PROJECT Emnes didn’t report to Rockliffe as Aitor’s Avengers Assembled this week. The occasional Dreadlocked Dyamite is believed to be holed up in a plush South Wales hotel smiling enigmatically with his headphones on waiting for his £1.5m move to Swansea to finally be rubber-stamped.
Albert Adomah is on extended leave after smiling his way nervously through a simmering squad revolt in Ghana’s chaotic World Cup campaign and the walking wounded Rhys Williams and Muzzy Carayol were doing light work in the gym while mooted Spanish righ-back Juanfran declined after getting cold feet and about of pre-emptive homesickness.
But the rest were there, even if reluctantly: in demand Lukas Jutkiewitz was jogging around the departures lounge with one eye on the door while Kei Kamara – suffering from a cold shoulder after his tweet of the moment viral gaffe – was in the tropical disease isolation ward doing selfies while wearing his comedy mosquito onesie.
But after the clutch of loanees went back -including first team fixtures Kenneth Omeruo, Jozsef Varga and Danny Graham – and a host of fringe figures like Frasier Richardson and Faris Haroun (or “Harris Faroon” on the late night FLS highlights shows) it leaves Karanka and Higgy to work with a slim-line squad and eager youngsters.
The players who trained on day one were: Jason Steele, George Friend, Grant Leadbitter, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Christian Burgess, Emmanuel Ledesma, Luke Williams, Seb Hines, Andy Halliday, Dean Whitehead, Ben Gibson, Curtis Main, Richard Smallwood, Jonathan Woodgate, Jacob Butterfield, Dimi Konstantopoulos, Adam Reach, Dani Ayala, Kei Kamara, Lee Tomlin, Bryn Morris, David Atkinson, Mark Kitching, Ryan Brobbel, Bradley Fewster, Tomas Mejias, Charlie Wyke.
That doesn’t leave a lot to work with. If you had to pick a team now where would you start? I know you don’t have to. It is five weeks until the first game and eight until the end of the transfer window closes. It is less than 24 hours since it opened and STILL NO ONE HAS SIGNED! Come on Boro, get your fingers out! Its a disaster. We’re doooomed.
Just for fun though and without prejudice – no personal liability will be foisted on you in May – let’s try and pick a team from the mixed back we’ve got right now. Here’s mine:
With no right-back (unless Rhys is going to play on crutches) we have a problem. Woody has played there for Stoke but hasn’t got the legs now to overlap. And Albert has played there but has a tendency to go walkabout. And David Atkinson is a right-back but would you go for a kid to start the season? No. Not for me.
So why not get with the Samba beat and try out the World Cup vogue of 3-5-2. If its good enough for Chile… so three at the back and five across the middle with George on one side and Albert on the other. Leads as the holding midfielder with Butterfield and Smallwood (energy to get across and cover for Albert when he pushes forward) in the middle. Up front I’ve gone for Jutkiewicz. He may lack a bit of mobility but hopefully with a bit of width we can get crosses into the box for him. Tomlin playing just behind off him.
Subs? Dimi, Ayala, Ledesma, Morris, Reach, Luke Williams, Kamara.
Not great admittedly. That team isn’t going to win the Championship. But it will do for the friendlies. And remember, that isn’t the team that will carry us to Wembley glory. Don’t demand the manager’s head on the basis of that back of a beermat line-up. We’ll have five new players in by the big-kick-off. Who would you go for?