ADAM VIRGO

Why Martin Braith­waite will daz­zle for Boro in the Cham­pi­onship

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

MID­DLES­BROUGH are the stand­out team in the Cham­pi­onship this year. And, in for­ward Martin Braith­waite, they’ve made one of the sum­mer’s best sign­ings.

Bought from Toulouse for a hefty £9m, the 26year-old Dane looks tai­lor-made to tear up the Cham­pi­onship.

When I work as a pun­dit for BT, they pre­dom­i­nantly give me Ligue 1, so I watched him play five or six times last sea­son.

In the fi­nal third, he’s tremen­dously ex­cit­ing. He can check in on both sides, he can run past peo­ple, he can shoot, play through the lines. He’s ba­si­cally a younger, quicker ver­sion of Ste­wart Down­ing.

The French League is quite slow, so when you’ve got a bit of pace it’s easy to stand out. That’s pos­si­bly why a Premier League club didn’t take a punt.

But Garry Monk doesn’t do im­pulse sign­ings. He’s clearly done his home­work and de­cided Braith­waite is the real deal.

Yes, it’s a lot of money. But he’s had two very good years at Toulouse. When he’s started, teams have backed off. When he’s been dropped, usu­ally for tac­ti­cal rea­sons, he’s come on and made a mas­sive dif­fer­ence.

Ex­pe­ri­ence

With him and £15m sign­ing Britt As­som­ba­longa in tan­dem, Boro fi­nally have the kind of at­tack­ing threat fans craved un­der the ul­tra-de­fen­sive Ai­tor Karanka.

And, in re­ject­ing a cou­ple of Premier League bids for cap­tain Ben Gib­son, they’ve also kept that back four rel­a­tively in­tact.

Pa­trick Bam­ford can score goals in this di­vi­sion. Jonny How­son, a £5m sum­mer sign­ing from Nor­wich, has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence. So do Grant Lead­bit­ter and Ge­orge Friend. To be hon­est, I think he could have joined a Premier League club and been a de­cent squad player.

But in the Cham­pi­onship, he’ll shine. His raw pace, his un­pre­dictabil­ity, the fact no­body re­ally knows who he is – he’s go­ing to cause de­fend­ers lots and lots of prob­lems.

Like Nor­wich a cou­ple of years ago, they came down with a squad full of top­class Cham­pi­onship play­ers and then bought some more. It’s a po­tent cock­tail that should en­sure pro­mo­tion.

Yet, for all the mil­lions spent on play­ers, Boro’s best sign­ing of the sum­mer is man­ager Garry Monk. It’s an­other Steve Gib­son mas­ter­stroke.

A lot of Premier League clubs were look­ing for man­agers this sum­mer and I’m sure he’d have been on their short lists.

What he did at Leeds last year was mag­nif­i­cent. Let’s be hon­est. that was a solid, un­spec­tac­u­lar group of play­ers. Man for man, plenty of sides were bet­ter. But Garry wrung the best out of ev­ery in­di­vid­ual.

Yes, they re­lied on Chris Wood. When his goals dried up, they faded out of the play-offs. But, with­out the unity and sta­bil­ity Garry in­stilled, I don’t think they’d have been up there in the first place.

He got Leeds back to where they should be – a force in the Cham­pi­onship – and I think he’ll get Mid­dles­brough back into the Premier League.

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

REAL DEAL: Former Toulouse man Martin Braith­waite is tipped to make a big im­pact with, inset, Britt As­som­ba­longa

WIN­NER: Garry Monk

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