OVER the years at Middlesbrough, players have come to the club from all corners of the globe and gone on to earn themselves a place in the hearts of the Boro faithful.

From the days of Juninho and Fabrizio Ravenelli to George Friend and Grant Leadbitter in more recent times, there is a certain type of player that Boro fans warm to and love to shout about.

Matt Crooks is a man who seems to be fitting into that mould of character. Judging by the way he’s performed this season and the rave reviews he's earned from fans, we could well see history repeating itself.

Crooks has been one of the standout players in a Boro shirt this season since signing in the summer from League One Rotherham United. So much so that fans consider him to be the player of the season so far.

Not many players who join the club in the summer go on to switch the Christmas lights on in the town centre. Crooks was handled that responsibility in front of a packed Centre Square just outside the town hall on Sunday night.

That meant there was one bug question staring him in the face. Would he give it the no look switch on like he did to assist Duncan Watmore for the second goal against Huddersfield.

“I’ll just shut my eyes and press it down” he responded.

“I’m getting a bit nervous now but I’ll be alright. It’s a bit different to playing football, you can kind of switch off but I’ll be alright.

“Might be a few short answers (on stage) and a bit of mumbling but I’ll be alright.

“It’s brilliant. Seeing all the community come together, all the different people, from everywhere, all different ages and it’s good to see. It’s Christmas so it’s time for family and friends especially the last two years with what’s been happening. It’s just nice to see a big group of people come together.”

Crooks is one of the first names on the team sheets and has been a mainstay in the side becoming the club’s top scorer with four goals from 19 appearances.

Previous manager Neil Warnock had high praise for the six foot four inch midfielder for his presence and eye of goal. He talked about Crooks becoming a fan favourite for years to come and he is certainly on his way to doing that.

The 27-year-old has even spoke himself about potentially seeing his career out in Teesside even with plenty of years left in the tank.

Touching on how he has endeared himself to the Boro faithful, Crooks told the Northern Echo: “I wanted to start brightly. It’s always important when you are new set the tone for the time you are there and I like to think that I have done that.

“I still feel like I can play better. Probably could’ve had a few more goals and a few more assists but in general I’m happy with it so it’s been good.”

The Northern Echo: Matt Crooks in action for Boro against Huddersfield.Matt Crooks in action for Boro against Huddersfield.

Under Chris Wilder, Crooks has been deployed in central midfield but given the license to join the attack and press forward as a number eight in a very hard working system.

The fruits of his labour were laid bare with by scoring the first goal of Wilder’s tenure at Boro as well as the weekend’s win over Huddersfield Town which produced a comprehensive and controlled display.

Crooks was one of the standout players in a team that looked very good as a unit. Wilder surmised from his first few games in charge that players have been enjoying his philosophy and culture of football in the club.

The midfielder said that was the case and that there is still plenty to play for this season.

He added: “Me personally, I’ve really enjoyed the last three games and I think all the boys have as well. We’ve really enjoyed the way the new manager works and the way he plays and I think it’s a benefitting us in the games.

“Obviously we should have had more points on the board but they will come.

“We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves but we’re all enjoying it. I think the more we work on it, obviously we’ll have a full week of training now, the better we should become at it. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves but at the same time, be confident in what we are doing.

“With results at the weekend, it all tightened up again. There is so many points to play for. To win 10 or 12 games it puts you in a really good position of being right up there.”