After reading this excellent article where a Leeds United fan has rated the 100 loan signings that his club has made since their relegation to the Championship, I thought I’d run through Middlesbrough’s recent loan hits and misses myself. Annoyingly totting up to 46 rather than a tidy 50, I am about to take you through the heroes and zeroes who have temporarily washed up on the banks of the Tees since relegation in 2009.
1. Sean St. Ledger – Nothing says ‘you are now in the Championship’ like Sean St. Ledger on a 3 month loan. He actually scored two goals, something many of the strikers we will come to discuss would be pretty envious of. Despite the fee being agreed to make the deal permanent, it didn’t materialise.
2. Marcus Bent – A journeyman striker who has somehow managed over 100 Premier League appearances despite a career goals-per-game ratio of less than 1 in 5. When he signed, I thought “oh God, not him”, so he had a way to go to win me round. He didn’t.
3. Isiah Osbourne- One of the names on Gordon Strachan’s infamous targets list was his second signing for the Boro. The other central midfielder on the list was Jack Wilshere. The fact that Strachan went for Osbourne (recently released by Walsall) over the England international would be a telling sign of what was to come in his time in charge.
4. Dave Kitson – His record of 3 goals in 6 games for Boro doesn’t read too badly, but anyone who watched him play will tell you that doesn’t scratch the surface. The fact that Kitson lined up in a Boro shirt less than two years after Mark Viduka and Yakubu had was a stark reminder of how fast football can change. The secret with this footballer was that he wasn’t very good.
5. Caleb Folan - When I was writing this, I closed the Word document in order to check online which players had come in during the 2009/10 season. I saw Folan’s name, opened the document again, and in that second had already forgotten it. That is a pretty accurate metaphor for the short time he spent here.
6. Kyle Naughton – A player I thought would be a perfectly serviceable Championship right back, has actually become a perfectly serviceable Premier League right back. Can count himself unlucky to be part of a Boro back line amongst the worst in history.
7. Stephen McManus – The first on the list to earn a permanent deal, McManus was part of the aforementioned dodgy back four. A last minute equaliser in a bonkers 3-3 draw with Leicester City was his highlight, but the numerous lowlights overshadow it.
8. Jay O’Shea – Has become the watermark for pointless loans of the early Championship years. Birmingham beat Boro to his signature, but were then nice enough to loan him to us. I say ‘nice’, I mean ‘realised they’d bought a dud and wanted someone else to pay his wages’. Wretched.
9. Matt Kilgallon – When Boro were a division above Sunderland in 2003, we loaned them future England man Stewart Downing, who impressed hugely in a short spell in which he scored 3 goals and rejuvenated their season. A few years later, they loaned us Kilgallon. He played a blinder on his debut, then got injured in his next game and went back to Sunderland. Safe to say, they still owe us.
10. Mikael Tavares – Somehow managed to play 13 times without making any sort of impact. He was Gordon Strachan’s last signing, and incoming manager Tony Mowbray didn’t rate him. He certainly wasn’t alone.
11. Andrew Davies – A hometown return for the Stockton boy, unfortunately cut short due to injury (a theme in Davies’ career). I once saw him in Sopranos takeaway on Wilson Street where him and his mate serenaded the staff. Shame it didn’t work out for that reason alone.
12. Paul Smith – Arguably the first genuine success on this list. The out of favour Nottingham Forest keeper played 10 games in the absence of the injured Jason Steele, and only lost one. Somehow managed to play in two 3-3 draws and be excellent in both.
13. Carl Ikeme – If Smith was good, Ikeme was excellent. A reoccurrence of Steele’s injury meant that Mowbray went into the 2011-12 season as he’d finished the last: in need of a goalkeeper. Ikeme came in and conceded only 5 goals in 10 unbeaten games, before a hand injury, and Steele’s recovery, saw him go back to Wolves.
