It promises to be a busy summer in Middlesbrough’s transfer window, with ins and outs inevitable as Chris Wilder plans a promotion push next season.
Dominic Shaw and Craig Johns discuss the various transfer talking points ahead of the summer window.
What do you expect in terms of Boro transfers this summer? -Dom Shaw
There’s no doubt it’s going to be a busy summer for Boro, Chris Wilder has made that clear. Wilder and Kieran Scott will have been planning this summer window since the managerial change in November.
It’s in the summer, rather than January, that a manager can really put his touch on a side and Wilder now has the whole summer to sanction the ins and outs that will help shape his vision. Boro needs attackers, at least two, and a new goalie first. Leaders are needed, especially on the back of the outings of Sol Bamba and Lee Peltier. There is also no natural cover for Jonny Howson in this midfield role.
What are the priority positions to be strengthened? – Craig Johns
There are two obvious priorities. While it could be a big overall rebuild with increased competition and improvements in some areas, a new goalkeeper and scoring striker must be Boro’s top priority. The reality is that if Boro had had a more reliable goalkeeper last season and a striker capable of scoring 20 goals, they would have at least made the play-offs.
Wanting his team to be as strong as possible, there will be a lot more than that to come this summer, but those two roles are the ones that will ultimately make the biggest difference. A good goalkeeper and prolific goalscorer will earn you points and too often last season Boro lost points because he conceded goals he shouldn’t have or didn’t make his dominance count in matches by putting the finishing touches on a move.
The margins are sometimes thin and these two positions are often the difference between success and failure.
Are you expecting releases and is there any chance that Fry/Tavernier/Jones could go? -Dom Shaw
With players on loan returning to their parent clubs and those out of contract allowed to leave, the squad looks pretty thin at the moment, but more exits are inevitable as Wilder shapes his squad.
There are the likes of Grant Hall, who is clearly not in Wilder’s plans, Uche Ikpeazu who we know will be available unless the manager changes his mind and Hayden Coulson, who has had a frustrating year on loan. Then there’s the Djed Spence situation, which Craig discusses below.
As for Fry, Tavernier and Jones, I expect all to stay unless there is a mega offer that is just too good to turn down. All three are committed and will be major players next season.
What do you think will happen with Djed Spence? – Craig Johns
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Djed Spence will be sold this summer, the big question is at what price and to whom. Boro is in a strong position as the defender was forced to sign a one-year contract extension before being allowed to join Nottingham Forest in January, meaning he has two years left on his contract.
His form in the second half of the season has generated a lot of interest and that puts Boro in a very good position. They will earn over £10m for him this summer, but some have cited a fee of up to £20m. Exactly how much Boro is asking for remains to be seen, but his high interest in him may trigger a sort of auction. It wouldn’t surprise me if Boro also included performance-related bonuses and a sell-out clause in any deal.
Do you think Boro will turn to the loan market this summer? -Dom Shaw
Undoubtedly. Wilder has good contacts in the Premier League and I expect him to try to put them to good use this summer. Boro will be hoping for more success in the loan market than in January, with Folarin Balogun and Aaron Connolly struggling.
It must be said, however, that it is much easier for a player on loan in the summer to have a pre-season and get to know the team, rather than arriving in January and catching up. Take a look at play-off runners-up Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield. Both have benefited from shrewd loan signings. Judicious use of the loan market is essential for the promotion of championship teams.
What is your first prediction on how next season will go and what is your expected final position? – Craig Johns
I expect Chris Wilder to make some shrewd signings this summer that make Boro a stronger force overall. That said, the parachute payments are an unfair advantage for the teams receiving them and not only are the three parties considering it, but Sheffield United and West Brom will also see their payment reduced slightly for the second year and hope to use it to strengthen their crew.
An interesting summer is coming and it won’t be easy for Boro, but with a clear view of the field and things moving in the right direction, I think Boro can attract some good players this summer. This will lead them to be more consistent and stronger next season, but I’m going to predict that they will miss the first two.
Being more optimistic though, I will say that they won’t just make the play-offs, but end their woes at Wembley and seal their promotion in the play-off final.
Who will follow in the footsteps of Isaiah Jones and be Boro’s next star? -Dom Shaw
Let’s be honest, at this time last year, very few people would have predicted that Isaiah Jones would have such a mind-blowing season. At the end of pre-season, Neil Warnock was still considering allowing him to leave on loan.
He seized his opportunity and established himself as Boro’s most important offensive player.
It’s so hard to say who will follow in his footsteps and chances are none of the young players will have as much of an impact as Jones did last season. But that doesn’t mean some of the youngsters on the club’s books can’t make big strides and work their way into the first team.
Joe Gibson is highly rated and recently signed a new contract; Calum Kavanagh is prolific in the youth ranks; Jeremy Sivi is a bright young winger who is well regarded in the Academy ranks and Zach Hemming returns to Boro after a hugely impressive loan spell in Scotland. It’s easy to forget that Josh Coburn is also only 19 years old. There is reason to say that he was Boro’s best attacker during the break-in. He can play a big role next season.
Who will be Boro’s big players next season? – Craig Johns
Of the players currently at the club, the backbone will be important. Players like Dael Fry, Jonny Howson, Matt Crooks and Marcus Tavernier will help Boro achieve his goals next season, while Isaiah Jones producing the kind of form he did on his best days last season will really help the game. Wilder’s team to finish high. this painting.
Considering the transfer priorities given above, I think two of the biggest players of next season are yet to be at the club. If Boro can find a reliable goalkeeper and a scoring forward, it will ultimately be the players who come in and make the difference, transforming Boro from almost men into a successful team.