The Rebuild Part 2 - Where Are we Now?
Updated: Dec 31, 2021
Rather listen? Listen to the audio version of this blog here.
In April, I wrote a piece called The Rebuild - Why Are Boro Always Rebuilding. The blog dissected why Middlesbrough were in a vicious cycle and what Boro needed to do to overcome it.
When we look at Middlesbrough over the years, you can argue the club was lost and threw money at the wall to see if something would stick to help drive success.
Since April, Boro have made a number of changes within the five pillars of a project.
So what are the five pillars needed for a project? It’s a buy-in from the following:
The Chairman and Board, The Manager, Core Nucleus, The Process and The Fans.
The Chairman and the Board
Projects start from the very top and at Steve Gibson.
There is no clear substitute. For a clear vision and decisive direction
In the previous post I wrote:
Steve Gibson is a fantastic chairman, there’s no doubt in my mind that he is still the right man for Middlesbrough Football Club but ultimately he’s being badly advised on footballing decisions.
Many clubs have benefited in bringing in a Director of Football, someone who knows the game inside out and is not afraid to tell it how it is and how to ensure the club identity remains intact. - April 2021
Middlesbrough have now appointed a Head of Football in Kieran Scott. Scott, previously of Norwich and Burnley as Head of Recruitment, quickly identified Boro’s need for change from recruitment strategy, management and training and has talked at length about improving Boro’s structure and a vision for the future. This led to the club parting company with Neil Warnock and bringing in another Scott in Andy from Swansea to head up recruitment, focusing on English lower leagues.
Middlesbrough have a clear vision of The New Middlesbrough with a HOF but it must be communicated.
Next up, management.
Neil Warnock did what we needed him to do. Stabilize the club.
However, it had become clear Warnock wasn’t getting the best out of the squad, his style didn’t fit the players and his vision for the club was only to the end of the season.
To put it bluntly, Warnock needed to go for Boro for a project to kick in and flourish.
Middlesbrough have gone on to appoint former Sheffield United Boss Chris Wilder on a three-year deal.
CV wise, Chris has been promoted with every club he’s managed in the EFL, he got Sheffield United into Europe and brought a club that was in disarray, to a United one once again.
But the reason why I think Wilder is an excellent appointment by Boro is because of his key behaviours and non-negotiables as a coach.
Being Brave, Taking Risks, Sticking Together.
The behaviours create an environment for the players to play with freedom, think forward and create a high performing culture where it’s based on togetherness and accountability. We win as one, we lose as one. No finger-pointing.
The three behaviours focus on the process, not the outcome. Middlesbrough will have phases where we will win five games in a row, we’ll lose five games in a row.
However, this time, the process won’t change and the identity will remain the same and the focus will always be being brave, taking risks, sticking together which are Boro’s values as a club. (podcast with Lidds here)
Middlesbrough now have a manager which fits their identity as a club, not the other way round.
Players and a Core Nucleus
When a new manager comes in they always want to bring in their own players. In the past few seasons, Middlesbrough have brought in new managers and new players but struggled to get the former manager’s players sold which has caused the club to have an unbalanced side made up of different styles and systems.
Fortunately, over the last 12-18 months we have been able to get rid of big earners and players who don’t want to be here which has freed up space for youngsters to come through but the club has taken a massive financial hit.
In addition, we’ve managed to form a new Nucleus in Paddy, Tav, Fry, Crooks and Dijksteel which the club is able to build on. All young players who want the best for the club and can be financially profitable in years to come.
January and beyond will be big transfer windows for Boro but we are now buying players to fit the club long term ambitions and systems, not just the managers.
In the previous article, I wrote about success not being in straight lines and it’s true. The club will have its highs and lows, find gems, find players which don’t work out but the process will be there.
The process of building a sustainable and brighter future for Middlesbrough will take another three years to really bear its fruit but it will be worth the wait.
It’s a test and a learning strategy. It's a small adjustment over time. It’s a winning and learning mentality.
Football nowadays is a results-based business, but if you focus on them too much you become short in other areas. I’m not saying results aren’t important, they are. However, allowing something to progress and to develop over time will actually be more sustainable for Boro over time, rather than sticking black tape over leaky pipes.
Be rigid with your goals, but be flexible on how you get there.
It’s no secret fans have been divided for the last couple of seasons and the club are partially to blame for that due to having no clear direction for fans to buy into.
Now Boro are aligned on the above, it’s easier for fans to buy into it.
You, reading this, you’re just as important as the points above. Fans need to be bought into a project and as of right now, I think 99.9% of fans are bought in.
But one final thing, Gibson must communicate his vision of ‘The New Middlesbrough’ and stick by it.
When I originally wrote the rebuilding blog in April, Middlesbrough struggled to hit the criteria for project and were facing another year of rebuilding a new squad for a manager who was set to leave at the end of the season.
On 31st December 2021, Middlesbrough are in a completely different place and are starting to build for the future. Although performance recently have been exciting, I must stress fans must be patient with the new Middlesbrough.
We’re going to have great moments, we’re going to have low moments but the new Middlesbrough will have a much more sustainable and brighter future ahead than ever before.