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Boro v Birmingham
 

Boro v Birmingham

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Andy R
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After last weekend’s battering of the Bluebirds, Boro host The Blue Noses of Birmingham this Saturday at 3pm.

With four wins from the past five games, including four clean sheets and three consecutive wins, a reinvigorated Boro have surged to sixth in the Championship. Yes, Boro’s form has come against some of the poorest or most out-of-form sides in the division but  - Untypical Boro - Neil Warnock’s men have done what they had to do and by full time in South Wales last Saturday lunchtime, they had even started to look quite convincing. And the run may not be over yet….

Birmingham find themselves twentieth in the form table of the last six games with only one win and just two goals. That win and both those goals did, however, come in their last outing as they also beat Welsh opposition – Swansea - to end a run of six games without a goal and seven without a win.

Blues Manager Lee Bowyer did a fine impression of Neil Warnock (or was it Tony Pulis?) in his post-match interviews as he bemoaned previously missed chances: "I hope this is a kickstart, I have said on a few occasions we haven't been that bad but we have kept missing chances. Today was the same. We scored two but four, five easy I think we should have scored.”

The form may well be in Boro’s favour but despite our recent run and being twelve places above Birmingham, only five points separate the sides in what has become yet another hugely congested Championship table. With Birmingham’s recently-ended poor run coming against decent sides including Huddersfield, QPR, a resurgent Forest and West Brom, you’d have to expect this game to be Boro’s toughest test in a while and the Blues will be looking to what you’d think would be a handy front-line consisting of the powerful and experienced Troy Deeney alongside regular Championship goal-getter Scott Hogan to examine Boro’s makeshift defence.

Yet, is this a makeshift Boro? Sure, injuries to Fry, Hall, Djiksteel and Bola have given Boro an unfamiliar look of late but there’s little complaint over recent results and the clean sheets have started to mount. Sol Bamba has looked Boro’s best centre-back by some distance since coming in whilst Lee Peltier has offered consistent solidity and Jonny Howson has put in his best performances of the season so far at the back. Bola certainly offers an attacking threat and width that Peltier can’t match but will the others automatically come back in when they return? I’m not so sure and it may be more a case of rest and rotate to provide playing time rather than being “first choice”.

Isn’t it amazing how perceptions can shift in such short timeframes? Not so long ago you’d be forgiven for thinking that Fry, Djiksteel, Bola and Howson were nailed-on starters for Boro following a summer rebuild that added depth but created imbalance. Yet, less than a fortnight later and following a few successful positional shifts, those players could possibly be downgraded to “options” now with Bamba, Crooks and Payero the new must-haves.

That, however, is a debate that can wait a while as Warnock has stated that he doesn’t expect any of the injured players to return in time for Birmingham. In the meantime, we can hopefully further enjoy the flourishing partnership between Matt “wardrobe-on-legs” Crooks and Martin multi-pronunciations Payero/Pajero/Patcharo, whilst Sol Bamba continues to provide defensive masterclasses behind them.

This fixture should be a more difficult one than the previous three or four but there’s a more positive feeling around the Boro as we head into Saturday’s game. So, who will leave the Riverside feeling blue?

This topic was modified 1 month ago by Andy R

jarkko
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Excellent start to the next match, Andy R. Appreciated. 

As injuries and our best eleven were touched there, I decided to do my 'Karanka" test - e.g. if we have two decent players per every slot in the team. 

As Warnock let our natural wing backs go out on loan, I have a gut feeling our manager is thinking of playing a flat back four in most games. Hence the 4-4-2 formation below:

GOAL: Lumley/Daniels, (Stojanovic)

FULL BACKS: Dijksteel/Howson*; Bola/Peltier

CENTRE BACKS: Bamba/Fry; McNair/Hall

CENTRAL MIDFIELD: Crooks/Howson*; Payero/Lea-Siliki

WINGERS: Tavanier/Browne; Hernandes/Jones, (Olusanya)

STRIKERS: Ikpeazu/Coburn; Sporar/Watmore

I have included the players above that should be fit this month or after the next International break. I have also excluded both Ameobi and Fisher as we do not have a clue when they will be back. 

