Boro’s Foreign Strikers
The first foreign striker to play for Boro was Lindy Delapenha. Perhaps it might be a new subject for me to write about later in the future after I have caught up with my reading. Let’s see how my health problems affect me in the next few weeks.
Ken, I have a vague memory of him chasing an official with a corner flag. It was over a legal but disallowed penalty I think. I wish I could remember Aster's comment!
Look after yourself,
As Boro have had a problem of scoring goals since relegation, I thought I’d start with a list of Boro’s foreign strikers to see if they were any better than recent acquisitions. I think this is the complete list, but if I’ve omitted someone I’d be obliged if you’ll let me know. I don’t intend to write pen pictures of all these strikers, probably only those that have scored 20 goals or more for Boro and that will be only the top 16 as that is the list one can see from the following with each strikers career goals and appearances following the / mark. Technically Juninho wasn’t really a striker, and neither were Stuani, Alliadiere, Ramirez, Kink or Killen in my opinion, but this is how the list appears as follows:-
1. LINDY DELAPENHA——- 93 goals,270 apps/118 goals,383 apps
2. BRITT ASSOMBALONGA-47 goals,161 apps/142 goals,362 apps
3. HAMILTON RICARD———44 goals,115 apps/106 goals,324 apps
4. MARK VIDUKA —————42 goals,103 apps/258 goals,507 apps
5. SCOTT McDONALD———-40 goals,124 apps/210 goals,613 apps
6. AYEGBENI YAKUBU———35 goals,103 apps/206 goals,513 apps
7. JUNINHO PAULISTA———34 goals,152 apps/ 68 goals,330 apps
8. JERREL HASSELBAINK —-33 goals, 89 apps/249 goals,591 apps
9. FABRIZIO RAVANELLI ——32 goals, 50 apps/247 goals,626 apps
10.MIKKEL BECK——————31 goals,117 apps/ 83 goals,297 apps
11.MARVIN EMNES—————31 goals,161 apps/ 50 goals,292 apps
12.SZILARD NEMETH———-29 goals,130 apps/136 goals,370 apps
13.MASSIMO MACCARONE—25 goals, 99 apps/228 goals,693 apps
14.JOSEPH DESIRE JOB—— 24 goals,111 apps/ 76 goals,298 apps
15.ALEN BOKSIC——————22 goals, 73 apps/133 goals,429 apps
16.LEROY LITA———————20 goals, 80 apps/127 goals,457 apps
17.BOSKO JANKOVIC————18 goals,62 apps/116 goals,334 apps
18.KIKE GARCIA——————-18 goals,68 apps/109 goals,399 apps
19.TUNCAY SANLI————— 18 goals,78 apps/152 goals,515 apps
20.KRISTHIAN STUANI———-16 goals,78 apps/210 goals,501 apps
21.AFONSO ALVES—————-13 goals,49 apps/147 goals,259 apps
22.JAN AGE FJORTOFT———-13 goals,50 apps/249 goals,548 apps
23.JEREMIE ALLIADERE———12 goals,86 apps/ 65 goals,299 apps
24.AVARO NEGREDO————-10 goals,40 apps/276 goals,673 apps
25.UWE FUCHS———————-9 goals,15 apps/ 87 goals, 273 apps
26.MARCO BRANCA—————-9 goals,15 apps/102 goals,351 apps
27.MARTIN BRAITHWAITE ——9 goals,40 apps/ 93 goals,401 apps
28.GASTON RAMIREZ————-9 goals,44 apps/ 56 goals,336 apps
29.AHMED HUSSEIN MIDO——7 goals,32 apps/ 86 goals,280 apps
30.TARMO KINK———————-4 goals,22 apps/156 goals,316 apps
31.CHRIS KILLEN——————- 3 goals,17 apps/ 87 goals,255 apps
As an addendum to the list, of course some of the players scored all their Boro goals in the Premier League whilst others scored all theirs in the Championship. I’ve already discovered one omission, HEINE OTTO who scored 28 goals in 188 appearances which would place him at number 13, so at the moment that makes 17 for me to research in the future when I feel fit to continue.
one other that you can add to the list - even if it feels wrong - is Bernie Slaven who had international caps for Ireland. That's foreign.
one other that you can add to the list - even if it feels wrong - is Bernie Slaven who had international caps for Ireland. That's foreign.
