'The Corridor of Uncertainty'

Month: February, 2014

Middlesbrough 0 Blackburn Rovers 0

Looking back, in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have watched the first-half of the Liverpool – Arsenal game before I left the house for this one. I really shouldn’t. Not because I didn’t enjoy watching Liverpool play some really scintillating football for half-an-hour or so, but because it encouraged my mind to wander towards believing that we might see something similar, relatively speaking, at the Riverside. Given the way we play under Karanka being 4-0 ahead at the break seemed highly unlikely but that’s what happens sometimes, isn’t it. You get carried away and convince yourself that this one will be different, somehow, which isn’t always a sensible thing to do with the prospect of a home game against Blackburn Rovers on a cold and blustery February afternoon firmly on the horizon.

To be fair to us though, it was a little bit different from the Wigan Athletic game in terms of how we approached it. Danny Graham was in for his first start for us and Carayol and Ledesma were selected, with Leadbitter playing just off Graham – or at least I think that’s where he was supposed to be playing – and Nathaniel Chalobah making his home debut alongside Deano in the engine-room. Blackburn went with Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes up top, Schürrle one of the more dangerous partnerships in the division, with Tom Cairney patrolling the halfway-line looking to drive their lads forward whenever he could. The best Yorkshire pudding storage facility this side of David Dunn, Paul Robinson, kept goal for them and their left-back, Tommy Spurr, was wearing a motorcycle helmet.

We started okay, as did they, but the game never really got going until the fifteen or so minutes mark – Carayol and Friend began to link up very nicely down our left-hand side and by the end of the half Blackburn really couldn’t cope with it, with Carayol’s pace and trickery a particular highlight of the half. We had a few digs from distance but Paul Robinson was relatively untroubled, though he did get down smartly to his right-hand side to claw out a header from one of our lads – quite possibly Ben Gibson, though it was difficult to see for certain who headed it from the other end of the stadium. There was a thirty-minute period of the first-half where I actually enjoyed watching us play, which is in stark contrast to the Wigan game a couple of weeks back, as Carayol charged forward at every opportunity and beat his man, Todd Kane, every single time. So good was Carayol in that first-half that Kane was replaced by Rovers gaffer Gary Bowyer at half-time.

Despite Carayol’s best efforts, and as the half wore on the efforts of George Friend too, the most noticeable problem for the Boro is that we only had one man in the box for the vast majority of the game. This has gone on for quite some time, of course, but considering our lack of goals of late it’d be nice to think we’d be prepared to show just a little bit more ambition at times, especially when playing at home. If Graham ‘gambles’ and hurtles across towards the near-post then there is nobody behind him to follow things up, which is frustrating to watch a lot of the time. When Graham delayed his movement in order to try and read what sort of cross Carayol was going to deliver then that didn’t work either because it’s nigh-on impossible to know what Carayol is going to do with the ball, so much so that not even Muzzy seems to know what he’s going to do a lot of the time.

What may have helped today was if Grant Leadbitter was prepared to actually step foot inside the Blackburn penalty-area, which is something he failed to do all day. If the player designated to play the ‘no.10’ position, the bloke who links everything together, isn’t going to get himself into the box a few times then what chance has the striker got if he’s in there on his own? Not much, I’d say, and that’s how it went for us. I’m not sure Leadbitter has the legs and the overall quality needed to play this kind of role for us successfully if I’m being honest, which isn’t necessarily a criticism of him but maybe more a sense of frustration that we didn’t push on a bit more generally. Leadbitter was afforded the luxury of having two blokes sitting behind him, mopping things up and keeping things ticking over, so if he isn’t going to burst into the box in that kind of set-up then I don’t think he ever will.

Anyway, the second-half kind of dragged on a bit towards the end. Danny Graham lamped one forward for Carayol to chase and his pace caught their lads out, presenting Muzzy with a one-on-one against Robinson but he lacked the composure needed to stick it away and played it straight against the big Yorkshireman. Albert Adomah came off the bench and launched a lovely left-footed drive towards the Rovers goal but it was a bit too central, perhaps, and Robinson tipped it over and out for a corner. The corners seemed to mount up a bit but you’d have to give Blackburn credit and say that, by and large, they dealt with them pretty well for the duration. Kamara and Main were sent on late on but didn’t really have enough time to make an impact, though a couple of things did stand out – one was Main being deployed on the left-wing, which is bizarre, and also the outstanding cross that one of our lads sent into the box at the death. To me it almost seemed as though Main was kind of ‘hiding’ behind the defender, he didn’t really read the cross at all, when a more seasoned striker may just have taken a chance and nipped across to get his header in. Ian Baird, for example, would’ve ripped the net out with a chance like that.

