Connect with us

Exclusives

Exclusive: Tom Smith talks Flitcroft, Bath City and becoming a Swindon Town regular

Published

on

Tom Smith

‘Wise beyond his years’ would undoubtedly fall under the category of overused football clichés, but it is perhaps the best way to describe Swindon Town’s Tom Smith, the 19-year-old currently on loan at National League South outfit Bath City.

“I’ve been there since I was eight/nine years old, coming all the way up through the academy, seeing everything that has been going on with the first team squad,” said the highly-rated midfielder, as he reminisced on his childhood spent admiring the club he has come to call home.

“I always used to watch the games thinking, “I could be out there one day”,” he professed. “There is no better feeling than stepping out to the County Ground. Is always where I wanted to be growing up.”

After seven years spent progressing through the Swindon Town youth system, Smith was handed his first professional contract with the Wiltshire outfit in the summer of 2014, before making his debut under manager Mark Cooper as a first-year scholar in 2015.

An appearance as a second half-substitute against Preston North End at the end of the 2014/15 campaign would mark his first outing for the club before he went on to score his first goal for the Robins in a 3-1 victory over Crewe Alexandra the season after.

A difficult 2015/16 season at the County Ground would lead to the sacking of Cooper. However, his successor, Luke Williams, would go on to reward Smith’s hard work with a run of first-team appearances throughout 2016/17.

This would be the year that Smith began to establish himself as a squad player at Swindon, but one that would ultimately lead to the club’s relegation. The midfielder featured 12 times in total for the Robins, earning himself seven starts.

Naturally, the loss of the club’s League One status led to the dismissal of Williams in May and a month-long wait for a new manager ensued before the Robins finally settled on the appointment of David Flitcroft.

Flitcroft’s arrival has seen a change in the wind at the County Ground and the new Robins boss has influenced a significant turn around in the club’s fortunes in the five months he has held the position.

The summer window saw an almost-complete overhaul, with 16 senior players arriving and just six surviving from the 2016/17 squad that suffered relegation to the fourth tier. This makeover has reaped its rewards thus far, with Town sitting comfortably in the League Two play-off places while boasting the best form in the division, and Smith was quick to praise the early work of his new manager:

“He has brought in a number of new players, but we needed it. A number of those players have really stepped up over the last month or so, and no we’re on a bit of a run. We have recently had back to back wins and a really good away record.”

While the club’s current standing is a delight for all fans to see, improved team performances led to fewer playing opportunities for Smith. It was, therefore, no surprise to see him depart on loan a month into the season.

“I was getting in the squad, but dipping in and out on the fringes,” Smith explained. “This is a big season for me, following on from the last couple, and I need to build on that. It was a no-brainer going out on loan somewhere.”

National League South side, Bath City, would be the eventual destination for the midfielder, after “ongoing discussions” that lasted “a couple of weeks”, to ensure the move was correct for all parties.

Smith, clearly recognising the need to be playing regular football in order to ensure continued development, stated: “On a personal level, I just needed to get out on loan and play games. There is nothing better, being young, just playing games. 

“They have a good set-up down there. I went there to get games, experience and get my confidence back. Jerry and Bath City have helped me to kick start my football again.”

Smith certainly appears to have regained his self-belief and has made quite the impression at Twerton Park, where he has linked up with new Romans boss Jerry Gill. He has won two man of the match awards since his arrival in October while contributing two goals in his eight appearances.

The youngster stated his desire to add goals and assists to his game and will hope his improved efforts in the final third have caught the eye of Flitcroft. The Swindon boss made it clear that the midfielder remains in his long-term plans, giving him even greater motivation to impress while away from the club.

“We had a conversation before I went on loan,” Smith explained. “The idea is for me to get out and get experience playing, rather than just being stagnant around the squad. I am a Swindon player, born and bred, and long-term there will always be an option for me to be used.”

This involvement is critical for a player of Smith’s age, who is still adapting since his graduation from the Swindon Town Academy. Despite being around the first team set-up for three years now, fans would be forgiven for forgetting that the 19-year-old has made just 10 league appearances for the club. He looked to be on the verge of establishing a regular spot for the Robins last term before injury hampered his progress.

“I was getting a run of games and that really helped me push on and cement my place. I played against Rochdale at home, when we won 3-0, and I did well, but I actually got injured after that game.

“As a young player you have to take your opportunities, but sometimes when you do get injured you lose that place in the squad, whereas a more experienced player might come straight back,” Smith admitted. “It is a difficult one, as I was doing well at the time, but things come up and things change.”

