Friday, 3 August 2012

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

Safely back on Planet Boro after a brief dalliance with international football, the new look Si's Insights muses on Boro's progress in the transfer market...

Hello everyone!

While I've been taking a break from football matters to focus on other things, and give the site a little bit of a facelift (all feedback welcome, of course!) the "greatest sporting show on earth", the London 2012 Olympics, are enthralling everyone on home soil and beyond. Even the GB football squads are doing us proud.

But the last month or so has been equally compelling for Boro fans. During the summer, we've seen not one, not two, but seven new faces stroll through the Ayresome Gates.

The cynical among us would say that Grant Leadbitter's arrival is a continuation of Boro's policy of signing, or trying to sign, players who tend to score and/or play well against us. But a closer look suggest that this is a tidy bit of business on Tony Mowbray's behalf as the 26-year old midfielder, who can certainly hit them from distance, will be an ideal replacement for the now-departed Barry Robson. The Sunderland connection should not be an issue.

Of course, the most publicity has centred around the return of "prodigal son" Jonathan Woodgate, and although his history makes me worry if his heart is truly in the cause, it's great to have him back. Likewise Stuart Parnaby, who I once suggested should never really have left Boro in the first place – as good as Luke Young was, Parns had already proved himself in Europe, and genuinely has Boro in his blood. Again, cynics will say that both players have signed because no other club will take them at this stage of their careers (indeed, Parnaby has been unattached for a whole year), but we know what they can do. So why not give them a chance? We'll need them, too, especially now that Mogga has allowed Tony McMahon to go. Of course, I might be overrating him because he is local, but I'll always believe that he was never given a fair crack of the whip under Mogga. And now he never will be.

Woodgate's return takes on even more significance with Stephen McManus having no future at the club and Matthew Bates's entire career, let alone new deal, in the balance. And luckily, Woody’s not the only defender we’ve signed. Yes, Boro have a new Friend! George Friend, that is. The former Doncaster captain was his club’s Player Of The Year last season, and that alone should give us reason to be hopeful, even if he’s only played an hour's worth of top-flight football. (Besides, his surname is a boon to both journalists and Inbetweeners' fans.)

Emmanuel Ledesma, meanwhile, seems a little like a lower league Tuncay; he once scored a hat-trick against an English club, and, like Leadbitter before him, he's looked pretty impressive in pre-season. Although pre-season friendly matches, where neither the defending nor goalkeeping is fully up-to-scratch, hardly help one form the best opinion of new signings, so it's best to reserve judgment for now. Similar things can be said of Mustapha Carayol, whose reputation has been built on lower league performances. As for Christian Burgess, his professional career's only just beginning; we might not even see him in the first team this season.

It's all very up in the air, as are the futures of some more of our playing staff. Can we afford to keep Nicky Bailey and especially Scott McDonald for much longer? McDonald's looking very sharp in pre-season, but his goal tally over the past two and a half seasons isn't worthy of the kind of wages he’s on. And what will become of Kevin Thomson? Will we manage to offload him, or will he be able to shake off the sick note tag and finally fulfill his "promise"?

Furthermore, while it's admirable that five of our signings – Burgess, Parnaby, Woodgate, Leadbitter and Ledesma – have arrived on a free, there appears to be an imbalance in Mogga's signings. It feels like he's signing a completely new side, but it also feels like we’re overloading on one flank at the expense of the other. Friend, Carayol and Burgess are all left-sided players, as are Andy Halliday, Cameron Park, Adam Reach, Joe Bennett and Julio Arca. That leaves Rhys Williams, Seb Hines and Parnaby as our only right-sided options, unless we convince Justin Hoyte to re-sign (something I didn’t really want to happen, but if needs must...) and Marvin Emnes to play as a right-winger. That, in turn, would leave us short up front, especially with Lukas Jutkiewicz missing the start of the season.

Perhaps, despite Ledesma's (and Luke Williams') undoubted attacking talent, an extra striker or right-winger wouldn’t go amiss...

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