Neil Warnock added a lot of muscle in attack in the January transfer window, and none are more powerful than Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.
The 28-year-old joined Warnock’s outfit as a free agent, having been out of the game for over four months following his release from Cardiff City.
He left the Bluebirds under a cloud, having been sacked by the club due to a ‘serious breach of contract’ leaving Cardiff fans and neutrals alike speculating what Mendez-Laing had done to be let go considering he was an important player.
It wasn’t the first time that the winger had been in trouble with a club, having been transfer listed in 2012 by Peterborough due to breaching club discipline, and the player had seemingly overstepped the mark once again but this time at Cardiff.
On the pitch though, Mendez-Laing brings a lot of pace and power, and that is why both Boro and Derby County were interested in his signature late on in the transfer window.
But it was the pull of Warnock that brought him to Teesside, with the 72-year-old being the one that took Mendez-Laing to the Welsh capital in the first place in 2017.
Warnock has now discussed Boro’s newest addition, and he’s under no illusions as to what transpired with Mendez-Laing at Cardiff and believes he deserves another chance.
“I think we all make mistakes,” said Warnock, per the Northern Echo.
“I’ve known him for a long time – I brought him up from Rochdale – and I’ve spent a lot of time with him, three years or so.
“I haven’t got a problem with all of that, although there were one or two other clubs after him, and I told both him and his man (agent) that he was better off coming with me because of his circumstances.
“He hasn’t played for a while, so he’s not match fit, and he has to get his career back on line, really.
“I know the boy, I’ve had him three years, and there were ups and downs during that time. Sometimes, you get in a situation like Mendez has got in.
“To be on a few hundred pounds a week, and then suddenly become a Premier League player on thousands and thousands in the space of 18 months, it’s a big step up.”
If anyone can get the best out of Mendez-Laing, it’s Warnock.
The enigmatic manager gave the winger his Championship breakthrough at Cardiff and he duly delivered, helping them to promotion into the Premier League and he played a big part in that lone season in the top flight, scoring four goals in 20 games.
Mendez-Laing does seem like wasted potential though, and even though he is 29 in April he still had that explosive pace and power last season for Cardiff, so there’s no reason as to why he can’t offer that to Boro for the rest of the season at least.
Warnock got Duncan Watmore’s career back on track after severe injuries, and whilst these circumstances surrounding Mendez-Laing are completely different, the helping hand of the Yorkshireman may go a long way to helping Mendez-Laing secure a longer contract at the Riverside.