14. Alex Nimley – “He runs around a lot, but…” said a fella behind me to his mate as I watched the Man City man do exactly that. He didn’t need to finish the sentence, the ‘but…’ was implicit. His parent club had just spend £51m on Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko, and unsurprisingly, Nimley didn’t feature in their plans. Went on a slightly more successful loan to Coventry following his time at Boro. I say slightly more successful, because he actually managed to score a goal. Against Middlesbrough. It remains his only goal in English football.
15. Lukas Jutkiewicz – A loan in the most technical sense, as it only happened in order to get the deal over the line for him to play against Burnley before he signed permanently afterwards. Arrived from Coventry, but never really got going at Boro. A forward who Tony Mowbray put a lot of faith in, which was never quite repaid, not least when ‘The Juke’ missed a series of chances in the 3-2 defeat at Barnsley that eventually cost Mowbray his job. Inexplicably earned a move to the Premier League for a profit.
16. Adam Hammill – Arrived, did a lot of step overs, got relegated to the bench, left.
17. Josh McEachran – The first of a handful of loans from Chelsea, McEachran looked, on arrival, like he was too lightweight for the physical Championship, and so it proved. Was tidy with the ball at his feet, and played a few memorable excellent passes, but never got the pulses racing.
18. Ishmael Miller – If Ishmael Miller is the answer, what is the question? A few possibilities – 1) Who do you bring in if you have no faith in Lukas Jutkiewicz and Curtis Main? 2) Who looked utterly out of his depth in 29 of 30 games for Boro, but somehow turned into Ronaldo for one away game at Peterborough (the same game Faris Haroun transformed into Lionel Messi)? 3) Who has become the shining example of the type of signings made due to the lack of funds that hampered Mowbray’s time in charge at Middlesbrough?*
*I’ll also accept Bart Ogbeche for 3)
19. Sammy Ameobi – While not directly responsible for the dramatic slide which saw Boro lose 15 of 21 after New Year 2013 and spelt the beginning of the end for Mowbray, Ameobi will be forever associated with that terrible run. At a time when we needed Championship-level quality to keep us among the playoff challengers, the January recruitment of Newcastle’s Ameobi and an unfit, semi-retired Kieron Dyer were ticking no boxes whatsoever.
20. Josef Varga – The last of the list to come in under Tony Mowbray was arguably his most successful. A central midfielder by trade, the Debrecen man found a home at right back under new boss Aitor Karanka, and a section of fans were upset that his move wasn’t made permanent in the summer. Was satisfyingly bald, in a club that has always had a soft spot for an egghead (Maccarone, Agnew)
21. Daniel Ayala – Probably the biggest success story of the 46 names in this rogues’ gallery. Ayala almost arrived under Mowbray, but an injury crisis at parent club Norwich put a stop to that. By the time Ayala did arrive, Mowbray was gone and Mark Venus had temporary charge of affairs. Despite scoring two goals in his first three games, Ayala’s recklessness at the other end made him a questionable acquisition, until Karanka helped mould him into one of the Championship’s best defenders.
22. Shay Given – Karanka’s first signing arrived after Jason Steele was hit with the double whammy of injury and suspension, and achieved the impressive feat of becoming a fan favourite at Boro despite his long association with Newcastle. Demands from parent club Aston Villa, followed by him choosing the bench at Stoke over the Championship with Boro a year later meant that his time on Teesside lasted only 16 games. A goalkeeping success, which would prove to be something of a rarity for Karanka.
23. Nathaniel Chalobah – Once his feet were under the Rockliffe park table, Karanka got on the blower to his old mate Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and got some loan players in. First order of business was to inject some youth into a midfield of Grant Leadbitter and Dean Whitehead. Chalobah didn’t blow anyone out of the water at Boro, but we saw glimpses of the tidy Premier League midfielder he’s become.
24. Kenneth Omeruo – The second of Karanka’s 2-for-1 Chelsea borrow deal was the perennially-on-loan Nigerian centre-back. Unlike Chalobah, Omeruo returned in the summer of 2014 for a second loan spell. Unfortunately, he never recaptured the form that had convinced Karanka to bring him back, and found himself being kept out of the team by 34-year-old Jonathan Woodgate by spring.