I’ve previously written about Bernie Slaven as one of Boro’s all-time leading strikers so I won’t be writing about him again. Also I’m using the criterion of a player’s nationality not which country he chose to play for. Although it’s irrelevant Jimmy Floyd Hasselbank would gualify anyway, though he wasn’t born in Holland (or the Netherlands as it is known as today), he was actually born in Paramaribo, Surinam with the Christian name of Jerrel.
Another foreigner which I should have included is Benito Carbone, but as he only scored once in 13 League appearances I won’t be recalling his career either, nor Jelle Vossen who only scored 9 times for Boro , Lee Dong Gook and Jamie Moreno.
BERNARD SLAVEN 1985/93 382 Appearances 147 goals
As I’m becoming more forgetful and falling asleep during the daytime perhaps I need to get a move on in case I lose my memory altogether and to keep me sane I’ve decided to bring my writing about Boro’s strikers earlier than I had intended, so although I’d written about Bernie Slaven before and despite his having 7 international caps for the Republic of Ireland he was born in Paisley which in my opinion makes him Scottish.
Bernie Slaven arrived at Ayresome Park from Albion Rovers in October 1985. It would see the start of an eight year career with Boro which would see him eventually depart as Boro’s sixth all-time leading goalscorer. As a youth he played for Partick Thistle Amateurs and Eastercraigs before joining Johnstone Burgh as an 18 year old. Two years later he was transferred to Greenock Morton as a part timer, before moving on to Airdrieonians, Queen of the South, and Albion Rovers all within a year. It was at the Coatbridge club that he found his shooting boots ending as the top league scorer in the whole of Scotland, albeit in the Second Division. Slaven was still however only a part-timer also being employed as a gardener for Glasgow Corporation. In 1985 he fell out with the club and was banned from the training ground. It was then that a local reporter suggested that he should write to all the Scottish top flights clubs and all the clubs in England’s top two divisions asking for a trial.
Boro were the first club to reply, offering him a month’s trial but after his first game, a goalless draw against Grimsby he didn’t think that the trial was worthwhile and returned home fearful that he might lose his job. However Boro persuaded him to attend one more trial against Bradford, and he scored twice and assisted in another two in a 4-2 win. He was then delighted to be offered a two year contract with an option of a further two years. Bernie made his debut at Leeds in a 0-1 defeat in October, but a week later scored his first goal in a 1-1 home draw against Bradford City. That was the season that Boro went into liquidation and Slaven scored 8 league goals in 32 consecutive league appearances. In the following two seasons Boro were promoted twice and Bernie was the leading goalscorer on both occasions with 23 and 24 respectively. Back in the First Division Bernie scored a total of 18 goals in all competitions despite Boro’s relegation. In fact he was Boro’s top scorer in six consecutive seasons.
Bernie’s final match for Boro was on the 13th March 1993 when he came on as a substitute in the 1-2 home defeat to Liverpool. At a fee of only £25,000 he must surely be regarded as Boro’s best value for money transfer since the Second World War. He later played'k for Port Vale, Darlington and Billingham Synthonia before retiring having scored a career total of 223 goals in 567 appearances.
