Boro Are Back! Brilliant. But How Will They Do?

RIGHT. After officially the longest ever gap between posts on here and a yaaaawning fallow two weeks nervously unchained from the secure laptop with the atomic codes, I’m back at work and wading through soul destroying pages of e-mails, google docs and memos and catching up on all the office gossip: fights, affairs, transfer demands etc.

So, what have I missed? Obviously the long waist high wade through a lake of treacle that is trying to make contact with the Venkeys over Jordan Rhodes.  And obviously a string of red hot rumours that flared and faded as quickly as a flurry of hastily changed bookies odds. And obviously a long wait for the red tape over Stuani’s international clearance to be slowly unravelled by the “Manana” man. And obviously the twitter-storm rumour frenzy surrounding out of favour (and out of shape) Lee Tomlin’s sharp exit before the Getafe game as he was named as a sub, an incident that is no doubt being called ‘TummyGate.’

But apart from that? Nothing. As far as it is possible to have ‘nothing’ happening in the emotional hothouse of football in the viral age. I have felt the tangible ripples in the ether from afar as every so often the twitter notifications on my phone started beeping as frantically and rhythmically as a Depeche Mode gig. Except these days people don’t Enjoy The Silence. These days ‘nothing’ beats out an overture every bit as insistent as ‘something’.   Social media will not tolerate ‘nothing’ and the vacuum is filled with thinking aloud and posting a lot of unfiltered streams of  consciousness.  (At this point English students may be having flashbacks to ee cummings. Good. )

We need a modern transfer window reworking of the cynical but perceptive seventies office observations that formed Parkinson’s Law:  just as work will expand to fill the time allowed for its completion so football gossip will expand in cross referenced detail and colour and momentum and an all consuming importance until it completely fills the vacuum between actual events until it crashes and burns under the impact of actual evidence. Still,  panning for nuggets of gold gets us through the harsh summer Dark Ages.

2Eindhoven         Crowds celebrate the return of might Boro after their summer recess.

But enough of that, BORO ARE BACK. BORO ARE BACK. Woa-oah. Woa-oah. Yes. Football returns on Saturday. Or Sunday for us. So let us brush aside the debris of the close season speculation and turn our attention to the new season. It is time to nail your colours to the mast and predict how it will all pan out. Pre-season prediction are of partly a scientific analysis of a wide range of variable and partly an exercise in projecting your own hopes and fears and inate world view onto a blank sheet of paper but the law demands it.

So, where will Boro finish? And who is going up with us?  Who will get the goals? Who will be the key performers? Who will be the breakthrough act? Who will be the surprise package? Where are the potential flaws in the plan? What are Boro’s strengths and weaknesses? And who are our chief rivals? All the usual questions really – but now here’s your chance to display your pundit credentials and map out how you think Boro will do. Make your predictions loud and proud and we will all look back at this in May and laugh in a champagne haze.  Or drunken fury and rampage of recriminations.

For my part, I’ve been rashly predicting since the night of our Wembley freeze that this season we will “piss this league”, which is a writers’ technical term and not a profanity. No sirree. But I swear down dead I believe Boro will be promoted automatically.

1tears

                 Tears of  heart-ache at Wembley. Tear of joy next May? 

The team fell just short last term:  three places; five points; a handful of goals in two or three games; 90 minutes. However you want to quantify it, the gap was agonisingly narrow.  A toddler could step over it. And for me, the past 18 months of steady, incremental, meticulously prepared and professionally planned improvement suggests Aitor Karanka has the ability, the drive and the nous to bridge it.

And, crucially, he has been given the resources to  strengthen the squad in the areas it was lacking last term. The summer shopping – which hasn’t finished yet – has been geared to adding pace, power, punch and creativity at the business end of the pitch, to add goals. Last season’s first Karanka squad radical reboot transformed Boro with a relatively modest outlay and improved a middling side dramatically. Boro were 21 points and eight places better off in the gaffer’s first full season.  This term, although the slope gets steeper closer to the summit, Boro need a far less dramatic improvement.  For me, Boro will do that.

