Football / Sport

Boro star Jonny Howson returns to his former club.

Boro star Jonny Howson returns to Norwich  this weekend for the first time since leaving the club for Middlesbrough last summer.

Photos courtesy of MFC

Now established in the heart of Boro’s midfield, Howson has produced some dazzling displays in recent weeks scoring in back-to-back away fixtures at Sheffield Wednesday and Preston North End respectively.

Tside reporter Sam Fletcher caught up with Jonny who talked about his time at Norwich and also what it was like playing against his current club in the 2015 Play-Off final:

“I think it’s always nice to go back,” Jonny said.

“Situations are always different but whenever you’ve left on a good basis and you’ve been successful, as fortunate as I was at Norwich, I think there’s always that respect there.”

Howson scored 21 goals and assisted 17 times during his 176 appearances at Norwich.

He is fondly remembered in East Anglia for scoring against arch-rivals Ipswich to give the Canaries the lead in the Play-Off semi-final first leg.

However, he makes quite clear is that he goes back to Norfolk with the intention of winning the match for his new side.

He said: “One thing I will say to that is as soon as the game starts, it’s like any other game, you don’t think about the crowd or that you used to play there. You’re just thinking about your job at hand.”

“I always go to get three points for the team that I’m playing for. After the game I’ll always go over to the fans and applaud them because it’s respectful.

“It might be different if Middlesbrough get a goal then I might get booed and a load of stuff shouted at me. But, touch wood, hopefully I get a nice reception.”

It’s hard to imagine Howson getting a negative reaction from the Norwich faithful after his success with the club.

Not only did he gain promotion to the Premier League on two separate occasions, he also won their Player of the Season award in 2016.

That award came in the season after Norwich’s 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough at Wembley, something that Howson reveals is the best memory of his career so far.

Photo courtesy of MFC

He said: “To win at Wembley, it’s a moment that I’ll always remember even when I finish football. Especially because I’ve been to Wembley and lost as well so I understand that side of it.”

Middlesbrough had played Norwich twice in that season and came out on top in both fixtures.

A 4-0 victory at the Riverside was backed up by a ‘smash and grab’ 1-0 win in Norfolk, something Howson reveals was playing on the minds of the Norwich players before the big game.

He said: “I think that was also one thing that maybe helped us because they’d done us twice during the season and we were all thinking they can’t do it a third time.”

“We knew that we needed to start well and I’m not just saying this but our game plan did go to just how we planned it.”

Despite victory in the capital, Norwich’s return to the Premier League lasted only a single season.

The club finished in 19th place, confirming an instant return back to the Championship.

“I honestly believe we should have stayed up,” Jonny said.

“I’m not saying we didn’t deserve it but we had a good squad and I think it was January, February when we were in a really strong position to stay up and we should have done.

“It was certainly hard to take and looking back, one result that always sticks out to me was at end of January when we played Liverpool at home.

“We were 3-1 up and should have won the game but we ended up losing 5-4.  I think that probably did have a knock-on effect going into other games.”

Photo courtesy of MFC

Unfortunately, Howson was unable to make it a hat-trick of promotions to the Premier League as Norwich finished just outside the Play-Offs last season in eighth place.

Although he now intends to make it third time lucky with his new club in the North-East.

He said: “The main reason for joining Middlesbrough was at the beginning of the season we were one of the favourites, if not the favourite to go up and the Premier League is the place where everyone wants to be.”

“I was also ready for something fresh. I’d been at Norwich for five and a half seasons and seen different changes and I believe I needed a change for myself to progress.”

With Boro already past the midway point of the season, Jonny admits that things haven’t been plain sailing, but still feels confident about achieving promotion.

He said: “There’s no two ways about it we haven’t been good enough up to this point.”

“At Norwich when we got promoted we did a similar thing of around January, February time we were struggling and we went on a terrific run, won so many games in a row and then you’re right back in it.

“I 100% still believe that we’ll be successful this season because of what we’ve got in the dressing room. We have the ability to go on an unbelievable run where we can win game after game,  but it’s one thing saying it, another doing it.”

Jonny will be hoping that winning run can start against his former club. Although he does say that if he scored at Carrow Road he wouldn’t hold back in his celebration.

He said: “If I did score I’d celebrate. It’s not a case of anything against Norwich, like I say I’ve got a terrific amount of respect for them but that respect will be paid after the game.”

Middlesbrough play Norwich away at 3pm on Saturday February 3. You can get live updates from the game on twitter @Boro or via www.mfc.co.uk.

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