Boro State Of Play
So as we enter the break for the controversial World Cup, where do we think Boro are, Diasborans?
Pre-season, my hopes were higher than they’ve been since Karanka’s promotion year and I fancied us for the playoffs with a chance of automatic promotion.
The start we had and the complete meltdown at the club ripped that up. I never thought we would be relegated but my hopes did recalibrate to lower midtable.
Now we find ourselves 4pts above the relegation places but equally just 4pts off the playoffs. More importantly, however, the mood at the club has completely changed. We may be right in the heart of no man’s land but as a club we are only looking up.
Can we maintain our form and momentum and push on for an exciting end to the season? Or are we too reliant on a few individuals?
How would we fair, for instance, if we lost a couple from Fry, Hackney, Howson and Akpom to injury for three of four weeks?
Once the season resumes, we’ll be mightily close to the January transfer window. Which areas should we be looking at? Should anyone be moved on?
In recent seasons, transfer windows have been our downfall, leading to swift eruptions of frustration first with Warnock and then with Wilder. Will it be different this time with a seemingly more on-brand head coach?
We may not have a game for a little while but Michael Carrick will have a good feel for the squad now and there’s plenty of planning and coaching work to do over the coming weeks.
Well Said Andy
A fair assessment of where Boro are at this moment in time.
I think we all feel more hopeful and it is a joy to watch the players laughing and joking again on the pitch. Plenty of hugs and congratulations and working for each other. Individual performances are being integrated into interweaving team play and the initial results are impressive.
How much of the improvement is down to the relief of no longer having Wilder as a manger cannot be underestimated. I’m pleased he’s gone and it’s obvious that the players are as well.
Having academy players in the team and also coming on from the subs bench must be the realisation of a dream for Steve Gibson. Let’s face it we cannot buy our way to the top of the Premiership like the Mags! (But we have a Geordie senior coach!)
This improvement is not just down to one man. Let’s also give plaudits to Woodgate and the rest of the coaching staff who have made this turnaround possible.
Is Automatic Promotion On the Cards?
But I get we make the playoffs!
Thanks again Andy (we’re a good team as well!)
Thanks again Andy (we’re a good team as well!)
You most certainly are.
thanks @Andy R
I agree with a lot of what you say. I too sense that the squad is a little bit thin but feel that this problem really comes down to the midfield.
Goalkeeping is fine. We have Steffen for this season (and beyond?) and a good replacement and a number three. We also have two excellent keepers out on loan in Brynn and Hemming.
The loss of Hackney and Howson would place quite a strain on the coaching team because I'm not sure who could provide the forward momentum. I don't see McNair playing there successfully so perhaps he joins Clarke, Dijksteel, Bola and the academy kids as cover for the back four. Maybe Mowatt and Luongo could step in and, of course, there is Payero who is exactly that kind of player. I don't know whether Boyd-Munce or any of the Academy kids are up to the Championhip so that does look like a possible cause for concern.
Further forward, I sense that one of the academy kids could have a go at taking Jones' spot but McGree seems less easily replaceable. Crooks is a different kind of player and has never looked at home on the left. It makes me wonder whether Coulson still has a role to play at Boro. At his best, he looked a good player and he is getting good reviews from Scotland.
Looking at the forwards, it still feels as if we could use a top class hold-up player-a Gyokeres or someone similar- but other than that, we have enough solid players to take adantage of the chances that we are making. Certainly, our goals scored bears comparison with most of the rest of the division.
All in all, I suggest that w ehav ereasons for optimism, as much because of the calm and professional yet excited mood around the club as anything else in particular.
A good post Andy and I think Boro are in a good place and I hope that this break helps with consolidation, confidence building and creating an awareness that maintaining the newly established momentum is not easy with a four week half-term.
How many friendlies are being played? I suppose in a way they are going to be a bit like pre-season matches but they'll increase the coaching teams insight into what makes the players tick and their attitude.
Grounds for optimism and when the league starts again after the unwelcome break, that's me with very little interest too, Boro need to treat it like a new season.
Thanks, Andy, for a good starter for 10.
Let's face it, this is not the season we were expecting at the end of July. At half time on the 30th of July, we had just spent 45 minutes pulverising West Brom. Despite a poor end to the previous season, it looked like Wilder's Boro was about to kick into high gear with a high octane mix of pressing and attacking football that would see us challenging for automatic promotion. Then the second half started and the season started to fall apart with it.
