The new, new Paul Merson
Friday night’s comfortable 2-1 win over Wolves sent Boro back to the top of the table thanks to a Premier League standard performance.
A performance that could be the beginning of a story that will be told in years to come, because if Aitor Karanka’s team can go on to clinch promotion it will be won by the new, new Paul Merson.
Who would have thought that seven months and 34 league games since the homecoming of Boro’s prodigy son, Stewart Downing, the player’s title of ‘the new Paul Merson’ would have been stripped and replaced by a January transfer window loan signing.
Gaston Ramirez, on loan from Southampton, showed his class as he ripped apart a mid-table Wolves side with two goals that regained some much needed confidence following the setback against Blackburn Rovers.
The Uruguayan international playmaker opened the scoring with a diving header after a well timed run, and then doubled the lead with a superb curling effort, with the help of a deflection following a one-two with George Friend.
All this came along with the standard back-heels, through balls and all-round attacking play that has left fans demanding that he should be one of the first names on the team sheet.
Ramirez, who’s signing was overlooked as a result of the Jordan Rhodes saga, came to Teesside short on match fitness and game time after falling out of favour with Ronald Koeman.
But with a few games, goals and assists already under his belt, the former Bologna player has excelled in the hole behind either Rhodes or David Nugent, and brought a whole new string to the bow of Boro’s attack.
Against Blackburn it was shown that without the gifted South American in the team from the off that the ability to cut through a defence is weakened, and thanks to his efforts last time out it makes it difficult for Karanka to drop, or rest, the loanee.
Ramirez’s sizzling form will have impressed and pleased everyone connected with the club, but one man could be left ruing his emergence as one of Boro’s main men.
Stewart Downing, who was dropped to the bench against Wolves, arrived in the summer as Boro’s original marquee signing of the summer. He arrived off the back of one of his best seasons after enjoying a successful campaign as West Ham’s number 10, but now he has a fight on his hands to regain that role with his hometown club.
The England international still has a major part to play in the run in, but after a slightly underachieving season so far, Downing has failed to live up to the promise that so many expected from him.
However, there is still time for Downing to make the difference. With games coming thick and fast now he will certainly come back into the side with Karanka’s rotation policy.
The left wing spot is there to be taken and if he can make that his own, just like he did in his first spell, then having two Paul Merson’s would go a long way to seeing Boro finally return to the top flight.