However, having accepted that injuries are part and parcel of the game, Smith was determined to bounce back and reclaim his spot in the squad, even if it required a temporary loan move along the way. He thoughtfully stated, “You can’t really control what happens. You just have to get on with it and keep working hard.”

After initially arriving at Bath City on a one-month deal, the club were delighted to extend Smith’s stay until after the New Year. This comes as little surprise considering his early performances for the Romans. It is clear that he thrives on playing matches and his displays have proven key to the club cementing a comfortable mid-table position in the National League South.

Of course, this is not the first loan move of Smith’s career. Last season the 19-year-old spent a brief spell out on loan with League of Ireland First Division outfit Waterford, where he proved vital in the club’s successful push for promotion, alongside Town teammate Jake Evans.

“It was a similar situation to the beginning of this season. Come January the club brought in new players and it meant I probably wasn’t going to get in the squad. I needed to continue playing games and continue doing well, in order to make it a good season. Despite looking at other clubs in England, everything just fell into place behind the scenes.”

Moving to a new league, in a new country, represented a fresh challenge for Smith. However, it is one that saw him thrive. He made 11 appearances for the club, scoring a single goal in a 2–0 away victory over UCD.

It ended up being a really good move for me. It was my first loan and a really great experience. We had to fly out there and live away from home. I got to meet loads of new people and experience a different style of football.

Seemingly, the canvas for Smith has always been painted red. The long-term ambition for the teenage midfielder is to establish himself as a first-team regular at the County Ground. Everything he does in the meantime is in pursuit of realising that goal.

“With playing games and getting experience, I think my time will come. It would be nice this year, or maybe the year after, to play in a Swindon shirt regularly.”

Smith still looks back with fond memories of his time as a ball boy for the Robins. In particular, he recollects the excitement of the Paulo di Canio era, but he never envisaged himself gracing the same turf as those he considered his childhood heroes.

“Looking out onto the pitch I just couldn’t ever imagine myself being there. It seemed so far away.” 

Being a Swindon Town first team regular may have been little more than a fantasy for a 13-year-old Tom Smith. Now, into his third year as a pro, he is closer than he ever would have expected. Despite all this, he remains grounded. Determined as ever to prove his worth at the club that has been a substantial influence in his life, to date.

“It is a weird thing, thinking I’m so close to being a regular. For me, being at a young age, I need to take a step back from everything, remember I am a young player, and keep working hard.”

Chris is the founder of The Boot Room. He is a Swindon Town supporter, having lived in Wiltshire for most of his years. His work has also featured on Squawka, Bleacher Report and Eurosport.

Belgium

Exclusive: Thorgan Hazard – Belgium’s World Cup chances and facing England in Group G

The Belgian international discusses his countries hopes at the upcoming World Cup.

Jake Jackman

Published

on

Thorgan Hazard
Photo: Getty Images

The World Cup is fast approaching and the excitement is beginning to build as the club season draws to an end.

Belgium are going to be England’s biggest challenge in Group G, with the other two teams being Tunisia and Panama.

The two European nations are set to face each other on the 28th June in the final group match and it is likely that the fixture will decide who goes through in first place.

England will know the Belgium squad well, as a lot of their players ply their trade in England.

However, Thorgan Hazard is less known to English defenders and the Borussia Monchengladbach attacker could have a role to play this summer.

Roberto Martinez is a big fan of the 25-year-old and has included him in the majority of squads since becoming manager of the Red Devils.

He may not have had the success of his older brother, Eden, at international level but he has collected seven caps and one goal for his country.

At the age of 25, he is approaching the peak years of his career and it would be great for his development if he could announce himself on the global stage.

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

In an exclusive interview with The Boot Room, Hazard spoke about his hopes for both Belgium and himself this summer.

“I hope to be part of the Belgian team travelling to Russia. Since our current coach Roberto Martinez took over, I was invited to all matches and could also make a few matches.

“The decision is of course with the coach. I have to show good performances in the club, then we will see. Of course, it would be very special for me if I could be there.”

It won’t be easy for Hazard to get into the team this summer, as Belgium have their own Golden Generation at the moment and Martinez has a number of talented attackers available to him.

Eden Hazard is likely to be the key man, but Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens and Michy Batshuayi have all had good campaigns for top European clubs. Meanwhile, Divock Origi, Kevin Mirallas and Yannick Carrasco all provide solid options for Martinez.