It'll probably be several years, if ever, before we get the inside story but it seems like Wilder was in the middle of a Mourinhoesque spiral of toxic anger and grievance that combined with a risky system on the pitch and players who were scared to take risks meant that everything imploded.
Leo did a good caretaker job and, notably, brought Hackney, an academy player, into the first team. Carrick who was not my first choice (that was Corberan) has taken us up a level from Leo and got us playing the way we thought we would when the season started.
Now we have a 4 week break and then the transfer window to consider. We're in an odd place. Our 1st 11 are all playing at the top end of what we expect from them. Couple more goals from Forss would be nice and Crooks has some sort of quantum hernia. The only player not playing at the top of his game is Akpom: he's playing so far above what anyone (or at least I) thought he could offer that you have to wonder if some sort of mirror universe version of him crossed over into the team. Starting under Wilder and now under Carrick in his Number 9.5 Harry Kane role, he is looking every inch the premier league striker he was forecast to be 7 years ago. Probably up there with Gyokeres as the best striker in the league on current form.
It means that it has hard to know who we would buy or loan to improve our first team this January. Probably this is Howson's last season as a 1st choice midfielder. We also have a slightly lop-sided set-up but it was trying to fix our one-sided attack last season that ended up breaking our team apart.
It's also hard to know what a realistic goal this season is. Bottom line is that we have only had 5 games under Carrick. Woodgate won manager of the month once, after five good games, but it didn't mean anything in the long run. That said, I am optimistic. I was away all weekend so just watched the highlights and inside match day video for the Norwich game. One thing that impressed me was the way Carrick gave Dijksteel and Hoppe big, congratulatory hugs at the end. As much as anything, it's how a manager handles numbers 12-25 in a squad that promotes squad harmony and gets players busting a gut for each other and the team.
Ins and outs in January?
Mowatt and McNair are now understudies for Howson and Hackney. Crooks is in an odd position in that he can play in several roles in midfield or attack but is a second choice in all of them: bit like McNair in that respect. All three of them are excellent squad players to have. My personal prediction is that McNair might shine playing Howson's role. Like Howson he doesn't have much pace but he does read the game well and is quick of thought. We don't have someone who can comfortably fit into the odd position that McGree plays. Boyd Munce has disappeared but in theory can play it. Although it's a position that starts on the left, he does drift central, so Crooks or Hoppe or even Mowatt might be good there.
Carrick has us playing with a Spurs style attack: for Kane and Son, read Akpom and Forss/Watmore. Muniz doesn't really fit this system. Crooks and Hoppe might be able to play Akpom's role but right now you need to a herd of elephants to drag Akpom off the pitch.
Overall, I'm actually struggling to think how I would realistically upgrade our current 1st eleven and of course it does depend on whether we are looking up or down at Christmas time. I'm also reluctant to loan in yet more players who aren't significantly better than what we have. For now though, perhaps Carrick needs to show what he can do with the current group. If he can get some of the second string players to a similar standard to the current 1st eleven, we'll be golden.
great post I enjoyed your rationale and reasoning which I agree with.
Interesting news about Crooks Hernia!
Thnaks, Andy, for the starter and thanks to those who have contributed so far in response.
We all seem to be fairly satisfied in what we have seen from the new management team, so far. I had high hopes for the Boro before the season began. There seemed to be some decent early performances, without getting the results those performances suggested (and, to be fair, that was after fairly disappointing form at the close of the previous season). After a short while the standard of the performances fell, but this time the results mirrored the performances and therefore we got the limited number of points that poor form deserved. At the end of the Chris Wilder management period, the players seemed unmotivated, and the manager seemed to have no idea how to change the downward trajectory of the club. Had things remained unchanged, the club appeared destined for relegation.
After the change in leadership, I agree that Leo and his team did well to stabilise the situation and the results improved. At that stage I felt Boro had enough to survive in the division. When Michael Carrick was appointed as the full-time CW replacement I had no idea what he would be like as a manager/coach, but I did have some hopes. Within a matter of weeks he has, with HIS team, changed the outlook of the team and the club. It is, of course, still very early days (and I take the point deleriad makes about Woody having won an early Manager of the Month award before things turned downwards for him in the management seat), but the players seem almost unrecognisable from the ones we saw at the end of the Wilder regime.
