8:00am Saturday 21st September 2013
By Paul Fraser
TONY MOWBRAY will guard his defenders against a major summer target he missed out on this afternoon, but is confident that Middlesbrough now have the firepower to cause big problems in the Championship.
Despite an inability to agree a deal with Malmo before Bournemouth bought Tokelo Rantie in August - and a failure to bring in the alternative prolific front-man he had been hoping for - the acquisitions of versatile forward Kei Kamara and winger Albert Adomah has freshened up the Boro attack.
He was also forced to admit defeat in his pursuit of Scotland’s Ross McCormack, who committed to a new deal with Leeds United instead, but there is no real urgency on the manager’s part to bring in that extra attacker, despite an interest in Norwich’s Luciano Becchio.
“It’s possible that we still have a hole in the squad,” said Mowbray. “But Rantie and McCormack are totally different types of footballers, so it’s not that we were just targeting one specific type for that hole.
“Rantie is a fast, lightning and an explosive footballer. McCormack makes things happen. He is different. For me I like good footballers and when I get them I adapt a style that suits the players I have. We are not at a point where we have a specific system yet.
“If we had two strikers who were superstars then we would develop the shape behind them. We have some wingers and speed, but it doesn’t mean we will play with wingers every week. We have options, which is good to have.”
Having failed to bring a striker in before the transfer window closed on September 2, Middlesbrough can only bring in emergency loan deals. The 93-day term of such agreements would only reach the January transfer window provided they are finalised after September 27.
But Mowbray insists that is not even in his thinking at this stage. He said: “You have to give your players a chance. If I like Mustapha Carayol, Albert Adomah, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Kei Kamara, Marvin Emnes then I think you need to give them an opportunity.
“I like Jacob Butterfield, Grant Leadbitter, Dean Whitehead, Jozsef Varga in the middle. I am reasonably happy. The performance levels of the team have been high. I understand that if you look at the league table, where we are, we have not accrued the points we should have.
“And yet I look at the performances, we have played pretty consistently, pretty well, and that will resolve itself in terms of points. They will come, so I’m keen to give these players a chance.”
That would not necessarily have been the case had Middlesbrough landed Rantie.
The 23-year-old South African was the subject of a couple of offers from Teesside in excess of £1m, but Malmo were reluctant to lose him because their transfer window had already closed until January, so a replacement could not be bought.
But Bournemouth broke their club record transfer fee by paying around £2.5m and, after receiving his work permit, the striker is expected to make his Cherries debut at the Riverside Stadium this afternoon.
“By all accounts he could face us,” said Mowbray. “We will be faced with electric speed, he is a small robust centre-forward. He is a threat. I will be making my players aware of his threat.
“He was a player we went to long routes to try to go and see where we could get to with his club. For the right deal we would have tried to sign him. They wanted to try to win their league and he was an important player for them to win their league. The money from Bournemouth got to a point where it over-weighed that. The money considerably upped and they did a deal.”
Mowbray flew out to Sweden to personally run the rule over Rantie and Middlesbrough’s final offer was knocked back by Malmo shortly afterwards. A long list of Premier League clubs, including Manchester United, regularly attended games to see him in action.
“We were aware of other clubs being in; all the scouts where there from all the clubs watching one player,” said Mowbray. “They were all watching him. Good players attract clubs to watch them.”
If Middlesbrough can keep Rantie and the Bournemouth forward line quiet, the hope is there will be a rare home win this afternoon – which would mean a second win of the season after some improved performances.
Mowbray, who will give a late fitness test to Emnes after a groin problem, said: “The team has to keep believing that what they are doing is right. Ultimately if you play well every game then you will win matches.
“You need to get a team that consistently plays well to be successful. That has always been my philosophy. Maybe we scrambled a couple of results early last year and we found ourselves top of the league, maybe.
“I wouldn’t say that was the case. But did we scramble a victory against Burnley last year with two wonder strikes, in a tight match? Did we scramble some victories which created a false impression last year? I don’t know. I would rather play well every week knowing we will eventually win games. You won’t keep missing 20 opportunities, they will go in. Work on the training ground dictates that the draws will turn in to wins if you keep doing the right things.”
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