Noel Whelan is hoping that new Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate can bring attacking football back to the Riverside and believes new assistant manager Robbie Keane can get the best out of striker Britt Assombalonga.
Middlesbrough had been searching for a new manager since the club decided not to renew Tony Pulis’ contract, after he failed to guide the team to promotion from the Championship last season.
Boro finished seventh in the Championship table, one point outside the play-off places, after spending most of the season inside the top six and many fans had grown frustrated with Pulis’ defensive style of football.
Woodgate has no previous experience as a manager at senior level, but did work as a first-team coach under Pulis last season and has chosen to appoint former striker Keane as his assistant.
Former Middlesbrough forward Whelan is hoping that Boro’s new-look coaching set-up will be able to bring attacking football back to the Riverside and believes Keane will be able to get the best out of Assombalonga.
“I’m really pleased for Jonathan Woodgate – a fan of the club, a player of the club, a captain of the club, a coach of the club and now becoming manager,” Whelan told Football Insider.
“The good thing about it is that he’s brought in Robbie Keane as well. I did feel it was a little bit defensive heavy within the coaching staff. I think that will bring the best out of Assombalonga as well, with Robbie Keane there.
“If you’ve got that nice balance of attack and defence within the ranks because I do think they needed that attacking side as well. Last season, I think the fans will agree, it was very dull football to watch at the Riverside.
“Hopefully Woody can get that fine balance – that discipline you’d expect at the back but that creativity and excitement that the Boro fans are used to watching up front.”
Assombalonga scored 16 goals for Middlesbrough in all competitions last season and has finished as the club’s top scorer in each of his two seasons at the Riverside, after he joined from Nottingham Forest in 2017.
I completely agree with Whelan. Middlesbrough fans had grown tired of Pulis’ defensive style of football and it has been clear that a change of approach has been needed at the club for some time.
Boro fans will hope that Woodgate can bring that change and he could be a good appointment for them.
Obviously he has no previous experience as a manager, so there is an element of risk there, but he impressed as a coach under Pulis last season.
I think it was a smart move from Woodgate to bring in Keane as his assistant and hopefully the striker will be able to use all his experience as a player to get the best out of Assombalonga.