Obi Mikel taking positives from Middlesbrough debut draw

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Daniel Ayala’s strike did little to help the Smoggies as they were forced to FA Cup replay with the visitors’ last-gasp equaliserArticle continues below

John Obi Mikel attempted to focus on the positive side of Middlesborough’s performance as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Newport County in his first game.

The former Chelsea star was on for 62 minutes before being replaced by Adam Clayton but could not inspire them to victory in the FA Cup fourth round game.

Daniel Ayala opened the scoring for Tony Pulis’ men after heading past goalkeeper Nick Townsend a corner taken by Lewis Wing.

Mathew Dolan’s injury-time strike offered the visitors a lifeline as they will wait for a replay to determine their Fifth Round fate.

But Mikel who joined from Tianjin Teda insisted there was promising aspects to his performance while hoping for more game time. Article continues below

“I thought the performance was good,” Mikel told club website.

“When you play these games, we were one up, we controlled the game and it’s one of those games where if you sit back you can get caught out and that’s what happened.

“The team played really well, it’s a good start for me and hopefully we can carry on from here.

“Today was good and hopefully I can get a few more games to get sharper and help the team a bit more.”

The Nigeria international would be hoping to make his league bow when Boro travel to promotion-chasing West Bromwich Albion on February 2.

How Mikel Joins Middlesbrough

Mikel wasn’t on Pulis’s radar at the start of this month, quite simply because the manager wasn’t aware that the opportunity to sign the experienced international would present itself.

But when it did, the manager jumped at the chance.

“I snuck down to his house last week or the week before, I can’t remember it seems so long ago now, and had a couple of hours with him as soon as I found out he was coming back,” revealed Pulis.

“I had a good chat with him and, like I say, spent a lot of time on it.”

Pulis wasn’t the only manager whose ears were pricked by the availability of Mikel and the Boro boss says his new recruit was inundated with offers this month.

Tony Pulis(Image: Teesside Live)

It’s not clear whether he’ll be available to feature against Newport this afternoon. Boro were awaiting for international clearance ahead of yesterday’s 12 noon deadline.

Mikel needs to work on his fitness, which comes as no surprise given his lack of football of late, and it will be interesting to see how Pulis uses the midfielder when he’s up to full speed.

Mikel has played as a holding midfielder for most of his club career but has often been used in a more advanced No.10 role for Nigeria.

John Obi Mikel on playing with heroes, kidnap ordeals and a monumental transfer tug of war

“He can play anywhere,” said Pulis, before adding: “In his position, there’s not a great deal of competition, in the position he holds himself.”

That could suggest Pulis is more likely to use Mikel as a deep holding midfielder, with Adam Clayton the only real specialist in the squad in that role.

Pulis says the arrival of Mikel has lifted the dressing room and believes the midfielder will improve those around him.

New Middlesbrough signing John Obi Mikel Picture credit: MFC(Image: MFC)

“He has the quality, the stature, the experience, people around will grow. People grow around because of his personality,” he said.

“He played against my teams quite a few times. He was always one that stood out.

“I think he’s a player’s player, I’m not so sure supporters will ever appreciate what John does as much as his co-players, he’s that type of player.

“He’s been a bonus for us because he’s come on a short term deal and it isn’t fortunes, I’ll tell you that. He’s come to play, to get himself playing and fit and thinks this is the best place for him. He’s had a lot, and I mean a lot of other clubs in this country interested.”


Pulis added: “He’s a little bit short on fitness which we have to accept but him coming in and training yesterday (Thursday) gave the whole place a lift.

Pulis added: “He’s a little bit short on fitness which we have to accept but him coming in and training yesterday (Thursday) gave the whole place a lift.

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