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Opinion: Why 25-year-old should be pushing for an immediate Middlesbrough exit

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Midfielder James Lea Siliki hasn’t enjoyed the most productive time at the Riverside Stadium so far this season since his summer loan move from Stade Rennais.

Starting just two of Boro’s 24 league matches this term and making eight substitute appearances, the Cameroon international has been left out in the cold both by ex-manager Neil Warnock and new boss Chris Wilder.

The 25-year-old didn’t exactly get off to the best start under the former, being publicly criticised by the veteran for going away on international duty instead of remaining on Teesside and being deemed ‘nowhere near fit enough’.

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2019/20 - Huddersfield (H)

At the time of Warnock’s departure then, Lea Siliki may have been secretly relieved after failing to become a key player under the former QPR and Cardiff City boss, and ready to impress under a new manager in Chris Wilder.

But unfortunately for the Cameroonian, things have got even worse for him at the Riverside since the 54-year-old’s appointment, not playing a single minute of football under his stewardship during his opening seven games in charge and looking as though he will remain out of his first-team plans in the new year as he potentially prepares to compete for his country at the African Cup of Nations.

Even after the tournament’s conclusion, he may face a huge challenge in trying to win any senior minutes on the pitch, let alone starting a game.

The game against AFC Bournemouth earlier this month reinforced that, with Grant Hall and Sol Bamba available as two very capable options off the bench to compete with Paddy McNair, Dael Fry and Anfernee Dijksteel, and all three have played their part in recording impressive clean sheets against the likes of Swansea City, Stoke, the Cherries and Nottingham Forest recently.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem to affect the 25-year-old’s predicament, but McNair’s ability to slot into midfield seamlessly and their current depth at centre-back allows the Northern Irishman to cover there in the event of an injury to the likes of Matt Crooks, Marcus Tavernier and Jonny Howson.

Considering how integral he is and how well Bamba played in the early stages of the season, it would be hard to see Wilder keeping McNair in defence and Bamba out of the starting lineup at the expense of a rarely-seen Lea Siliki if one of the current starting midfielders picks up a knock, gets suspended or is forced to isolate with Covid-19.

With the 25-year-old outcast not playing a single minute of football under Wilder too, now is the time for him to push the button and ask his parent club to recall him before he jets off to his home nation to compete for Africa’s most prestigious international trophy.

He will want to be in the best possible mindset as he competes in an important tournament like AFCON – and knowing he can get away from a place he hasn’t played anywhere near enough football at may be great for his mental wellbeing.

Boro could try to negotiate a potential recall depending on the loan agreement negotiated back in the summer, but the player himself is likely to have the biggest influence on Stade Rennais’ final decision.

At this stage, it’s clear he isn’t going to be involved at a domestic level as much as he would like, so it makes no sense not to push for a move back now before he focuses on Cameroon.

It does seem unlikely that he will be able to push his way past Howson, Crooks or Tavernier in the pecking order, because all have played well enough consistently to retain their places.

You have to feel for him, but his time is up on Teesside.


A 21-year-old Reading FC fan and writer who graduated from the University for the Creative Arts in the summer with a degree in Journalism and Media Production. Other topics written about include politics, mental health and education.

ScoopDragon Football News Network

Article title: Opinion: Why 25-year-old should be pushing for an immediate Middlesbrough exit

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