Okay, so it maybe wasn’t as serious as when the Assistant Police Commissioner rolled up at Downing Street carrying a piece of paper marked “top secret”, and showed off all the plans for a major anti-terror operation to the prying camera lenses. But Gordon Strachan’s first day at Middlesbrough was still hardly a triumph for clandestine plotting.
He went to work armed with a big notepad on which he’d written a team full of potential loan signings to kick start his regime.
He then paused to sign autographs and have his picture taken with the handful of fans waiting to greet him. And, it being half term, a couple of kids read the list and promptly informed the nearest reporter.
So this morning it’s more than just the usual idle newspaper speculation when we can tell you that Strachan is hoping to beef up Boro’s promotion bid by signing either Kevin Phillips, Chris Iwelumo or Manchester United’s young Italian sensation Frederico Macheda.
His wish list also includes Tottenham’s full back Kyle Naughton, who has hardly got a game at White Hart Lane since his Ã‚Â£5million move from Sheffield United, plus Stoke’s one-time captain Andy Griffin who fell out of favour after his on-pitch punch-up with Ricardo Fuller.
Then there’s Portsmouth’s Australian midfielder Hayden Mullins, Arsenal’s highly talented Jack Wilkshere, and the Aston Villa pair of Marc Albrighton and Isaiah Osbourne.
Now given Strach’s legendary dry humour, it could have all been a cunning hoax. But I’d have believed that if it contained names like Cristiano Ronaldo or Wayne Rooney. This was for real, and it gives a strong clue into the dynamic force that the former Celtic manager plans to bring into The Riverside as he takes over a team that Gareth Southgate left just two points from the top of the table.
Strachan’s record as a boss is pretty exceptional, and Boro have done well to persuade him to step down into the Championship. He kept Coventry afloat on a tiny budget for years, gave Southampton their most successful era since the 1970s, and then kept Celtic at the top of the Scottish game at the same time as handling the tough job of following the much-loved Martin O’Neill.
It’s a track record, together with the legendary support for managers that chairman Steve Gibson always provides, which should make the club promotion favourites. So it’s surprising that it has made little impact so far. They were matched a couple of weeks ago when Southgate was still in charge at 2.5 to go up, yet you can still get 2.8 this morning, or be braver still and take 6.8 to win the Championship.
Strachan’s record and ability to attract top players will be significant. Current leaders Newcastle, 1.98 and 4.7 to go up or win the division, still have ownership issues waiting to disrupt them. West Brom are 2.14 and 4.9 but Roberto di Matteo remains untried at this level. Cardiff are 3.5 and  but may yet have to sell another top player, while QPR are 3.3 and 8.6 but remain inconsistent.
Five things you might not know about Gordon Strachan:
1. Born in Edinburgh in 1957 he grew up a Hibs fan but started playing for Dundee before Alex Ferguson paid Ã‚Â£50,000 to take him to Aberdeen
2. As a player he won the Scottish Premier division twice at Pittodrie, then the old English First Division with both Manchester United and Leeds.
3. He remains the only player ever to be voted Footballer of the Year by the football writers in both England and Scotland
4. He’s a big film fan and devours DVDs when not watching football – World War II stories are his favourite
5. He says his musical tastes are too old for the players – here’s a clue to them: He was a guest with wife Lesley at the wedding of The Corrs lead singer Andrea.
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
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