I WAS smashing up bits of kitchen so I didn’t hear the incoming text beeping. It was only when I stopped for a very English tea-break 15 minutes in to my tile-cracking that I checked my phone: 1 message from Steve Gibson. Oh no, what have I done now? I haven’t even been in at work this week. I’m blaming Phil.
It was just a quick one, outlining the news that Boro had agreed a £500,000 deal with Doncaster left/wing-back James Husband, an athletic young lad with bags of potential. They had scouted him extensively last season and despite Rovers being relegated he got rave reviews. It was similar CV to the one that George Friend arrived with. I tweeted it quickly and the follow up story was on the Gazette sharpish too. This 24 hour rolling news operation stops for nothing. Besides, it’s too hot to rip tiles off.
Naturally the news was greeted with the usual cocktail of default Boro reactions. From the realistic “he’s no world-beater but sounds like a good one for the future, we needed cover at left-back” to “why are we signing a useless left-back from a relegated side when we need a top international right-back” (as if the club only work on one target at a time) via the occasional dip into dark conspiracy: if they are signing a left-back surely that means George is being flogged? It’s the only possible conclusion.
Sharp-eyed Boro fans were quick to spot a pattern developing: After signing Friend then Husband from Rovers it has started to sound more like a relationship status update than a scouting process. I’m scouring their junior ranks now for players called Withchild, D’Vorryce and Singleton.
Husband was linked with interest from Premier League Hull earlier this month so clearly he has caught the eye. Stories suggested they had opened talks before switching tack to sign a more ready made option. Barnsley were also said to be interested much to the anger of Rovers fans who see that as a downward step. Wigan and Wolves (do those two operate as a tag-team hustling Boro targets) were also said to be keen but never firmed any interest up. And Rovers were keen to keep him but as he entered the last year of his deal knew they were in a weak position and would probably have to cash in.
It is interesting that all the ITK gossip sites (and even some parts of the media) that spend their days two-plus-twoing and guessing at links based on whispers on other forums never came up with this name. That seems to show that the club is far more watertight now on real targets. The Spanish backroom staff don’t have as many friends and family desperate to recycle snippets as the Teesside dug-out did.
The signing is another small part of the building process. Boro have needed cover at left-back for years. Not “cover” I’ve been reminded. Karanka doesn’t do “Cover.” He wants every single person in his squad fighting tooth-and-nail for a first team shirt. So this is much needed competition of the sort that George could have done with at the start of last season when he dipped well below par at times.
The lad can play as a wing-back too so either he or George could slot into a more advanced role that could be useful in the absence of Muzzy and Manny. And Rovers fans – who seem to rate him highly and think we have got him cheap – report that he has occasionally played at right-back too , although hopefully we won’t see that.
Last season’s injury to George forced Aitor Karanka into an uncomfortable looking tactical rejig for the first time and although Boro mugged Burnley in a backs-to-the-wall display with three at the back it was clunky and nerve-shredding stuff. Cover at left-back was one of the gaps identified by Karanka back in May along with a specialist No 9 to play in the formation he favours and he has signed Kike to play that role.
That leaves a right-back and a No 10 to sign. My understanding is that Boro are currently working on options for both those positions and they expect movement on several fronts next week. One is said to be “very close.” Of course, I’ve been saying that for a week. But that is what I am being told from within the club and I have no reason to disbelieve that. The Kike deal was a similar long drawn out process of haggling and cross-border fine-tuning . It is more important that Boro get their signing done correctly than quickly.
So what do you think? A hint of tactical options to come? Much needed competition? The first of a flurry of signings? The exit door for DJ Andy Halliday? Have nursery club Doncaster got anyone else we can nick?