The referee then brought the curtain down on yet another 0-0 draw and we all trudged off and into a load of rain and icy wind with loads to contemplate. There are positives for us; Carayol played very well indeed, though he did tire towards end of it. George Friend’s marked improvement continued and there were signs today that he is starting to bring the attacking aspect of his game back into the equation, only now he’s doing it in a much more disciplined fashion. Ben Gibson was, yet again, very solid and gets better with every passing match. Dean Whitehead was solid again, Chalobah kind of coasted through it but he did a few decent things(I’d like to see him be more assertive, in truth, though maybe that will come with playing more games for us). Shay Given barely had a save to make as Blackburn created next-to-nowt all match, which is testament to the way we defended as a unit. Varga was solid again and I do like watching a player with that sort of tenacity.

But there are also negatives; Woodgate looked a little slow at times and needed Gibson to cover for him on occasion, Leadbitter looked out-of-sorts playing a role that his game isn’t really suited to and most of what Ledesma tried didn’t come off. These are only slight negatives, certainly, because we did okay really. We were the better side, we kept another clean-sheet and put another point on the board. I think the biggest negative, the real negative if you like, is that large parts of the second-half were pretty tedious on account of us leaving Danny Graham to fend for himself and the team not committing enough bodies forward often enough. We created nothing at all for Graham and chose to just clip it towards him far too often, which didn’t work. We need to get him some support, occupy the other centre-half by having somebody prepared to get themselves into the box, and try to use that to open the game up for him if we want him to score goals because he won’t get too many if we use him like we did today. Fingers crossed that Lee Tomlin can come into the side in a couple of weeks time and give us that spark we need.

All in all, I’m fairly satisfied because we were the better side, and kept yet another clean-sheet, but the feeling that there is more to come from this side in terms of attacking the opposition and scoring some goals means I’m a little frustrated tonight. We’re almost there but not quite, so I’ll try and think about the positives as we head towards next week’s visit to Vicarage Road and the 0-0 draw with Watford.

What The Others Were Doing

This is a late one this one, it really should’ve been posted four or five days ago, well seven days ago if you want to be pedantic, but I trawled the internet throughout the January transfer window to keep track of which teams were doing what in terms of players coming in and players going out. I’m determined to use said list so here it is, in it’s all relative glory.

There wasn’t too much to get excited about really – apart from what the Boro were doing of course – aside from seeing Charlton Athletic take what appears to be a pretty big risk by way of bringing in six players from overseas, none of whom have any experience of playing in the English leagues. A lot of that will have to do with their new owner, who also owns Standard Liege, but when you’re scrapping away down at the bottom of the table I’m not sure how wise a move it is to go down that sort of road with your signings.

Barnsley and Blackpool did quite a lot of business between them, not surprising seeing as they have new managers in place – Danny Wilson and Barry Ferguson respectively(though Ferguson is yet to be made manager on a permanent basis) – with both clubs involved in no fewer than twenty-two deals between them. Blackburn Rovers allowed fifteen players to leave the club, ten of them on loan, whilst Reading were the only side not to sign a single player. Leeds United were the only club not to lose a player during the window(though Ryan Hall has this week joined MK Dons on a free transfer). One of Leeds’ three loan signings, Andrea Tabanelli, remains something of a mystery at this stage as he was apparently signed by a bloke who didn’t actually own the club at the time he signed. So we’ll have to wait and see with that one, and I’m sure we’ll all be on tenterhooks as we await news of whether the relevant authorities have ratified his move to Elland Road.

But it was generally much of a muchness, across the division, as the teams at the top look to cement their places at the business end of the table and the teams at the bottom take one last throw of the dice in a bid to stave off the threat of relegation to the third division. QPR were the busiest of the teams at the top, as you would expect of a club managed by Harry Redknapp, as they added four strikers and the experienced Aaron Hughes to their ranks just before the deadline passed – one of whom was the highly-rated Will Keane on loan from Manchester United.

Anyway, here’s the full list – and it’s worth pointing out that I’ve included the deals that were completed up to and including February 7th because it would seem daft not to seeing as I’ve already got them noted down.

