With the FIFA World Cup 2006 underway, and the transfer market temporarily on hold until the players can return to club matters, perhaps we should take a look at the players past, present and future, to represent Middlesbrough FC in football’s most glamorous competition.
It’s no secret that Boro have one of the best youth academy’s around. It is also no secret that we have a history of successful wheelings-and-dealings in the transfer market, luring players that pundits consider ‘too good’ for our great club. But aside from the potential world cup stars, and former world-beaters, The Riverside is home to several of this year’s key players.
Stuart Downing is probably the man most Boro fans will associate with the World Cup. It surprised some that the young left-winger made the England team after an injury-troubled season, but not the Middlesbrough fans. We have seen this boy wonder work his magic many times before. And why not take him? After all, Theo Walcott has never even played a Premiership game. Although Joe Cole will more than likely be England’s starting left-winger, Downing will always be a strong candidate, and, give the chance, should shine on the biggest stage of all.
Our two wonders-from-down-unders could be Middlesbrough’s best representatives in Germany this summer. The two Marks – Schwarzer and Viduka – are central to the Australian team, and key to their qualification for the tournament. Both are experience internationals, and hitman Viduka will start as captain as he has done since September 2005.
One of Middlesbrough’s best players this past season has been Dutch midfielder George Boateng. The tireless defensive-midfielder has been on form all season, and has caught the eye of the Holland coaches. Boateng was originally chosen for the preliminary Holland squad, but was surprisingly dropped for the final cut.
It looks very much as though Middlesbrough will have two other players at the World Cup this summer, although this cannot yet be confirmed. Robert Huth – expected to announce his signing for Middlesbrough any day – will most likely feature in Germany’s starting line-up. The twenty-one year old has already accumulated some sixteen caps for his country, and would be a welcome replacement for the legendary Gareth Southgate. Oguchi Onyewu, also known as ‘Gooch’ is also likely to sign for Middlesbrough, and is set to start for the USA.
So Middlesbrough should be well represented at this year’s World Cup, but what players do we currently have that have World Cup experience? Our new manager Gareth Southgate played for England in the 1998 World Cup. Brazilian midfielder Doriva also participated in the 1998 World Cup, helping his team to the final. Also present in 1998 was prolific strike Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. The Dutchman perhaps could have had more international success had he not been in competition for a place in the Dutch squad with many great strikers over the years. Spanish midfielder Gaizka Mendieta represented his country at the 2002 World Cup, and has so far managed to play for Spain an impressive forty times.
Two young Middlesbrough stars, Yakubu and Pogatetz, are first choices for their national teams, and must be gutted to not have qualified for the competition. Nigeria and Austria are both strong teams, and with Yakubu and Pogatetz both being young and talented, there is every chance that we will see them playing on the big stage in four years.
Anyone that knows anything about Middlesbrough FC can tell you that we have one of the best youth academy’s around. The list of brilliant young English players that have graduated from our youth system is impressive. For the past few years Boro youngster have represented England in the various youth and reserve nation squads, and it looks likely that we will see a few of these players make the transition to the full first team in time for the next World Cup.
Stuart Downing has already made the cut, and James Morrison is probably the next in line. Stuart Parnaby, Mathew Bates, Andrew Davies, Ross Turnbull, Anthony McMahon, Adam Johnson, Andrew Taylor, Danny Graham and Lee Cattermole have all starred in young England teams, including the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship.
It really warms the heart to see Middlesbrough players representing their nations at the World Cup, especially when their nation is England. Playing in front of the whole world is an experience that can improve a footballer overnight, and every four years legends are created. Boro fans can be proud that their current players have played at World Cups in the past, and are set to star this summer, while we have a host of young Englishmen ready to fight for their chances in 2010.