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Hyam Could Be One of Three Debuts at Middlesbrough
Hyam Could Be One of Three Debuts at Middlesbrough
Friday, 6th Aug 2010 15:52

Boss Roy Keane is weighing up whether to give 18-year-old Luke Hyam his senior debut when the Blues travel to Middlesbrough for Saturday’s opening npower Championship game of the season. Hyam has impressed his manager throughout pre-season and could make his bow at the Riverside.

Keane says that if he decides to use former Northgate High School pupil Hyam in the midfield holding role, he is confident that the youngster will do himself justice: “If Luke is in my team on Saturday, I won’t be losing any sleep on Friday night up in Durham. I know for a fact he won’t let anybody down.”

If he gets the nod, Hyam won’t be the only debutant for Town on Saturday with Mark Kennedy expected to start at left-back.

Keane could also call on new keeper Márton Fülöp, although he says it is by no means a fait accompli that the Hungarian will take over from Brian Murphy: “He’ll be available for selection like every other player at the football club, whether he’s selected or not remains to be seen.”

The Blues boss is clear in his target for the season: “My own expectation of the players and the staff is that we have to be competing in the top six and we have to start the season better than we did last year.

“But you look at the first few fixtures, I think they are the toughest we could have picked but I’ve never shied away from that side of it.

“I’m looking forward to it, I know the players are and we want to give the fans something to shout about as, whichever way you look at it, we let them down last year and we want to make up for that.”

Keane expects the division to be as tight as usual: “The Championship is going be as competitive as ever but we want to be in the mix and if we get one or two new faces in we’ll have a good chance.

“But we’ve got to go out there and do it week-in, week-out, Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday and be consistent, something we weren’t last year.”

The Town manager isn’t concerned that the lack of pre-season games has left his squad short of fitness as they go into the new season: “I’ve no problem with us being undercooked. If that was a concern we could have got another one or two games in. But the way it panned out with the injuries, with the shape and with what we did last year, we spent more time on the training pitch.

“We do have the 11 v 11s over 60 or 70 minutes in training which are as good as a lot of games, particularly pre-season.”

The Irishman expects Boro to be amongst the main contenders for the Championship this season: “I think they’ve invested well, they got some decent money for Adam Johnson when he went to Manchester City last year and Gordon’s brought in experienced players.

"He’s got goalscorers in his team and just as importantly he knows their character; they’ve played for big clubs, they’ve played in big Champions League games.

“They’re one of the favourites and rightly so. For us to get anything out of the game on Saturday, we have to be at our best, but we’ll be giving it a right go and we’re looking forward to it.”

Keane is likely to give his two experienced signings and Hyam their debuts at the Riverside with the Blues’ other new man Conor Hourihane seen as a player of the future and not involved this weekend.

In front of Fülöp, Kennedy will be at left-back, Jaime Peters on the right with Tommy Smith and Gareth McAuley in the centre.

The Blues seem certain to utilise the three-man midfield used throughout pre-season with Hyam sitting behind David Norris and Grant Leadbitter.

Up front, skipper Jon Walters could play his last game for Town on the right of the front three, with Carlos Edwards on the left and Tamas Priskin in the centre.

The Blues will be without Connor Wickham (ankle), Damien Delaney (thigh), Luciano Civelli (knee) and Alan Quinn (groin).

Midfielder Colin Healy is over his thigh problem and will be in the squad, while centre-half Tom Eastman is banned after his red card on the final day of last season against Sheffield United. Jon Stead may also be in the travelling party despite probably being on his way out of the club before the end of the month, but Pablo Couñago will be left behind.

Contrary to Town’s rather quiet summer, Middlesbrough have spent more than £5 million, Gordon Strachan, who was Keane’s manager at Celtic, adding the likes of Steven McManus, Kevin Thomson, Kris Boyd, Tarmo Kink and Nicky Bailey to his squad.

Despite all the signings, manager Gordon Strachan plays down their tag as favourites: "I wouldn't have known that we were favourites.

"The character of the team won't be tested until after Saturday. We can all talk a good game, before the game."

Boro have an injury doubt regarding midfielder Gary O'Neil, who has a knee problem, while fellow midfield man Andy Halliday is on the way back from a groin strain. Defender Tony McMahon is likely to be back from a thigh strain but Rhys Williams is a long-term absentee with a pelvic injury. Keeper Brad Jones is suspended.

Mido, Didier Digard and Marvin Emnes have been told they do not feature in Gordon Strachan’s plans for the season ahead and can leave the club.

Defender Matthew Bates spent time on loan with Town in the 2006/07 season, making two appearances before a cruciate knee ligament injury saw him return home. The defender is back in action again after yet a knee ligament injury – his fourth – ended his 2009/10. No current member of the Town squad has played for the Teessiders.

Town have had the better of Middlesbrough over the years, winning 26 games (24 in the league), drawing 11 (11) and losing 16 (15).

Last season at the Riverside, Boro won 3-1, Jon Walters netting an injury time penalty for the Blues after Gary O’Neil and Jeremie Aliadiere (2) had scored for the home side.

At Portman Road in February, Daryl Murphy netted in the first minute of his debut and David Wheater just after the hour mark in a 1-1 draw.

Saturday’s referee is Anthony Bates from Staffordshire, who showed 106 yellow cards and only one red in 36 games last season. His most recent Town match was the 0-0 draw at Bristol City in December last year.

Probable squad: Fülöp, Murphy, Lee-Barrett, Peters, Ainsley, Kennedy, O’Connor, McAuley, Smith, Brown, Hyam, Leadbitter, Norris, Healy, Lambe, Priskin, Walters, Edwards, Stead, Murray.

