Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Nugent's Smile Is Back at the Riverside

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Nugent's Smile Is Back at the Riverside

Article excerpt

Byline: JONATHON TAYLOR @JonathonTaylor1

THE last time David Nugent started at the Riverside was on that fateful afternoon back in May 2016.

Middlesbrough needed a point against Brighton to clinch promotion back to the Premier League, but a Seagulls victory would see them pip Boro to the post and reach the top-flight themselves.

On an unforgettable day, it was Boro who got the job done after a nerve-shredding 1-1 draw and Nugent played his part as his smart assist for Cristhian Stuani's breakthrough set the Teessiders on course. Now, 567 days on, much has changed.

Boro are back in the Championship after a galling single season at football's top table, while Nugent is at Derby - opting to leave Teesside after just 18 months after falling down the pecking order under Aitor Karanka.

Today the popular 32-year-old returns to Boro for the first time since bidding farewell, and Nugent admits he is looking forward to seeing some familiar faces - but has no animosity over how his time at the club ended.

"I'm looking forward to it," he told the Derby website. "I still speak to a few lads up there and it should be a decent game.

"Both clubs are up there on 29 points in the table and it would be a decent statement if we can get the win and go above them.

"I enjoyed my time at Boro. Obviously there was the Championship season when we got promoted against Brighton (on the final day). I hadn't played for four games before but the gaffer (Karanka) pulled me in the day before.

"He said, 'you're starting the last game of the season, we could do with your experience.' .' Obviously Jordan Rhodes missed out, I felt a bit sorry for him, but that's how football goes sometimes. The manager sometimes wants to go with experience and it paid off because I set up the goal to take the lead.

"We got promoted but when the Premier League came (Karanka) brought his own players in, a lot of Spanish players. (Alvaro) Negredo came in so chances were limited so off I went in January."

On his decision to sacrifice his topflight place - albeit a peripheral one - for a return to the Championship with Derby, Nugent said it was an easy decision at the time. …

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