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Will Woodgate's Boro return give Mowbray a selection poser?
JONATHAN WOODGATE plans to chat with Tony Mowbray today to determine whether he is fit and ready to give the Middlesbrough manager a selection teaser for the trip to Barnsley this weekend.
The former Newcastle United centre-back has been using the international break to rest a calf problem he picked up in the first half of the defeat to Queens Park Rangers on September 28.
The majority of the Boro squad are expected back to the club’s training HQ at Rockliffe Park this morning and Mowbray is in no mood to rush Woodgate back too soon following the emergence of Ben Gibson.
In the two matches since he picked up his latest injury, there have been promising displays from the locally produced Gibson, including an equaliser in the draw with Huddersfield on October 1.
Gibson is seen very much as part of the club’s future and has impressed everyone at the Riverside Stadium by his approach to professional football on and off the pitch.
The 20-year-old has slotted in alongside Rhys Williams at the heart of the defence in the absence of Woodgate and has been one of Middlesbrough’s stand-out performers in the last two outings.
But Woodgate’s return would present a real poser for Mowbray, who has regularly lauded the experienced centre-back’s ability to hold the line together.
While he has not been as consistent as he was last season, Mowbray believes the 33-year-old remains crucial to how Middlesbrough defend.
Woodgate is expected to take part in some level of training over the next few days but Mowbray only regards a return to action for Woodgate at Barnsley as touch and go.
Team captain Williams is not due back until tomorrow. The Australian has been with his country since the beginning of last week preparing for a double header of friendlies.
After losing to France 6-0 in Paris on Friday night – a result which got coach Holger Osieck the sack - Williams is looking for an immediate improvement against Canada tonight.
The fixture is taking place at Fulham’s Craven Cottage, so he will not have the added problem of travelling up from Down Under like he has occasionally had to in the past.
Middlesbrough winger Albert Adomah does have further to travel. He is part of the Ghana squad set to play the first of two World Cup qualifier legs against Egypt tonight.
The 25-year-old, who moved from Bristol City in a £1m deal in August, has become a key member of the Black Stars’ squad since making his debut against Brazil in September last year.
After appearing for Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, he has set his sights on next summer’s World Cup – but a positive result in Kumasi this evening could be key before the return leg with Egypt on November 19.
Adomah said: “I've only played 12 games for Ghana and now I feel like I'm part of the national team, which is great. The team bus is always full of joy. On the way to games and even before and after training sessions, we're all singing and dancing.
“It's completely different to England where people are on their phones texting or wearing headphones. When I first got a call-up I was a bit shy so I was just clapping my hands to the music but I speak the main language so I can sing along and I don't feel left out.
“Obviously when we score goals we celebrate with a dance which is great, it really gets the supporters going. We're playing the first leg in the city of Kumasi and I can't remember the last time we lost there.
“The atmosphere in Kumasi is crazy, even for training sessions the stadium is packed. That shows you the characteristics of the supporters.
"They're dancing in the stadium and entertaining themselves even when there's nothing really going on. They're just happy to see the players. To make it to the World Cup three times in a row would be amazing for the country and our fans.”
Middlesbrough’s only other player on international duty this week, Jozsef Varga, should have an easier night against Andorra after Hungary’s 8-1 drubbing at the hands of the Netherlands on Friday in Amsterdam.
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