RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Saturday, April 1

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: Middlesbrough F.C.

(just another day in the 'Boro)

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football dork methodology meant to establish a listing of players who have been most active for English Premier League teams in their past 100 non-friendly matches. Essentially, it is calculated by minutes played, but weighted towards most recent games. The end result is a listing of the 25 players in a team’s recent history who have had the largest hand on their metaphysical sporting trajectory. The English Premier League was chosen because it is the highest level of football played in an English speaking country, and I speak English. Also, it is what comes on TV here in the USA, where I fucking live. Should I not fail in maintaining my unpaid deadline, a new 25-Man Metaphysical Roster will appear on the 1st and 15th of every month.]

To give clarification as to how this has worked, when Swansea City was the first 25-Man listing done on February 1, I made that determination one month in advance, as they were bottom of the table on 01/01/17. I followed that method – picking the team lowest on the table who hadn’t been metaphysicized yet, one month in advance. I mention all this because Middlesbrough is the fifth team to be listed here, yet sits next to last on the EPL table right now, which means each one month in advance thus far, there has been a shittier team, but Middlesbrough also has plummeted below three of those team (Crystal Palace, Hull City, Swansea City) in that time. In other words, Middlesbrough’s having a shitty 2017 so far.
I don’t know much about Middlesbrough, as I am a futbol dork newb to a large extent, with only a few years of giving a fuck in my system. When you are a newb, you learn about the major teams (Big 6) pretty early on, because they are shoved down your throat against your will, and also they feature all the stars which are also shoved down your throat against your will. But me being a natural contrarian in temperament, it didn’t take much to gloss past that effect and dig into mid-carder teams, especially being a supporter of Swansea City, as those types of teams were our literal peers. Teams like West Ham (what up Dede!), Southampton, Stoke City (what up Wilfried!), and Newcastle United (those fuckers). But even in that contrarian dip into the nether regions of the PL table, I never have yet gotten around to giving too much of a fuck about Middlesbrough. This is likely because they were relegated (literally) to the Football Championship most of my time giving a fuck, up until this season.
I do know they’re not from the London bastion of footballing privilege, and it seems that anywhere in England not London is psychically second-tier. And as a secondary metric, within football, anywhere not Manchester (and not London) is also psychically even further second-tier. So I’d imagine there’s a certain amount of psychic underdog status built into a shitty industrial city in North Yorkshire. In brief study (i.e. scanning the Wikipedia page), I have *learned* that a bunch of Irish fucks immigrated to Middlesbrough back in the day, along with Scots and Welsh to keep up with the rising industrialization of the time. This adds a third level of psychic second-tier status (which I guess means the second-tier metaphor has broken down into deeper tiers? or obstructed views? I don’t know, let’s just go with it), which leads me to believe Middlesbrough is somewhat fucked. This would explain why, after a solid beginning to this season’s campaign, once the calendar flipped to 2017, they have yet to get a fucking win. They are doomed, beyond the players and team on the pitch right now, but at a deep and dark level which can be side-stepped (as they did by being in the PL through most ‘90s and ‘00s), but your innate doom will always rise up and clutch you back into the darkness. There is nothing you can do. I mean, you can fight it, in a three generations manner, and realize you will not in your lifetime see the change you wish could be reality, but maybe your grandchildren will, if everything breaks just right and you are blessed by whatever gods you place faith in.
Thus, a team like Middlesbrough (much like my beloved Swansea City) has no notion to even contemplate being a top club. (This is why Leicester City’s PL title last year was so bizarrely amazing.) They have to build up to consistent middle-of-the-packer, maybe flirt with a Europa League big now and then, usually through a Cup though. Maybe if you hold that course for half a decade or more, then you can start believing you can challenge for a top 6 slot at the bottom end of things. Thus, by the time your grandchildren are old enough to get slobbered before an away match on the bus (around age 10 or 11), maybe just maybe if all is lucky and beneficial in your world, you could be a top club. But most likely not.
When doom sets back in, it is cruel too, as would be signified by Middlesbrough thinking they were okay first half of the season to survive this return to PL and settle in for a longer haul (i.e. the try to work up to perennial mid-table status). But suddenly, doom sets in, you have a bad run, and back in the relegation zone you find yourself, staring at what feels like an inevitable ticket back down a level (to the literal second-tier of English football), back into that scrum. It’s almost sad, and in writing this pre-ramble about the Teessiders, I am now sympathetic to them. They are much like me – a born doomed loser who enjoys brief flirtations with something greater, but is destined to answer the haunted call of ancestral failure demons. (And yet also they have a big match away at Swansea City tomorrow, with both teams fighting for survival, so fuck all things Middlesbrough.)
Nonetheless, utilizing my dork metrics, here are the 25 men who have held the most prominent on-pitch role for this here Middlesbrough FC team of which sits firmly in relegation zone as well as personal blindspot of deep well of knowledge. But I am an American, and that doesn’t stop us, ever…
