IT’S not often that a manager extends a welcome to a moaner, but Middlesbrough boss Tony Mowbray is delighted to have Aussie grumbler Scott McDonald back.
McDonald has been out of action since damaging knee ligaments in the draw at Leicester on February 1 but has made a rapid recovery and will be included in the Middlesbrough squad that has travelled to Brighton & Hove Albion today as Mowbray’s men look to keep up their promotion bid.
It has been fair to say that McDonald’s presence on the pitch has been missed as goalscoring feats aside, his work-rate has been a huge asset to Boro this season and as the promotion race enters the final strait, his return will in a way be like a new signing for Mowbray.
The Boro boss (right) is delighted to have him back even though at times, Scott may give the impression of being like a bear with a sore head – no bad thing according to Mowbray, as it highlights the player’s competitive spirit.
Scott McDonald? “Listening to him in training grumbling I’m not sure how relieved I am to have him back,” joked Mowbray. “In fairness he is a driven individual.
“Scott doesn’t like to lose at five-a-side, he grumbles all day long and that’s not a bad trait to take into matches. Hopefully that will give us a boost in the last five weeks of the season.
“Hopefully there is a freshness about his play and we can utilise him. Whatever the scenario is, he has scored ten goals this year. He also offers an ability to press the ball from the front and has a great work ethic.
“A player like a Robson, Thomson, McManus, relish the big occasions. As the season edges towards the close the bigger players sense the urgency, so I am hoping our big players who have played in big stages come to the fore.
“Every manager wants players like Scott. You can’t have a dressing room full of individuals who don’t grumble about anything. Every top team has outspoken individuals. As a manager you should never grumble about players like Scott because on the days when a manager’s voice does not have the impact it should, you need other members of the dressing room to be heard.
“Scott has been great for us and hopefully he will add that ingredient until the end of the season. He is a hard-working lad. I have no fears that he will come back strong and ready.
“He has worked hard in running and physically. I’ve kept out of his way. I’ve let him get on with it.
“The other players will get a lift when he is on the pitch. They might get a flea in their ears every now and again from him, but I think it is not such a bad thing to set high standards.”
Also back in the Boro squad is Steve McManus whose days at the club looked to be numbered a month ago.
Deemed surplus to requirements, Middlesbrough allowed the Scotland international to go out on loan to Bristol City.
But just when it looked like that was the last we’d be seeing of him, Boro’s injury-crisis in the centre-half position deemed it necessary for Mowbray to cancel the loan and get McManus back up the road.
Mowbray said: “We never really had any options. The positive is that he has been playing football. Had he been here the last six weeks then he might have been sat on the bench, but he has ben playing.
“He is ready to slot in and play. He is a very professional young man. He found it frustrating not being in the side behind Rhys (Williams), Seb (Hines) and Matthew (Bates).
“He is an experienced footballer who has played for Scotland, Celtic. He needs to come back and help our football team. I have no fears about him. Stephen is an experienced enough man now. He is a hard working footballer who just wanted to play games.
“He was out of the team at Celtic when I sold him and he has been out of the side when I let him go on loan.
“He just wanted some game time, and now he will get that game time.”