Despite the number of injuries, suspensions and the already wafer thin squad that Jonathan Woodgate has had to cope with, results and performances over the last two games have given ‘Boro fans an enormous amount of satisfaction.
OK, we lost conclusively against an excellent Leeds team that will no doubt win the Championship, but since then a win and a draw have taken us well above the relegation zone. Much of the credit for that must go to Jonathan for having the nerve to introduce the academy youngsters and for their reciprocation in giving performances any manager would dream of. It’s the perfect example of the benefits of having a progressive, locally conscripted academy and a manager that believes that kids deserve the opportunity to prove they can be relied on. Let’s be honest, that’s what most fans desperately want from their club.
Starting the Charlton Athletic game were no fewer than five academy products who all went on to prove their potential as first team players. Hayden Coulson had already shown his class in the first few games before his unfortunate injury. He has, however, returned to the team to show that his earlier performances were not one-offs. He combines an excellent defensive technique with an enthusiastic aim to get up the wing and cross balls into the box that belie his tender years.
Perhaps the most difficult thing is to number Dael Fry amongst the up and coming kids because he has been a first team regular for so long that it’s easy to forget he’s still only a very young man. Marcus Tavernier, meanwhile, is another who has featured regularly over the last twelve months but has shown many qualities during that time and continues to show he has a good first team future.
The performances of Ainsley Pears since his introduction at Huddersfield have also been excellent with a number of clean sheets already on his CV. But perhaps the most surprising of the five who started the game against Charlton was teenager Djed Spence. It’s fairly well documented that the youngster can be difficult on occasions but his performance on that day was exemplary and I, for one, hope he continues to show he will gain maturity with every start.
To praise the kids is one thing, of course, but credit must also be given to the likes of Johnny Howson who took up an unfamiliar centre back role against Charlton and performed superbly. It’s a good indication that Jonathan Woodgate has the players on his side and that they are happy to not only work for him but to also back up any changes he feels are necessary for the good of the team. And that is probably the key word in all this – team! From the manager to the academy – and throughout the problems the club is currently facing – it is fairly obvious that they are all in it together as a proper team should be.
Let’s hope that team spirit is maintained and the squad continues to perform to the best of its abilities. It’s a little sad as a lifelong ‘Boro fan that the best I can hope for this season is a middle of the table finish but I care for the club and would love to see our future dictated by like minded people who wear the shirt with pride. I also believe Jonathan Woodgate deserves our support and so I wish him – and everyone involved in the club – a very happy and successful 2020. Happy New Year to you as well!