Transfer Coups Come With A Risk

BARRING injuries – and this is Boro so don’t rule out early action for the stretcherbearers – Southgate has now plugged the gaps at the back with a central defensive pairing that has finally replaced two key figures of what was once a watertight defence.
The new Gate has replaced the old Gate as a classy ball playing defender who is tough in the tackle but also has the anticipation, positioning and organisational qualities that give them an edge against the best and who can make a back-line greater than the sum of its parts.
And Huth has finally replaced Ugo, a bruising, physical, athletic presence that can bully even the biggest strikers and who adds strength and height to the defence. The commanding Ehiogu of three or four years ago has been sorely missed and left Boro with a soft centre.
If things work out then these can be two brilliant signings that ease the early pressure on the boss and give him the platform to shape the team he wants. If they don’t, well….


Let us be under no illusions, there are risks involved. Huth is a German international and physically ticks all the right boxes but he has only played 42 games for Chelsea in five seasons and alongside John Terry even Phil Whelan would look good. Many Boro fans are raving about him but few will remember him playing for Chelsea. In many respects he remains unproven. Boro have paid a lot of money for him and he comes with an unresolved injury that will keep him out for the next three weeks at least.
Woodgate is a class act. He was widely considered to be technically the best defender in England at his peak and Real Madrid bought him because they thought him among the best in Europe. He was a key factor in propelling Leeds to the brink of glory and Newcastle never lost in the 30 odd games he played in. On that basis his signing is a real coup.
But he has been out injured for the best part of two years. After playing just 12 games in two seasons he will be rusty at best and well short at worst. He broke down twice on his attempted return for Real and they do not believe he is yet ready for them. That leaves him with a lot to prove, which could work well for Boro if he has the fire to return.
He also comes with baggage – a conviction for affray after a late night attack on an Asian student – and while there has been a reticence to even mention it on Teesside the national media will not be so shy and with the slightest off the field problem it will be used as a stick to beat the club. Shaun Custis has already had a dig in the Sun and claimed a move to Boro where he is surrounded by his friends and potential distractions will be a disaster.
And remember, not all Boro fans have always been so keen on his rehabilitation. Last time he played at the Riverside he was repeatedly serenaded with “you’re supposed to be in jail” and over the years has be widely denounced as a ‘traitor’ by the lunatic fringe for wearing black and white stripes. There will be hardened critics who will need to be won around.
But there are lots of positives to the signing. As a local lad he will fit straight into a changing room already ringing with Teesside accents and as a world class player will be welcomed for what he can add. And he will be welcomed by the Riverside crowd too. A few good performances will soon see him idolised. Boro fans are knowledgeable and should see the value of his contribution and will allowances as he works his way towards full fitness.
For Woodgate this move is a chance to rebuild his career and regain his place with England, with Real and at the top of the game and if he takes it Boro will have got a world class player on the cheap. Then the problem will be persuading him to stay next summer. That a quality player burning to show his potential is at the Riverside should be a cause for great optimism.
Plus signing of a household name from Real Madrid and a German international from the champions should also end the bleak undercurrent of despair, talk of a downturn in ambition and any fears that the money has run out. There has been widespread frustration at the lack of signings but Boro have ended that in style.
And don’t underestimate the potential of Euell either. He is a good squad player that adds a physical dimension and punch from midfield that Boro were sorely lacking, a player who can aid a switch from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 or from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 without a substitution and one with a excellent goal scoring record.
And as he has so often played well against Boro he meets the other recruitment criteria too.

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15 thoughts on “Transfer Coups Come With A Risk

  1. Vic
    But remember Custis is a Barcode fan – and who else was supposed to be after Huth? And who else did Woodie talk to and turn down before he signed for Boro?
    Was he making the same noises when Woodie played for them or would he have if he had gone back? I think not.
    A whiff of sour grape, methinks.
    The other positive is that both are young men and can learn from Gate to mutual benefit. There was also a time when I can recall that Harri was known as the best defensive coach in the country. Somewhere he’s lost his way but if he can get that back there are real possibilities for the sort of defensive qualities we used to take for granted when Gate and ugo were in their pomp.
    Greedy maybe, but I’m still keeping my eye on the websites for a possible right sided midfielder

