After another disappointing result for Middlesbrough, Gordon Strachan pulled out some of his excuses from his seemingly endless supply, but how long can he continue to shirk the responsibility of the poor performances of the team?
As he was appointed part way through the season Strachan could quite easily blame the lack of results on the squad he had inherited. However, since January when he has reshaped the squad bringing in five SPL players and various loan signings, he must soon start to step up and take on some accountability for the quality of the team.
Following a 1 – 1 draw with relegation threatened Crystal Palace Strachan bemoaned a lack of quality and imagination.
"People play a lot of different tactics in this league but it always comes down to the same thing–quality and imagination.
"We haven't had that and that's why we haven't deserved to be in the top six."
Having sold off the only natural wingers at the club in Adam Johnson and Mark Yeates without securing replacements, the lack of cutting edge can surely be traced back to the manager.
After previous failures Strachan has bemoaned a lack of cutting edge and finishing. Having invested in Miller, Killen and McDonald the lack of cutting edge and finishing should no longer be a problem if the new players had the quality Strachan seemed to think they had.
The unfortunate truth for Boro fans is that aside from Barry Robson, Strachan’s new signings look distinctly average. This shouldn’t be surprising as none of the SPL imports set the world alight north of the border, so expecting them to push a championship team back to the top flight seems at best optimistic.
Though the Boro boss seems pleased with the “work-rate and determination” a lack of flair will not see the dwindling crowds return to the riverside. Another season in the Championship is now inevitable for the Teesside club, and some inspiring new players from leagues other than Scotland are needed to reinvigorate both the fans and the team.
The days of superstar names Juninho and Ravanelli going to the North-East club, as Strachan himself stated, are long gone, but players to excite the fans cannot be underrated. Since losing Johnson to Man City there are no players to get fans enthused, and a flair player who can create and score goals would be the number one priority for many in the post season transfer window, but it seems unlikely for Boro.
Strachan believes that hard work is the way out of the division, but with all the other teams working equally hard there also needs to be something extra, especially in the final third. As Newcastle have proven this season, a little quality goes a long way. In keeping hold of players like Smith, Carol and Gutierrez they have strolled to a comfortable promotion.
Strachan will be making big changes in the summer but if they are along the same lines as his changes to date have been Middlesbrough could be struggling next year too.