Is it really only five or six weeks since there was still a belief that ‘Boro’s squad had the sort of potential that meant one or two astute signings could lead to a successful 2021/22 season or have we imagined it? Within that time a run of one point from fifteen – only halted by a scrappy 2-1 victory over ten man relegation certainties Rotherham – has brought the real truth to the fore that we have players who simply don’t want to be at ‘Boro and players who do but probably aren’t good enough. The few who do want to be here and are actually good enough are unfortunately the minority and that fact brings little or no confidence that next season is going to be any different to this one.
We’ve known for a long time, of course, that football is the only industry in the world where huge amounts of money can be made from a combination of disloyalty, inadequacy and non-cooperation and perhaps there is no better example of that than the eventual realisation that neither Britt Assombalonga nor Ashley Fletcher have been anywhere close to value for money. Between them they have cost the club something like thirty million pounds over the last two seasons and now both have been rightly dispensed with. From a ‘Boro fan’s point of view they have been complete failures, but I’m sure in their own weird assessment of the past two seasons they must consider themselves – from a financial point of view anyway – to have been pretty successful. I’m sure most of us realise that if we had been as unreliable in our jobs as they have in theirs we would have been dispensed with long ago and there certainly wouldn’t have been any golden handshakes to accompany our departure.
In the meantime, the arrogance of owners of top Premiership clubs came home to roost with the ridiculous concept of a closed shop super league that fans were supposed to sit back and accept. The furore that greeted the announcement at least showed that fans aren’t as gullible as these people believed and they have had to withdraw, hopefully forever, from the disgraceful attempt to extract even more money from an industry that has become more and more one-sided since the formation of the Premier league some thirty years ago.
From a Middlesbrough point of view, though, most of us appreciate the unbelievable contribution Steve Gibson has made during that time by almost single handedly financing ‘Boro through the good times and the bad. And yet there are still the idiots on social media who suggest he should continue to spend huge amounts of money when football’s finances have taken an enormous Covid hammering. Fortunately, Neil Warnock understands the situation, but his opinions a couple of months ago seem to have changed dramatically with his recent revelations of players not wanting to be here and cliques in the dressing room a complete contrast to the solidarity he thought existed earlier in the season. It’s amazing what four defeats from five games can do to people’s conceptions.
So, with the huge anti climax this season has become, where do we go from here? Warnock’s belief that we have to get people over the line quickly with a few ‘handshakes and promises’ early in the transfer window is all well and good but where are we going to find the kind of talent on the sort of budget we obviously have to make a big difference? Let’s be honest, our recruitment over the past few seasons doesn’t exactly breed confidence. Unfortunately, being stuck out here in the conceived ‘wilderness’ of the North East is perhaps the biggest problem the recruitment team faces because the very few good players who may become available during the summer would probably prefer other more hospitable climates than ours. The outsider’s conception of Middlesbrough unfortunately bears little resemblance to the beauty and value that actually exists in the North East but that is a problem we’ve always faced. I’ve met many people who have actually made the move and been astounded to find a much different area to the one they believed they were coming to. Sadly, you have to get them here first!
So all we can hope is that Warnock can use his exceptional experience to attract a few players who can make a difference and give us a good season next time around. To be fair, this one has been a considerable improvement on last year so if that can be maintained we can hopefully enjoy being back in the stadium once more when the season begins. Having to watch games ‘on the box’ is really no substitute for the excitement of match days and I for one can’t wait to give Neil Warnock the true Riverside experience. Let’s hope it can finally happen!
Have a good summer!