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 Campbell (18')
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Everton v Middlesbro
Prior League Games
 Everton 33
 Middlesbrough 6
 Draws 12
 Everton 2
 Middlesbrough 2
 Draws 2
 Last Season:
 Everton 2-2 Middlesbro


The good news for Everton was the presence of Watson, Pistone and Ferguson in the starting line-up.  The bad news for Middlesbrough was the absence of Alen Boksic.

A great move after 15 mins saw Ferguson and Campbell combine well but Ferguson's magnificent header went wide.  But a Pembridge corner a few minutes later saw Kevin Campbell nip infront of the Boro goalie to nod it over the line...  GOAL! Campbell's first of the season!!!

Everton settled reasonably well and controlled the game for a little while until Pembridge got a knock and had to be withdrawn before the half-hour, with Idan Tal finally getting a decent opportunity to prove his case for inclusion.  And moments later it heralded another period off sustained attacking by Everton, reminiscent of the first half v Spurs, and largely driven by the vision of Scot Gemmill.

But Everton suffered a scare as Boro broke well, with Gerrard catching the ball at the second attempt.  Everton kept coming at Boro, with Campbell and Ferguson actually starting to look as if they had been training together, combining nicely to create a great chance with Alexandersson, but Everton could not convert.

Barely had the second half started, than Scot Gemmill had lashed Everton into a dominating position.  A corner, the ball headed clear, and a tremendous snap-volley from Scot Gemmill rocketed into the corner of the net candidate for Goal of the Season! 

Boro changed things around, using all their substitutes, but to little real effect, apart from Ince clashing briefly with Unsworth, to the crowd's pleasure and amusement.

In the dying minutes, a tiring Kevin Campbell really should have made it three.  Not an outstanding performance by Everton, but a clean sheet, solid defence, and enough goals to take Everton to the top of the league for the second time this season... until tomorrow.

M A T C H    F A C T S
  Match Info  
  2001-02 FA Premiership, Game 3
3:00pm  Saturday 25 August 2001
Goodison Park, Liverpool
Referee: Uriah Rennie (Sheffield) 
Att: 32,829
Position: 1st
Line-ups Subs not used
Everton: Gerrard, Watson, Pistone, Stubbs, Weir, Unsworth, Alexandersson (88' Naysmith), Pembridge (29' Tal), Gemmill, Campbell, Ferguson.  Simonsen,  Moore, Chadwick. 
Unavailable:  Cadamarteri, Cleland, Gascoigne, Gravesen, McLeod, Radzinski, Xavier (injured); Nyarko (loan). 
Middlesbro' Schwarzer, Fleming, Vickers (64' Mustoe), Southgate, Ehiogu, Cooper, Ince, Greening, Okon (64' Windass), Job, Ricard (46' Nemeth).  Crossley, Stockdale. 
Playing Strips Formations
Everton: Royal Blue shirts; white shorts; blue socks. 5-3-2
Middlesbro': Red shirts; red shorts; white socks 4-4-2
  Yellow Cards Red Cards
Everton:  Unsworth (71'), Pistone (85') --
Middlesbro':  Ricard (45') --

Premiership Scores
 Arsenal 4-0  Leicester
 Blackburn 2-1  Tottenham
 Everton 2-0  Middlesbro'
 Fulham 0-0  Derby
 Ipswich 0-1  Charlton
 Southampton 0-2  Chelsea
 West Ham 0-0  Leeds Utd
 Aston Villa 1-1  Man United
 Newcastle 1-1  Sunderland
 Bolton 2-1  Liverpool

Premiership Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Bolton 9
2 Everton 7
3 Leeds 7
4 Arsenal 6
5 Man Utd 5
6 Chelsea 4
7 Fulham 4
8 Blackburn 4
9 Derby 4
10 Sunderland 4
11 Liverpool 3
12 Ipswich 3
13 Charlton 3
14 Newcastle 2
15 Aston Villa 2
16 Tottenham 2
17 West Ham 1
18 Southampton 0
19 Middlesbrough 0
20 Leicester 0
After 27 August 2001
M A T C H     R E P O R T S
Everton Web Sites
ToffeeWeb Match Summary Match Report
When Skies Are Grey Match Report
Speke from the Harbour Match Report
From The Terrace Match Report
Blue Horizons Match Report
Blue Kipper Match Report
Everton Fans' Reports
Squire of Beckenham Everything is funny...
Guy McEvoy Top of the League
Richard Marland Comfortable Sailing
Featured Media Reports
The Sunday Times Everton dismiss Boro to go top
Links to Other Media Reports
Electronic Telegraph Match Report
BBC Sport Match Report
FA Premier Match Report
Sky Sports Match Report
Sporting Life Match Report
SoccerNet Match Report
The Guardian Match Report
The Independent Match Report
Liverpool Echo Match Report

