For Middlesbrough fans, the Premier League football they used to play seems a long time ago; it is seven years, to be precise, since Boro suffered the drop. However, this season seems to be Boro’s best chance at returning to the big leagues.
The side from North Yorkshire are currently sitting pretty at the top of the Championship, one point off Hull but with enough experience to get them through the rest of the season. Last season they looked to be coming up, only to be beaten by a lucky Norwich side 2-0 in the Play-Off Final at Wembley.
This season Middlesbrough want their own back, and currently look to be one of a few favourites to gain promotion. Aitor Karanka has rebuilt the reputation of this side, and they now look to be replacing fellow Northern rivals Newcastle and Sunderland in the Premier League next season.
Although the goals of Patrick Bamford, who was on loan from Chelsea, have gone, Karanka has continued to rebuild a great side, capable of promotion. The acquisitions of David Nugent, Jordan Rhodes and Stewart Downing can provide the goals and the experience to make this side exciting enough to dazzle the Championship.
Add in the loans of Gaston Ramirez, who will want to take his chance after struggling at Southampton, Richie De Laet, again with a point to prove, Kalas, Agazzi and Sola, it makes Middlesbrough look a very dangerous side.
It won’t be an easy ride, with the Championship proving to be such an unpredictable league. Middlesbrough will have to be at the top of their game for every match, especially considering they still have to face a lot of their promotion rivals. Teams like Hull, Burnley, Ipswich, Birmingham and Brighton could be the make or break on whether Middlesbrough go up automatically or have to fight in the play-offs once again.
Not to mention the tough games against Blackburn, Wolves, QPR and Reading, Middlesbrough will really have to fight for promotion, and not slip up in the games they should win. But after the £9 million signing of Jordan Rhodes, the message is pretty clear: Middlesbrough want to win the league any way they can.
Quite why no other Premier League side has tried to sign Rhodes is beyond me, considering that he has consistently scored over 20 goals over the past few seasons in the Championship. He will be hoping that if he can fire Boro to the top, then people might start to take attention of his talent and appreciate him more. Rhodes could prove to be the missing piece, and if he can link up with Nugent and Downing, then this team will be a force to be reckoned with.
If Boro do not get Premier League football this season, it certainly won’t be due to a lack of trying. the fans can feel the good times coming back, and Karanka has defied the odds in becoming one of the Championship’s best managers since his arrival.
With no FA Cup fixtures to distract them, this really could be Boro’s year, to make it back into the Premier League after the long nine year absence.