Middlesbrough: “With Wilder in charge, our future is so bright.”

It was a season of contrasting emotions at the Riverside to say the least.

Boro tamed Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane in the FA Cup, but were unable to contain the likes of Alan Browne and Amine Bassi in the Championship.

They were involved in the battle for a play-off place for much of the season, yet ended the campaign without one of their strikers making it to double digits.

And after replacing one former Sheffield United manager with another in November, they were still unable to overhaul the Blades in the race for the top six.

So do Boro fans see this as a season of promise or the one that slipped away?

“The last day of the season was a disappointing end to an enjoyable and exciting transitional season,” Jonny from Boro Breakdown tells FansBet.

“At the start of the season, with fans returning to the stadium, there was a real togetherness between the fans and the team; we missed the players and it was clear they missed us.

“But Boro’s start was underwhelming, and it was clear that we needed to go in a different direction.

“In the summer, we brought in Kieron Scott as Head of Football – the first time the club has appointed anyone to oversee the footballing side of things.

“We’ve needed this type of role for so long, someone to come in and help shape Boro for the future – a new Middlesbrough, a sustainable, long-term club, with a clear style, vision and to play in a way which reflects the town’s identity.

“The highs of the FA cup run, an impressive home run, hiring an outstanding manager in Chris Wilder and seeing youngsters like Isaiah Jones and Josh Coburn breakthrough mean that, for me, it was a very enjoyable campaign.”

As well as climbing the table to rise from 14th before ultimately finishing one place short in seventh, there were so many memorable occasions along the way such as dominant home wins over Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth.

But Middlesbrough’s 4-1 defeat to Preston on the final day of the season wasn’t the sour note that their season deserved to end on after such an encouraging six months since Chis Wilder’s appointment in November.

Inconsistency had plagued the first few months of Boro’s campaign before Wilder and his coaching team made an immediate impact.

After the winter international break, a run of six wins from the new coaching team’s opening nine games breathed life and hope into Middlesbrough’s campaign, but ultimately, a failure to pick up three points on their travels cost them dear.

44 points from 23 fixtures in front of a home crowd – a haul that only better by champions Fulham by two points – was contrasted by a return of 26 points from the 23 games on their travels, with Boro winning as many away games as 21st-placed Reading.

“Boro ended the season in 7th because we weren’t clinical upfront, made too many mistakes in goal and had a below-average start,” explains Jonny.

“It’s easy to say that six wins out of 16 isn’t the best form in the world, but we weren’t expecting to get to where we have.

“The FA Cup run was fantastic, the night at Old Trafford and beating Spurs in extra time with Josh Coburn firing home will live long in the memory and it does help set up next year ever so slightly.

“But the future is very bright at Middlesbrough. We’ve got a long-term vision in mind, an excellent manager, an exciting crop of young players with an academy spine running through it and the fans are all bought in.”

Saturday might have brought the curtain down on Middlesbrough’s play-off hopes, but Chris Wilder described it as the start of the beginning as he looks to rebuild the squad this summer.

He’s already revealed ambitious plans to overhaul the Boro squad and strengthen it for a promotion push next season.

And having tasted two seasons in the Premier League at previous club Sheffield United, Wilder insists he’s hungrier than ever to bring top-flight football back to the Riverside for the first time since 2017.

However, Jonny believes that their former boss also deserves some credit, whatever the future holds.

“We must pay homage to the former boss Neil Warnock,” he says.

“He turned us around and stabilised the club at a time when we seemed to take a bit of a nosedive, so thank you, Neil.

“However, with Chris Wilder in charge, our future is ever so bright. Our home form and performances have been excellent at times but he needs the players to fit his system.

“We’re 65/70% of the way there, but expect a lot of comings and goings in the summer.

“Progress for me will be play-offs now. It’s the benchmark and I think it’ll take us another season to really see the fruits of the progress we’ve made this season.

“One thing is for sure, it’s going to be an exciting ride.”

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Author: Paula Bryant