#1: BEN GIBSON – The most experienced in past 100 matches player on Middlesbrough squad is this 24-year-old defender, who’s been with the club since his youth days, and been persistent presence in backfield for past four seasons (outside of one brief loan to Tranmere Rovers). He also just made his first appearance for the English national team last week in a World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, coming on as an injury substitute. On top of all this, he’s the nephew of the owner, which suggests as usual the world is not a meritocracy.
#2: ADAM CLAYTON – Oh god fuck here I am doing this again, and great Middlesbrough is chock full of the blandest most English names ever like Ben Gibson and Adam Clayton and Stewart Downing and George Friend and Adam Forshaw and Grant Leadbitter and ugh how can their most active players all be so predictably vanilla sounding? No wonder they’re tethered to relegation zone and (perhaps) bound for the drop again… they sound like a Sunday pub team.
#3: STEWART DOWNING – Downing was born in Middlesbrough, played on the Academy team as a yung lean, and in fact got good enough to leave the shithole and go have stints in bigger places like Liverpool and then in London for West Ham United. But, age creeps back in, and he’s made the complete ouroboros return back to the ol’ shithole full of cellular memories, though I’m sure he’s all “It’s great to return back to the place I came from, I love these people, and these abandoned factories, and getting reconnected to the cultural detritus of western civilization.”
#4: GEORGE FRIEND – Former Middlesbrough star player Szilard Nemeth once said, “Middlesbrough is very bad. It is not a nice town and there are a lot of factories.” The shitty small town I live near only has one factory, but it’s been closed for as long as we’ve been here (17 years). It used to make tires, now it sits there doing nothing, but they do have an occasional car show in the parking lot run by the local churches. In the forgotten places left behind by global progress, not only do those factories go dormant, but as opportunities to progress exist elsewhere, the human resource is strip mined, so that those with potential or promise go to where potential and promise might still be rewarded. This leaves behind the diminishing returns of human resource where doomed people end up being the majority. And of course as religion and nationalism fails them, they either double down on more extreme versions of those things, or they self-medicate through alcohol or drugs. It’s a metaphysical downward cycle for a place. And in spaces like that, where the men are forgotten and overlooked and deemed by society as well as themselves as questionably even necessary, and they are fervently pro-whatever the fuck they are, and also perhaps inebriated, they are going to take pride in their shithole. And when some handsome but not effeminate footballer, who attains second captain status like George Friend, is their man on the spectacle they use to distract themselves from full shithole, they’re gonna love that dude. He’s one of them, for pretend, and it helps the illusion we tell ourselves to keep from crumbling into useless dust remain strong.
#5: ADAM FORSHAW – Midfielder who came on in January of 2015, and been occupying space consistently ever since. Not much of a scoring threat, though he did score a pair of goals last season at the Football Championshp level. Perhaps will do so again next year when they are back.
#6: GRANT LEADBITTER – Rock in the midfield for the Teeassiders for half a decade now, earning him the captain’s armband. He looks like a World War II soldier from a 1980s comic book. He started taking some heat as captain towards the slow sour end of Aitor Karanka’s stint as manager. Karanka never really through anyone under the bus, as any manager wouldn’t in that position (because who the fuck would trust you with their players in the future?), but obviously fielding a team of about 7 lesser Jamie Vardys is a danger, and if they underperform (which would be easy), then your manager is fucked. Speculation is Leadbitter, despite his armband, will be gone in a few months as well, as the jump up to Premier League has given people hope again to not just be a Championship team.
#7: DANIEL AYALA – FINALLY A NON-ENGLISHMAN! He went to Middlesbrough for a loan spell in 2014, and fell in love with the place and stayed. Haha, no, they just paid him, that’s all.
#8: EMILIO NSUE – Spaniard who came up through Spain’s league ranks, but then jumped over to England to play for Middlesbrough in 2014, where he remained a constant partial game presence as a wingback until making a transfer move to Birmingham City this past January. Also, despite being a Spaniard in birth and at all levels up to U21 for the national team, he’s a member of the Equatorial Guinea national team, because national team status is complicated. And also corrupt. I actually blog at the international level for Polish national blogger team, due to my paternal grandmother, though I’ve never gotten closer than buying kielbasa in Pennsylvania.
#9: CRISTHIAN STUANI – A Uruguayan whose only taste of  English football has been Middlesbrough, but who – more importantly – has a nice letter remix to the word “Christian” for his name. I can’t wait ‘til ten years from now when cybertronic post-social media text-anarchy children start coming of age and we have players who lack vowels in their names and screenprinters have to start using ampersands and tildebangs on jerseys.
#10: MARTEN DE ROON – De Roon was one of Middlesbrough’s big signings this past summer to upgrade their roster for the Premier League, coming over from Atalanta in Italy. He’s only scored 2 goals, but the first one was an equalizer in stoppage time at the end of a match against Manchester City away, which was one of Middlesbrough’s biggest successes the first half of the season. (Obviously, they have had no successes the second half thus far.)
