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Stewy hoping for a happy homecoming

The midfielder will be heading into the away dressing room at the Riverside for the first time in his career

30 January 2020

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Across two spells at the club, Stewart Downing represented Middlesbrough with distinction on 404 occasions.

He's moved elsewhere in his near 19-year career, but this weekend will be Downing's first trip back to the Riverside as an opposition player.

In a further twist ahead of Saturday's encounter, it could prove to result in a family feud too, with Boro boss Jonathan Woodgate married to Downing's sister, Natalie.

“Middlesbrough at home was the first game I looked for, which was early and either the third or fourth game into the season," Downing recollected to iFollow Rovers ahead of the trip back to Teesside.

“It’s come round so quick and I’m really looking forward to going back there. It looks like it could be a good game between two sides in good form.

“It’ll only be a good day if we win and the manager is exactly the same. If we go there and get stuffed then it won’t be good, but I’m looking forward to it.

“I don’t feel I’m going back there with anything to prove, but I’ve never gone back to the Riverside at any point in my career as an opposition player.

“It will be strange but I’m looking forward to it because we’re in good form and I fancy us for a right result.

“I’ve never been in the away dressing room at the Riverside and don’t know what it looks like, but that will go out of the window when we kick-off.

“I’ll get on with the game and speak to the lads afterwards.

“It was a good, evenly matched game at the start of the season, with Danny getting the penalty to win us the game.

“We were both up and down towards the start of the season, but since then both teams have had some great results and some not so good results."

And with a meeting on the horizon with his brother-in-law, Downing believes that former Real Madrid and England defender Woodgate has done an excellent job in difficult circumstances.

The 40-year-old took over the reigns in the summer following the departure of Tony Pulis, and is assisted by ex-Tottenham and Republic of Ireland international Robbie Keane.

“Jonathan has had a lot of injuries to his team this season and he’s had a lot of young players step up to the plate," he added.

“I think he’s saved the club a lot of money going down that route.

“At one point it looked sticky for Boro, but I think Jonathan has learned more about the game in the last six or seven months than in the whole of his playing career.

“The situations that he’s had, losing big players, putting the kids in the team, seeing if they’ll sink or swim, and I think most have done really well. He’ll have learned a lot and has come out the other side, he’s picked up some really good results in recent months.

“You don’t realise what goes on as a manager, but there are millions of things that you have to deal with.

“Like I say, he’s learned a lot and he’s learned ever so well and has adapted really well.”

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