Match Preview

After a forgettable opening two games for Middlesbrough, Evertonians will be hoping that the Blues can inflict some more pain on Steve McLaren's likely lads.  With a humiliating 4-0 defeat at home by Arsenal preceding a 1-0 defeat by Bolton, Boro will be equally looking to get their first point of the season against an injury-hit Everton, who include Gary Naysmith and Paul Gascoigne in their squad for the first time this season. 

A win for Everton would be comforting considering the next few games are Man Utd, Liverpool and Leeds.  Boro, however, arguably need the points more than we do: rock bottom after not even scoring a goal so far...

Team News
Tomasz Radzinski was expected to make his much-anticipated debut for Everton after shaking off a hamstring strain, but that now appears unlikely.  Thomas Gravesen, Abel Xavier and Danny Cadamarteri are all out until at least the trip to Man Utd on Sept 8th but Paul Gascoigne has been included in the squad along with Gary Naysmith.  Whilst Naysmith is battling with Dave Unsworth for a spot on the left wing, Gazza is only hoping for a place on the bench.  Watson and Pistone may need late fitness checks.

Alen Boskic is back for the visitors after missing the Bolton game; however, Noel Whelan and Dean Gordon are out injured.

Head to Head
Duncan Ferguson vs Gareth Southgate
Both players have all the natural qualities to be the best in their respective positions but not since a few years back have either looked like doing just that.  After Euro 96, Gareth Southgare enjoyed European qualification with Aston Villa and then reached the quarter finals of the UEFA cup the year after.  Since then, he and Villa have failed to continued their good progress and are in need of a new fresh challenge.  So Southgate joined up with his old mate Ugo Ehiogu at Boro.  

Duncan, in the same year, started to finally show all the potential that had been talked about since the day we signed him.  Tearing Man Utd apart at Old Trafford with 2 goals and some great performances against Newcastle and Liverpool that season showed that Duncan could finally be the 20-goal-a-season man we needed.  

However, after a 13-goal season in 97/98, Duncan scored 5 in 8 before being sold by Peter Johnson in November 1998.  Now hes back and hopefully over some of his injury problems; he has scored in both games so far and battle with Southgate should provide to be a testing one.

An Everton win: simple.  No disrespect to Boro, but we should be able to beat this team quite convincingly.  It would be nice to see Super Kev get off the mark and a run-out for Gazza.

Top of the League!

by Guy McEvoy

This was my first game of the season.  A close friend's wedding had conspired to keep me away from Charlton, and work made sure that I was stuck in a pub with their lot watching the Spurs game in North London.  So I got to the ground a little earlier than usual just to enjoy being there again and to make sure that the season ticket lot around me hadn't changed.

They hadn't.  In fact, very little at Goodison had changed.  Usually the start of the season is marked by a new Goodison gimmick or several new players, but this season it was all pretty much as I left it...  The only difference I noticed was that the Ladbrokes in the Top Balcony appears to have closed down.  The team looked exactly the same save swapping Gough for Stubbs.

So out they trotted.  Gerrard in Goal.  Pistone, Stubbs and Weir flanked by Watson and Unsworth.  Pembridge, Alexandersson and Gemmill in the centre and the gelling partnership of Campbell and Ferguson up front.

The game started slowly in a dire atmosphere.  The players gave us little to get behind.  Both sides held their formations as if they were stuck on poles like table football, with about the same level of forward movement.

Despite the turgidness of it all, we did somehow start to make one or two chances.  Campbell cleverly chipped in for Ferguson to do his thing, and how he headed wide is beyond me.  Later Alexanderson (who's crossing had so far been woeful) decided to have a shot instead, which was useful and forced a good save from the keeper.

Not exciting, but the momentum was definitely with us.

A corner.  Pembridge.  Crossed.  Cambell jumps.  A goal.  Easy peasy.

We probably could have extended the lead before the break but for all the assets Campbell and Ferguson were displaying - the killer final touch was the one we were not treated to.

