In the absence of goals or controversy, that other football staple – cash – became a talking point after this fog-bound draw between two teams still struggling to find some form of momentum this season.
For the Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, it is the one thing he cannot get enough of to persuade him to sell. Then there is the question of how much Joe Kinnear will be offered in January to strengthen a squad that is good enough to stay up but, with some investment, could be more ambitious. If, however, Kinnear is forced to sell to buy then such notions would vanish. There is reportedly uncertainty about Dennis Wise's position.
The likes of Shay Given will not be satisfied if January reveals that survival is Newcastle's target. Obafemi Martins' disillusion with being substituted here was undisguised. Ashley, who, Kinnear said, is considering a match-day return to St James' Park, might not like what Given had to say yesterday, but it is a significant dressing room opinion.
"We are in a relegation fight: there is no getting away from that," Given said. "The survival of the club is vital. We've seen what happened at Leeds. Something similar could happen here."
Middlesbrough's manager, Gareth Southgate, mentioned "targets" and he also did so with realism. "In the summer we spent a net £500,000 and that's with taking £7m off the wage bill," said Southgate. "We have said all along it is a slow process. We have had an unbelievable recent history. We have no divine right to beat teams."
Patience is a word Southgate uses often. Getting Afonso Alves firing again would aid Boro. The Brazilian got better as the game wore on and a goal might transform him. It would have transformed this afternoon.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Turnbull; Hoyte, Wheater, Pogatetz, A Taylor; Aliadière (Mido, 78) Digard, Arca, Downing; Tuncay, Alves. Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Hines, Grounds, Walker, Emnes, A Johnson.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Beye, Coloccini, Bassong, Enrique; Gutiérrez, Butt, Guthrie, N'Zogbia; Owen, Martins (Viduka, 65). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Caçapa, Geremi, S Taylor, Edgar, Carroll.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
Booked: Middlesbrough Arca; Newcastle Bassong.
Man of the match: Arca.
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