Is the 'Wilder factor' enough to lift Boro into contention? Interview
Wednesday, 3rd Aug 2022 15:32 by Clive Whittingham
A first full season under Chris Wilder's management has many season previews, including our own, tipping Saturday's opposition Boro for big things - but will a lack of firepower hamstring them? We asked our regular contributor James Boothby.
How was last season? I thought you were going to do it right up until that weird last day result at PNE...
Last season overall was a good one for us. I think if we had Chris Wilder in from the start we would have finished top six, but the slow start maybe gave us too much to do. At one point in February/March I would have said we were certain to finish top six, but we did peter out a little towards the end. I think a combination of a pretty small and unbalanced squad, plus the fact most times opponents knew that if you stopped Isaiah Jones we found it hard to create anything. Some real highs in the season though, especially the FA Cup run and wins over Man United and Spurs.
Summer transfer business - what's been done?
Transfer business started off really well - we brought in Darragh Lenihan from Blackburn, Ryan Giles on loan from Wolves and Liam Roberts in from Northampton. Lenihan is a commanding centre back and a leader which we have missed over the last couple of seasons, and seems comfortable playing anywhere across the back three. Giles is an attacking left wing back who should complement Jones well - had a great loan spell at Cardiff in the first half of last season although did not fare quite as well at Blackburn. Should hopefully mean if teams double up on Jones again, we now have an option on the left hand side who can do the same thing. With Joe Lumley’s brief Boro career now over, Roberts has come in from Northampton after winning their player of the year last season. He has come in to be number two (with Zack Steffen from Man City confirmed as number one) but has impressed and with those two should definitely strengthen up what was a problem area for us last season.
The one big area of concern at the moment is up front - with only Forss, Watmore and Coburn as recognised strikers. We have been linked with pretty much every striker going, with the consensus seeming to be we have a couple of Premier League players lined up but just waiting on the clubs to give the go-ahead when they have sourced replacements. The big departure has been Djed Spence, which seems to have dragged on all summer but is great business for us.
Ins >>> Marcus Forss, 23, CF, Brentford, £3.2m >>> Darragh Lenihan, 28, CB, Blackburn, Free >>> Liam Roberts, 27, GK, Northampton, Free >>> Zack Steffen, 27, GK, Man City, Loan >>> Ryan Giles, 22, LWB, Wolves, Loan >>> Tommy Smith, 30, RB, Stoke, Free
Outs >>> Djed Spence, 21, RB, Spurs, £13m >>> Marcus Tavernier, 23, LM, Bournemouth, £10m >>> Dejan Stovanovic, 28, GK, Regensberg (Germany), Undisclosed >>> Nathan Wood, 20, CB, Swansea, Undisclosed >>> Toyosi Olusanya, 24, LW, St Mirren, Undisclosed >>> Martin Payero, 23, CM, Boca Juniors, Loan >>> Grant Hall, 30, CB, Rotherham, Loan >>> Joe Lumley, 27, GK, Reading, Loan >>> Neil Taylor, 33, LB, Released >>> Sammy Ameobi, 30, AM, Released >>> Lee Peltier, 35, RB, Released >>> Sol Bamba, 37, CB, Released >>> Hayden Coulson, 24, LB, Aberdeen, Loan
How big a loss is Tavernier?
Tav is a player who has divided fans for a while now. For me personally he will be a big miss - he just suited the style Wilder like to play well. He was the heartbeat of the time in terms of energy and tracking back, but he never scored or assisted as much as he should really - that final decision was often wrong. Will be tough to replace though - Riley McGree plays a similar role, but would expect another midfield signing before the end of the window.
Thoughts on Forss?
Initial impression is Forss will be a decent signing. Looked good at Brentford and their fans only have good things to say about him. Seemed to struggle on loan at Hull last season but it was a struggling side going through a bit of upheaval. Seems to know where the back of the net is which is something we have lacked big time (since Bernie Slaven it feels like!). Important I think that he is a permanent signing as well and not a loan. A bit of a gamble but a fairly low risk one.
What needs to be done window wise now?
We still need a couple of strikers in, with what feels like every striker being linked at the moment. Wilder likes to have four strikers he can rotate, so looking likely to be Forss, two new guys plus Watmore or Akpom with Coburn going out on loan. A left footed centre back is also high on Wilder’s list, been strongly linked with Jacob Greaves from Hull all window so would expect movement in that position. A replacement for Tavernier will now be added to the list alongside cover for Howson. So a busy few weeks I imagine.
How was the West Brom game? What did you learn?
It was a promising performance all things considered. First half we were excellent, scored a well worked goal and could have had another couple. Second half West Brom came into the game a lot more, Steffen made some great saves and I think a point was probably a fair result. Giles was excellent down the left attacking wise and put a couple of great balls in which were crying out to be tapped in. Steffen was a massive upgrade on Lumley/Daniels. Age old tale of just not being able to put the ball in the back of the net, I think we had the second highest total of shots in the whole EFL but just the one goals to show for it.
I really, really fancy Boro this year if you can add to the attack. Am I right? How do you see this going?
Assuming we bring in a couple of strikers, I think we should be up and challenging for top six at least. A pre-season for Wilder to build up the players’ fitness, and get his ideas across should hopefully see an improvement on last season. There is certainly a bit of a buzz about the place it feels like, but without the quality additions up top it could be a bit of a slog. Also depends on keeping hold of our better players - Tavernier iis key to the way we play so losing him has been a big blow. I'm going to put my neck on the block and say second for us this season - it kind of feels like now or never.
The Twitter @jamesyboz, @loftforwords
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The U'sual Ramblings #2 by wessex_exile
The U’sual Ramblings #2, and the U’s first home match of the season. Much has been written on our narrow defeat away at Northampton Town last Saturday, not least that if they are the yard-stick for promotion contenders, we can take plenty of credit (and hope) from most of our performance, which really should have earned a point. However, we’ve seen these false dawns before – remember away at Notts County, and at Bradford, in recent years, where we thought we were playing contenders, and they turned out to be whipping boys for most of the season. Still, I don’t expect that of Northampton, so stout hearts faithful…and wasn’t it great seeing Nouble bombing down the wing doing what he does best again!
The U'sual Rambling #1 by wessex_exile
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When Monday Comes #37 by wessex_exile
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When Saturday Comes #36 by wessex_exile
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When Saturday Comes #35 by wessex_exile
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