As you can see above, we have one player missung - hence Hawson is there twice and marked with asterisk (*).

So the big question mark is over the full backs - we need to sign a player in January. I still wonder why we didn't sign an EPL youngster on loan there in the summer.

I would keep on playing Howson at right full-back, too. If so, we could do with a central midfielder. Hopefully Connor Malley could do a job there if needed.

What do you, fellow blockers think about the depth in our squad? My preferance for starting eleven is in bold (above).

Up the Boro! 

This post was modified 1 month ago 6 times by jarkko

jarkko
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The good thing is that we can easily play 3-5-2 with wing backs or 4-3-3, etc with the players we have. 

McNair, Howson, Crooks, Bola, Dijksteel and Watmore can play in more than one position - and well, too.

As I have said before, the needed time to gell and hopefully the worst teething time is behind us now. We can still expect a dip in form occationally. But generally we should be better now. And I do not mean injuries!

Form and gelling in are expected now. In Warnock we trust. Up the Boro! 

This post was modified 1 month ago 2 times by jarkko

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Andy R
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@jarkko

Thanks Jarkko.

On your squad, I did the same exercise in my head, and the positional changes make all the difference.

Previously, the squad looked imbalanced as Howson was considered a midfielder, Payero and Crooks both thought to be no.10 types and possibly Lea Siliki too whilst Peltier was touted as a player who could play all across the back line or even in midfield but not thought to be a real option at left-back. McNair has always been a conundrum.

Now with the changes as Payero and Crooks play deeper, Howson and McNair are considered genuine defensive options and Peltier has shown himself to be a very capable left back (so long as his job is only to defend), we have a second XI if set out in a 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1. As you say, the versatility does mean we can switch to three centre-backs if we need to. You can also add Connor Malley as a fourth choice centre-midfielder if Howson becomes a more regular defender.

That second XI can be (depending on who the first choice actually is):

Daniels

Howson Hall Fry Peltier

Olusanya Malley Siliki Hernandez

Ikpeazu Coburn

Who the first choice back 4 in particular are is anyone's guess but the above "second choice" suddenly looks useful for this level.

This post was modified 1 month ago by Andy R

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Forever Dormo
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Thanks for that starter, AndyR and Jarkko for your two very prompt responses.  Clearly no work is currently being done up there in Finland at present!

I'd be very happy indeed for Boro to continue in "boring" fashion, and win 2-0 again.  Wouldn't want to be greedy.  Really, it doesn't matter how poorly our recent opposition have been performing in the matches leading up to our games against them - the vital thing is that we take advantage of their poor form and win.  That is something Boro has been able to avoid doing in the past - putting away the teams below us.  We can worry about the teams above us when their times come.

I noticed on Twitter yesterday there was a suggestion Boro might be interested in one Heitor Rodrigues (de Fonseca) from Internacional in Brazil, for a suggested 5M Euros.  He's 20 years old, a right back, and has made only 23 appearances so far. Not sure we have 5M Euros to spare on a player with promise as opposed to a player with a proven track record but no doubt much will depend on where we are in the table at the end of this year.


Original Fat Bob
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Thanks Andy for the leader post much  appreciated. Some good points made to think about and yes we’re all hopeful at the moment. This is usually the time we get to enjoy our season before it all comes crashing down around us ! Let’s hope we can push on and have a great run in to the play offs.

Good posts Jarkko hopefully we do have some strength in depth and I think our new Director of Football is starting to identify targets to suit a long term strategy and not knee jerk reactions from managers.

I’m going to be optimistic and I’m going for another 2 0 win to Boro on Saturday.