Although the younger Hazard brother won’t be one of the first names on the team-sheet, he has had his best season in professional football and stood out as the best player at Monchengladbach this season.

It has been a year of progression from the 25-year-old and his regular involvement with the national side shows that his manager has taken notice.

Hazard is currently the leading scorer for Monchengladbach with nine goals in the Bundesliga, which is his best return for a single league season. His consistency has been impressive, as he has averaged 2.01 chances created and 2.59 shots per ninety minutes. The attacker has been a regular threat to defences.

To put his performances into context, his older brother has averaged 3.13 chances created and 2.67 shots per ninety minutes for Chelsea. Considering Eden is playing in a superior team and has more opportunity to express himself, these stats show the quality of Thorgan.

“I think it’s the best generation of footballers Belgium has ever had. Of course, we want to go far at this World Cup, beyond as in 2014. But winning this title is very difficult. Everything has to fit, including health and luck in the matches.”

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

It is the pinnacle of the sport to lift the World Cup and Belgium have never managed to do it in their history. That isn’t surprising due to their size, but the names listed earlier show the quality that they currently possess. There is a belief that this is their best chance and Hazard clearly agrees with that. In 2014, they got experience in the tournament and reached the quarter-final stage, but they will be looking to improve of that this summer.

They will go into this summer with confidence after easing through their qualification group. Although they didn’t have the most difficult opposition, they managed to win nine of their ten matches and scored an incredible 43 goals, which averaged out at over four per game. Martinez has given the squad license to play attacking football and that certainly plays to their strengths.

However, Hazard is right to allude to the difficulty of winning the World Cup. Only one nation can do it every four years and Belgium won’t be one of the favourites. They will need everything to click and get the bit of luck required to go deep into a tournament. The first challenge will be England and the Monchengladbach winger spoke of the benefits his country will gain from having a number of Premier League players in the squad.

“Many of the best Belgian footballers play in the Premier League. So, we know many English players well. But it makes a difference whether you play against them with the club team or meet each other with the national teams. We will definitely do everything we can to win this difficult and important group game.”

They do have an advantage through knowing the English players well, but England have the same knowledge that could prove an important factor. This is why those that play in other top European leagues could be crucial in the final group game. Mertens, Radja Nainggolan and the younger Hazard could all be key figures for the Red Devils.

This summer will be special for the Hazard family. It is rare for two siblings to play to a high level in professional football and even rarer for them to feature alongside each other at a World Cup. It could be a tournament that takes both players to a new level.

Continue Reading

Borussia Monchengladbach

Exclusive: Thorgan Hazard – From Chelsea to Gladbach and comparisons with brother Eden

The Belgian international discusses his development as a player since leaving Stamford Bridge.

Jake Jackman

Published

on

Photo: Getty Images

Due to the fact that his brother is regarded as one of the best players in the world, Thorgan Hazard was always going to face an uphill battle to establish himself in football.

Like his older sibling, the Borussia Monchengladbach player is an attacker who likes to run with the ball and create problems for opposition defences.

His family name would have had positives and negatives for him, but ultimately, he has managed to break through and forge a reputation on his own merit during recent years.

The comparisons between the two have been impossible to miss. The 25-year-old has grown used to them as it has happened throughout his career, but he believes that his path in professional football has been more normal than Eden’s.

In an exclusive interview with The Boot Room, Hazard revealed the following:

“I’ve always been compared to him. But I have often said that he is one of the best players in the world at one of the best clubs in the world. He is a genius on the pitch who has skipped several career steps. I, on the other hand, had normal development as a footballer. Although we play in a similar position, we are different players.”

Although he believes his journey has differed to his brother’s, Thorgan was signed by Chelsea shortly after the club paid big money to land Eden.

(Photo credit should read PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

The attacker was 19 years of age at the time and likely signed to appease his big brother, but it provided him with an opportunity to take his own career to the next level. He didn’t stay long and took the first chance to gain first-team experience through a loan spell.

“I spent only a month at Chelsea. Then I was loaned directly to Belgium and then to Germany. I do not want to say that I learned a lot during the one month, but it was nice to meet the club.”

The Chelsea loan policy has been heavily criticised during recent years as the club was accused of hoarding talent. However, there were benefits for young players as they got a healthy wage and were loaned out to clubs that could give them substantial playing time.

Hazard spent three seasons out on loan before eventually leaving Stamford Bridge without making an appearance in the Premier League. His third season was spent with Borussia Monchengladbach.

