What are Middlesbrough’s priorities on and off the pitch ahead of next season?
With Middlesbrough taking a huge step towards safety with their recent win over Reading, the Boro hierarchy may now have one eye on next season already.
First things first, Middlesbrough will need to secure a manager, with current boss Neil Warnock’s deal expiring at the end of the campaign. Chairman Steve Gibson has already told the 71-year old that he wants him to remain in charge next season, but talks have not commenced as of yet.
But it’s not just Warnock’s deal that the club will need to revisit. Six first-team players’ contracts have either already expired or are due to expire in the next few weeks, which means they will need sign extensions or be replaced.
Already, Middlesbrough have seen Dani Ayala, Rudy Gestede and Ryan Shotton leave the club, whereas George Friend, Marvin Johnson, and Aynsley Pears’ current deals are due to conclude shortly.
Without defenders Ayala, Shotton, Friend, and Johnson at the club, Boro will need a serious overhaul at the back. Despite a varied pool of full-backs to choose from, with the likes of Djed Spence, Hayden Coulson, Anfernee Dijksteel, and Marc Bola, the departures would leave just Dael Fry and 17-year old Nathan Wood as central-defenders.
Last summer Middlesbrough purposely cut back on spending and bought players with potential as opposed to Championship quality, and ultimately paid the price.
Dijksteel arrived from Charlton, Bola from Blackpool, and Marcus Browne from West Ham United (who had spent the previous season on loan at Oxford), none of whom have been a mainstay in the side.
These signings could have a part to play next season, but the reality is that they were nowhere near good enough to become first-team regulars, and the likelihood is they may not be good enough next season either.
Boro will need to dip into the transfer market and reinforce their squad if they are to avoid being in a relegation battle once again.
Whether this is through loan signings or free transfers to save money, or if Gibson gives the new boss a transfer kitty to boost their chances of pushing up the league towards Warnock’s favoured promotion spots.