Football League World
·30 September 2023
Football League World
·30 September 2023
There have been just eight matches played by Championship clubs in the 2023-24 season, but for Middlesbrough it is a familiar story - one which in-fact occurred last season.
Having finished the 2021-22 campaign strongly, only to finish just outside of the Championship play-off spots, Chris Wilder spent a decent amount of money over the course of the summer, funded by the sales of a key player in Marcus Tavernier and also Djed Spence.
The early form of 2022-23 though was not good enough, and after 11 matches he was sacked with Boro in the relegation zone, having won just twice in league action.
Michael Carrick arrived in late October and turned the club's fortunes around, guiding them to a play-off spot by the end of the season but they folded at the semi-final stage, losing 1-0 to Coventry City to consign Boro to another year in the second tier of English football.
Carrick found himself without loanees Cameron Archer and Ryan Giles going into 2023-24, as well as talisman Chuba Akpom who was sold last month to Ajax, but money was re-invested in the likes of Emmanuel Latte Lath, Lukas Engel, Morgan Rogers, Sam Silvera among other indivuals.
Yet, Boro and Carrick find themselves sitting in 22nd position after eight matches in a real sense of déjà vu from 12 months ago, although they finally notched up their first league win of the campaign against Southampton on Saturday afternoon.
Clearly, the main area that needs to be strengthened in three months time when the transfer window re-opens in January is defence, with the back-line being fairly leaky ever since Carrick arrived 11 months ago, but the forward options are failing to live up to the billing as well.
Latte Lath and Marcus Forss have scored one goal a piece, with Akpom and Archer's goals from last season proving to be a real miss, and the club have already started to be linked with strikers.
One of those is Devante Cole, with TEAMtalk claiming that Boro are among a number of second tier clubs pursuing the son of Andy Cole, who has netted nine times in as many League One matches this season for Barnsley.
However, Cole has been contracted to a Championship club before in Wigan Athletic and wasn't given an opportunity, and there is reason to believe that at the age of 28, the Tykes striker won't be able to make the step up.
One player who appears to be a late bloomer in professional football though that could be a good signing for Boro is Portsmouth's Colby Bishop, who has proven to be very fearsome in-front of goal in League One in recent years.
Just over four years ago, Bishop was playing non-league football for Leamington at the age of 22 whilst also working as a PE teacher, but his 20 goals at National League North level in 2018-19 caught the attentions of Accrington Stanley.
John Coleman's side have had plenty of success when it comes to plucking youngsters from outside of the EFL, and Bishop was no different as he returned to the Football League three years after his release from Notts County.
A scorer of 39 goals in three seasons at Stanley, Bishop formed a partnership with current Bolton Wanderers sharp-shooter Dion Charles, and his talents were noticed elsewhere as Portsmouth swooped last summer to sign Bishop for a fee of around £500,000.
And whilst Pompey did not get into League One's play-offs last season, Bishop led the line at Fratton Park expertly and found the back of the net 24 times in all competitions.
Bishop has already had an electric start to the 2023-24 campaign as well, with Pompey unbeaten in league action and the 26-year-old scoring five goals already for John Mousinho's side.
Unlike Latte Lath, who is pretty small in stature and looks all speed, Bishop would offer a more well-rounded focal point at the top end of the pitch.
Bishop doesn't quite stand at six feet tall, but his aerial ability is very good and he's scored plenty of headers for Accrington and Pompey in the last three years.
His poacher's instinct is also pretty good with some clever finishes in and around the six-yard box, whilst his composure is also proven from 12 yards at the penalty spot, with 21 of his 24 penalties scored in his career.
Bishop also has a decent amount of pace too which helps him to get into goalscoring positions beyond defenders, and at the age of 26 now he is heading into what should be his prime.
Essentially, that means Mousinho has him until the summer of 2026, and with this being their best chance of promotion for a number of years, Portsmouth are not going to sell on the cheap.