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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.

Boro’s 2021/22…
Fulham 1-1 Boro Wilson 29 – Bola 77
Boro 2-1 Bristol City Ikpeazu 38, Crooks 70 – King 60
Boro 2-3 QPR Ikpeazu pen 7, Crooks 72 – Howson og 48, Dykes 56, Willock 76
Derby 0-0 Boro
Boro 1-1 Blackburn Howson 36 – Gallagher 17
Coventry 2-0 Boro Gyokeres 71, Waghorn 90
Forest 0-2 Boro Sporar 24, Hernandez 72
Boro 1-2 Blackpool Tavernier 8 – Ekpiteta 62, Hall og 78
Reading 1-0 Boro Halilovic 55
Boro 2-0 Sheff Utd Watmore 9, McNair 37
Hull 2-0 Boro Lumley og 81, Wilks 90
Boro 2-0 Peterborough McNair pen 85, Coburn 90
Boro 2-0 Barnsley Sporar 20, Crooks 87
Cardiff 0-2 Boro Sporar pen 35, Payero 74
Boro 0-2 Birmingham Roberts 53, Hogan 56
Luton 3-1 Boro Bradley 57, Adebayo 60, Cornick 62 – Coburn 15
West Brom 1-1 Boro Diangana 65 - Coburn 38
Boro 1-1 Millwall Crooks 15 – Bamba og 27
Boro 1-2 Preston McNair 33 – Evans 77, Riis 81
Huddersfield 1-2 Boro Daniels og 90 – Watmore 16, 23
Boro 1-0 Swansea Jones 26
Stoke 0-0 Boro
Boro 1-0 Bournemouth Sporar pen 53
Boro 2-0 Forest Yates og 17, Sporar 69
Blackpool 1-2 Boro Lavery 90 – Sporar 60, Watmore 90
Boro 2-1 Reading Crooks 84, 90 – Carroll 68
Blackburn 1-0 Boro Gallagher 76
Boro 1-0 Coventry Sporar 58
QPR 2-2 Boro Chair 29, Willock 46 – Fry 45, Adomah og 60
Boro 4-1 Derby Buchanan og 15, Connolly 44, Crooks 45, Watmore 89 – Bird 39
Bristol City 2-1 Boro Weimann 7, Semenyo 68 – Crooks 90
Boro 2-1 West Brom McNair 60, Tavernier 69 – Molumby 28
Barnsley 3-2 Boro Anderson 7, Bassi 16, 54 – Sporar 61, Kitching og 90
Boro 2-1 Luton McNair pen 17, Watmore 87 – Cornick 90
Sheff Utd 4-1 Boro Berge 23, Sharp 25, Robinson 59, Gibbs-White 79 – Balogun 62
Millwall 0-0 Boro
Birmingham 0-2 Boro Connolly 23, Balogun 62
Peterborough 0-4 Boro Tavernier 26, Balogun 49, Coburn 82, Watmore 90
Boro 0-1 Fulham Mitrovic 73
Boro 0-1 Hull Lewis-Potter 74
Bournemouth 0-0 Boro
Boro 0-2 Huddersfield
Swansea 1-1 Boro Obafemi 48 – McGree 46
Boro 2-1 Cardiff Tavernier 28, McGree 53
Boro 3-1 Stoke Crooks 21, 72, Baker og 25 – Powell 90
Preston 4-1 Boro Browne 24, Fry og 35, Jakobsen 53, pen 74

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.

Links >>> Middlesbrough Official Website >>> Teeside Gazette – Local Paper >>> FMTTM – Message Board >>> One Boro – Forum >>> Bonkers for Boro – Blog >>> Boropolis – Podcast

The Twitter @jamesyboz, @loftforwords

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simmo added 16:13 - Aug 3
Feels like a nailed on loss atm. - the 2nd most shots in the EFL v the 2nd lowest xG from the first round of Champ fixtures. Let's hope it doesn't descend into a hammering
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TacticalR added 18:00 - Aug 3
Thanks to James.

Although Middlesborough have lost some good players over the summer, it's hard to bet against Wilder. He knows the division and has an excellent record at this level.
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derbyhoop added 18:08 - Aug 3
Bringing in 23m fir Soence & Tavernier give them plenty to play with
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