Five straight defeats, one point from six games, four points from seven home games in 2019, sliding out of the play-offs, fans fighting each other, calls for Pulis to go. It’s all doom and gloom at the moment for Boro, understandably so.
But summer is coming and I am feeling in an optimistic mood, so I thought I’d look at some of the reasons for Boro fans to be cheerful.
Promotion still a possibility
We may have spectacularly collapsed from our snug position in the play-offs, but despite the wretched run we are still only two points behind Villa. It will be tough, but not impossible.
Teams have gone through worse runs before and still recovered to make the play-offs.
Last season Derby went on a bad run and looked like they were slipping away, but forced their way back in at the end of the season.
And if we get there, then who knows. It’s a long shot but we could still win the play-offs.
We have beaten Sheffield United and West Brom this season, and held Leeds to two draws. And it has to be 3rd time lucky against Villa, right?
We normally expect the in-form team to win the play-offs but look at the 16-17 season. Huddersfield went into the play-offs in wretched form, way behind the other 3 teams, but somehow scrapped their way through to the Premier League.
Good young players
Even if this season doesn’t end in glory, we can at least take some (admittedly few) positives from it. One of those is the emergence of a good group of young players.
Dael Fry and Lewis Wing have been regulars all season, while Marcus Tavernier has made 21 appearances and Ashley Fletcher has enjoyed a late-season revival.
Add to that Paddy McNair, George Saville and a host of academy players waiting in the wings, and it looks like we could have the foundations of a decent team for the next few years.
Chance to Rebuild
The squad has been badly in need of an overhaul for a while, with one of the oldest squads in the division.
Older players tied up on expensive, long-term contracts have made this more difficult in the last couple of years, but with the departure of Stewart Downing and (hopefully) Martin Braithwaite the club might finally have some wiggle room to bring in permanent signings in key positions.
A new manager will have the chance to build a squad in his image that can sustain success for a few years.
We’re not Bolton or Birmingham
When you see what’s happening to other teams like Bolton and Birmingham, who have both been at a similar level to Boro in the past, you suddenly become a lot more grateful.
Fans might have plenty to grumble about, but when you consider a small town club like Boro have never been below the top two divisions for over 30 years and have experienced a league cup win, several domestic finals and a European final, you realise how good we’ve had it.
Steve Gibson still deserves a lot of credit for that, whatever is happening at the moment.
We might have a local derby next season
I always think a season is a million times better if we can play one or both of Sunderland and Newcastle.
Next season that could be a possibility with Sunderland challenging for promotion for League 1 (or if we somehow get promoted).
Only two more months of Pulis
‘Football’ under Tony Pulis has been torturous at times, particularly this season, but at least it’s almost over.
Unless he pulls off an unlikely promotion, Pulis will be gone by June.
He deserves credit for the way he got us in the play-offs last season, but in the long run his appointment has been counterproductive.
His appointment only ever made sense if he could get us promoted, but if the goal was consolidation we would have been better off with a younger, cheaper, more progressive manager who could have used this time to build foundations.
Finally, after 18 months, we might be able to do just that.