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The twelfth annual Neil Warnock farewell tour - Interview
Friday, 3rd Jul 2020 12:28 by Clive Whittingham

Things were starting to look bleak for Middlesbrough whern they returned to action with a 3-0 home loss to Swansea, but as our regular Teeside contributor James Boothby tells us Neil Warnock's latest last job of his career has rekindled hope.

How would you assess Middlesbrough’s season overall?

It has been a poor season all round to be honest. Whilst you would have struggled to find a Boro fan who would have predicted promotion at the start of the season, I think only the most pessimistic would have said we would be fighting for our lives.

Results so far…
Luton 3-3 Middlesbrough (Bradley 17, Cranie 24, Collins 85 – Fletcher 7, Assombalonga 37, Wing 68)
Middlesbrough 0-1 Brentford (Watkins 54)
Blackburn 1-0 Middlesbrough (Graham pen 25)
Middlesbrough 1-0 Wigan (Assombalonga 23)
Middlesbrough 1-1 Millwall (McNair 70 – Bradshaw 76)
Bristol City 2-2 Middlesbrough (Palmer 44, Rowe 81 – Moore og 64, Assombalonga 68)
Middlesbrough 1-0 Reading (Johnson 60)
Cardiff 1-0 Middlesbrough (Fletcher og 2)
Middlesbrough 1-4 Sheff Wed (McNair 19 – Clayton og 2, Iorfa 6, Reach 23, Fletcher 34)
Middlesbrough 1-1 Preston (Assombalonga 42 - Harrup 40)
Birmingham 2-1 Middlesbrough (Villalba 33, Bailey 89 – Ayala 87)
Middlesbrough 0-1 West Brom (Kanu 82)
Huddersfield 0-0 Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough 0-0 Fulham
Derby 2-0 Middlesbrough (Lawrence 22, 84)
QPR 2-2 Middlesbrough (Wells 25, Howson og 44 – Assombalonga 22, 69)
Middlesbrough 2-2 Hull (Tavernier 7, Fletcher 26 – Eaves 71, Bowen 75)
Middlesbrough 1-0 Barnsley (Fletcher 54)
Leeds 4-0 Middlesbrough (Bamford 3, Klich 45, 73, Costa 67)
Middlesbrough 1-0 Charlton (Saville 1)
Forest 1-1 Middlesbrough (Yates 63 – McNair pen 81)
Swansea 3-1 Middlesbrough (Ayew pen 22, 71, Surridge 73 – Tavernier 59)
Middlesbrough 2-1 Stoke (Fletcher 57, Wing 71 – Clucas 53)
Middlesbrough 1-0 Huddersfield (Spence 37)
West Brom 0-2 Middlesbrough (Ayala 17, Fletcher 90)
Preston 0-2 Middlesbrough (Gestede 40, Fletcher 62)
Middlesbrough 2-2 Derby (Wing 16, McNair pen 67 – Knight 54, Holmes 90)
Fulham 1-0 Middlesbrough (Knockaert 6)
Middlesbrough 1-1 Birmingham (Fletcher 81 – Jutkiewicz 27)
Middlesbrough 1-1 Blackburn (Coulson 57 – Travis 75)
Brentford 3-2 Middlesbrough (Jeanvier 24, Mbeumo 60, Watkins 87 – Wing 58, Fletcher 63)
Wigan 2-2 Middlesbrough (Morsy 29, Moukoudi og 76 – Wing 64, 68)
Middlesbrough 0-1 Luton (Tunnicliffe 17)
Barnsley 1-0 Middlesbrough (Chaplin 73)
Middlesbrough 0-1 Leeds (Klich 75)
Middlesbrough 2-2 Forest (Gestede 40, Wing 44 – Yates 29, Grabban 86)
Charlton 0-1 Middlesbrough (McNair 17)
Middlesbrough 0-3 Swansea (Brewster 18, 21, Ayew pen 34)
Stoke 0-2 Middlesbrough (Fletcher 29, Tavernier 62)
Hull 2-1 Middlesbrough (Kane 8, Wilks 90 – Assombalonga pen 6)

To an outsider the idea that Jonathan Woodgate was going to slip into that job and be a success always looked rather fanciful. Now he’s gone how do you think he did? Any mitigation?

