

That tells its own story. Within the coaching team there may well have been compelling tactical or technical reasons not to have been picking them.

For most fans there were compelling reasons otherwise. They help make the team greater than the sum of its parts.

But then, we knew that.


Some of the Boro fans in the stands ahead of Saturday's game

Fans who braved the cold were rewarded with a warming Boro win against Ipswich on Saturday

Patrick Bamford and Grant Leadbitter add their own dynamic to the Boro team
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Dec 12, 2017
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