Neil Warnock stressed at the start of the window for the need to bring in a number of players to augment his thin squad and the club has worked hard behind the scenes to succeed in doing so. The spinning door has seen 5 players leave and 6 players join as the side gave young players the opportunity to gain first team experience away from the club while adding a number of attacking options, particularly in the wide areas where they have struggled for options at times so far this season.
Short Term Loan: St. Pauli
The Austrian goalkeeper has had a mixed time at the club following his arrival in 2019 with the club searching for a cheap but effective replacement for the outgoing Darren Randolph. However, the majority of this season has seen the 27 year old sit on the bench, frustrating a player who wants to make a case for his involvement in the Austrian national teams’ side this summer.
The excellent Irish goalkeeper Darren Randolph was returning to his former club West Ham and so Middlesbrough needed to find a replacement, and they looked abroad for their man. Where they spotted the St. Gallen goalkeeper and the club shelled out almost £1m to bring him to the Riverside Stadium.
Since he arrived in England the goalkeeper has made just 10 appearances for the club failing to secure the starting place in the side with Neil Warnock rotating him with Aynsley Pears. His performances posed a lot of questions about the player and whether he would be able to adapt to the English game. After the season came to a close Warnock turned to the out of favour Fulham goalkeeper, Bettinelli, as his first choice goalkeeper which demonstrates the managers concerns about the 27 year old.
He has only made one appearance for Middlesbrough this season and that was in the EFL Cup, causing the player to request a move elsewhere. Soon after a loan deal was agreed and the goalkeeper was moved on to St. Pauli in the second Bundesliga, where he has made 5 appearances getting an average of 2 points per game.
Middlesbrough may have shelled out a considerable fee for the player just a year ago but his lack of involvement in the side has had an adverse effect for both sides of the deal, with his value decreasing and the player growing increasingly discontented in his role at the club. A move away could prove to put him back into the thoughts of the clubs coaching staff, whoever that will be next season, or put him in the shop window should they look elsewhere for their No. 1 goalkeeper.
Free Transfer: To Ankaraspor
The Spanish goalkeeper didn’t need an introduction when he signed for the club in 2019 having already had a stint at the club under Aitor Karanka. The now 32 year old may have had a stint as first choice goalkeeper in his first stint at the club, it didn’t come into fruition in his second period at the North-East side, only making 2 appearances in the cup. So it came as little surprise that the player has been moved on from the club.
Middlesbrough knew what they were getting when signing the former Real Madrid youth player having seen him perform in the Championship in his previous stint at the club. Meanwhile it wouldn’t have taken long for the former Rayo Vallecano goalkeeper to settle into the area and into training.
Any Middlesbrough fan that saw the player during his time as No. 1 wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the Spaniard would only make a couple of appearances on his return to England. Both appearances came in the same season and in the same competition as he played in a side that first drew and lost in the FA cup.
Mejias was sent out on loan at the start of the season with Romania’s Dinamo. He was involved in 10 of the teams 13 games between early November and mid-December before he returned to Middlesbrough. It was shortly after his return to the club that he became a free agent that was picked up by Ankaraspor in Turkey.
Although his involvement behind the scenes must have been valued by Middlesbrough as they pursued the player following his exit from Omonia Nikosia, he has failed to make an impression on the first XI. At the age of 32 the player will be looking for an extended period in as first choice keeper before he hangs up his boots and that was unlikely to come to the fore at Middlesbrough.
Short Loan: Crewe Alexandra
The youth academy has brought through a number of serious talents over the years and there has been an excited whisper surrounding the latest prospect. Born in Ingleby Barwick the 18 year old has been marked as the modern centre back with many of his coaches noting his passing ability.
The defender has come up through the youth ranks, but he has been flirting with the first team for sometime. His four appearances in the league this season, has been the highest that the player has gotten in a single season so far though as Warnock has trusted him to fill gaps when other defenders were unavailable.
He has done relatively well so far this season as his talent is clear for everyone to see. However it is just as clear to see that the player is not yet ready to play at Championship level and more exposure to first team football will go a long way to helping him stake a claim for a more permanent role in the side in the near future.
There were questions surrounding his possible exit as Middlesbrough were, and still are, notably shallow in central defence. However, it is clear that Neil Warnock believes that his three centre backs, Dael Fry, Paddy McNair and Grant Hall have enough in them to play through until the end of the season. So the player was put up for loan in window with Crewe Alexandra taking him to the Alexandra Stadium.