It is becoming increasingly common for English youngsters to move to Germany whether permanently or on loan. When asked about for his thoughts on that, Hazard acknowledged the benefits that the Bundesliga provides to a young, developing player.

“A lot of playing time is best for young players to develop. And in Germany, the clubs often give the boys good chances. The Bundesliga is also a very good competition to develop.”

It was in the German top-flight that Hazard really made his name, stepping out of his older brother’s shadow in the process. He went on an initial season-long loan to Borussia Monchengladbach before making the move permanent 12 months later.

During his first campaign with the German club, he started only seven league matches with another further 21 appearances coming from the bench. Despite his limited role, the attacker ended the season with seven assists showing the creativity that he possesses.

Hazard has provided dynamism to the Monchengladbach team since arriving at the club and has played his best football when used in a central role, as his direct style causes problems for opposition teams.

(Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

It wasn’t a huge surprise when the Bundesliga side made his deal permanent as they could see his potential and decided they could put the time into his development. He has been an important first-team player since signing, but it has only been this season that he has become an indispensable member of the starting eleven.

Hazard has started 29 times in the Bundesliga and the club have been rewarded with the attacker’s best season in the final third. The Belgian international currently has nine goals and four assists. At the time of writing, he is the team’s top scorer and he has shone in a mixed season for the club as they are currently positioned in 8th.

Monchengladbach are an ambitious club and having played in the Champions League in two of the last three seasons, they will be looking to challenge towards the top of the division. Their current position is not bad, but they will look back on it with some regret.

“I think we had a good first turn, we have achieved good performances and good results. The second half of the season is very difficult.

“We had many injured players and some unfortunate decisions of the referee against us. But that cannot be an excuse. In some cases, we have not shown our best performance. That’s why we are in the middle of the table. Now we want to win the remaining games if possible.”

The team still have an outside chance of qualifying for Europe, but they will require a perfect end to the season and other teams to slip up. They have had problems in both halves of the pitch, but it is their defensive record that has troubled them more. In total, the club have conceded 48 goals, which ranks them as the joint-third worst defence in the division.

In the final third, they have been decent, but they still have the second-worst record in the top half of the table. One player to impress and show consistency has been Hazard. The 25-year-old has scored more league goals than any other player in the squad and he admits that it is enjoying his responsibility in the final third.

“Of course, it’s nice to be the top scorer of his team. But it’s just my job to help the team win games. Being a decisive player also means I’m doing a good job. Whether I’m involved in goals or someone else is not the most important thing.”

(Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Hazard has certainly been a decisive player this season, as he is having his most productive campaign since signing for Monchengladbach. There are a lot of talented players in the squad, but the Belgian international is arguably the standout and it will be important that they keep him if they want to challenge higher up the league next season.

There won’t be a shortage of clubs looking at his as a potential target and this summer could be huge in determining his future. Hazard looks likely to go to the World Cup with Belgium and that will put him in the shop window if he plays and performs well.

Given his brother’s success in England, there could be Premier League interest in the 25-year-old at some point soon. However, he isn’t looking too far ahead of himself.

“Everyone knows the Premier League and it’s an interesting competition. But right now, I have another two years contract with Borussia Mönchengladbach. We will see what the future holds. But I feel very comfortable with Borussia and in the Bundesliga. At the moment I do not think about a change.”

At the age of 25, Hazard has several seasons left at the top level and his gradual improvement until now should offer encouragement that greater things are to come in his career. He has a lot more to give and this season has seen him take his career to the next level.

The Monchengladbach man has gone from decent squad player to leading attacker and he isn’t finished yet.

Continue Reading

Aston Villa

Exclusive: Rudy Gestede – Tony Pulis’ preferred target man, Aston Villa woes and injury recovery

The Middlesbrough striker gave a candid interview as he looks to recover from his long-term injury.

Published

on

Rudy Gestede
Photo: Getty Images

In the 2014/15 season, Blackburn Rovers classic big-man little-man strike duo of Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes tore apart Championship defences with both players scoring 20+ league goals each as the Lancashire outfit pursued promotion to the top flight.

After Rovers missed out on a play-off place it was inevitable that the Gestede-Rhodes partnership would be broken up as bigger clubs, with deeper pockets, came calling.

Rhodes received most of the plaudits during their time together at Ewood Park, so it was with some surprise that Gestede got the call up to the Premier League first, signing for Aston Villa as a replacement for the departing Christian Benteke.

