Neil Warnock reveals how he signed “main man” for Middlesbrough

Former Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock has revealed the story behind the club signing Duncan Watmore when he was in charge, a player the 73-year-old still believes is the main man at the Riverside Stadium.

Boro signed the former Sunderland forward on a short-term deal back in November 2020 and with Watmore going on to impress, he would sign a longer-term two and a half year extension just a few months later in January 2021.

That new deal came after the forward bagged five goals in eight games for the Championship side.

Now, Warnock has revealed that Watmore was thinking about heading to India to play his football before he came across him.

The former Boro boss told TalkSPORT, via TeessideLive: “I’ll never forget signing Duncan Watmore. He came to me and he was going to India because he didn’t have a contract after Sunderland. Gordon Armstrong came to me and said, ‘have a look at him for me please? He’s a lovely guy.’ So I said ‘alright’.”

“He came over to train with us for a few weeks and what a fabulous guy he is!” One of the best guys I’ve ever had under me. He was so eager to do well. So I said to him, ‘Listen, instead of going to India, let me see if I can get you a contract here’.

Quiz: Which British club did Middlesbrough sign these 26 players from?

“It wasn’t going to be a lot of money, so I went to the chief executive [Neil Bausor] and they went to the recruitment guys we had at the club then. They got on the computer and came back and said, ‘his stats don’t add up, Neil. He doesn’t score enough goals’.

“I’m watching him in training and what he does is brilliant. We weren’t talking a lot of money either, we’re talking a tenth of what some of the players were on then. Anyway, this goes on for about four weeks and he hasn’t been paid a penny.

“He came to see me and I said, ‘Dunc, I’m struggling. But I’m going to speak to the owner and if I can’t get anything for you, I understand you’ve got to go.

“So I spoke to Steve [Gibson] and we ended up signing him on a very small, short-term contract and he ended up with ten goals and as our top scorer that year.

“So the stats weren’t right then! He’s just a brilliant guy, and I still think he’s the main striker after all this time. They’ve signed Forss and Hoppe and Chuba Akpom is back now. But I still see Duncan as the main man.”

The Verdict

What a story this is. It’s hard to believe that Watmore was almost off to India to play his football considering he has gone on to do relatively well at the Championship level.

Warnock will definitely feel like his decision was justified, too, given the goalscoring run he went on and the fact Watmore remains at the Riverside Stadium until this day.

I’m not quite sure Watmore can be considered the main man at the Riverside these days, though.

He does have four goals in 14, which is decent considering the minutes he has seen, but he’s been in and out of the team far too much to be considered that at this stage.

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