Boro fan Shaun Rye has written an article about the pre season transfers at Boro. This sets the scene for not just the Boro season but Fly Me To The Moon also as Shaun is a new signing snapped up to write for the fanzine this season. Describing himself as "A lifelong Boro fan fortunate enough to witness the awesome Ayresome memories, promotion, The Riverside revolution, the exuberance and excitement that came with marquee signings like Ravanelli, Juninho and Emerson and all of those magical cup competitions."
But he also suffered the reverses. "I've seen the turbulent times, the heart-breaking image of TLF looking forlorn following relegation, the agony of Heskey prodding home an injury-time equaliser, Di Matteo rifling home after 44 seconds and so much more."
Perfect then for a Boro fan perspective in the fanzine next season. Here is Shaun setting the scene for the season. Hopefully you will be stirred to subscribe to read and many other fans thoughts and opinions through this 11 month season we are about to begin.

It is that time of year again. ‘Some’ professional footballers are only just beginning to stir from their booze-fuelled summer slumber. Clubs are gradually ramping up preparations for the new season, putting their players through rigorous training routines, energy-sapping bleep tests and the obligatory low-key friendlies. But whilst this slow incline in intensity builds for players, football fans display behaviour that is much more frantic, impatiently scoping out football rumour pages, hoping to be whipped up into a feverish transfer frenzy, refreshing their preferred social media platform hoping to see a marquee signing unveiled by the club they support so passionately.

At least these days there is plenty of variety in terms of the way transfer news is reported. The repetitive, hypnotic scrolling screen on Sky Sports News or the interaction between players and prospective new clubs has replaced the old school methods of typing 302 into teletext and checking the latest football headlines, or worse still - and I realise I am placing myself in the age bracket that is referred to as ‘A Boro dad’- phoning ClubCall, a service that charged you money to give you the latest rumours associated with your club. I never did ring ClubCall, and I don’t know if it ever yielded results, my preferred method of analysing transfer speculation as a young lad, was reading the back pages of every different newspaper on my paper round and tallying which stories appeared the most.

So, what of Boro’s current transfer situation? Opinions seem to vary from ‘Don’t worry, let’s trust the process and remain patient.’ to ‘Crikey, we could write down the good players we have on the back of one of Djed Spence’s cigar packets!’

Djed Spence is a good place to start when discussing Boro’s summer dealings. A lot will hinge on the outcome of the on-off saga between the Teesside club and Spurs. The Riverside hierarchy are unlikely to want to admit it as it weakens their position in as much as Spurs will feel they can squeeze a deal through for significantly less than the valuation Middlesbrough have in mind.

Finally, last week this deal was reported as having been concluded, with an initial fee of over £12m rising to perhaps £20m after many add-ons. Although at the time of writing we are still awaiting the final rubber stamp of confirmation from both clubs.

Spence had an excellent season on loan at Nottingham Forest, helping them secure Premier League status via the play-offs, but ironically it was his exploits in The FA Cup; a competition Boro thrived in with wins over Man Utd and Spurs, which drew the most praise. Pundits like Ian Wright waxed lyrical about the Forest loanee, and potential suitors began to form a queue for his signature. It is fair to say, that with the emergence of Isaiah Jones, and the recurring question mark over Spence’s attitude, mean that most Boro fans will be comfortable with the sale, providing the price is a fair one. That money would mean that the club could go after players that would suit Wilder’s preferred style, it could include loan signings from Premier league clubs with the added leverage in terms of wage contribution. I think the acquisitions up to this point have been smart, even shrewd if unspectacular.

Darragh Lenihan is obviously a very good leader and Blackburn fans’ reaction is indicative that Boro have secured the services of an excellent player. It also suggests that Wilder feels that there were times where leadership was missing from Boro’s make-up in big games last season. Wilder steadied the ship and steered it in the right direction, but the good ship Boro was rudderless during certain matches and Wilder needed some captains on the pitch to navigate the team through those tough stormy matches.

Ryan Giles has been added to the ranks in a loan deal that will undoubtedly provide Boro with much needed balance on the left. Marc Bola is very competent on the left-hand side, but the general feeling is that Giles will play higher up the pitch, something the manager demands from his wing backs. Giles is also a very good crosser of the ball, something hugely underutilised from the left flank last season, apart from when Tav was redeployed there on the odd occasion. His arrival also lessens the burden on Isaiah Jones and makes Boro less predictable to play against.

Goalkeeper Liam Roberts has joined form Northampton in a position that was in desperate need of attention, and could be joined by Man City stopper Zack Steffen.

So, all in all, some progress has been made, but there are gaping holes at the top end of the pitch and the need for goal scorers has never been greater. Sporar, Balogun and Connolly have returned to their respective parent clubs leaving Wilder with Coburn and Watmore as current first choice forwards. One only made a real breakthrough to the first team squad last season and still has plenty to learn, the other contributes with goals and hard work in spades but is hardly in the talismanic centre forward bracket.

It has always been the same though. Goal scorers are the ones who command the biggest fee, the loftiest wages, because they are so hard to find. They are like gold dust, like rocking horse… well, you know the rest.

To have success this coming season, Boro will need to score more goals, which means investing in at least a couple of strikers to supplement the current crop. Boro have been linked with a plethora of handy hitmen, including Coventry’s Gyokeres and Thomas Henry from Venezia. Eyebrows were raised among the Boro faithful who questioned the suitability of the likes of Henry; a player who stands at 6’4 in a Chris Wilder side, but I am not surprised to see Middlesbrough linked with players who can hold the ball up a little better than most. Too often last season Sporar; a technically sound player was knocked off the ball when it was played up to him. The same could be said of Balogun and Connolly, it consequently meant that the midfielders didn’t have the chance to join and support the attack.

I am sure the striker options will be bolstered, and the situation addressed, it is just a case of whether Boro go out and get what they want or whether they get the strikers that are left available in the market.

At present, Middlesbrough’s one to eleven almost picks itself, except for questions against Paddy McNair’s position (centre back or midfield) and the preferred selection in midfield with Howson, McGree, Tav and Crooks vying for three spots. All other positions are clear. That shows the lack of depth and competition for places, but situations can change very quickly, and one move can prove a catalyst for many more and the Boro faithful must stay patient and carry on believing. In Wilder we trust!

Shaun Rye

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