Cast your mind back five seasons ago and Middlesbrough were a top flight team who’s manager had just been given the England job and popular former captain Gareth Southgate took over a club who had just experienced their most successful period in their existence. Now after their relegation from the Premier League in 2009 and their disappointment in failing to gain promotion the past two seasons, I’d like to pose the question, what does the future hold for the Teesside club?
After two relatively successful seasons in which the club finished in respectable mid-table positions in the premier league under Gareth Southgate, they were relegated after a woeful season in 2008/09. During his stint in charge many top players left the club; the likes of Stuart Downing, Lee Cattermole, Yakubu and Robert Huth all left and were replaced by the likes of Lee Dong-Gook, Mohamed Shawky and Justin Hoyte.
Since then Southgate has been sacked by longstanding chairman Steve Gibson. Gordon Strachan was unveiled as the man who Gibson had charged with the immediate task of getting Middlesbrough back up to the Premiership. However it soon became apparent that Strachan wasn’t the right man for the job as he insisted on building his team around players with little or no experience of the English game and who were bred primarily in the SPL. This backfired. Strachan’s faith in the quality of SPL players after his successful stint at Celtic was shown to the wrong decision as players like Chris Killen, Willo Flood, Kevin Thompson, Lee Miller and Kris Boyd consistently failed to impress – as did Middlesbrough under his stewardship.
Having been widely tipped at the start of the 2010/11 season as promotion favourites, Gordon Strachan, a man who prides himself on his honesty and integrity decided in October, with Middlesbrough struggling in 20th place to tear up his contract and resigned. A gesture which was probably right given the mess they found themselves in, in realistic peril of the drop to League One.
Since then of course, Strachan has been replaced by a Boro Legend in Tony Mowbray. During his playing career, the Saltburn-born defender made over 400 starts during Boro’s rise through the league system. Despite his dissapointing tenure at Celtic he was welcomed back to the club where he had started his career and it is fitting that he has been successful since his arrival. With Boro languishing in 22nd when he took over his team have played with much more heart than was evident during Strachan’s time and with a blend of local academy players and more established players they have climbed the table and finished in a safe and respectable 12th position.
Middlesbrough fans will no doubt look towards the future with much optimism having seen their side perform well during the latter half of the season, but this optimism should be kept in check by the realities that face the club. Middlesbrough is a club facing financial jeopardy as their parachute payments end at the end of next season and low attendances threaten them financially, Boro cannot attract big players as they used to.
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