After a season of disappointment, Middlesbrough look to have assembled a squad strong enough to take them back to the Premier League, with football betting odds backing them for promotion.
Although north-east rivals Newcastle were able to escape the Championship at the first time of asking last term, Boro’s settled financial situation meant a top-flight return was less pressing.
As such, Steve Gibson set about planning for the future, removing Gareth Southgate as manager and replacing him with Gordon Strachan. It seems to be a move that has paid off.
Although they missed out on the play-offs last season, the side seemed to grow in confidence as the games went by.
Strachan has also worked hard to strengthen the squad, using his connections in Scottish football to bring in a total of seven players from Rangers and Celtic.
The latest of these, Kevin Thomson, signed on Friday and could be the final piece in Strachan’s Championship jigsaw.
However, the key man in Middlesbrough’s Championship charge is likely to be Kris Boyd who joined on a free transfer from Rangers. The striker is only 26, but has chalked up 164 goals in 296 SPL appearances, making him the league’s record scorer.
If he can bring that kind of form with him to the Championship, then it would seem that Boro are shoo-ins for promotion.
Of course, they won’t have things all their own way. Fortunately for them, the three sides who were relegated from the Premier League last season were unusually week and only Burnley are likely to mount a serious promotion challenge this time around.
Still, online football bettingpundits believe that the likes of Nottingham Forest, Reading and Cardiff are all poised to make another charge and should be there or thereabouts.
So Boro will have their work cut out but if Strachan can get his new signings to bond and Boyd can fire the goals, they should find themselves topping the table come the end of the season.