Rhodes would have to wait another season to make it to the big league with Middlesbrough, while Gestede exited the club with an impressive record of 33 goals in 66 games.

The target man made a roaring start to life at Villa, scoring on his debut to give the Midlands outfit a 1-0 win over Bournemouth.

However, that was to be a rare high point in his time in the West Midlands.

Villa went on a six-game losing streak and Tim Sherwood, the man who brought Gestede to the club, lost his job. His replacement, Remi Garde, made it known fairly quickly that Gestede did not fit the style of football that he intended to play.

“My dream has always been to play in the Premier League,” Gestede told The Boot Room, in an exclusive interview.

“At Aston Villa I started quite well, scoring four goals in 10 games. But then, after Tim Sherwood was sacked, Remi Garde came in and told me I wouldn’t be playing because he doesn’t use a target man.

“I didn’t play for a while, coming on for just five or ten minutes. It’s hard to find your rhythm when that is the case and it was disappointing.”

Following Villa’s relegation to the Championship, the club invested heavily in an attempt to return to the top flight, with big money splashed out on proven Championship goalscorers, Ross McCormack and Jonathan Kodjia.

Despite his record at this level, both Roberto De Matteo and his successor at Villa Park, Steve Bruce, overlooked Gestede in favour of the new signings.

So when he was offered another bite at Premier League football with Middlesbrough, where he replaced his old partner in crime Rhodes, he understandably jumped at the chance.

However, it proved to be a difficult time for Gestede.

Middlesbrough had started the season well but a run of poor results found them battling relegation and manager Aitor Karanka was quick to publically criticise the club hierarchy for failing to land his preferred transfer targets, compatriots Bojan Krkic and Jesé.

(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

Subsequently, Gestede found himself in a similar situation to the one he left at Villa, with Karanka, and his eventual replacement Steve Agnew, both preferring to operate with Alvaro Negredo on his own up front.

“Again, I was playing just a few minutes here and there. It is hard as a striker when you don’t get at least a few games in a row. You don’t get used to the rhythm and you take a while to get up to the speed of the competition, especially for a player of my size.  That was a frustrating period as I didn’t get the chance to show what I feel I am capable of.”

In the summer, after relegation back to the Championship, Garry Monk was appointed as the third Boro boss during the six months since Gestede had signed.

Monk immediately broke the club’s transfer record by paying Nottingham Forest a reported £15 million for powerful forward Britt Assombalonga, before making the Congo international his go-to striker.

Gestede’s time under Monk was again limited to – in the main – cameo’s from the bench, usually when Boro were chasing a game.

“Under Garry Monk my playing time was limited. When you start getting starts and scoring goals you want to keep going. But that is part of being a player and you don’t have the time to sit and complain about what is happening. You have to prepare yourself for what will be the next fight.”

(Photo credit should read GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images)

After a frustrating first half to the Championship campaign, Monk was dismissed, largely due to Boro’s defensive frailties and poor record against promotion rivals, which threatened to remove them from the play-off picture.

For a club that usually prides itself on giving their managers time to embed their philosophy, during his short spell at Boro, Gestede has played under a total of four different managers.

He has had few chances to experience run of games playing in his preferred position and feels that the Boro faithful haven’t seen the best from him, as a result.

“Since 2015, when I started at Aston Villa, I have had 10 managers. It does make things hard, as they look to give you varying amounts of playing time and in a number of different roles. You have to adapt. Sometimes they ask you to change the way you play and it doesn’t suit you very well.”  

To some surprise experienced Premier League survival specialist Tony Pulis opted to replace Monk at the Riverside.

Pulis is infamous for his direct football which represented a big departure from the open attacking style of Monk and the patient possession-based play of Karanka.

Pulis’ disciplinarian nature and style of play were imposed on the Boro squad immediately.

“He has more experience than any previous managers. He has his idea and you know he is going to stick with it. He wants us to set-up the way he likes to play. He is also a real leader. He is the man in charge and you feel that around the club. If you do not do what he says you know you are going to be out of the squad.”

Players who did not fit the Pulis mould were quickly jettisoned.

The attacking full-back Cyrus Christie, one of Boro’s best performers in the first half of the season, was sold to Fulham and replaced with the physically imposing Ryan Shotton.

Danish international attacking midfielder Martin Braithwaite was sent to Bordeaux on loan.

Pulis had a habit of playing a physically imposing target man at his previous clubs so the smart money was on Gestede being a shoe-in for first-team football and this soon proved to be the case.

