Cult Classic: John Mousinho


By Pete H

Let’s talk iconic Boro’ goals for a second. Joel Byrom? Yep. Giuliano Grazioli? Very probably. John Mousinho? You’d have to think so. But this alone doesn’t instantly make a cult classic. Don’t get us wrong – landmark goals do a lot to keep someone fresh in the memory for the better. It’s just that, usually, other factors must come into play. And not all players we may put down as cult classics will be known for exploits in front of goal.

It’s fair to say there is more to Moose’s role in our history than one goal at Old Trafford.

John Mousinho: Why Is He A Cult Classic?

First, an admission. We weren’t blown away when we announced the arrival of Mousinho in summer 2011. Not sure why, to be fair. We had no logical reason for doubting why someone coming in from a club like Wycombe Wanderers would be good for us. Maybe we thought it was better to bring in grizzled pros or ‘names’ on the way down. Either way, we didn’t know what Graham Westley knew – not for the first time.

It soon became apparent the value that Moose brought to the team. Not just on the pitch, but off the pitch too. Let’s not forget this was a lad coming into a tight-knit squad recently promoted from the Blue Square Premier. In many respects, he had a key role in cultivating such a strong bond off the pitch. Of course, he embodied GW’s spirit and work ethic on the pitch too. And that’s perhaps why the partnership of Boro’ and Moose were such a success.

The player actually turned down a new deal at Wycombe to join us. It’s nice to be wanted.

At the time he arrived, we think he came billed as a defensive midfielder. He certainly had that side of his game. But think of other CDMs and how many would burst forward and put the ball in the back of the net? As a self-confessed Spurs fan, Mousinho was definitely a lot more Darren Anderton than Steffen Freund. So, how crucial was his goalscoring input? Well, he was joint top-scorer for us during the 2010-1 campaign – with eight goals.

“An Old Trafford cracker in front of the Stretford End”

The eighth of those goals, of course, came at Old Trafford in the 2010-1 League Two playoff final; settling matters in our favour against Torquay United. But other goals scored over the course of the campaign were just as vital. His first for us earned a point away to Rotherham United. He also got the decisive goal against his former club Wycombe, as well as a brace at Burton Albion. Take out those goals and Boro’ drop points. It’d have cost us a playoff place.

The problem for Moose was that injury would get in the way of his 2011-2 campaign. From a total of 40+ appearances in his maiden season to just 23 (16+7) in his second, we missed his presence between mid-November and mid-April. Well, on the pitch – at least. He did take a hugely important supporting role off it when GW left for Preston in January 2012; acting the assistant to caretaker boss Mark Roberts and keeping the show on the road.

In the period after Gary Smith took charge, Boro’ hit a lull from February onwards that had our playoff push in jeopardy. Mousinho returned to action on 14 April at Yeovil Town; a 6-0 win that kickstarted a run of four wins in five to secure our place in the top seven. But this season wouldn’t see a repeat of his playoff heroics; Sheffield United ultimately ending our promotion hopes with a late semi-final second leg goal.

Mousinho returned to action after injury on 14 April 2012 at Yeovil Town; a 6-0 win that kickstarted a run of four wins in five to secure our place in the top seven

So, what happened to John Mousinho next?

It stood to reason that Moose would follow the GW to Deepdale; the man who brought him here looking to those who served him well. In his time at Preston, the midfielder ended up taking on the role of skipper. He outlasted GW, but struggled to make an impression under Simon Grayson. Unsurprisingly, therefore, Moose went out on loan in the 2013-4 campaign.

First, he went to Gillingham on a two-month deal. He only ended up seeing out one month before heading back to Deepdale, however. The reason was a hamstring injury sustained in what turned out to be his last Gills appearance. Mind you, he still found time to score what was the winning goal against us in a 3-2 win for the Kent side! What a wounder.

In a bizarre twist, Moose returned to us on loan in February as we battled for survival. That isn’t the twist, actually. No – that’d be the fact his second Boro’ debut was against the Gills. No goals scored, but Boro’ did record a priceless win. And we say priceless knowing full well that we didn’t survive. It was a loan spell that saw Mousinho play a further 16 times for us – adding one goal in the process.

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From Preston, John Mousinho turned up at Burton Albion; winning back-to-back promotions up to the Championship. He also helped keep them up there in his third season. That was a decent spell if ever there was one. When the time came to leave, it was by mutual consent in 2017; Oxford United picking him up – and giving him the chance to pursue roles off the pitch. That much was evidenced by him signing a deal as a player-coach in 2021.

His rising stock off the pitch grew even further in 2023 when he took charge at Portsmouth. It’s perhaps no surprise either. Such was the presence that Mousinho brought to Boro’ as a player and more, the path to the dugout was inevitable. Maybe it was that brief stint as the steadfast support to Robbo during that caretaker spell in 2012. Either way, it now looks like there is a long career in management that awaits the man Moose.

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