Comment: Once He Goes, Yeates Will Have It All To Prove…
The site`s regular columnist analyses the size of the task ahead for Mark Yeates if, as widley reported, he actually signs for Middlesbrough.
MARK YEATES` first task would be to convince Gareth Southgate he deserves to beat not one, but two, England international players to get a start at Middlesbrough in his best position.
That`s a turn up. He`ll have to dodge and weave past first Stewart Downing and then Adam Johnson before even getting a chance to show some studs to an opposition right-back. At the Riverside, squad rotation isn`t some false, new-fangled religion. It is reality; especially when £500,000 essentially buys you a third-choice winger.
Another maze for Yeates to run rings round, although for now only in his mind, is an indifferent reaction of the Middlesbrough public to his reported arrival. Success to them means emulating past masters from their now past Premiership years: becoming Fabrizio Ravanelli the second, the next Paulista Juninho, or another Paul Merson. He, in theory anyway, is heir to an almost holly tradition of marauding Middlesbrough magicians.
As the comments from mostly hard-to-please punters rolled in yesterday evening, after news Yeates was rumoured to be up in the North East undertaking his medical, it was not beyond belief to imagine his agent picking up the phone to orders removal of all the wide man`s teen images from the Interent, lest public opinion should kill the deal. Alas, the masses mused away: “The picture Sky Sports have of him makes him look about 45!’ First lesson: Boro supporters don`t do unconditional love.
The proverbial leisure pound is something that, although paid by Middlesbrough fans at the gate, must be reimbursed by players with a strict loyalty to a tradition of excellence demanded in every performance. It`s an unwritten part in the contact any player signs when joining a club of such stature. Yeates would agree to sell his soul, almost, in pursuit of an altogether different standard of perfection to the one he is used to at Colchester United.
That standard as a measure for success was created necessarily by what has gone before: a 2004 League Cup win; the subsequent trip into Europe that perhaps mistakenly won Steve McLaren a shot at the England job.
Middlesbrough fans are trading their weekly working wages to sustain a long-established way of life. That is, expecting excellence by default.
Mark Yeates has been cocooned almost, a world away from all that in Essex. The U`s perennial flat-pancake status is what for so long made them a quaint outfit to watch, support and probably play for.
Games still mattered to the faithful, sure, but until fairly recently Colchester United were about as feetingly popular on a national scale as the relative Grandfather sides of our game, Notts County or Accrington Stanley, have also become. The pressure was off, ironically, in the pressure-cocker atmosphere of a stuffy Layer Road, presumably though a deep-seated comfort of knowingt that the world and his dog weren`t watching. That they really didn`t, couldn`t and wouldn`t care less. It wasn`t unnatural, wrong or insulting, exactly; just the way things were.
Yeates, invariably, is part of an altogether New Way at Colchester as they embraced an unprecedented level of their own achievements during his time at the club in the 00s era.
He`ll be remembered most for scoring in a derby double against Brentford, in his first spell, accompanied as it with an emphatic machine-gun celebration and, eventually, promotion. He`ll also be remembered for admitting unbelievably that he didn`t practice free-kicks, despite suddenly boomeranging back into United`s history in 2007 with to-die-for dead-ball skills.
Maybe this purchase would prove a much-needed example of populism in reverse for Middlesbrough. Their extravagant history of high-living in the Premiership brought good times and big names, no doubt, but has also been embellished by some very expensive failures, low attendances and the club`s first relegation since 1997.
Cue Mark Yeates, who some believe would thrive on a newfound inverse relationship with personal, inward pressure. Although relocating to a higher level in the Championship, he needn`t feel like the ring-leader in a matchday cirrus once he`s been plucked from a possibly not-so-relished role as Colchester`s entertainer-in-chief.
His swagger can be as misread, at times, as one of his feigned but perfectly-flighted free-kicks; he`s been branded a ball-hog, a Prima Donna and a show-off before now. With the right coaching, he’ll improve,but at least the attidtude suggests a self-assurance from Yeates that he himself believes he has what it takes to become both a provider and a poacher on the biggest and best stages.
Can he continue Middlesbrough’s illustrious tradition of dazzling attacking midfield line-huggers? The simple beauty in answering that question is that only he knows. All we can do, if he actually takes rank in the queue for a starting bib behind Downing and Johnson after yesterday`s on-off speculation, is watch and wait.
One things for sure though. For both Middlesbrough and Mark Yeates next season, all divine right is suspended.
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