We get the lowdown on tonight’s Carabao Cup opponents Middlesborough, who are aiming to bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Michael Oakes from One Boro answers our questions.
A bit of a mixed start for Boro following relegation last year, with two wins and two defeats. Is the aim to bounce straight back to the Premier League?
Promotion this season always has to be the aim. There’s no doubt last season was a disaster and a full rebuild was required from top to bottom. It’s been a summer of chance. A new manager, new coaching staff and new players. Everything about this season is new so it’ll take time for everything to gel and come together. I’m not too concerned by the start to the season.
We’ve shown enough signs to suggest that we’ll be promotion contenders when things do start to click. The Championship is a long season and nothing is decided in the first few months. Of course, we need to become consistent and ensure we aren’t playing catch-up come May. But, the start of the season will have actually done us a favour in teaching this new setup lessons.
You’ve spent quite a lot of money on your strikeforce, with around £27million spent on Assombalonga, Gestede and Fletcher alone. Is it frustrating that Garry Monk is suggesting you need to be more clinical infront of goal and are Scunthorpe likely to be on the receiving end of a backlash after a frustrating loss at Forest?
In recent years Karanka, Southgate, Mowbray and Strachan have all tried and failed to lure a striker to the club who’s proved to be a resounding success. It just hasn’t happened. Even the £11m outlay on Jordan Rhodes fell a little bit flat.
The money spent on the strikeforce was required to rejuvenate a position which has been lacking in real quality for years. The bulk of the money went on Britt Assombalonga. He had a game to forget against his former club Nottingham Forest at the weekend and on another day he could have had a hat-trick. He looks the real deal though. He’s got power, pace and is a lethal finisher. I think nerves and an overwhelming desire to over-impress was his downfall against Forest.
We’re still yet to see much from the other new forward signings, but again it’s going to take time for players to settle. It’s always frustrating when forwards miss relatively easy chances. But, the quality is there and we’re creating chances; something that couldn’t be said about last season.
What sort of Boro side are we likely to come up against on Tuesday? What style of football can we expect and how will you line up?
The squad isn’t as strong as Monk would like. We’re still a defender, midfielder and wide man short from a squad able to compete on all fronts. With that said, it’s only early in the season so we don’t really need to make too many changes. I’d expect new signings such as Fletcher and Baker to start, with chances given to Traore, Fabio and Leadbitter to prove themselves.
We like to get the ball forward quickly to the front three and allow them to play. If we’re unable to do that, we do like to keep possession of the ball in midfield, often too much so. But, depending on the team he starts with, it’ll be full of power. Traore will scare any defender with his pace and skills, but he’s yet to find the end product. A fixture against Scunthorpe could be the day we finally see Traore get on the score sheet and build his confidence.
What are your expectations from the League Cup game against Scunthorpe?
It won’t be an easy game for Middlesbrough at all. Anything can happen in a cup game but I think Monk will take the competition seriously and field a squad he believes if capable of winning. If Middlesbrough are able to get an early goal, flair players should flourish in this environment and use it as an opportunity to impress the manager,
Which Boro players should we look out for?
Lewis Baker. The midfield only arrived from Chelsea on loan a week ago, but has already shown glimpses of his quality in a couple of substitute appearances. On Tuesday i’d fully expect Baker to start from the beginning. He’s a classy player with a clever touch, great awareness and a burst of speed. I’d expect him to involved with everything that’s good about Middlesbrough’s play tomorrow.
I’m going for a 2-0 victory to Middlesbrough with Baker and Traore to grab the goals.