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5th January 2017

Boro v Sunderland in the FA Cup should be a major game in the world's most famous domestic club trophy. Sadly the importance of any of the early round fixtures in the competition are overshadowed nowadays as clubs prioritise league games and often field much weakened teams.

That could happen in this game as both clubs with new managers at the helm strive to find a winning formula to assist them at respective ends of the Championship table.

Not that any of that has dissuaded the rival supporters. Sunderland quickly sold their extended cup tie allocation and will be backed by around 4,000 supporters. A big gate is guaranteed and hopefully both teams will take the game as seriously as the supporters.

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It's been a frustrating season so far at The Riverside with the expensively assembled squad flattering to deceive and failing to fulfil their pre season tag as promotion favourites.

Wolves appear the divisions class act but the ultra competitive nature of the second tier means that three quarters of the sides could still find a run of form to make the play offs.

Under Garry Monk's tutelage, despite not finding a settled side there were signs at Sheffield Wednesday that things were starting to finally click. Many keyboard warriors had been calling for his head ever since the opening day defeat at Molineux.

With the legendary patience of chairman Steve Gibson it came as a surprise when Monk was sacked immediately after the Hillsborough victory. For that to happen something must not have been well behind the scenes as the club, whilst underachieving, were very much in touching distance of the play offs.

Tony Pulis' appointment was also a surprise but a clear sign that the club wanted a proven, experienced man at the helm to restructure the squad and keep the promotion dream alive.

Time will tell if that was the correct decision. Pulis has already stated that his squad is too big and departures during January look likely. The futures of Clayton, Forshaw, Fabio and Roberts are in doubt and amazingly many of the clubs expensive array of pre season signings have still to prove that they are in the new managers plans.

To me the major problem for the players to overcome is a complete change in playing style, which ideally would be furnished pre season, not on the hop in the forthcoming weeks. The unfortunate home defeat against Villa followed by a horror show opening 45 minutes at Deepdale shows that there is a lot of work to be done.

The second half comeback gives hope and with heart as much as head I still believe that Boro can join the likes of Villa and Derby as the main promotion hopefuls as some of the early season form sides start to fall away.

As usual the clubs biggest asset are the loyal supporters; they have turned up in numbers home and away and whilst the on field transition takes place their noisy vocal backing, starting this Saturday lunchtime, will be important in making the season successful.

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