OFB


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K P in Spain
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Thanks Andy for another interesting pre match post with some interesting points, not least of which is that the squad is not as unbalanced as first thought nor will we be short of options once every one is fit.

I have posted previously that NW will have bigger challenges to face once he has 20+ players to pick from and too much chopping and changing, if that is what happens, could work against us.  

I take the view that NW and, to a degree, TP before him are good at getting results from scarce resources but less successful when they have more goodies at their disposal; it will be interesting to see how the season develops when NW has a full squad to choose from.

It will be good to see George Friend back at the Riverside this weekend and I hope the crowd give him a generous and warm reception, as he deserves it in my opinion, as he was a bargain buy, a good player and excellent servant of the club; that being said I hope he ends up on the losing side!

Let's hope the team can continue to build on recent performances and no typical Boro please.  You have quite rightly pointed out that Brum will be a sterner challenge so think we can shade it 2-1.  CoB 😎


Andy R
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For what's it worth, I think Bowyer's Birmingham are a bit better than their league position shows in this ever so tight league. They started well and just ran into a tough run of games and lost a bit of goalscoring form at the same time. They seemed to pull themselves out of it at the weekend with a good win unfortunately.

Four wins on the spin just doesn't seem like Boro so I'm going for 1-1 in this one.

 

 


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deleriad
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@jarkko

Good bit of analysis. Also to bear in mind that McNair can play right back and right wing back while Peltier can play right back or centre back; I think we basically have enough players that we have a 3rd choice player for each place except for left back/wing back.

So far the only significant disappointment among our signings has been Lea Siliki; he seems to be struggling to get his fitness up. The rest, even Peltier, have done fine. They struggled when the whole team was struggling but have all played a role in the improvement. Olusanya was over-promoted; he probably needs some time in the U23s then loaning out to a league 1 team. 

As everyone has said, the next challenge, assuming that players start coming back from injury is for Warnock to keep the improvement going. Bola is probably the only player who comes straight back in but there would be no harm in bringing him back on the bench first so he can rebuild his fitness. I'm not convinced by McNair in a back-2 with Fry because I think he needs Bamba's reading of the game. 

If we can get Lea Siliki playing to the right standard and bring in a left back/wing back then things are looking much brighter than 2 weeks ago. I watched most of the 90 vs Cardiff and although we're not playing attractive, possession-based football we're also not playing hoof ball. When we win the ball we are looking for runners. You get the impression that the players still don't have an instinctive idea of how to play together but there are signs of partnerships building. 

Birmingham tend to line up with 3 at the back and 2 up front they also tend, like us, to only have 30-35% possession in the game. I suspect then Warnock's decisions will be whether to go three at the back, whether to rotate Hernandez & Jones and who plays alongside Sporar. 

It feels like this could be a rather dire match so I'll go for an OFB special prediction.


jarkko
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@forever-dormo Hear, hear!

Not much travelling nowdays. Just one trip abroad anymore before Xmas.

I call it Karanka test as we knew the formation during the Karanka era. So we knew that and the players, rest was mathematics ...

Thanks for the kind words, you all. And thanks for Andy again. I agree with your reply and second team as well.

Up the Boro! 

 

This post was modified 1 month ago by jarkko

Ken Smith
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Brum at home is the acid test for the rest of the season in my opinion. Very few teams in this division should be able to give Boro too much trouble at the Riverside. A win and a decent performance, and Boro should be capable of winning the majority of their remaining home games. Boro’s successful seasons outside the top division have all historically been because of a strong home record. If Boro are to be in contention for a playoff place I would suggest that as this is the worst Championship ever in terms of quality that Boro should impose their alleged superiority on all their opponents barring possibly Bournemouth, West Brom and Fulham.

