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Middlesbrough made a mistake by appointing Tony Pulis

Tony Pulis has experienced a disappointing start to life at the Riverside Stadium.

Jake Jackman

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Middlesbrough
Photo: Getty Images

Middlesbrough are at risk of missing out on the play-offs after a disappointing away loss to Sheffield United this week.

The defeat means that Tony Pulis’ side have taken only five points from their last five fixtures.

At this stage of the season, momentum is a huge factor and the Teesside club have lost theirs.

Meanwhile, Millwall have won nine of their last 11 matches and haven’t lost in the Championship since the first day of the year.

This season was all about promotion for Middlesbrough and their summer recruitment highlighted that.

The relegated club spent just over £50 million, according to transfermarket.co.uk, and started the season as the favourites to win the Championship.

It is a thankless task to return at the first attempt and only five clubs have managed it during the past five seasons, with only two of those finishing in the automatic promotion places.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Although Middlesbrough have been competing in the top half for the majority of the season, they haven’t stood out as one of the better teams in the division.

They are currently 23 points behind league leaders Wolves and that is a testament to the challenges posed by the division.

Tony Pulis was appointed in December and it was an appointment made with the view of becoming an established Premier League club as he has never been relegated as a manager.

However, he has only won promotion from the second tier once and that came ten years ago.

As years past, managers become pigeonholed as specialists at certain jobs and his spell at Middlesbrough suggests that the Welshman is better suited to fire-fighting at the bottom of the top-flight rather than challenging for promotion to it.

That is in contrast to managerial peers Neil Warnock and Steve Bruce.

Neither have managed to have Pulis’ success in the Premier League, but they have both become renowned for thriving in the Championship.

During his 20-match spell at the club, Pulis has led the club to nine victories.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

To put this into context, his win percentage of 45% is only fractionally higher than the 42.86% he managed with Crystal Palace when fighting relegation.

Considering the quality in the Boro squad and ambitions of the club, to win less than half of the matches in charge is disappointing.

It is interesting to note that Middlesbrough have kept only six clean sheets in that period of matches and that is a worrying sign for Pulis.

He is a manager known for making teams difficult to beat and it appears that he is struggling to marry that while threatening in attack.

In his previous jobs, there has been less pressure to play attacking football as the objective was to remain rather than progress.

The team selected to play against Sheffield United showed the quality that remains at the club.

Ben Gibson, Jonny Howson, Stewart Downing and Adama Traore were all in the starting eleven among others.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Traore has been a revelation this season and benefitted from a season outside of the Premier League, but a better coach would be able to get more from him and the rest of the attack.

They have four matches remaining and their fate remains in their own hands, as they have Millwall left to play at the Riverside Stadium.

That is shaping up to be a huge match during the penultimate week of the regular season.

At the time of writing, there is only one winner on paper and that isn’t Middlesbrough.

There was logic behind appointing Pulis. He is an experienced Premier League manager who is very good at stabilising a team in the top flight.

In time, Middlesbrough will need this, but he isn’t the right fit for the club right now and that will be clear if they miss out on a play-off position.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Fulham

Why Aboubakar Kamara will be vital to Fulham’s play-off final success

The 23-year-old could prove Fulham’s secret weapon at Wembley.

Max Cohen

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Aboubakar Kamara
Photo; Getty Images

Although Denis Odoi and Ryan Sessegnon stole the headlines in the aftermath of Fulham’s 2-0 play-off semi-final win over Derby, perhaps the standout player that night was right winger Aboubakar Kamara.

The 23-year-old Frenchman was drafted into the starting lineup for the first time since January, and produced an all-action performance that was filled with power, pace, and trickery.

And in the Cottagers’ upcoming play-off final, the winger will be vital to Fulham’s success if he can replicate his semifinal heroics against Aston Villa.

Kamara joined Fulham last summer after gaining promotion to Ligue 1 with French side Amiens, and divided opinion early on during his stay at Craven Cottage. There was no doubting his natural gifts and ability, yet often his composure and technique was left severely lacking.

A inconsistent fall was followed by a prolific winter, in which the Frenchman scored five goals during a four match spell in December and January.

(Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images)

But the arrival of Aleksandar Mitrovic on transfer deadline day relegated Kamara to the bench, where he mainly stayed until the penultimate match of the regular season against Sunderland.

In that match, Kamara’s introduction completely changed the course of the game and helped the Whites come back to win from a 1-0 first half deficit.

But in the ensuing two matches, manager Slavisa Jokanovic did not hand the attacker a place in the starting XI and Fulham proceeded to lose against Birmingham City and Derby.

And then Kamara truly announced himself in the second leg at the Cottage, offering an excellent offensive outlet all match long, terrorising the defence with his bursts of acceleration, and linking up superbly with Mitrovic and Sessegnon.