IN: Yann Kermogant – Charlton Athletic(undisclosed), Adam Smith – Tottenham Hotspur(undisclosed), Josh O’Hanlon – Longford Town(undisclosed), Lee Camp – West Bromwich Albion(free), Jonathan Muleba – Chelsea(undisclosed), Ben Whitfield – Guiseley(undisclosed)
OUT: Wes Thomas – Rotherham United(undisclosed), Wes Fogden – Portsmouth(free), Miles Addison – Rotherham United(loan), Matt Tubbs – Crawley Town(loan), Jayden Stockley – Torquay United(loan)

IN: Emmanuel Frimpong – Arsenal(undisclosed), Liam Lawrence – PAOK Salonika(free), Martin Woods(free), Iain Turner(free), Brek Shea – Stoke City(loan), Jack Hunt – Crystal Palace(loan), Nick Proschwitz – Hull City(loan), Ryan McLaughlin – Liverpool(loan)
OUT: Chris Dagnall – Leyton Orient(free), Scott Wiseman – Preston North End(free), Jim McNulty – Bury(free), David Perkins – Blackpool(free), Jason Scotland – Hamilton Academical(free)

IN: Brian Howard – CSKA Sofia(free), Aaron Martin – Southampton(free), Emyr Hughes – Manchester City(loan), Albert Rusnak – Manchester City(loan), Federico Macheda – Manchester United(loan), Tyler Blackett – Manchester United(loan), Tom Thorpe – Manchester United(loan)
OUT: Fisayo Adarabioyo – St Johnstone(free), Darren Ambrose – Apollon Smyani(loan), Wade Elliott – Bristol City(loan), Hayden Mullins – Notts County(loan)

IN: Rudy Gestede – Cardiff City(undisclosed), Tom Cairney – Hull City(undisclosed), Craig Conway – Cardiff City(undisclosed), Bryan Dabo – Montpellier(loan)
OUT: Scott Dann – Crystal Palace(undisclosed), Raheem Hanley – Swansea City(undisclosed), Bruno Ribeiro – Clube Atletico Linense(free), Edinho Junior – Harrisburg City Islanders(free), Fabio Nunes – Latina(free), Bradley Orr – Toronto(loan), DJ Campbell – Millwall(loan), David Goodwillie – Blackpool(loan), Ruben Rochina – Rayo Vallecano(loan), Jordan Slew – Ross County(loan), Alan Judge – Brentford(loan), Alex Marrow – Fleetwood Town(loan), Yann Songo’o – Ross County(loan), John O’Sullivan – Southport(loan), Kellen Daly – Southport(loan)

IN: Tony McMahon – Sheffield United(undisclosed), David Perkins – Barnsley(free), Faris Haroun – Middlesbrough(free), Elliot Grandin – Crystal Palace(free), David Goodwillie – Blackburn Rovers(loan), Andy Halliday – Middlesbrough(loan), Stephen Dobbie – Crystal Palace(loan), Andy Keogh – Millwall(loan)
OUT: Bob Harris – Sheffield United(undisclosed), Tom Ince – Crystal Palace(loan)

IN: Yannick Bastos – FC Differdange(undisclosed), Neil Danns – Leicester City(loan), Lukas Jutkiewicz – Middlesbrough(loan), Liam Trotter – Millwall(loan)
OUT: David N’Gog – Swansea City(undisclosed), Michael O’Halloran – St Johnstone(free), Craig Davies – Preston North End(loan), Gary Fraser – Partick Thistle(loan)

IN: Dale Stephens – Charlton Athletic(undisclosed), Jeffrey Monakana – Preston North End(undisclosed), David Rodriguez – Celta Vigo(free), Jonathan Obika – Tottenham Hotspur(loan)
OUT: Liam Bridcutt – Sunderland(£3m), Ashley Barnes – Burnley(undisclosed), Adam El-Abd – Bristol City(undisclosed), George Barker – Swindon Town(undisclosed), Vitājlis Maksimenko – Kilmarnock(loan), Shamir Goodwin – Torquay United(loan)

IN: Ashley Barnes – Brighton & Hove Albion(undisclosed)
OUT: Marvin Bartley – Leyton Orient(free), George Porter – Rochdale(free), Joseph Mills – Shrewsbury Town(loan), Luke O’Neill – Southend United(loan)

