Lead singer Paul Smith talks about his band's new album, his love of his hometown club and his fond memories of the 2004 League Cup final triumph at the Millennium Stadium
Who’s your favourite player at the moment?
PS: Well, it’s tough. At the moment we’re not scoring many goals, so the strikers are out. I suppose Albert Adomah; he’s our top scorer at the moment, and he’s a flying winger. Every time he gets the ball you think something might happen, so I’d like to say Adomah but there are also people like Grant Leadbitter who put a lot of effort into the game - you always appreciate that as a fan when somebody is giving it 100% all the time. I think Adomah edges it, just because it’s a pleasure to watch him play sometimes.
And you mentioned the strikers there. Boro unfortunately haven’t scored in four games. After signing Danny Graham and Lee Tomlin, do you think you did enough in January?
PS: It’s hard to say. January is always a gamble because you need to integrate the players into the team and into the coach's ethic; sometimes it upsets the rhythm of things, but we need to do something to get the strikers scoring. Danny Graham is a good player, though obviously he is on a bit of a goal drought at the moment. If he scores in the next couple of games I think he’ll go on to score quite a few goals at Championship level. However, if he doesn’t, you can obviously see what might happen, and confidence becomes an issue. Hopefully Danny can start putting the ball in the net soon.
What’s your best memory as a Boro fan?
PS: I suppose winning the cup - winning the League Cup, beating Bolton Wanderers. We’ve only won one cup so it’s a big deal for us. It’s nice that it was a recent memory that happened whilst I was alive. I was watching it on the TV in Newcastle at a pub with my mates. I suppose one of my other favourite memories was watching us thrash Manchester City 8-1 at the Riverside and watching the City fans ripping up their seats in the away end. At the end and I took a photograph of the scoreboard because I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like that again.
Do you ever manage to get down to the Riverside now?
PS: Yeah, yeah I’m pretty regular. If I’m at home and there’s a match that I can get to then I’ll go along. It’s a good way of meeting up with your mates. It’s a nice communal experience to go along, and even if it’s a bad game you can just have a laugh at what’s going on and laugh at how bad it is in the end.
Football fans always live in hope, as a Middlesbrough fan you always hope that things will get a bit better. I didn’t enjoy the last match I went to which was a 1-0 win against Charlton Athletic; it was one of the worst games I’ve seen in a while, but I’ve seen a few good games already this season. Our initial problem was letting goals in and we were the third highest scorers in the league for the first part of the season.
Since Karanka has come in we’ve tightened up at the back but the goals have dried up. Ironically we were probably more fun to watch earlier in the season but I think we’ve lost one in 10. You can look at that from two different sides but it’s always good to go and watch your local team I think - it’s a good thing to do.
And did you ever play football? For a team or with your mates or anything like that?
PS: Yeah I still play pretty regularly. I play once or twice a week if I’m home and I’m fit. But I played for my school team, up through college and for my university. I used to play in the Teesside pub league for a team called The Queen Vic. I was briefly top scorer for The Queen Vic pub, I think.
We weren’t very good but teams would compliment me; I don’t know what that meant, but they would try and say ‘why don’t you come and play for our team?’ But your team is your team and it was my mates mum’s pub so I used to play for them when I was going to art college and still lived on Teesside. When I moved up to Newcastle, I played at university and managed to strain my knee ligaments and had to stop for a bit. But I came back strong and I still love playing football whenever I can.
You’re currently 12th, eight points away from the play-offs. Do you think you can still clinch a play-off place or is that unlikely now?
PS: Well it’s definitely unlikely but it’s still possible. While something is still possible you’ve got to give it a bit of hope. The way the Championship is, teams seem to go on a little run. We’ve been on our little run which took us away from the bottom end and put us in contention for a play-off place. Obviously, it doesn’t look good at this stage I wouldn’t have thought. A lot of teams around us need to start losing heavily. Even if we go o a run now, we still need teams around us to do badly. Hopefully we can get up near the play-offs, if not into them, and have a little bit of hope. Obviously when a manager comes in halfway through a season it's going to be difficult, especially someone with different methods and whatnot. There is still hope, but I’m not getting them up too much.
I’ve got to mention them; the Red Faction. They’ve made headlines for good and bad reasons this season. What is your view of them?
PS: Well, I sometimes go and sit with the Red Faction so I think it’s a positive thing really. Football should be about passion, singing, and creating an atmosphere in order to be the 12th man. Sometimes you go to modern stadiums and everyone is sat down and it’s all very sedate and you just think ‘why are you here?’
I like to sit near the halfway line and see how the game pans out and get a good view of the whole match while at the same time being down one end and being in amongst it all when everybody is roaring at the pitch. I think it’s something that is slowly being eroded from the top flight - it’s quite a sanitised atmosphere.
I think it’s good, as long as people aren’t being abusive in the wrong way and as long as people aren’t being dangerous, then you should be able to express yourself at a football match. It’s nice to go in to the family end and people are being a bit more polite and that’s as it should be, but if you’re down in the Red Faction it’s a bit of fun if you ask me.
Now, onto the music. Maximo Park have just released their new album ‘Too Much Information’ haven’t they…
PS: Yeah, it’s out now, and it went into the top 10 at number seven on Sunday. It’s a pretty exciting time for us. Obviously when you’re working on a new record you want everybody to hear it, so it’s a good time for us. We’re out on tour, I’m speaking to you from Amsterdam, and we’re looking forward to coming back to the UK and hopefully the album will have bedded in and people will have developed their own favourites, and we’ll be able to play them alongside the old songs and everyone will enjoy themselves.
And are you excited about your UK tour?
PS: Yeah it is. Maybe it's not for me to say, but I think we’re a really good live band and when we play there’s a kind of energy. The songs are pretty emotional as well and it all builds up into quite a good atmosphere at all our concerts. The audience knows what they are going to get and they know that they’re going to get a band giving them 100 per cent with every show.
It seems to create a good atmosphere when people are coming to the shows that are pretty excited about what’s going to happen and we play old and new, so people can hear stuff from the last 10 years.
It’s really great to think that people are still there, still waiting to come and see us, still showing a good amount of devotion in terms of our fan base. But it’s always nice to see new people at the shows as well and that’s the thing, each show is quite different from the next and it keeps you on your toes as a singer.
I don’t ever want to go through the motions, I want it to be exciting every night and that’s what we’ve got to live up to.