MIDDLESBROUGH starlet Richie Smallwood is on standby for his first Championship start of the season when Watford visit the Riverside Stadium tomorrow tea-time (KO 5.30pm).
Tony Mowbray is facing up to the possibility of being without midfielder Nicky Bailey after he suffered a calf injury during Tuesday’s 3-1 win at Doncaster Rovers.
Smallwood, 20, has been restricted to appearances from the bench in the league this season but he could come into the engine room for the televised clash with the Hornets.
Mowbray said: “If Nicky Bailey doesn’t make it at the weekend there’s a fair chance Richie Smallwood will be playing.
“I would have no fears of playing him because he’s shown in the past that he can play in a winning Middlesbrough side.
“You get what you see - he is what it says on the tin - he’s a wholehearted footballer who gives you everything he’s got and that’s all you can ask.
“I don’t expect him to play disguised wonder passes over 50 yards but I expect him to win tackles, get about the pitch and break up the opposition play and pass simply and I know he can do that.
“Whether it’s in a development game at Rockliffe Park against Huddersfield on Tuesday or in the match at the Riverside against Watford on Saturday you know what you’ll get from him.”
Mowbray could again make changes among his substitutes with the manager having rotated his reserves in recent matches.
And the Boro boss explained: “I need a balance across the pitch from my substitutes as well as the right characters.
“The ones who get on the bench are the ones I feel can make an impact, but I can only name five, so some players are inevitably going to miss out.
“Some who haven’t played for a while get flat and down as if they’re in a dark tunnel and can’t see the light of day. But once they see a chink of light and get motivated again I feel I can bring them back into the 16 - so I do that on a rotation basis really.
“Tarmo Kink made the bench on Tuesday, he’s been training very well and he’s got two big international fixtures for Estonia coming up.
“I would have got him on the pitch at Doncaster had the opportunity arose, that was my plan.”
- CRAIG HOPE