Well, we managed the play-offs, but that’s about as much as you could say on the subject. Statistics show we only lost by a single goal over the two Villa matches, but let’s be honest, there was rarely any danger of us reaching Wembley on those two performances.
Realistically, the most relevant statistic was the fact that even though we were chasing a 1-0 deficit in the second leg we didn’t manage a single shot on target in the entire ninety minutes. The closest was Downing’s free kick at the end but by then most of us had accepted that we had been saved a very long and probably a very unrewarding trip to Wembley.
The real truth is that we simply weren’t good enough and it’s fairly plain to see that Tony Pulis has a considerable amount of work to do over the next three months.
The biggest difficulty, of course, is that having failed to go up he firstly has to decide who he wants to keep, who he can keep and who he feels has proved over the last few months that they are not really up to the job of getting ‘Boro back to the Premiership.
I think we all have our own ideas on those aspects of this particular conundrum, but since he has already stressed he doesn’t want to spend much of Steve Gibson’s money he’s going to have to work a few miracles.
It’s fairly certain that a bid of thirty million or so for Adama Traore would see him move on, and while he’s been tremendous to watch since Pulis arrived it would certainly free up a bit of cash for the manager to stamp his own personality on the team.
Unfortunately he isn’t particularly famous for having much of that commodity and it’s fairly safe to assume he would be just as interested in keeping the defence tight as he would trying to make us more exciting, more adventurous and consequently more attack minded.
I’m certainly not going to jump on the ‘long ball merchant’ bandwagon because what he did with Traore was nothing short of sensational, but it’s difficult to see how we can become more adventurous without finding a couple of truly progressive midfielders who are able to create the openings we need to improve on the pretty poor ‘goals for’ column of the past two seasons.
It’s fair to say, however, that despite relatively poor performances in the two play-off games Mo Besic has nevertheless proved he has the ability to fill one of those positions but there is no guarantee he will still be with us anyway. I’ve said many times that given a choice of being in London or Middlesbrough, most players would opt for the former. Had we been able to persuade Aleksandar Mitrovic to come to us instead of Fulham, for instance, things might have been so different!
The biggest problem we have is that most of our competitors are probably looking for exactly the same thing as us so competition will continue to be fierce and the right type of player increasingly rare.
At the moment the silence from the Riverside is pretty deafening so we can only hope that plans are underway and prospective targets being kept secret. Fortunately, it’s all Tony’s problem and we can only wish him all the best in his efforts to solve it!
Have a good Summer.