On balance getting into the play-offs last term from a low base was a success. This season that would be a failure. But Boro are bringing in players with a winning mentality and proven quality in key areas and making sure the base remains solid as a rock. Boro should be just as mean at the pack but be far more inventive and prolific up front.  If it all goes to script the newly beefed up Boro will be title challengers again – with added oomph.

Verdict: get ready to saw the top off the 263: We’ll need it for the victory parade.

Now over to you….

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213 thoughts on “Boro Are Back! Brilliant. But How Will They Do?

  1. Wonderful news on AK signing up for another 4. As Andy R said, I hadn’t even given that a thought but its an excellent piece of business (possibly the best of the summer) and very welcome.

    I’d like to think that, in the years/decades to come, when he has inevitably moved on to greater things, that AK will look back fondly at his time at the Boro. He will certainly never have a better chairman – especially if he ends up somewhere like Real.

    I still remember the impact he made in his first few weeks. Despite being a green manager new to the league and the country, he totally transformed our previously leaky defence and brought organisation to the team and, eventually, to the club.

    1. Think promotions even more dead cert if we bring in a new GK, any idea where we stand since Andujar’s turned us down?

      **AV writes: I’ve never heard that name mentioned at this end.

  2. So this was the signing AV hinted yesterday. this was much bigger news than signing a Scottish international (Crete or something) – IN AYTOR WE TRUST!

    I was surprised that some bloggers were talking about Aitor leaving soon earlier. For exaple if we do not get up this season. But I always thought he was happy (t)here at Boro. And he always said he has the best Chairman to work for. So not a big surprise personally but a nice one.

    So over the moon about the news. Sunday is not coming quickly enough. We must chant Parky on 2nd minute, but before the match it’s all about Gibbo and Karanka!

    Up the Boro!

  3. PS. Aitor must bring the League Cup back to the Riverside during his new contract. And European nights. Love to be a Boro fan now. Even Paulista getting excited.

    But first this season and the Championship of the Championship – or the Championship of the second tier.

    Up the Boro!

  4. Back from some time near the New Forest, so very few posts but read blog.

    It is interesting to see the changes in nuance from we must not repeat the ‘no striker’ syndrome of last season, cant afford to drop points in August last year to ‘by the end of the window’ approach.

    My view is that we have to be thereabouts by the end of August. By that I mean round about two points a game.

    If Kike and Stuani don’t score goals in this period that could lead to the same problems as last season.

    Some one will break away early but keep in touch and kick on. We need goals.

  5. Hmm strangely quiet day on the blog considering Aitor was rehired for another 4 years today, Stuani cleared for duty yesterday and Tomlin gone a day or 2 before. That’s more action in a short few days than we’ve seen this whole off season really

    Only thing that made me happier to see that AK was re-signed was to hear that he and SG seemingly never had any doubts about it happening – that speaks volumes about the future of this club really. Aitor has been and will be a driving force over the next 4 years for MFC and plenty of us have said along the way “long may it continue” , well now we have that.. Let’s see what can happen!

    Everything is looking promising for the team but an extra striker, and soon, would be great. Im still holding out hope for Rhodes but Gayle would also be a good signing I think. But not at any cost, I do hope a sensible deal is done whoever we get. The numbers mentioned in the media are getting ridiculous considering we let a guy like Vossen slip for “relatively” cheap money. But its a different approach this season I suppose so I’m not going to second guess and things are looking good on the balance of things. Bring on Sunday, I will be waiting with high hopes and plenty of anticipation.

    This season? 2nd

    1. Shush ! Or is that a double bluff..who knows these days.. Say no more we wait and see.

      **AV writes: Yes, you are probably right. Shhhusssssh. I’ve already taken some stick for it once.

  6. Promotion, 100 points, 100 goals, 25 goals against.
    If we get a striker or 2, another versatile defender (Grenet) and another keeper we’ll be champions. Without I fear ‘just’ automatic promotion.

    This is the most exciting season since 96/97. Be apart of it everyone.

