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Luongo: I Really Enjoyed My Time at Boro
Friday, 12th Apr 2024 17:05

Massimo Luongo will be hoping to regain his midfield berth in the Town team to face his former club, Middlesbrough, at Portman Road tomorrow.

Luongo has rarely been absent from duty this season, appearing in 39 of the team’s 42 league fixtures so far – 33 starts and a further six outings off the bench, as in midweek when he came on for Jack Taylor, who replaced him in the starting line-up for the goalless draw against the Hornets.

Looking back to his time at the Riverside before arriving at Portman Road – he checked in to train with Town in December 2022 and then signed a full-time contract the following month – Luongo said: “It was a tough period for me. [Michael] Carrick took over from [Chris] Wilder, who had brought me in.

“Me and the manager had crossed paths in the past and I’m sure he thinks I was a good player before I went to Boro but they [Carrick and Kieran McKenna] know each other and that helped with the process of me coming here.

“I really enjoyed my time at Boro. I didn’t play but I thought Wilder’s training was really good, really intense and I was really fit, which helped me.

“When you’re fit and working hard, mental health is always good and stuff like that. When Carrick took over the training was really good as well and it always helps, when you’re not playing, if the training is good, for sure.

“So, that’s what happened, and I got to the point when I knew I wasn’t going to be playing. I tried to make the most out of the training days.

“It’s funny – I was nowhere near the squad but I actually really enjoyed being in the group, which was a good group, and despite not playing I still enjoyed my time there. I don’t have any bad words to say about my time at Boro.”

Luongo joined Boro after leaving Sheffield Wednesday in the summer of 2022 but failed to clock up even one appearance for the club before being told he was surplus to requirements and departed for Suffolk, where he has become a regular choice under McKenna.

Meanwhile, ninth-placed Boro have revived their play-off challenge in recent weeks and are looking to close the gap on sixth-placed Norwich, which appears a tall order with both sides only having four games left to play.

“I don’t really know much about where they are to be honest,” added Luongo. “They’ve had a strange season, haven’t they? They’ve had periods where they weren’t winning and other periods where they’ve looked unstoppable, so it will be interesting to see their style tomorrow and how they want to approach the game.

“It will be a tough game, no doubt, because they sort of replicate the way we want to play a little bit. I’m sure the two managers will have been talking, so we’ll see how they approach it. We know that we want to approach it a certain way so, yes, it will be a good game.

“When we play 11 v 11 out there, we play against ourselves. We find it so hard to press or to do what teams try to do to us each week, so even against my own team I know what we’re going to do.

“I don’t think it will suit us; I just think we’ve got to dial in from minute one until the end. We know we can hurt teams the way we play, so for sure they can hurt teams as well.”

While the Boro squad has changed under the direction of manager Carrick, who worked alongside McKenna when they were both first team coaches at Manchester United before taking the leap into management, but Luongo pointed out there are a few familiar faces still on board.

“A lot of them are still there actually and there are also a few new ones that I’ve previously played with and against over the years. It’s quite a familiar Middlesbrough-in-the-Championship team, so it will be interesting.”

Reflecting on the midweek 0-0 draw with Watford, he added: “If you watched the game on Wednesday, we were really good. I don’t think Watford had an answer for us.

“Whether they wanted to play a low block from the start – and I don’t think they did – but we’ve played them before and they were quite aggressive. So, I think we forced them into that.

“You could tell by what happened right at the end – they had a corner and took it short to try to see out the game for a draw, which was a compliment for our team.

“Obviously, the Norwich result wasn’t nice, but the Watford performance…we didn’t win, but we played really well and, on another day, it could have been something else. We’ve just got to take the same momentum into tomorrow’s game.”

Luongo was dropped to the bench against Watford to bring Taylor into midfield, although he went on to replace the ex-Peterborough player in the 63rd minute, and he was asked for his thought on their battle to occupy the place alongside skipper Sam Morsy.

“Jack’s been at this level before, so he’s obviously a top player and we all know he’s a good player,” said Luongo

“In training he’s up there as one of the top trainers and stuff like that. I think this year, difficult, because he plays in different positions and he’s definitely a different style to how I play or how Samy plays.

“The manager is good at picking games suited to styles and none of us have really experienced this modern-day Championship. A lot of teams play with wingers, a lot of teams try to pin back the full-backs.

“We’ve got Leif [Davis] on that side and he likes to be high. But Jack, coming in from a great season at Peterborough, he’s impressed everyone and he is a good player.

“He’s so different to me and that’s the hard thing. When you’re matching with some players and you’re so similar, you think whoever you play you can get the same results.

“But it’s so different for us – he’s such a goal threat, he’s an attacking threat, and when he needs to, his engine is ridiculous and it’s frightening how he can play box to box.”

Luongo has the benefit of being a far more experienced player than Taylor and he cut a very relaxed figure when facing the media at today’s training ground press conference ahead of the game against Middlesbrough tomorrow.

“Yes, like I said earlier, we just focus on ourselves,” said the Sydney-born player. “I think I’ve said it before – all our work is done out there on the training ground.

“All the detail, the sharpness, the fitness, so when you step out on to the pitch you know your job. You either go this way or you go that way, and they’re my options. Or he passes it to me and I have this and that.

“When you’re out there you’ve just got to try and replicate that and do it. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, but maybe I should have taken B instead of A.

“It’s just how you decide on the day, but a lot of our work is done out there, in terms of prepping, getting sharp and stuff like that.

“The whole season, I think that’s been the feel of every game. Obviously, game day is different – you’re a bit tense, the nerves kick in and you’re more focused, but the build-up is out of our control until literally 3pm, so just ride it and see what happens.

“Everything has happened so quickly and we don’t get many days off here. The manager doesn’t give us many days off, so it all blends into one.

“Training is so important and it’s tough, so we’re just relentless at it. But I think it’s a good thing because we keep that rhythm, philosophy and momentum, and we’ll see where it takes us.

“Being competitive is definitely a habit. We’re so competitive out there, even if we’re playing head tennis or something like that, and we’ve even got a few who will cheat and do anything to win.”

When asked to name names, he replied “Samy!” and laughed. Then he added: “I don’t know what it was like here before but that’s the culture now. The manager tries to push it on to everyone – it’s an attitude of let’s have a winner. If we go a little bit over time, we’ll always try to force a winner, somehow. It’s a good habit to have.”

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MK1 added 19:14 - Apr 12
Will need to be at our best in this one. dangerous game, but one I think we will overcome.

Suffolkboy added 22:09 - Apr 12
This could well be a very hard match to win ; MC will want his team to show all their skills and talent ,trying hard to impress ITFC( & KM in particular ) ,but the spirit of the game is likely to be undimmed and the competition intense !

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