What Middlesbrough can learn from Sunderland and Ipswich after recent struggles

Back in the summer, when optimism is often at its highest and pre-season predictions are being made, few Middlesbrough fans would have placed their side in a relegation battle.

Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 4:50 pm
Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate.

That’s not to say they will be, but, after 11 games (nearly a quarter of the season), Boro sit just two points above the bottom three after recording an underwhelming two wins out of 11 league games.

On paper Boro’s squad may look too good to go down – in truth, the side doesn’t look too dissimilar to the one which finished just a point outside the play-offs under Tony Pulis last term.

Yet the Championship, which is renowned for being a division where anyone can beat anyone, is improving year on year and no one’s status is guaranteed.

Just look at Sunderland a couple of seasons ago – for so long it seemed like they would have enough to avoid back-to-back relegations, yet down they went, and in League One they have stayed.

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Last season we saw Ipswich drop like a stone following the departure of Mick McCarthy, while both Sheffield clubs have also fallen through the trap door in the last decade.

While Boro must show ambition under new head coach Jonathan Woodgate and not simply settle for the bare minimum, they can’t afford to be naive either.

The Teessiders have some proven Championship players at their disposal but the squad is worryingly thin. A couple of injuries to key players could cause major problems.

Woodgate has previously spoken about how surprised he was after discovering the money Reading spent over the summer – particularly the reported £7million they forked out for striker George Puscas.

Yet the Royals are one of just six teams with shorter odds than Boro to be relegated from the Championship, along with Stoke, who also spent heavily, and Huddersfield, who fell from the Premier League last season.

As we’ve already seen, a couple of bad results can often make the situation seem a lot worse. In the same way, two or three positive results can do the opposite.

Boro may well have enough to to avoid relegation dogfight this season but can’t be tricked into thinking they’re immune to one.