Dynamic Duo Star In Oldham Re-Run

SUMMER: so many repeats.

It was another chance to see what felt like a rerun last year’s exciting episode as once again Boro eased to an emphatic three goal  Capital One Cup win at Oldham with a box fresh Spanish-speaking striker taking the plaudits.

Boro had to dig deep at times against a plucky home side but the quality shone through and fans went away raving about their new frontman and bubbling with optimism. But for Kike read Stuani.

The only real difference this time was the weather. Thank God.

It was exactly one year since Aitor Karanka’s half-formed team won 3-0 at a canter at Boundary Park going into his first full campaign.

That night a downpour of Biblical scale was bouncing up waist high just like it used to on that plastic pitch, the Latics latex secret weapon in their top flight glory days of the 1990s.

A mix-and-match side of new boys and fringe figures eased to a routine first round win in front of the brutal bare steel skeleton of a half-built stand. The team that night included Dimi in goal, then very much the second string shot stopper, Hines, Ayala, Woodgate and Husband across the back, Leadbitter and Whitehead in the holding roles and the midfield was Nsue, Luke Williams and Reach behind early season striking specialist Brad Fewster.

Some key players were yet to arrive. The Adam Clayton saga was over, his signing officially confirmed just before kick-off, Damia Abella was on board but awaiting international clearance while Patrick Bamford and Jelle Vossen were still weeks away.

The new Oldham stand is “finished” now – give or take some cosmetics – although Aitor’s own grand construction project at Boro goes on.

We saw that taking shape nicely. After last year’s under-pinning and foundation building the boss looks to have a far stronger structure now. His reshuffled team for the cup clash against the minnows this time was still new boys and fringe figures – but it looked to have taken a quantum leap forward in some key areas.

As last year Kike was on the bench only this time it wasn’t a teenage rookie he was shadowing but Christhian Stuani, a Uruguay World Cup striker only kept out of a starting spot for his nation by Luis Suarez.


                “He comes from Uruguay, he took six weeks to buy, Stuani.”

That is a serious upgrade of the armoury and Kike’s heart must have sunk as the striker made an immediate impact and added power up-front.

And the three behind him looked far more potent and balanced this time out.  On-loan Diego Fabbrini, who has played for the Italy senior team, even if only once, looks a livewire, Albert Adomah is a more disciplined and influential figure after embracing Karanka’s philosophy, and speed merchant Yanic Wildschut.  That’s not a bad trio breaking forward offering speed, trickery and plenty of interplay.

Throw in the likes of Clayton, Adam Forshaw, James Husband, Daniel Ayala, highly-rated loanee Jack Stephens, also making his first start and looking composed and strong, and Tomas Meijas, Boro’s specialist knockout keeper.

You wouldn’t be overly worried if that team started a Championship game this season.

But for a really vivid illustration of the strength of Karanka’s new squad just look at that bench: wow!  George Friend and Grant Leadbitter were in the Championship team of the last term and would walk into any of our rivals’ starting line-ups, our Greek Dimi-God had more clean sheets than a medium sized hotel, then there is Kike, Tomas Kalas and teenage Berwick Hills battler Dael Fry.  Plus, lest we forget, Stewart Downing, the prodigal playmaker brought in to sprinkle magic dust.

That’s an impressive set of alternatives. It shows that Karanka has strength in depth, tactical options and potential game-changers in his squad.

With at least one frontman still to come and some other transfer tweaks to be made before the window Boro look a solid squad with strength in depth, especially in the creative pool competing for a place in the three behind the striker.

Rebooted Boro look to have made a marked improvement in personnel and balance year on year in  visits to Oldham.

Same time next year at Boundary Park so we can check out how our Premier League preparations are going?


BORO may have just found a player. Or two.

International hitman Cristhian Stuani made an immediate impact on his first start with a two goals haul in a polished display up front leaving pundits and fans gushing.

Strong, direct, perceptive, potent… Aitor Karanka appears to have landed a top quality striker.  It has been a long wait to see the £3.6 Uruguay international and former Espanyol hit man in action after a frustrating paperwork hold-up left his debut in the post.

