Andy Gray says Gareth Southgate is an astute young manager who has Boro heading in the right direction.
Last Updated: 25/01/11 7:11pm
The sale of Jonathan Woodgate may have come as a surprise to some, but it suggests to me that Gareth Southgate actually knows what he's doing.
He's looked at the situation and recognised that despite Middlesbrough's defensive stability, their problem lies at the other end of the park.
And they are very weak in the final third. They have only scored 21 goals in 24 Premier League games this season.
They just don't have a goalscorer. So Gareth needed to raise the money in order to fund his new £12million striker, Afonso Alves, and the only way to do that was by having to sell one of his best players.
But he knew they were strong enough in that area of the pitch to cope with selling Woodgate. They are probably stronger at the centre of the defence than they are anywhere else.
They've got Robert Huth and young David Wheater playing well, plus they have Chris Riggott and Emanuel Pogatetz, so I think Gareth sold Woodgate reluctantly but confident that it won't weaken the team too much.
He has brought in a goalscorer and if Alves does as his reputation suggests he can do he could maybe just transform Middlesbrough's season. Good astute business in my view.
Gareth realises that they are still looking to fill the void left by Yakubu and Mark Viduka. If Manchester United lost Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez they may struggle to replace them as well.
But that's what Gareth has had to face up to - his two top goalscorers left them in the lurch and I think Middlesbrough have done really well to hang on in there so far this season.
I saw them at the beginning of the season and they were awful, I thought they would really struggle but Gareth has pulled them together and I'm really impressed with what he's trying to achieve up there.
The three strikers brought in during the summer - Mido, Jeremie Aliadiere and Tuncay - have not exactly hit the ground running but it's still relatively early doors for them.
Mido needs to get fit. He's a bit of a nomad and that always worries me when a player moves from club to club and never sets any roots down. He looks over-weight but I'll give him until the end of the season before I pass judgement.
Aliadiere is what he is: a real honest player who will work his socks off, but I don't see him as a goalscorer, that's my worry.
Tuncay has done well in spells, I think he's one that they'll be happy with and with a Premier League season under his belt he'll be a lot better for it next season.
Overall it's an area that they needed to strengthen and if Alves does the job, Tuncay continues to impress, Mido gets himself fit and Aliadiere can contribute they will have a quartet of decent strikers to choose from.
I think Gareth has done remarkably well during what has been a tough, tough year for him. He's a young manager learning his trade and he would have learned an awful lot about himself and his players in the past six months
Any manager that has been at Middlesbrough under Steve Gibson has been lucky as not only has he backed them with his loyalty, he's backed them with his cash as well.
That's a credit to Steve, and Gareth will know that in the fickle world of football, looking at the plight of Jose Mourinho and Sam Allardyce in particular, he is fortunate that he has a patient chairman.
Gareth has done enough so far to suggest that he can improve and he has the backing of his chairman to do that.
They could have done without the situation with Stewart Downing. Sometimes I wish agents would just keep shut and let their players get on with it.
If the lad doesn't want to sign then fair enough, but he has two years of a contract to run and the last thing Boro fans want to hear is that Downing wants to run out that contract and then leave for nothing.
This sitiuation may make the fans feel that he is not committed but I'm sure Downing will still perform as hard and as honestly as he has done, his agent hasn't done him any favours though.
With the signing of Alves and their current form that has seen them edging away from the relegation zone things are looking up for Middlesbrough.
If they win at the weekend against their rivals Newcastle - and I say if - they would leapfrog Kevin Keegan's side and sit comfortably in mid-table.
Gareth has got his team moving in the right direction and the fact that they're quite strong defensively will help them, but they need to start scoring and if Alves can chip in with half a dozen goals from now until the end of the season that might just be enough to keep them well clear of danger.