Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Where Is the Love?

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Where Is the Love?

Article excerpt

Byline: By Anthony Vickers Evening Gazette

Steve McLaren can leave the Riverside with a silverware swan song and guide mighty Boro to UEFA Cup victory.

He can bow out with a prize even bigger than that he delivered in 2004 with Boro's first-ever national knockout trophy victory.

And he can look back proudly on a watershed reign, in which the club shook off the shackles of a barren history and realised many ambitions.

Mac has built a solid platform on which the club can go on to construct a glorious future.

But he will never be loved.

At the end of the glorious UEFA Cup victory over Steaua Bucharest, the players did a lap of honour in which each and everyone was warmly cheered as Mark Page read out the teamsheet. It was a touching show of affection.

Then the boss appeared and received an ovation that was appreciative and widespread, but as forced as clapping at a school assembly.

It felt more an obligation than a pleasure It was a formal handshake rather than a hug. Even then he was not embraced. And to be fair, it was no surprise.

Despite all his undoubted achievements - and even the 'papering over the cracks' merchants can't deny the substance of the silverware - Mac can still command only grudging respect rather than genuine affection from whole layers of Boro supporters.

Which is why the impending departure of our most successful manager ever has been met with a widespread sigh of relief and the odd joyful cheer rather than cries of woe - a situation that is inexplicable to the national media and, to be honest, many on Teesside too.

Yes, there is a hard core of supporters who praised him as a great boss and persistently fought his corner in pubs and clubs and in cyberspace whenever the issue was raised. Which was often.

And these supporters have had the facts on their side - the magnificent Carling Cup win, the first campaign in Europe, a highest ever Premier League finish and first ever qualification through the league, all undeniable highpoints in this club's history - although facts have never been enough to win this argument. …

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