A new chant appeared: “He comes from Uruguay, he took six weeks to buy.”

We knew his pedigree was impressive but it was good to finally see him shrug off his red tape and ring rust and give us some evidence of exactly what the gaffer sees in him.

And it was impressive. He was quick-witted and made good runs into the box and twice just failed to connect with low balls across the face of goal by a whisker.  He was powerful on the ball and muscled off the attention of defenders – he was given some robust attention but showed he could take it and dish it out.  He was good in the air. His opener was a perceptive run and powerful header but he also won a string of other high balls.

He knows where the goal is too. He twice brought good saves before slamming home his second as he darted quickly into position to hammer in an angled effort.

And he makes surging well timed runs into the penalty area and behind the defence which invites quick balls into him. His movement drives the team forward, raises the tempo demanding  first time balls and forces the opposition back and drags them out of shape.  

And just behind him, Boro also appear to have signed a genuine “number 10” in Diego Fabbrini.  He was a livewire presence, buzzing all along the three positions behind the striker, demanding the ball and moving it quickly, linking up smoothly with the players either side of him to play the ball intelligently to the one in front and giving Boro a forward fluidity so often lacking last term.


     Fabbrini:  added some fizz up front for a team that looked flat at times last year.

The black booted midfield maverick has an instinct to attack and he popped up on both flanks and through the centre, running at players and trying to dribble or trick past them or  darting into the box on diagonal runs to pull defenders all over. His relentless  movement won the missed penalty and teed up the opener.

His dynamic display was a pleasure to watch. He is a catalyst. He makes things happen. He is exciting. He plays with zest And he adds something that had been missing.

The pair look to be fantastic additions to Aitor’s offensive armoury.

And Karanka hasn’t finished yet. David Nugent may be added to the mix  up front very quickly.  And another creative midfielder – as well as Stewart Downing – may arrive yet to add competition behind the striker.

The boss now has real options at the business end and that gives cause for optimism.


111 thoughts on “Dynamic Duo Star In Oldham Re-Run

  1. My questions around the shape and system stem from the fact that is it the correct system for all opposition? Is it correct when u come across the parked bus and you only have one up front? I accept it can work if you play higher up the pitch and your three attacking midfielders support the attack.

    Hence why It worked against Oldham because it was a cup game and we needed to win. Our emphasis was on attack. It wasn’t against Preston it was certainly on not getting beaten. In which case the lone striker does become alienated, we don’t create any chances and 4231 does not work.

    I don’t think we should change the system if players have been bought to work in this system. However, the mentality needs to be to play on the front foot because as soon as we set up not to lose we inevitably create very little and just invite pressure onto ourselves.

  2. Just to add I think that goes some way to explaining the difference between our home and away record. At home we expected to win and attacked teams. I didn’t see that so much away from home and we struggled to score goals and create chances. Preston, , although only one game, was too much like de ja vu for my liking.

  3. When you have a manager that insists on his players playing strictly to orders, “or else”, then some individual thought and play will naturally be sacrificed.

    Against Oldham you also had some players who were trying desperately to impress and therefore perhaps put a bit more effort in, albeit against much weaker opposition than Preston.

    As better players are recruited and entered into the system, the level of skill and the performing to orders exactly as required will also improve. Downing will play the midfield role to a higher level than Tomlin for example.

    Player recruitment always has and always will be the key to any clubs success. AK hasn’t received too many Plums, and has been ruthless in shipping out the deadwood. this is only his second full season and he doesn’t need to improve by much to better last season.

    Let’s see where we are on Sep 1st, both personnel and league position wise and make a more considered judgment then.

  4. Lets all be nice to the new boy, put away your reservations and give him a chance, I share some of them. Caleb Forlan and Dong Gook cost nothing and were still bigger wastes of money than Nugent will be.

    He is what we have got so lets get behind him.

    On to mind games, I have been told again that it is the best time to play Derby. I am more bothered about Bolton tomorrow. Crowd? I guess we will be through the 20,000 already, a couple thousand last minute and I am going for 22,500.

