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Superb article from The Athletic published today... Gives you a real sense that something special is being built. We've been crying out for this for so long.   Michael Walker 2h ago  2 

It is emotional blackmail and the situation has been clearly fabricated, if you look at the handwriting its obvious that Wayne Rooney wrote that letter. 

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On the plus side its covid and not a long term injury. Hopefully he not too ill and can return a negative result ASAP.

Wilder talked about maybe he being involved v Utd but guessing he cant fly until he returns a negative result.

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16 minutes ago, Borodane said:

Uche scores on his debut for Cardiff. Hope he has a good time on loan to drive the price up. 

Delighted for him. He seems to be a genuinely good guy. Hope it goes well for him 

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10 minutes ago, Dynamo Kev said:

buzzing uche scored. cardiff will love him. such a shame wilder doesnt fancy him. i bet if he had the minutes sporar has, uche would have more goals and assists

He would never last all those minutes 😂

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Yeah echo the thoughts of people on here about Uche in that I hope he does well as he does come across as a good guy.

If he does well then its win win for us. As we either sell him at a profit or Wilder changes his mind and keeps him.

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9 hours ago, Aphex_Boro said:

Fair play to him but I don't think Wilder will be looking at that thinking I wish I had a striker that could score a goal like that 

Nah Wilder will be looking thinking, I wish I had a dinky little loan Striker that can't get into goal scoring positions or maintain his composure, skies his shot over the stand roof that we can hoof the ball up to and conceding possession in the process.

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Superb article from The Athletic published today...

Gives you a real sense that something special is being built. We've been crying out for this for so long.

 

Michael Walker 2h ago  2 
Chris Wilder bustled into The Riverside’s media room high on energy, a manager who had just seen his team win late on. His eye caught a match on the big screen — it was Aston Villa versus Manchester United. Without halting his step, Wilder turned to the reporters, smiled and said: “You don’t wanna watch that Premier League crap! It’s over-rated.”
Wilder was buzzing: Middlesbrough had just beaten Reading with a Matt Crooks goal in minute 90+5. The previous Saturday, they had also got a 90+5 winner, at Mansfield Town in the FA Cup. In the game before that, at Blackpool in the Championship, Boro won with a 90+3 goal from Duncan Watmore.
No wonder Wilder was happy: Crooks’ winning goal had demonstrated his players’ perseverance and patience.
When Reading cleared a cross as the clock ticked down, Marcus Tavernier collected the ball 20 yards out. The crowd urged him to shoot. Tavernier chose not to. He played the ball wide to Isaiah Jones, a sleek winger. Jones tried to beat his man, then thought better of it and cut back. Seconds passed.
Jones gave the ball back to Tavernier, who fed it to Paddy McNair. It was the fourth minute of added time and McNair, in front of goal, was also urged to shoot. Like Tavernier, he declined. Instead, the ball was sent back out right to Jones. You could hear the Red Faction supporters’ drumbeat. More seconds passed.
Once again, Jones took on his marker. This time, a set of stepovers took him free. Suddenly Jones was on the byline. From there, he delivered a perfect cross for Crooks to head in.
The Riverside roared its approval. From being 1-0 down with six minutes of normal time left, Boro had won. From being 14th in the Championship and 17 points off automatic promotion after a 2-1 home defeat by Preston in November, Middlesbrough were sixth, seven points off the top two. They had taken 19 points from a possible 21.
There has not been a revolution; but Chris Wilder had entered the building.
“What pleased me with the winning goal,” he said, “is that with a lot of people, it’s ‘Get it in the box!’ But we haven’t got 6ft 4in players and I don’t want to play like that. I know there’s different ways to win games. We were patient.”
One week on from the Reading game, Wilder is speaking to The Athletic — about style, club structure, Manchester United in the FA Cup and a new, emerging Middlesbrough.
“I was delighted with it,” he says of Crooks’ winner. “You can play different ways — I don’t think I’ve ever been pigeonholed, even if the three centre-halves (at previous club Sheffield United) caught a lot of attention. I’ve coached all different sorts of formations.
“We preach this is the way for us. At that specific moment, it would’ve been easy to lump the ball into the box and one of their centre-halves get a big header on it. I’m not averse to it — we’re all in it to win. But there’s a certain way I’d like my team to play and that’s aligned with this club and the supporters.
“And, quite simply, I want to enjoy it.”