If Boro don’t beat Birmingham or heaven forbid lose, then one might suggest that the recent form is merely a flash in the pan. I accept that the three recent wins were against poor opposition, but apart from the aforementioned teams, I truly believe that all the remaining matches are against ‘poor’ opposition. Away matches are in a different category as any result can be expected. Let’s get away from the notion of  ‘typical Boro’. It has been a curse on this club more or less throughout Boro’s history and I for one am sick of it. Let’s show the rest of this League that we are worthy of at least a playoff place and put the fear of God on our opponents. I’m going for another win this weekend and at least a share of the points at Luton.

This post was modified 1 month ago 2 times by Ken Smith

Powmill-Naemore
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Posted by: @ken

... I would suggest that as this is the worst Championship ever in terms of quality that Boro should impose their alleged superiority on all their opponents barring possibly Bournemouth, West Brom and Fulham.

To be honest Ken, why should we not expect to impose our game onto any team in this division, those three included. After all, we certainly did not disgrace ourselves at Fulham at the start of the season and I can see no reason that we shouldn't be able to beat anyone in Middlesbrough and to at least capture a draw when playing away.

Of course we will lose matches, but we could lose them against any team on the day, home or away.

You are right that this next game will be an acid test of our form and we should expect to be beating Brum at The Riverside. I think in reality though, every next game is an acid test of our form that we should expect to keep passing with flying colours. Another win on Saturday will begin to cement a self-belief in the team.

However, after three 2-0 wins on the spin, I fear our luck is going to  change on Saturday. After all, this was the team that put 5 past Luton Town at Kenilworth Raod, so I expect our arch-nemesis Troy Deeney to get on the score sheet.

3-1 it is to the Boro then .... CoB


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jarkko
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There were some news about the injured defenders and Marcus Browne on the Official Boro pages.

Five of Boro's injured players were out on the pitches at Rockliffe yesterday as they make progress in their rehabilitation process. 

The defensive quartet of Marc Bola, Anfernee Dijksteel, Dael Fry and Grant Hall were joined by Marcus Browne in the light outdoor session this week.

Boro manager Neil Warnock does not expect to have any of these players fit and firing for this weekend's visit of Birmingham City. 

Darnell Fisher and Sammy Ameobi are Boro's other, long-term absentees, with Warnock yet to put a timescale on their expected return.  

Up the Boro!


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werdermouth
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Quick thanks to Andy for another well-written and informative opener that has got me back into the Boro groove ahead of the weekend.

I got back yesterday from my ever-so brief three-nights on Teesside and thankfully three negative Covid tests - though my 11-year old must now quarantine until Sunday under German rules for the unvaccinated under-12s. Though as a child who has a phobia of crabs, he's still recovering from the experience of seeing thousands of dead crabs on Saltburn beach on Monday morning - Incidentally, I think the phobia probably stems from seeing a one-metre spider crab coming out of the sea in Italy when he was only 5!

Anyway, no sign of Boro moving tentatively sideways in the Championship table at the moment as all of a sudden Neil Warnock's team have come out of their shell and launched themselves back into the play-off frame, which has left many of us pinching ourselves to check it's not a dream.

I've even been caught up in this unexpected winning-run mentality with several unwise over-extrapolations that attempt to make the West Brom game a third-place decider. It's easy to get carried away on the tide of three-consecutive wins that haven't been seen since the heady days of Jonathan Woodgate's end-of-crisis December-manager-of-the-month golden dawn (albeit a false one). We can only hope Neil Warnock's impending MOTM award for October doesn't have the same ungalvansing effect once the celebratory photo has been plastered all over the local media.

Still, Birmingham shouldn't in theory prove to be a run-ending fixture on paper - especially as they've already ended their own dismal run last week, which has thankfully averted one possible typical Boro moment - though if former Boro captain George Friend scores a rare goal on his return to the Riverside then we know we're in trouble.

I hope to see the Payero-Crooks partnership continue to flourish on Saturday as the spine that also includes Bamba and Sporar proves to stand Boro in good stead. Hard to see many changes being made from the team that beat Cardiff, which saw good performances all over the pitch - perhaps Jones or Watmore may replace Hernandez.

