Middlesbrough on the up
It may well go rather unnoticed amongst the promotion and relegation shenanigans, but Middlesbrough’s 3-0 victory over Doncaster on Saturday saw them finish in the top half of the Championship.
This may not seem like much of an achievement for a team that were pre-season favourites for promotion, but there is a much deeper story to their campaign and plenty of reasons why the club can look at the future in a positive light.
Earlier in the season, most Middlesbrough fans would have settled for 21st position in the league. No doubt about that. Relegation looked like a distinct possibility and had they dropped to League One, it could have set the club back years.
With this in mind, it is extremely significant that not only have they stayed up, but they have finished the season with momentum, showing the rest of the league what they are capable of on their day.
Just look at the 3-0 victory at Cardiff City. Fair enough, the Welsh side were nervous, hung over and generally rubbish, but Middlesbrough played their part. They have goals in them that is for sure.
Looking at the final stages of the season in detail, Middlesbrough have been one of the form teams in the league. They have lost just one of their last twelve games, including four victories in the row at the end of the season.
Leroy Lita, Barry Robson, Scott McDonald and Julio Arca are good players at this level and if these four are still Middlesbrough players next year, they have a chance of pushing for promotion. If nothing else, they will sell lots of shirts when it comes to the Latest Releases, they are popular players that need to stay!
Stand out players like these, combined with talented, committed younger players and a manager who knows what he is doing tactically – that’s a winning formula. Throw in the belief obtained from recent form and things are looking rosy ahead of next season.
The one thing they will have to prove is that they can turn it on when it counts. The two 3-0 victories at the end of the season were impressive, but there was nothing to play for. They were safe and playing with plenty of freedom.
Perhaps Mowbray should install this type of mentality for next season. Much like he did when he was manager of West Brom – go out there and play your football. Score goals, take the game to the opposition. This could be their best approach.
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The summer months are crucial for continuing the progress, but there are certainly signs that Middlesbrough could be promotion candidates next season.