The youth players move to Crewe could be the ideal club at the ideal time. Currently sitting in 9th in League 1 the Cheshire based side will be aiming to push on to the play offs this season and so if Wood can succeed at this level then it shows that he isn’t far away from Championship standard. Further still, there is enough of a gap between his new club and the top 6 to ease the pressure on the player coming in and increasing plaudits from the fans and parent club officials alike if he can pose to be a driving force in their challenge for promotion.
There is no doubt that the player is seriously talented but he needs to adjust to the more physical first team games and so a move on loan suits the player in this moment in time. If it goes well and if he can utilise this opportunity properly then it could springboard him into first team contention for next season.
Short Loan: Rotherham United
The central midfielder has split the fanbase with some considering him to be a talented player, while others have been concerned about the defensive side of the game with some even describing him as ‘useless’. Now he has moved on loan to Rotherham to the joy of some fans and the disappointment of others.
In 2017, Boro went through a phase of picking up players from lower divisions that showed some potential to make it at a higher level, one such signing, George Miller, failed to make an impact at the club and so it came as a surprise that one of his fellow lower league hires, Lewis Wing, managed to break into the first team. He was signed from a small local club, Shildon AFC where he had gained a reputation for having a formidable free kick, an attribute that Middlesbrough fans would later see for themselves. In 2018, it seemed increasingly likely that the player would fade into obscurity as he made a loan move to lowly Yeovil despite being at the age that most players break through to the first team.
However he proved the doubters wrong in his first season back from Yeovil as he made 28 appearances in the league, which he only added to under Johnathan Woodgate, making 40 appearances in that season. During his 92 appearances for the club Lewis Wing scored 12 goals and set up 8 assists. However it was in his stint under Johnathan Woodgate the complaints arose surrounding the players lack of defensive nouse with supporters indicating at his tackles were below par. This frustrated many Middlesbrough fans, as he was playing in a deeper role where such tackling is very important.
Neil Warnock has been unconvinced by Lewis Wing and has chosen to use the player sparingly so far this season, resulting in the player playing just 15% of league minutes. So it came as no surprise that a move away from the club in the second half of the campaign was likely. Interestingly, it was a Championship outfit Rotherham United that came in for the player showing that he is seen from outside of the team as a player of Championship quality.
Many fans may be relieved about Wing’s temporary move away from the Riverside seeing him as a liability defensively. However it is more of a shame, it is true that the player struggles with the defensive side of the game, but that is not the reason why you sign him nor the reason why you include him in your side. Instead his passing ability, his effectiveness from free kicks and his general danger around the outside of the box mean that he is a player that can be a game changer on his day.
Still he will have an uphill battle at Rotherham who are trying to secure their place in the Championship for next season and so he will be thrown into the thick of it and it will be interesting to see how he copes. If he succeeds then it would be great to have him back at the club at the end of the season and finding a way to fit the player into the first XI could be beneficial for the teams creativity going forward while it is also great to see local player in the side.
Loan Ended/Short Loan: Derby County
Most Boro fans were excited about the re-signing of Roberts on loan at the start of the season as he appeared to be the player that could provide the spark that has been lacking for Middlesbrough for quite some time. However, it wasn’t to be as the player made a handful of appearances before they agreed to terminate his loan so he could move to Derby County.
The English player has been a Manchester City player since 2015, however he has rarely featured for the North-west side as City have loaned him out across European football in the hope that he would develop either into someone to challenge Pep’s XI or to be sold on for a profit. So far he has failed with the players value peaking after his loan to Celtic, after which his value has dropped to point at which they bought him.
One such loan was to Middlesbrough in January 2020 before impressing fans and club officials alike earning himself a return on a full season loan in the following summer window.
During his time with the Teessiders the 23 year old has made 10 appearances, 9 of which came in the Championship. His lack of inclusion in the side riled up a good section of the Middlesbrough faithful who believed that the talent that he had displayed in the previous season would have helped the side to turn loses into draws and draws into wins. Yet he was still rarely involved for the club, with his longest appearance lasting just 78 minutes. Ultimately he played a total of 333 minutes for Middlesbrough in the Championship the equivalent of 3.7 whole games.
In the latter stages of the transfer window there was a growing number of reports that claimed the player was subject to the interest of Derby County who were willing to take the sparingly used player on loan until the end of the season. Ultimately the decision was in the hands of the Middlesbrough hierarchy though as there was no recall clause included in the loan contract.
