By Alex Larkin
KENNETH OMERUO has described the togetherness in the Middlesbrough camp which has made it easy for him to adapt to life at the Riverside.
After arriving on loan from Chelsea, Omeruo made his first start for Boro in the goalless draw against Doncaster at the weekend and wants to make a big impression during his half-season loan on Teesside.
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The 20-year-old Nigerian defender is highly rated at Stamford Bridge, as the Blues signed him from Standard Liege in 2012, before being immediately sent out on loan to top-flight Dutch side ADO Den Haag.
Omeruo is yet to make his debut for Chelsea, but is a regular for his national side after playing in the Africa Cup of Nations final last year and holding responsibility for marking Luis Suarez in the Confederations Cup.
Although being almost nailed on to make Nigeria’s World Cup squad, the youngster has made the short term switch to Middlesbrough in search for first-team football.
Despite the influx of new players at the club, Omeruo insisted adjusting to life at Middlesbrough has so far been a comfortable process.
“It’s been really easy settling in, I don’t feel as though things are too different here to where I came from [Chelsea],” he said. “There’s a great unity amongst the players and as long as I continue listening to what the manager tells me, I should make good progress.”
The defender’s introduction to the side was bittersweet. Middlesbrough disappointed in Saturday’s stalemate at the Keepmoat Stadium, with Omeruo playing right-back instead of Joszef Varga.
Speaking on being asked to play away from his preferred centre-back role, Omeruo said: “I was happy to play there because that’s what the manager wanted and felt it would be best for my development.”
Boro duo Seb Hines and Stuart Parnaby returned to action yesterday for Middlesbrough’s Under-21s in a 2-1 defeat to Stoke City at Rockliffe Park.
Parnaby’s return came after a spell out on compassionate leave for personal reasons, while Hines’ expected move to Birmingham broke down after Rhys Williams sustained an injury against Wigan last week.
Hines’ return at centre-back increases the competition at the heart of the Middlesbrough defence. Omeruo just wants to stay in the team, with competition for places high now having six players all pushing for a starting place at the back.
“I’m just trying to improve my performances in every game,” said Omeruo. “If I can do that I will hopefully keep my place in the team.”
Boro head into their weekend fixture against Blackburn nine points adrift of sixth place Reading and are looking to get their promotion push back on track after going three games without scoring.
Alex Grant gave Stoke City a half-time lead at Rockliffe Park, before Bradley Fewster missed a penalty for Boro after a handball in the area. Stoke keeper Daniel Bachmann denied the young striker.
Fewster was replaced by Wilson Kneeshaw and he equalised for the hosts, but Stoke won it with a late goal from James Alabi in the 85th minute.
Middlesbrough: Leutwiler, Parnaby, Atkinson, Hines, Meling, Waters, Jones, Kitching, Fewster, Park, Brobbel. Subs: Fryer, Weledji, B Halliday, Bennett, Kneeshaw.