Saturday, 24 January 2009

Window Watch: Farewell then, Mido (groin)....

One out...

After 18 frustrating months, Mido's Boro career is drawing to a close. The Egyptian striker has signed a loan deal at Wigan to replace Villa-bound Emile Heskey. Despite his undoubted talent, few will mourn his departure. After completing a £6m move from Spurs in August 2007, Mido made an immediate impression. If his debut goal owed more to comedy goalkeeping from Tony Warner, his second in two games created more of a stir. Having being subjected to the full scope of Geordie 'wit', Mido ran on to Fabio Rochemback's through ball to silence the visiting fans.

The Egyptian has been living off the goodwill from that game for some time. Injuries soon put an end to his good start and when he eventually returned for last year's 4th round tie at Mansfield, he was embarrassingly unfit and overweight. His only meaningful contribution was to help Boro towards the last eight of the FA Cup, scoring via the post and Paddy Kenny to end 200 minutes of turgid stalemate with Sheffield United. A red card at Arsenal brought a premature end to the season.

This campaign started brighter. Clearly in better physical shape, Mido came off the bench to score the winner against Spurs and then a thumping drive at Anfield seven days later. First starts in the league and cup also brought goals. Having made such a vocal case for regular first team football, things soon went sour. The past few months have seen niggling 'injuries' occur with suspicious regularity, regular moans in the press and an all-too-familiar weight gain. Mido may have all the technical attributes to make a big impression in the Premier League but until he learns to conduct himself in a disciplined, professional manner, his nomadic career is doomed to being a tale of wasted opportunities.


...and one in

Mido's replacement will be fomer Watford and Hull target man Marlon King, who has joined on a six month loan deal. King's signing has had a mixed reception, with concerns about his character almost as prevalent as those about his ability. King had spent the first half of the season on loan at Hull but that spell was curtailed after a dispute with manager Phil Brown last week.

Its not the first time King's spell on Humberside was tainted by controversy. In the past three months, King has been arrested after accusations of punching a 20 year old girl, banned from driving after doing 106mph in a 60mph zone and was involved in a bizarre scrap with team-mate Dean Windass in a Scarborough casino. His time with first club Gillingham was also tarnised by brushes with the law.

Although Gareth Southgate will no doubt be relieved to have removed the malignant influence of Mido from the dressing room, there has to be concern that the club have replaced one disruptive influence with another, less talented one.

Hopes of a second signing are receding with Crystal Palace midfielder Ben Watson set to opt for a move to Wigan. Boro had agreed a £2m fee with Palace but the move appears to have broken down over Watson's personal terms - with some reports suggesting the midfielder requested £25,000 a week. With Wigan presenting a more attractive alternative, based on current form at least, the move seems destined to failure leaving Southgate still desperately short of options in midfield. Its a depressing reflection of Boro's plummet down football's food chain.


Thrown to the Wolves

After a desperate defeat in West Bromwich last weekend, Boro will be hoping for a more rewarding trip to the Midlands this afternoon. Championship leaders Wolves host Boro for a place in the last sixteen of the FA Cup. Boro's last FA Cup tie at Molineux in 1981 proved to be a seminal fixture, defeat proving the start of the break-up of a young squad, relegation to Divison Three and almost the end of the club's existence.

This fixture is unlikely to provide such portents of doom. The hope must be that an escape from the growing pressures of the league campaign can liberate a squad whose confidence and togetherness is clearly damaged. With the home side looking set for promotion, its debatable which result would consititute a shock. Although Mick McCarthy's side have stuttered a little since loanee Michael Mancienne returned to Chelsea, they still possess some of the most promising players outside the top flight, such as winger Michael Kightly and striker Sylvain Ebanks-Blake.

In previous years, FA Cup runs have helped dragged the club out of trouble, providing some sporadic relief from the toil of a relegation battle. Whatever the manager may say about fixture congestion, Boro should be pleased if Wolves are brought back to the Riverside.

Prediction: Wolves 2 Boro 1

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