JUST A quick one before I go out and pogo to Stiff Little Fingers….
What a fantastic game: Full of exciting fluid movement, attacking intent and brimming with positivity – and with an atmosphere to match. There were some excellent individual displays but more importantly there was a coherent shape and temp in a great team performance that ticked a lot of boxes in a one sided-2-0 win.
Obviously Kike will take the headlines. And deservedly so. He was very strong on the ball and several times shrugged a posse of opponent aside. He was mobile and made some surging runs and some perceptive darts in the box to carve open Birmingham. He has good touches and tricky feet too and several times wriggled out of tight corners. He terrified the defence every time he ran at them. And he scored to spark a jubilant celebration. He became an instant hero and showed that he can be the focal point that Aitor believed.
Perhaps just as importantly he linked up superbly with lively Lee Tomlin, dropping to support him, quickly interchanging passes, working together and looking for little runs. The pairing looks like it could be prolific. They could easily both have had a goal or two each. As could George Friend who put in a storming show, And Albert Adomah had two excellent chance too, although Karanka will not be pleased with his final ball on a few occasions when good positions were wasted. Still, can’t be churlish after a win.
Aitor was happy and hoped more of the same will bring the punters back. Steve Gibson was delighted by the gate but knows he needs to keep attendances at that level to balance the books after a summer of spending has taken the wage bill back up to the £20m mark and left Boro squashed right up against the FFP ceiling.
It was Boro’s first opening day victory since 2008, a win over Spurs. That season ended in a relegation that sent the club into a tailspin we have only just pulled out of. The last opening day win in the second tier was in 1997, Ravanelli nicking a last minute winner in a 2-1 squeak at home to Charlton. It would be nice to think today’s one sided romp against (an admittedly poor) Birmingham could be the start of a similar promotion push.
More later after the annual Rigid Digits roadshow.