Ahead of the eagerly anticipated Championship opener at Craven Cottage on Sunday, we caught up with Nathan Rayner, host of the brilliant new Middlesbrough podcast Boropolis, to get the view from Teesside. We discussed Boro’s pre-season, Neil Warnock, the hopes for the new campaign and who Fulham should be worried about …
How excited are Middlesbrough fans for the new season?
I’m sure that every club’s fans up and down the country cannot wait to be able to attend football games in the flesh once again this season, and for Middlesbrough fans it is no different!
We all cannot wait to be back inside of the Riverside after what feels like a whole lifetime since we were all last in attendance.
When it comes to the football, the Championship provides so much excitement, with plenty of highs and lows, and I am so excited to watch all the action unfold!
What are the expectations for this campaign with Neil Warnock at the helm?
I think that the expectations for the campaign ahead are a pretty mixed bag from Middlesbrough fans.
Last season, Boro started reasonably well and were vying for the final playoff places in the first half of the season but despite reinforcements being brought in during the January transfer window (Fulham’s Neeskens Kebano being one!), the team fell away and finished in a comfortable 10th place – progress on the previous season under ex-manager Jonathan Woodgate.
I think some fans are looking at the coming campaign with a little bit of pessimism and predicting a similar season to last; however, many are looking forward to seeing what other reinforcements the club can bring in and hoping that the club can push on into the playoff places… after all, doubt Neil Warnock at your peril!
How has the summer recruitment and pre-season gone?
In terms of summer recruitment, the club have managed to bring in a few players that look to be much more suited to the way that Warnock would like to play.
Uche Ikpeazu and Matt Crooks have been brought in as forward options from recently relegated Wycombe Wanderers and Rotherham United respectively, whilst, the club have been linked with a few different players from abroad – something which has got plenty of fans excited.
One name previously mentioned in the Boro rumour mill was Flamengo forward Rodrigo Muniz, who now looks set to sign for Fulham!
Pre-season has been okay for Boro, with a week in Cornwall; a trip to York, and a visit to Rotherham all offering up Warnock some food for thought after a few wins and one loss.
What sort of side do you expect to field on the opening weekend?
Pre-season has seen Warnock switch between a back three and a back four, though I would expect us to set up in a 3-5-2 system come Sunday afternoon.
Who should Fulham be worried about facing in the Middlesbrough side?
If I had to give one player to look out for, it would be Duncan Watmore – brought in on a free transfer last season and ended the season as the club’s top goal scorer. Though, I would say that the team doesn’t necessarily have many standouts. They work as a unit and are very much a “Neil Warnock team”, with regimented defending and 100% effort in every position.
Is everyone looking forward to coming to Craven Cottage?
Boro’s initial allocation of 1,000 tickets sold out within four minutes last week. I think the club may receive more hopefully but I’m within no doubt that the away end at Craven Cottage will be a sell-out!
Can you give us a prediction for Sunday?
I would be over the moon with a 1-1 draw this Sunday and that is what the optimist in me is thinking. However, as a realist, I think Fulham will run out 2-1 winners on the opening weekend!
We’d like say a massive thank you to Nathan for his time. Do check out Boropolis (on Youtube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts), who also run a terrific Twitter feed, and best of luck to Middlesbrough for the forthcoming campaign.