We must thank Leo, as has been pointed out already, for promoting Hayden Hackney to the First Team. I assume his abilities and his form didn't just become apparent the day after CW left the club. Maddo doesn't seem surprised by the performances of HH - who looks as though he has been a regular in the team for a few seasons rather than just a few games. Some players (eg Jones) appeared to have been going downhill for some months, others (eg Fry and Akpom) appeared to have fallen so low in the estimation of the manager that they had fallen completely off the radar, and the team as a whole appeared to have little morale and less idea what to do on the pitch. How could things have gone so badly, so quickly, and what exactly was Chris Wilder doing about it? Talk about playing the lyre whilst Rome burns..!
Faced with that grim position, I suppose that virtually anything Leo and then MC were able to do would represent an improvement on what had been going on. That is why, even under Leo, I was sure we would NOT be relegated, even if we seemed destined to finish well down the league table. But I have been impressed with Michael Carrick so far, and it may be that the players have been, too. Their performances suggest so. It is as though they have suddenly rediscovered the way to play the game. Or at least to have found the confidence to do what they knew, previously, they could do.
Someone on Twitter posted a message suggesting that the World Cup break had come at the wrong time for Boro as the team was just ticking along nicely under @carras16. I took the opposite view. The club has few players who will be at the World Cup. No doubt the squad can have a few days or even a week off, and then return to the training ground full of enthusiasm to get back onto the pitch. If Carrick and his team can do so much to improve performances in the short period so far, I thought, how much more improvement would come from his having a few weeks with the rest of the squad with no league games to play. I thought the break might well benefit the players. We might be an even better team in a month or two from now, irrespective of any tranfer market moves.
I have no idea HOW high we can fly this season, but it is a LOT higher than if you asked me a couple of months ago. Teams do come from lowly positions and secure promotion, like Forest did last season. But that is a lot to expect. The result at Norwich shows we can already challenge the teams at the top end of the division, at their grounds, and I'd hope we will improve as the season goes on. I don't want to put a jinx on it, but let's just say that in what is left of this season (plenty) and next season, there's a good chance that we will be happy supporters after a few years of less-than-joyous football to watch. I am beginning to be optimistic about the club. But no promises just yet....
@original-fat-bob - Thanks for that link, BOB. I hadn't known that Crooks' surgery had already taken place - I'd assumed it would be done now (ie in the World Cup break). But the week off, and the "second pre-season" in the rest of the break period is what I had in mind in the Tweet I referred to, in the penultimate paragraph in my last post (4.49pm).
I’ve just been reading about Redcar Albion’s history, and can’t believe that it’s almost 40 years since they folded due to financial reasons. The original Redcar club in the Northern League once reached the FA Cup Quarterfinals in 1886 beating Sunderland 3-0 (for the second season running, 3-1 in the previous season) and Middlesbrough 2-1 on the way before losing 0-2 to Small Heath Alliance (now Birmingham City). Nothing heard about Redcar until Albion were one of 7 Redcar clubs in the inaugural Teesborough League in 1928. They then progressed via the South Bank and District League to the Cleveland League where in 1947 they completed the double of the Stead Cup and the famous Ellis Cup, the final of which was usually played at Ayresome Park.
Once promoted to the Teesside League they won it three years in succession including the 1957/58 season when they won all 26 League matches scoring 127 goals and conceding only 18. They never reached the heights of the Northern League thoug, and in 1983 it all fell apart due to administration. Their most famous player was Bobby Smith born in the Cleveland village of Lingdale who signed for Chelsea, though best remembered in Bill Nicholson’s Tottenham team that completed the League and FA Cup double in the 1960/61 season and who also earned 15 international caps during which he scored 13 goals. Only 5 years older than me, but idolised on Teesside.
The demise of Redcar Albion resulted in the death of football in Redcar until 1993 when firstly Redcar Athletic were admitted to the Northen League some 120 years later followed by Redcar Town a few years later. Athletic’s gates have jumped from about an average of about 75 to this year’s average of 305 in Division One although 407 attended last week’s match against Tow Law. Meanwhile Redcar Town’s average in Division Two is 128. However Redcar Town have home advantage in the first competitive match between the two teams in the North Riding Senior Cup tonight, currently held by Middlesbrough FC.
A proper local derby then tonight wth possibly Redcar Town slight favourites on current form.
Thanks for the article Andy and perhaps the most unexpected surprise after the appointment of Carrick is that Boro got that famous new manager bounce! It's also hard to believe that Boro are now just 4 points off the play-offs considering after Chris Wilder's tenth and final game (a nil-nil home draw against Rotherham) the club were in the bottom three with just ten points and looking anything but a team capable of moving up the table.
