Fan's Eye View: Middlesbrough

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The Independent Football

Your team's best performance last season?

It could well have been reserved for last - hanging on against all the odds and a last minute penalty at a hostile City of Manchester Stadium for a precious 1-1 draw and European qualification. My finger nails have only just recovered.

And the worst?

Getting a good seeing to at home off relegation fodder Southampton. Crouchy gave us a real run around.

Who was your best player last season?

Bolo Zenden - what a miss he will be for us this term. His goals from midfield kept us going when our strikers went lame. His thoroughly professional attitude meant he could switch positions up to three times in the same match v Ostrava and never complain. Off the pitch too he was a big hit with fans and community work. Liverpool have a star in Bolo Zenden.

Who was the most under-rated?

Gareth Southgate - rock solid in for most of the season when defenders were falling down left right and centre around him injured. Great leader and positive force in Boro back line.

And the worst player?

Technically not the worst but certainly the most disappointing buy was Mark Viduka because of a frustrating season on the treatment table. We're all hoping he can come back fit and raring to go and really turn it on this season. A fit and hungry for goals Viduka will spell big, big, problems for Premier and European opposition alike.

What was the most memorable moment?

Our first foray into Europe. It was an amazing step for Boro fans that first hop, skip and jump onto foreign soil, we never ever thought it could happen - but it was pushed all the way by Schwarzer's penalty save from [Robbie] Fowler at Man City. The most agonising moment of the season turned into pure ecstasy with one incredible save. A save that delivered a European return.

Funniest moment, if any?

[Tony] Popovic's sublime backflick into his own net in our home match v Palace.

Whos was the best individual performance against you?

Crouch was unbelievable for Southampton at the Riverside. So good on the deck as well as formidable in the air.

Best set of fans, besides your own?

Had to be Banik Ostrava fans with those amazing choreographed routines. Special mention to Banik fan Miro who booked hotels, arranged football match, pre match drinking holes, Boro ambassadors and in general welcomed us to Ostrava and Europe. Top bloke.

Best chant?

"Bellamy's right Sheare's S***" I'm sure you can fill in the rest. Big Al was looking a little lumbering towards the end of last campaign. When our teams met at St James Park he looked like he was regretting having done his u-turn on retiring. The legs were very unwilling it was more and more all power to and through the elbow. I'm a star ex-England centre forward get me outta here.

Which ground is your favourite to visit and why?

Old Trafford - because it has been the scene of so many epic Boro performances and victories against all the odds. It's obviously a pretty spectacular stadium to visit as well but we are rarely overawed. Let's hope we can pull off another shock this coming campaign.

What improvements need to be made this season?

We need a squad that is stronger in depth. And fingers crossed not so many injuries. We need the media and fans to accept that players need to be rested and the squad occasionally rotated. We can't possibly succeed on all fronts playing our best 11 every game.

Individual with most to prove?

Gaizka Mendieta - because of his one year cruciate injury. Can he bounce back and finally show the form that once made him a £30m player?

Which game are you most looking forward to?

Liverpool at home as it is the big kick-off. It brings back memories of the 3-3 first game for [Fabrizio] Ravanelli. If we can start with a bang against the European Champions it could be a very special season indeed.

Which of your young players has impressed you?

There is a long list. Stewart Downing has obviously made the biggest impression but James Morrison and Tony McMahon could well follow him this season.

If money was no object which player or manager would like to see at your club?

Ronaldinho would be phenomenal. I could watch him all day, he never runs out of ideas. Brings a smile to football - he is quite outstanding.

What would you consider to be a good season?

Qualifying for Europe again and reaching the final stages of the UEFA Cup - in other words progressing.

How would you sum up your manager?

Progessive, very ambitious, determined - not always populist but always thinking about the long term.

If you had to put a £1m bet on where your team finishes, where would you say?

That's big money indeed - I would say 6th and then we could use the money to buy another midfielder to push us further up the league the season after.

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