LINDBERG DELAPENHA 1950/58 270 Appearances 93 Goals
Lindy Delapenha was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica in May 1927 and was not only the first Jamaican player to play professional football in England, but Boro’s first foreign player but also its first black player. He was christened Lindberg by his parents because he was born on the same day that Charles LIndberg successfully flew solo across the Atlantic, but was always known as Lindy. His education was at Munro College in Jamaica and he did his National Service with the Royal Air Force in the Middle East after the Second World War and after having had a trial with Arsenal he signed for Portsmouth in April 1948. In spite of featuring in only eight matches he was a member of the successful Pompey side that won the First Division Championship in the 1948/49 season. He signed for Boro in April 1950 for £6,000 and made his debut in the final match of the 1949/50 season at Fulham which Boro won 2-1. His first goal for Boro was at home to Arsenal in a 2-1 win on the 9th of September 1950 as Boro stormed to the top of the First Division by Christmas. Lindy was Boro’s top goalscorer in three of the next four seasons even when they were relegated in 1954.
Sturdy and powerful he was famed for his rocket-like shot earning a place in the hearts of the Boro faithful for almost a decade for his speed and physical presence. He moved on to Mansfield Town in 1958 for three seasons and then played a few matches for non-league Hereford United and Burton Albion, but eventually was forced to retire from the game due to damage caused by an untreated groin injury. His final number of career appearances totalled 383 during which he scored 118 goals. He later returned to Jamaica to play cricket but also took up a senior position with the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation.
Lindy Delapenha died in Kingston on the 26th January 2017 aged 89 following a stroke.
Thanks, Ken. Lindy was indeed a memorable character. He had the hardest shot of any Boro player since the war and his average of a goal every three games was remarkable since he was a winger rather than a mainline striker and few of his goals were tap-ins. Indeed his speciality was the rocket shot from way outside of the area and many of them remain in the memory to this day. Lindy had a special relationship with Astor, whom anyone following the Boro in the 40s and 50s will remember with great affection. He must have been this country's first black comedian, preceding Charlie Williams by some years. Indeed when Williams played against the Boro for Doncaster, Astor's voice, which could be heard from any part of Ayresome Park, yelled out,"This town isn't big enough for the two of us".
You could always tell where Astor was standing (generally close to the players' tunnel) because he used to attract his own crowd of fans who hung upon and roared at his every comment. He had a special affinity with Dela , whom he used to refer to as "Our kid".
I once saw Astor perform at the Empire. The stage was empty, there was a 10 or 15 second silence, and then this enormous stentorian roar of "Up the Boro". It won the audience over before he had even appeared. Astor's voice was so famous that one of his many soubriquets was "The Mouth of the Tees".
Incidentally at about the same time, around 1954, Dela and Cloughie also appeared as a "turn" on the Empire, playing a game of head tennis. It would be unremarkable by today's standards, the kind of thing that players might do as part of their pre-match warm-up, but it went down well at the time, and I believe that it was the idea of top-of-the-bill comedian Jimmy James, an avid Boro fan, to include it in his own road show.
This indicates just how popular and marketable Dela was at the time. He and Clough were Boro's two biggest draws, one coming to the end of his career, the other just beginning his.
As Ken says, Dela was also a very good cricketer. I saw him play a lot for Middlesbrough and I assume he was taken up to Acklam Park by Harry Bell who was an accomplished Minor Counties opening bat. Dela was a hard-hitting middle-order batsman, who one week was thrown the ball when the other bowlers were under the cosh. It was the first time that anyone had seen him bowl, and he proceeded to weigh in with a hat-trick bowling medium-fast with a noticeable swing. He was, thereafter, an established all-rounder.
Thanks again, Ken, for provoking some very happy memories of not just one, but two notable Boro characters from the past.
Thanks to you also, Len. I well remember Astor and of course Charlie Williams, but didn’t know, or had forgotten that the former was a professional comedian. Great memories also of Jimmy James and Our Eli, the stuttering buffoon Eli Woods, also Dave Morris Club Night, another Teesside comedian on the Northern Home Service radio on Saturday evenings. Can’t beat nostalgia at our age.
Dave Morris's Club Night was on the radio for years, and at the end of every programme, over the sound of the closing music, Dave could be heard yelling, "Up the Boro". Ironically, he never came back to live in the Boro but stayed in Blackpool, where his show held an almost permanent residency on the South Pier throughout the 1950s.