25. Danny Graham – Followed the Andrew Davies path of ‘academy boy comes home’ when we loaned him from Sunderland at the end of January 2014. Despite never being the ideal man for Karanka’s formation, he managed a respectable 6 goals in 16 starts as he formed a partnership with the next man on the list.
26. Lee Tomlin – Brought in to replace ‘Marvellous’ Marvin Emnes, Tomlin impressed the the powers that be so much that he was on loan for less than a month before the clause to make his move from Peterbrough permanent was activated. Will be fondly remembered by Boro fans for his form in the 2014-15 season as the club reached the playoff final, but soured his relationship somewhat by declaring some nonsense about dreaming for playing for Bournemouth since he was a baby or something when he left.
27. Tomás Mejías – Signed in January, but wasn’t announced til March due to a wait for an administrative procedure. Reports that the paperwork went through fine, but someone threw him the document and he spent 3 weeks trying to catch it remain unconfirmed. A goalkeeper brought in to replace the outgoing Given, but ended up losing his place to Dimi Konstantopolous, who was roughly 75 years old at the time. Somehow was able to class himself as a Premier League player last year.
28. Ryan Fredericks – The Spurs right back looked an excellent acquisition when he came in for the injured Damia Abella, who was crocked a month into his Boro career. But after an alleged fall out with Karanka, Fredericks lost his place to Rhys Williams, Tomas Kalas, Miloš Veljković, Dwight Tiendalli, Dean Whitehead…I think even I got a run out there at one point.
29. Patrick Bamford – The only man on the list truly able to challenge Ayala as the most successful, Bamford started slowly, but once he got going, you couldn’t keep his little fluffy head out of the goals scored column. Built up a wonderful level self-confidence that was a joy to behold, later destroyed by Sean Dyche and Alan Pardew, as most things in football are.
30. Jelle Vossen - The Belgian arrived with a huge amount of fanfare, not least because a large portion of Boro fans were convinced that his parent club Racing Genk were holding him in some kind of Belgian gulag before Neil Bauser intervened. He had been a target since the Mowbray days, which suggested that he wasn’t Karanka’s choice, and it took him a while to get a run of games. Despite a starring role as Boro finished fourth, a goal return in single figures was not good enough.
31. Jamal Blackman – As Jason Steele headed for the exit door, and Tomás Mejías looking about as reliable as an ITK Twitter transfer rumour, Karanka hit 1 on his speed dial and called up Jose Mourinho once again (his wife was 2 on the speed dial, and 3 was Jesé Rodríguez, who had yet to answer once). Blackman came in, but failed to dislodge Dimi Konstantopolous, who was, by this point, 84 years old. Blackman did play once, in an entertaining 2-2 draw against Liverpool, in which he committed a howler, and then didn’t do much else, until he conceded 13 out of 14 penalties in the shootout, that is.
32. Miloš Veljković – Seen by some as the prime example of Karanka’s scattergun approach to loan signings (particularly at the expense of the club’s own youth players), Spurs’ Veljković arrived in October 2014, but the inseparable duo of Leadbitter and Clayton kept him twiddling his thumbs. Come January, Adam Forshaw’s arrival spelt the end of Veljković’s forgettable Riverside cameo.
33. Tomáš Kalas – Like a reverse Kenneth Omeruo, Kalas impressed more in his second loan than his first, which will always be associated with a nightmare 90 minutes at Bournemouth. But Kalas put that behind him, and proved his worth in the promotion season during Dani Ayala’s seasonal injury. Few on this list left Boro with their head held high, but Tommy K was one of them.
34. Fernando Amorebieta – A conundrum for Middlesbrough fans. A centre back responsible for one of the best memories of the last 10 years, a last minute winner at Griffin Park in the playoff semi-final, but who never really impressed in the job he was brought in to do. Karanka signed him as an experienced alternative to young Ben Gibson, but it was the Nunthorpe lad who looked more assured. Amorebieta’s last contribution in a Boro shirt was being the policeman in a Benny Hill-style chase sequence as he tried to catch Gerard Deulofeu.
