MIDDLESBROUGH’S towering Bavarian Maxi Haas – who comes from the town where Pope Benedict XVI studied – could be asked to provide some divine inspiration against Nottingham Forest tonight.
The 25-year-old from Freising – which is a few miles north of Munich – arrived on Teesside during the January transfer window as Boro boss Tony Mowbray sought to plug the gaps in his central defensive options.
David Wheater, a player who had until recently been Middlesbrough’s back four lynchpin, had made the tough decision to leave the Riverside as Premier League Bolton came calling.
Cue Haas’ arrival – although it appeared the intention was to gently break him in to English football given his lack of first-team football at German giants Bayern Munich.
Although at the Allianz Arena for three years, Haas rarely featured and spent most of his time in their second team, who play in the third tier of German football.
Naturally Mowbray wanted to ease him into the swing of things and this approach was confirmed with the loan signing of Boro old boy Andrew Davies.
However, given that there seems to be an overcrowding problem in the treatment room at the Riverside this season, it was inevitable that one more would be about to squeeze in, and so it proved.
Davies hobbled off late on during Boro’s 3-0 home defeat to Championship leaders Queens Park Rangers on Saturday with a suspected hamstring injury, which provided Haas with a handful of minutes to savour his Riverside debut.
With Matthew Bates and Stephen McManus also injured, it remains touch and go to see if Davies will be fit in time for tonight’s match. Jonathan Grounds could be the likely candidate to partner Seb Hines in the centre of defence, but Haas could also be in contention despite having eight minutes of first-team action and a run-out in a reserve game to fall back on.
Haas said: “For me, last Saturday was a great feeling to stand on the pitch at last. I hope that next time the score will be zero against us instead of three.
“As for the circumstances which led to me getting on in the first place, this is how it is in football. It was just great to play. For me I just work hard in practice and hopefully get some chances to prove myself. I will always do my best when I hopefully get another chance.
“With the Nottingham Forest game, I don’t know what will happen on whether or not I’m selected. I just hope that Andrew is okay as I don’t like to see players getting injured.
“If I get a chance I hope to enjoy it again. English football is a tough game. It’s a little harder than it is in Germany – more fouls but not in a bad way. I like the stadiums and the crowds and I’m really happy to be here.”
Meanwhile, Middlesbrough manager Mowbray has welcomed reports that Argentinian midfielder Julio Arca could well be prolonging his stay on Teesside.
The former Sunderland man is out of contract in the summer and while delighted that Arca is considering a new deal, Mowbray stressed that any negotiations with the player would be done in private. He said: “I have previously given my thoughts and said there is a fair possibility that he wasn’t going to be here next year because of our situation and Julio’s salary levels.
“If he has come out and said that he would like to stay then that’s good. But there’s potentially a lot of talking to be done and that discussion should not be done in public.
“We will do it behind closed doors – whether he stays or goes, we will wait and see.”