Anticipation set to build as countdown to Jonathan Woodgate's Middlesbrough opener begins
The countdown to Jonathan Woodgate’s managerial debut starts now.
In just 44 days time, Middlesbrough’s new boss will take his side to League One champions Luton Town to open the new EFL season at Kenilworth Road, with anticipation set to build ahead of August 3.
There are multiple theories regarding the best time to face a newly promoted team, still buoyed with elation from the previous season.
But if Boro can get off to a decent start, lay down a marker for all their rivals to see, the early season fixture schedule looks relatively kind.
Woodgate’s side will host Brentford, Wigan and Millwall in the first month of the campaign, interlocked with away trips to Blackburn and Bristol City, before returning to the Riverside to host Reading.
Only two of Boro’s first seven opponents finished in the top half of the Championship last season. A chance to build some momentum? It would appear so.
Obviously it’s still too hard to tell who will be in the promotion mix come the end-of-season run-in, yet a cluster of games against West Brom (H), Huddersfield (A), Fulham (H) and Derby County (A) between October and November appears significant.
The often high-octane clash with Leeds United at Elland Road comes on November 30, while two more tough away games against Nottingham Forest and Swansea City come directly before the congested Christmas schedule.
At least this season, Boro fans can look forward to back-to-back home games against Stoke City (December 21) and Huddersfield Town (December 26) either side of Christmas Day.
There comes a trip to Preston North End on New Year’s Day. Will Boro still be in the mix by then?
In seasons gone by, promotion-chasing Boro have embarked on a ‘week of destiny’ in the end-of-season run-in. Hopefully that is the case this time around.
A tricky away game at Sheffield Wednesday will conclude the campaign in May. Will Boro have something to fight for, be playing for pride or have promotion already wrapped up?
For now, it’s time to let the anticipation build, before Woodgate’s first season at the Riverside takes shape.