I’ve decided to document my journey this season as I follow my new team Middlesbrough. Thanks again to all of you that left comments and suggestions on teams to follow for this season.
This week’s goal was to do some reading and research ahead of the season opener. While I was familiar with the club on a surface level, I decided to really dig in and research the club and community. I’ve made initial contact with the North American Boro Supporter’s club and this coming week’s mission is to introduce myself properly to them and start to find out more about their experiences in supporting Boro from afar.
The first place I started my research though was the BBC Tees website and the BBC Tees Sport show with Ali Brownlee and wouldn’t you know it his in-studio guest was Gary Pallister. Pallister was a defender who started out with Middlesbrough, was sold to Manchester United only to return to finish off his career with Boro. I took it as a good sign, perhaps I was looking for one, as I have to admit I was still unsure how this experience was going to go.
Not all was rosy as one of the lead stories on my first visit to BBC Tees was the conviction of four Boro fans who attacked Chelsea supporters on the way home from a match. It’s a sad fact but many EPL clubs are still plagued by these sorts of over-enthusiastic and misguided supporters so I didn’t dwell on this for too long. I was more interested in the passionate but sensible supporters that just want to go to the match and singing in support of their club, like these fans did during the pre-game warmup before the Spurs match.
As I was listening to the Beeb, I started looking at the first team and how the team might line up. Ali had announced that Luke Young was on his way to Aston Villa, which I was a bit surprised by but then I started to think that a younger player (Young will be 30) could fill in. I thought of Fulham’s versatile German Moritz Volz, who would be able to fill in at right-back or in midfield as needed. I’ve always liked Volz and if you’ve ever read his blog, you’d note that he’s quite a personality as well.
In the end, Boro ended up going for Justin Hoyte from Arsenal to fill the gap created at right-back. He cost £3million so the club ends up with about a £2million profit overall. Hoyte has been capped 18 times for the England U-21 team where he has played with Stewart Downing, Andrew Taylor and Gary O’Neil.
Southgate was quoted as saying: “Justin Hoyte has got fantastic potential. He’s already a very good player and we’ve done research, we know he’s a good professional in terms of his lifestyle.” The Daily Express wrote that Southgate has told his players that the days when they could mix booze and Premier League football are over so the quote about lifestyle makes sense from that perspective.
Despite the fact that the squad is a bit small, only 18 first-team players, it’s a solid core. The Hoyte siging could be Southgate’s last foray into the transfer market business until the January window opens.
Reading midfielder James Harper is still a target for Boro, though the Royals £5.5million asking price might be a touch high for Boro’s budget. Boro are thought to have made a final £5million offer after previous bids (all thought to be under £4million) for the 27-year-old central midfielder were rejected.
Southgate’s approach of signing young, hungry players and fielding an attack-minded side full of pace and energy looks to be taking the club in a positive direction. Patience is key and now that both the manager and last season’s signings Tuncay, Aliadiere and Alves, have had time to settle at the club and I think there will be a serious push for a Top 10 spot. Most of the pundits and non-Boro punters seem to think 13th or 14th again but I think we’re being sold short. Of course that could be optimism fueled by a convincing Week 1 win over Spurs. Here are the match reports from The Mirror, Independent, Telegraph, Times Online, and player ratings from goal.com
Liverpool are up next. Here’s hoping we can take advantage of what seems to be shaping up to be another slow Liverpool start.