Middlesbrough vs Luton Town: Opposition view
Luton Town travel to Middlesbrough tomorrow afternoon as Rob Edwards prepares for his first match in charge of the Hatters.
Providing a view from the opposition, Middlesbrough fan Dana Malt of The Boro Breakdown Podcast spoke to ORH...
Tell us a little about your Boro supporting history!
I hate the label ‘tomboy’, but I was definitely that as a kid, so I fell into football quite naturally. It wasn’t without its bumps though, because my first memory of it is running to my room and locking myself in in absolute hysterics after my Mam and Dad tried to get me to watch a game (I can only assume it was a Middlesbrough one). But after that, I went to my first game - against Portsmouth at the end of the 2007/08 season, and it has very much stuck ever since, even despite the fact that my first season as a season card holder ended in relegation.
How would you sum up the season so far?
It’s been a mixed bag, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that over the years. We started slowly under Chris Wilder and then the wheels fell off behind the scenes, and tensions boiled to a point of no return. His tactful flirting with other jobs, most notably the Burnley job back in April last season, didn’t go down well with the fans - and probably not with the Middlesbrough hierarchy either. I mention that because it seems as though it’s the point where things started to sour. He’s a grumpy sod, Wilder, and he made that known during and after the transfer window. That’s fine if the performances on the pitch are somewhat decent, but Boro were a shadow of themselves and looked like they were trending downwards rather than upwards. Carrick has come in and we’ve had a nice little new manager bounce, which has reignited the fire a tad.
Has there been a noticeable difference in performances under Michael Carrick?
Yes, I think he’s simplified things, and put an emphasis on on-pitch relationships. Everything seems to be clicking with the team right now: Chuba Akpom is thriving in a slightly withdrawn striker role, Jonny Howson and Hayden Hackeny are pulling the strings in a once problematic midfield, and we’ve looked a lot more solid having gone with a four at the back, which I admittedly wasn’t a huge fan of prior.
What Boro players do Luton need to be wary of?
Definitely the aforementioned man - Chuba Akpom. As far as redemption arcs go, this one is lovely. He was bombed out of the squad in pre-season because Wilder didn’t see his future being at Middlesbrough. As Akpom himself put it: “I thought me and Middlesbrough were done.” Wilder, probably begrudgingly, brought Akpom back into the fold owing to a lack of options up top. He took his chance, and he hasn’t looked back. At the time of writing this, he’s up for Championship Player of the Month. My god I hope he doesn’t get it, we all know that thing is cursed. Under Carrick, that almost no.10 role is suiting him down to the ground. He’s got a good ability to hold the ball up and hassle defenders through his physicality, and also play a bit when the ball is along the floor. He’s been having his Weetabix, because he’s been completely re-energised. Who knew a little bit of belief would go a long way in football?
What have you made of Luton this season and the appointment of Rob Edwards?
I think, as far as ‘fits’ go in the Championship, this seems like a really, really good one. I wanted Edwards at Boro, and in fairness I don’t think Michael Carrick is that dissimilar a profile - two young managers with a lot of potential to be very good at a decent level, and that can buy into a decent project. With Luton’s smartness in the transfer market,and smartness on the pitch, Edwards should be the perfect coach to pick up after Nathan Jones’s departure… right?
I have no idea how this one is going to go, in truth. Because of that, I’ll sit on the fence with a 1-1 draw.