Half time.  Now I reckon this was the turning point in the game.  As I've said the atmosphere up to now had been dire.  But they had two aces up their sleeves for us.  First off. they brought on Mike Treblicock with fitting introduction.  He got the reception he deserved, and by god, he milked it to the full.  He ran round to salute every stand.  Great to see.

Then they brought on some Brazillian Samba band.  Normally these sort of things make my toes curl all the way to my heels but there can't have been a red blooded bloke in the house who didn't appreciate this particular injection of Brazillian spirit.  They had these dancers there.  It's kind of difficult to describe if you didn't see it - I've only ever seen women dance like that before around poles in bars I've 'accidentally' ended up in whilst on stag do's, if you get my drift.  What would the FA say if they knew?!?!  The atmosphere was lifted anyway...

The second half was better stuff.  Not brilliant - no cause to get carried away - but better.  We had all the chances, though I was beginning to doubt our self belief to put the ball away.  Then we had the magic moment.  Another corner, quickly taken, whipped in, headed out, Gemmill runs to the loose ball and let's fly with the sweetest volley.  

Christ, did I enjoy that!  Bloody yonks since we saw as good a goal at Goodison.  Excellent.  And nobody deserved that as much as Gemmill.  Since he's been with us he's always been an honest player, never hidden, often underrated.  Good on you lad.

Which kept me going nicely until the final whistle.

Top of the league.  Amazing!

Still, to get it in perspective the three games we've played we've done well, sure - but so far it's been against teams at the second tier level of the league.  In fact I'm not sure how much we can really tell from today at all; Middlesbrough must be the least convincing opposition to have come to Goodison in a couple of seasons.  The next three games and whatever we take from them will be a far better indication of our progress.

In the meantime; "We are top of the league, say We are top of the league"

Everything is funny as long as it is happening to someone else

by The Squire of Beckenham

(Will Rogers, The Illiterate Digest, 1924) 

Let me tell you about my talisman.  After the Charlton game I returned home to find that my ever-loving partner, Lil, had bought me a Beanie baby.  An orange and green tortoise called Peekaboo (d.o.b. April 21, 2000).  Well, stuff all that Yankee schmaltz thought I, and immediately rechristened the tortoise Davie Weir, partly in ironic celebration at the Pinkies decision to pass him over for being too slow, but mainly as a tribute to Davie being Johnny on the Spot against the Addicks and scoring the winner.

Sadly, Davie Weir the beanie tortoise (like Allen Boksic) was unable to travel to Goodison due to my absent mindedness (exacerbated, it must be said, by prodigious amounts of beer being sunk up West the night before), and as I wasnt going to take him into a pub and have him hanging out of my arse bin for the Spurs game, his talismanic powers are as yet untested.  

However, if youre looking for omens, try this; as I navigated the South Circular, Radio 5 had a feature on The Top Ten Unusual Sporting Traditions, and at number 6 was Evertons taking the field to the strains of Z Cars.  They told the story of us being quite good in the sixties and adopting the tune, but said that the more likely explanation was the melody, based on the old sea shanty Johnny Todd, and bugger me if they dont cue in a crackly (and very, VERY rare) bootleg of Bob Dylans version of the aforementioned Johnny Todd.  A sublime moment; Im no Dylan fan but even I could appreciate something special right then.

To add to this, Radio 5 seemed to have gone Blue-tastic that morning; an interview with Kevin Campbell, in which he was extremely hopeful that Big Dunc would play; an interview with Walter Smith, dour as ever; and, the jewel in the crown, a trip down Memory Lane to this day in 1976, when we were busy malleting QPR 4-0 with Fat Latch in lethal form. 

A wonderful afternoons listening, tempered only by their continued insistence that Leeds needed only to avoid defeat to West Ham to go top of the table, and the sodding choking traffic that blights our antiquated and woefully inadequate motorway network every day of the week (and twice on Bank Holiday Saturdays).

Meanwhile, over in deepest darkest St. Helens, our secret weapon was pacing up and down restlessly awaiting my arrival; my son Martin, wearing out his mums carpet and fretting over my tardiness.  Martin has never attended a game where Everton have lost; but to be on the safe side he answered the gentle probing of Mr. M Durkin regarding Evertons chances of victory with a shy giggle and a quietly firm conviction that we were going to lose.  Hes his Dads lad and no mistake (but I bet he loses the shy giggle when he discovers beer). 