    AV writes: That’s the spirit. We’re going to piss this league.

  7. Just out of curiosity, how can multiple sources claim to have had info that Gayle was at Rockcliffe if there’s no interest at all in him? One person says it, probably bull, but 7, 8, 9 different people? More to it, surely?

    **AV writes: But is it multiple sources? Or lots of people repeating one? Is it an echo chamber?

  8. At my age and after decades of being a fan its not about the past or the future its about now today. I think for too long we have accepted being Boro we now must demand more than that,at least as of today we can support the Chairman, especially being in the league we find ourselves. He must now realize and I think he does its a big boys game and whilst we would love to have half a team of local lads as he has in the past,that’s not going to happen.

    His first important move was hiring from without, and Karanka has so far ‘done a decent job,I admire the fact the manager has instilled a culture of discipline, and its of the team or goodbye. However I’m still at a loss with how at times Karanka has set the team up ,I know it worked otherwise we would not have finished were we did,but either the players have more in their locker or he doesn’t really trust them,

    I still can’t figure why play two new signings in a big game at Watford, playing the Chelseas goalie at Liverpool, the league game at Norwich, they pounded us, I thought at Wembley he might have changed it up and on that game Bamford is about 75% and to play Whitehead out of position ended up a risk too far.

    Now this sounds negative I’m not. I think what I really hope is Karanka and his staff have learned from the experience and are ready to implement the changes within the squad but more important the right tactics that instil a confidence that the players are not thinking who they are up against but we are better than them ,let’s get at it.
    My prediction

    Its hard changes will still be made in personnel,but if we get the two genuine strikers we need, I’m going to be a happy happy fan.

    Others to watch

    Hull if they keep their squad
    Derby
    Burnley
    Wolves

    Fulham, and Reading under Steve Clarke, look outsiders,I don’t see any surprises although last season was a nightmare from one week to the next.

    COB

  9. I’m an optimistic kind of person so I really can’t understand some of the negativity that’s floating around.

    We’ve been playing consistently well for over a year now. We only just missed out on automatic promotion last season due to a slightly dodgy run in. Even so, we easily qualified for the play off final against a decent Brentford side. We don’t really need to improve a lot to go straight up this time. Even just maintaining last season’s performance would probably be enough to take us up automatically.

    What’s changed over the summer, positive and negative?

    Okay, on the minus side we’ve lost Bamford, Vossen and Tomlin. But those 3 players didn’t always start together. And when they did, it didn’t always work. So we’ve only really lost 2 players from our starting eleven. Whitehead was bit part player. It won’t make a huge difference that he has now left.

    On the postive side, the best defence in the league is still there. The players as individuals and the team as a whole will benifit from having played a whole season together and improve.

    We’ve signed Downing, a player who’s performances last season took him to the edge of the England team. A MORE than adequate replacement to play in the Vossen/Tomlin position behind the main striker, or out wide if required. Plus his dead ball delivery will create us a host of chances.

    We are in the market for 10 million plus pound striker, whoever that may turn out to be. There aren’t many clubs in this division that can match that ambition.

    We have a top class manager that has just committed his future to the club.

    I can’t wait for this season to start. In my opinion, we will walk this league.

  10. Good news about Aitor, stability at the club. Will he build a Fergie like colossus? Unlikely. In my mind he has shown commitment to the club and the club to him. It is putting foundations in place.

    There is always the chance that someone will come knocking at Steve Gibson’s door, if the right opportunity came up you cannot begrudge him the chance at a top club but you cant see him moving to a premiership struggler.

    On to the month of August and a better return than last season isn’t a gimme. Preston will be in our faces, Derby and Wednesday away will be very tough.

    You would think that Bolton should be dealt with, Bristol City came flying up and are the best of the promoted teams.

    If you are going to be promoted this is a run of matches to prove yourselves. As someone else would post, just saying like.

  11. So we start again, this is a run of matches to savour.

    First up a side who will be in our face from the off, newly promoted and at home for the first match of the season. A good performance and result tomorrow will have an impact on the crowd and atmosphere next weekend.