Middlesbrough mob Matt Crooks after his added-time winner against Reading (Photo: Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images)
At that stage, Wilder had been at Middlesbrough for 77 days — it will be 89 when they walk out at Old Trafford on Friday night in the fourth round, live on ITV in the UK.
After almost eight months out following his departure from Bramall Lane last March, it can be said Wilder is not the only one relishing his arrival on Teesside. When tickets went on sale for the Manchester United tie, Middlesbrough sold 9,000 in less than 24 hours. In December, they launched a half-season ticket campaign called “The Wilder Card”.
In his three months, Wilder has made a big impact. Most obviously, this can be seen in the Championship table. But there are those ticket sales, while insiders at Middlesbrough’s Rockliffe Park training ground say there has been an equivalent influence there. Allied to the appointment last September of Kieran Scott as head of football — ie, sporting director — the club have implemented structural change. It may be too soon to call this a new era, but a new path is being laid.
Previously, in just over three years, Middlesbrough had gone from having Aitor Karanka as manager to Garry Monk to Tony Pulis, Jonathan Woodgate and then Wilder’s predecessor Neil Warnock. Each one made their own signings. Each had their own ideas.
“Without being critical of previous managers,” Wilder says, “what happened is the club — maybe there’s a better word for it — lurched from Garry Monk and one style, to Tony Pulis and another style and another group of players. Then when Woody gets it, there’s more players, and then the last manager gets it.
“In employing a director of football (Scott), the club has recognised there needs to be stability and style — club characteristics, a way of playing, structure, techniques, more of a longer-term plan.
“Of course, the next game and season you’re in is the most important, but when I spoke to Neil Bausor (the chief executive) and (owner) Steve Gibson we said, ‘Let’s put in place something longer’.
“And Neil, Steve and Kieran are very impressive. You’ve got experienced people here — not some who don’t have a clue.
“That was huge for me. Anyone can have an ambition, but you’ve got to have hunger and desire to fulfil the ambition. Speaking at length to Kieran — he definitely has it. Neil? Definitely. And most importantly, the owner has it. That was key. I wanted to see if he wanted to throw some petrol on the fire again. He wants to.”
Examples of Boro’s re-fuelling came through the door early in January.
There were Premier League loanees Aaron Connolly from Brighton and Folarin Balogun from Arsenal. There were two permanent signings, Caolan Boyd-Munce from Birmingham City and Australia international Riley McGree from Charlotte in MLS, via 14 months on loan at Birmingham. Before these transfers, 43-cap Wales full-back Neil Taylor had come on a free in November after leaving Aston Villa in the summer.
Wilder may joke about “that Premier League crap”, but Middlesbrough want to be back up there and the investment that’s been made in wages alone is a statement.
“I say a lot of things tongue in cheek,” he adds, “it’s definitely the place where we want to be. I’ve had a taste of it and it’s brilliant. The Championship is great – unpredictable, fabulous, breathless. But the Premier League is where players want to play and where supporters want to host and visit historic clubs.”
Boro’s last brief experience of it, going straight back down in the 2016-17 season, was underwhelming — 28 points and 27 goals to finish second-bottom under Karanka — but this feels like a changing club, and part of it is Wilder’s personality and exuberance. He treasures “togetherness” and does not mind being photo-bombed on a night out.
“What? Late on in the pub in Yarm after we’ve won a game?” he says, laughing. “Can’t really do owt about it!
“We work extremely hard in the lead-up to a game. Supporters speak the same language as me – how can I not be excited? Thirty thousand on Boxing Day, selling 9,000 tickets for Old Trafford in 24 hours. There’s teams in the Premier League who wouldn’t do that, never mind in the Championship. That brings expectation, I understand that, but we have to embrace it.”
Scott and Wilder are central to change. All well-run clubs operate on twin tracks — short and long-term — and short-term successes enable the longer plan to evolve quietly. If there is a short-term slump, however, or the team perform as feebly as they did in losing 1-0 at Blackburn Rovers two games ago, then claims of a re-modelling Middlesbrough will look premature.
“It might take two, three or four windows to do it, but I think I know what I want it to look like,” Wilder says.
“I don’t micro-manage but I’m a hands-on manager. I want to be involved in decisions, put my ideas over. The staff have been great and I’m very much into the collective. I have to listen to them. Every department is being looked at — medical, scouting, travel, the academy. I will get round to putting my fingerprints on it, but it already has really good people.
“The players’ attitude when we walked through the door was really good, so credit to the previous manager (Warnock) for that. Short-term, that means you can have a positive impact.”
Wilder calls the FA Cup trip to Old Trafford “a fabulous game — we’ve picked out a giant” but he will also be considering the trip to fellow promotion contenders Queens Park Rangers next Wednesday.
With 22 from their last nine games, Middlesbrough have 45 points. In the past five years, the lowest number required to make the play-offs was 70, the highest is 80. There are 18 regular-season games left. After QPR, Bournemouth are the only other team of the five currently above Boro in the table who they have to visit.
“We’ve put ourselves in the mix,” Wilder says. “You just want to be jostling in the pack to set up the last 10 games of the season. That’s our target.”
Scott has a confession to make: “I can talk about this freely now because I’m not at Norwich any more… I was a youth player at Ipswich.”
Middlesbrough’s new head of football is a 38-year-old from Essex whose promising career was ended by injury in his teens. Scott was at Portman Road long before he turned up at Carrow Road to work alongside sporting director Stuart Webber and head coach Daniel Farke to aid the evolution of Norwich City.


