Wednesday 21st October
Hearing a crescendo of boos from thousands of your own fans is never a pleasant experience but all professional footballers have to deal with flak of that nature on occasion. This week Middlesbrough's players have had to face the music and it couldn't have been easy for them.
Boro's fans should not be criticised as they have every right to voice their opinions as they wish and after seeing their team fail to score in 270 minutes of football at the Riverside, you couldn't really blame them for being upset last weekend. It's the nature of football that supporters will voice their frustration when things aren't going well.
They voted with their feet by means of a much reduced attendance that turned up to see their game against Derby County on Tuesday but the players summoned up enough courage and belief needed to take the three points. Sadly for Gareth Southgate it wasn't enough though and he hasn't managed to hold onto his job, and that's sad.
Gareth has left behind a very young side, and for many of them this will be a really difficult period. They're not hardened to criticism or pressure and as a result most of those young boys in the Boro line-up will be more sensitive to it all than most. I've been there before as a youngster and these types of situations can really affect your game.
I vividly remember looking forward to away matches more than home games during certain periods of my career because of the tension there was at our own ground. There is less pressure on you away from home and as a result you feel more comfortable on the ball. When an entire stadium is on edge it can, and does, make players tense up and make decisions that are alien to them.
You would have to be deaf to blank out the noise, so that's not an option. What Boro's youngsters need to do, no matter who the new manager is going to be, and no matter what the atmosphere is like, is to be brave. That's simply doing what is right for the team no matter what the fans are crying out for. Even when a whole stadium becomes irritable, it's vital that you look for the ball and get on it whenever you can. Making a mistake can be awful but you have to put yourself on the line and risk it.
A manager may have specifically asked his players to put long balls into the channels for the strikers to chase at every opportunity. He may want percentage football on the day to get a result. Being brave is doing just what the manager has asked you to do, even when the crowd are moaning and groaning at your decision to play in that style.
Refusing to play the five-yard ball that could be cut out, when the gaffer has told you to play it long is an example of bravery. It would the same scenario if the boss had told you to play everything short too. It's about doing what's right, even when tens of thousands of people don't see it that way.
If Middlesbrough's players can show those qualities they will be just fine. In fact, I know they will be fine. In the Championship it is impossible to go a whole season without these periods. All of the top teams have stumbled already at some point (just as they have in the Premier League this year).
I feel very sorry for Gareth Southgate that he's lost his job but these days when expectations are so high you just don't get too many chances I guess.
Before I go this week I'd like to say well done to QPR for two fantastic home wins against Preston and Reading. They have made some really astute loan signings and are creeping under the radar nicely. I fancy my old team-mate Jim Magilton's team to be in amongst the play-off places this season if they carry on playing the way they are. And what a goal that was from Adel Taarabt on Saturday! Most players tend to get a rush of blood to the head after producing a long, mazy dribble so for Adel to find such a precise long range finish from 30 yards was pretty special - a goal of the season candidate if ever I saw one.
Finally, I'd like to take my hat off to Peterborough United's George Boyd on breaking the club record for successive appearances. As someone who played 223 consecutive games for Ipswich back in the day I know how difficult it is to do. I played in pain sometimes (when I really shouldn't have) and I'm sure he has done as well, just so that he can be out there doing what he's paid to do.
As a forward, it's unusual not to be rested from time to time so it's particularly impressive that George has stayed in the team for such a long period. He's avoided injuries and suspensions too, so to rack up 125 matches on the trot really is some achievement.
Well done George!
>>Send in your comments on Matt's blog by clicking here
1. From Paul James:
"What a great signing to the football-league website Matty Holland is,he was a good player but as a blogger he is in a league of his own. Keep up the good work"
2. From Nick Tadd:
"Hi Matt - Gareth Southgate went because he just couldn't see the blindingly obvious tactically. No other reason - because if he'd got that right he would still be there top of the League! And he doesn't need any more players - just use the ones he has at his disposal in the right positions and stick to it. Football is really a very simple game and these days coaches over complicate things. You never saw Brian Clough play anybody out of position"