BRITT ASSOMBALONGA 2017/21 161 Appearances 47 Goals
Britt Curtis Assombalonga was born in Kinshasa, Zaire in December 1992 but with his parents moved to London when only 8 months old and grew up in Swiss Cottage, Camden and went to school at Whitefield. He started his career at Watford but only played in 4 matches spending some of his time on loan at Wealdstone, Braintree and Southend where he scored 10 goals in 49 appearances. He signed for Peterborough United in 2013 and scored on his debut against Swindon Town. It was at Posh that Britt showed his potential scoring 33 goals in 58 appearances. In 2014 he signed a 5 year contract with Nottingham Forest at a purported fee of £5M, and the goals kept on coming with another 30 in 69 appearances at the City Ground.
Meanwhile Boro had just been relegated after only one season in the Premier League and had just appointed Gary Monk to replace Aitor Karanka, and Steve Gibson was determined to ‘smash’ the league for an immediate return to the Premier League and set his sights on Assombalonga. Burnley were keen on taking Britt to Turf Moor and just as a bidding war seemed likely, Gibson suddenly upped the ante by about £3M to make sure Boro got their man. Karanka had already set the mood by signing Paul Bamford on a permanent contract towards the end of the relegation season, and Boro became the bookies favourites to regain their top tier status.
Boro started the season moderately though Assombalonga scored 11 goals in his first 20 appearances but Steve Gibson sacked Garry Monk just before Christmas and suddenly Assombalonga’s goalscoring dipped with only 4 more scored in the rest of the season. Although Britt finished top scorer in his first two seasons and joint top scorer in his third season, last season for Britt was a disaster with a meagre 5 goals. Whereas the signing of Bernie Slaven had been Boro’s best bargain since the Second World War, it’s safe to say that for a £15M transfer fee plus his extortionate wages makes Britt Assombalonga the most expensive of Boro’s foreign strlkers with a total of 47 goals (including 4 penalties) in his 161 appearances. Nevertheless discounting Bernie Slaven as a foreigner, only Lindy Delapenha amongst Boro’s foreign strikers has scored more goals. Britt’s overall career statistics are 142 goals in 362 appearances (39%), but before Boro signed him his scoring ratio was 47% and for Boro only 29%.
Thanks, Ken. A very telling stat in your last sentence. In spite of Britt's miserable final season, he wasn't as bad as that when we first signed him. It suggests that it's what we do with our strikers rather than their innate abilities which is the problem. And that doesn't only apply to our strikers, as the latest tragi-comedy episode with Wing illustrates, to say nothing of the subsequent flourishing of Harrison and Bamford as outstanding Premier League players under Bielsa.
Can anybody come up with any examples of players who have actually improved under our recent managers and coaching staff. (And please don't cite Traore under Pulis. I could write a doctoral thesis on how his talent was abused and under-appreciated by a whole raft of successive managers, including, incidentally, Nuno at Wolves.)
Maybe have to go back as far as Jack Charlton.
MARK VIDUKA 2004/07 102 Appearances 42 Goals
Discounting Fabrizio Ravanelli who only played one season plus two matches and scored many of his goals against lower ranked clubs which I’ll write about later, Mark Anthony Viduka who was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia in October 1975 was the most prolific foreign striker for Boro with a strike rate of 41%. His father was Croatian and his mother partly Ukrainian so he had a choice of at least 3 countries to play for. The fact that he chose Australia for whom he ‘only’ scored 11 goals in 43 matches might have on reflection been a mistake, but that’s open to conjecture and not for me to judge. However his 47 goals in only 53 matches for Melbourne Knights might have swayed his decision, although the Victorian capital club was born of Croatian roots. Nevertheless after 3 seasons playing for Melbourne, Mark then signed a 4 year contract with the Croatian First Division club Dinamo Zagreb in August 1995 for whom he scored another 55 goals in 99 appearances and helped them to 3 League and Cup doubles.
