Things at the Riverside Stadium were always going to be overshadowed somewhat by events further north at St James Park. While the Toon are still figuring out who is going to be in charge at the start of next season Gareth Southgate has quietly gone about his business.
Life for a newly relegated club will never be easy, no matter what division you are in, and clearly there will be a number of departures from Teeside before the Boro squad for next season is sorted. Southgate will have known this and will be frantically trying to keep some of the top, young English talent Boro are in the midst of producing.
One player who sticks out in that category is David Wheater, a central defender who has attracted a lot of admirers through his displays in a Middlesbrough shirt. The 22-year-old no-nonsense centre back has been linked with Aston Villa, but has yet to pledge his future to anyone. Wheater is the kind of player Southgate will need to keep hold of for the forthcoming struggle.
Matthew Bates is another player who Southgate will be glad stuck around and in signing a new contract has shown some of the commitment that Middlesbrough perhaps lacked last season. Too many of their players drifted through games without a care in the world. Those are the types of players who Boro don’t want in their side next season, despite that extra bit of quality they may possess.
Southgate needs to go back to home grown talent, be it from the Teeside area or from Great Britain in general. Looking at the sides that came up last season a lot of their star players were home grown boys. Michael Kightly and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake stared for Wolves while Chris Eagles and Clarke Carlisle were pivotal in Burnley’s success.
Southgate has already taken a risk on young talent in the Premier League, a gamble which never really worked out for the former England international. However, the gulf in class between the Premier League and the Championship is still huge. The likes of Andrew Taylor, Adam Johnson and Tony McMahon will look much better players in the second tier of English football.
What Southgate needs now is some experience to bring the youngsters together, and I feel sure he knows that. It is still only June and a lot will change before the big kick-off on August 8. Yet looking at the three sides who came down I feel if Southgate can get the balance right, despite having not managed in the Championship before, his Boro side may finally steal the headlines in the north-east.