The Opposition View - Middlesbrough
1. Considering you were possible play-off contenders around April last season, yet slowly faded away towards the end of the season, were you disappointed? Or did Boro fans realise it was a season of transition and that anything was a bonus?
I don't think we were really considered play off contenders. We had 4 good consecutive wins include 1-0 victories at Burnley and at home to Derby and some of the most optimistic fans may have thought of us clinching 6th place but with a several point gap and a few teams between us and 6th it was still very unlikely! Then came back to back losses which killed any hopes of clinching the final play off spot.
2. What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
As the majority of fans of the club and many others in this league - Play offs! This is our 6th season in the championship now since relegation in 2009 and our best finish is 7th. Which as a fan is very disappointing! After a few years of cutting costs Steve Gibson has given Karanka a decent bit of cash! We have brought in Kike ,for €3M ,who has looked a threat in the first few games scoring 3 goals already!
Hopefully he'll be the goal scorer we have been looking for for years now. Clayton has also come in and looks to be a good signing as well as RB Damia Abella and the retuning Omeruo on loan from Chelsea. We have also added depth to the squad in Husband and Nsue who add competition for places, which is always a good thing. So with several good signings and Karanka now having settled in and knowing much more about the league, hopefully we will get a play off spot this season!
3. What do you make of your transfer dealings so far this window? What else do you reckon you need in the next few weeks?
As I mention, Kike is hopefully the guy to net 20+ goals for us this season! He has look a real threat Infront of goal already and when his English improves I'm sure he will communicate even better with the forward 4! After a couple of weeks of will he won't he, Clayton has signed and looked a great addition to the midfield. He was Huddersfield's player of the season last season which shows how talented he is. Behind him returns Kenneth Omeruo, a fans favourite with his no nonsense defending and quality tackling. Back from the world cup and looking better than ever, I'm sure he will have another successful season for us!
Then there is Tomas Mejias... Signed from Real Madrid on a free and made his debut against Birmingham keeping a clean sheet. Looked like he a great debut until you see there wasn't a shot on goal and then goes to Leeds and palms a shot straight to Billy Sharp in the last minute of the game! Not the best way to start his career at boro! Then his calamities against Sheffield Wednesday has lost all confidence the players and fans have in him! His flapping and failed attempts to punch the ball gifted Wednesday the lead before another mistake made it 2-0 before the break! To the fans delight he was dropped for the cup game against Preston and the experience Dimi Konstontopolous came in and has a quality game, making few if any errors!
Abella has looked good in his few games and Husband is good back up for Friend! Despite having a busy summer of already, there are still a few more arrivals needed if we a to sustain a promotion push throughout the season. We need another forward as we currently have just Kike, a young inexperience Fewster and someone who couldn't care less - Kamara. Bamford has been rumoured to be joining on loan for some weeks now and It looks set to be confirmed soon. Which is a great signing considering now well he did last season at MK Dons and Derby. But I still feel we need another! Also need a winger, with Carayol out till next year and another number 10 to add competition and back up.
4. How would you assess Aitor Karanka`s tenure as Boro boss so far? Is he implementing a passing philosophy at the Riverside?
It was definitely a transition of change with our first ever foreign manager coming in with his own ideas and philosophy and I I feel he has had a good start. He came in in October last year to a league he hadn't much knowledge of and has made the team play his way. He's brought in players to suit his philosophy and hopefully it works out. With a 4-2-3-1 formation and passing and ball retention a focus Karanka is definitely getting the team to play his way.
5. Which Boro players do you expect to have a big season?
Starting with the defence, Friend should have another great season, after winning all the clubs honours last season for his consistency and quality performance last season which brought premier league club interest. He has signed a new contract now and is looking as good as ever at LB. I also expect Omeruo to be solid at the back so hopefully we keep many clean sheets again!
Into midfield and I think Clayton will be a great signing, with his tacking ability and aim to get the ball forward and joining the attack, I expect him to be a key player this season. Adomah will add the quality down the wings with his pace and hopefully beat his goal tally of last season (12). Then behind the striker Tomlin will add a threat to attack and kike hopefully banging in the goals!
6. If you could take any Reading player, who would it be and why?
Probably McCleary, I have always rated him and we need a gifted winger! Or Chris Gunter, always liked him too!
7. What starting XI and shape do you expect to see from Karanka on Saturday?
It will be a 4-2-3-1 formation!
Abella Ayala Omeruo Friend
Adomah Tomlin Reach
8. What is your prediction for the game?
I think it will be a high scoring tight contest ending 2-2!
UP THE BORO!