IT’S SATURDAY 11th August 2007 and a new look Boro “that Teesside can afford” start their Championship campaign at home to Leeds. There are just over 19,000 in the ground thanks to 2,000 or so visitors boosting a slimline Red Book army of 14,000 plus a few thousand hopeful pickers-and-choosers coming along curious to see Tony Mowbray’s young lions in action.
The team is very different from the one that lost one too many “must win” matches at home to Fulham on the final day of the Premiership season: Mark Viduka has gone to Newcastle, Yakubu back to Champions League Portsmouth, George Boateng on a free to Feyenoord, Jonathan Woodgate to Chelsea via Real Madrid and Stewart Downing has joined Manchester United to replace Ryan Giggs amid a hue and cry of parochial hate at his treachery. The money raised will cushion the blow from leaving the cashcade but little has been spent on players.
Mowbray has brought in snarling striker Paul Dickov for ÃÂ£2m from Manchester City up front plus ÃÂ£2m Scott Brown from former club Hibs and ÃÂ£500,000 new skipper Graham Kavanagh from Sunderland to beef up what is essentially a side of academy graduates plus transfer-listed keeper Mark Schwarzer.
Team (4-5-1): Schwarzer, Davies, Taylor, Pogatetz, Bates, Morrison, Johnson, Cattermole, Kavanagh, Brown, Dickov. Subs: Jones, Riggott, Christie, Euell, Porritt.
It could happen. But it’s not the end of the world. It’ll be just as much fun: new teams, new grounds, a decent chance of winning a competitive league, a chance to relight the flames of passion. If it comes to pass, well, bring it on!