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The spy in the camp...

Stewart Downing knows Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate better than most...

15 August 2019

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Brother-in-law, ex-team-mate, long-term friend, it's fair to say that few know Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate better than Stewart Downing.

Downing's sister Natalie has been partner to Woodgate for more than a decade, and married to the ex-England defender for almost half of that time.

Downing, much like his current boss, has strong links to Boro following two stints at The Riverside and totalling 404 games in all competitions for the club.

But despite going on to feature for Aston Villa, Liverpool and West Ham inbetween his spells on Teesside, this weekend will be the first time the ex-England winger has come up against his hometown club, as the 35-year-old explains.

“It’ll be a strange weekend for me as I’ve never played against Middlesbrough for any of my previous clubs," the winger revealed to iFollow Rovers ahead of the game.

“Once the game kicks off I have a job to do and will do everything that the manager asks of me. It’ll be a good game, I’m sure of that, and we need points.

“I always thought that once Boro got promoted to the Premier League that it would be nice to go back there with West Ham or Liverpool, but it wasn’t to be.

“I thought that chance had gone and thought I’d remain at Middlesbrough for the rest of my career. But that’s not the case and it’s something I can hopefully tick off on Saturday, if selected.

“First and foremost it’s my hometown club and I really enjoyed my time there, particularly the first spell when we got into Europe.

“It’s a really good club, but I felt at the end it was the right time for a change and to take on a fresh challenge. I don’t want to get one over on them, I just want to do well for Rovers."

A large swell of the Woodgate/Downing clan are expected to add a few more to the attendance at Ewood Park on the day, and the Rovers man says his family will have split loyalties come matchday.

“I’ve been inundated with requests for tickets," he added.

"It’s been a nightmare. With Jonathan being the manager I think the question is who does his wife support? It’s brother or husband, but the saying goes that blood is thicker than water!

“There’s a lot coming down for the game and most are probably hoping for a draw but I’m desperate for a win.

“The gaffer has asked me for a bit of advice on their team, but he’s watched them a lot and knows his stuff about the club.

“I know Jonathan was a big fan of Tony when he played for him. I think the manager actually signed him at Middlesbrough from Stoke, actually.

“When I joined here Jonathan told me “you’ll love playing for Mogga” and how he’s a really good fella with great ideas. I think there are similarities between the two managers so it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top.”

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