“IF you’re good enough, you’re old enough”.
It’s a well-worn cliché but Middlesbrough’s Richard Smallwood is ready to celebrate turning 21 by emerging from the shadows of the Riverside Stadium.
Just days after his coming-of-age birthday at the end of December, the young midfielder found himself recalled to the first-team after a three-month hiatus.
Now, after a run of two matches and with Burnley next up on Teesside tomorrow, Smallwood is determined to stay in Tony Mowbray’s senior plans.
“It’s frustrating when you’re in the team but then find yourself out of it for a while,” he said.
“But that’s the same for all young players and it’s about patience.
“There comes a time though when you’ve got to take your chance and make sure you stay in the team.
“That’s what I’ve got to do.
“It’s one of those things in football that I’m back in because others have picked up injuries or suspensions, but I can’t worry about that.
“I’m in now and I’ve got to prove myself – if you’re good enough then you’re old enough, and I think I’m ready.”
Smallwood is yet to appear on home soil in the Championship for Boro this season but was part of the team which won in the FA Cup last weekend.
But he is desperate to taste a league triumph in front of his own fans tomorrow afternoon as third-placed Boro bid to leapfrog West Ham and Southampton.
“I’ve been part of some great away wins and scored my only goal in the 3-0 win away at Cardiff last season,” he said.
“Hopefully this will be my first home match in the league this weekend and I’d love it to be a winning one.
“After the disappointment of Blackpool away (lost 3-0) a couple of weeks ago we’re desperate to put things right and continue to close the gap on the top two – we could even go top if we win.”
Mowbray, meanwhile, is continuing his search for a new striker and Paris St Germain forward Loris Arnaud is currently on trial with the club.
The boss explained: “We’ve been winning a lot of games 1-0 but we probably need someone to add to the competition in the front area of the pitch.
“Four strikers will usually suffice at any football club and we’ve got Scott McDonald, Marvin Emnes and Bart Ogbeche, so we’re out there looking at various strikers to fill one position.
“The group do need some help but we’re very proud of them and we’ve had a fantastic run of results, but the squad is getting stretched.”