An opening day setback has done little to suggest Middlesbrough’s disastrous 2013 is going to pick up now we’re back on the right side of the summer break, which only serves to heighten their relatively juicy 6/1 Championship relegation price.
Tony Mowbray’s men squandered a comfortable half-time lead to lose 2-1 to Leicester City, as the Foxes flaunted their genuine promotion aspirations in the face of their north east adversaries who may still harbour top-six dreams of their own, despite this morale sapping defeat.
A price of 10/1 says the Boro will be sampling the end-of-season delirium that promotion brings about, but the smart money remains in the corner of their shorter price to finish in the bottom three.
No side in the Football League has endured a worse 2013 on the pitch than Middlesbrough, whose 12 points from 66 available would leave them marooned at the bottom of the Championship table were a league drawn up over this period.
Their capitulation in the second half against Leicester was a fitting microcosm of their 2012/13 campaign, where strong pre-Christmas form served as their relegation life line.
Assuming that Boro won’t repeat their strong early-season showing of the previous two terms based on one defeat – against a team which they hold a terrible record against, no less – has an air of knee-jerk about it, but there is reason to believe that the club are in a worse position this time around than what they were last.
The squad has been whittled down significantly in numbers with only Dean Whitehead, Jozsef Varga and Frazer Richardson coming in to replace the close to 10 experienced pros that have departed.
The amount of arrivals must double in the least if Boro are to save their Championship skin, though that’s no guarantee.
The defence is lacking in physicality, with Rhys Williams and Jonathan Woodgate too similar and lightweight to prosper as a partnership, while the attack looks bereft of a finisher and the team itself lacks balance across the park.
With finances stretched to the limit, an influx of incomings is highly unlikely, so a punt on the relegation axe to fall on Boro looks like it could prove profitable in the long run.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date