Of all of Boro’s new signings this summer, two that have certainly caught the eye have been the record-breaking deal for Britt Assombalonga and the £9m move for Danish forward Martin Braithwaite.
The former caught attention for the sheer size of the transfer fee and while Braithwaite’s transfer wasn’t a cheap one for Steve Gibson to rubber stamp, attention from elsewhere meant it was quite the coup for Garry Monk.
There was rumoured top flight interest in Braithwaite and he was performing consistently well in Ligue 1, which although the quality of football is criticised, there has been some serious talent come from France to dazzle the English game, see Eden Hazard or N’Golo Kante.
Before he’d even made an appearance in a Boro shirt, Braithwaite was making all the right noises about why he joined the club. Citing his and the clubs ambition to be promoted at the first attempt and then even going on to secure their top flight status. He even spoke about a place in Europe a few years down the line, certainly not the norm to come from a player who’s just joined a Championship side, recently relegated after a dreadful season back in the Premier League.
Something else that has endeared Braithwaite to the Boro faithful is his willingness to interact with fans on Twitter. Fans tweet players constantly with feedback – either good or bad – and new signings are no different. Often the question is ‘have you had a parmo yet’ as if they’re handed to them by a grinning Neil Bausor after they take the required contract singing picture at Rockcliffe.
Most of the time, these tweets and interaction go unnoticed by the players, however, Braithwaite has made a conscious effort to reply to as many as he can, almost as if he was a fan himself.
Then came the tweet that sent Boro’s Twitter following into a frenzy. After the forwards squad number was confirmed, 10 for those looking for a new name for the new season, he shared a picture of himself alongside the finest player to ever wear the Middlesbrough shirt, Juninho.
While that may not seem a lot, it shows that the new boy has some knowledge on the clubs history as it wasn’t a generic message that was handed to him by the social media manager.
On the pitch, many haven’t seen a great deal of Braithwaite but, with a big price tag on his head, you’d imagine he’ll be one of Garry Monk’s key players this season and in order to fully endorse himself to the supporters, that’s where he’ll have to impress.
The initial signs are good. An impressive outing in his first game at the Riverside was capped off by a fine goal that showed a glimpse, not only of what fans should expect, but also what Boro were missing for the entirety of last season.
Although naturally a striker, he can perform the role of a winger who can step inside and find the back of the net. For his goal, he showed great anticipation of where the ball was going to drop and when it came it him, he didn’t panic and blast it, he coolly slotted under the Augsburg keeper.
A lot has been said of Boro’s weaknesses last season and it cannot be denied that the wingers on their books last season weren’t capable of cutting inside and have a dig.
He’s not likely to perform as an out and out winger, and with George Friend or Fabio overlapping on the left, his crossing ability isn’t likely to be an issue and this will allow him to perform the inside forward role, where he’ll be able to play alongside the main striker.
All eyes are on Britt Assombalonga this season given his record breaking move from Nottingham Forest, but Braithwaite but could be just as, if not more, important than the £15m man.
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