The Teessiders reasoned that they would let the player leave if they brought in a suitable replacement for the former Norwich player. They succeeded in the final hours of the window signing both Kebano and Mendez-Liang and so Roberts was allowed to leave the club for Derby County on yet another loan.
Partick Roberts’ first team minutes have been limited under Neil Warnock this season and it is a valid point to indicate that he did little to prove that he deserved more time on the pitch when he was given the opportunity. However these opportunities were few and far between and often they often came as a substitute in the later stages of the game where it was going to be an uphill battle to influence the game. Additionally, there was no consistency to his game time which proved to be very beneficial to the player in his first loan stint as he steadily grew into the role. Either way, a move away from the club was the best option for Roberts. Meanwhile his loss isn’t going to prove to be too detrimental for Middlesbrough as they have brought in a number of replacements that are a better fit for Warnock’s system.
Short Loan: Crewe Alexandra
The 20 year old has gained a good following on Teesside as fans appreciate how hardworking and passionate he is for the club. He has had short stints of involvement in the first team when the side is lacking forward options however the majority of his first team appearances have occurred during stints away from the club so far.
The Middlesbrough youth graduate was born and raised in the town and so has grown up supporting the team. So far he has made 11 first team appearances getting a single assist in the EFL cup.
It appears that this season has posed to be history repeating itself for Walker who started the season at MK Dons before signing on loan for Crewe for the final stretch of the season. It was in this very same pattern that the frontman spent his previous loan moves in 2019/2020 season first starting at MK Dons and then moving to Crewe. While it’s an unusual event in football and the reason behind this is unknown, it does show that the clubs that take him on loan value the player as they came in for the player for a second time.
There is no doubting the players talent but he needs to be scoring on a more frequent basis as his best strike rate is currently 1 in every 6 games. This would work as a basis for a secondary striker at League 1 level but to prove he is a step above this level he needs to hit the net a little more consistently.
Meanwhile Middlesbrough shouldn’t suffer for the player moving out on loan as, although he was previously involved in the first team, he hasn’t been knocking on that door yet this season. Hopefully, this can change when he returns from a successful loan move away from the club.
There has been a fluctuating nature to Middlesbrough’s goalkeeper position ever since Darren Randolph left the club last January. It started on uneven ground as Dejan Stojanović and Aynsley Pears fought over the No. 1 shirt, with neither goalkeeper impressing new manager Neil Warnock. Then the club sold Pears and brought in Marcus Bettinelli until the end of the season. It was the former Fulham player that has been first choice so far this season despite failing to impress the Middlesbrough faithful. Due to the arrival of Bettinelli, Mejias recognised that he wouldn’t have the opportunity to stake a claim for the shirt and so he looked for a way out of the club. Then, after 3 months of waiting around for a potential opportunity, Stojanović followed, leaving out on loan to St. Pauli. So Middlesbrough were in need of a back up goalkeeper and in came Jordan Archer.
Middlesbrough turned to Jordan Archer, formerly from Millwall, as the replacement back up until the end of the season. The 27 year old had started the season at Motherwell, making only 4 appearances for the club before being released from the club as such there was no transfer fee for Middlesbrough to pay and it opens the opportunity to extend his stay past the end of the season if the club wish.
Jordan Archer has had a fundamentally journeyman career so far with his first move occurring while he was in Charlton Athletic’s Under 18 side, joining Tottenham Hotspur. He would then join Harrow Borough, Bishop’s Stortford, Wycombe Wanderers, Northampton Town and Millwall on loan. He made the latter club his permanent home in 2015. He made the vast bulk of his career appearances to date at the London club as he graced the pitch for the Lions 144 times before leaving in 2019. Since then he has spent time at a number of clubs rarely making an appearance. Oxford United took him in until January 2020, playing just 6 games. He then went to Fulham and made no appearances before moving again in the summer, to Motherwell where he made just 4 appearances. Finally he moved to Middlesbrough.
Due to the fractured nature of his career in recent years it is difficult to pinpoint whether he will be a good signing for the club. The closest to a reading on the player would be his time at Millwall which was reported to be solid but liable to mistakes at times.
The chances that he will grace the field on a consistent basis for Middlesbrough during his stay at the club is thin. The majority of his influence will be on training ground while he remains the back up option to Bettinelli. Yet his signing is important as the club was looking thin in the goalkeeper position with only Sol Brynn and Zach Hemming as potential back ups.