IN: Reza Ghoochennejhad – Standard Liege(undisclosed), Piotr Parzyszek – De Graafschap(undisclosed), Luic Nego – Ujpest(undisclosed), Astrit Ajdarevic – Standard Liege(loan), Yohann Thuram-Ulien – Standard Liege(loan), Anil Koc – Standard Liege(loan)
OUT: Yann Kermogant – AFC Bournemouth(undisclosed), Dale Stephens – Brighton & Hove Albion(undisclosed), Ben Alnwick – Leyton Orient(undisclosed), Michael Smith – Stevenage Borough(undisclosed), Joe Pigott – Gillingham(loan), Nick Pope – York City(loan)

IN: Simon Dawkins – Tottenham Hotspur(undisclosed), Kelle Roos – Nuneaton Borough(undisclosed), Patrick Bamford – Chelsea(loan), George Thorne – West Bromwich Albion(loan)
OUT: Michael Jacobs – Wolverhampton Wanderers(undisclosed), Kieron Freeman – Notts County(loan), Ross Atkins – Crawley Town(loan), Kalifa Cisse(released)

IN: Gabriel Tamas – CFR Cluj(free), Abdoulaye Meite – FC Honka(free), Billy Sharp – Southampton(loan), Sam Johnstone – Manchester United(loan)
OUT: David Syers – Scunthorpe United(undisclosed), Billy Paynter – Sheffield United(loan), Kyle Bennett – Bradford City(loan)

IN: Nakhi Wells – Bradford City(undisclosed), Joe Lolley – Kidderminster Harriers(undisclosed), Sondre Tronstad – IK Start(undisclosed)
OUT: James Burke – Bury(free), Robbie McIntyre – Bury(free), James Spencer – Notts County(free), Jonathan Stead – Oldham Athletic(loan), Liam Ridehalgh – Tranmere Rovers(loan), Chris Atkinson – Bradford City(loan)

IN: Frazer Richardson – Middlesbrough(loan)
OUT: Frederic Veseli – Bury(loan), Jack Marriott – Gillingham(loan), Elliott Hewitt – Gillingham(loan)

IN: Jimmy Kebe – Crystal Palace(loan), Cameron Stewart – Hull City(loan), Andrea Tabanelli – Cagliari(loan)
OUT: Ryan Hall – Milton Keynes Dons(free)

IN: Riyad Mahrez – Le Havre(undisclosed), Kevin Phillips – Crystal Palace(free)
OUT: Neil Danns – Bolton Wanderers(loan), Martyn Waghorn – Wigan Athletic(loan), Zoumana Bakayogo – Yeovil Town(loan), Adam Smith – Stevenage Borough(loan), Alie Sesay – Colchester United(loan)

IN: Daniel Ayala – Norwich City(undisclosed), Nathaniel Chalobah – Chelsea(loan), Kenneth Omeruo – Chelsea(loan), Danny Graham – Sunderland(loan), Lee Tomlin – Peterborough United(loan)
OUT: Justin Hoyte – Milwall(undisclosed), Faris Haroun – Blackpool(free), Marvin Emnes – Swansea City(loan), Lukas Jutkiewicz – Bolton Wanderers(loan), Richie Smallwood – Rotherham United(loan), Frazer Richardson – Ipswich Town(loan), Adam Reach – Bradford City(loan), Luke Williams – Hartlepool United(loan), Charlie Wyke – AFC Wimbledon(loan)

IN: Justin Hoyte – Middlesbrough(undisclosed), Shaun Williams – Milton Keynes Dons(undisclosed), Ed Upson – Yeovil Town(undisclosed), Simeon Jackson – Eintracht Frankfurt(free), Ryan Fredericks – Tottenham Hotspur(loan), DJ Campbell – Blackburn Rovers(loan)
OUT: James Henry – Wolverhampton Wanderers(undisclosed), Karleigh Osbourne – Bristol City(undisclosed), Liam Trotter – Bolton Wanderers(loan), Andy Keogh – Blackpool(loan), Aiden O’Brien – Torquay United(loan)

IN: Rafik Djebbour – Olympiakos(undisclosed), Jack Hobbs – Hull City(undisclosed), David Vaughan – Sunderland(loan), Danny Fox – Southampton(loan), Kevin Gomis – Nice(loan)
OUT: Ishmael Miller – Yeovil Town(loan), Mark Davies – St Johnstone(loan)

