Christmas is usually a time to bring together all of the people you care about the most, in a period of celebration and joy.
This year will be very different due to the restrictions placed on social interaction and businesses, although hopefully as many of us as possible will have someone to reach out to on Christmas Day.
It got me thinking though about when times are better and life returns to those comforting traditions and familiar habits of the festive period, when we can open our homes and hearts to everybody that we hold near and dear and our tables can be filled once more. Who’d be sat at my table if Boro fans were given the task of feeding players and managers of years gone by?
I’ve got five spaces at my dining room table so we’ll split them fairly between a former manager, a keeper, a defender, a midfielder and a striker. Equal rights, innit. We couldn’t have any of the current squad because they’ll probably have to watch what they eat and I’ve got no time for picky, whingy bastards on Christmas Day. It’s a day to fill your boots.
Of course, this is a daft laugh to keep us going until the big day, but let’s not have anyone who is sadly no longer with us either. I don’t want any Ghost of Christmas Past shenanigans going on.
For the manager’s spot, the choice is obvious. It’d have to be current Boro boss Neil Warnock. Around the dinner table, you need someone who is able to lead and drive the conversation especially in between courses.
There shouldn’t be any awkward silences and Warnock would be able to regale the party with stories of his playing days at the likes of Chesterfield and Barnsley and his managerial career which boasts multiple promotions and working with precocious talents such as Adel Taarabt and erm, Paddy Kenny.
It’d be like having your Grandad at the head of the table, rattling off tales of glories long ago. As you pick at the after dinner cheeseboard, you could pick his brains on his legendary man management before he falls asleep in front of an episode of the Royle Family.
While the gaffer is dreaming away, someone else would need to pick up the conversation, so in comes our keeper to save the day. The popular choices here might be a club stalwart like Mark Schwarzer, Jim Platt or Stephen Pears but in terms of entertainment value the seat would have to be filled by Mark Crossley.
Having started his Nottingham Forest career under Brian Clough, “Big Norm” has a plethora of stories about one of English football’s greatest characters and his impression of Cloughie is spot on. He just seems dead sound as well with his work on the #WalkingsBrilliant campaign with fellow ex-professionals Chris Kirkland, Dean Windass, Jon Parkin and Nigel Jemson to raise awareness and funds for mental health. We’re not going for a walk on Christmas morning though, that’s for Tories.
As previously stated, Christmas is a time to bring together those you care about, your own. There is nobody more “our own” than former manager and Middlesbrough legend Tony Mowbray. Is this a bit of a cheat because he can slot in as a manger and defender? Not arsed, it’s Mogga, any hero of ’86 is more than welcome in this house. With Warnock taking the role of Grandad of this group, Mogga would certainly be the man of the house.
If things get a bit tricky in the kitchen, I have no doubt that he could carve up a turkey or mash ten bells out of the potatoes. Something about Mowbray tells me that he’d be a dark horse on the bevs too which we’d need some help with putting away or we’ll be drinking port and cans of Stella every day until January.
I’d usually make the case for George Friend to be involved here because imagine waking up next to him on Christmas morning? However, the incredible pressure I’d put on myself to perform and secure his love with a romantic dreamland of a day would only lead to a meltdown in the kitchen. Sorry George, this isn’t Love Actually.
So far, things are very manly around this dinner table. It needs a touch of class which is where Gaizka Mendieta comes in. Ray Parlour ran Mendieta close for this spot because Parlour would be an absolute dream drinking partner and his lockdown Twitter series showed that you could count on him to see off any of the dodgy spirits or liqueurs left.
However, having a geezer like Parlour in amongst the other blokey Boro blokes already at the table might go to waste and throw off the feng shui of the room. There isn’t enough room for all of those alphas trying to get a word in edgeways.
Instead, Mendieta would lend that sense of elegance to proceedings, just as he did in the Boro midfield during those heady days of European success and Carling Cup triumph.
He’d definitely bring a few nice bottles of wine along with him and you could share a knowing glance and shake of the head as Grandad Warnock riles himself up about the state of the country. It’s not like back in my day apparently. When the strains of Wizzard roll round for the seventh time that day, Mendi could take over DJ’ing responsibilities too. Make this a real party.
Thinking about what striker would join this array of Boro stars was a bit of a headache. A lot of our best forwards of recent times are still playing so they’d be moaning about not having too much on their plate while others left under clouds.
Couldn’t have Fabrizio Ravanelli involved in case he started a fight and while Christmas is a time for forgiving, Mark Viduka wouldn’t be welcome after breaking my heart as a young’un by leaving for the Trophy Virgins.
Then, in amongst the tinsel and baubles, I found the perfect answer. Lee Miller. Now I know that Miller, who only managed 13 appearances for the club without a single goal and is considered the very worst of Gordon Strachan’s SPL signings, doesn’t deserve to sit alongside a Boro legend like Mowbray or a cup hero like Mendieta but hear me out.
Someone has to wash the fucking dishes, don’t they?
Photo Credits: Teesside Live, Middlesbrough F.C., The Times