This is now my fifteenth Npower Championship preview right here on footballblog.co.uk, this time around I will give my thoughts on Middlesbrough. The team from Teesside were the early favourites for the title last season; however as the 10/11 table proves pressure got the best of Middlesbrough as they had a dismal Championship campaign. With Tony Mowbray in charge and a whole season to build a squad capable of promotion, it’s about time Middlesbrough started challenging for a top six finish…
Lacklustre campaigns have been a frequent showing at the Riverside Stadium for the past couple of years, the slow demise of Premier League relegation was then followed with mediocre finishes in the Npower Championship. This season though Tony Mowbray hopes to rectify Middlesbrough’s poor form, as he intends to get his side amongst the top ten of the Championship again. With new signings few and far between so far this summer, Middlesbrough could well struggle to make an impact in 2011/2012, Leroy Lita has decided to head for pastures new as he recently signed a deal with Swansea City, while Riverside Stadium reject Kris Boyd has moved to foreign soil. The Boro will yet again have to rely on a number of youngsters this season, with more and more youthful players making breakthroughs over past Championship campaigns, the likes of Richard Smallwood, Luke Williams and Cameron Park may well feature more frequently in 11/12. Even though frustrating times at Middlesbrough keep on occuring, this season will most likely be like any other recent season, a poor showing from the Teesside club will simply warrant them with another mid-table finish. Even though Mowbray has made improvements on the pitch, the lack of signings and inexperience in the ranks could prove to be fatal.
With investment coming in at a minimal rate, no new signings at the Riverside Stadium will play a massive role in the team’s season; and with Leroy Lita now plying his trade for Swansea City the Teesside club have lost their main striker. Of course despite losing one of their highly prolific talents, you have to identify other key players and in my view the defensive duo of Stephen McManus and Matthew Bates will both play crucial roles this season. McManus is a strong and stable defender who has put in some solid performances as a Middlesbrough player, experienced and talented Stephen McManus always plays a pivotal role in the heart of the defence. Matthew Bates is another player who could also play a crucial role in this campaign, notably a central defender but can also play as a defensive midfielder, Bates is one of the most highly rated and gifted players in the Boro ranks. A powerful player who loves to tackle and put his body on the line will captain the side this season, leading your team out is a big exception but Bates has a very good footballing brain, he should master the challenge with perfection. Lastly with the departure of Leroy Lita, Middlesbrough fans will be hoping that Marvin Emnes can continue his good form from the end of the 10/11 campaign, into the early stages of this season. A loan move to Swansea City proved to be the making of Emnes, as a player who struggled to make an impact at the Riverside suddenly found himself in the starting eleven, and making a real impression on opposistion fans, Emnes has now been classed as a dangerous player, therefore he is certainly one of the players to watch at the Riverside Stadium this season.
Manager – Tony Mowbray
Tony Mowbray has enough time to shine at the Riverside this season, after another frustrating campaign left Boro lingering in the mid-table places, despite slight improvements towards the end of the 10/11 campaign. Mowbray always intends his sides to play attractive football, and he proved at West Brom what a good manager he is, so far his style of play is progressing amongst the Middlesbrough players, after an emphatic end to last season saw Mowbray guide his side to a mediocre finish, and with a few months to plan out his intentions, he could well get Boro moving in the right direction. Mowbray needs to clear out the dead wood and the SPL rejects, and then eventually Middlesbrough could be heading for a top six finish at last.
Ins and Outs
Ins – Malaury Martin(Blackpool), Curtis Main(Darlington), Carl Ikeme(Wolves)
Outs – Willo Flood(Dundee United), Andrew Taylor(Cardiff), Kris Boyd(Eskisehirspor), Didier Digard(Nice), Leroy Lita(Swansea), Maximillian Haas(Released), Julio Arca(Released)
Middlesbrough simply needs to improve on recent lacklustre performances, and try and challenge for the play-offs to the best of their ability. Mowbray likes to play exciting attacking football; and with his style of play now settling in amongst players and supporters, some very respectable performances will be put in by the Boro side this season; however with the Championship being so challenging, despite improvements Mowbray’s side may well have to settle for a mid-table place. Middlesbrough will depend on their youngsters and with Leroy Lita departing to play in the Premier League, the Teesside club could well struggle to score goals. Mowbray is capable of producing the goods this season, but many players are far too inexperienced at Championship level, as Boro can’t keep relying on their younger prodigies. Some pundits might favour the former Premier League side to make a real promotion challenge this season, but in all honesty I can’t see Middlesbrough challenging for a top six finish. Prediction – 13th