Jonathan Greening Leaving United for Boro was the best decision I ever made.
By fmttm
Monday 16 Mar 2020 14:44:00
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Former Middlesbrough midfielder Jonathan Greening, speaking exclusively to 888sport gave us these answers to our specific Boro questions.

Greening was a first teamer at Boro after arriving with Mark Wilson from Man U in an unusual deal on a joint fee of £3million. During his time at Boro, 2001 to 2004, Greening would be acclaimed as Player of the Year, establish himself as a bedrock of the midfield before falling through injury and losing favour and finding himself in the squad, not the team, for our greatest ever day, the Carling Cup Final win.

Thanks to 888sport we were able to ask Jonathan Greening a few questions about his time at Boro. Here are the answers.

“Having Steve McClaren there when I went to Middlesbrough made it miles easier for me. At the time I’d been at Manchester United for three years and played 34 times in all the competitions. They had just signed Sebastian Veron for thirty-odd million and Van Nistelrooy for a big fee and I said to Alex Ferguson that I needed to go out and play regularly.

Obviously when Steve McClaren went to Middlesbrough he wanted to take myself and Mark Wilson with him and so I knocked on Alex Ferguson’s door and said this was a huge opportunity for me and that I didn’t think I’d play week in, week out because he’d just signed all these world class stars. He actually offered me a new contract to stay but I told him it wasn’t about that. I was 22 years old and needed to play. We had two or three meetings over the next couple of weeks and he decided to let me and Mark go. 

Steve knew all about me from our time at United and he wanted to give me first team opportunities and going there that summer was the best thing I did because it kick-started my career. I made over a hundred appearances in three years and that’s what you need as a young player: to play these matches and learn the job.”

Jonathan Greening exclusive: Boro’s Carling Cup success was the best and worst day of my life

“I do have mixed feelings. It was the worst day of my life and the best day. I played nearly every round up to the semi-final then got injured in that with my thigh. Steve McClaren said if I could get back in training the week before I’d definitely be involved even if just from the bench.

So I got back to fitness and on the day I had 52 people coming down from Scarborough – family and friends – and I was thinking that worst case scenario I’d be on the bench but when he read the team out I hadn’t even made that. A cup final. The Millennium Stadium with all your family and friends there. You can imagine how that felt.

Obviously I was delighted for the team and that the players got to lift the trophy but you still have that feeling of wanting to be involved.”

Read the full 888sport interview with Jonathan Greening, including his thoughts on how Learning from Juninho and Boksic was his personal highlight at Boro

Jonathan Greening exclusive: Even as a player Southgate was a manager in waiting

“He was absolutely brilliant with the young lads. You could talk to him about anything. He was a big part of training and was always asking questions during briefings and he was a proper born leader. If things weren’t going your way on the pitch he’d help you out. He wasn’t one to shout and bawl but he’d talk to you, giving good advice. I always thought he’s make a really good manager and you can see that the players who have stepped up to the England squad really like him. They like his manner and how he speaks to them. And from that he’s getting the best out of them.

When I went to Middlesbrough I was only 22 and he was about 30 and a good, experienced pro. Yet he talked to everybody like they were on the same level and that comes through when he’s giving his press conferences.”

Jonathan Greening exclusive: Learning from Juninho and Boksic was my personal highlight at Boro

“The massive low point was missing the Carling Cup final and that was a high point too. Being on the bus celebrations was amazing but it will always go down as the final that I missed out on.

The highest point for me was going there and learning my trade. Playing 108 games in three years and being so close to home because I live in Scarborough so it’s only 45 minutes for family to come and watch me.

Then there was playing with people like Gareth Southgate, Paul Ince and Ugo Ehiogu, bless him: people who are really good players and really good pros. You learn so much from these players. To play with Juninho and Alen Boksic and Geremi was an amazing experience.”

Jonathan Greening exclusive: Woodgate has the odds stacked against him at Boro

“It’s a tough one. I know Woody quite well because we used to play against each other in youth teams and he’s a top lad. I hope he does really well. I went up there around Christmas and they were playing really well and on a mini-run. But since then they’ve just kept on losing games and they’re right down there in the relegation zone.

It’s hard because he’s got no money to spend. He’s been told they have to get rid of some big earners and obviously Randolph has gone to West Ham. He’s going to have to get rid of Britt (Assombalonga) in the summer. It’s going to be difficult for him but Steve Gibson has come out and given his support and as an ex-Middlesbrough player I just want them to stay in the Championship. Like Sunderland it’s not good to see big clubs go down to League One and hopefully Middlesbrough can hang on in there and rebuild over the summer. Then Jonathan can take them to the next level.” 

Jonathan Greening exclusive: Scholes was on another level to the rest

“The best player I ever played with was Paul Scholes. Ryan Giggs is up there but Scholes was another level, honestly. He isn’t very tall. He wasn’t very fit – he was always at the back of running in pre-season and has asthma. But you could not get the ball off him. His brain worked twenty seconds before anyone else’s did. If you went to close him down he’s knock it with one touch, round the other side. If you gave him space he’d spray it all over the pitch. He could score a goal. He was just unbelievable and his football brain was so quick.”

Jonathan Greening exclusive: My life in football

“I started as a striker at United and I am someone who learned different positions. I played left wing, right wing, centre mid; I played right back a couple of times. So I had a good football brain and I could learn different positions and I did that myself because I was never really coached. 

I could think on my feet and was technically good with both feet. I probably should have scored more goals. When I went into midfield I could dictate play and my passing short and long was good.

Looking back I did too much defensive work when with my quality I probably should have assisted more and scored more goals.

I had an amazing career. As a young kid all I wanted was to be a part of professional football and be a footballer so I’ve lived the dream. I’ve been a part of the United treble. I was in the FA Cup final squad against Newcastle. I lifted the league title at Old Trafford. There was the Champions League. I was part of the Carling Cup squad. A Community Shield squad and a Super Cup squad. I’ve won the Championship. I’ve been relegated twice and been part of the play-offs. I’ve played for England under 18s, under 21s, and made the England squad so I’ve literally done everything you can in football.

Looking back to when I was 13 and wondering if I was going to make it I can now laugh because it’s all been truly amazing.

Read the full 888sport interview with Jonathan Greening, including his thoughts on how Even as a player Southgate was a manager in waiting.

 

 



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