Middlesbrough-Sheffield: Riverside Replay on the Way...but Will the BBC Be There?

Iain BentleyContributor IFebruary 17, 2008

Okay, fair enough.

You would have thought that with the game being screened live on BBC1 this afternoon, Middlesbrough would have tried to divert the attention away from Sheffield United's appointment of Kevin Blackwell as new manager, and progress into the last eight of the F.A Cup—in what I would have said all along was to be a one-goal game.

Clearly, however, entertainment was not on the cards for either manager this afternoon, in a game that ended up in both sides walking away from Bramall Lane still unsure of their fates in this wide-open tournament.

There is no reason why Middlesbrough shouldn't be able to take Sheffield United back to the Riverside, finish them off perhaps with a couple of decent goals and with the likes of Bristol Rovers, Cardiff, Barnsley and West Bromwich Albion still remaining in the draw, go on to reach the Semi-Finals of this tournament.

I was a little surprised and disappointed at the BBC's negativity in view of covering Sheffield United's opposition in the game today. A good proportion of the pre-match build-up was focused around Kevin Blackwell's appointment at Bramall Lane and it seemed as though all of a sudden, the signing of Afonso Alves had gone by the by and was second-hand news. Watching the game on the BBC, it appeared as though they had brought Gary Pallister just for the sake of having an extra man in the studio because he clearly did not say a great deal about the game, likewise for Alan Shearer who was also a questionable pundit being a former hero of Middlesbrough's closest rivals - Newcastle! I'm sure many more Teessider's felt the same way today!

It was completely obvious in Gary Lineker's tone of voice that he was bored with the game and I doubt that neither he or Alan Hansen gained many Middlesbrough fans with their comments at the end of the coverage regarding how 'entertaining' the game at the Riverside Stadium would be. Needless to say I hope they're both right but try telling that to both sets of players who just ran around for 90 minutes and I don't think they would still be laughing! To sum the BBC's coverage up this afternoon I feel there was a complete lack of optimism from the pundits for either side to go on and win the game and the more the game went on, the more it became a case of "get this game off the air ASAP". Shame really.

There is no point in trying to pull the cotton wool over the fans eyes today because everybody knows it was never going to be a 'fantastic' game of football and both teams will be, I imagine, satisfied to know they are both still in contention for a place in the next round. In terms of opening everybody's eyes to where Middlesbrough are going though, which is something I discussed previously, it will not have gone very far at all. It may be that Gareth Southgate does not care about the fashion in which we win our games or it may well be that he has one eye on the Premier League clash with Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday which certainly promises to be a tough game. Entertaining will not be a priority in the game against Liverpool either I wouldn't think for Southgate although the story might be different for Rafael Benitez, who will be looking for a reaction from his players following the surprise home defeat by Barnsley in the cup yesterday. He will see the Boro game as a chance to get things back on track and it will be up to Middlesbrough to have the last word!

I'll be in the stands for the replay against Sheffield United, I've no doubt. Will I be expecting to be entertained? I wouldn't hold my breath. If Kevin Blackwell tells his players to play the ' aggression' card again then the word entertaining isn't really the first that springs to mind. More like 'ugly'. It has to be said though, well done to the Middlesbrough players for coming back to Teeside still the only North-East team in the draw for the F.A Cup. The more open this tournament becomes, the more vital it is that we make every effort to ensure that we stay in the hat.