It does become a question of what happens when the injured defenders are available as it would be hard to see them displace the makeshift one that has now kept three clean sheets. Though that should be tempered with the quality of the attacks they've faced and some lucky escapes - a Fry-Bamba partnership sounds pretty formidable and for me Howson has looked our best right-back. Peltier is an interesting one as he is really only a defender but if the good results continue then he may rightly expect to keep the shirt.

I'd like to see more from Tav as he's not really been at this best but still remains an energetic presence when the team drops - we could see Siliki as his cover but he probably still needs pitch time before he'll be considered a starting option.

Prediction: So, I'm expecting another win to take Boro into a four-in-a-row nostalgic Pulis tribute act territory - what can possibly go wrong? Sorry, I think we all know the answer to that question! OK, as long as the shooting boots have been polished and Sol Bamba smiles nicely at the ref again before the game to ensure our usual penalty then I'm quietly confident Boro will cement their top-six position for another week...

 


Ken Smith
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Werdermouth 

Before your time I know, and a different game nowadays, but George Hardwick was ‘only’ a defender but he not only captained England in every international match he played, but Great Britain too.


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Original Fat Bob
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@werdermouth

I think one reason for the upturn has been the understanding between Payero and Crooks in midfield which seems to be growing with every game.

I noticed that Boro had released some Rockliffe training photographs and Payero and Crooks appeared to be in deep conversation and I must admit to being impressed how Crooks has taken on the responsibility of getting Payero up to speed.

A nice touch reported by NW was the applause by the players in the dressing room after Saturday acknowledging Payero’s contribution to the game.

Junin who?

OFB


Forever Dormo
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Crikey - dressing room unity!  Always happy to hear about that!


Ken Smith
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Although Boro lost at home to Birmingham last season, in the previous 13 home matches Boro had won 11 drawn one and lost one against them. Those statistics shouldn’t have any bearing on Saturday’s result, though some might say well Birmingham are due to beat us which they did of course last season. Having got that defeat out of the way I now expect Boro to get back into that winning sequence against Birmingham again on Saturday.


Selwynoz
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Posted by: @werdermouth

……….

I hope to see the Payero-Crooks partnership continue to flourish on Saturday as the spine that also includes Bamba and Sporar proves to stand Boro in good stead. Hard to see many changes being made from the team that beat Cardiff, which saw good performances all over the pitch - perhaps Jones or Watmore may replace Hernandez.

It does become a question of what happens when the injured defenders are available as it would be hard to see them displace the makeshift one that has now kept three clean sheets. Though that should be tempered with the quality of the attacks they've faced and some lucky escapes - a Fry-Bamba partnership sounds pretty formidable and for me Howson has looked our best right-back. Peltier is an interesting one as he is really only a defender but if the good results continue then he may rightly expect to keep the shirt

 

I noticed the above extract from @werdermouth’s piece and it made me realise something. This blog has often been quite critical of the Boro recruitment procedure but it may be time to give credit where it’s due. 

if you take the above references to Payero, Crooks, Bamba, Sporar and Peltier and add in Lumley (who always seems to have a brilliant save in him), Ikpeazu (my first choice from the squad if I needed someone to have my back in a fight) and Hernandez you have a really good list of acquisitions. Even Saliki feels like a good buy even if it hasn’t quite worked out yet. Daniels is a backup keeper and the young lad from non-league can’t go wrong even if he doesn’t make it in the end. That only leaves the mystery Mr Ameobi as a possible mistake. 

We’re also getting reports of good squad harmony which is just as important with new players. 

It may all go pear-shaped but it’s looking good for the moment.

UTB


jarkko
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@selwynoz I never criticized individually the players we signed. I was more critical about the club that it let itself into a situation when 12 new players were needed in one single transfer window.

So I expected a long bedding in period. At the moment it looks good and the bedding in period might even be shorter than I feared. Remember the long periods of indifferent form we had after promotion under Karanka or after the buying spree under Monk. 

