IN his eve-of-season address, manager Tony Pulis alluded to the fact that the start to the season may not be straightforward for Middlesbrough and so it has proved so far.
An opening-day draw at Millwall will have been greeted with relief after a dramatic late comeback saw them claim a point in a fortuitous 2-2 draw, but Pulis provided a dose of realism immediately following the game.
The Welshman made no bones about the fact that Boro must make some significant transfer headway to help turn them into firm automatic promotion candidates – something which he believes they are not.
Boro are currently spinning plates on several fronts, with a new left-back on the wish list, along with midfield and forward reinforcements, and the hole to be caused by the likely exit of Adama Traore to Wolves today will be a cavernous one.
Boro are battling it out with Aston Villa to bring in Bristol City full-back Joe Bryan and West Ham forward Jordan Hugill, with the Teessiders also remaining keen on QPR midfielder Luke Freeman. They have also been linked with a move for Newcastle United winger Matt Ritchie to replace Traore, set to join Wolves in a fee that will eventually be worth £20m.
A three-match opening week of the season must also be negotiated by Boro, who could hand starts to wingers James Tavernier and Lewis Wing tonight against Sheffield United.
The duo both impressed after coming on at Millwall, with former Shildon player Wing rewarded for a strong pre-season with a debut at the New Den.
Ashley Fletcher also made an impact from the bench, with the trio replacing the experienced triumvirate of Grant Leadbitter, Adam Clayton and Stewart Downing for Boro, who are likely to still be without Paddy McNair, Rudy Gestede and Daniel Ayala.
Meanwhile, former captain Ben Gibson has posted an open letter to Boro fans on social media after completing a £15m move to Burnley.
He said: “I would like to thank the club for allowing me the opportunity to move into the Premier League once again. To play in the top flight for Boro and to wear the captain’s armband was one of the proudest moments of my life.
“To be part of the team which got relegated was heart-breaking, and something I will never forgive myself for being a part of. I was desperate for us to return at the first attempt last season, but it was not meant to be.”