#11: DIMITRIOS KONSTANTOPOULOS – Konstantopoulos was their GK of choice the past two seasons at the Football Championship level, but has found himself third in depth now with upgrades made at the position this past summer transfer season. The perfect scenic ambiance of a 38-year-old Greek goalkeeper buried deep on the bench in a place like Middlesbrough is wonderful backdrop for a BBC version of The Wire, in my opinion.
#12: GASTON RAMIREZ – Ramirez is another Uruguayan who is bench contributor for that national team, and came up through the most prominent club in that nation – Penarol (they got the second best jerseys going, only topped by FC Palestino; dream Dirtgod outfit for death is Penarol jersey with Pierroth Jr. mask). But Ramirez has never really excelled for Middlesbrough like one would expect, knowing his international credentials. He did at first, while on loan from Southampton, bagging 7 goals in 18 appearances at the end of last season’s championship campaign. But he’s struggled this season at the higher level, and has failed to make an impact.
#13: ALVARO NEGREDO – Won Euro 2012 with Spain, and then was high profile addition to Manchester City the following summer, where he performed well, including a hat trick in the Champions League against CSKA Moscow. City loaned him to Valencia, where he excelled enough to get signed permanently, but then he got loaned out to Middlesbrough this season. He has been their biggest scoring threat though.
#14: VICTOR VALDES – Valdes is the aging GK who once minded the posts for Barcelona, and also occupied an expensive seat on the bench at Old Trafford for a while. His downward trajectory of age has landed him at Middlesbrough this year, where he has been the Choice A amongst their threesome of GKs. I would imagine he is of too prominent a personality to take the plunge down a level should the team not escape relegation.
#15: ALBERT ADOMAH – Adomah’s a Ghanaian striker with lifelong London roots. He’s also one of those sad stories of somebody who was on Middlesbrough for three Football Championship campaigns, and was in fact instrumental in their successful promotion last year, only to transfer to Aston Villa and remain at the Championship level again this season.
#16: ANTONIO BARRAGAN – Handsome Spanish defender who came over from Valenica this past summer. There’s a slew of Spaniards on this team, understandable with their former Spanish manager Aitor Karanka (he’s a former manager, not a former Spaniard, although that would be funny if you could just be an exiled manager with no nationality, roaming the Earth, coaching football), and that adds to speculation there will be pretty big changes to personnel once they figure out who the fuck their next manager is. (I guess big part of that is what level will they be, too. I’d guess they bring in short-term guy to try and spike performance to avoid the drop, then decide something permanent from there.)
#17: CALUM CHAMBERS – Young Arsenal defender getting himself some Premier League minutes with a lesser team. His space with Arsenal is precarious at best, so this loan spell is as much audition for other teams as anything else.
#18: FABIO – A Brazilian whose professional career consisted of contracted times at Manchester United and Cardiff City before going to Middlesbrough, so I am inclined to dislike him on all metaphysical levels. Don’t know anything else about him, and don’t need to.
#19: ADAMA TRAORE – Spanish winger who did the exact opposite of Adomah, because he played for Aston Villa last season at Premier League level, and though they got dropped, he made the move to Middlesbrough to stay up at this level. He ain’t really done shit though.
#20: DAVID NUGENT – Mainstay striker the past two seasons for Middlesbrough, but never justified that spot at Premier level (and perhaps was another example of the Teassiders loving them corny ass vanilla-looking English boys too much). He transferred down a level to Derby County, who – it should be noted – have one of the most tattooable logos in all of English football.
#21: BERNARDO – Came to Middlesbrough this past summer transfer season on a free transfer, which a lot of times is mark of questionability. His time at previous employ was cut short by blown out knee, and he’s actually only made 9 appearances for Boro this season.
#22: TOMAS KALAS – 23-year-old Czech defender who has been signed to Chelsea since he was old enough to sign a professional contract, but has only made 2 appearances for the team he’s contracted to. He has otherwise though appeared for Sigma Olomouc  in the Czech Republic (4 times, who Chelsea purchased him from but loaned him back right away), Vitesse in the Netherlands (67 times), Koln reserves in Germany (twice), and then 43 times over two seasons for Boro before getting loaned to Fulham instead this season, I guess to keep him from competing at the Premier League level just yet.
#23: JORDAN RHODES – Shockingly, white as fuck English striker recruited to help Middlesbrough through their Championship promotion slog on transfer deadline day last season (2016), where his uncle was Assistant Manager (lolol). Perhaps (lolol) not good enough for Premier League, so again transferred on deadline day this season, to Sheffield Wednesday this time, on loan which becomes permanent at end of season. The Owls are right now in the final spot for promotion playoffs though, so who knows, your boy Jordan Rhodes might make it back to being obscure and irrelevant at the top level of English football once again!
#24: BRAD GUZAN – The stupidest looking American on Earth. (I am going to get fined by the Polish Blogging team for saying so though.)
#25: VIKTOR FISCHER – Viktor Fischer is a very beautiful Danish of a man, but played his entire senior career for Ajax, which I’ve been trained by my main football bro to consider pure scum, thus I can only assume Fischer is involved in some sort of disgusting sexual trafficking ring.

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