BREAKING NEWS : Middlesbrough’s unwanted Championship record that must be broken next season

No team will have more Championship experience than Boro next season, but Michael Carrick and his teammates will be keen to prove it. The time has come for change as Middlesbrough prepares for yet another season in the Championship. The 2024-25 season, which we all hope will result in a successful push for promotion, will be Boro’s 14th in this level in the last 15 years.

This means they will have spent more seasons in the Championship over the last 15 years than any of their competitors next season. Boro’s lone relief from its Championship shroud came in 2016-17, when Aitor Karanka’s side spent one extremely unpleasant season in the Premier League.

Otherwise, Boro and its fans have spent every summer daydreaming about what could be. This time, there are numerous reasons to be more optimistic than normal. Hopefully, Michael Carrick’s preparations for the new season will result in a memorable campaign that will propel the team back into the big boys’ division. Boro has had various bedfellows with whom they have met on a regular basis during the course of 14 years in the Championship. Bristol City, Cardiff City, and Derby County have all played at this level for 13 years, while Blackburn, Millwall, and QPR have done so 12 times.

QPR has spent the previous three seasons in the Premier League, while Blackburn and Cardiff have spent two seasons in the top level. Boro are set to compete in the Championship for the eighth consecutive season after being relegated in 2017. This is also one of the longest recent second-tier runs among next season’s candidates.

Middlesbrough's unwanted Championship record that must be broken next season  - Eric Paylor - Teesside Live

Bristol City, Preston North End, and Queen’s Park Rangers have all spent nine consecutive seasons attempting to leave this league. The fans of these three clubs will be hoping, like the Teesside faithful, that next year will be the one to change the tide.

However, if the opening bookies’ odds are considered as a benchmark, Boro are expected to have a considerably better chance of winning than any of their opponents. Boro are presently ranked among the top six teams in the betting, so we must hope that the bookmakers’ confidence is totally justified.

Despite all of our aspirations and ambitions, Boro has not always been in the best position to launch promotional initiatives over the last 15 years. When Gareth Southgate’s Boro were relegated in 2009, the idea was to create a real challenge for promotion at the first attempt.

Despite the benefits of the parachute payout, Boro were compelled to transfer several of their key players in order

to make their Championship wages more accessible. In fact, Boro sold four players for approximately £30 million. Stewart Downing was unwillingly sold to Aston Villa for £12 million, Robert Huth and Tuncay joined Stoke City for a total of £10 million, and the underachieving Alfonso Aves joined Qatari club Al Sadd for £7 million. Goalkeeper Danny Coyne and striker Leroy Lita arrived on free transfers, while winger Mark Yeates joined for an undisclosed amount.

Middlesbrough's unwanted Championship record that must be broken next season  - Eric Paylor - Teesside Live

Even though Boro chairman Steve Gibson strongly wanted the club to return to the top flight, financial constraints meant that the team was weaker than in the previous season. In some ways, this was acceptable, given that the squad was competing in a lower category of

Boro got off to a wonderful start, going unbeaten in their first four games without surrendering a single goal. Unfortunately, things began to go wrong, and Gibson’s displeasure with Boro’s inability to keep up with the Championship pacesetters resulted in Southgate’s dismissal in October.

He was replaced by Gordon Strachan, who had a strong character with a successful managerial track record. Strachan had done an excellent job at Southampton and won three consecutive Scottish titles with Celtic.

Unfortunately, things did not go well for the Scot on Teesside. Many of the players he brought in over the next year failed to cut it, and Boro never threatened.

to gel as a team. Several seasons of financial hardship followed which more or less put any chance of winning promotion on to the back burner, even though Tony Mowbray temporarily performed miracles by taking a rather ordinary squad to the top of the league at Christmas. Eventually Karanka came in and took the bull by the horns. He brought in a new playing style, used his available cash wisely and built a decent, highly competitive squad. The Spaniard did a great job in winning promotion in his third season in charge, after reaching the play-offs in the middle season.

Even so it’s debatable whether Karanka was right to bring in some of the players he did, and maybe it was a mistake to discard the players who had won promotion so quickly. Again, the squad never really gelled in the Premier League. On the other hand Karanka did build gradually in the Championship and there’s a similarity between his achievements at this level and the route which Carrick has adopted.

The difference is that Karanka had a little more cash to spend. Carrick has needed to use his available cash very wisely indeed. This has meant him bringing in several lads who were short of experience at this level, working hard to give them individual belief and blending them into a team.

In effect Carrick virtually started all over again last summer following his first eight months in charge, when he had still achieved a minor miracle in taking Boro into the play-offs. We now know that financial restrictions were part of the reason why Carrick was forced to oversee a major overhaul last summer. But his policy of handing several young hopefuls a chance to kick start a decent career in the game has so far brought positive results.

The remarkable finale to last season proved that Carrick was getting things right. Now there’s every reason to believe that solid foundations have been laid. Financial constraints will make a further impact this summer but in Carrick and his recruitment team we trust. If Boro can find the right men and further improve the squad then we have every reason to believe that next season can be a momentous one.

For the record, the last 15 years’ stats (listing seasons in Premier, Championship and League One, with others where necessary) are:

Blackburn (2-12-1), Bristol City (0-13-2), Burnley (9-6-0), Cardiff (2-13-0), Coventry (0-7-7-1), Derby (0-13-2), Hull (4-10-1), Leeds (3-11-1), Luton (1-4-1-4-5), BORO (1-14-0), Millwall (0-12-3), Norwich (6-8-1), Oxford United (0-0-8-6-1), Plymouth (0-2-6-7), Portsmouth (1-2-8-4), Preston (0-11-4), QPR (3-12-0), Sheffield United (3-6-6), Sheffield Wednesday (0-11-4), Stoke (9-6-0), Sunderland (8-3-4), Swansea (7-8-0), Watford (6-9-0), West Brom (9-6-0).

Interestingly, the quality of enjoyment enjoyed by supporters may be measured by awarding five points for Premier League seasons, four for Championship seasons, and so on. Boro has 61 points in 15 seasons, which implies a decent standard of football for spectators to enjoy. Burnley, West Brom, and, strangely, Stoke are all tied for first place with 69 points.
Luton and Oxford are trailing in the entertainment stakes, with 37 points each, despite the fact that both teams have spent time outside of the Football League. Ironically, the Hatters are among the favourites to return to the top flight, which is understandable given the perks of parachute payments.

While Boro will not profit from this additional cash, they do have a manager and a potentially strengthened squad that are focused on moving the club forward.

Boro must break free from their Championship bonds.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.