I remember a long time ago I made a promise to myself that I think I have broken every year since. I decided that I wouldn’t take any notice of the table till Boxing Day. That’s the time when you have generally played everybody and you can gain a decent indication of where you will finish. This however has fallen by the wayside and I always love to see Middlesbrough around the top spots, whether it’s 1 game in or 40. I also panic if we’re falling short. What I am noticing now though is that the magical Boxing Day fixture which tells you where you stand is a little over a month away and what a month it is for the Boro!
I have a much stronger belief this year, than in recent years and I have outlined the reasons for this in my previous blog. In short we have injuries returning and a much stronger strength in depth than before. What I have also noticed though is that the fixtures over the next month or so are going to be vital to the success or failure this year of Middlesbrough Football Club.
Here are the fixtures for December:
|Championship||Peterborough V Middlesbrough||Sat 8 Dec||15:00|
|League Cup – Quarter-Final||Swansea V Middlesbrough||Wed 12 Dec||19:45|
|Championship||Middlesbrough V Wolves||Sat 15 Dec||15:00|
|Championship||Leeds United V Middlesbrough||Sat 22 Dec||15:00|
|Championship||Middlesbrough V Blackburn||Wed 26 Dec||15:00|
|Championship||Middlesbrough V Blackpool||Sat 29 Dec||15:00|
Initially, the first impression may be that none of the opposition in these fixtures holds a lofty league position, but as I have already stated, the table can misrepresent teams at this stage of the season. All of these matches are winnable, but none of them can be guaranteed. Blackpool, Blackburn, Leeds and Wolves all had genuine claims to a promotion challenge at the beginning of the season and as much as I hate saying it, Leeds completely outplayed Boro at the Riverside last season and to travel away there is a tough task. Blackburn are under new management and I believe they will be looking at December as a turning point in their own season. Blackpool may have turned that corner already and will become a force to be reckoned with once again if comments from their own camp are to be believed (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/20392765). On top of this, the one that looks easiest isn’t exactly a foregone conclusion either. Peterborough are a team that started woefully but recently they have upset a few of my accumulators by racking up some points and this again could prove to be a difficult match. Finally we have the cup game. This is not as important as the league fixtures in my opinion but nevertheless it is a chance to progress in the very competition that represents our greatest success as a football club. It is an opportunity to have a Semi Final tie and a shot at Wembley, not an opportunity to rest our key players. So in the middle of these tough fixtures we travel all the way to South Wales to face Premier League opposition, compounding the task ahead.
These challenges should not be seen as something to fear, they should be seen as hurdles in the race to success. Although it is a dense fixture list, packed full of difficult matches, we should embrace the challenge as an opportunity to flaunt our strength in depth by using the whole of our squad effectively. It is an opportunity to show the Teesside grit and determination to see 2013 arrive with us sitting at the top of the pile. If we use our squad correctly and get some fantastic results against top class opposition it will give us the impetus to strive forward in the rest of the campaign and move on strongly. The challenge is great and there is an opportunity for a lot of points to be dropped, but the challenge will be welcomed with open arms and could well be a defining point in our push for promotion.