35. Dwight Tiendalli – As we get to the latter stages of this list, the names become a bit further from the dodgy names associated with Strachan, and get a bit more respectable. Tiendalli therefore provides a nice throwback. Disastrous on his debut in a winner-takes-all match at Watford, Tiendalli’s head only came above the parapet on one other occasion, as he took his rightful place at Boro: Behind Dean ‘Does a job’ Whitehead in the right-back pecking order.
36. Diego Fabbrini – After shifting inconsistent playmaker Emanuel Ledesma to pastures new in the summer of 2015, Karanka replaced him with inconsistent playmaker Diego Fabbrini. An explosive start in summer soon cooled off as fast as the weather did, and once Gastón Ramirez entered the building in January, Rockliffe’s revolving door had Fabbrini passing the Uruguayan on the way out.
37. Jack Stephens – Upon saying goodbye to Dean Whitehead, Karanka’s need to have two for every position meant that Stephens came in to sit on the bench alongside Adam Forshaw in the hope that Clayton and Leadbitter would both eat from the same dodgy burger van and get the trots at the same time. But the Southampton man was out of luck, and despite a fine performance in a cup win at Old Trafford, only popped up once in the league before being sent back. Now a fine Premier League defender.
38. Michael Agazzi – Another season, another loan goalkeeper brought in to challenge for the number 1 jersey. By all accounts, the Italian was great around the dressing room, but on the pitch, Dimi Konstantapolous didn’t miss a second of league action, despite recently turning 97, and Tomás Mejías was preferred in the cups.
39. Bruno Zuculini – Giving Miloš Veljković a run for his money as the most pointless loan on the list, Zuculini was signed on loan in a position where we were already pretty well stocked. Once hit the post with a shot, and that’s my only memory of his Boro career.
40. Kike Sola – A challenger appears! Move over Veljković, pack your bags, Zucolini! This chap may be the most pointless incoming, loan or otherwise, of Aitor Karanka’s reign. As Boro engaged in a transfer tug-of-war with Blackburn for Jordan Rhodes, the recruitment team covered their bases by bringing in Spanish male model Kike Sola, who apparently fancied a shot at being at footballer. After looking utterly lost for 45 minutes on his debut, Sola only appeared once more before Rhodes rescued us from ever having to see him again.
41. Gastón Ramirez – The successor to German cult hero Uwe Fuchs, Ramirez arrived and took a struggling promotion campaign by the scruff of it’s neck, and pulled Boro’s season back on track. His subsequent permanent signing has sullied the waters of his time on Teesside, as he has done his level best to drag us back where he found us, but for those four months, he was excellent.
42. Richie De Laet – When Fulham decided they wanted Amorebieta back in January, De Laet was the man who came in to provide cover for George Friend. Coming from runaway league leaders Leicester, his decision to abandon his parent club’s title campaign weren’t in vain, and got a promotion medal and a Premier League one for his troubles.
43. Jordan McGhee – Young Hearts defender who arrived with his eye on the first team, and left unable to get into the U23’s. Not ideal.
44. Álvaro Negredo – The Valencia man split opinion in his season on Teesside, but I’m sure what we can all agree on is that he didn’t have much support from those around him. A victim of the lack of creativity that unravelled Karanka’s master plan. Last seen looking up into the heavens as another ball sailed over his head.
45. Calum Chambers – Backup defender who forced his way into the team, and became so priceless that I think Karanka would have had him cloned if he could, to play right back and in the centre. An injury kept him out at a vital stage of the season, and by the time he returned, Old Man Relegation was already knocking on the Ayresome gates.
46. Pedro Silva Torrejón – Doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. That’s all you need to know about this one.
So there we have it. 46 names who temporarily called the Riverside home, some loved, some hated, some remembered fondly, some barely remembered at all. Let’s just hope Garry Monk’s loan plans for this season and beyond are a little more Patrick Bamford, and a little less Jay O’Shea.