A bunch of the usual suspects were present at the Black Horse and heavily engaged in the pre-match pastimes of necking ale and talking broken biscuits, save for dat dere cockney toffee, displaying his usual propensity for being fashionably late due to a combination of box-office queues and his tying one on the night before (causing him to be at the back of said queues).

As we ambled to the ground, I was captivated by a most bizarre sight; the photographers studio on Church Road West advertised that they were indeed Closed for Instant Passport Photographs.  My addled grey matter reeled as I tried to absorb this information, and only Michaels repeating the words confirmed to me that I had indeed seen them.  Ahh, the comedy of the subtle soon to be supplanted by the more accessible medium of slapstick.

The teamsheet threw up no surprises; Gerrard between the sticks; Unsworth, Pistone, Stubbs, Weir and Watson across the back; Pembridge, Gemmill and Alexandersson in midfield; and SooperKev upfront with Big Dunc.  Three starts in succession for the Yin, a career record surely? 

And heres another omen; the day before the game my Southampton-supporting boss was asking me what I thought about Uriah Rennies reintroduction to the Premiership, and bugger me if the man himself wasnt out there striding to the centre circle?  Well, at least we werent going to suffer from the jolly japes of the Harrow schoolmaster.

Straight from the off, the pumping of the ball up to Big Dunc was causing all sorts of problems.  Once, sides would let him win the header and mark the space that the ball would drop into, but with Campbell around you simply cannot do that. 

Boro, by contrast, were looking markedly shaky; admittedly they were missing five first-teamers, including the massively talented Marinelli, but even so their meandering led to naught.  Make no mistake; theyre a skilful and pacey side, but they have no organisation and as much direction as your arsehole has after a dodgy Chicken Phall (made from prime Alsatian cuts).  All of Foes trickery, and Ricards bustle, was wasted as the ball ended up time after time in the far corners of the Street End.  Much to our delight.

Seventeen minutes in and the relentless pressure told, as a corner whipped in by Pembo was met by Super Kev, who rose like a leaping salmon to bury the ball into the net.  And having seen the colour of the new kit on offer, I bet thats not the last time that you hear that metaphor.  1-0, and Blues in total charge. 

Shortly afterwards, Pembo went off injured, and at last we had a chance to see just what Idan Tal could do, and the boy did not disappoint.  It wasnt just the pace, and the trickery, or the way that he was eager to link up with Big Dunc; it was also the way that he chased back for the ball when he lost it.  You could say that he played like a man dispossessed.  Any excuse that Soft Walter has for leaving him on the bench must be banished, NOW.

Half time, and something to warm the heart; Mike Trebilcock appeared on the pitch to appreciative applause from all corners of the ground.  As I was explaining to Martin just what he meant to us, The Best Samba Band In Brazil appeared.  Time to get the sausage rolls, we thought what a silly thing to do.  

When those birds started shaking their hot-panted booties and gyrating their thighs, I think every bloke in the ground had his own Trebilcock, or certainly had it trebled in size.  I watched the spectacle from the CCTV screens under the Lower Gwaldys, and like everybody else booed when the drummers appeared on screen, and cheered when the birds bums appeared again. In close up. The biggest cheer, however, was reserved for when the screens cut back to the Conference scores on Sky what are we like?

So, with senses heightened as they say in Mills and Boon novels, we sat back down and watched as Boro decided to play the role of the piss-poor comedians that sometimes appear between acts in a strip-show.  The best of a number of slapstick routines that they managed to put together was reserved for the guy on the left wing at the Park End, who having got to the byline tried to whip the cross in and only succeeded in kicking his right leg with his left and falling over, the ball bouncing off him for a goal kick. 

The game was over by then though; from a corner, the ball was nodded away by Big Dunc and it dropped to Gemmill, 25 yards out, who launched it like a howitzer shell past a hapless Schwarzer.  Good old Scotty, thatll stop his dad yakking on about Holland 1978 (for a few minutes, anyway).  Absolutely priceless.

Gerrard only had two saves to make all afternoon, and one of those was from an over-hit defensive header from Watson.  With Boro being so ineffective, all that we had to do was sit back and launch counters to keep them at bay.  By now the self styled Guvnor and former Pinky had been reduced to the role of taking a constant stream of booing from the massed ranks of Bellies.  Walter; have you got the message now? Good.

2-0 at the end, and my lads 100% record intact.  A whip at the Black Horse to buy him a season ticket and pay for all of his travel was mooted as we realised that Leeds had slipped up, and despite the media insistence we were indeed top of the League for the second time in two weeks.  As the nosebleeds were mopped up, we searched anxiously for a sign that the Mancs were, in fact, only human and subject to the same kinds of frailties that we all are.  That day, we searched in vain.

