Marcus Tavernier opens up on Middlesbrough breakthrough and crossing paths with former Barcelona goalkeeper

Middlesbrough midfielder Marcus Tavernier is living a childhood dream but admits he still struggles to come to terms with the daytime job.

By Joe Ramage
Thursday, 7th October 2021, 10:11 am
Updated Thursday, 7th October 2021, 10:12 am

Tavernier is a product of Boro’s excellent academy having risen through the ranks as a schoolboy right up to being selected for the first team in 2017 as an 18-year-old.

The midfielder firmly announced his name on the big stage seven days after his debut by grabbing the winner against neighbours Sunderland at the Riverside in a Championship Tees-Wear derby.

Initially it was a daunting process for the teenager swapping the comforts of being a bigger fish in the academy pond to being a little fish among the first team, with a number of household names still at the Riverside.

Marcus Tavernier loves being a professional footballer but knows it's about winning three points (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

And four years on, and with over 100 appearances to his name, Tavernier still has to pinch himself at how far he has come.

Speaking with Boro podcast ‘One Of Our Own’ the 22-year-old said: “It ‘s surreal. When you were younger you wanted players' autographs and now you’ve got little kids coming up to you saying you’re their favourite player - it’s unbelievable.

“I remember seeing someone have my name on the back of their top and I could not believe it. My name on the back of someone’s top, number 62. I thought they only made two copies and they were mine!

“When you’re a young kid you’re looking at the first team and the big players; there’s Grant [Leadbitter], Adama [Traore] was here then, Victor Valdes walked through the door and you’re thinking ‘he’s played with Messi’ - the best player on the planet.

Marcus Tavernier came through Middlesbrough's academy (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

“But when you train you realise they see you as someone who can play in this team - you’re not there just to make up the numbers, you’re there to take someone else’s shirt, so that was my aim once I got in training with the first team.”

Despite a sluggish start to the Championship season from Neil Warnock’s side, Tavernier admits he still gets excited by the prospect of playing at the Riverside in front of a crowd - particularly having endured the COVID-19 era of behind-closed-doors football.

But while being a professional footballer seems like a dream to most of us who follow the game, the Boro midfielder is quick to point out that ultimately, amid the stardom, it is a job.

“You can’t get settled or complacent with just being in with the first team. You’re there to play,” he said.

“The atmosphere of a stadium and realising you’re actually playing for three points [is surreal]. Three points means so much to the team and what you do.

“I remember making my home debut and just the lights when you’re coming out, and hearing the roar. Although it’s what you love, you realise it’s your job and three points means so much.

“There’s always a person somewhere else in a lot more difficult situation than you’re in. I’m here living most kids’ dreams. So for me to be upset about what I'm doing is just impossible.”

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Middlesbrough coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription to our new sports-only package here.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor.