'The best is yet to come' - Howson a key player for Boro ahead of City reunion

Middlesbrough's Jonny Howson during the Sky Bet Championship match at the Riverside Stadium, Middles

Middlesbrough's Jonny Howson during the Sky Bet Championship match at the Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough. - Credit: PA

Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock thinks 'the best is yet to come' from Jonny Howson, ahead of the midfielder's latest Norwich City reunion.

Howson became a hugely popular player for Norwich as he racked up 188 appearances and 23 goals between 2012 and 2017, when he was sold to help balance the books.

Now in his fourth season as a Boro player, the 32-year-old is on course to surpass that appearance total as a Boro player later this year, having signed a contract extension until 2022 earlier this season.

Warnock had hailed the Yorkshireman as "the best midfield player in the league at the moment" after that deal was signed in November but a hamstring injury saw Howson miss much of December.

That has only increased the former Sheffield United and Cardiff manager's appreciation of the former Canaries star though, after having him available again for their last four games.

“I did not think he was this good before I came here, if I am honest," Warnock told the Yorkshire Post recently.

“Last season, I thought he was a good player. but didn’t think how good he could be. I think the best is yet to come from him and that is the worrying thing for other teams as I think he can get better.

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“I think he has got that niche now and knows where he is playing. He is not playing all over the shop at full-back, centre-half and all that and he is playing to his strengths.

“You tend to forget what injured players have got. We had a good run when he got injured. But it catches up and then you cannot wait to get him back. When you have got him in your team, you realise why you miss him.”

Howson was voted into this newspaper's Team of the Decade at the end of 2019, with over 1,800 Canaries fans taking part in our online poll.

Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd. 07904 64026707/04/12Jonny Howson of Norwich scores

Jonny Howson's first goal for Norwich came during a 2-2 Premier League draw at Carrow Road during April 2012 - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

He was an important part of the City team which sealed play-off success at Wembley in 2015 and was voted Player of the Season in 2016, after Alex Neil's team slipped to Premier League relegation.

It was the following summer, after the arrival of sporting director Stuart Webber and head coach Daniel Farke that the classy midfielder was sold to Boro during pre-season ahead of 2017-18 due to financial pressures, in a deal reportedly worth £4.5million up front and potentially worth up to £6m.

Jonny Howson of Norwich screams in delight as the Norwich players celebrate their side's opening goa

Jonny Howson in the thick of the celebration after Cameron Jerome had put Norwich ahead at Wembley in 2015 - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Boro had just come back down from the Premier League and Howson featured regularly as Garry Monk was replaced by Tony Pulis at Christmas during a season which would end in play-off semi-final defeat to Aston Villa - playing in 1-0 losses home and away to Norwich.

He played in every Championship match as Boro finished seventh in 2018-19, with Pulis occasionally using him as a right wing-back - again playing in 1-0 defeats home and away to Norwich, who would eventually be crowned champions.

Howson was also bouncing between midfield and right-back or right wing-back but was also sometimes wearing the captain's armband under Jonathan Woodgate for most of last season, with Warnock taking over once the campaign had resumed in June and keeping Boro clear of relegation trouble - with Howson named Player of the Season by the Boro Supporters Club.

Jonny Howson of Norwich scores his sides 1st goal during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Ro

This brilliant Jonny Howson volley against Nottingham Forest was voted Goal of the Season by Norwich fans at the end of 2016-17 - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

But since managerial veteran Warnock has been in charge, the former CIty favourite has been back where he belongs in central midfield, again occasionally captaining Boro as a regular starter this season - including as Norwich won 1-0 at the Riverside in November.

With play-off hopes very much still alive ahead of Saturday's lunchtime clash at Carrow Road, Howson will be hoping it's sixth time lucky for finally getting a win over his former club.

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