Middlesbrough limped to a sixth successive defeat at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, when they were well beaten 3-1 by a Swansea side that looked hungrier, better and fitter than their Teesside counterparts.
More galling for Boro’ fans, is that you would have thought Graham Potter’s side were the play-off chasers, and Tony Pulis’s side the mid-table mediocrity.
If the lid on Boro’s play-off coffin is starting to close now, the nails may be being hammered in this week, as a defeat tomorrow to relegation certainties, Bolton Wanderers, coupled with wins for sixth-placed Bristol City and Derby — who both still have a game in hand — would make it a virtually impossible job.
And make no mistake, a game at Bolton — which would have been an away win banker a few weeks ago — is one that is hard to predict, with a defeat for Pulis’s beleaguered team becoming a new low for the club this season.
So when the Teesside Gazette reported yesterday that the players were given the option of a day off following their abject performance in Wales, with only a handful expressing a preference to come in for an extra session, alarm bells should be ringing for fans.
Pulis said: “They’ve got to pick themselves up, we’ve had a good chat about it.
“They’ll have a day off [on Sunday] to clear their heads. It’s an optional day for them, four or five want to come in and do a little bit but I’ve always been one of them, at this stage of the season, they’re fit and ready to go. I think it’s more a mental thing
After their worst showing to date from a host of poor displays, they should have all been champing at the bit to come in and try to put things right.
If nothing else, it would show their commitment to the cause, and give fans a sign that they care and want to rectify the situation.
So when just “four or five” want to do an extra session, it begs the question — what about the rest?
It may not make any difference in a fitness sense, as Pulis said, but it would show a togetherness, and even if they just did a light session and then dissected what went wrong at Swansea, along with what they need to do at Bolton tomorrow to prevent a repeat, it would send a positive message.
Fans will be left to question the attitude of any players that opted to have — or thought they deserved — a day off, after spending large sums of money to travel hundreds of miles to witness a team that gave the impression that they could not care less.
They should have been forced to come in, train, then sit and watch a tape of Saturday’s performance, before each individual display was picked apart by the coaching staff.
Things are clearly not right at the Riverside, and with every game they do not win, the pressure on Steve Gibson to do something is being ramped up, even if it is now too late for this season.
What are your thoughts of the goings on at your club right now, Middlesbrough fans? Should they be forced to do extra session right now? Or do you think it is all too little, too late? Let us know your thoughts…