He then settled in Britain with Glasgow Celtic for a transfer fee of £3M and his phenomenal scoring record continued with 35 goals in 48 appearances which earned him a big move to big-spending Premier League club Leeds United in the summer of 2000 where he remained for 4 years but found goalscoring slightly more difficult. Nevertheless 72 goals in 166 matches wasn’t too shabby considering that 4 years later Leeds hit big financial troubles and were relegated. However he was still only 28 years old when Steve McLaren sensationally signed him for Boro in the following summer for a fee of £4.5M. Viduka scored on his debut in a 2-0 away win against Fulham, but injuries hindered his first season with his only making 21 appearances and scoring only 5 goals in the Premier League. The next season he scored only 7 goals in the Premier League, but finished the season as top scorer overall with 16 goals as he scored 3 in the domestic Cup competitions but 6 in his 9 EUFA Cup appearances. The usual quiet laid-back Aussie was a colossus not only on the field but also in the dressing room especially in the Second Legs of the Quarter and Semi Final comebacks. In his final season he was again top scorer with 19 goals in 37 appearances boosting his strike rate to the aforementioned 41%.
Despite being offered a new contract in the summer of 2007 Mark Viduka swapped Teesside for Tyneside on a free transfer where an Achilles heel injury laid him low for 6 months. However he made his comeback in the Magpies penultimate home match of the season against Boro having only scored 5 goals in 37 appearances at that point. Typically he scored a brace in a 3-1 win sending Boro down, but the Magpies followed Boro down two weeks later. Mark Viduka then returned to Melbourne with overall career statistics of 258 goals in 507 appearances, a scoring ratio of almost 51%.
Viduka was a top class striker, but, like so many of that era (Ravanelli springs immediately to mind), someone who looked after No 1 rather than even pretending to be a decent club man. I heard from a reliable source that after an injury spell that lasted from early January until the end of the season, Viduka, on eye-watering wages, was asked by McLaren to catch up by coming in a bit earlier than the others to prepare for the new season. The Aussie had the brass neck to throw a hissy fit and claim that this would be interfering with his holidays.
I seem to remember a couple of disputes when Viduka was at Celtic also. In the month of Celtic signing him Celtic announced that he had left the club giving stress as a reason. Then in a Scottish Cup match against Inverness with Celtic losing at half time he had an altercation with one of the coaching staff and refused to turn out for the second half after throwing his boots into a rubbish bin and left the club later in the season without fulfilling his contract. I’m not sure, but wasn’t there some dispute between Dinamo Zagreb and Celtic over his transfer anyway? And yet one source I’ve read maintained he was a laid back character. The report of a motivational team talk during the half time interval against Steau Bucharest now sounds like it may have been a full-blooded argument. Wasn’t Gareth Southgate replaced at half time by Massimo Maccarone, possibly at Viduka’s intervention rather than Steve McLarens then? Anyway it worked, but I’d liked to have been a fly on the wall.
And here’s me thinking that Maria Callas was a prima donna!
Viduka was one of a long list of hugely talented footballers who just didn’t want it enough to be truly top class. Boro had a few of those in that era. Boksic certainly springs to mind.
When he fancied it though, what a player.
SCOTT McDONALD 2010/13 124 Appearances 40 Goals
Another Australian born in Victoria in a suburb of Melbourne called Dandenong who also played for Celtic after starting his career at Doveton before joining Gippsland Falcons where he became the youngest ever player to play in the National Soccer League (NSL) the top soccer league in Australia at the age of 15 having been born in August 1983. His English career started at Southampton in 2001 but only made two first team appearances before moving on to Huddersfield Town and AFC Bournemouth before signing on at AFC Wimbledon two years later where he also only made a couple of appearances. In the 2003/04 close season he decided to try his luck in Scotland playing for Motherwell where he spent four more fruitful years with the Lanarkshire club. From there in 2007 he got his dream transfer to Celtic for a transfer fee of £700,000 and made his debut against Spartak Moscow in a First Leg Champions League qualifying match. He scored his first goal for the Hoops in the Second Leg, though his first league goal was away to St Mirren. In January 2010 Celtic turned down a bid from Premier League club Wigan Athletic, but on transfer deadline Day Gordon Strachan successfully signed him for Boro for a reported transfer fee of £3.5M.