  2. Spot on Vic – finally someone has the guts to say it. I e-mailed your sports desk with the following e-mail and have not yet recieved a reply.
    “I see we are on the verge of signing Woodgate.
    “Middlesbrough is a thriving multi-cultural town – and a large section of the Asian community follow the football team. How are we supposed to feel when our team signs a guy convicted of affray for his part in a savage beating which left a young asian student with a broken leg and cheekbone?
    “No mention has been made of Woodgate’s past in any of the of the recent Gazette propaganda. As a paper that serves the local community – shouldn’t you be asking the club & the community their views on Woodgate? Will he come out and say he isn’t racist? That he loathes violence?
    “Both West Ham & Birmingham fans asked questions of their respective clubs when they have tried to sign the loathsome Lee Bowyer (who was actually found NOT guilty of any offence on the night the asian kid was attacked). Unfortunately, Newcastle fans welcomed both Woodgate and Bowyer and now, Boro seem to be rolling out the mat for Woodgate. Is this a reflection on the views of the North East? Unfortunately, I believe it is.
    “This is a sad day for our club
.my club (or so I thought)”
    *AV writes:
    I believe your e-mail has been forwarded to higher powers. Obviously the sports desk concentrates mainly on footballing matters and the editorial response to politically delicate matters are decided elsewhere.
    But that does not mean the more contentious subjects can be avoided. Certainly I won’t duck them.
    Sadly a lot of footballers are not neccessarily nice people and the pressure for success means that all clubs sometimes take ethical shortcuts. Boro for instance have previously employed self confessed drug addict Paul Merson and wife-beater Paul Gascoigne and are currently preparing to re-sign Abel Xavier after his doping ban.
    It must also be said that fans of all clubs appear to share the moral myopia. The objections to Bowyer did not seem to be accompanied by any concrete action. Very few walked away because the emotional attachment to club is strong enough to over ride most objections.
    Maybe there is a discussion to be had over football’s role in rehabilitaion and giving second chances. The game is a powerful cultural force and can have a key role in shaping attitudes on social questions.
    There is a visible growing Asian fanbase at Boro and that is welcome. If it could be expanded that would be a significant step forward. Given the current divisive climate of Islamophobia maybe the signing can be accompanied by a pro-active campaign against racism led by the club, the Gazette and Boro supporters groups.

  3. Vic – Sunny
    And maybe Woodie could play a leading role in it.
    Both Mers and Tony Adams found ways to do good out of their past mistakes. One of the problems I have with Xavier is that he doesn’t acknowledge there is a problem.
    I too have been very proud of the stats that I see regularly which put Boro at the top of the league for diversity of all sorts in our fan base. And I’ve got at the club when, as one one occasion recently they slipped up in not providing proper commentary facilities for blind and partially sighted supporters, unlike most Prem teams. They responded by consulting those folks and agreeing a solution.
    Some of the most effective campaigners against racism and sworn enemies of, for example, the BNP et al are former members who’ve seen the light.
    Time and chance then for Woodie to be a prodigal son of Teesside.

  4. Hallelulah, Something to smile about. Chelsea apart, let’s face it the start to 06/07 has been a nightmare.
    Woodgate has the potential to be a brilliant signing. He is usually man of the match week in week out when fit. If he stays injury free and focused (admittedly big ifs) he will be absolutely massive for us.
    Huth has been courted by many others and although I agree he isnt proven totally he has pedigree. Euell is a useful squad player. He will add energy, forward runs and hopefully a goal or two. One Glaring question when Huth and Woody are fit where does that leave chris Riggott? He’s played right back before you know.

  5. Woody is a great option on loan as in recent years he has been both injury prone and relatively unproven in first team action – a loan suits us just fine.
    At the same time, Huth has a current injury and is relatively unproven in first team football over recent seasons. So can £6m (possibly £5m depending on what you read) be justified? I think that is a lot for a player still carrying an injury and who has played so little football. Yes he is a German international but do not forget that he spent the entire world cup on the bench. Time will tell whether he becomes a £6m bargain or a £6m wet haddock.
    Which two out of the back three would be picked? Riggot was maturing nicely over recent seasons and had even captained the side (i believe). Who will sit on the bench if all three are fit? Perhaps three at the back? With Arca and Parnaby as wing backs – I would suggest that both Parnaby and Arca would be better suited to wing back rather than full back. We will have to wait and see.
    Finally, in a squad bursting with centre midfielders I am surprised at the purchase of Euell. Boat is a cert, so will you leave out Roch or Catermole? Or Mendi? Will he play up front instead of Vids or Yak? I doubt it. But he has stated that he is moving from Charlton to Boro for more 1st team football so I would assume Gate has made certain promises with regards to a place in the team.
    Competition is healthy but I hope Gate doesn’t start rotating players and formations as Mac so often did.
    Promising signings and hopefully a decent 10th position finish for Boro.

  6. I think you might be right about right midfield Chris Gibson – this worries me even more. He always played up front or just behind for Charlton and sometimes in centre midfield. He didn’t play wide right.
    So, I guess we are going to play yet another player out of position on the right. Maccarone, Nemeth, Rochembach, Mendieta, Parnaby (even Parlour who clearly prefered centre mid as he lost pace). None of these players ever did well wide right because they weren’t supposed to be playing there. So why is Euell going to be any different?
    Only player we have that can play the position is Morrison. If you can’t find a right mid player, you should not bring in a centre mid/ striker and play him there anyway.
    We’ll have to wait and see, hopefully I will be proved wrong and Euell plays right mid and is a sensation. I am not a supporter who likes Boro to fail to prove me right. I genuinely hope Euell plays well. I don’t hold my breath though if he plays on the right.