Then bugger me Demento's only gone and despatched Stam to Lazio Ill be carting Davie Weir the tortoise everywhere with me for the next fortnight.  Watch this space.

Comfortable Sailing

by Richard Marland


A chance today to consolidate what would be an excellent start to the season.  Middlesbrough looked ripe for beating - two defeats and no goals scored.  This being Everton, though, nothing should be taken for granted and fears of a Middlesbrough backlash weren't far from my thoughts...


We are clearly going to have to get used to seeing 5-3-2 this season.  It makes sense, though, with the squad we've got.  Our centre backs, none of whom are too pacy, look more comfortable with it, and it compensates for a vulnerable looking midfield.  The only person it doesn't seem to suit is Niclas Alexandersson who definitely loses something in this system. 

The substitutions were fairly routine, Tal came on for the injured Pembridge initially in a one-for-one swap, later on switching with Unsworth.  Naysmith came on for the rapidly tiring Alexandersson (why does he seem to tire so much?) with Tal switching to the right to let Naysmith in at his natural left wing-back role.

First Half

This match never had too much going for it.  Middlesbrough looked like a team lacking confidence and, with no Boksic, lacking an attacking edge.  We were a step above them without ever playing terribly well.  We fashioned out a few chances along the way, Alexandersson and Ferguson both should have done better with chances that fell to them.

It was left to Campbell to open the scoring with his first for the season.  A corner from the right and Campbell rose between the 'keeper and a defender, he climbed the higher and nodded it into the net.  A devastatingly simple corner kick routine and we were one up.

Half Time

At last some half decent half time entertainment.  First Mike Trebilcock was over from Australia - he looked very fit and sprightly.  He unashamedly milked it, running to the front of each stand in turn to accept the applause.  No-one was going to quibble about that though, 1966 would see to that, and it was refreshing to see a player from that era still capable of running.  

Second up were a samba band from Rio de Janeiro, not that anyone noticed the samba band all eyes were on the four dancers following them round.  A distinct improvement on "Who wants to be a Evertonian?"

Second Half

Whilst our performance levels had never exactly hit the heights in the first half, the second was undeniably a poorer performance.  Middlesbrough were allowed too much possession and time, and were even allowed to exert pressure through a few corners.  They never looked particularly dangerous but all it takes is a deflection or one good shot...  In fact, something like our second goal.  A corner was headed clear by our good friend Paul Ince; it dropped to Scot Gemmill just outside the box; he returned it, on the volley, into the corner of the net.  A wonderful strike and the comfort zone we were looking for.

Unfortunately we weren't able to build on that; we remained disciplined and organised but never really got on top of the game.  They did carve out one chance but Paul Gerrard, in his only meaningful action of the game, snuffed that one out.  Other than that it was comfortable sailing.


This was a fairly mediocre performance.  Our passing game never got going and our midfield never really got to terms with the game.  With a midfield not functioning and providing a platform, there is a tendency to fall back on the long-ball game.  Today it was Pistone rather than Unsworth who had the time to bring the ball out of defence; like Unsworth, he was presented with no real option other than launching the ball.  

On the positive side, we kept our shape and defensive discipline throughout.  With Radzinski to come, Gravesen to return and the familiarity that more games will bring, there is every reason to feel optimistic that our standard of football will improve.

Seven points out of nine can't be quibbled with.  It means that we can approach the forthcoming games without the fear and pressure that a poor start can bring.  No one appears to be deluding themselves about what it all means.  We have met three sides that have been struggling for one reason or another and none have really asked too many questions of us.  

That being said, we have gone out and done the job and picked up the points.  We are not even approaching being a top-3 side, but our stated ambition of being a top-10 side certainly doesn't look unrealistic.


