Stewart Downing: Middlesbrough aim for boost amid steel gloom

Stewart Downing
Stewart Downing grew up in Middlesbrough and returned from West Ham this summer

Winger Stewart Downing says Middlesbrough hope to bring cheer to those affected by the "devastating" Redcar steel plant closure.

The end of Teesside's 98-year steel production was confirmed on Monday, resulting in coke ovens and blast furnace shutdown with 2,200 jobs lost.

Boro host Fulham in a Championship game on Saturday.

"It's big news on Teesside. I've got a couple of friends who have lost their jobs," Downing told BBC Tees.

"It's devastating for the area. It's been going for many years and it's been going around the training ground, a lot of people talking about it.

"Hopefully we can brighten up their week with a win at the weekend [against Fulham]."

Redcar blast furnace
Steel production has been carried out at Redcar for 98 years

Downing, 31, is realistic enough to know that football results will not help people financially, but appreciates the boost success on the pitch can have on their morale.

"They'll be down in the dumps," he added. "Obviously a lot go to the games. We as players - a couple of us who live in the area understand what it means.

"We can play our part and win games, and they can keep coming to support us and we can give them something to cheer about."

Head coach Aitor Karanka says Saturday's visit of Fulham is most important for second-place Boro's promotion bid, as it could strengthen their position at the top end of the Championship.

But supporters, a proportion of whom will be among those employed within the industry, have backed Boro strongly this season to a fourth-best divisional average of 21,788, and Karanka does acknowledge their impact.

"We have to keep going for that reason," he said. "We are doing our best to put in the work on the pitch and we want to show we're here and we're doing our best to make them happy.

"We know how difficult their lives are so we have to work as hard as we can."

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