Woodgate turned out to be a poor appointment, but I also don't think he was given a lot of tools to succeed. Pretty much the whole backroom staff that was assembled behind him lacked any real experience, and our incoming transfer business was very poor and did not really address the issues we had with the squad. I think Gibson was hoping to plod around mid-table this season whilst Woodgate learned the ropes. In saying that, Woodgate did not help himself at all. His only really good run of results came when a number of his first choice players were injured over Christmas/New Year. He was forced into playing a certain way which worked, then once he had a choice again things fell away. Some strange decisions through the season (including his bizarre notion that the league table is lying), which culminated in the strange side he picked against Swansea in the first game back. To leave Britt, Fletcher, Tavernier and Roberts off the pitch and start with Gestede and Nmecha was mind-boggling.

Neil Warnock. Congratulations. Love him. What do you make of that appointment? What’s he changed so far?

For a change, the appointment of Warnock seems to have been backed by almost everyone. There were rumours in December that we were looking at him then, but then we went on a decent run and they went away. I dare say, if he had came in then we would be sitting a lot more comfortably. He has not wasted any time in settling in, already showing Gestede the door (which he probably missed). Has already seemed to identify a couple of the major issues within the squad, but I think most importantly he has gave the side a bit of belief and a bit of fight. It was a good win for us against Stoke, and whilst we rode our luck at times it was 1000 times better than the Swansea games. We were a bit more direct going forwards, but looked dangerous and created some good chances with a bit of pace. And defensively we were throwing bodies in the way and blocking everything which has not really happened this season. Certainly looks more promising, although we have a battle on our hands for the next eight games.


Summer Ins: >>> Anfernee Dijksteel, 22, RB, Charlton, £1.9m >>> Marcus Browne, 21, AM, West Ham, £200k >>> Marc Bola, 21, LB, Blackpool, Undisclosed Tomas Mejias, 30, GK, Nicosia, Free

Summer Outs: >>> Martin Braithwaite, CF, 28, Leganes, £8.8m >>> Aden Flint, 30, CB, Cardiff, £4m >>> Luke Armstrong, 23, CF, Salford, Undisclosed >>> Stewart Downing, 34, LW, Blackburn, Free >>> John Obi Mikel, 32, CM, Trabzonspor, Free >>> Andy Lonergan, 35, GK, Liverpool, Free >>> Dimitrios Konstantopoulos, 40, GK, Hartlepool, Free

Winter Ins: >>> Dejan Stojanovic, 26, GK, St Gallen, Undisclosed

Winter Outs: >>> Darren Randolph, 33, GK, West Ham, £4m >>> Patrick Reading, 21, CB, Stevenage, Undisclosed

Player of the year candidates, and weak links?

Not too many candidates for player of the season - Jonny Howson has probably been the pick of the bunch. Called upon to play pretty much anywhere (apart from central midfield) he has not let us down this year. Djed Spence has burst on the scene this year at right back and done well, and Ashley Fletcher has done well at times but pretty slim pickings.

Our main weak line has been the lack of leadership in the side, and is something Warnock has already highlighted. In fact, since Leadbitter left we have not really had any leaders. We have been poor defensively, mainly down to basic mistakes costing us goals.

Presumably confident of staying up with the new manager now? Consequences if you don’t?

I am more confident than I was a week ago, but we still have a lot to do. Some of the teams around us have picked up some momentum and it is now looking very tight. I do think though that we will do just enough, the first 11 on paper still looks decent and Warnock has the know-how to get us through it. It does not bare thinking about if we go down - we have all seen how Sunderland have struggled in League One and I fear we would be the same.

Parachute payments drying up now and you haven’t got back to the Prem. What do the next few seasons look like for Boro?

I think once we get to the summer we need to really take a step back and figure out what direction we want to take as a club. The feeling was that we would maybe look to have another go at it next season after a year or two of cutting our cloth, but our recruitment over the last four or five years has been shocking and I don't think most of us really trust the club to get the right players in. We have now got most of the big earners off the books, so should be in a decent enough place financially. Personally, if he keeps us up I would see if Warnock fancies another couple of years to maybe stabilise us a bit, and get us looking back towards the top half and go from there.

Links >>> Official Website >>> Teeside Gazette – Local Paper >>> FMTTM – Message Board >>> One Boro – Forum

The Twitter @jamesyboz, @loftforwords

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R_from_afar added 13:43 - Jul 3
Interesting and insightful as ever, many thanks!
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TacticalR added 19:50 - Jul 3
Thanks to James.

The Championship is an unforgiving place to learn your trade. It also sounds like Woodgate had some fixed ideas and didn't know how to adapt. Warnock seems a better bet given the situation.
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