Manager: Tony Mowbray
Ins: Mustapha Carayol (undisclosed amount), George Friend (undisclosed amount), Emmanuel Ledesma (free transfer), Jonathan Woodgate (free transfer), Stuart Parnaby (free transfer), Grant Leadbitter (free transfer)
Outs: Tony McMahon (free transfer), Jonathan Grounds (free transfer), Jonathan Franks (free transfer)
Strengths: Tony Mowbray. It’s not always a good thing to have a legendary player return to a squad as a manager – Niall Quinn, for example, did little for Sunderland as their interim manager but was a well-loved striker for the Black Cats back in the day.
Local rivals Middlesbrough have proved to be the exception to this rule so far, however, with Mowbray leading Boro from the depths of relegation to mid-table safety in the 2010/11 season. And he’s been getting stronger as a manager ever since, as new signing George Friend acknowledged on the club’s official website.
Middlesbrough finished just outside the play-off places last season and Tony Mowbray is building a really strong squad here. I took that into account when deciding to move here because my ambition is to help this club achieve promotion.
Weaknesses: Can they keep the pace up all season? Middlesbrough fans must have been having dreams of away days at Old Trafford, the Emirates, Stamford Bridge and the like when their club went on an 11-game unbeaten run at the start of last season.
But then the bubble burst and Boro quickly slipped from being in a prime position to grab an automatic promotion place to sitting outside the top six of the Championship. A worthy time to mention that a domestic campaign is a marathon and not a sprint, we believe.
Last season’s performance: Such a painful one for Middlesbrough’s supporters. Having started the 2011/12 campaign with a bang, the side’s charge to the Premier League suddenly came to a shuddering halt and Boro finished the season in 7th place – five points adrift of the play-offs. How the mighty fall.
If they were a celebrity: Cheryl Cole. Bit of a controversial one here, comparing a passionate Geordie to the Boro squad. But they are quite alike in that they have both suffered a fall from grace recently.
There was a time when everything that Cheryl touched seemed to turn to gold – Girls Aloud, her judging position on the British X Factor, her relationship with Ashley Cole.
But then Ashley played around – how Cheryl was not enough we still don’t know – the singer was slammed for her miming in live performances, and she was kicked off the US X Factor because Americans couldn’t understand her accent. What a harsh turnaround.
You might not have known: Tony Mowbray has definitely been loyal to his hometown club of Middlesbrough. In his playing career, he appeared in more than 300 games for Boro, between his professional debut in 1982 and his exit in 1991. It’s not often you get this kind of loyalty from players.
Championship title odds: 20/1