COS columnist Tom Victor takes a look at what has happened to the Riverside’s youthful gems.
After something of a false start in England’s World Cup warm-up games, Adam Johnson has finally announced himself on the international football stage. Two fine goals in victories over Bulgaria and Switzerland have seen ‘Jinky’ dismiss an underwhelming full debut against Hungary as a mere blip in his development, as the winger has demonstrated he has what it takes to succeed for his country.
It may have taken a few years, but Johnson has now well and truly emerged from the shadows of former Middlesbrough team-mate Stewart Downing, both at club and at international level. Among the millions of pounds worth of talent at Manchester City, and among the big-name stars of the England team, he does not look the least bit out of place.
Of course, this will come as no surprise to many Boro fans, who had high hopes of Johnson and his team-mates in the club’s ‘golden generation’ of youth-team players. He was part of the team which beat Aston Villa 4-0 in the 2004 FA Youth Cup final, before coming to more fans’ attention as part of the youngest ever Premier League team on the last day of the 2005/06 season.
The team picked by Steve McClaren that day had an average age of under 20, with many of those involved tipped for the top. But while some – including Johnson – have flourished, others have not been as successful. And just over four years after that 1-0 defeat at Craven Cottage, now seems as good a time as any to see where they all are now.
Goalkeeper: Ross Turnbull
After years of playing back-up to Mark Schwarzer, Turnbull finally got an extended run in the first team in the ill-fated 2008/09 campaign. Indeed plenty of Boro fans feel the club might have stayed in the Premier League had the Bishop Auckland-born shot-stopper remained between the sticks in place of Brad Jones for the whole season. Carlo Ancelotti certainly saw something in Turnbull, bringing him to Chelsea where he is currently fighting it out with Hilario to be named Petr Cech’s understudy.
Right-back: Andrew Davies
The bleached-blonde defender actually made his Middlesbrough debut in 2002, but a horrific broken leg set his development back a couple of years and the appearance in 2006 came off the back of successful loan spells with QPR and Derby County. Known for his versatility, Davies is as comfortable in the centre of defence as he is on the right, but this has arguably worked against him. After a brief spell at Southampton he joined Stoke during their first Premier League season, but he has been farmed out on loan again after only making two appearances at the Britannia.
Left-back: Andrew Taylor
Hartlepool native Taylor is one of Middlesbrough’s longest-serving players, having made 105 appearances in his six years at the club. Countless left-backs have been and gone during that time, but he has fought off competition from names as big as Julio Arca and Franck Queudrue to establish himself at the club. However Gordon Strachan’s arrival at the club, coupled with a series of injuries, has seen Taylor slip down the pecking order and he moved on loan to Watford at the end of last month.
Centre-back: David Wheater
A stalwart of the England under-21 set-up, Wheater has been called up to the full international side twice without playing for his country. After showing a unique attacking flair for someone of his build and position, Wheater was tipped for the top, but is in danger of treading water at the moment. He is certainly good enough to return to the Premier League, and will want to do so at the Riverside, but another year in the Championship may encourage him to look for a move.
Centre-back: Matthew Bates
One of the saddest stories of the team, Bates has seen a once-promising career plagued by a succession of serious knee injuries. He is still on the Middlesbrough payroll but has been limited to 36 appearances in six years, a figure which will not be added to this season as he is currently having surgery in the United States. Tipped by many to become a regular on Teesside, Bates’ career rests in the hands of American physiotherapist Bill Knowles, who worked wonders for Jonny Wilkinson and Tiger Woods in the past.
Right-midfield: James Morrison
There is no debating Morrison’s status as one of the most skilful players in the team that lost to Fulham, but a questionable temperament has at times got in the way of his rise to the top. He was a regular member of Gareth Southgate’s matchday squad until a wild lunge on Cristiano Ronaldo in a FA Cup quarter-final replay, for which he received his first red card for the club. That was the beginning of the end for Morrison’s career at the Riverside, with Southgate shipping him off to West Brom that summer. Since moving to the Hawthorns Morrison has revived his career, playing a pivotal role in the team’s promotions in 2008 and 2010. Also, despite hailing from Darlington and playing for the England under-21 side, he chose to make his full international debut for Scotland in May 2008. He currently has eight international caps to his name, including a substitute appearance in the narrow win over Liechtenstein last night.