  • Gerrard 7  One of his quietest days.  His only meaningful action was a good sliding save at the feet of Job.  He also caught a cross in the middle of a crowded penalty area.
  • Watson 7  Looked fitter than Monday.  Typical Watson performance.
  • Weir 7  Looking more comfortable.
  • Stubbs 7  Getting himself up to speed.  Two simple, first-half free kicks rather summed up the lack of familiarity thing - one to Watson and then one to Weir - both broke down in embarrassing circumstances.  They were actually quite clever passes it was just that the recipients weren't expecting them.  That familiarity will come.
  • Pistone 7  Much improved.
  • Unsworth 7  Typical performance first at left wing-back and then in midfield.  Like last season, he's probably not a first choice, but he's been involved regularly and he hasn't let us down.
  • Alexandersson 6  Again his attacking threat is there - he should really have scored.  But sometimes his final ball and his unwillingness to get forward down the flanks can frustrate.
  • Gemmill 7  Cracking goal and a decent all round performance
  • Pembridge 5  His usual industrious self before being forced off.
  • Ferguson 6  Won most stuff in the air and generally made a nuisance of himself.
  • Campbell 6  Did well for his goal, and several good moments like the layoff for Alexandersson.
  • Tal 6  His energy and eagerness will always get him noticed and, whilst he did OK, not too much came of his endeavours.
  • Naysmith 6  One good run gave an indication that he has the ability of doing a proper job as a wing-back.

Team 6 Did the job without being particularly good.

Man of the match - Another difficult one as no-one stood out in a workmanlike performance.  Gemmill just shades it for me.

Everton dismiss Boro to go top

by Peter Mitchell, Sunday Times

SUCH were the depths plumbed by their side last season, it had reached a point where Evertonian taxi drivers became guarded about revealing their football allegiance for fear that the occupant in the back of their cab might be from the red half of the city, or worse still, considering last season's FA Cup meeting, a Tranmere fan.

There hasn't quite yet been a football power shift on Merseyside, but with their team sitting on top of the embryonic Premiership table, blue-nose cabbies might be slightly more willing to enter into discussions on the beautiful game.  Their counterparts on Teesside may not.

Pointless, goalless and on the evidence of this disjointed effort, clueless, Middlesbrough are a mess.  Welcome to management, Steve McClaren.

Just three games into the season it remains too early to suggest the affable Boro boss is about to see his career as a No 1 go the same undignified way as Brian Kidd, his predecessor as Alex Ferguson's Old Trafford No 2.

Boro will improve.  Frankly, they cannot get much worse and as he scans that same table which shows Middlesbrough second from bottom, beneath McClaren's calm exterior must lie a worried man.  The visitors took 78 minutes to muster a shot, and even then Joseph Job's effort was comfortably beaten away by the under-employed Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard.

By that point Middlesbrough were already two goals in arrears, courtesy of Kevin Campbell's 17th-minute header from a Mark Pembridge corner which Mark Schwarzer and Gareth Southgate should have easily dealt with, and a stunning 25-yard volley from Scot Gemmill shortly after the interval.

"I think we deserved the win because of the opportunities we created," said Walter Smith, the first manager to guide Everton to the top of the table in eight years.  "Once we got the goal we defended well when we had to and restricted them to only one real opportunity."

Forthcoming fixtures against Manchester United, Liverpool and Leeds will prove how sustainable Everton's challenge for a top eight spot really is.  At times they were dragged down to Boro's level and clearly much work lies ahead, but if Duncan Ferguson can stay fit - and that's a big if - his forward partnership with Campbell should prove fruitful.

If there is work to be done at Goodison Park, then McClaren's task is Herculean.  If Ferguson is vital to Everton, then Alen Boksic is equally valuable to Middlesbrough's hopes.  The Croat was missing again with a calf problem and with Job and Hamilton Ricard anonymous and Slovakian international Szilard Nemeth still feeling his way back from injury, despite his debut as a half-time substitute, the return of Boksic cannot arrive too soon.

When asked what positives he could draw from a dispirited display, McClaren thought long and hard before retorting: "Not a lot".  He added: "The first three games have been disappointing.  When I arrived here I realised it was going to be a tough job and I knew it would take me some time to put things right working with the players.  Changes need to be made but things don't happen overnight.

"It would have been nice to get off to a flying start, but that might have masked things.  I'd rather know the truth after three games than it be masked and become apparent at Christmas."

The truth, as they say, is out there.  And as far as Middlesborough are concerned at the moment it isn't pretty.

Smith, whose side have now collected seven points from their opening three games, said: "Duncan Ferguson and Kevin Campbell are forming a powerful partnership and Duncan's return to fitness is going to play a major part in our season.

"We missed our strikers for most of last season.  That was a major factor and that has only been evident this season by the way we have started our play.

"The most important aspect of this season is keeping them fit and the other players fit because if we start to build up a number of injuries then our squad could struggle."

© Times Newspapers, Ltd

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