Chris Wilder has Middlesbrough on the march towards promotion (Photo: Andrew Kearns – CameraSport via Getty Images)
“It was when George Burley was in charge,” Scott says of his covert Ipswich past. “I played alongside the likes of Darren Ambrose. Me and Darren used to travel to Ipswich together because we’re both from Harlow in Essex.”
What was his position in those days?
“I played all over the place, an attacking midfielder. I wouldn’t get in a Chris Wilder team.”
Scott laughs. From there, he moved into scouting with companies such as Scout7 — “and from that, I met other people such as Jason Blake, Jason Tindall and Eddie Howe down at Bournemouth. I ended up going to Burnley with them.”
After that, Scott worked in recruitment at Wolves, then Norwich. Then, he and Middlesbrough became involved in a conversation Scott describes as “mutual”.
Initially, it was with Bausor — “we spoke about recruitment mainly. I was doing that at Norwich. I said for me to make my next step I need to do more than the recruitment arm. I was heavily involved in more than that at Norwich, I was very close with Stuart Webber, but you don’t see that from the job title.
“Neil felt it was something Middlesbrough needed to look at. I sold my strategy, so to speak. We agreed it was a good idea to meet Steve Gibson. Steve felt it was the right thing for the club.”
From afar, Scott says he viewed Middlesbrough as “a massive football club that arguably should be in the Premier League”.
The trouble is, the Championship is full of such clubs and there are a few of them down in League One, too. It’s about getting there and Scott’s strengths, he says, are planning and speed. Scott says Middlesbrough are “a club that definitely needed someone like me to come in, put some strategy in and start to implement what we do quicker. This window’s been an example of that — we signed four players by January 7. A lot of people have said to me that’s a huge change for Middlesbrough. That’s how I like to operate. I like to get things done sharp and quick.”
Warnock may nod at that comment. His and Scott’s overlap at Rockliffe was brief — around two months — before Boro sought out Wilder. Last March, Warnock signed a contract extension covering this season, but Scott’s job is to think beyond June.
Asked about long-term discussions and thinking, he replies: “It’s difficult to plot that when you’re coming into a club that did need a turnaround in terms of operating mentality. I’m a different role, I am a major change, so to have that conversation at the outset was impossible.
“We’ve had to work out what we want to do and obviously the first major decision was to do with the manager. Is he going to see the season out? Is change going to come now to allow us to really push on? Neil had his own thoughts which were a little bit different from mine, I don’t mind saying that. He’d been here longer and, quite rightly, had his own ideas.
“That had to evolve before we could start talking about long-term strategies, but the fact they have appointed me tells everybody they’ve started to look at that. The decision to mutually terminate with Neil was another sign that we were moving to a different future.”
Simultaneously, Wilder was available, but top-flight trio Watford, Newcastle United and Norwich, among others, were changing manager in October and early November and Scott felt “there was no doubt someone was going to take Chris.
“We had to act. From the outside it (getting rid of Warnock, who’d saved the club from relegation when appointed late in the 2019-20 season) may look a bit harsh, but we’re not here to make friends. It was the right decision for the football club to get Chris while we could get him. His impact has proven that.
“I didn’t know Chris, I’d never met him. I’d walked in the door at Middlesbrough, and you never know what a club is about until you’re in there. But very early on I saw it was a club that needed a Chris Wilder-type. Fans want front-foot, intense football and it became obvious quickly to me that Chris was a great fit.
“The first thing I like about him is he says, ‘Don’t call me Gaffer, call me Chris’. He’s honest, hard-working, he wants to win. He drives the mentality around the building. Things get done. He wants to push the club forward every minute. That was what was needed here.”
If Scott cannot say where Middlesbrough will be in a few years, what would success look like one year from now?
“I’d like to think we’ll have a squad of players fighting to be in the Premier League or fighting to stay there. That’s the number one objective. Underneath that, I’d like to get the recruitment structures in place so that if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, a new guy can come in and see what we’re trying to do, the identity.
“If we beat Man United 5-0 and Man United want to take Chris Wilder, then I’ve to maintain what we’ve started without lurching another way. That’s something that never stops.”