  7. Going to sound like a bore but we need the full back room team, including Steve Round, to be available to help these three to bed in AND to change the current players/system to get the best from each of the new signings.

  8. With reference to Sunny’s post, I believe the issue you raise is more pertinent without the question of racism.
    Woodgate has come out and said he is not racist. The courts did not believe that the attack was racially motivated. Why do you then believe it necessary to describe the lad who was attacked as ‘asian’ as well as feel his signing is a slur against the asian community?
    With regards to the attack, Woodgate has also said that he was sorry for his part in the incidents of the past.
    Surely everyone makes mistakes and to question the club for attempting to continue the rehabilitation of players is quite narrow-minded and short-sighted.
    Woodgate is a good player who has made mistakes – he’s admitted them and learnt from them, he is definitely not a racist.
    Get behind the club and especially the player because afterall, he is one of us.

  9. We need to back Southgate and the club and signing Woodgate shows his ambition. So what if he has a criminal record? Everyone deserves a few chances to put themselves right. No one will be complaining when we are back in europe.
    Only thing is that I hope the club put a 7pm curfew on his head and now he’s back he wont feel home sick and will lead quiet life out of the spotlight off the pitch. Now lets back the chairman and get to the games.

  10. I think Chris and Alex have hit the nail on the head.
    On Monday when we played without a right midfielder, Mendi seemed to be playing behind the front two, mostly, we looked completely unbalanced.
    This led to players trying to compensate. Parnaby got dragged out of position, forcing the centre backs to cover him, Downing got pulled inside, Cattermole looked uncomfortable going forward…result was goals for Portsmouth.
    It is the right midfielder problem in my view, which is the most urgent …five hours to sign snatch Milner ???

  11. Briggsy – “Who cares if he has a criminal record” – I find that to be a stupendously stupid statement. For one thing, here is a young man in a position where millions of kids will idolise and look up to him – do I really need to explain further?
    Andy Smith – you raise a number of points, let me try to address each of these in turn.
    1. Why do I “feel the need to describe the lad as Asian”
    – It may be the same reason that Vic felt the need. The fact that he was Asian, and Asians are a minority in this country, therefore it is customary to refer to their ethnicity (and presume where no ethnicity is mentioned, that they are English, White)
    – Yes, the court accepted that the attack was not racially motivated. However, does that mean I am duty BOUND to accept the court’s verdict?? May I not have an opinion? Have you read eye witness statements of the incident? what was shouted before the chase began? I do not believe the court’s verdict accurately reflected the true nature of events – just as I do not believe the men accused of Stephen Lawrence’s murder and subsequently acquited, were innocent (or do you believe I should?).
    – Why do I feel it’s a slur?. If you have any Asian friends, I suggest you ask them – the trial and finding that the attack was not racially motivated, strengthened a belief that Institutional racism is still rampant and football is rife with it.
    If the club was determined to sign Woodgate, they should have known the background and the baggage – and if they knew this – they should also know the reaction it would provoke. If you think I’m ovrereacting, please do a straw poll amongst your Asian friends/colleagues. The club could have issued a joint statements, some PR etc – I don’t know, I’m not a PR guru but I do know, the fact that they did nothing of the such, sends out a very sad signal.
    2 “He is definitely not a racist” How can you majke such a statement? Are you from the Bobby Robson/Big Ron school of thinking (he’s mates with X, Y & Z black footballers?). Or do you know him personally?
    3. “To question the club is narrow minded and short sighted”. Absolutely ridiculous – the club is our club, the people’s club – Do we have an emotional right to question their decisions, from transfers, to pricing, through to tactics. What if they signed a convicted rapist or paedophile? What would your reaction be then? Not to to question the club?
    4. He has had ample to time to demonstrate his true beliefs – the Kick racism out of football campaign has been running for some time – what better opportunity?
    He’s a young man & yes, young men make mistakes but for me he has not done enough to suggest that I, for one, believe he has seen the light.
    Obviously for me, this is an emotional issue – any Indian kid who has stood in the Holgate and heard 3 thousand voices sing “You’re just a town full of Pakis” to the visiting Leicester/Birmingham fans – is going to be the same.
    Yes football has made great strides in this respect – but let’s not kid ourselves that the problem has totally disappeared – either from the streets of Teesside or the terraces (seats).

  12. If your paper thinks that by signing Woodgate and not reporting any of the anger felt by a large community of the town you are very much mistaken.

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