The Season Ahead
Sky Sports presenter David Jones looks at the season ahead for Middlesbrough FC in a oneBoro exclusive.
I’ve been looking forward to this season more than any of the three I’ve been presenting the football league for Sky Sports.
As a north easterner myself the addition of Middlesbrough and of course that other lot up the road makes this the most exciting term yet of my tenure.
For one thing, I should have a few more trips home which hopefully the family will be pleased about!
I spent the first 18 years of my life poring over the Northern Echo for any football snippets, hoping Tyne Tees would include a sports slot on a Friday night, and then ear pressed to the radio on Saturday afternoon to hear the goals go in.
Little did I imagine then I’d been in such a privileged position now. But my point is I know the area, I know what makes people tick on Teesside and I know how much people care.
Boro fans are hurting after last season, well the last couple, you don’t need me to tell you that. But as an outsider now looking in I see so much for them to be proud of.
Middlesbrough isn’t really a big city, not when you compare it to say Leeds, Sheffield or even (ahem) Sunderland but they’ve been punching above their weight for years.
How? Steve Gibson, simple as that. The man stands alone in football for what he’s achieved for his club and his town.
First there was Bryan Robson, then the stadium, the Brazilians, the training ground and now the academy.
I admire so much his loyalty as well. It’s an achievement in itself to say Boro have had only four managers in the last 18 years. You can see where I’m heading with this.
I just don’t see the point in Boro getting rid of one of the most highly thought of men in English football. This is no Roy Keane or Kevin Keegan who walks when the going gets tough. Gareth Southgate has taken over at a tough time in Boro’s history and will need time to sail the club through some choppy waters.
The chairman’s made it clear he’s no longer going to bankroll the club with the extravagance of his early reign so Southgate has to take a different approach. He can learn on the job away from the intense scrutiny of the Premier League. And then when he and Boro return they'll both be better for it.
The early signs are good but the next two weeks could shape Boro's season. If they can keep the core of players who clearly look so comfortable at this level, and add a guaranteed source of goals before the window shuts then promotion should be achieved, Gareth will be a hero and the Championship will once again be poorer for Boro's absence.
I'll enjoy it while it lasts.
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