Alternatively, if events go his way then Middlesbrough may pose to be his long-term future as the goalkeeper position has become a role of speculation which is likely to become more feverous at the end of the season when Bettinelli’s loan ends and Stojanović returns.
Transfer: Preston (£300,000)
At first glance, the signing of Darnell Fisher appears to be an unusual one as Middlesbrough have two players that are capable of doing a good job in his position. However there are a number of questions relating to top performer Anfernee Dijksteel that have been answered by the right back’s arrival at the club. The first issue is the Dutchman’s injuries that have forced him onto the sidelines on a number of occasions so far this season, leaving the talented but still young Djed Spence as the only option in the role. Secondly, the lack of depth at centre back has been highlighted time and again with the likes of Marc Bola and youngster Nathan Wood making appearances in the position. The outgoing Nathan Wood shows that the manager feels comfortable with his current centre back options of Grant Hall, Dael Fry and Paddy McNair all showing that they should be considered some of the best centre backs in the division. However most managers will admit that they would prefer to have two options for each position and Warnock’s centre back options are one short. In the earlier stages of the season, Dijksteel was drafted into the right centre back position of a back three, a role that he succeeded in. However the lack of an experienced option at right back has led Warnock to favour the former Charlton Athletic defender at right back. Now Darnell Fisher can play right back to free Dijksteel for a centre back role if Warnock wishes.
Middlesbrough has the ability to find talented fullbacks for good value and it appears that they have done that again with Fischer who cost the club in around £300,000. He may have only made a single appearance so far this season but it appears as though he is going to be worth every penny.
He may have only made 14 appearances for Preston North End this season but his statistics show that the player is competent at this level of the game. His tackles, interceptions and clearances per game are all similar, and some are marginally better than, the numbers put up by Dijksteel. He has made more passes per game than Dijksteel but these numbers are relevant to the style of play that the player was playing while at Preston. Alternatively, he has made more long balls per game and so he will fit into the direct, quick transition style of football that Neil Warnock has implemented. There likeness continues into their attacking numbers too with Dijksteel making more runs but less key passes per game.
The 26 year old is now the most experienced right back in the team and his numbers while at Preston show that he should be able to settle into the teams style with relative ease. He should have the ability to thrive in the team posing to be one of the sides best signings this year.
There was no secret that Middlesbrough wanted to sign a winger during the winter window with as the club was linked every potentially available Premier League. However reports on the potential signing of Mendez-Laing came late in the window. The former Cardiff City flanker has been unattached since the club cut him loose following a breech of contract and so the player was available on a free but he has also been out of the professional game for a number of months.
The 28 year old signed for the club on a free transfer and is expected to stay until the end of the season and if he succeeds at the club then he may be rewarded with a contract extension. The attacker was particularly excited about working under Neil Warnock again as he had a good run of form under the current Boro boss.
The Birmingham born player had been tied to 9 different clubs before joining Middlesbrough with a number of notable loans to the likes of Cambridge United and Sheffield United. He has only signed a more permanent agreement to four clubs, Wolverhampton Wanderers, where he started his career, Peterborough United between 2012 and 2015, Rochdale between 2015 and 2017 and then finally his time in the welsh capital.
It is his last season at Cardiff show that he was directly involved in creating goals more frequently than Marcus Tavernier has been so far this season as he has brought about a goal once every 3.8 games to the Boro man’s 4.6. Interestingly, though, Tavernier has more shots per game and slightly more key passes per game indicating that Mendez-Laing is more clinical with his shooting and that he is used to working with a more clinical striker.
However his dismissal for a breach of contract must concern Middlesbrough fans as, although there is little concrete information surrounding his axing from the Bluebirds, it would usually take something drastic to cut such an asset out of the club, particularly when he was considered important enough to play a role in their playoff run.
Anyone who has seen Mendez-Laing knows that the player can pose a threat to any Championship defence. His direct style of play and his dominant right foot mean that he will hold the width as Warnock often prefers out of his winger. While also offering something different to Watmore and Tavernier in this position. The biggest question surrounding the player will be regarding his match fitness having not played a professional game for some time.
Short Loan: Everton
The ‘almost’ signing of the summer has now joined the club. The Boro hierarchy would have preferred to have signed the player at an earlier date but he has now agreed to a stay until the end of the season which offers to provide some real talent to the left flank of Middlesbrough FC.
