Howson is back at FCR as the Pulis' Parmo boys hope to upset City's renewed momentum. Seb Ward has all of the important details and all of the unimportant ones ahead of the game.
So far Middlesbrough have flirted with the playoffs but failed to secure the digits: no pull for Pulis as of yet. However, there’s still time for him to work his – er, magic – on the North East side, having only taken over from Garry Monk on Boxing Day. There are clear parallels with Norwich, not least because of our recent relationship that began with a honeymoon at Wembley, and ended with the Husband leaving and Boro taking the Howse.
Like Norwich, the Parmo Army have failed to establish the sort of consistency that is needed. Each convincing win has been set back by an unfortunate loss or draw. Maddison’s winner back in September rattled Boro who have struggled to make the Riverside a fortress, losing recently to Fulham and the resurgent Aston Villa. But they remain in The Mix™ – in that collection of teams from around 16th-up who could all still make a late surge into that sacred territory – The Garden of EFLden.
On a side note, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that there is a conveyor belt of old, white football managers. They’ll continue to get jobs until the end of all time, or until one of them is handed an undeserved punditry contract on BT Sport. Pardew, Allardyce, Hughes, Redknapp: these are just a few of the creased, crinkled, sad-looking briefcases circling round this baggage collection of despair. And then there’s Tony Pulis, the bright holdall sports bag with a massive spell-out logo on the front. He wears the club shop and he’s back in town – well, some town – any town – it just so happens to be Middlesbrough this time.
Big Tony P. was a busy bee as the transfer window came and end on Wednesday night. Four players departed in the final hour, including Martin Braithwaite who joined the side last summer for a reported 9 million quid. Defender Cyrus Christie also joined rivals Fulham, at which point Boro twitter entered into meltdown, which is always a good thing. Everton’s Mo Besic and Huddersfield’s Martin Cranie were snapped up as replacements.
Boro’s recent wins on the road – a spanking of QPR (0-3), and a win at Preston (2-3) – is a little worrying considering Norwich have managed an impressively shit seven losses at Carrow Road this season. Their travelling squad will also be one packed full of Championship stalwarts – Ayala, Shotton, Leadbitter, Howson, Downing, Assombalonga, Gestede – the sort we used to have before Stewy and Danny gave the whole place a German makeover.
All that is arbitrary, though, because we’ve STILL got James Maddison. So there. *Makes inappropriate gesture ‘cos LYBP is well ‘ard, yer get me*. SW
David Wheater, who played for Middlesbrough between 2004 and 2011, misses Chicken Parmos so much that he has them sent from Middlesbrough to Bolton, where he now plies his trade.
SW: It has all the makings of a tough game, AND GUESS WHAT, I reckon it’s going to be. However, it’s about time our home-ground hoo-do went away, and the unpredictability of Leitner, Hernandez and Srbeny should add a bit of renewed excitement.
Seb Foresees: Delia’s Homemade Pies FC 2-1 Chicken Parmos FC
CT: All of a sudden everything feels to have fallen into place. Away form ✔ Tired old players out ✔ Hungry new players in ✔ James Maddison still here ✔✔✔. But there is a big fat ❌ next to home form and it's about time it got sorted. With confidence high I predict Boro will be on the end of a beating, if for no other reason than it's my birthday weekend and I don't want to be sad.
Clare Calculates: Time to put the F back in FCR. Nelson’s heroes 2- 1 Trafalgar zeroes.
RJ: I remember a visit from Pulis’ Stoke team as they streaked to promotion in 2008. It was late in the season, they beat us 1-0, it was the ultimate Pulisball game. We didn’t get anywhere near them. They all seemed 7 feet tall and could throw the ball a mile. Like magnificent footballing aliens. He’s not had time to work his ‘magic’ on ‘boro. But I expect them to be spiky and hard to beat. So hard in fact that we won’t. I’m afraid I see an away win here. It will be nice to see Jonny again though.
Rich Reckons: A tedious, chilly and ultimately pointless exercise. Can’t wait! Delia’s Mannschaft 0 - Gibson’s Playthings 1.
ZW: According to Daniel Farke, Zimm cries when we lose, which is just about the most adorable thing I’ve ever heard. Let’s not make Zimm cry this weekend boys. Jonny’s bound to score, of course, but I’ll be most upset if he celebrates like a loon when he does. Not because I have any issue with players celebrating when they score against their former teams, but because of the time he looked like he was going to have a breakdown when he scored for us against Leeds. We’re due a goalfest at (F)CR, so perhaps this is the time.
Zoë Assumes: Let’s go mad. Howson’s former team 3-2 Howson’s current team.