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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Let’s Talk About…MIddlesbrough

While the summer window saw Middlesbrough bring in multiple goalkeepers, they also lost one, with Jordan Archer departing for QPR. The Scottish shot-stopper made just five league appearances in his short stint at the club.

Once a £15 million striker, Britt Assombalonga left the club in the summer. The Congo international signed for Adana Demirspor in Turkey. Assombalonga joined Boro from Nottingham Forest for a club-record fee in 2017. He spent four seasons at Middlesbrough, scoring 45 in 152 Championship outings.

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Assombalonga was not the only striker to exit The Riverside Stadium, with Ashley Fletcher joining recently-promoted Watford. Fletcher arrived at Boro in July 2017 for £6.5 million. He spent four years at the club, scoring 19 in 92 games.

Following Sheffield Wednesday’s relegation to League One, they signed two wingers from Middlesbrough. Marvin Johnson and ex-Bluebird Nathaniel Mendez-Laing joined the third-tier side on free transfers. Johnson made 97 league appearances for Boro between 2017-2021, while also enjoying a short loan spell at Sheffield United in 2018-19. Mendez-Laing only joined Middlesbrough in February, signing a short-term deal until the end of last season.

Early on in July, Middlesbrough sold George Saville back to fellow Championship side Millwall for an undisclosed fee. Saville was a regular during his three years at Boro. He re-joined Millwall and is now in his fourth spell at the club.

On Transfer Deadline Day, Boro sold Egyptian international Sam Morsy to Ipswich Town. Morsy joined Boro at the beginning of last season, playing 31 Championship games in 2020-21.

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Boro also loaned out several players, with the most notable being Lewis Wing, Chuba Akpom and Djed Spence. Wing followed Johnson and Mendez-Laing to Sheffield Wednesday, while Akpom headed to Greek side PAOK, and Spence joined Nottingham Forest.

Their captain

Since joining from Norwich City in 2017, Jonny Howson has been an integral part of the Middlesbrough team. The 33-year-old midfielder’s list of clubs is short, having played for just three in his entire career.

He began his playing career at Leeds, first joining the youth system in 1997, aged just nine. He made his senior debut in September 2006 in a League Cup clash with Barnet. Three months later, he was handed his league debut. They drew 0-0 with Hull City, with Howson receiving the Man of the Match award. However, this proved to be a disappointing season for his boyhood club as they were relegated to the third tier for the first time in their history.

Leeds spent three years in League One before winning promotion in 2009-10. Howson was a key figure in that side, missing just one league game. His first season back in the Championship proved to be the most productive of his entire career; he featured in all 46 league games, scoring a career-high 10 league goals.

Jonny Howson, Middlesbrough

He departed Leeds midway through the 2011-12 season, joining Norwich City who had been promoted to the Premier League in the previous season, alongside Swansea City. Norwich enjoyed back-to-back mid-table finishes in his first two seasons but were relegated with Cardiff in 2013-14.

However, Norwich immediately bounced back to the top flight, winning promotion via the play-offs in 2014-15. Howson scored the opener in their 1-1 draw at Ipswich in the first leg. Norwich’s return to the Premier League was short-lived, as they were once again relegated. Howson missed just two Premier League games in their single season back.

He remained at Norwich for one more season, before joining Middlesbrough for an estimated £6 million in 2017. Boro had just been relegated from the Premier League after a one-year stint.

Since arriving at Boro, Howson has played at least 40 Championship games in every season. In 2018-19, he featured in all 46 league outings. He was named captain by Neil Warnock in February 2021, taking over from Britt Assombalonga.

In their 20 league games so far this campaign, Howson has 19 starts and one substitute appearance.

Their manager

Following Neil Warnock’s departure last month, Boro appointed Chris Wilder. Wilder was a high-profile appointment for the club, given his experience managing in the Premier League.

Wilder’s experience in the top flight also extends to his playing career. The former right-back started his senior career at Sheffield United in 1986, playing in the second tier. They were relegated to the third tier in 1988, but back-to-back promotions in 1989 and 1990 saw Wilder receive his first taste of First Division football. He made 20 appearances in the top tier between 1990 and 1992 before departing Rotherham United.

This move saw him drop down to the Second Division (now League One). However, this meant he received more regular football. He made 132 appearances in a four-year spell with the club. He followed this spell with two seasons at Notts County in the same division.

Late on in the 1996-97 season, Wilder moved up to the First Division (now the Championship). He made 42 appearances in just over a year at Bradford City before making his return to Sheffield United.

Once again, his playing time at Sheffield United became limited. He made just 12 league outings in two years, with loan spells at Northampton Town and Lincoln City in 1998-99.

He had a brief spell at fourth-tier side Brighton, before finishing his career at fellow Third Division (now League Two) side Halifax Town.

He retired in 2001, becoming the Halifax Town manager a year later. This came after a brief yet incredibly successful stint at Alfreton Town. He won four trophies in less than seven months at the lower league club before returning to Halifax in July 2002.

He managed Halifax for six years but was forced to depart as the club went into liquidation in June 2008. He was in charge for over 300 games for the side. Wilder became the assistant manager at Bury but left within six months to make his return to management.

