Why Martin Braithwaite will dazzle for Boro in the Championship
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.
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.
REAL DEAL: Former Toulouse man Martin Braithwaite is tipped to make a big impact with, inset, Britt Assombalonga
WINNER: Garry Monk