Was Davies another missed opportunity?

Was Davies another missed opportunity?

After an impressive second debut for Stockton-born Andrew Davies against Millwall last week, it does make you wonder where that dominance at centre-half was during his first spell on Teeside.

To be fair it’s probably too early to judge Davies’ ability since his return to the club where he started his career, but the defender’s mature performance at The Den makes you question whether letting him leave in the first place was the right decision.

Several home grown Middlesbrough players have reportedly not made the standard at the club before going on to prove former Boro bosses Gareth Southgate and Steve McClaren in particular wrong.

Youngsters including James Morrison, Chris Brunt and Danny Graham have been shipped out after not impressing Boro gaffers before going on to make serious names for themselves at other clubs.

Morrison, who left for West Bromwich Albion in 2007 for an initial £1.5million, has gone from strength to strength since Southgate let him go, becoming a regular in the Scottish national team and playing week in, week out in the Premier League.

His West Brom teammate, Chris Brunt, never made a first team appearance for Boro but after dropping down to League One with Sheffield Wednesday in 2004, he has since lit up the Premier League.

Watford’s Danny Graham also failed to make the grade, leaving for Carlisle United in 2007 after a series of lower league loan spells from Boro, but the forward has since silenced the doubters as the current top scorer in the Championship.

Bringing any of those three in particular back to the Riverside would put a smile on even the most disillusioned Reds fan’s face but unfortunately their success elsewhere, combined with Boro’s poor financial state, renders it all but impossible.

In a strange turn it could be argued that those players, once deemed not good enough for Middlesbrough, are at present out of their financial league.

Obviously there have been tens of local youngsters who have gone and proved the Boro hierarchy right in letting them go but still it seems that more and more players are slipping through the net, something the club can ill afford to do at present.

The loan signing of Davies however could be one that rejuvenates both the fortunes of the club and those of the player, who has seen his stock decrease massively during a three year career nose dive of loan moves and reserve team football.

Having spent the most successful years of his career at Boro, Davies managed to win his only England U21 cap in 2007 but within a year his move to Stoke City from Southampton had turned sour.

The 26-year-old, who spent ten years with the club before his 2008 transfer to Southampton, wasn’t even included in Tony Pulis’ 25 man squad in January, making him ineligible to play for the club for the rest of the season.

So the strong centre-back’s return could well be his chance to prove to the Boro faithful that Southgate’s decision to let him leave was the wrong one and that he can be one of the few exiled youth players to come good back at Boro.

Aged just 23 at the time, Davies had arguably not reached his full potential by the time of his departure whereas Graham was 21, Morrison was only 20 and Brunt was just 19 when he left the Riverside.

Despite this, Southgate and McClaren were managing Premier League teams when they let these players go and as much as fans have welcomed Davies’ return, not many were bemoaning selling him in 2008.

More patience in these cases where relatively unproven youngsters, who had not yet hit the heights as first team starters, could well have sprung more Adam Johnson-style success stories.

And if anything these past examples, whether Davies proves a success or not, should mean that judging players who are given those first team opportunities early on should be done with caution.

However for Davies at least a string of positive results, continuing against QPR on Saturday, could well start to bring around those who supported his departure.

And a more understanding view on the Boro youth should make that list of missed opportunities in the future a non-issue.

Jonathan Brown

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