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Lookingat Boro through the eyes of other people.

FOOTBALL fans have always had a Premier League problem with perspective.

The team - as individuals and as a unit - are either heroes or zeroes, opinion swinging metronomically from casting them as relegation bound wasters deserving of public vilification by the mob or Godlike icons to be wafted with ostrich feathers on their passage through adoring masses. It was ever thus.

Beleaguered Boro had a taste of the former as they slithered chaotically down first the Southgate then Strachanovite snakes to a soundtrack of booing. The consensus was that they were, well, a bit rubbish.

Now after a sizzling start to the season they are being lauded by a series of claims of outrageous ability that would make a gangsta rapper blush.

Bipolar Boro fans who had predicted a stodgy campaign of flailing in the bottom six are now making provisional bookings for hotels in the Wembley area in late May as the results graph takes a sharp upturn.

Another couple of weeks of suffering such G-force and the clamour will grow to saw the top off the 263 in preparation for the victory parade.

It is part of the traditional internal battle for emotional control between our psychic chicken-runner and ra-ra, the sublimated battle between rampant Brownleeite silver lining and dark clouded pessimistic Slavenism.

Generally there is little room for a rational middle-ground with Boro.

We are working in an environment of extremes and the differential and movement between them is the engine of our cultural history.

And we are in a period of rapid transformation of perspectives right now so there is little point asking a Boro die-hard for an objective view of the team.

The confirmed pessimists will tell you even now that Boro haven't beaten anyone yet, that they have only played teams in the bottom six.

The confirmed optimists will counter by saying the broken victims are only in the bottom six because they have been monstered by the Mogganaut. At times like this it is sometimes useful to step away from the maelstrom and look at it through outside eyes.

"Oh, would God the giftie gi'e us to see ourselves as ithers see us..." said Rabbie Burns, famous former Kilmarnock outside left and wordsmith.

The managers and fans of the broken teams we have left in our wakes might be a good place to start.

Burnley boss Eddie Howe said simply: "We were beaten by the better team.

"We conceded early on then they got men behind the ball and we found it difficult to break them down.

"They were very organised, dropped deep and defended very compact. Away from home it is proving a very successful system for them."

And a Burnley fan added on supporters forum Clarets Mad: "Tony Mowbray had them so well organised. When they lost the ball they had five along the back holding a line well up the pitch and four in a line in midfield. They just choked us."

That is a fair enough assessment of Boro's new found ability to dig in and defend. Four clean sheets in eight games this term tells its own story.

Another Burnley fan observed: "This Boro were light years away from the shambles of a side here last season," which is probably true, but that game - the one defeat in 20 - was an off day for Mogga's side.

Similarly Darren Ferguson was gushing after Boro dismantled a Peterborough side with a red hot home record and buzzing from a seven goal win over Ipswich.

"They were excellent against us," he said. "They were big, strong, well-organised and they stopped us playing. That was a more realistic Championship performance than the one Ipswich delivered."

That is an interesting observation. Fergie's boy had Boro marked down as "big and strong," a perspective that seems at odds with the withering pre-season Teesside default that we had a team of lightweight midgets.

Apart from Stephen McManus Boro are far from the Land of the Giants template that usually moulds teams that pass for "big and strong" in this league, although under Mogga plenty of our slight stars are playing like they feel 10 feet tall.

But not only can we soak up pressure we can apply it too, according to the coaches.

Coventry boss Andy Thorn admitted after his side snatched a 1-1 draw and Boro twice rattled the woodwork: "They are a good, organised side with a lot going forward, a lot of movement and players who can hurt you.

"A lot of other teams would have crumbled out there but my boys are strong and we dug in. We were delighted to come away with a big point."

And Birmingham boss Chris Hughton was complimentary too after the Blues' emphatic 3-1 Riverside defeat.

"We know what Middlesbrough are about," he said. "They a good team with a lot of quality players.

"You know they are going to be good on the ball so you have to keep your shape and keep working hard for longer periods and try to make it hard for them.

"No excuses, the team we put out was a strong one with a lot of Premier League experience and a lot of quality but Boro were better than us."

Barnsley boss Keith Hill was more succinct. "They deserved the win," he said. "They were by far the better side, they were terrific. And Marvin Emnes was fantastic."

That is all encouraging to hear. Away from the hothouse of local opinion, infused with expectation and prejudice, outside observers who can measure Boro against other side they have seen injects a welcome bit of objectivity.

Of course, not every one has been bigging up Boro.

Simon Grayson put his Leeds side's 1-0 defeat by a spawny outplayed average side entirely down to the ref. Ah, sour grapes.

You need some constants in life.

Flying under the radar, and that's good!

BORO are flying under the radar - and I like it.

There have been flashes of indignant Boronoia from fans over the media's treatment of our heroes this season.

Boro are unbeaten and deservedly in third place but have been relegated to well down the running order on the Football League Show and are sometimes skimmed over with only a goals blipvert and a passing superficial mention from Steve Claridge.

Most people will miss the dismissive sneer anyway as they whizz through on Sky Plus.

There is little dedicated coverage in the national press, only afterthought footage on the regional newscasts and barely a whisper from the Championship pundits.

It's no biggie. Boro have slipped off the news agenda.

It is three years since they were in the big time and, outside Teesside, few people are taking much notice, and fewer still will have clocked the steady, solid upturn since February.

Good. Let the spotlight fall on media darlings West Ham and the fast fading reflected glamour sub-textual battle of the former England bosses plus the fairytale rises of Brighton and Southampton.

We can get on with making slow and steady progress in the shadows until we are ready for a late unavoidable headline grabbing surge to glory.

As an added bonus Mogga (pictured) DIDN'T win the manager of the month gong.

Hurrah! That would only have attracted unwanted attention.

There's plenty of time for that.


ON THE ATTACK: Scott McDonald bursts forward at Burnley on a day when Boro impressed those watching from the stands and on TV... even those not from Teesside
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Sep 13, 2011
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