Aitor Karanka wasted no time in starting to put into place his plans for Premier League domination next season. Despite Viktor Fischer being as well recognised on Teesside as the phrase ‘I’ll have a half of shandy, please’, the arrival of the Ajax-schooled Danish international will bring a renewed sense of optimism that the return to top flight football will not be short-lived.
Grandson of an Olympic silver medal-winning Dane, Fischer is the latest in a long line of foreign imports to the Riverside Stadium and be will the second Denmark international to wear red and white in recent years. Boro fans will hope that their latest recruit will prove a greater success than his predecessor in Middlesbrough’s front line.
Mikkel Beck was signed by Bryan Robson twenty years ago following Euro ’96. He spent the next season playing alongside the likes of Fabrizio Ravanelli and Juninho during what was a spectacular but ultimately disappointing campaign, with the triple whammy of two cup final defeats and relegation. Beck scored some good goals and had some half-decent games but failed to deliver sufficient where it counted to keep Boro up.
A season of similar highs but without the lows would probably be welcomed by most Smoggies. The addition of Fischer to the squad will not be the last. Karanka has money to spend but must use it wisely. End of the day, finishing 17 out of 20 whilst not great will be good enough to see a second year of Premier League football but will not probably satisfy Karanka or Steve Gibson.
Fischer is a product of the Ajax academy that has given the game some not inconsiderable names. The de Boer brothers, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Johan Cruijff and even Luis Suarez have passed through its doors. If the winger turns out to be anything like as successful as these esteemed graduates, the circa £4M fee will be money very well spent. The question will be if the 21-year-old can overcome the issues a number of other young foreign players have encountered when entering the big bad world of Premier League football.
English football has never been like any other league. The memorable times that England’s national team have performed – Poland in 1986, the Netherlands a decade later, a pre-911 Munich a mere ten days before the world changed forever – have all involved the players playing the English way and not trying to adjust their usual game to the continental style.
It is this ‘English’ way that has wrecked the dreams of many a would-be foreign star. Failing to adapt to the speed, the physicality, the weather; numerous reasons why not all non-British passport holders flourish after crossing the Channel. It has often been suggested that the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo would struggle on a cold, rainy November night away at Crewe. Falling down at the slightest breath from an opponent is good enough in Spain but not in England (unless you are Cristiano Ronaldo, of course!).
Karanka; Gibson; the whole of Teesside, in fact, will be hoping that Viktor Fischer is the next Cristiano Ronaldo.