The left winger was pursued by the club during the pre-season transfer window as cover for the wide areas as the position has been lacking in depth for quite sometime. However it failed to come into fruition as the paperwork wasn’t put through in time. Then the January transfer window opened and it appeared as though the North-east would not become his temporary home as the player highlighted his age and the need for a long term project. Middlesbrough weren’t in a position to offer either of these due to the questions surrounding who will be manager come the beginning next season and, more importantly, a lack of finances. However, the transfer window wore on and there was no long term project for him and so he reassessed his options and joined Middlesbrough.
Yannick Bolasie has spent almost the whole of his club career in England, with is most impressive stint coming during his time at Crystal Palace, where he made 133 appearances scoring 12 goals. In 2016, he signed for Everton where he has remained since despite failing to make the desired impact. He made 29 appearances scoring 2 goals for the Toffies. A flurry of loan moves followed with the player moving to Aston Villa in the 2018/19 season. Then his first move abroad came as he signed for Anderlecht for 2019 and found some good form during his stint in Belgium scoring 6 goals in 17 appearances. He was awarded for his good form on the continent with a second loan move that season to Portuguese giants Sporting CP who fielded the player 13 times.
The player spoke recently about interest from abroad which will have come from his performances last season, notably at Anderlecht, indicating that he may well move onto the continent if he fails to make an impact during short loan at Middlesbrough as English clubs may look elsewhere for a pacy winger.
If he can find the form that he displayed during his stint at Anderlecht than a revision of this will certainly be needed. However his inconsistency over recent seasons and his time on the side line could pose to be an issue for Middlesbrough. The lack of competition for the players signature also proves to be concerning for the Teessiders as a player of his ability should have been in demand in the Championship.
Short Loan: Fulham
This signing was the epitome of late transfer business. Fulham and Middlesbrough had already been tied together in a report around Aboubakar Kamara who decided against joining Middlesbrough for French side Dijon so the club turned to another of the London-based sides flankers, Neeskens Kebano. A deal was hashed out over the last few hours of the transfer window and the player was announced after the deadline had ended.
The clubs first choice from Fulham may well have been Kamara but there is no doubting that Kebano has the talent and ability to hold his own and prove his worth in the Championship. The deal was struck so late in the window that it was a number of days before the flanker would be set to join the sides training sessions.
The player started his career in impressive fashion, as he moved from ASA Montereau to PSG in 2006, by the time he left the club in 2013 he had made 3 appearances for the French giants. A stint at Belgian club Charleroi followed where he scored 18 goals in 64 appearances. Then he moved to Genk for £3.6m, where he only played the 2015-2016 season making 37 appearances for the Limburg based side and managing to score 6 goals while playing at the Luminus Arena. He was then moved on to Fulham for a healthy profit of £400,000. He made 82 appearances while at Fulham scoring 12 goals before he was loaned out to Middlesbrough.
In the 2019/2020 season Neeskens Kebano made 19 appearances, or 800 minutes, and his output at the time was impressive as he was directly involved in a goal every 1.5 games. While he put the finishing pieces to a goal once every 160 minutes showing that he knows how to find the back of the net. The most important thing from Middlesbrough’s perspective is that the player is very influential as an impact substitute, something that the club has lacked this season. On average he played 42 minutes per appearance showing that he was used almost extensively as a substitute, a role that his goal involvement per game rate shows, that he was very influential in.
This signing offers depth to a position that has been lacking it for some time but it also has the potential to offer that spark when coming off the bench that has been lacking when the side needs to find a way to turn loses into draws and draws into wins.
Middlesbrough went into the transfer window with a specific mandate, to bring in depth for the wide areas which they most certainly succeeded in by bringing Yannick Bolasie, Neeskens Kebano and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing into the club. Then they plugged the gap caused by the outgoing goalkeepers and Nathan Wood by signing Jordan Archer and Darnell Fisher. The biggest question around the teams signings will be their fitness and bringing them up to speed with the championship sooner rather than later.
In terms of outgoings, Lewis Wing could have offered something different to the central midfielder options currently at the club. However Neil Warnock was unsure about the player and his desire to play, a probable feature of his personality that has come from making it from his humble beginnings, means that his move away is completely understandable. Meanwhile there are a number of outgoing players that could benefit from a temporary stint away from the club to build their knowledge and strength in the game or to ask some questions about the sides selection for next year.
Finally, the club managed to do all this business while also only putting out an immediate £300,000. Additionally, the majority of the incoming players have something personal to fight for, if it isn’t their future at their parent club, or a move elsewhere during their loan to the club then it is to be awarded a long term contract at the club.