After missing a penalty in a 0-2 defeat at Wigan he scored his first league goal for Boro in March 2011 at home to Newcastle in a 2-2 draw finishing the season with 5 goals in 10 appearances as Boro finished 11th in Strachan’s first season as Boro manager. Following the appointment of Tony Mowbray as manager McDonald finished top goalscorer with 14 goals including a hat trick away to Hull City in April 2011. The beginning of the 2012/13 season saw McDonald dropped for some disciplinary offence, but he scored on his recall in a 2-1 win at Watford in early October. By then though his high wages had become a problem for cash-strapped Boro, but eventually after playing out his contract he signed for Millwall on a free transfer.
His 40 goals had come at a high price, but he didn’t stay long at Millwall, initially returning to Motherwell and subsequently via Dundee United and Partick Thistle returning to Australia and plying his trade with Western Sydney at 38 years of age. His final career statistics show his having scored a total of 210 goals in 613 matches, though he failed to score in any of his 26 international appearances for his country.
AYEGBENI YAKUBU 2005/07 103 Appearances 35 Goals
Yakuku was born in Benin City, Nigeria in November 1982 and started his career with Julius Berger FC as a teenager in the Nigerian Premier League. After a loan spell with the Portuguese Primera Liga club Gil Vicente FC, he spent five years with the Israeli club Maccabi Haifa scoring 43 goals in only 54 appearances before spending some time on loan to Hapoel Kfar Saba FC. His first English club was Harry Rednapp’s Portsmouth where he spent three years making 92 appearances and scored 43 goals, 4 of which were against Boro in a 5-1 win in the final game of the 2003/04 season.
Chief Executive Keith Lamb had revealed that the ‘Yak’ was in Boro’s sights and a year later Steve McClaren signed him up for a record fee of £7.5M for a 22 year old, and he quickly made his mark scoring a dozen goals by the middle of January. He finished leading goalscorer with 19 goals by the end of the season, and although the goals somewhat dried up towards the season’s end he was voted ‘Player of the Year’. The powerful, pacy, bustling frontman scored a further 16 times in the following season which however finished on a sour note as the ‘Yak’ asked for a transfer suggesting that the club had no ambition - strange remarks at the time as Boro had just enjoyed two seasons playing in the UEFA Cup. Whether of not being able to attract a famous manager following McClaren leaving to become the England manager was in his thoughts, one can only speculate, but Yakubu certainly looked disinterested in the second match of the 2007/08 season as Boro lost 0-1 at Wigan. Nevertheless he got his wish and signed for Everton on a 5 year contract and Boro at least made a profit on his sale as the transfer cost the Toffees £11.25M.
Following a bright start at Goodison with 21 goals in 39 matches, his performances tailed off and the final year of his contract was spent at Leicester City on loan during which typically included a hat trick against Boro in a 3-3 draw at the Riverside. He was eventually sold to Blackburn where he stayed for only one year after which he played for a procession of clubs in China, Qatar, Turkey as well as Reading and Coventry City before retiring in 2017 with final career statistics of a total of 227 goals in 570 appearances including his 21 goals in his 57 appearances for Nigeria.
