Football FanCast columnist Luke Raine commiserates over Middlesbrough's FA Cup quarter final exit at the weekend, and wonders just how long it will take Gareth Southgate's men to repay the ‘Boro faithful after missing out on a trip to Wembley, and the possibility of FA Cup glory.
It may now be over 48 hours since Middlesbrough crashed out of the F.A Cup at the hands of Cardiff City, but I am still just as angry. All the optimism which had come out of Saturday's results disappeared in front of Boro fans eyes in the space of 90 dreadful minutes. There are a number of words which could be used to describe the team's performance on Sunday, but not many which could be used in this article.
The first thing which needs to be examined is the way a Premier League football squad could not be pumped up for a game, knowing they had such a good chance of not only playing at the new Wembley stadium, but of winning the F.A Cup outright. Even from the opening moments of the game you could tell that the mindset of the players was not right, and blame must lie at not the manager, but the players themselves.
Gareth Southgate came out after the game and said that he takes full responsibility for not getting the players focused in the right way for such a big game. I understand why Southgate has said this in front of the media, but I certainly don't agree.
For me professional footballers should not need geeing up for a quarter final of the most famous football competition in the world. The way that the favourites and second favourites for the competition had bowed out the previous day shouldn't make a difference. An F.A Cup quarter final is not an occasion where what the manager says before the game should be the difference.
There was a full house at The Riverside, and the irony of this is that it comes just a week after Boro fans were criticised by the manager for not turning up and making enough noise. The Boro boss got both of these on Sunday, and look what happened. Somehow the performance was even worse than the previous weekend.
To be honest it would be unfair of me to sit here and criticise Southgate. I do think he could think on his feet a bit more effectively during games, but hopefully that will come in time as he learns.
In any other line of work you would get the sack for producing a performance which was as inept as Boro's on Sunday. If Southgate had the resources then he should change all eleven players for the midweek game at Villa Park.
I would also like to give credit to Cardiff City. There is no doubt they caught Middlesbrough on a good day (for them), but I was still very impressed with the way they played. They got the ball down and played some good football, and showed that the gulf between the Premier League and the Championship is not as great as some people think.
I also feel that, although still bitterly disappointed, this season's competition has been great for the F.A Cup. The dominance of the big teams in the competition has started to become boring over recent years in my opinion, and this season has been a breath of fresh air. I also genuinely believe that the neutral will be rewarded with better football matches at the semi final stage too.
Good luck to Cardiff, they thoroughly deserved their win. As for Middlesbrough, it will take a long time for the team to pay back the supporters after missing out on such a great opportunity in the fashion that they did. A positive result at Villa Park on Wednesday evening will only be the start of such a process.