Boro Need To Start Quickly in the Nine Game Season
By Robert Nichols
Saturday 20 Jun 2020 10:38:00
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High noon for Boro as we restart the season this afternoon against Swansea City. Kick off 12.30pm. Can we pick up where we left off with that win away at Charlton? Can we keep ourselves 2 points ahead of the relegation pack? Here goes with the start of what Jonathan Woodgate is describing as a nine game season.

Having faced up to the realities of COVID 1 the Championship resumes for Boro but that means playing in front of an empty Riverside. It will be the same for all clubs of course but just how will the lack of fans and atmosphere play out? In Germany it appears there is little or no home advantage now. But hopefully that will not be the case for Jonathan Woodgate's team.

Talking about the pandemic situation the Boro head coach said:

“It is huge, we are at the back end of the COVID19 scenario but it is has been tough for everyone associated with the football club. But we always had the idea that we would get back to playing.”

Woodgate played down the difficulties the new normal has imposed on the players and staff.

“At the start (coming back) was difficult but now it is the new norm (protocols etc). We are very accustomed to it now. We get tested twice a week. We know the protocols. At the minute we are all getting on with it.”

“It is a 9 game season that is how we are taking it.” That is how Woodgate describes the approach taken by the club. “We have been out of action for 3 months,” he continued. “It is a nine game season. OK you have the same players but the players have different mentalities and different positions in the league but it is a nine game season now. So, you have to start quick.”

And that could well be the key. Make a quick impression on this new mini season, chalk up the points and keep that safety distance in tact to the bottom three.

But Woodgate also feels it is vitally important teams start quickly in games because of lack of fitness and match fitness can tell later in games.

“I watched both Premier games and I thought the intensity was a lot less than it has been. Maybe because of the fans situation and maybe because of the fitness of the players. You have to remember they have had 4 weeks to prepare but being off for 3 months is totally different. You can do all the straight line running but when you have a ball at your feet it is a totally different ball game. So players will lack fitness. Arsenal looked like they picked up two injuries as well last night. I think you will see that throughout the Championship and Premier League as well, moving forward. Players will get injured a lot more.”

There will be no Dani Ayala today, he will be a big miss for the team. Woodgate wanted to clear up that situation at the press conference.

“Dani hasn't been a problem. We offered Dani a contract in November/October time and he didn't want to sign it. I have no problem with that at all. Dani has been injured now for I would say around six months. He trained with the team for the first few days when we were social distancing and his ankle got sore. Dani said to me that he would be available to play in June but he wouldn't play in July. And that is the whole truth of the matter.”

Ayala apart it will be a full squad to pick from and that includes Patrick Roberts, fit again. He will likely have to be nurtured through the first few games, as he is only just back from longterm injury. But the Man City man can be a key player, his direct running style brought two penalties in successive home games until injury rocked his and Boro's progress.

This will be a big miss for the fans this afternoon, now having to adjust to watching streams rather than being at the game. For Nick Waites it will be his first match missed home or away since Ayresome Park, for me it will be the first since 1999. But that was a victory over Southampton in the Premier so hopefully that is a good omen.

About playing without support Woodgate had this to say:

“The players have got to react well (to behind closed doors) at the end of the day. We play pre-season friendlies at times behind closed doors so its nothing different to that. We have had in-house games where there are no fans. Listen, it will be difficult but we will have to live with it, it is what it is, now.”

And finally what of opponents, Swansea City?

They certainly have plenty to play for and as they hope to press towards a play off finish they have had a pretty impressive season under Steve Cooper.

“We have watched a lot of Swansea's previous games and they have got some really talented players in Conor Gallagher and Matt Grimes in central midfielder, they are a good young squad, they have had a good season and have done well. They are pushing for promotion, 3 points off the play offs at the moment. So, we need to be on top form.”

Boro were defeated 3-1 in South Wales but in a funny sort of way we can take heart from the performance away at Swansea last year when we hit back through a super strike by Tavernier. We would likely have gone on to turn the tables if it had not been for two red cards which turned the game into a rout for the home team.

Woodgate finished his press conference with a rallying cry.

“Every game is important and that starts against Swansea on Saturday and that is the biggest game for us. And that's all we are concentrating on.”

Thousands of Boro fans will be glued to their laptops and phones hoping for a big start in this mini season and 3 points to grow that gap and pull away from the relegation zone.

Come On Boro and (Staying) Up The Boro



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