It’s not that long since Boro were playing in the Premier League and Europe – they got to the UEFA Cup final in 2006 – but this is their fifth consecutive season of Championship football
We have another big week of football on the agenda, and our game up at Middlesbrough will be more than interesting.
We had a disappointing 3-0 defeat at the Riverside last season, but gained some revenge with a 2-1 home win which proved crucial to our Championship survival.
It’s a different campaign, a different team and we have a different manager employing a fresh formation and system, and there’s no reason why we can’t go and get a result.
It’s not that long since Boro were playing in the Premier League and Europe – they got to the UEFA Cup final in 2006 – but this is their fifth consecutive season of Championship football.
Tony Mowbray is under pressure to lead the club back to the top flight, but while he has some good players to call on, Boro have struggled for consistency, and hopefully we’ll get them on one of their bad nights!
It’s a big night of Championship action, with Blackburn against Watford, Leeds versus Bournemouth and the Lancashire derby between Blackpool and Bolton also catching the eye.
Tonight’s Premier League clash pits Everton against Newcastle at Goodison, and it will be interesting to see how Roberto Martinez and Alan Pardew approach the game.
Martinez did a great job at both Swansea and Wigan, despite their relegation last season, and he has made a good start in succession to David Moyes at Everton.
Keeping hold of Leighton Baines must have been a big boost for the blue half of Merseyside, the players brought in from Wigan have added to the squad, and the loan capture of Gareth Barry from Manchester City looks an excellent bit of business.
Martinez has yet to suffer a league loss, while Newcastle have also shown a bit of form by beating Fulham and Aston Villa recently, so it should be a pretty decent tussle.
European football also returns, and we’ll all have an eye on events in Romania tomorrow, as Joe Mourinho and his Chelsea side take on Steaua Bucharest aiming to bounce back after their unexpected home loss to FC Basel when the Champions League got under way a fortnight ago.
It was great to see Yorkshire well represented in the England squad for the latest Ashes series in Australia this Winter.
Joining Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root will be Gary Ballance, and I believe he deserves his chance.
Ballance is a good player and he has been in form, averaging more than 50 in first-class cricket and scoring a hundred for the Lions against the Aussies this summer.
The selectors have clearly taken notice of that, and now Ballance will probably fight it out with Bairstow for the number six slot.
Bairstow seems the favourite to start in the first Test in Brisbane in November.
But he has yet to cement a place in the order.
The proximity of the two Ashes series means there could be some carry-over of bad feeling between the sides.
Quick, bouncy pitches are also expected, and that goes some way to explaining the choice of big and tall quicks.
Boyd Rankin got the nod after some decent performances against the Aussies in the one-dayers, but like Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett, he still has it all to prove.
Tremlett played well on the last tour of Australia but had mixed reviews with Surrey towards the end of the season, and Finn also had a disappointing summer.
All-rounder Ben Stokes, a player with real potential, also has his chance, and he must be on cloud nine having just enjoyed Championship success with Durham.
Meanwhile it’s good to see Monty Panesar back, and his experience and spin could come in pretty useful.
I was really pleased at news of Alex Smithies’ contract extension.
His deal now runs to 2016, with the club having the option of extending it by a further 12 months, and it shows commitment from both parties.
Alex is still only 23, but I was still playing when he made his debut, and I’ve always rated him.
I’s great to see him back between the posts on a regular basis, and hopefully his injury worries are a thing of the past.
It would be fantastic to think he could work his way back into the England reckoning having played for them at junior level.
Alex has the advantage of having age on his side, and also the chance of playing regular first-team football.
If he can maintain good form, who knows?
I’d also like to wish our development keeper Lloyd Allinson all the best during his loan spell at Ilkeston.
Non-league football provides a great learning experience for a young player.