BORO suffered what could turn out to be a major window pain as Rhys Williams suffered what looked like a serious Achilles injury.
Rolls Rhys could be up on ramps for quite a while and may need a lot of welding work before he revs up at the Riverside again. And the injury dogged Aussie is facing up to missing out on a second successive World Cup. Everyone is gutted for him.
He limped off on crutches down the tunnel in visible distress and away to a waiting ambulance after Boro’s drab goalless draw with Wigan for more detailed tests on whether the tendon it was twisted, torn or ruptured but the initial prognosis doesn’t look good.
A badly ruptured Achilles can be a more serious injury than a break. Rehabilitation is longer and less certain. It can have far more profound long term effects on fitness too.
And the injury is not just a personal blow for Williams. It could also have put a major dent in Boro’s squad-tweaking calculations as Friday’s transfer window looms and the Countdown music starts to speed up.
There seemed little to worry about as he went down in the centre circle. As a Wigan man dashed past chasing a quick ball forward Rhys turned sharply – too sharply – to set off in pursuit and his studs caught in the turf and that was that. It was freak. There was no contact. But from the moment he crashed to the floor it was clear it was bad one.
He needed lengthy treatment on the pitch with medical staff screening him with stretchers. We initially thought it must be a break, Then he was stretchered off in obvious discomfort and needing gas and air. That’s never a good sign.
Typical Boro. You could almost hear the groan around the Riverside as after the initial wince in sympathy the cynical default kicked in: “That’s the transfer scuppered”. Football fans can be hard-hearted pragmatists at times.
And those who have to make the strategic decisions may share that perspective. Rhys’ mooted move to Swansea – or one of his other suitors lurking in the shadows – was still very much part of the machinations as Boro try to jiggle and fine-tune the squad prior to the window closing. An initial derisory opening offer from Swansea was dismissed out of hand but the injury-ravaged Premier League side were expected to come back in with a more realistic offer before Friday while Celtic and West Ham are also said to be keen.
The exit of one of Boro’s highest earners (£18k per week has been mentioned to me by people who know these things) would have freed up space in the wage bill and raised income – ball-park figures of £1.5m down with add-ons have been talked of – to help fund a move for “a number nine and a number ten.” So that is a major blow to the strategic thinking of the powers that be at Rockliffe.
The possible exit was one that would have ticked a lot of boxes for both Boro and the player. With Daniel Ayala signed up on a real deal and Kenneth Omeruo also on board plus Jonathan Woodgate, Ben Gibson, Nathaniel Chalobah and at a push George Friend Boro are now heavy in central defence, the role that Rhys has played most of his football at over the past year or so.
Incidentally Karanka said after the game that the injury meant that Seb Hines proposed loan move to Birmingham was off although it is hard to see him in the mix.
Boro also have cover at right back – Williams’ best chance of the World Cup slot – as Jozsef Varga appears to be in poll position while Omeruo can play there and with Chalobah added to Dean Whitehead and Grant Leadbitter it is hard to see how Rhys would have found a place in the holding duo either.
So a move would have suited Rhys too. He hasn’t got a guarenteed place or even position at Boro at a crucial time when he needs to be playing if he is to nail down a slot in the Socceroos squad for the World Cup in Brazil.
But Williams won’t be passing a medical anytime soon. His dream has been torpedoed for a second time. He missed out on going to South Africa with Australia in 2010 when his star was in the ascendant after he developed a serious pelvic injury
Karanka admitted he felt deep sympathy for his player and said he suspected after the club’s medical staff’s early assessment that it was a bad one that will leave him touch and go for the trip to Rio. At best.
“He has gone to hospital now,” he told us in hushed tones after the game. “They will check him and we will know more very soon but yes, we must say it looks like a very serious injury for Rhys,” said the Spanish head coach.
“His face and the doctors face were not good. He was crying and I feel sympathy for him.
“It is very bad injury for him and a very important and serious one. I hope he will recover as soon as possible because he had a big chance to play in the World Cup. We do not know if that is now the case but he will hope so and that will be a big incentive for him.”
AS to the purgatory that was the goalless grind, the less said the better. It was low-thrills and lack-lustre far played in a flat atmosphere. There was little tempo, little shape and little sense that the scrappy showdown was ever going to get out of first gear.
Boro probably had the best of the chances as a good move found Curtis Main in space eight yards out but the final ball in to him from Emmanuel Ledesma was just behind him and in trying to re-adjust his step he slipped slightly and scooped over. Lively Muzzy Carayol sent one low effort whistling just wide and then had a diving header deflected behind. Ledesma had decent half chance with a free kick.
But despite that, Wigan were probably the better side. They looked more coherent and had a better shape and looked sharp on the break. They had the edge in possession and and had some good efforts in the second half as McClean put one over, Powell headed a fraction above the bar and then in the most memorable moment of the match – prepare to swoon – Boro’s current BBF and bromantic chant magnet Shay Given made a superb one handed reflex save from a Crainey that shot took a deflection and squirted goalwards.
Wigan are a decent side on a good run and while it wasn’t exactly a crowd-pleaser it will probably have to go down as a ‘good’ point secured on a poor day. That’s about it. Move on. It was typical Championship fare that has been forgotten already – but it was a game that Boro would probably have lost six months ago.
And while it wasn’t a classic it was another clean sheet. Five out of seven in the league now and four on the bounce at home (for the first time since September 2002) – that steely resolve may not excite but is a very good habit to get into. It is a solid platform for better things to come. And it should be noted that there was no dithering over the ball tonight after Leicester. But there was plenty of Row Z-ing. Not least from Daniel Ayala.
Now, having tweaked things and rewired the mentality at the back, Karanka has to get to work quickly on the sharp end. That will take new faces, Boro need clinical striking options to build on the platform the past month has given them. Everyone knows that not least the boss. And the chairman. Let’s hope between them they can push through the deals they are working on quickly and cleanly before Friday night.