“We know he likes to put players with height in the squad, but I didn’t know if I would be playing over Britt or Patrick. During the first few weeks in January, he started to rotate players to see who would fit best with the way he likes to play. After that, I started to get a run of games”

Pulis developed a formula of playing that on paper suited a striker with Gestede’s attributes.

Full-backs Ryan Shotton and George Friend would launch long throws up the line or into the opposition box.

The pace of Adama Traore, a player who has flourished under Pulis, was exploited to get up the pitch quickly and put early balls into the box.

The centre-backs and goalkeeper were encouraged to go long to Gestede early, with Boro attempting to play off the knockdowns.

This style of football suited Gestede’s attributes more than any other manager he had played under at Boro.

“You have to play with your strengths. I will not try to beat ten people with the ball, because that’s not what I’m good at. I leave that to others, the likes of Adama.

“My game is to hold the ball up for my teammates while being in the box as often as possible to score goals. I need to be there, but they need to feed me as well.

“If you were to start playing me down the channels, that wouldn’t be using my strengths. Everyone has a responsibility to the team and the target man role suits me well. “

(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

The Pulis philosophy took time to bed in at Boro. Results were mixed and some portions of the Riverside crowd were unhappy with the style of football.

Gestede bore the brunt of some criticism due to the perception of him being a Pulis pick.

This was not helped by the manager dropping and publically criticising top scorer and fan favourite Britt Assombalonga.

After a slow start back in the first-team Gestede was able to answer some of those critics by bagging a brace against Hull.

Unfortunately, however, he also picked up an injury during that game, which he later discovered was a fractured ankle.

This injury cruelly ended his season just as he was finally getting going at the club.

“When you realise you are going to be out of the team it is hard to take, but you cannot stay in this mindset for long otherwise it is going to be more difficult to come back. You have to have the right mental attitude in order to come back as quickly as you can.”

Gestede could be forgiven for thinking that his future may lie elsewhere given how much tactical omissions and injuries have restricted his playing time at Boro.

But the striker has stated his intention to regain fitness and force his way back into the team next season. If Pulis remains in charge, it is likely that we will see Rudy leading the line again for Boro.

“In the summer we will review everything that is going on. In football, anything can happen, but I do not plan to leave. I just want to be ready for the squad. I will have a chat with the owner and if he is happy for me to stay then I will be very pleased. But football is full of surprises and you just never know.”

Whilst starting the long road back to recovery Gestede has uploaded regular updates of his rehabilitation on his YouTube channel titled #DAILYREHAB.

Each vlog offers an intimate look at his journey back to fitness and includes in-depth input from the Rockcliffe Park medical staff and occasional cameos from his team-mates.

In this time of heavy media management and arm’s length communications amongst professional footballer’s Gestede’s candid approach has been well received by Boro fans.

The vlog has shed light on the difficult and lonely experiences of an injured footballer whilst also showing the hard work that is put in by the medical staff and an injured individual in order to return to competition.

Gestede has found that the positive messages from the fans have also helped him:

“I wanted to motivate people. When I started rehab I wanted to show people that you have to work hard and that you have to believe in yourself if you want to come back stronger.

“It has been nice connecting with the fans. It is important as they are there every weekend supporting us. They are the same as us, we are both people. As footballers, we just have the luck to do what we love every day. We are fortunate that football is watched by so many people.

“It is important to use our ‘fame’, even though I do not like this word, to spread a positive attitude and way of doing things. There are too many bad things said about footballers because of the media. Now we have the chance to use social media to make it right.”

The football world recently mourned the passing of former England international Ray Wilkins, who died of a cardiac arrest at the age of just 61.

Gestede was fortunate enough to work with Ray who coached him at Aston Villa and he looks back on their time spent together fondly.

“I didn’t know Ray before I signed for Villa, but I got to know him quite quickly as we were in the same hotel together before I found a house in the area.

He was such a kind person and an absolute gentleman, always so friendly to my wife and kids. He always carried a positive attitude and he had an amazing knowledge of football.

I really enjoyed my time at Villa with Ray and I am very sad to lose such a great person, as he was.”  

So often in tragic circumstances such as these, we are reminded that life is short.

Gestede may well be holding that thought in his head as inspiration as he puts his all into bouncing back from injury.

All Boro fans will be hoping to see him back in a red shirt next season terrorising defences. Perhaps even Premier League defences.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2018 The Boot Room.