When Middlesbrough announced the signing of Aden Flint last summer, their supporters had every right to feel excited given the defender’s previous escapades at Bristol City.
A stand-out performer for the Robins throughout his time at Ashton Gate, the 29-year-old initially burst onto the scene in 2015 by firing in a remarkable total of 16 goals in all competitions to help the club win the League One title as well as the Football League Trophy.
After improving his consistency year-on-year for City, Flint’s outstanding displays during the 2017/18 campaign attracted the interest of Tony Pulis who decided to sign him for a fee reported to be in the region of £7m (via Sky Sports).
With the club confirming the deal on Twitter, loads of Boro fans expressed their delight at the news.
Love it boys
— Jordan Walker (@Jordanwalker280) June 27, 2018
Very good signing!
— Ryan Wilson (@RYAN_PIGEONS) June 27, 2018
— Andy McCarten (@andymacca8) June 27, 2018
Welcome to Teesside Aden. #UTB
— John Cutler (@smoggie1976) June 27, 2018
What a signing
— George Scott (@GeorgeScott96) June 27, 2018
Unbelievable signing #UTB
— Mikey Tye (@mikeyty3) June 27, 2018
Having seen his side suffer play-off heartbreak at the hands of Aston Villa, Pulis must have thought that by splashing the cash on Flint, he would be creating the foundations needed to launch a sustained push for automatic promotion.
However, despite the defender making a positive start life with the Smoggies by leading them to a six-game unbeaten run in the Championship, the cracks began to show following a 1-0 defeat to Norwich City in September.
Whereas Flint had formed a fruitful partnership alongside Daniel Ayala, Pulis’ insistence of playing a direct style of football resulted in a lack of attacking creativity which had a negative impact on the likes of Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher.
With the club’s forwards having to feed off scraps for the majority of the season, Boro had to rely heavily on their defence to keep them in contention for a play-off position as their dreams of finishing in the top-two had been crushed by a downturn in form over the Christmas period.
Having looked almost certain to finish in the top-six in March after moving seven points clear of Derby County following a 0-0 draw with Wigan Athletic, the Smoggies embarked on a run of results which would cause an irreversible amount of damage to their promotion hopes.
After losing 2-1 to Brentford at the Riverside Stadium, Boro failed to clinch a single point in any of their next five fixtures which saw them slip out of contention for the play-offs.
Although Flint was not directly responsible for this capitulation, the fact that he was involved in all but one of these harrowing defeats suggests that he probably should have done more to stop the rot for his side.
Despite winning four of their last five fixtures in the second tier, the Smoggies ultimately had to settle for seventh position in the standings as Derby claimed the final play-off spot.
With Pulis’ future at the club unclear, Flint will obviously be concerned heading into next season as it was the former Stoke City who convinced him to make the move to North Yorkshire last summer.
Yet when you consider that the former Swindon player was one of Boro’s most impressive players during the 2018/19 campaign, there is no reason why he cannot thrive in the foreseeable future regardless of who is in charge of the club.
Boro fans, what were your initial thoughts when Flint signed? Join the discussion by commenting below.