    Other trips to Derby and Wednesday, Bolton and Bristol City at home.

    Getting a better August than last year is not a gimme, our squad may be stronger but the games may be tougher, who can tell in this division?

    Must do better than last August can easily morph in to ‘plenty of points to play for’ and the ‘point may prove useful at the end of the season’ as clichés are dusted down.

    Other clubs have been trying to improve squads, they have not stood still.

    As someone else would post (I think it is Spartak but cant check cos I will lose the post so apologies) just saying like.

  12. I have had two posts disappear. In both cases they were posted after the 160 was up, in both cases they showed on the blog once the submit button had been pressed. Came back later with the number up to 163 but only two new posts showing after RR replied to Andy about fans expectations.

    Baffled.

    The post basically said it is a tough’ish August with a start at newly promoted Preston bristling with determination, there are another couple of tough away games.

    Home we should be ok against Bolton but Bristol could be flying.

    We have been saying we cant repeat last August, we may have a stronger squad but it could be argued we have a tougher set of fixtures.

    It will be easy to morph from must do better than last August to ‘plenty of points to play for’ and ‘could be grateful for the point at the end of the season’.

    Not predicting doom and gloom, it will be a measure of progess. As Spartak would put it, just saying like.

    A good performance and result in front of the cameras should result in a good turnout and attendance next week.

  13. The Gremlins have definitely infiltrated the blog, so who knows if/when this will appear. Must pay tribute to our illustrious C……t team. Get in!
    Hope Boro (and Y…shire) can make it triple joy this weekend.

    1. Phew!

      Phil’s post is am not pm, was about to take a lie down in a darkened room!

      Think we need a new blog starting AV

  14. I think the FA need to change the transfer deadline window one week prior to the start of the season. A team needs to start the season with their business done without uncertainty.

    Anyway, we go again tomorrow, this is great. I have no expectations, other than automatic promotion. i have faith in the club and the support. We will do fine and I want to enjoy this season. UTB.

  15. The FA needs to change the transfer deadline to one week before the start of the new season, teams need to start their season with the business done and uncertainty over.

    We go again tomorrow, this is great, as RR said Wembley is fading and i want to enjoy this season, with no expectations other than automatic promotion.

    UTB

  16. Peter Crouch……my sources here, same one who told me about Downing, tells me it’s extremely possible / likely. Now if we can only get Abbey to model the kit……………..

    1. l told you it wouldn’t end well. Give a new untried manager a four year contract extension & see what happens!! 🙂

  17. Some interesting results today. Blackburn’s home loss may help to concentrate a few minds at that club.

    I have two different player choices for the Preston game compared with the most popular team in the Gazette vote.

    I put in Stephens rather than Fry because of his greater league experience. On the other hand, he seems to have played in the play-off final when Preston tonked Swindon and Beckford ran riot…. Incidentally, does anyone know whether Stephens is right or left footed?

    I also prefer Reach to Muzzy. I think this will be a difficult game. They will wind themselves up that they are playing the ‘favourites’, have nothing to lose, and will tear into us. I think Adam gives us more secure defensive cover, which we will need to begin with. Muzzy might be used as an impact sub later. Let’s hope Adam kicks on again this season and really imposes himself. I’d like to see him go for the byline and try to cross the ball more often, or cut inside and shoot, rather than just playing safe.

    Another question, given that the season has started, does this mean we are not expecting any further loans from Chelsea (or anyone else for that matter) unless our negotiations for permanent transfers are not successful?

    Crouch would be useless, he’d keep banging his head on the Transporter Bridge.

  18. Lets see where this post appears.

    Interesting reaction from the Aussie media following the cricket that I have seen. Some criticism of arrogance amongst the players, our down under supporters can give more detail.

    What has this to do with us? it is true in any sport, don’t get ahead of yourself, prepare properly and show respect.

    Do the job tomorrow.

  19. Crystal Palace won well and Bamford didn’t get off the bench (neither did Gayle) but Wickham did. He must be wondering if he made the right choice.

