We’ve been saying all season that a couple of consecutive wins make all the difference in the Championship.
But – having just achieved that laudable achievement with what can only be described as two fairly run-of-the-mill victories against Wigan and Brentford either side of the international break – our position in second place isn’t in any way conclusive.
The current gap between us and Aitor Karanka’s Forest in seventh is a mere four points, so while two consecutive wins have elevated us into second place, a couple of poor performances will see us drop dramatically down the league. But surely that’s what the Championship is all about. Anybody can beat anybody, you can very rarely forecast even four results on any Saturday (I know that because I try every week and consistently lose money) and forecasting who’s going to win it at this stage is virtually impossible.
Not surprisingly, the Championship sits comfortably among the top four supported leagues in Europe with total attendances in 2016/2017 of over 11 million ranking higher than Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1. And so it should, because many of its teams have recently spent considerable time in the Premiership – easily football’s biggest financial attraction – and without exception have a collective ambition to return to that promised land of wealth and prospective glory. ‘Boro is not only no exception to that hope but is a club with probably more right than many of the others to achieve that aim.
So let’s look at whether December is going to improve or diminish our chances of entering 2019 in a great position. We are looking forward to another potentially successful trip to Preston following the excellent Carabao Cup win by what can only be described as a reserve team earlier in the season. That’s followed by an eagerly anticipated home game against Aston Villa who were something of a nemesis in our ambition to be promoted last season.
Up after that is the enigma of Blackburn Rovers who started the season really well after their promotion but have slumped a bit more recently. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of that game is that it sees the return of ‘Captain Fantastic’ Tony Mowbray who sadly didn’t quite make it on his return to ‘Boro as manager. Two away games at QPR and Reading see us in London twice in a week, but their performances to date suggest we could reach Christmas without having to ask Santa Claus for any kind of favours in our search for promotion glory.
But does that mean that Tony Pulis will be content with his squad or will he still want to improve it with the two wide players, a left back cover for George Friend and another goal scorer he has already indicated are his top requirements? I’m not so sure, because the fact that Tavernier not only started the Brentford game but also scored what proved to be the winning goal suggests Pulis should put more trust in his younger stars. And that he also brought Lewis Wing on towards the end suggests he also has faith in the kid who was playing non league football just a year ago.
But, as I remarked last month, that’s why Tony Pulis is being paid a considerable amount of money. He has to work it all out for himself and you really have to accept that in view of what he has achieved in his role to date we should let him get on with it and support him every step of the way. He has consistently praised the support of the ‘Boro faithful and I agree with him that the number of fans who travel away and the velocity of their support should be enthusiastically applauded. More than anyone, they should be rewarded with the ultimate prize at the end of the season because their amazing support thoroughly deserves it.
So here’s to a great second half of what is proving to be a potentially rewarding season, and in the meantime have a great Christmas and a very, very successful New Year!