Lukas Nmecha on 'a positive vibe' at youthful Middlesbrough and making up for lost time

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Lukas Nmecha on 'a positive vibe' at youthful Middlesbrough and making up for lost time

The on-loan striker is settling nicely and aiming to make up for lost time

Lukas Nmecha won’t have much troubled settling into a vibrant young squad at Boro. He knows most of them.

The on-loan Manchester City frontman arrived soon after the January window opened after a frustrating spell in Germany with Wolfsburg was cut short.

nd he has quickly struck up a rapport with the fresh-faced set up at Rockliffe.

“I knew three or four of the lads before I came and it’s just a positive vibe,” he said.

“I haven’t played much for a while so just coming into this team has been great for me.

“But it helps that I already knew Marcus Tavernier, Dael Fry, Hayden Coulson and Aynsley Pears from the England days.

 

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“And then I also know (fellow loanee) Pat Roberts from City obviously.”

 
Lukas Nmecha in his first start for Boro away at Spurs

Hamburg-born front man Nmecha, 21, played in the final of the Toulon Tournament in 2018 when England beat Mexico 2-1 in the final with Fry nicking one of the goals - although he has since switched allegiance to Germany.

“It always helps you settle far more quickly if you know some of the boys,” he said.

“We’re a very young squad and that helps too. I’ve never had that before, so many young players in the same team.

“It’s good to have young players coming through together and we’ve shown that we can play football.

“I’m loving it here to be honest,” he said. “Especially getting to play.”

He thought he had made his breakthrough when he played 38 games in the Championship with Preston in 2018/19 but the first of this campaign saw him in a cul-de-sac, turning out just six times in the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg.

 
Lukas Nmecha in action for Wolfsburg

Now he hopes to make up for lost time at Boro.

Boss Jonathan Woodgate has been taking his time to get the hot prospect up to speed. He made his debut from the bench against Spurs, his first start in the replay but was subbed and has also had 10 minute cameos against Derby and Fulham.

The feisty 1-1 draw with Birmingham on Tuesday was his first league start and he was delighted he completed the game.

“That was my first 90 minutes of the whole season,” he said, beaming.

“I’m still getting back into it really, and still feel as though I can get a bit sharper here and there but I’m starting to feel fitter every game.

“It was frustrating not getting the game time I wanted at Wolfsburg. Training is training, but you just need that match feeling.

“I’ve had a few run-outs now, and hopefully I can push on with each game and get a few goals and assists now.”

He has already shown quick feet and flashes of promise and started to link up with his fellow frontmen.

Spurs keeper Paulo Gazzaniga just beats Lukas Nmecha to the ball

And while he has been eased in slowly he is happy with his progress at Boro.

He is settling, enjoying training and believes he suits the style and system the team play.

“I can’t complain at all,” he said. “As soon as I came in, I felt part of the squad.

“Everyone has been dead nice and it feels as though I’ve been here for the whole season. I’m enjoying it.

 

 

“Training is great. The boss was a really good player, and then there’s Robbie as well. He shows you a lot of good finishing drills, which for me as a striker will help me. I’m just enjoying it.

“They’re putting a lot of faith in us forwards to get the goals, so we’ve got to repay that.”

As for his first full 90, he believes Boro showed patience and character to claw from behind and were unlucky not to win.

“It was a lively finish with Ashley Fletcher getting the goal and we were just hunting for the ball at the end.

Lukas Nmecha gets off a shot against Birmingham

“I was in there battling and a few of the lads were showing so much energy just to try to get that win.

“I think we worked hard and did well to get the point. We could have won it.

“It was a big turn around after the first half. When you lose two players and miss a penalty like that, it’s difficult.

“We had other chances as well where maybe the final pass just wasn’t quite perfect. It was definitely frustrating at times but I thought we worked hard.

“We didn’t panic. We just got told at the break to stay calm and that we were able to beat them.

“We tried to prove that in the second half and we nearly pulled it off.”

Nmecha was impressed with the battling spirit and mental strength of the squad and says it will stand them in good stead in what is a very demanding division.

“You’ve got to keep battling,” he said. “It’s not easy to get points in this league. Games are unpredictable and sometimes you just have to fight it out.

“We weren’t going to let them come here and bully us or anything like that. We stood our ground and we thought we were going to win at the end.

“The group has got really good character. All of our players are good quality, but at the end of the day it’s not about that, it’s about digging in when you need to and all the team are prepared to do that.

“This is what it’s like in the Championship. Everyone gives it their all. Birmingham gave it their all. That’s just football isn’t it?

 

“We know the players have the quality too, so I’d back this team to get a result against anybody.”

He shrugged off the late touchline bust-up as ‘just football’ too.

“It’s part of the game,” he said. “People lose their heads sometimes, but they would have shaken hands at the end of the day and that’s that.”