Times are hard if you are a football fan in the north-east of England with all three major clubs based in that area of the country currently fighting for survival. The league table doesn’t lie, all three sides are in major trouble but the one team that already looks doomed is Middlesbrough. I am not one to count chickens before they hatch but following their 4-1 defeat at Bolton on Saturday Gareth Southgate’s side look done for.
If Boro are to stay up it is going to require a small miracle, something we saw last season with Fulham and in the past with other sides who have escaped the drop. The problem for Middlesbrough is that miracle doesn’t seem to be coming and looking at the club there is a reason why. Boro’s captain Emmanuel Pogatez hit the nail on the head when he said the club had failed to replace the good players they had lost. Instead Southgate has had to rely on the kids and the lack of experience they possess is what is going to cost them their place in the Premier League.
A look through their squad list provides the evidence you need because out of those 30 or so players available to them a large proportion lack much Premier League experience. Without being unkind to those youngsters that turn out week-in, week-out for Boro they don’t possess the same quality you get at Arsenal, Manchester United or even West Ham. The youngsters Southgate has been forced to field have struggled to fill the gaps left by the likes of Mark Schwarzer, Yakubu, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, George Boateng and even the manager himself.
Don’t get me wrong, Middlesbrough have some talented youngsters in Matthew Bates, Adam Johnson and David Wheater but they are playing in arguably the best league in the world where you get very little time to learn your trade. Unlike Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Southgate hasn’t had time to blood his young players through the Carling Cup and FA Cup before introducing them to the Premier League. That’s not to say that Southgate is totally blameless in the fact that Boro’s squad lacks any depth, bringing in Justin Hoyte and Marvin Emnes was hardly the way to solve the issue.
Middlesbrough have an excellent chairman in Steve Gibson but having poured a lot of money into the club it appears as though the coffers have run a bit dry and the promising youngsters Gibson may have expected to have been ready for the Premier League by now still need time in the oven.
Southgate himself lacks the experience needed as a manager to pull the club to safety and football betting currently suggests that he will pay for that with his job. It is a worrying time at the Riverside and I can see Boro struggling to regain their place in the top flight if they do go down because the decent youngsters they have will be snapped up while those experienced players who are still left at the club will more than likely walk.