Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Boro win; Alves signs

Its been a tense but productive week at the Riverside. Wigan were eventually dispatched on Tuesday night in a crucial relegation head-to-head before Boro completed the record signing of Brazilian international striker Afonso Alves for a reported £12m.

The Alves saga has dominated the transfer window and rumbled on until 11:30 on Thursday night. The bleating of AZ president Dirk Scheringa suggests there may still be more to come, although it seems unlikely anything will result from the Dutchman's posturing. While there is an undoubted gamble in investing an eight figure sum for the first time in a player with no Premier League experience, hopes are high that Alves can provide the cutting edge the team have been missing. With a goal scoring record in the Eredivisie that beats Ronaldo, Romario and van Nistelrooy, Alves has the potential. Its clearly enough to convince Gareth Southgate to stake his managerial reputation on Alves delivering.

Alves was at the Riverside on Tuesday and must have been pleased at the creativity his new team mates showed. For the opening half hour, Wigan were repeatedly carved open. Tuncay Sanli's deft turns and twisting runs were as thrilling as his finishing was awful. Doubtless spurred on by Fabio Capello's presence, Stewart Downing tormented Wigan down the left. It was Downing's flighted ball over the top that allowed Jeremie Aliadiere to notch a belated first goal at the Riverside, emphatically beating Kirkland with a firm left footed shot.

Once again, Boro suffered from not taking their chances while on top. Wigan should have been out of sight by half time but clung on to make it a nervy second half. Boro were indebted to Mark Schwarzer for a terrific save from Emile Heskey's header that sealed three points.

Its a trip to Newcastle tomorrow, up the world's largest staircase for the worst view and most fascist stewards in the Premier League. No doubt they'll be turning a deaf ear to the inevitably droll paedophilia jibes from the home crowd. If Mido plays, expect more political commentary, the Toon Army having been outraged by the way the Egyptian took their racist abuse with good humour at the Riverside. With Alves without his visa and Tuncay's hamstring thoroughly twanged, it seems likely Mido will have a role to play.

The Keegan 'revolution' seems to coming off the rails already, with the farcical recruitment of Dennis Wise and no goals scored in three games under the liberating, attacking influence of the (latest) Geordie messiah. With Boro's impressive recent away form, this could be the year to do something about our depressingly poor record at St. James' Park.

Prediction: Newcastle 1 Boro 1

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