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Shay Given attributes Middlesbrough’s good form to a hamster

Ryan Bailey
Dirty Tackle

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(Getty/Yahoo Composition)

(Getty/Yahoo Composition)

Middlesbrough have been slowly climbing the Championship table of late, taking 16 points from the last 18 available and looking like serious contenders for a play-off spot. A cornerstone of their recent success has been Shay Given, who has kept six clean sheets since he arrived on loan from Aston Villa in November.

The Irish shot stopper could take the credit for himself, but has admitted the Smoggies' success is actually down to something small and furry that doesn't play football. He's not talking about Juan Mata (BOOM!), but the club's lucky pet hamster. The Daily Star reports:

The Teessiders are unbeaten in the Championship since lucky mascot Holly scurried into the training ground thanks to a secret Santa team-bonding game at Christmas.

“She seems to be our lucky mascot at the moment.

“She came into the training ground over Christmas as a bit of a joke from one of the lads, but we’re unbeaten since, so we’re all taking looking after her very seriously now.

“She’s got a nice home in with us at the training ground, and we’re making sure we feed and water her every day. She’s got an unbeaten record so far, so we’ll make sure she stays happy and keeps working her magic.”

This is a cute story, but it raises a huge question: what kind of "secret Santa team bonding game" requires a hamster? Actually, we're not sure we want to know...

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Ryan Bailey is a writer for Dirty Tackle on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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