Middlesbrough haven’t been in the Premier League since a May 2017 loss to Chelsea sent them down (Photo: Ashley Western – CameraSport via Getty Images)
Even during the January transfer window, Scott was already planning for the summer one. First-team recruitment will depend on which division Boro are in then, but there is academy recruitment as well.
Teesside, historically, has been a fertile place for discovering talent, but the academy head of recruitment Martin Carter long ago recognised London as an under-exploited area, certainly by northern clubs.
Three weeks ago, Boro signed 20-year-old Bryant Akono Bilongo from Kingstonian, having taken Jones and Sam Folarin from fellow non-League side Tooting & Mitcham United in 2019. Lambeth-born Toyosi Olusanya was signed from Billericay Town, another club below the EFL, last August. In 2018, Boro took Djed Spence from Fulham’s system. The 21-year-old is now in demand on loan at their promotion-race rivals Nottingham Forest.
“The academy is really good,” Scott says. “Isaiah Jones has broken through, (19-year-old) Josh Coburn as well. There’s a couple of younger players I’ve seen — I won’t name them — but I think they’ve really bright futures.
“In London, it’s Martin. He’s coming up with players on a regular basis. Martin has been brilliant. I know other clubs are starting to appreciate what Middlesbrough are doing there.
“That’s definitely part of my strategy. It’s not something I’ve spoken about much while we navigated a managerial change and a change in recruitment, but it’s something I’m very big on – youth recruitment, bringing players to a club young and developing them. There are associated costs, it takes work and budget, but it’s something on the horizon, definitely.”
Dael Fry is a Teessider who came through Middlesbrough’s academy. He has played for England Under-21s and is now 24. He has seen much since his debut, under Karanka, three weeks before his 18th birthday in August 2015.
Given he joined the academy at age seven and comes from Berwick Hills, two miles from the Riverside, Fry understands the club and their fans as well as anyone.
“When you’re from Middlesbrough, you always feel it a little bit more,” Fry says. “I’ve got family and friends who are long-time Middlesbrough supporters. I can feel a lot of passion. It’s a football town and everyone’s buzzing.”
Fry was part of the Premier League promotion squad in 2015-16 and says: “I’m sort of getting that feeling again. We’re getting last-minute winners, late goals, and I remember that from the year we went up.”
In terms of Wilder, Fry is in no doubt there has been an alteration in the disciplinary atmosphere — “really lockdown” is a phrase he used.
“There definitely is a change. Every day, the manager sets standards in training and you don’t want to get on the wrong side of this gaffer. You’re 100 per cent and if you’re slacking he will definitely tell you. Even timings – you’re early for meetings because there’s a fine system now. If you’re late, you get fined. We’re ‘sweeping the sheds’, and everyone’s really buying into it.
“If we can keep our standards high off the pitch, we can do it on the pitch as well.”
When the FA Cup fourth round draw was made, Fry had locals laughing when he was asked what he would say to Cristiano Ronaldo. In a broad Teesside accent, Fry said: “All right, mate?”
This is arguably the most excitement Middlesbrough fans have felt since January 2015, when they went to reigning champions Manchester City at this same stage of the FA Cup and won 2-0. Karanka’s side were on the rise then, though promotion from the Championship took another season. (There was also a League Cup win on penalties at Old Trafford in October 2015).
Enthusiasm can be measured in tickets and the away end at Loftus Road next week is close to sold-out already – that’s a long way from Teesside on a Wednesday night.
And on Friday on television, you’ll hear 9,000 of them loudly singing their two current favourites: “He’s Slovenian”, to the tune of She’s Electric by Oasis, in honour of on-loan Sporting Lisbon and Slovenia forward Andraz Sporar; and this rather more complex arrangement:
“Oh Wilder said
He F***ing loves Paddy McNair
Oh words can’t describe
Isaiah running down the right-hand side
Crooksy’s hair is fine
He scores belters all the time
That’s why we sing this song
For the Boro, all night long”
New lyrics and new faces: Middlesbrough, 2022.

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