PREVIEW: Bolton vs Bristol City
IF supporters of Premier League and Championship clubs have been at a loose end during the past fortnight, just imagine how Stephen McManus must feel.
A largely uninspiring diet of one-sided, and instantly forgettable international fixtures, has left fans hankering after a return to the cut and thrust of domestic action this weekend.
McManus, of course, is no stranger to the sense of torpor experienced by many football enthusiasts during this latest two-week break for international matches.
Since moving from Celtic to Middlesbrough for £1.5 million in July 2010, the experienced central defender has made just 43 starts for the Teessiders.
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McManus, pictured, has returned to Bristol City for a second loan stint knowing that when Saturday comes, he can reasonably expect to feature on the team-sheet.
McManus made six appearances while on loan at Ashton Gate in February and March after falling out of favour at Middlesbrough.
Although he featured in Boro's final five games of last season, his inclusion was entirely owing to an injury suffered by Rhys Williams.
And Boro boss Tony Mowbray has since made his intentions clear, recruiting Andre Amougou and former England centre-back Jonathan Woodgate. With Seb Hines and Williams also ahead of him in the Riverside pecking order, it is little wonder the Scot has only made three first-team appearances this season.
McManus said: "I'm really excited to be back here and to have an opportunity to play games. Nothing has really changed with regard to my situation at Middlesbrough since I was last down here. They have been really good to me and I've enjoyed my time there, but they have financial issues and need to get the wage bill down.
"I'm not thinking far enough ahead to say whether my re-joining Bristol City will lead to anything long term – I'm just pleased to be here now and available to play.
"It is difficult when you are not involved every week and I'm hoping the move back here will see me playing games more regularly."
McManus is expected to go straight into City's back four against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium tomorrow as manager McInnes looks to shore up a team that has yet to keep a clean sheet this term.
Although little has changed for the 6ft 1in centre-back in the North East, he has noticed a distinct change in the atmosphere in and around Ashton Gate.
He added: "The club was fighting relegation when I was last here and things were difficult to say the least.
"But there has been a big change since then and I've already picked up on the belief and confidence among the players. There have been a lot of changes with players going out and others coming in and there is a real sense of optimism.
"It feels good coming into a situation like that and I just hope I can do my bit to help the club over the next few months."
In the meantime, there is the small matter of finding a way to shackle talismanic Bolton striker Kevin Davies at the Reebok tomorrow. I've not played against him before, but I know all about him," said McManus.
"He is one of many excellent players Bolton have. I've been surprised by the start they have made, but they have Premier League quality in their squad and, manager or no manager, we know we are going to be in for a tough game. But it is one we are looking forward to – a big game against a big club ."