It's only taken Carrick five games to amass the same number of points as Wilder managed in ten and he's also transformed the players into a coherent team that play on the front foot. Interestingly, he has noticed a few things that many observers had been calling for in moving away from a back three that had ceased to function and notably dropping players like McNair and Mowatt.
On top of that he has already discovered the best positions for Akpom, Jones and McGree as well as rehabilitating and utilising new signing Forss and continuing to convert Giles into a full-back who both offers dangerous crosses and can also play defensively. We've got Leo to thank for discovering the unused talent of Hayden Hackney, who for some reason was ignored by Wilder and he has improved game on game under Carrick into probably the best midfielder we've seen in a Boro shirt for some time.
In addition, Smith is now looking established as the right full-back and the pairing of Fry and Lenihan is looking more solid than anything that has come before - plus Steffen is looking formidable as a sweeper keeper who can also make match-winning saves.
Add to that the obvious improvement in team spirit with players who appear to be enjoying their football and now look sharper, fitter and more positive on the ball - then there appears to be every reason to be optimistic about the season once it resumes after that Qatar-mess experiment of holding a World Cup in the dark and miserable onset of winter - sorry had to bring it down a bit as all those foam fumes were making me light-headed!
Not sure if the January window will see much incoming but maybe some of those Man Utd youngster and the return of Coburn and Coulson would offer more energy. One good goalscorer added to this team would probably fire Boro to the play-offs this season - though you wouldn't bet against Carrick getting more goals from Forss, Watmore and Muniz. Also wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of exits with perhaps McNair looking least likely to get many starts.
Maybe Boro don't need to spend their spare cash in January as perhaps we'll see a few more academy players getting their chance under Carrick - look how good Hackney is after just half-a-dozen games under his belt and Pharrel Willis looked a prospect when he came on. With the Wilder dogma of not believing in youth gone then who knows what gems are waiting to be unveiled from the academy.
Agreed, Werder. For me one of, perhaps the very worst, aspect of Chris Wilder's reign was the feeling he was anti-youth, anti-academy. I don't know any Boro supporter who'd prefer to buy players in, if the academy players are up to the mark and can do a job without the capital expenditure. We all love to see "One of our Own" on the pitch. How he couldn't see Hayden Hackney beats me - unless he was purposely looking the other way.
Loved the play on words - Qatar-mess, just sums up how many of us feel.
Now looking forward to the Rugby League Wheelchair World Cup Final. The dexterity of some of these guys is amazing, especially Jack Brown who scored eight tries against Wales.
Thanks Ken - btw I've actually ended up watching a few of the Rugby League Wheelchair matches and found them great viewing - you're right about them being dexterous and indeed very skillful in manoeuvring their wheelchairs in tight spaces - plus some of those crunching tackles are full-on 100% - I think I'll be watching the final on Friday.
As we have a new and young manager at the Boro, it is interesting to rwad what Mogga is saying about management and young football managers in the Echo.
Mowbray said: "All the young coaches coming through with their ideas and positional play, if I was going to be giving anyone any advice, it's don't ever forget to play with your emotions and heart.
"However tactical or positional, you need to remember football is about emotion and passion, that's what connects the team with the support base and you should never forget that."
I think this is very much what Michael Carrick has said already at Boro, too. The connection with fans and caring.
I am currently reading the Michael Carrick autobiography "Between the Lines", that I bought while in Boro. He writes about this and for example about his visit to see Man Utd play among the fans when he was injured and out of the team. The Utd officials didn’t like the idea, but he went anyway. It was his long time ambition and one of his career highligts.
And I think he did again several times before taking over at Boro. He certainly know the importance of emotion, passion and the fans. He is calm but a very passionate person.
Up the Boro!
Further to my pervious post on Mogga and young managers, I now noticed that the Echo has written a summary of Carrick's first three weeks at Boro. Many similar ideas as I wrote above 🙂
Up the Boro!
Although I was one of many who was sceptical of both Carrick and Woodgate, I think Woodgate in particular may have found a role that really suits him.
We're also going to see a natural experiment.
Corberan has WBA winning 3 in a row. If they go on a charge it'll show that his Huddersfield success wasn't a fluke.
Rob Edwards might get the job at Luton. Jones had Luton over-performing so if Edwards can keep them in or around the play-offs it will show that he is up to the job of managing a championship club.
