Middlesbrough FC news: Stewart Downing's contract situation resolved as Adam Clayton makes surprise admission after Norwich defeat
Stewart Downing has reached an agreement with Middlesbrough which will allow him to start the final eight games of the season.
The 34-year-old has been left on the bench in recent months, due to a clause in his contract which would have triggered a one-year extension if Downing started another fixture.
Yet news emerged this morning that Downing and the club have agreed to cancel the clause, meaning the winger could return to the starting XI to face Bristol City on Tuesday night.
Boro's promotion push has stalled in recent weeks following Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Norwich at the Riverside - the Teessiders' fourth straight loss.
The result saw Tony Pulis' side drop out of the top six, following Onel Hernandez's second-half winner.
A home meeting with the Robbins could now prove pivotal, after Lee Johnson's side came from behind to beat Sheffield United 3-2 and leapfrog Boro in the table.
Despite the Norwich defeat, it was a memorable day for Boro's Adam Clayton, who made his first start since January.
Clayton has been a regular at the Riverside since joining Boro in 2014, yet the arrival of Jon Obi Mikel earlier this year has seen the former drop down the pecking order.
“It was a brilliant feeling to be back in the team,” said Clayton after Saturday's game. “Walking out of the tunnel again was a bit emotional.
“There was little bit of a lump in the throat and a swelling of the chest. You feel that pride.
“It’s fantastic to play for Middlesbrough and it was great to do it again, to be walking out in front of a good crowd and with a good atmosphere.
“It was disappointing that the result went against us but I was delighted to be back in from the start."
The midfielder also thought he may never win his place back, following a consistent run of games at the start of the campaign.
“Of course, these are the things that go through your mind,” added Clayton. “When you lose your place in the team you worry you won’t get back.
“John Obi Mikel is a great player, he’s got a great reputation and to be fair to him, he’s come in and played really well.
“But, to be honest, it is hard when that happens. Since I’ve been here I’ve been one of the players who plays most games, so, mentally, when you are out of the team it is tough. It’s not a nice place to be.
“As a footballer that’s what you do, you play football, and watching is not nice. You always want the lads to do well and win games but you want to be back in team."