Middlesbrough have had several key players in recent years however out of all of them Paddy McNair might be the most consistent.
It has been a tricky period now in their fifth season since relegation from the Premier League and some players more than others have stepped up to the plate in difficult moments.
Neil Warnock has never been hesitant to heap praise on the Northern Ireland international and was as glowing as ever when speaking about the 26-year-old to the Hartlepool Mail.
He said: “I’ve always thought Paddy McNair was a class above anyone else when he’s played where he’s playing at the moment. I think he’s a decent midfielder but I’ve always thought he was class playing at the back so that didn’t bother me.”
Boro have crept into the play-off places despite flattering to deceive a little on the pitch this season. Big money summer signing Martin Payero announced himself against Cardiff City last time out and will be hoping to harness that against Birmingham City on Saturday.
McNair is a very calming influence be it in the defence or in central midfield and shouldered the responsibility of a late penalty kick versus Peterborough United to kick-off the club’s three match win streak this month.
Quiz: Do you know what club these 28 ex-Middlesbrough players are playing at now?
Boro have been left frustrated by McNair suffering an injury on international duty this season, another one next month would be a huge blow to their top six hopes. Warnock’s men flirted with the top six for much of the 2020/21 campaign and at 72 years old Warnock would not have carried on in the role if he did not believe there was a realistic chance of the club fighting for promotion to the Premier League.
Lee Bowyer’s Blues earned a much needed 2-1 victory over Swansea City last weekend and will be keen to build on that at the Riverside on Saturday. Both sides have shown in flashes this season that they are capable of competing at the top end, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.