Neil Warnock will need every trick in his book to get Middlesbrough back to the top

YOU do not reach Neil Warnock’s stage of managerial life without being canny.
Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock (left) (Picture: PA)Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock (left) (Picture: PA)
Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock (left) (Picture: PA)

The Middlesbrough manager is as streetwise as they come and his ability to inject fight, belief and togetherness into drifting dressing rooms precedes him.

Instead of venting his spleen at Boro’s lack of inward transfer activity thus far, Warnock has applied balm and has cleverly concentrated on what he has got as opposed to what he has not.

Psychologically, it is a smart move to start with.

Middlesbrough's Britt Assombalonga (left) celebrates scoring (Picture: PA)Middlesbrough's Britt Assombalonga (left) celebrates scoring (Picture: PA)
Middlesbrough's Britt Assombalonga (left) celebrates scoring (Picture: PA)
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Boro’s squad may have deficiencies – it is definitely short of a defensive leader or two and looks a striker light – but it is also one that has quality in other areas as Warnock will attest.

Neither is he panicking at missing out on several targets to rivals, including Kieffer Moore, Joe Williams and Charlie Goode.

The training ground esprit de corps was noticeable towards the end of last season when Warnock picked up a group of demoralised players rather than knocked them down in a season which nearly ended in relegation.

He metaphorically put an arm around the shoulders of the likes of Britt Assombalonga, Marcus Tavernier and Marvin Johnson and has offered potential lifelines to the likes of Marcus Browne.

Big season - Ashley Fletcher. (Picture: Frank Reid)Big season - Ashley Fletcher. (Picture: Frank Reid)
Big season - Ashley Fletcher. (Picture: Frank Reid)
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Goalscoring was the big issue for Boro last term. Warnock has sagely realised that strikers hunt in pairs with the sight of Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher – good friends off the pitch – paired together in 2020-21 making complete sense.

Under Warnock’s successors, the duo – signed with a mandate to take Boro to promotion in that infamous 2017-18 season when Steve Gibson announced the club’s intentions to ‘smash the league’ – have never been given the time to build a lasting partnership at the top end.

They comfortably look Boro’s best bet and at key junctures in their careers – at 24 and 27 respectively – both need to kick on and have someone seemingly in their corner again in Warnock.

If Boro are to make moves in the right direction, home form will need to be taken care of with their last Riverside league victory arriving on Boxing Day.

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It is a statistic Warnock has mentioned several times over and clearly rankles with him.

It remains to be seen if Boro have an impact in the upper echelons of the table. But they are certainly in safe hands.

Warnock, for his part, will do it his way. At his time of life, he won’t be worrying too much. Expect him to have fun as well.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson

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