I remain of the opinion that we have a top 10 squad. Because of the bad start, I'll consider top 10 form over the whole of Carrick's tenure this season as a success. That's 40-45 points over his 30 games. He's got 10 points from 5 games so far, leaving 30-35 points from the next 25 to aim for. Obviously it would be great if he did better than that but once he as about 12 games under his belt, opposing managers will have had time to study us and come up with a counter. That's what did for Wilder eventually so Carrick's first real test will be how he deals with that and then how he integrates the January signings.
Reading through the texts on the BBC website, there are many football fans who have decided not to watch any of the World Cup matches, although none so far who think that England should have withdrawn from the competition. I did find it ironic though that Russia should boycott the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles in a tit-for-tat response to the USA boycotting the Moscow Olympics four years previously.
However perhaps I’m one of the few who have watched the highlights of all the First Round matches and replays of the FA Cup this season on the BBC website. Maybe this is ‘proper’ football as opposed to ‘improper’ football that is going to be shown in the forthcoming World Cup. If England had withdrawn from this year’s World Cup might other European countries have followed suit? Probably not, though it might have sent out a message that this year’s event is tainted and that many have shown little interest in this year’s competition.
Apart from following the Boro I was brought up on non-league football, even watching the FA Cup replay at Ayresome Park in 1947 when Stockton lost to Notts County. I admit that England’s centre forward Tommy Lawton was a big attraction, but Guisborough Town losing to Bury 0-1 in 1988 didn’t have the same attraction though it did have the prospect of an FA Cup upset. I expect OFB had the same attraction for the non-league clubs also as he was also a referee as was Philip from Huddersfield. The participants of this year’s FA Cup non-league clubs are no less enthusiastic than the international players of the minnows of this year’s World Cup participants.
That’s what makes this year’s Rugby World Cup disappointing, as rejigging the draw to ensure that England would reach the final backfired when the majority would have preferred watching Australia playing New Zealand in the final at Old Trafford. Nevertheless it was right and proper that the South Sea Islanders should play for the country of their birth rather than Australia or New Zealand. Maybe football should have followed suit instead of allowing some players to play for the countries of their grandparents. Similarly Yorkshire CCC were at their strongest when players were born within the broad acres, but that’s a subject for another day.
Reference your comment on Woodgate ..
I think the main reason for the complete transformation of the entire team is due entirely to the fact that we have hired ourself a top Coach, and you cannot be a top coach without having the ability to spot any talent each player possesses. The signs were there on permanent display, as we hacked our way to mediocrity, battered old manager on fifth or sixth club standing on the touchline looking bored, match going nowhere, he is wishing he was elsewhere, so are we. We are losing by one goal, he brings on a sub, there are three minutes to full time. The sub is called ( does it matter?) he is now playing at a higher level, to no one's surprise. The entire attitude of this coach is one of inclusion, and it matters, if Young players are part of the story, then they flourish.
Though heeding the wise observation of Deleriad that we will only begin to know whether the new regime is really able to keep the team transformed to compete at the level we all would like to see once it has been in place for some time. In other words, while we quite rightly are savouring the change in fortunes and performances and results, we should not get too carried away with things after only a handful of games. Let's just hope we can progressively get more and more carried away as this season and next season progress...
Plaudits for Tommy Smith
I thought I would look back at what I wrote in the Wilder's Window thread
At the beginning of the thread I said
At this point it starts to look as though we're trying to build a whole team in one window. When Monk decided to do that it went really badly. Wilder obviously has a track record backing him up but I wouldn't be surprised if we end up going backwards this season.
And then at the end
For all its failings we still have one of the 10 best squads in the Championship and probably the best U23 set up outside of the Premier league. According to Transfermarkt we have the 6th most valuable squad in the Championship and that is probably about right. If we're not in the top 10 by Christmas then you have to figure that Wilder has significantly under-performed for most of 2022.
Jarkko has frequently pointed out the difficulty of integrating wholesale changes and that was definitely a challenge. The biggest problem, though, turned out to be Wilder and whatever soap opera was going on with him.
I still maintain that we have a top-10 squad and, as it turns out, with the resurrection of Akpom and the breakthrough of Hackney, it's actually got fewer gaps than it looked like back in September. Even despite everything, we're the third highest scorers in the league and have the 6th best goal difference. If we had a coach like Corberan I would be quietly confident of making the play-offs. As it is, it's certainly a possibility under Carrick because we actually do have a good squad.
Former collegues from the Gazette - Dom Shaw of the Echo inteviewing Anthony Vickers about his latest Boro book.
Up the Boro!
I do not know why the link cannot be seen like the links normlly do. It works if you press the small icon, trough. Sorry. UBT!