    Some debate about why we attacked more on Wednesday last Sunday. Preston are a better team, the changes we made were players not formation or style.

    A few of names stand out.

    Wildschutt seemed to add something. JP and I were talking about Reach not making the trip, I suggested he turned up a blind alley and missed the bus.

    Fabbrini on from the start with his Tuncay like energy.

    Forshaw freshening up midfield, Clayton made a couple of forward passes. The first was to the keeper from the spot, The second sent Wildschutt on his way.

  5. I’ve seen a few comments on here saying at the Preston game Boro had ‘no shots on target’.

    I feel ill placed to respond to that as I wasn’t there and only saw the 10 minute highlights on Boro+, but unless the video had been doctored I saw a number of shots on target all of which were very well defended by Preston. I’d pick out Kike’s excellent near post header from an Adomah cross that was goal-bound but for some excellent defensive work by his marking defender. Fortunately for us Preston’s strikers weren’t as accurate as Kike, because several times (in the brief 10 minutes highlights I saw) our defenders lost their player and allowed a free header, including once for their centre forward. One of Ayala or Fry would hopefully have got roasted for that by Karanka back in the changies. It’s way too early to comment of course, but all seems OK to me after two games and roughly 20 minutes of highlight watching.

    Recruitment during the transfer window also seems to have been good, and all of the remaining targets who seem to be in serious consideration (that is players AV talks about at a price AV reports…as opposed to the stuff and nonsense that comes from elsewhere) seem to add up as well. Can’t see what all the fuss is about.

  6. Just read the news about Nugent. Another excellent piece of business by the Boro…and $2m before performance and promotion bonuses despite what other sources report in the constant media arms race to report an ever higher fee. I’ve been quite gob-smacked by some of the negative comments about Nugent’s potential signing on here. I’m not entirely sure what some people want. Either way, people are entitled to their opinion but I count myself as a very happy Boro fan at the moment.

    1. KookaBoro

      I agree with you Nugent is a proven championship striker and wanted to come and be part of the project.

      We now have lots of options and curious to see the signing of the attacking midfield player AV said we were signing.

      Looking forward to tomorrow come on Boro lets get behind them


  7. Kookaboro

    Seems a good piece of business at £2m. The proof will be in the pudding, I will be delighted if it rises to £4m. I would have loved two million Aussie dollars.

    Any new player is a risk but hopefully this will be successful for all parties.

  8. Before the season if you had to name four strikers Boro should go after within budget, Nugent would have been on that list. Excellent signing, a player who will get into those areas a goalscorers instinct takes you.

    Karanka hinted at a need for a winger recently also. I’m trying to think of a formation he will now use, certainly 433, is now an option.

    We are now the giant to knock down. Let’s hope the players show up for every game.


  9. Nugent doesn’t seem to represent much risk at the price. We’re well covered up front now and if we go we have the option of recycling him. Back to the champo for a fee.

    If we don’t go up it won’t be his fault he was left isolated up front on his todd or the team collectively failed to start strongly.

    Well played Gibbo.

  10. Where is the £2m fee for Nugent reported? All I can see is either “undisclosed” or £4m.

    Personally I think the “undisclosed” is probably nearer the mark. As I mentioned before on here I think £2m is a good price and £4m seems expensive but for Championship goalscorers I guess there are not many proven ones around.

    I would be reasonably content with up to £3m but it is likely a complex deal where we pay say £2m now, another £1m if we get promoted and probably another £1m if he gets over 20 goals. If so and then with Premiership money it all becomes pretty irrelevant and loose change.

    Anyway he is a welcome addition to the squad and certainly not a player you would fancy your chances against at this level and gives AK even more options. Problem now is where will he play and who will give way?

    **AV writes: As reported in the Gazette on Monday, it is £2m down rising to £4m with promotion and performance clauses. I hope we end up paying top whack.

    1. Possibly the first time I’ve seen the word ‘loose’ used properly on this blog (you know who you are!)

      That was a statement released in conjunction with the Pedants’ subcommittee…

  11. Sorry, should have read as:

    ‘If we go up we have the option of recycling him back to the champo for a fee.’