IN: Coll Donaldson – Livingston(undisclosed), Kevin Doyle – Wolverhampton Wanderers(loan), Modibo Maiga – West Ham United(loan), Aaron Hughes – Fulham(loan), Will Keane – Manchester United(loan), Guilherme Dellatorre – Deportivo Brazil(loan)
OUT: Oguchi Onyewu – Sheffield Wednesday(free), Adel Taarabt – AC Milan(loan), Samba Diakite – Watford(loan), Tom Hitchcock – Rotherham United(loan)

OUT: Dominic Samuel – Dagenham & Redbridge(loan), Jonathan Henly – Oxford United(loan)

IN: Oguchi Onyewu – Queens Park Rangers(free), Benik Afobe – Arsenal(loan)
OUT: Arron Jameson – Bradford City(loan)

IN: Mathias Ranegie – Udinese(undisclosed), Park Chu-Young – Arsenal(loan), Samba Diakite – Queens Park Rangers(loan), Daniel Tozser – Genoa(loan), Alexander Merkel – Udinese(loan)
OUT: Adam Thompson – Southend United(undisclosed), Javier Acuna – Osasuna(loan), Iriney – Real Mallorca(loan), Uche Ikpeazu – Crewe Alexandra(loan), Connor Smith – Gillingham(loan)

IN: Marcus Holgersson – New York Red Bulls(free), Josh McEachran – Chelsea(loan), Nicky Maynard – Cardiff City(loan), Tyias Browning – Everton(loan), Martyn Waghorn – Leicester City(loan)
OUT: Nouha Dicko – Wolverhampton Wanderers(undisclosed), Grant Holt – Aston Villa(loan), Fraser Fyvie – Shrewsbury Town(loan), Adam Buxton – Burton Albion(loan), Jordan Mustoe – Wycombe Wanderers(loan)

IN: Adam Morgan – Liverpool(free), Matteo Lanzoni – Oldham Athletic(free), Shane Duffy – Everton(loan), Zoumana Bakayogo – Leicester City(loan), Ishmael Miller – Nottingham Forest(loan), Tom Lawrence – Manchester United(loan)
OUT: Paddy Madden – Scunthorpe United(undisclosed), Ed Upson – Millwall(undisclosed), Dan Seaborne – Coventry City(free)

Quietly Going About Our Business

The January transfer window is absolute madness, that much is obvious. Clubs gambling the house on a big Scandinavian lunk after seeing a compilation video of some good headers he did a while back, managers scouring the youth and reserve teams of Premier League clubs in the hope of finding the new Josh McEachran. It’s daft, isn’t it. Daft. But the Boro went about their business with the minimum of fuss, it seems, operating in an efficient and ruthless manner as we had something of a mid-season cull of the playing-staff whilst adding five new players to the squad. And when you look down the list of incomings and outgoings, it’d be hard not to reach the conclusion that when the transfer window ‘slammed shut’, as they say on satellite television, the squad was in a healthier state than it was when Sky Sports, sorry, I mean the authorities, declared the window open on January 1st.

Given that Karanka favours a high-tempo pressing game and sets his teams up accordingly, the signings of Kenneth Omeruo and Nathaniel Chalobah from Chelsea, both of whom are athletic, upwardly-mobile footballers comfortable in more than one position on the field, made sense for a variety of reasons. Omeruo is a Nigerian international looking to book his place in their World Cup squad and Chalobah was one of the stand out players in a Watford side that made it all to Wembley and the play-off final before succumbing 1-0 to Kevin Phillips last season. Whilst these two lads do come with pedigree, one cause for concern, for me anyway, is that they’re both very young footballers coming from an incredibly wealthy club that doesn’t really seem interested in giving it’s academy graduates a chance in their own first-team and looks towards other clubs, less wealthy clubs, to do their donkey-work for them. And when you consider the amount of money, time and effort we put into our own academy set-up, I have some reservations about these kinds of deals if it means one or two of our own kids miss out on the chance of some involvement within the first-team environment. But, of course, if the two lads prove themselves on the pitch then it’ll be very difficult to argue with the logic behind bringing them in.

Daniel Ayala then marked the turning of his loan-move from Norwich City into a permanent deal with some Jon Gittens-esque defending at Leicester City, costing us a goal in the process, but by and large he’s been an integral part of a much-improved defence that has kept six clean-sheets in their last eight league outings. He’s an interesting one, Ayala, because he’s an agricultural defender, shall we say, who can head the ball as far as most goalkeepers can kick it but he does have the odd lapse in him. The hope would be that he continues to improve in the way that he has been and, if he does that, we’ve got ourselves a bargain at around £350,000.

