In the Championship, it’s often the case that the teams recently relegated from the Premier League and those with parachute payments are the ones fancied to challenge for a return to the top flight. However, Middlesbrough are in the hunt for promotion too, and Chris Wilder’s war chest could be crucial.
Middlesbrough are a big club steeped in history, and they’ve been in the Premier League quite recently, while also having a great manager in Wilder at the helm. However, like every team in the second tier, they have to box clever where recruitment is concerned. It’s arguably why the sales of Djed Spence and Marcus Tavernier have been sanctioned, with Boro raking in over twenty million for both.
Spence spent time away from the club last season, starring for Nottingham Forest in their successful promotion campaign, before joining Spurs in a big money deal. But, Spence’s departure isn’t going to bother Wilder and Boro too much, as they have full faith in Isiah Jones, with the right-back scoring against West Brom in the 1-1 draw on the opening day.
While the Tavernier departure wasn’t planned, it’s fair to say that Wilder having a war chest of around twenty million to play with could prove beneficial come the end of the season. So far, Boro have recruited Darragh Lenihan, Tommy Smith and Liam Roberts on free transfers, with Zack Steffen and Ryan Giles arriving on loan. In terms of transfer fees, Wilder has signed Marcus Forss from Brentford, with the striker costing £3 million.
Wilder has made no secret of his desire to strengthen at the top of the pitch. Twenty-three-year-old Forss is not expected to be the only arrival in the Boro attacking department between now and September 1, when the transfer window closes. Jorgen Strand Larsen, who currently plies his trade with FC Groningen in the Eredivisie, is rumoured to be of interest, with the twenty-two-year-old Norwegian scoring fourteen in thirty-two in the Netherlands top flight last term.
There is also an eagerness for Wilder to find an adequate replacement for Tavernier, who the former Sheffield United manager played as a number eight after arriving at the Riverside last season. But the difference between challenging for automatic promotion and potentially being one of many in the mix for the top six will be if Boro can spend the money they’re brought in from the sales of Spence and Tavernier smartly.
Two of the three promoted sides – Watford and Burnley, got off to winning starts on the opening day, and there’s still plenty of time left for them to add new faces via the parachute payments they have to hand. And this situation will be what Middlesbrough will be up against this season as they plot a return to the Premier League themselves. But Wilder having a fair-sized war chest at his disposal is going to help swing things in Boro’s favour.