The 23-year-old provided the spark the Whites were missing in the first leg of the semifinal; this offensive firepower will also be priceless in the final against Villa.

The thought of a confident Aboubakar Kamara running full pelt at a helpless Alan Hutton is a delightful image for the Fulham faithful, who will hope the Frenchman can continue his excellent recent form and lead the club to the Premier League.

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Crystal Palace

Ryan Fredericks would be perfect for Crystal Palace if Fulham lose at Wembley

The 25-year-old has earned praise for his performances throughout the season.

Josh Kerr

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Ryan Fredericks
Photo: Getty Images

Fulham defender Ryan Fredericks is just days away from the biggest game of his career and yet the 25-year-old is still being linked with a move away from Craven Cottage.

According to the Evening Standard, the 25-year-old has emerged as a target for Crystal Palace as the Englishman reaches the end of his Cottagers contract.

The former Tottenham prospect helped his current side reach the play-off final last week. However, if the Cottagers are to miss out at Wembley then he may be tempted to consider offers from the top-flight.

The full-back is still yet to sign a new deal and after 47 appearances and an impressive seven assists this season, he has quickly has emerged as one of the hottest properties in the EFL Championship.

After making the PFA Championship Team of the Year, Fredericks remains one of Slavisa Jokanovic’s most important players and if they are to fall short at the final hurdle then Crystal Palace would be the perfect destination for the right-back to play in England’s top flight.

(Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

With Joel Ward likely to leave Selhurst Park next month and, despite Aaron Wan-Bissaka performing well since making the jump from the academy, Fredericks could be a long-term addition at full-back. With his contract soon up at Craven Cottage, he could be one of the bargains of the summer window.

Roy Hodgson and his sporting director Dougie Freedman were even in attendance as Fulham beat Derby 2-0 on Monday to set up the showdown with Steve Bruce’s Villa, which will have sparked the former England international’s attention.

Fredericks started his career in north London with Tottenham Hotspur, progressing through the club’s academy system before signing a professional contract in 2010.

However, an exit from the Lilywhites and a number of loan moves left the young full-back frustrated with game time and it was fellow London side Fulham who eventually took a gamble – a risk that has paid dividends ever since.

The versatile defender has one appearance for England’s Under-19 side to his name, and he is eligible to play for Guyana.

Whether Hodgson swoops for Fredericks could be decided on Saturday. The Fulham defender will likely commit his future to Craven Cottage should Fulham win at Wembley, but the Premier League will remain a possibility even if Jokanovic’s side are unsuccessful.

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Bristol City

Sam McQueen linked but losing Joe Bryan would hurt Bristol City

The Englishman has been at Ashton Gate since 15 years of age.

Josh Kerr

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Joey Bryan
Photo: Getty Images

According to the Bristol Post, Bristol City are being linked with Southampton‘s Sam McQueen as the club’s replacement for full-back Joe Bryan, meaning the South-West club could be preparing for life without the 24-year-old, who has made over 229 appearances for the club.

The Robins ultimately look set to lose Bryan during the summer transfer window with Burnley, Everton and Aston Villa all keen on signing the left-back. With only a year left on his contract at Ashton Gate, the club could be tempted to cash-in for the home grown defender, for a fee of around £6 million.

Despite McQueen being a sensible replacement for City, his arrival wouldn’t quite soften the blow of losing Bryan, who has quickly established himself as one of the best all-round defenders in the EFL Championship.

The full-back has been with the side since he was 15 years of age and has gone on to become one of their most important players. Many will remember the 24-year-old’s wonder strike to help beat Premier League giants Manchester United in the Carabao Cup quarter-final, after a display that saw him named man-of-the-match.

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Losing a player of his calibre will not help the club’s attempts to challenge for the play-offs next season. Considering the club were in contention for a top two place as recently as Christmas, it is difficult to comprehend the board selling one of their best players.

The Robins sat second in the Championship during the festive period but went on to finish a disappointing 11th after only picking up 20 points from their final 22 games.

Lee Johnson reportedly sees McQueen, who was told he can quite St Mary’s this summer, as the most likely replacement for Bryan this summer, if the right offer comes in for the latter’s services.

The Saints defender played 22 times in the 2017/18 season, mostly from the bench, but is a player who could definitely prove his worth.

At 23, he still has years to improve and with a full Championship season under his belt, he could emerge a shrewd replacement for long-term servant Bryan.

However, the news won’t float well with City fans who would prefer to keep their homegrown player, rather than attempt to replace him.

Nonetheless, with a year left on his contract, cashing in on the £6 million talent, while bringing in Sam McQueen, could prove a smart piece of business from the Robins.

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