Of course, it wouldn’t be ‘deadline day’ without the club making us wait until the dying embers of proceedings before adding some much-needed attacking impetus to the squad; Becchio, Doyle, Dorrans, some kid from Holland, they were all talked about at relative length but it does seem like the gaffer had decided fairly early-on that Danny Graham was his preferred choice to take over the no.9 position. It’s good to have him back as he is proven in the second-tier, and he is a clear improvement on Lukas Jutkiewicz, but I get the feeling he needs to get his goal as quickly as possible because he’s endured an incredibly poor 2013. That said, scoring goals at Premier League level is a much more demanding task than scoring them in the division below so I’m optimistic about the lad rediscovering his knack and banging a few in for us. The deal for Lee Tomlin, who seems to be a bit of a nutter really, had to wait until the clock struck eleven but it’s clear that we’d been trying to get it done for a good old while as a deal to make the move permanent next summer is already in place. I don’t know an awful lot about him, aside from the fact he’s got goals in him, he likes to shoot and get involved in the play as often as possible and he gets sent-off quite a lot. Unusual as it may sound, the thought of watching a little stocky bloke from Peterborough United strut his stuff on the Riverside pitch is actually quite exciting.

In terms of outgoings, well once again Karanka’s ruthlessness in shipping out those who either weren’t playing or, to be frank, weren’t delivering was a fresh of breath air(that’s deliberately the wrong way round, by the way, a la Roy Keane on telly sometime last season). Lukas Jutkiewicz’s move from Coventry City just hasn’t worked out and his last few performances for us, barring a good hour or so against Burnley on Boxing Day, had been very poor. Sometimes it just doesn’t look like working for a player and the more he played for us, the less likely it seemed he would turn it around. Bolton Wanderers have found the perfect replacement for David N’Gog, perhaps. We also allowed Faris Haroun to join Blackpool for 50p and and a handful of Our Price vouchers.

The most interesting departure is that of Marvin Emnes to Swansea City. Personally, I’m relieved he’s gone because I don’t think he offered enough to the side – one goal and four ‘assists’ this season speaks for itself. Six goals and seven ‘assists’ since the start of last season doesn’t just speak for itself, it absolutely bellows at you through a megaphone down a loud-haler thing that’s plugged into a really powerful amp. The kind-hearted members of our support will remember him as a talented boy who scored a handful of spectacular goals(that sublime scissor-kick thing he did at Walsall in the cup, the screamer at Elland Road), though I suspect most of us will remember him as someone who failed to apply himself properly a lot of the time, who didn’t seem to like taking a shot on or getting into the box, and as someone who liked to drop deep into the midfield, far too deep at times, and faff about instead of doing the things he was good at. I don’t think it’s much of a surprise that Karanka has allowed him to move on just three months into the job, though it will be interesting to see how he gets on in the Premier League.

The one I was most disappointed to see leave the club was Richie Smallwood; an ever-industrious player who never let the team down when called upon and a lad who I thought would prosper under Karanka, in fact I think he was prospering actually but, well, what can you do. The gaffer thought it best for him to be out playing every week instead of having a few minutes here and there for us and it’s hard to argue against that, especially if Nathaniel Chalobah lives up to the hype. The others who left; Halliday, Reach, Luke Williams, Frazer Richardson – well will we actually miss them? They’ve barely featured for us this season and it’s better for everyone if they’re out there getting a regular game instead of loitering about somewhere between the U21 side and Nandos.

So all in all it looks like did some good business and seemingly improved the squad, the team itself, whilst simultaneously ridding ourselves of some of the lads who needed moving on to pastures new. Not being able to extend Shay Given’s loan might be the one thing we regret but, to put it simply, we can’t afford to pay him the kind of money Aston Villa pay him so we move on to someone else. It’ll be interesting to see how Jason Steele fares behind a new-look defence, behind a resolute team that defends from the front, as opposed to the circus he was playing behind prior to his sending-off at Leeds but maybe Karanka will fancy getting another experienced head to see us through to the end of the season. All we can say about this window is that it’s put us in a decent position to build on the recent improvements and that the squad looks in better shape now than it was a month ago, which is pretty much all you can ask for of a manager and his staff once the the window ‘slams shut’, as they say on satellite television.