A LACK of positive thinking has not been so much of a problem for Middlesbrough this season as a shortage of anyone to capitalise on it.
Gareth Southgate’s mind was willing, but his team are Championship-bound because the bodies at his disposal are weak. They are the lowest scorers in a division containing West Bromwich Albion.
But, whereas Newcastle United and Sunderland might scratch their heads at how squads featuring Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins, Mark Viduka (okay, you can discount the constantly-injured Aussie), Djibril Cissé and Kenwyne Jones pose all the threat of a Women’s Institute coffee morning, the reasons for Boro’s struggles are obvious.
You wouldn’t want to stake your mother-in-law’s life on the goalscoring exploits of Jeremie Aliadiere, Afonso Alves, Tunçay Sanli and Marlon King, never mind your own.
The quartet have scored more than half their team’s goals this season, but it is still only 12. Not enough. Not by a long way.
If Alves is a £12m striker, how much would someone who is clinical in front of goal cost? What makes it all the more depressing is the Teessiders have a reasonable recent pedigree when it comes to goal-getters.
If just one from the Uefa Cup final trio of Viduka, Yakubu, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, or even Fabrizio Ravanelli had been in their ranks this season, Boro might be challenging for the Europa League, rather than planning for the grim reality of another season outside of the Premier League.
Even David Wheater and Stewart Downing have not been chipping in with goals as they did last term.
As epitaphs go, Southgate’s damning assessment of the performance at Bolton Wanderers was a pretty succinct explanation of why the league table makes such unpleasant reading.
“We did not do enough of the things you need to win football matches. We have attacked well, we have hit the post and scored a very good goal but we have conceded some dreadful goals and you can see from the body language of the team that there is a lack of belief,” he said.
A lack of belief, a lack of goals and now, a lack of hope. Relegation beckons.