Wilder became the Oxford United manager in December 2008. At the time, Oxford were in the National League. They won promotion via the play-offs in his first season, beating York City in the final. Oxford came 12th upon their return to the Football League. They followed that with a ninth-place finish, narrowly missing out on the play-offs after a poor end to the season.

In January 2014, after just over five years at the club, Wilder resigned as Oxford boss. He took over at fellow League Two side Northampton Town. He steered his new side to safety in 2013-14 before winning the League Two title the following season.

However, Wilder departed Northampton shortly after winning promotion. He returned to Sheffield United following Nigel Adkins’ departure. The Blades found themselves in League One. Despite a poor start, Wilder guided his boyhood club to the League One title in his first season, securing a club-record 100 points.

Sheffield United finished mid-table upon their return to the Championship. They spent much of the season in and around the play-offs, but a run of just three wins from their final 12 games saw them drop from sixth to 10th.

However, the next season proved to be far more successful. Despite losing to Swansea at home on the opening day, Wilder led Sheffield United back to the Premier League by finishing second. They spent the majority entire season in the top six.

With the likes of Oli McBurnie joining the club, Sheffield United defied expectations by finishing ninth in their first season back in the top-flight in over a decade. They also reached the FA Cup quarter-finals, losing 2-1 to Arsenal thanks to an injury-time goal from Dani Ceballos.

Unfortunately for Wilder, his second season in the top tier proved to be far less successful. He was sacked in March 2021 with his side sat firmly in 20th place. They failed to win any of their first 17 games, picking up just two points from a possible 51 in that spell. A brief resurgence in January and February saw them beat Newcastle, Manchester United and West Brom, but Wilder was sacked after a run of five losses in six games. Sheffield United went on to win three of their remaining 10 games but still finished 20th.

Despite being linked with various clubs, Wilder remained without a job until November. He replaced Neil Warnock. Since his arrival, they have picked up four points from three games.

Previous meetings with Middlesbrough

2nd December 2020 (A)

The day after Neil Warnock turned 72, his Boro side welcomed Swansea to The Riverside Stadium. A win for the Swans could have seen them rise to first, while a loss could have seen them drop outside the play-offs entirely.

Duncan Watmore opened the scoring for the hosts after 26 minutes when his shot deflected off Marc Guehi. He made it 2-0 midway through the second half after a well-executed counter-attack.

Swansea pulled one back through Yan Dhanda but were unable to find an equaliser.

Final score – Middlesbrough 2-1 Swansea City

 Saturday 6th March 2021

The reverse fixture saw plenty of drama, with Neil Warnock unable to hide his anger with the officiating after the final whistle.

Swansea opened the scoring in the 40th minute when Andre Ayew capitalised on a defensive mix-up from a free-kick.

Boro were harshly denied a well-struck equaliser when Bola’s shot was ruled out for a foul on Jay Fulton. However, they found a goal in the 91st minute when Sam Morsy’s shot wrong-footed Freddie Woodman.

This was not the end of the drama, as the Swans were awarded a 96th-minute penalty after Jake Bidwell was fouled in the area. The referee originally indicated for a corner, before changing his mind at pointing to the penalty spot, much to the dismay of the Boro coaches and players.

Up stepped Andre Ayew to give The Swans all three points in controversial circumstances.

Final score – Swansea City 2-1 Middlesbrough

Match Preview

Once again, Russell Martin has a fully-fit squad to choose from. It is uncertain whether Michael Obafemi will be involved, with the Swans boss criticising his professionalism.

The Swans struggled defensively against Reading, with on-loan Rhys Williams looking off the pace against an Andy Carroll-led side. Swansea had almost 75% possession but failed to make their chances count.

Meanwhile, Middlesbrough will be buoyed by their 2-1 win at Huddersfield Town. Duncan Watmore scored an early brace to put them 2-0 ahead after 23 minutes, before a 93rd minute own-goal from Luke Daniels gave Huddersfield fans something to cheer for.

Both Dael Fry and Martin Payero look set to return for Boro, giving manager Chris Wilder some selection headaches as he too faces a potentially fully-fit squad.

Expect a tricky game, with the two mid-table sides hopeful of a play-off push this season. Swansea are likely to have a lot of the ball but will need to be weary of the likes of Duncan Watmore and James Tavernier.

After the Boro clash, The Swans will see the return of a familiar face as they take on their former manager Steve Cooper. The Welshman, who departed in the summer, now manages Nottingham Forest. Under Cooper, Forest’s results have improved. Cooper’s side travel to the Swansea.com Stadium next weekend.

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1 COMMENT

  1. James Tavanier is the captain of Rangers in Scotland. His younger brother Marcus Tavanier will be more dangerous for the Swans as he plays regularly in the Boro first team. Marcus is aged only 22 but has played around 100 League matches for the Teessiders.

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Matt Williamshttps://mjwwrites.wordpress.com/
My name is Matt Williams. I am a 24-year-old journalism graduate and aspiring sports journalist from South Wales. I am a fan of Swansea City, and regularly write about the team on my own personal blog. I also support the Carolina Panthers, and I am an avid follower of the Welsh national teams in football and rugby.

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