The Manager's Programme Notes For Boro
Comments courtesy of Manchester City Football Club
A warm welcome to everyone, and especially to the supporters and everybody associated with Middlesbrough FC that have made the journey from Teeside for today`s Barclays Premier League fixture.
The Middlesbrough match is the first game following the end of the recent transfer window, which I think saw this club do some excellent business as well as go close to landing another couple of players.
Wayne Bridge, Craig Bellamy and Nigel de Jong had already brought experience and strength in areas I knew needed addressing by the time Shay Given put pen to paper last Sunday. I have said for a long time that we need the experience of someone like him, and I am delighted that we have been able to acquire such an accomplished keeper. Shay is rightly regarded by many as one of the best in the Premier League, and I think he will help bring the best out of the two outstanding young prospects that we have here in Joe and Kasper. I am looking for them all to grow as a group, and it's important that we have that influence of a senior keeper.
Our other purchases in January added experience in key areas that we knew needed bolstering. You always have targets you are hopeful of getting in a transfer window, but you have to be realistic about the likelihood of bringing each and every one of them in. It is a shame that we could not conclude a deal over Kaka, we also made several well-documented bids for Roque Santa Cruz but in the end that did not happen, and we move on.
Overall I think that we did some good business in this last transfer window, which was as difficult to deal in as it usually is, but bringing in four top quality players like we did was a good result for us. We now know the shape of our squad for the rest of the season, and I think we can kick on from here.
Not being able to add to our strikers does mean that our younger forwards will have the chance to throw their hats into the ring. Ched Evans and Danny Sturridge are returning to full fitness after recent slight knocks, and the fact that they have both impressed at different times earlier in the season does them no harm whatsoever. I am also pleased to report that Valeri Bojinov is getting close to full fitness after his long lay-off, we are hoping to get him involved in some reserve team matches first with a view to having him as an option for our front line before too long.
Last Saturday`s performance at Stoke was extremely disappointing, especially coming so quickly after the good win over Newcastle. In the home game, I thought that Craig Bellamy and Nigel de Jong looked to have fitted in very well, and Craig especially deserved his well-taken goal after showing why we decided to bring him to the Club. Unfortunately, the display against Stoke was not what I expected, especially after we looked like we were in control early on. The goal came at a crucial time and Stoke showed how to make it difficult even if you have a man less than the opposition, but rest assured that we are looking for a big improvement today.
Today`s visitors may have struggled of late, but they got the better of us at the Riverside a few months ago and we will have to get back to how we played against Newcastle quickly. Like myself, Gareth Southgate has gone into management at a relatively young age and has done a good job so far. He has been brave enough to use several graduates of Middlesbrough`s Academy system, and with a player of international class like Stewart Downing in their ranks they are sure to pose a threat today.
Congratulations must go to our Under 18 side for their fine win over Newcastle in the FA Youth Cup last Wednesday. It was a highly-entertaining game and showed yet again what excellent work Jim Cassell, Alex Gibson and everyone at Platt Lane are doing. As I write these notes we don`t know who the opponents in the quarter finals will be, but we have a great chance of retaining the trophy, and as the tie will be at home I hope as many of you as possible can come along to cheer them on when it does take place.
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