Middlesbrough’s summer transfer window is about much more than strengthening the first team squad.
Four years have passed since the club suffered relegation from the Premier League, and unfortunately for supporters, the club have been paying the price for their short-sighted recruitment strategy ever since.
Aitor Karanka’s reign at the club saw the Teessiders build a carefully-assembled squad of players who worked well as a unit and bought into the culture of everything that a small working class town in Northern England should represent in a football team.
What followed in the years since was a reckless, headline-grabbing approach to transfer business where the club opted for big individual names instead of players who would contribute effectively to the team effort.
Fans won’t need reminding of how disappointing the last few years have been at the Riverside Stadium, but thankfully the club are now in a position where they can start their rebuilding process from scratch again.
Big-money signings have dominated Middlesbrough’s wage budget in recent season with players such as Britt Assombalonga, Ashley Fletcher, Daniel Ayala, Martin Braithwaite and others failing to get close to providing ‘bang for your buck’ with inconsistency plaguing the side during those years.
Hefty wages meant it was nearly impossible to sell those players with Championship clubs unable to afford them and Premier League clubs failing to be convinced that they are capable of improving their already elite squads.
Despite decent early work from Tony Pulis and Jonathan Woodgate, Neil Warnock has overseen the final stage of the stripping down process of Middlesbrough’s squad.
Players such as Assombalonga, Fletcher and Marvin Johnson have moved on this summer, meaning that Jonny Howson is the only surviving member of the first team squad that took to life in the Championship back in the summer of 2017.
20 facts about Middlesbrough’s top five most expensive signings – Are they true or false?
Signing new players will now be the key focus for the summer, but you can be assured that the club won’t be making the same expensive mistakes again.
Instead of big-name, expensive players Middlesbrough will be looking for cost-effective, functional additions who can come in and do an immediate job for Neil Warnock’s side.
Bringing in a new striker is a top priority this summer and while the usual preference is to sign someone who will get supporters pumped up and excited for the new campaign, this time they’ll be taking a different approach.
Reports from Teesside Live have claimed that Rotherham United’s Michael Smith is one of the players on the club’s list.
Ten goals in a season isn’t a bad tally for a side who suffered relegation from the Championship, but at the age of 29 he would bring a consistent physical and tactical threat which would no doubt see him be a success under Warnock.
If Middlesbrough can attract players who will put in 7/10 performances week in, week out then they’ll be in a very strong position come the end of the season. Compared to the hit-and-miss nature of previous signings, the new approach should see the Teessiders establish themselves as a team who can challenge near the top over the course of a full season.
Fans may not be licking their lips at the names emerging as transfer targets, but the landscape of the game has changed and Middlesbrough must adapt or risk going the same way as other household names in the EFL.