After a pretty hectic period in which we’ve seen what many felt were inevitable changes to the coaching team, the International break has been a welcome respite from the rigours of the Premier league.
These last two weeks have hopefully given Steve Agnew some quality time with his players following the all too brief opportunity to prepare them for Manchester United.
Despite that, there were some really hopeful signs during the second half of that game that led the more optimistic of us to believe that something sensational really can be achieved over the next few weeks.
The fact we actually scored a goal is enough to give us a bit of heart, but we need to go much further in the forthcoming crucial encounters with Swansea, Hull and Burnley.
Steve Agnew will hopefully have been able to instil into his players some of the confidence he obviously feels about our hopes of avoiding the dreaded drop and if he can turn round what is without doubt a frightening league position he will certainly be my candidate for ‘Manager of the Year.’
I have to admit to a degree of disappointment that things didn’t eventually turn out the way Aitor would have wished, but his obstinate refusal to change ultimately led to Steve Gibson’s decision and for that he has nobody to blame but himself.
There was also a tendency on his part to ostracise certain players and that has certainly cost the club money. If we are to go down and are looking to recoup some of the money spent, Aitor’s treatment of Jordan Rhodes, Daniel Ayala and Stewart Downing in particular will have certainly reduced their perceived value in the transfer market.
We must also look at the performances of some of his signings and the likes of Espinosa and Barragan don’t give anyone much confidence in their ability to repel Premier league forwards.
To be honest, Nsui looked a more resolute bet than Barragan but – in similar fashion to Dimi’s lack of opportunity this season – his sterling performances throughout the last campaign counted for absolutely nothing and he was shipped out.
So, what happens now? Most pundits have already written us off, especially when it is obvious we are going to need at least as many wins in our last ten games as we have managed in the previous 28.
We’ll also need a few draws against the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool and that is certainly not going to be easy. Wins against Sunderland, Hull, Swansea, Burnley and Bournemouth would obviously help and it will be interesting to see how Steve Agnew approaches those games.
We’ve all been crying out for two up front all season and once that was tried against Manchester United it looked as if it was a decided improvement on what had gone before.
Sadly, I don’t think that in our heart of hearts many of us think we’ll stay up, but in typical ‘Boro fan fashion I am still clinging to the thought that while things are not mathematically certain there’s always hope.
Keep fingers crossed and hopefully a positive result on April 2nd will go a long way to keeping those hopes alive.