While it’s always tempting to listen to and believe the latest hot news regarding imminent signings, we ‘Boro fans have suffered enough disappointments over the years to take everything with a pinch of salt until the time we actually see a player take the field in a ‘Boro shirt. I well remember the excitement that accompanied the news in 2013 that Argentinian star Diego Forlan was on a plane to Heathrow and had agreed terms to join ‘Boro. He was, of course, hijacked at the airport by Alex Ferguson so joined Manchester United instead.
We also understood – in 2008 – that Rob Lee was on his way north from Kings Cross to sign for ‘Boro, but he eventually stayed on the train and was signed instead by Kevin Keegan at Newcastle. Keegan always reckoned he’d fooled Lee into thinking that Newcastle was closer to London than Middlesbrough but Lee refutes the slur, claiming it was because Newcastle airport would get him back to the East End a lot quicker!
But now the latest in this long line of duff information was the fairly convincing news recently that Luton’s out of contract striker James Collins was about to sign an early contract to get our recruitment drive off to a healthy start. Sadly – and inevitably – that conviction lasted for about 24 hours before the news filtered through that he was heading for Cardiff instead.
The biggest difficulty at the moment is that because of the fairly universal financial difficulties facing clubs, the better players are holding on for the best offers available and since lucrative deals are few and far between – and certainly not available at Middlesbrough at the moment – it’s going to be even more difficult to attract early signings of any significance. So despite Neil Warnock’s pre-holiday assertion that he would be trying to get players in as quickly as possible, the truth is that players of the right quality are not going to be making any quick decisions.
Perhaps the main current issue, however, is the forthcoming Euro Championships when most of the big clubs will be waiting and watching with interest in case a few gems are suddenly uncovered during the tournament. If so it will then lead to some big transfers and the subsequent player merry-go-round that usually results. Sadly, if ‘Boro are to benefit from that kind of scenario, current finances demand that anyone moving down a rung would certainly need to be on a loan basis. But since it has already been well documented that neither players nor agents have become savvy enough to realise that they are now operating in a totally different environment and will need to reduce their usually ridiculous demands by a considerable degree a lot is going to have to change.
Looking at the bigger picture, there will be increased excitement for the new season when hopefully we will all be able to return to the Riverside and match day normality. We may also be able to look forward to derby games again, with Sunderland’s possible return to the Championship depending on the games with Lincoln and hopefully against the winners of the Blackpool – Oxford tie. A number of my Durham based friends are season ticket holders, so despite the rivalry between North East clubs I, for one, hope they make it at last and we can look forward to a couple of tension filled derby days next season. Good luck to them anyway because – as I mentioned to my mates – it would be an easy six points for us ‘Boro!
So, with an action packed summer to look forward to we should be easily able to forget the disappointing end to the season where ‘Boro sadly lost momentum and ended up in a safe mid table spot. After last season, though, that was something of a relief. That it has been a huge improvement under Warnock is undeniable and can only give us hope that he can maintain that improvement for next season and give us a challenging one to look forward to. But it all depends on the recruitment and I’m afraid recent history does not foster a great deal of encouragement in that department. We can only hope!
Enjoy the Euros and come on England! It has to be the best squad we’ve been able to put out for quite some time so it should hopefully be something we can all enjoy.
Have a great summer.