Left-midfield: Adam Johnson
What is there to say about Johnson that hasn’t been said. He made his Boro debut against Sporting Lisbon at the age of 17, and scored two goals for the club as a teenager, but really came into his own in the Championship campaign in 2009/10. He scored 11 goals in 24 games from the wing, and it was clear he was too good for the division. A move to Manchester City beckoned, an England call-up followed, and the rest is history.
Central midfield: Jason Kennedy
While the likes of Johnson and Turnbull have moved on to bigger clubs, the same cannot be said of Jason Kennedy. However the midfielder, who turns 24 on Saturday, has more than proved his worth at a lower level. After making a permanent move to Darlington in 2008, Kennedy reportedly turned down a number of offers from League 1 clubs to sign for League 2 Rochdale. His decision was vindicated when he was a near-ever-present in ‘Dale’s first promotion in 36 years. He scored his first goal for the club two weeks ago against Brentford.
Central midfield: Lee Cattermole
Tipped by many to be the first member of Boro’s Youth Cup winners to play for England, Cattermole was the club’s youngest ever captain in that game against Fulham, at the age of just 18. Some would argue Boro missed his tenacity when they dropped out of the Premier League, and while Gordon Strachan’s side look to gain promotion back to the top flight, Cattermole is fully established in the division already. After a successful spell at Wigan, he followed manager Steve Bruce to Sunderland, where he is now captain of a side very much on the up.
Forward: Danny Graham
A handful of Premier League appearances were something of a false dawn for Graham, who perhaps lacked the physicality needed for the top flight when at Boro. But a move to Carlisle reaped great rewards and he played an integral part in the Cumbrians’ run to the League 1 play-offs in 2008. A £250,000 move to Watford followed, and Graham’s goals helped keep Malky Mackay’s side in the Championship. He has made a flying start to this season, netting four times in the first three games of the campaign.
Forward: Malcolm Christie
The closest thing to a foreigner in McClaren’s matchday squad, Lincolnshire-born Christie was the only member of the 16 not born within a 30-mile radius of the Riverside stadium, and also the only member of the starting XI to command a fee. Injuries meant Christie’s career was already on the downturn by the time he took to the field against Fulham, and Middlesbrough opted to release him at the end of the following season. A short spell with Leeds United followed, but the former England under-21 man has been without a club since 2009.
Substitute: Josh Walker
A combative midfielder in the mould of Cattermole, although perhaps possessing a little more attacking prowess than his peer, Walker left the north-east this summer to join former Boro team-mate Graham at Watford. After captaining England at three levels, he might have expected to make more of an impact with Middlesbrough, but the highlight of his career so far came during a loan spell with Aberdeen, where he scored against Bayern Munich in a UEFA Cup tie.
Substitute: Tom Craddock
After scoring 20 goals for Boro’s reserve team in the 2005/06 season, fans had high-hopes of the speedy striker. But the Darlington-born player only made four appearances for the full team before a successful loan spell with Luton saw Hatters manager Mick Harford bring him to Kenilworth Road on a permanent basis. He scored an impressive 35 goals in 76 games for Luton, before moving to newly-promoted League 2 side Oxford United at the start of this season.
Substitute: Colin Cooper
While most of those who played against Fulham were at the start of their careers, one member of the squad was at the opposite end of the spectrum. Colin Cooper replaced Jason Kennedy in the 85th minute, marking his 346th and last appearance for Boro. The England international was in his second spell at the club after stints with Millwall and Nottingham Forest, and was handed the captain’s armband by Cattermole as a show of gratitude for his service to Middlesbrough football club. Cooper retired after the Fulham game and was given a coaching role at the club almost immediately. He then worked his way up to the position of Assistant Manager, and led the team to a 2-2 draw at Preston in his one game as Caretaker Manager after Gareth Southgate’s dismissal. However, Cooper is currently looking for new employers, with Gordon Strachan opting to bring in his own backroom team and dismissing Cooper last May.
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