JUNINHO 1995/97, 1999/2000 & 2002/04 155 Appearances 34 Goals
Christened as Osvaldo Giroldo but known as Juninho Paulista he was born in São Paulo, Brazil in February 1973. He came to Boro’s attention in June 1995 whilst playing for Brazil and scoring a goal against England at Wembley in the Umbro Cup. By October he had signed for Boro for £4.75M and made a huge impact in the Premier League that season. He went on to have three separate spells on Teesside and though not really a striker he still managed to score 34 goals in 155 appearances. He had started his youth career with Ituano FC before signing for São Paulo three years later. His debut for Brazil came on his 22nd birthday by which time he was already attracting interest from many scouts across Europe despite being only 5 feet 5 inches tall. Luckily it was Bryan Robson’s and Chief Executive Keith Lamb’s persistence that secured his signature for Boro by outlining the exciting vision they had for the club.
He made his debut for Boro on the 4th November 1995 in a 1-1 draw at the Riverside Stadium. Mesmerising opponents with his skills and trickery in an attacking role he scored his first goal in early December as Boro beat Manchester City at home 4-1. The following season he scored 15 goals, the highlight of which occurred in March at home to Chelsea in a 1-0 win. Despite the season ending in contraversial circumstances as Boro had been deducted 3 points for not fulfilling a game at Blackburn, Boro reached both domestic Cup Finals. Although he was announced as runner-up to Gianfranco Zola for the Football Writers ‘Footballer of the Year’ award it was little consolation for the tears shed after relegation was confirmed.
With the prospect of second tier football in England and the 1998 World Cup Finals on the horizon it was hardly surprising when TLF was sold to Atletico Madrid for £12M in the summer of 1997. Unfortunately his time in Spain was hampered by injuries and in 1998 he suffered a career-threatening broken ankle resulting in his missing the World Cup tournament. However he returned to the Riverside in September 1999 when signing a season-long loan deal from Atletico making 24 starts and 4 substitute appearances helping Boro to finish mid-table before returning to Atletico and being promptly sent out on loan again to Vasco da Gama and then Flamengo.
Then in August 2002 Steve McClaren secured a permanent transfer for TLF for a fee of £6M as Atletico Madrid were relegated. He at last got what he had come back to the Riverside for, a Cup Winners medal, but truth to tell was not as effective as he was in his first two spells, but still became a legend to Boro fans despite only making 155 appearances. The supporters voted him the greatest player ever to play for Boro, possibly at the Riverside yes, but a slight exaggeration from those who had never seen Camsell, Hardwick, Mannion, Fenton, Clough or Souness, but for trickery and style surely not quite as good as Wilf Mannion in my humble opinion.
At the end of the 2003/04 season Juninho moved to Celtic on a free transfer, but following spells in Brazil with Palmeiras and again with Vasco da Gama, and in Australia with Sydney FC Juninho announced his retirement from football in late July 2011. Nevertheless he made one final trip to the Riverside Stadium in Boro’s pre-season friendly with PSV Eindhoven. His final career statistics were 68 goals in 330 appearances.
Great stuff, Ken.
Yakuba was one of a long line of players who were signed because they played very well against us, form which they were never quite able to replicate when they played for us. The most dramatic example was Don Ratcliffe, who ran us ragged on a number of occasions when he played for Stoke, but was never more than average in our own colours. Ikpeazu is the latest example, and one can only hope that he fulfils his early promise rather than following in such a long and inglorious tradition.
To be fair to Yakuba he proved to be a decent enough signing, whose reputation amongst Boro supporters will unfortunately be forever associated with his final shameful display in front of the TV cameras at Wigan.
Having witnessed Juninho's destruction of England, and David Batty in particular, at Wembley, I was both amazed and excited beyond measure when we managed to sign someone whom I believed was probably the best player in the world at the time. It was a move that alone justified the appointment of Brian Robson, whom Juninho described as being his main attraction in joining the club. I would rate TLF as the best player to grace the Boro shirt since the war, an honour he shares with Wilf Mannion. I cannot separate the two, nor would I wish to. Gold medallists both. The fact that 27,00 Teessiders turned out to watch the Boro Reserves in order to witness Juninho's return from injury tells its own story about a player that almost everyone took to their hearts.