BORO TO REACH FOR THE SUMMIT
STEWART DOWNING has tipped Adam Reach to star in Middlesbrough’s renewed promotion push.
Reach, 22, is a left winger – like Downing was in his first spell with Boro.
The England man, 31, returned to his roots this summer in a £5.5million move from West Ham.
And Downing, set to operate in a ‘No. 10’ role under Boro boss Aitor Karanka, wants to help Reach make the most of his potential.
Downing said: “He could be a big player for us this season. There aren’t that many left-footers around and if we can get Reachy in the form he showed at the start of last season, we have a real talent.
“Wingers have to make things happen and sometimes they will lose the ball, but on another day they will set up two or three goals.”
Karanka’s side missed out on promotion in May, losing to Norwich in the play-off final at Wembley.
And as they prepare to kick off their Championship campaign at Preston today, Downing admits: “There’s a bit of unfinished business for me.
“Before I left in 2009, I broke my foot in the last home game of the season and then we got relegated. I would have liked to have kept the club in the Premier League.
“This club has been very good to me, from the academy through to the first team and the chairman, Steve Gibson, who has brought me back.’’
MIDDLESBROUGH kick off their season today as one of the favourites for promotion – and defender Tomas Kalas admits that will bring with it a new kind of pressure.
Kalas – who has rejoined the club on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea after a successful spell during the second half of last term – saw his team-mates slip to defeat at Wembley in the play-off final last season.
But after a summer of smart business that saw Stewart Downing rejoin the club, Uruguayan striker Christian Stuani arrive and with Jordan Rhodes rumours refusing to go away, Aitor Karanka’s troops are many people’s tips for the top.
And a trip to promoted Preston, who only lost once at Deepdale in League One last season, will be a good early test of their title credentials.
“Maybe nobody expected us to be up there last season and there was less pressure,” said the Czech, 22. “But now everyone expects a really good season, so it will be slightly different. Hopefully nobody will care about the pressure and we will play at least how we did last season.
“If I had been promoted and was playing the first game against Middlesbrough, who almost made the Premier League, I’d be motivated – and we have to be ready for that at Preston.
“They will be ready to beat us, so hopefully we’ll be ready as well and can show our quality.”
The majority of the Preston squad, who were boosted by top scorer Joe Garner’s decision to ink a new deal, have experienced the Championship – but not Daniel Johnson.
The midfielder, 22, said: “There will be people out there doubting us and not expecting us to do well, but we are confident in our abilities and I think we can do well and prove everyone wrong.
“I watched Middlesbrough in a few games last season and they looked like a good team.
“They have a lot of decent players, but if we are at it and do what we know is best, we can come out with a decent result.”
PRAISE: Stewart Downing
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