It takes time for the players to get to know each other and the way a manager wants his team to play. There must be automation in a player's mind and there is no time to think in many moves on the field,. Especially in attack and midfield. A slit second pass could create a goal chance.

So the praise given above is welcome. Many right players were bought. Also, the injury to Ameobi was unfortunately as he was fit when he joined.

We have some good and exciting players now and a spine is there for all to see. 

Up the Boro!

This post was modified 1 month ago 2 times by jarkko

Original Fat Bob
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  1. Interesting Article on Boro run
    https://eflanalysis.com/analysis/data-analysis-efl-championship-stats-middlesbrough

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Original Fat Bob
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Liked by 4 people: werdermouth, Malcolm, K P in Spain and Ken Smith
 
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werdermouth
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@original-fat-bob

Interesting and surprising article that shows Boro have the same number of points as last season under Woodgate after 14 games - plus have scored three goals fewer. However, Woodgate's team were in tenth place rather than sixth - though Boro do have the same number of points as the current tenth-place team. Perhaps it adds a note of caution but I should also add that under Woodgate, Boro were also in sixth place after 20 games last season following a 4-1 win against Birmingham and only one win off third. That was the peak under Woodgate before the slide began after Christmas - so we should remember the Championship is a long haul where fortunes can quickly change.


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werdermouth
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@original-fat-bob

Some interesting stats in that article that probably sum up our displays this season - I've personally found the games more interesting to watch and perhaps the stat that shows Boro are the third best in the Championship at mounting attacks explains that. Also the frustrating side of watching Boro is probably best indicated by the stat that Boro are the second worst in the league for pass completion.

This post was modified 1 month ago by werdermouth

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werdermouth
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@selwynoz

I think Boro's midfield in recent years has been quite one dimensional and the arrival of Crooks and Payero has added a lot more possibilities. Also Sporar and Ikpeazu are an improvement up front with a combination of better movement and strength at holding the ball. Bamba is just a bonus that few expected (even Neil Warnock) would play regularly to a high standard and Peltier has proved to be solid and reliable if unspectacular. Perhaps Neil Warnock has put more emphasis on having a good dressing room than previous managers but with so many injuries he hasn't exactly got to keep too many unhappy players on the bench.


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deleriad
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@werdermouth

The comparison in the article is last season under Warnock. After 14 games under Woodgate we had won 2, drawn 6, lost 6 and were in 22nd place. Our highest position under Woodgate was 13th. Our best spell under Woodgate was when we won 4 games in a row then drew 3 and lost 1 but even then we didn't get higher than 16th.

 

 


Andy R
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@werdermouth

And the team that were bottom of those passing stats were Birmingham so perhaps don't expect any fireworks this Saturday!

That said, Boro have only recently changed things around due to the injuries and as you say in your reply to selwynoz, Crooks and Payero have added a new dimension. Assuming that partnership continues, it might be interesting to revisit those stats around Christmas time.


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Original Fat Bob
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This is how the Birmingham press see the game on Saturday.

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/birmingham-city-middlesbrough-payero-transfers-21988250

OFB


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werdermouth
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@deleriad

Yes, of course my mistake - I only scanned the opening paragraph of the article and saw 'last season' and 'Jonathan Woodgate' and got it mixed up in my head when reading the stats. No wonder I was surprised at ever being in the top six under Woodgate 🤔 

So it should have read Neil Warnock peaked in 6th place after 20 games last season before the post-Christmas slide. 


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exmil
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Interesting Tripe Supper, it breaks up a couple of times but worth staying with. I found the Payero transfer enlightening, Craig Johns states besides the media claims of £5/6m pound transfer cost, Boro only paid upfront €4m, although I do question his currency conversion of around £3m, yes there will be add ons but from what I am seeing it looks very good business.

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/tripe-supper-podcast-reflecting-middlesbroughs-21988665

Come on BORO.

 


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