When I occasionally stray into some form of mild criticism of how Middlesbrough is run, I’m subjected to dismissive responses along the lines of “who are you to tell Steve Gibson how to run a business?”
The problem with this response is that a) Steve Gibson’s success was with Bulkhaul and b) that success hasn’t always been transferred to his running of the Boro.
I was left reflecting on these points as a third transfer window slammed shut on Wednesday evening.
Boro are onto their third different manager in successive windows and once again the deck has been shuffled to suit the new man in charge.
Given the transfer turnover and subsequent turmoil is it any wonder we’re yet to see a settled Boro side since the early part of 2016/17 season?
In that time, players have come and gone to suit the radically different tactical thoughts of each new man at the helm.
Performances and results have suffered and a team tipped for promotion would now be delighted to simply make the play-offs.
Players who were mainstays of the Garry Monk regime have been moved on and, for a team that has struggled to score, the decisions taken since, by Tony Pulis, are somewhat baffling.
Cyrus Christie had shown himself to be a good attacking full back at this level and was excellent in the early part of the season before his form dipped to match the team’s league position.
Meanwhile, Martin Braithwaite, heir apparent to the troublesome creative midfielder position, has been shipped out on loan to French first division outfit Bordeaux.
Both players were only signed in the summer, the Danish international for £9 million, and have since moved on from Teesside after less than a six month stay.
Braithwaite may have been inconsistent, but he was perhaps the only player of his kind in the Boro squad – one with the skill to unlock a tight defence.
Bearing in mind it was his first season in English football and he suffered with injuries early on, his contribution of six goals and two assists showed signs of promise.
In the same vein, Christie still sits joint top of the Boro assist charts, with four.
For Pulis to seemingly make his mind up and discard both so early into his reign is wasteful and speaks volumes of the brand of football that he has in mind for the club.
On the subject of waste, who within the Boro hierarchy approved the transfers of Ashley Fletcher and Adlene Guedioura during Monk’s tenure?
Fletcher had never been a first team regular at higher than League One level. He was signed for big money by Championship standards, has never been given a run in the team and has now suffered the ultimate indignity, being loaned to Sunderland!
Did Boro really spend £6.5 million on a player who might fulfill his limited potential, or did they simply sign a player who was available in the hope that he would fit in somewhere in the first XI?
The club also forked out £3.5 million on a player who never came good, in Guedioura.
The Algerian midfielder made a handful of starts, was snubbed by every manager he played under and eventually had his contract cancelled. Not good business.
The issue here seems to be that players are signed based on the whim of whichever manager is in charge. It is important to back the manager but not at the cost of the club.
Boro need a management structure responsible for identifying and signing players with a long-term vision in mind, not simply at the behest of the newly arrived head coach, thus curtailing the current transfer turnover.
That way, supporters might start seeing the team play with some consistency and the prospect of promotion back to the Premier League may become a more realistic one.
Who am I to tell Steve Gibson about business?
I may lack certain business credentials, but one thing I do know is that the Boro owner wouldn’t tolerate a newly appointed director sacking key staff at Bulkhaul and replacing them with his own picks.
Why tolerate it at his football club?