Middlesbrough’s transfer activity so far will benefit a group of players in the preseason – Craig Johns


Recruitment work continues at Middlesbrough as Neil Warnock looks to strengthen his squad for the new season.

And while Boro’s boss is optimistic about how talks are going with many targets, it’s no secret that he would have preferred more than the two new faces he finally got on day one. the preseason.

As Boro’s players return on Thursday morning, they will be joined by Joe Lumley and Sammy Ameobi, while many former faces will not be returning as their time at the club ended at the end of the last term.

With the two new additions included, Boro only has 19 established senior players left. But that number includes Marcus Browne, who won’t play any part of the preseason due to injury, as well as Lewis Wing, Hayden Coulson, Djed Spence and Chuba Akpom who could all leave the club during the summer transfer window.

The lack of activity so far will of course be a concern for the supporters. The club know that as the market really kicks off from the beginning of July, they will have to work hard to increase the numbers as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, however, it does create some opportunities – the chance to shine for a particular group of players.

I’m of course talking about the many, many talented young people in the club’s ranks.

This is in no way a change of course. The plan really remains to strengthen the squad with new signings this summer, allowing so many of the youngsters in question the chance to go out on loan and gain experience elsewhere.

Nonetheless, until the club are able to allow them to do so, which they have in front of them right now is an opportunity. Opportunity to prove themselves, opportunity to change their immediate future, opportunity to change Warnock’s mind and show they’re too good to go on loan.

Make no mistake, there are capable players.

Nathan Wood, only 19, is as good as any player I have ever seen at that age, except the most elite of players. Connor Malley and Hayden Hackney performed well when given the chance last season, while Isaiah Jones was loaned to Scotland and gave Warnock something to think about as he excelled at Queen of the South.

Crewe Alexandra’s Nathan Wood chases the ball

Ultimately, with aspirations to challenge for the top of the league next season, Warnock will need experience and consistency next season – something you rarely get from players this young though.

In many ways, it might be beneficial for Boro to store these youngsters at dawn, play them regularly in the Under 23s, and keep them nearby in case they might be needed during a crisis. of injury. We saw last season how costly Boro’s lack of depth turned out to be.

But, despite the fact that Warnock’s time at the club may be short-term, his thinking with the youngsters is very much focused on the club and its long-term success.

The reality is that the players in question who could legitimately make that breakthrough right now will no longer be learning from Under-23 football. They need to play men’s football to test their bodies and iron out any creases that remain in their game due to their inexperience.

We saw this with Wood last quarter. How useful he could have come in later in the campaign when Dael Fry struggled to stay in shape. He wouldn’t have been a problem if we judged him by his performance in the 1-0 league win over Nottingham Forest. But in January came the timely reminder that Wood is still wet behind his ears as he struggled to compete with summer target Michael Smith as Rotherham slipped away from the 3-0 winners.

Summer promises to be busy in Boro.

Neil Warnock hopes to add “eight or nine” players to his ranks as he seeks promotion next season.

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If Boro’s aspirations were to finish comfortably in the middle of the table, Wood would almost certainly be a player who could play consistently right now. The club’s ambitions are higher than that, however.

Wood returns him after a short loan spell at Crewe this summer where he will have the opportunity to show how much he has learned and how much he has grown during his time in the North West, but for now the feeling is that he will have another season to play regularly.

The same goes for all of the aforementioned youngsters, as well as other highly rated under 23 stars such as Sol Brynn, Jack Robinson and William Kokolo.

Josh Coburn is the only exception to the rule. From the Under-18s to the first-team last season, Warnock is expected to keep him at the club this season – eager for him to accompany the new forwards arriving this summer while continuing to learn from the training and to be guided by Warnock and co on a daily basis.

The rest, as it is, will most likely go on loan later in the summer.

But now they have the option to change that.

Robinson, for example, as a left defender capable of playing center-back or left-back, would be useful to cover two positions next season. Malley and Hackney too, given that we know Warnock is looking to add cover in the midfield.

Isaiah Jones of Middlesbrough

As for Jones, who impressed so much in Scotland’s second tier, well, it’s clear to all to see how desperate Boro is for the corps at this end of the pitch this summer.

Warnock often says that there is always a player who changes their mind in the preseason. He also talks about some kids leaving as boys and coming back for the preseason as men. The idea is that they come back more physically developed and therefore better prepared to play regular championship football.

And while Boro’s lack of signings to date is cause for concern, it offers all of these youngsters the chance to show their growth and earn their place. They will be needed to complete the numbers in the first few weeks of summer, and this is their chance to shine.

Regardless, the future looks bright for Boro, with so many talented players on the verge of breaking through.

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