‘I’ve seen enough of our new players to suggest that individually they have decided talent, but it has to be combined with that of their colleagues to create great teamwork and the consequent results we all hope will follow. If it doesn’t happen in the next month or so we will undoubtedly find ourselves in an impossible position and the season will be relatively dead.’
I wrote that for the last edition after a reasonably good performance against Bournemouth, though the number of changes for that particular cup game should have precluded any possibility that such a performance might be some sort of catalyst for immediate improvement.
Yet it nevertheless seems to have been, and things were indeed infinitely more optimistic after two excellent away wins at Reading and Hull and a less convincing but nevertheless welcome win against Sunderland. Could this, we asked ourselves, be the start of something special in terms of both performance and consistency?
We would unfortunately have to wait a couple of weeks to find out because of the international break, but the impending trip to Elland Road and something of a derby match against Leeds was the perfect opportunity to judge whether we had actually turned the corner. The doom-laden statistic from Leeds of six defeats in seven games also brought additional hope that we could continue our good run while rubbing salt into Leeds’ wounds.
But hey, this is ‘Boro and those of us who have well over sixty years’ experience of frustration, disappointment and the knowledge that Middlesbrough never do what is expected of them should have warned us that it was simply never going to happen. And let’s be honest, it ended up a poor performance that gave us exactly what we deserved.
So are we still in the same position as this time last month that we simply have to improve and show real consistency? The last two games have been against two of the worst performing teams in the league over the last ten matches yet we struggled against both.
But coming up are some conceivably difficult games against the likes of Derby, Bristol City and Ipswich. Apparently easier games will be against Birmingham and Millwall, yet knowing ‘Boro as we do we all know we are more likely to get points out of the former set of games than the latter.
Yet despite all the gloom that emanated from the defeat at Leeds we are still in the play-off positions and I think at this moment we would all take that at the end of the normal fixtures. But there is still a long way to go and nothing that has happened so far this season gives any indication of which way the remaining fixtures will go.
Recent results have shown us that a good run can make a huge difference and if we can achieve such a thing we could even challenge for automatic promotion. Performing as we have against Sunderland and Leeds, however, could well suggest that we could be going nowhere.
As a life-long ‘Boro fan, though, I have that in-built trait of optimism that won’t let me consider any other possibility than a consistent set of good performances and results that will propel us up the league and into the top two spots.
Only time will tell!