Photo: Action Images

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Sindre94 added 16:00 - Aug 6
nice, good player!

elalaer9 added 16:01 - Aug 6
Get him on the pitch! the desire and hunger of some young players is vital

Lightningboy added 16:04 - Aug 6
New season..can't wait despite the inactivity on the transfer front.

Would love to see nothing more than Hyam & the other kids make a big impact so we don't have to go out and spend fortunes.

Whether you like Keane or not,are happy or unhappy with things..we're all in it together..let's hope everything turns out ok by next may.

Upbeat~ added 16:08 - Aug 6

DrJeckyll added 16:18 - Aug 6
hope he does play, not just a youngster but an Ipswich boy :-)

tractorboybig added 16:22 - Aug 6
Good for the lad, wish him well,
however keane needs some excuses for the forth coming defeat.

Nunn_the_Wiser added 16:22 - Aug 6
Our Squad looks pretty average on paper, think we need a right back badly.

Monkey_Blue added 16:35 - Aug 6
Nunny, we have someone who can play at right back badly...sorry, good luck to Hyam if he plays, can't say i like the formation or the chances of a win but will be glued to the commentary and I think a draw no matter how boro end up doing will be a good start to the season

Blue_Fred added 16:49 - Aug 6
and the referee is Mr Bates................. poetic

arc added 16:57 - Aug 6
Three goalies in squad?? OK, if it becomes two on the bench, I will really think Keane has lost it ;-)

Brown, Hyam, Lambe, Murray... Wow, young squad.

Good to see Matthew Bates back. Good luck to him (if not tomorrow).

itfc1981 added 17:14 - Aug 6
fait accompli, nice stuff Phil

8ashblue added 17:22 - Aug 6
This is a tough start but if RK can show his intentions and plays Hyam maybe we'll get something from the game. I guess he'll play some sort of 433 or 441 formation in an attempt to get at least one point. COYB

danknott added 17:34 - Aug 6
Keane your a legend and you are the man to take us forward COYB COYB COYB

cobbold_fanatic added 17:54 - Aug 6
This could be one of the worst squads we've ever had, anyway come on keano and the blue boys

tom_the_blue added 17:59 - Aug 6
8ashblue, 4-4-1? I'm glad you're not manager!!!


francisb123 added 18:01 - Aug 6
had a good prer season and hopes he has a good season and works hard for himself and the team

jas0999 added 18:05 - Aug 6
Potentially a decent team for tomorrow. Like the look of the midfield. Worried about Peters at right back and will Priskin trouble the keeper? Time will tell!!

lezoad added 18:25 - Aug 6
good holds the pack well in front of the back four

Mark added 19:39 - Aug 6
It is disappointing that we have failed to bring a striker in after having all summer to do so. Edwards and Priskin are two of Keane's biggest flops and they have shown little in pre-season either, so it is a leap of faith to hope they can score goals tomorrow. We really do not want to start the season badly with a defeat, but at the moment there seem to be four things missing from the team: goal threat, pace, creativity and a solid right-back. Hopefully the lads can surprise me tomorrow and show that we are prepared for the start of the season. Good luck Ipswich!

northernblues added 19:52 - Aug 6
can't see us getting anything up at Boro, they have strong squad, thinking 2 or 3 nil to them, not being negative rather realist!

jbb added 20:11 - Aug 6
Hyam looks a genuine prospect in the holding role, and probably more natural in the position than any used last season. To me Norris, Leadbitter, Garvan and Trotter were all poor in that role. Boro away is a big ask for him, a real test of his mettle which he could well come through. An experienced player to come in as back up may be required for a long season.I think Norris and Leadbitter will thrive in the new formation, with more freedom to get up and down the pitch.

I agree with many of the comments above regarding the right back position. While one doesnt want to be harsh on individuals players, I dont think Peters is up to the job defensively. A small right back can sometimes compensate for his size through exceptional reading of the game. I cant see that with Peters, though he will be very effective going forward.
For me the biggest problem last season during the early games was the poor form of the RW and Balkestein (who was way out of his depth). Though I fully support the manager, I think he is making a similar error with Peters. I very much hope I am proved wrong, he is a genuine player who may be best filling in for Norris & Leadbitter, ahead of a holding player, when required.
Whatever people say about too many Sunderland players I would be more than happy to see Bardsley coming in at RB, who is premier standard as defender, who is out of favour at the moment with a new RB recently signed.

Kennedy, who for me could also have enjoyed a longer career at the top level, if his best position (LB) had been found a bit earlier, is what was needed at LB.
I hope Priskin gets a run of games, with his mate Fulop (an excellent buy), alongside, he can still come good. For me anything over £3m is too much for Chopra, Scotland may be better for the price quoted.

SiBo added 21:27 - Aug 6
Keep the faith and I hope Hyam does play... that'll tell us if he has what it takes or not.

scunnyblue added 21:38 - Aug 6
It does look like a very young squad. If we are to make a top 6 finish like keano is targeting then players like hyam:ainsley:murrey:clark:brown: are really going to have to have a first season to remember. I hope roy has it right when he says these boys are good enough because if they ain't then we ain't got enough to even dare think about a top 6 finish

paul73 added 22:01 - Aug 6
without doubt our squad has the look of one of the weakest town squads i can remember....lost 6-7 players sold or released (to which im glad,all very average) two of our best players yet no one who can put the ball in the net...and about 4-5 young players in squad...all for seeing the young lads giving a chance,but this year is without doubt the toughest championship...older heads required...i hope keane has a masterplan or its going to be a long season....need at least 3-4 players to come in...never felt so uninterested in a new season starting....still off to bed now,long drive tomorrow...C.O.Y.B...

Pessimistic added 22:54 - Aug 6
I am going for a 1-1 draw. Well, that is what my heart says but my head says something entirely different!

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