Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Point Is Proof of Progress at Boro; Twelve Weeks after Their Last Meeting, Newcastle United Look Much the Same but Middlesbrough Have Undergone a Massive Rebuild. Stuart Rayner Inspects the Progress

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Point Is Proof of Progress at Boro; Twelve Weeks after Their Last Meeting, Newcastle United Look Much the Same but Middlesbrough Have Undergone a Massive Rebuild. Stuart Rayner Inspects the Progress

Article excerpt

IT might be behind the original schedule, but the signs are that Gordon Strachan's rebuilding of Middlesbrough Football Club is slowly taking shape.

When the Teessiders last met the team setting the standards in this season's Championship you could tell a wrecking ball had been taken to Gareth Southgate's side, but it was hard to tell what exactly would replace it.

When Boro and Newcastle United crept shame-faced out of last season's Premier League, their approach to the challenges posed by the Championship were very different.

The Magpies tried to do as little as possible to their team, gambling that a side not quite up to scratch in the top flight would be too good for the division below. It seems certain to pay off, but only courtesy of Mike Ashley bailouts to prop things up. The faces are the same but the team is unrecognisable.

Ashley's opposite number, Steve Gibson, has ripped things up and started again with a design more in keeping with Boro's new surroundings and the changed financial landscape.

The only unrealistic thing about his project was its timetable, initially demanding promotion at the first attempt. With a new gaffer on site, that has since been altered to "a couple of years".

Strachan has leant heavily on blueprints which served him well in the past. If the current Old Trafford trend of supporters wearing someone else's colours ever catches on at the Riverside, Boro's faithful should don green-and-white scarves because their team bears a very strong Celtic influence.

Willo Flood's knee kept the number of ex-Parkhead players to just the four, but all the Boro Bhoys had a telling influence on Saturday's semi-derby. In the case of Barry Robson, Scott McDonald and Chris Killen it was positive. Stephen McManus' was unfortunate and decisive.

Signed for pounds 3m in January, McDonald is the centrepiece of Strachan's early work but due to structural problems little has been seen of him. …

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