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German bomber Uwe Fuchs was possibly Boro's most important signing ever.

He arrived as Bryan Robson's Boro were stuttering. What had looked like a canter to the First Division title in Robbo's debut season had started to look like an almighty scrap for the play-offs after a run of four games without a win and a worrying loss of sparkle.

But then the genial German arrived to galvanise the team, ignite the crowd, ram home some crucial goals of unquantifiable historic weight and fire Boro into the Premiership as convincing champions.

A purple patch of nine goals in 13 starts - and a sizzling six in his first five full appearances - pushed Boro into top gear for the final straight.

The impact of Uwe was incredible and the value for money unbeatable. He arrived from Bundesliga outfit Kaiserslautern in January on loan until the end of the season and became an instant legend with an 'agricultural' whole- hearted approach to the game the Holgate End loved.

That and his grin, his ability to mix with fans off the pitch (the Dickens was a regular haunt), his quick wit in a foreign language and the street cred earned from a reputed romantic liason with Teesside pin-up, Gladiator Jet.

But it was his goals that were important, unbelievably so. If there was no Uwe then there may have been no promotion, no Riverside Revolution and possibly no Juninho, Ravanelli, Cardiff or Eindhoven.

After a fleeting appearance from the bench in a 1-0 defeat at home to Reading, Uwe Fuchs made his first start ahead of Paul Wilkinson as third placed Boro took on play-off chasers Charlton - and got off to a flying start.

Boro played a 4-2-3-1 formation with the new boy being asked to do a lot of work up front on his own.

The home side dominated the opening spell but couldn't get past a well drilled Charlton defence to get a sight of goal.

Then the visitors broke out and twice threatened as a corner caused a scramble before being hacked away then Alan Miller went full length to save as David Whyte headed a Jones free-kick towards the far top corner.

Enter Uwe: the German hammered home an excellent goal as Boro responded with the opener on 16 minutes.

Bryan Robson played a quick ball out of defence down the left for Clayton Blackmore to push it first time to the edge of the box and Uwe collected then rolled it to his left being unleashing a 15 yard thunderbolt past keeper Salmon.

Ten minutes later he was back defending, nodding away a stinging goalbound Jones free-kick in the box.

Uwe went close again just before the break as he barged aside a defender to chase a slotted Robson pass into the box and go one-on-one with the keeper but Salmon did enough to push it off his toes then reacted well to smother the lose ball before the striker could pounce.

After the break it was a similar pattern with Boro having the bulk of possession but finding it hard to break an increasingly robust Charlton.

Robson was left needing treatment after being hacked down from behind by Alan Pardew then Jones was booked after lashing out at the Boro player-boss off the ball on the hour.

Boro went close again soon after as Uwe nodded down a Nigel Pearson ball for Blackmore to put an overhead kick straight at the keeper, then on 75 minutes a quick break sent the German into the box to fire just wide of the far post under pressure from two defenders.

The game fizzled out as the whistle loomed but the job was done. Boro had arrested the traditional post-Christmas slide, clawed back towards leaders Bolton and Tranmere and found a new goal hero.

Uwe netted again in the next game, a 2-0 win away at Wolves, then after a one-game gap rattled in an impressive hat-trick at home to Bristol and a week later notched in a 2-0 win over Watford that put Boro back on top and back on course for an historic upturn.

BORO: Miller, Morris, Whyte, Vickers, Pearson, Blackmore, Robson, Pollock, Fuchs, Mustoe, Moore. Subs: Wilkinson, Moreno, Roberts.

CHARLTON: Salmon, Brown, Stuart, Jones, Rufus, Balmer, Robson (Robinson), Nelson, Pardew, Whyte, Bennett (McGleish). Sub: Petterson.

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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jan 27, 2007
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