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9th July 2018

Like every club's supporters, Boro fans will be counting down the days until Millwall on the opening day of the season. This close season has seemed very short due to the World Cup keeping football very much to the fore, however the benefits of the changes to the closing dates of the transfer window will in some ways have been negated by the World Cup.

We can expect a mad rush of activity at many clubs as the knock on effect of big money moves take place after the marvellous tournament in Russia comes to a close.

Sadly as a Championship club we won't be expecting some of players we've enjoyed watching on TV heading to the Riverside this season, but as the merry-go-round starts I am sure that Pulis will be very much involved in fine tuning a team in his own style so that Boro can be amongst the front runners this term.

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The signing of Aden Flint could be a masterstroke; he epitomises a 'Tony Pulis player', uncompromising, committed, a strong defender and a player who is as much a threat in his opponents penalty area as his own.

Steve Gibson has once again not only backed his manager in the transfer market with the provision of funds but also shown the mettle and singlemindedness in the handling of the Paddy McNair signing. It was suggested that the move was off as yet again agents involvement looked like trying to instigate a bidding war. Mr Gibson is as shrewd in football as he is in business and the suggested take it or leave it offer and the players desire to come to The Riverside and finalise his future was instrumental in securing what hopefully will be another excellent acquisition.

Boro had their first match action on Thursday evening in Austria. The results of these games mean absolutely nothing; the usual 22-a-side games are merely an exercise in adding gradual match fitness to the physical fitness levels already attained. Getting through them without injury is as important as anything.

Boro's 1-0 defeat to a much better match prepared Sturm Graz at the end of another long hard training day would mean absolutely nothing to the Boro boss who affirmed after the game that he had been delighted at the attitude and endeavours of his squad.

It has been gratifying to hear that Pulis is giving every chance to young players like Tavernier, Chapman and Wing to be a major part of his plans. In turn this is encouraging others at the club that if they are good enough they will be considered for selection.

Within the game, many are starting to show dissent towards age related football, which is OK for youngsters but Under-23 sides? As Gareth Southgate has started to show in recent times, giving younger players an opportunity can prove successful.

As the season approaches the friendly games assume greater importance in terms of getting a regular side, tactics and shape and as such I was delighted to hear the club announce their latest friendly fixture with Sunderland on Friday 27th July with a 7.30pm kick-off.

Supporters of the two clubs may not always be on the friendliest terms but with the signing of McNair, the loan last season of Ashley Fletcher and now this game it is clear that relationships between the clubs are good.

Once again Boro have priced this game sensibly and that should ensure a healthy turn out, especially as it will encourage parents to take children, who perhaps don't get the opportunities to attend. Initially the club have announced only certain stands will be open but hopefully demand will dictate that they will have to amend those plans.

I was delighted to hear news of the appointment this week of Neil Maddison to the clubs Academy staff whilst continuing his excellent involvement with BBC Tees vibrant match-day commentary team. Maddo is Boro through and through and his enthusiasm, knowledge and experience will be a great addition to Craig Liddle's team and benefit the youngsters at the club.

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