Boro’s ‘Mad Dog’

Emanuel Pogatetz has suffered some serious injuries but rarely gives less than total commitment on the pitch and is Middlesbrough’s current Player of the Year, writes Andy Hampson.

Emanuel Pogatetz is a tough-tackling left-sided defender with a reputation as a hard man, who has become a cult favourite with Middlesbrough. He is preparing to play in Euro 2008 in his own country, Austria, after settling a dispute with the football authorities and national team manager Josef Hickersberger.

Pogatetz’s reputation went before him when he joined Boro in 2005, having been handed a lengthy suspension following an on-field incident while on loan at Spartak Moscow. His all-action and aggressive style soon earned him the nickname ‘Mad Dog’. He has since suffered some serious injuries but rarely gives less than total commitment on the pitch and is Boro’s current Player of the Year.

Pogatetz hails from Graz, hometown of a certain Arnold Schwarzenegger. He played for the Sturm Graz youth team and recently recounted a tale from his time there of when Schwarzenegger paid a brief visit and told the players they were all ‘Terminators’.

He moved on to FC Karnten before being picked up by Bayer Leverkusen in Germany. He made little impression there and spent most of his four seasons on the club’s books on loan, first at FC Aarau in Switzerland and then hometown Graz AK — now playing at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium — for whom he caught the eye playing against Boro in the UEFA Cup.

Another loan at Spartak Moscow followed and a permanent deal seemed a possibility until Boro showed interest. Boro initially brought him in as a left-back in a GBP1.8 million deal but he has proved equally adept at centre-half.

He became an instant hit with players and fans and was soon well recognised by referees, collecting 11 yellow cards before his season was ended by a serious facial injury. Pogatetz broke his nose, jaw and cheekbone in an accidental clash of heads in a UEFA Cup quarterfinal against Basle and needed corrective surgery. He returned for the start of the 2006-07 campaign and has since been a key figure under new manager Gareth Southgate, his former defensive colleague. He had operations on both knees earlier in the year and returned only in November but has excelled in central defence this season.

With a world ranking of 94, Austria is not highly fancied for Euro 2008. Some fans of the national side even launched a cheeky campaign to have it ejected and replaced by the best team to have missed out in qualifying to save embarrassment on home soil. With so few players of genuine big league top-flight experience, the return of Pogatetz is important.

Pogatetz was frozen out for 14 months after accusing Hickersberger of “tactical incompetence” after a 2-2 draw against Costa Rica and a 1-0 loss to Venezuela in September 2006.

Those differences have now been patched up, with Pogatetz saying, “Everything is fine now. I’ve spoken to the manager. That problem has gone. First he left me out for the criticism I made. OK, I had to take that. But now he says he wants me back in the team and that’s the main thing.”

Pogatetz recently married long-term girlfriend Mirjam, with whom he already had two children in daughter Lea and son Noah. They live together near Middlesbrough and Pogatetz says the lifestyle is perfect. “I don’t have to be out in nightclubs like you have in London week after week,” he said. "I drive to York, to Whitby, to Robin Hood’s Bay — beautiful places to go if you have a day off to enjoy with your family. For me and my family, it’s perfect here.”

Pogatetz revealed in a recent interview that he drives a Mini with a Union Jack painted on the roof. “I think it’s stylish,” he said.

Factfile Name: Emanuel Pogatetz Position: Defender Club: Middlesbrough DOB: 16/01/1983 Austria caps: 18 Austria goals: 1 Austria debut: v Germany, May 2002 Moment to remember

Middlesbrough claimed a shock win over then champion Chelsea at The Riverside in the early part of last season. Pogatetz headed the equaliser and Mark Viduka secured the 2-1 victory with a last-gasp winner.

Moment to forget

The most controversial incident involving Pogatetz concerned his final appearance for Spartak Moscow in which he broke the leg of an opponent. He was banned for six months and his Boro debut was delayed as a result. On hearing the seriousness of the injury on his return to Germany, Pogatetz flew back to Russia to personally apologise to the player, Shinnik Yaroslavl. He later arranged for him to receive treatment at Leverkusen. The ban was reduced to eight weeks on appeal.

@ PA Sport, 2008, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited.

Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.