We speak to Robert Nichols of fmttm ahead of the Swans’ visit to the Riverside Stadium…
You’re currently 2nd in the league going into this game. How would you assess your start to the season?
Much better than expected – especially after losing what most fans would consider our 3 best players – Ben Gibson, Adama Traore and Patrick Bamford – one vital player from each department, including the defesnive lynchpin, the man goal creator and goal getter. That we have done so well must largely be down to the know how of old campaigner Tony Pulis.
Given how well you’ve started, are you hopeful and or expecting promotion this term?
Definitely hopeful – although we are entering a vital period now and our game against Swansea will represent one of our biggest tests so far.
How you assess your summer in terms of comings and goings?
We were all bitterly disappointed at the 3 big departures and our failure to bring in any winger or pacy replacements for Traore after Tony Pulis said many times that this was essential.
But in the end we have made some very good loan signings especially in midfielders Mo Besic, George Saville and Sam McQueen. We just hope we can score the goals and remain strong and solid.
Tony Pulis is starting his first full season at the riverside. What do the fans make of him?
I think most fans really rate him for his straight talking, his calm approach and that wealth of experience he brings. He was tasked with looking at the whole club and assessing it from top to bottom. I think just like Swansea, our chairmna Steve Gibson realised we were in danger of losing our identity and direction. Pulis is looking to develop or young, local players again and trying to only accomodate players that want to be here.
Who are your star performers and who needs to up there game?
Martin Braithwaite played 4 games for Denmark in the World Cup and is capable of playing at a very high level. He couldn’t get away quickly enough on loan when Tony Pulis first came in last Xmas and put in a transfer request the day before the end of the loan/Continental window. He is here to stay until January and we need him to provide that spark between midfield and attack.
Former England international and “one of our own” Stewy Downing still has the class and vision to put his foot on the ball and change the pace of the game but at 34 has he the legs to play 2 games a week?
Adam Clayton is the workhorse in midfield and will play himself into the ground. The defence is big and strong. Up until Wedmesday we were fielding 3 big strong ecntral defenders. We are not easy to out muscle at the back.
We hope that between them new loan signings George Saville, Jordan Hugill and also Britt Assombalonga can provide the vital goals. Saville and Britt both scored on Wednesday so here’s hoping they can continue.
What do you make of Swansea and which players if any do you fear?
Am really impressed with the way you have started and that you have returned to the old Swansea passing game, so good to watch, so much admired and so effective for you.
You are very good down the flanks. Olson is so experienced and Connor Roberts has really kicked on since his loan spell at Boro. He always looked great attacking in cup games. I really rate McBurnie ad not just for his socks hanging down super white legs style. You seem to have developed some good young talent.
It is all a far cry for both of us since we last met at the Riverside. The nadir of your Bob Bradley nightmare when you were flattered by a 3-0 defeat in 2016. I just wish we could have swapped places and directions at the end of that season.
Predict the score and where both teams will finish
Three of us sitting around a table for our podcast earlier in the week predicted 2-1 tomorrow – fingers crossed.
Anyone making the trip you are more than welcome to join in our FanZone before the game. Oh and look out for our fanzine sellers – now in our 30th year – Fly Me To The Moon – Issue 588 Boro vs Swansea City.