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Stewart Downing details importance of ‘big player’ Chris Wilder ‘likes’ at Middlesbrough

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Former Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing has described forward Duncan Watmore as a big player for his old club, crediting the 27-year-old for setting the tone of his side as the ex-England international spoke on Sky Sports.

Watmore has been an important player for Neil Warnock and successor Chris Wilder this term despite failing to score a hatful of goals, playing predominantly as a centre-forward during the 2021/22 campaign so far. That is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, with the Teesside outfit’s current boss adopting his 3-5-2 system.

With this chance to play up top, he will be desperate to improve on the tally of three goals and one assist he’s registered in 19 league appearances thus far as Boro look to force their way into the promotion mix.

Quiz: Can you name which club Middlesbrough sold these 26 players to?

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Yakubu

His importance is perhaps heightened by Uche Ikpeazu and Josh Coburn’s lack of involvement in the early stages of Wilder’s tenure, potentially indicating the former has been deemed surplus to requirements and the latter possibly being deemed too inexperienced to help the second-tier side sustain a promotion push.

Indeed, it has been reported that Ikpeazu has been given the green light to leave the Riverside in January, though the speculation surrounding potential additions with Marcus Forss and Folarin Balogun both being linked with a move to Teesside could raise his performance levels further in the coming weeks.

Despite the risk of the 27-year-old being kept out of the starting lineup by January signings, Boro legend Downing has reinforced the importance of their existing forward to their cause.

He said on Sky Sports Football (via Teesside Gazette): “I think he’s (Watmore) a player Wilder likes and he’s played every game under Chris.

“He sets the tone of the side, he presses and he’s the key to the team upfront at the moment. He presses well and he’s been finishing well too, can definitely get a goal or two.

“I think he’s been a great signing since he came to the club on the back of a couple of serious injuries.

“He just looks like he’s got a great attitude doesn’t he? He’s a great team player and can get a goal or two as well, so a big player for Middlesbrough.”

The Verdict:

It says a lot when you look at someone’s goal contributions record and can’t believe they haven’t managed to get themselves more – that’s how important Watmore has been to Boro’s cause and if he can continue to show exactly why he’s been one of the first names on the sheet this season – then he shouldn’t be forced to make way for new additions straight away.

Unfortunately for the 27-year-old, the omission of Coburn and the club’s reported position on Ikpeazu could mean not one, but two new forwards come in during January to try and get Boro back to the Premier League in Wilder’s first season at the helm.

This likely shake-up in the attacking department probably wouldn’t happen if ex-boss Warnock was still here after already recruiting Ikpeazu and Andraz Sporar, so whilst his successor’s arrival at the club looks set to give them a real chance of playing top-flight football next term, his appearances may be limited from next month.

However, if only one striker comes in, something that is possible if Wilder wants to address other areas, then it gives him a real opportunity to fight and retain his place in the starting lineup.

Whether he keeps his spot at the expense of Sporar remains to be seen, but that too is a possibility with the Slovenian set to return to parent club Sporting Lisbon at the end of the season.


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: Stewart Downing details importance of ‘big player’ Chris Wilder ‘likes’ at Middlesbrough

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