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Middlesbrough: Now or Never?

Saturday 9th July 2011
It's been two years since Middlesbrough were relegated from the Premier League and, if they don't reclaim their once solidly-held Premiership status come May 2012, it might be a long time until we see them back among the heavyweights of club football.

On 24 May 2009, Middlesbrough were beaten by West Ham to end their lackluster and deflated season with relegation into the Championship. Since then, they have lost their best players to Premier League bidders, the likes of Adam Johnson, David Wheater and Gary O'Neil have all been lured away from the Riverside.

These players have (mostly) been replaced by Scottish Premier League players, Kevin Thompson and Kris Boyd being the most high-profile. But as a return to the norm in Middlesbrough transfer history, this summer looks more to be filled with outgoings rather than purchases.

Julio Arca, and Andrew Taylor have already left. The possibility of the two best attackers from the latter half of last season, Marvin Emnes and Leroy Lita, looking likely to switch to newly-promoted Swansea, Didier Digard possibly staying on with French side Nice, and Kris Boyd in Turkey for talks with Eskisehirspor it's looking more and more unlikely that Middlesbrough will be pushing for promotion.

The only permanent new face at Rockliffe Park so far this summer is teenager Curtis Main, the out of contract ex-Darlington forward. There are five trailists for this summer, but Tony Mowbray has said it is unlikely that any of them will be staying with the club.

I can't help thinking that, if Boro don't hold on to their best players and bring in some fresh, experienced and capable players, they will be stuck as a mid-table Championship team for many seasons to come, especially with huge teams like Birmingham and West Ham almost dead certs for automatic promotion.

The worst case scenario is that Boro end up going in the same direction as Charlton, Southampton or Leeds, falling further and further down the leagues.

It is understandable that there is a vicious circle of fewer bums on seats and less money and fewer players coming into the club. The whole town, not just the club, is going through a really tough time with the ongoing economic crisis and the closure of many businesses. The club itself is in the same situation as the town. The wage bill needs decreasing and the only way to do that is not re-sign and/or sell off the high earners. So I can understand why there hasn't been a rush of fresh blood on the training pitch.

For the 2011/12 season, there must be some sort of incentive for the people of Middlesbrough to go back to the Riverside Stadium. They want attractive, winning football and local, talented players hungry for success. The right man, Tony Mowbray, is at the forefront of the football club to help Boro do this. He has the right sort of backing from an enthusiastic and understanding chairman and he has some very good footballers at his disposal.

The only things left to fit into place are the twelfth men, the crowds of 25,000+ at each home game, and the winning football to make The Riverside a fortress and a way to get one foot back into the Premier League.

If Middlesbrough can't do it this year, I can't see them being able to attract the quality type of players that are needed to challenge for promotion, and they will end up dwelling in that boring mid-table comfort for many years to come.
Matthew Norman
20-year-old Multimedia Journalism student at Teesside University. Die-hard Middlesbrough supporter and all-round sports fanatic.

Total articles: 8

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