Monk’s men must be up for the fight
IT SHOULD amaze none of us that nothing ever works out as expected in the game of football.
If the bookies’ summer predictions had proved correct, Boro would now find themselves a few points clear at the top of the Championship.
They may still win promotion of course. Certainly Boro’s squad is at least a match for anybody else in the league.
Yet if Garry Monk’s men are going to return to the Premier League at the first attempt then they must prepare for a seasonlong war of attrition.
While some fans might have expected the major potential competition to come from the like of Hull, Sunderland and Aston Villa, in fact it has emerged elsewhere.
Revitalised Leeds and Cardiff have hit the ground running, while Sheffield United, Wolves and Preston also have reason to dream of the Premier League.
Monk must cast a wry smile when he looks across at the events at Elland Road.
Instead of masterminding the Boro revival, he could easily have been leading former club Leeds forward this summer.
I don’t suggest for one minute Monk has any regrets about making his switch to Teesside.
He has thoroughly committed himself to the job in hand and should feel pleased with the quality of the squad he has put together, in addition to its promotion prospects.
One thing which Monk can bank on at Boro is a settled and supportive boardroom. It’s something he did not have at Leeds under Massimo Cellino, who was regarded as an eccentric owner.
Cellino has since sold out to Andrea Radzizzani, while new Leeds manager Thomas Chris
tiansen appears to have Garry Monk giving instructions to his Boro players at the Riverside yesterday made a big impact in the Leeds dressing room.
It’s ironic most of Christiansen’s signings have been recommended by director of football Victor Orta, who was with the Teessiders last season.
Boro first meet Leeds at Elland Road in mid-November. It promises to be an absolute cracker of an atmosphere.
Another big threat to Boro’s promotion push is being led by Neil Warnock, who has completely revitalised Cardiff City’s fortunes. Warnock has an uncanny habit of building highly successful teams in the Championship almost overnight.
The Bluebirds visit the Riverside in mid-October – another game which will be seen as a promotion six-pointer.
Then there’s the likes of promoted Sheffield United, who have made a lightning start under Chris Wilder, plus moneybags Wolves and Preston – who outplayed Boro at the Riv- erside two weeks ago. Nobody for one minute expects Boro to “smash the Championship”, especially following early results. In fact the Teessiders might find the going tougher than in their last promotion experience.
However, bearing in mind the quality which Monk has amassed, you still wouldn’t want to bet against Boro winning a place back in the top flight once this new-look squad has gelled.