    Rhodes still without a goal this season as Blackburn go level bottom:)

  20. If we play collectively 20 yards further upfield then 2nd is the worst we’ll achieve.
    Keeping Ayala and Gibson on the pitch together for as many games as possible is essential.

    **AV writes: I think moving that 20 yards was the whole point of rebuilding the entire front. I think when it all clicks (and they get all the bodies in) Boro will slicker, more assertive, more creative and quicker to get “in and around” the box. I can’t wait.

  21. I’ve tried to post three times and the pearls of wisdom seem to have disappeared into the magnetic mists of IT. What do we do? The old IT high level maintenance ploy of turn it off, turn it on again.

    UTB and safe travel to the army of fans. Let’s get on with it.

    John

  22. What is going on in IT land and where is the latest blog asking for score predictions. It is Sunday and we do play in about an hour, right
    Who knows where this will end up probably back to yesterday

    Anyway I reckon Preston will be all over us, we weather the storm and sneak a win – 1-2

  23. So far, utter rubbish – Hope Special K is telling them this is not a pre-season game during half time…hoping for much much better in the second half…

    1. No shots on target tells the story. PNE set their. Game plan out and certainly defended well in depth Middlesborough had no attacking options or ideas and everybody looked very very jaded it is about time perhaps that we thought about perhaps selling Leadbetter as he actually stifles the game and when he lost his temper in the second half his game deteriorated look forward to seeing some marked improvement and a goalscorer please

      Fat Bo

  24. Typical Boro, settling for mid table mediocrity when a 3-0 win would have seen them automatically promoted!

    1. Ron

      Leadbitter lost it and was snarling at the referee and everybody else. It wasn’t doing his game any good and forshaw came and settled it and played some good balls in.

      We must all mention the debut of young Dael Fry very impressive young man long may your career flourish

      FatBob

  25. Don’t know where this post will end up but a poor match with few positives.

    One is we didn’t get beaten. A draw away from home in the first match of the season at a newly promoted club isn’t a bad result. When we look at what we did you have to consider there are two teams on the pitch

    The second is the performance of Dael Fry, didn’t look like a kid.

    Third was the cameo from Fabbrini. Reminded me a bit of Tuncay with his willingness to run at players. Plays a decent ball as well.]

    Downsides?

    On TV and looked wooden, not the best advert to pull in some doubters.

    Second, the slowness of our play. I know it is easy watching on the box but the tempo was so slow. Again you have to acknowledge there are two teams on the pitch.

    Reach was ineffective, to be honest Downing was a bit disappointing but there may be the Bobby Charlton effect at play. In the 1970 World Cup, when we played West Germany they spent all their time stifling Bobby to such an extent Beckanbauer followed him everywhere. Whilst nullifying Charlton the rest of the England team went 2-0 up, when he was subbed that freed the Kaiser and the Germans went on to win.

    The need for a striker is irrelevant if you play in your own half and across the pitch. You could have Messi and Ronaldo on the pitch but if it is Chuckle Brothers across midfield you may as well play Dong Gook and Gittings.

  26. Nothing has changed. They figured we would play the same way we played all last season, and we did. So they thought, sit on our backsides until half time, take no chances because they will try to make the perfect goal, unlikely, and in the second half we hit them with everything we have, all the ninety minutes we still have saved up n our bodies, and don’t forget the last ten minutes, heave that ball into their box and shoot and keep shooting, remember people do make mistakes and nerves do come into it.

    Now, the good news, this kid at centre back, good, or what? The number of seriously good players we have now is impressive, i have no intention of listing them, life’s too short but my word, if we get the two missing pieces of the jigsaw, then all will be forgiven. Oh, one final point, passing the ball slowly will never break down any team, not even a pub team.

  27. Do you think Fabrini might start against Bolton on Saturday ?? It might offer us more chances from the off. Very happy with our young CB.

    Not a bad result, Stewie was stifled, we didn’t concede and i am happy we have a very decent option if Ayala or Gibbo are out in the future and i think this is a massive option for us as we now have 4 very decent CB’s.

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