    Grrr posting on phone

  12. Redcar Red

    From Gazette

    ”£2m down but with promotion and performance clauses rising to £4m – and the player quickly agreed the move in principle”

    That is a good piece if business and Venky’s left with egg on their face.

  13. Excellent sighing of Nugent IMHO!Adds power, strength and experience up front to augument Stuani.

    I’ve previously posted my concerns about lack of goal scoring potential. Now I feel a lot better. Well done to the backroom team and AK- credit when it’s deserved.
    Nugent 20 goals last time in Championship shows proof positive he has the ability.

    Snip of a price as well in comparison to the fella across the Penines, whose name I shall not mention 🙂

    UTB (and J Corbyn)

  14. How can anybody not be pleased with Nugent on board, who cares 2 or 4 million he’ll do the business for us of that I am sure. We definitely have stronger replacements for Vossen and Tomlin plus Stuani for Bamford

  15. Agree with RR, EG reported fee of 4m agreed. The only issue for me was the fee, slightly excessive but nothing against Nugent. £2m is far more realistic with the add on should we get promoted. UTB.

  16. May have to revise my attendance figure up from 22500, 24000 must be a distinct possibility.

    One question I meant to ask people still on Teesside.

    Down here, fans support both Derby and Burton, they are only ten miles apart. It applies more so to the Burton fans, Derby fans are more like us and look out for the results of their smaller neighbours

    Do fans in Hartlepool support Boro/Sunderland as well. Do fans in Darlo have a similar relationship.

    I suspect the relationship might be slightly different because Burton was always a non league side whereas Darlo and Pools have been league clubs.

    **AV writes: At risk of opening a hornets nest here, while there are Boro fans in Hartlepool, I’ve been at the Vic and heard those derisive cheers when the full-time results are announced and Boro have lost. A lot of older simian stranglers are from former pit-yakker families hailing from Easington, Seaham and the like and they favour Sunderland. And Darlington fans tend not to like Boro much either.

  17. Well Nugent is in the squad now and it looks a great bit of business to me, So do I spread my Championship leading scorer bet to include him along with Stuani on whom I get 25-1. I think they’ll be fighting neck and neck with each other for the prize and that should sharpen the focus and accuracy.

    Maybe a Stuani, Nugent, Kike 1,2,3, that should be long odds and a tad optimistic.

    I’m going 3 – 0 to Boro tomorrow.



  18. I’m very content. Good summer business….we can all wish for more, I do every Christmas, I’m a greedy blighter, but let’s pop the reality specs back on and that’s some sound purchasing we’ve done all round.

    Yes JR is a good player, and in his prime, and I’m sure we’d all (oh hang on, think where I am, maybe not ALL!) want him in our squad, but not at any price! Overall if we didn’t sign anyone else I’d be a happy boy, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow (at a distance, wish I could be there!).

    About time we had some predictions going, so I’m sticking my foamy wotsits on the line now and going for 3-1, Stuani, Albert and let’s go for Stewy with a sublime chip. UTB

  19. Usual Friday evening post here, busy week once again. Good piece of business in signing Nugent in my opinion, he will be out to prove any doubters wrong and has committed his future to Boro we should welcome him.

    Remains to be seen whether Nugent, Stuani or Kike is the regular starter but regardless, we now have real depth in the striker department which is what we’ve all been looking forward to.

    Too often when we went behind last year there was an inability to force a game changing moment but with Fabrini, Downing and Adomah potentially able to switch positions I think those matches can have a better result in the coming season. Albert’s form was really coming on towards the end of last season so I think he’s gonna have a great year ahead, I just hope no big bids come in for him before the end of the window, we don’t want to lose him.

    I’m with grovehillwallah though, September 1st is when we should all come back to any real major judgments on the team. It’s early days we’re looking good and for now I’m happy and again thankful that SG has invested heavily once again.


  20. I guess I might be the odd one out but the signing of Nugent does not excite me . At 30 years old he is going to be a liability for the next 3 years. Having said that , I hope that I am totally wrong about him. I still
    believe Rhodes would have been a better investment for the future.

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