As a season ticket holder in the West Stand of Riverside Stadium, the atmosphere can be a little quiet during times when other, more noisy areas, such as the Holgate End (North Stand), are buzzing with excitement on a match day.
There's one man in particular who has injected a whole new sense of optimism and excitement into the hearts of many Teessiders, another Brazilian wiz-kid who has an eye for goal—Afonso Alves.
His record breaking £12 million capture represents a massive statement for Middlesbrough Football Club.
A statement of intent—that we will compete in the transfer market with the big boys, and that we do want to move onwards and upwards in the Premier League table. The club may be, as supports famously dubbed it in the UEFA Cup two season's ago, a "small town in Europe" but similarly to the way in which Manchester City has been considered a 'sleeping giant', it has potential to develop into one of the biggest clubs in this country. The academy system there is already showing fantastic signs, with players such as Josh Walker, Jonathan Grounds and David Wheater emerging rapidly and knocking on the first-team door with hugely promising talents.
Of course, stability is key. Rivals Newcastle United are the perfect example of showing how crucial it can be. It has to start at the top of the club and work its way through the lower levels. You simply should not be in charge of a multi-million pound football team if you cannot ensure that you can bring stability to the club, in the fans and in the staff of the club. Take the time to appoint the right manager, ignore the pressure's of the fans and ultimately do what is going to be best for the club. It surprised me a great deal to see Mike Ashley bring down the axe on Sam Allardyce in only his first season in charge and the more I looked at it, the more I could see another Freddy Shephard emerging from the Directors room at Newcastle United.
It is fair to say that Newcaslte United are a massive club with a huge fan-base, not only in the North-East but throughout the country. St. James' park is a huge stadium and they regularly fill it to capacity, despite the team's poor recent form. They are HUGELY expectant of success and demand to be entertained week-in week-out. Some would argue that it is in this expectation where the club falls down but I believe it is more to do with the infrastructure within the club. Something, for me, does not seem quite right at Newcastle. The decision to appoint Dennis Wise as Director of Football was perhaps a little premature, in terms of both his suitability for the role and in light of his experience in the game, even in management. To suddenly change from being a manager to director seems a little strange and I really feel Chris Mort needed to think about that decision more than perhaps he did. The lack of real stability at higher levels in the club reflects in the team's performance and the lack of confidence amongst the players really shows in the team's poor performances. The question is; how long before the fans start questioning Kevin Keegan's ability to turn it around?
The fans have to give Gareth Southgate the time to mould a team that will see us competing with the Premier League top teams. Gareth is an intelligent man, who knows the game very well indeed and has been through it all as a player. He has mentioned several times in his programme notes this season that he needs this time I have spoken about above and I know that, given the right financial backing from both Steve Gibson and the fans of the club, there is no reason why he cannot achieve big things with the club. The club have taken a huge risk in reducing ticket prices for children to £9 in all areas of the ground and have effectively handed the club to the fans. There is no reason why attendances cannot regularly reach over thirty thousand at home games now, with the team playing or at least trying to, entertain the Boro faithful. Players like Sanli Tuncay, Julio Arca and Afonso Alves all have the flair and the pace to exite the fans and you can see the potential the team has on paper, with the pace of Stewart Downing and the sharpness of Alves in the area, it makes for a perfect combination. A manager who can, I believe, teach them how to play the game, in time, the fans have a lot to look forward to.
Give Gareth the time, give the team the support and watch the club grow.
Time and faith are crucial, in any industry. Even more so in football.