So it’s another season in the Championship for the Boro. An immediate return to the Premier League was predicted for us in the beginning, but sadly, it hasn’t happened.
I’m disappointed. More than disappointed. However the reality is that our venture in the playoffs turned a season that started as a race, into a game of Monopoly. The playoffs were our ‘Chance card’ but we won’t be passing Go and won’t be collecting £200m. At best we were hoping for a ‘get out of jail free’ card after a season that was really lost in the Garry Monk era and after a summer of spending high amounts of money on average players.
In truth, the play-off semi over both legs showed 2 sides that were more hopeful than expectant of a win. For me, it was 2 average teams, one of which had to go through, and it just happened to be Villa – I don’t think either side showed any real quality but Villa kept organised and the focus got them through. I wish them all the best in the final because they will need a significantly better performance against a very good Fulham side to stand any chance of promotion.
The tie wasn’t lacking in hard graft but Boro in particular underperformed and a lack of quality in the final third was clear to see. Two shots on target for Boro in the first game and none in the second just highlights the cutting edge that was missing in such important games.
Although I’m disappointed, I’m not particularly down beat. Despite starting the season as favourites to go up, making the play-offs was actually a great achievement when you look at the inconsistency and lack of direction under Garry Monk; Pulis has performed a mini-miracle and playoff semi-final matches aside, the team has been much better since he took over.
The second leg game was so finely balanced with Villa only having the one goal advantage, that it was again a sad sight to see the referee, Mike Dean, becoming centre-stage once again.
Boro had a clear goal scoring opportunity denied by the Villa keeper, who handled the ball outside off his box, and a red card should have followed, but it didn’t. Although this was late on, the ball looked to be going goalwards and that could have been the moment the tie got taken to extra time. This incident followed another huge mistake by the officials earlier where the Villains had their own shout for injustice as Ben Gibson was clearly shirt pulling in the Boro box. 2 wrongs don’t necessarily make a right but it does keep Mike Dean’s name at the front of peoples minds.
So where for the Boro now?
Well it’s clear to see there will be changes and Pulis has indicated he knows where things are going wrong. He said there was money to spend in January but he chose not to spend it until he knew the squad better. This suggests there will be more cash available in the summer but a clear-out is definitely needed.
The future looks bright with Pulis at the helm. He’s a manager who has surprised a few with the style of football he has played at Boro, in particular the difference he has made to the quick, young, Spanish winger, Adama Traore.
Previous experience has seen Boro come back stronger following play-off disappointment and next year may be no different. Good investment and an experienced manager with a clear vision, makes it feel like we are ready to go; but the summer signings will be key.
This campaign has been a strange one. I’ll choose to remember it for Pulis, the courage of Leo Percovich, the quality of our fans, battering Leeds at home after the ‘beast from the east’ weather front put the game in jeopardy, and Derby away where my son was mascot. This season will not be defined by an average playoff semi final performance against an equally average team.
Next year we go again. Always together.
Come On Boro!
What are your thoughts Boro fans? Let us know in the comments below!