Haunted as he may still be by Aiyegbeni Yakubu, Mark Viduka and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink as the goal-scoring ghosts of Christmases past, Gareth Southgate can see a new star rising in the North-east.
Tuncay Sanli, an exiled "King of Istanbul" in his manager's words, took another step towards providing Boro's cutting edge by striking the terrific winner that established further breathing space between his side and the relegation places they inhabited two weeks ago.
Following the full-blooded victory over leaders Arsenal last weekend, a more routine effort was sufficient against bottom club Derby County but the decisive moment offered hope through its sheer quality.
A sumptuous left-foot volley to Stewart Downing's cross brought the 25-year-old Turk his third goal in three games after 13 earlier barren appearances since leaving Fenerbahe for free in the summer.
You always feel a side organised by Southgate might be capable of knocking out a clean sheet or two, so is this the striker to offset any relegation worries?
"Being left out for a few weeks gave him a chance to look at what's needed and what's expected," the Middlesbrough manager said. "His response has been excellent. He realises the physical demands of the league better now and is a very fit kid who has given us tremendous energy.
"I don't think that's a shot he would have taken on a couple of weeks ago. It was a finish of the highest order. He's a superstar in Turkey but you've got to win over a new set of fans."
Tuncay, the link-man while Jrmie Aliadire makes the long runs, demonstrated a sure touch and turn of pace. In short, he and the likes of Downing have what Derby painfully lack quality.
The niceties preceding Paul Jewell's first home match in charge were followed by honest enough endeavour but, despite a late shout for a penalty against Emanuel Pogatetz, there was little sign of a turnaround.
It is nearly two months since Derby last won as much as a point and six goals in 17 League games is a record that, even by mid-December, can bring only one outcome. The Liverpudlian will compete again next season at a level he deserves to have left behind.
Jewell admits survival would "be a miracle", so the pot of American gold chased by his chairman Adam Pearson is earmarked for signing potential promotion winners next summer rather than fire fighters next month.
"Don't think I'm raising the white flag," he said. "If there's any chance of us surviving and I've got money, I'll buy. But attracting the right players will be difficult.
Goal: Tuncay (38) 0-1.
Derby County (4-4-2): Bywater; Mears, Moore, Davis, Griffin (McEveley, 28); Teale (Howard, 56), Oakley, Leacock, Pearson; Barnes, Miller (Earnshaw, 74). Substitutes not used: Price (gk), Lewis.
Middlesbrough (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Young, Woodgate, Wheater, Pogatetz; O'Neil, Boateng, Rochemback, Downing (Johnson, 89); Tuncay; Aliadiere. Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), Huth, Lee, Cattermole.
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).
Man of the match: Tuncay.
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