Middlesbrough Half-Term Report: Sign Downing On Loan And Secure Promotion
What’s going right?
Quite a lot, actually – winning five games on the bounce in October was nice; including a quality victory in the League Cup where the Boro played the Mackems off the park.
The Boro seemed to have shaken the monkey dressed as Sky Sports off their back by recording quality wins against Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool, but then inevitably c*cked up against old boys Marlon ‘scores when he wants’ King and Leroy Lita at Birmingham. For once though, Middlesbrough have remained unbeaten in the league in December, and after recording gritty wins against Peterborough and Wolves, are well and truly in amongst it at the right end of the Championship.
If Boro had managed to avoid undeserved defeats at Cardiff and Birmingham, and beaten Derby when they should have, they could be top of the league.
Losing against Swansea in the League Cup through a Seb Hines own goal after he had played very well was cruel, but there were real signs of progress – Tony Mowbray’s men didn’t just nullify the Premier League’s tiki-taka sweethearts, they were the better team for large periods of play, passing Swansea off the park and creating the better chances. There is no shame in losing 1-0 against a top ten Premier League team who played a strong team.
Got the right manager?
Absolutely; most Boro fans would (in fact, should) struggle to think of a serious negative regarding Tony Mowbray’s time at the club so far. Dragging the Boro from the relegation zone to top end of the table in two years, whilst trimming some serious fat from the wage bill, is a serious achievement.
He might be a local boy who captained the team through administration, but beyond that, he is a real football manager. He insists upon quality football, and appears to have an eye for a proper player - Lukas Jutkiewicz is a classy striker for just over £1 million, and George Friend, signed for £100,000 from relegated Doncaster, is one of the greatest men of all time.
George Friend is the buy of the season. After watching him as first choice left back for half a season, it’s baffling how Joe Bennett could join Aston Villa for £4 million after weeks of flirting, and Georgey boy could slip under the radar of bigger teams at such a bargain.
Andre Bikey has ended up being an inspired signing. Built like a brick sh*thouse, and with Premier League experience, it’s a mystery that more clubs weren’t chasing his services. He has formed a formidable relationship with Woody at the back, with a balance of intelligence and brutality which is surprisingly difficult to achieve.
Jonathan Woodgate is a Rolls Royce, and it’s fantastic to have him back at the club - the best player in the Championship.
Who needs to go in January?
Tony Mowbray seemed desperate to off-load Scott McDonald in the summer, and it didn’t look like the Australian would feature for the team again. But something seems to have happened and he has learnt how to score on a regular basis. He has to stay.
There is a little bit of deadwood in midfield, with Merouane Zemmama and Kevin Thomson unfortunately not bringing much to the team. Nicky Bailey is a fan favourite, and tries harder than anybody else, and despite enjoying the best chant at the club, there are players who do what he does, but better.
Who do you want to sign?
The Boro are being heavily linked with getting Stewart Downing on loan in January. Not too sure where I stand with this, Downing will require big wages, and Mustapha Carayol will be fit soon. Whilst Downing is on the receiving end of regular grief from everyone, there is no doubt that he has qualities which would be much appreciated in a promotion push – the boy can pass.
If he can turn up against Burnley on a sh**ty Tuesday night in February, and avoid the temptation to try and re-ignite his career as a DJ, I’ll have him.
To the tune of Frankie Valli’s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes off You’
“Oh Nicky Bailey, you are the love of my life,
Oh Nicky Bailey, I’d let you shag my wife,
Oh Nicky Bailey,
I want ginger hair too”.
The Boro have only really been turned over once this season, by Blackpool, where Tom Ince was fabulous. His apparent move to Liverpool is no real surprise.
Marlon King - a full c*nt.
End of the season prediction.
If the Middlesbrough aren’t in amongst it at the end of the season it will be a real shame. An automatic promotion spot is achievable, and should be the team’s goal.