Middlesbrough defender Nathan Wood returned to his parent club after an unsuccessful loan at Hibernian. Now, speaking to The Northern Echo, manager Chris Wilder has issued a challenge to the youngster.
Middlesbrough allowed Wood to join Hibernian on a season-long loan in the summer. But after playing just one game, the Championship club exercised a recall clause in the defender’s contract, bringing him back to the Riverside.
He has re-joined his Boro teammates in training, but won’t be able to register in the squad until January at the earliest.
Wood has made 13 appearances in all competitions for the Teessiders since making his record-breaking debut, becoming the club’s youngest ever player in the process.
But there is a lot of competition for places at the back at present with the likes of Dael Fry, Grant Hall, Sol Bamba, Paddy McNair, Anfernee Dijksteel, and Lee Peltier all vying for a place in the back three.
When asked about Wood’s capabilities and chances of first-team minutes, Wilder kept his cards close to his chest. But he did issue a clear challenge to the 19-year-old.
“I’m not going to go over the top with Nathan. A lot has been talked about, but he’s still a young boy,” said the Boro boss.
“There is still a lot of learning to go into Nathan. He’s got obvious qualities but I don’t want to talk about Nathan too much, if I’m honest.
“He’s had an unsuccessful loan, and now he’s got to get himself going. As much as the work we put into him, he’s got to get himself going and show he is the player everybody thinks he is.
“That will only come with consistency on the training ground. And if an opportunity comes in January to take his chance, then it’s over to him.
“I always think there are two parts to it, and ultimately he is the one that really dictates where his career goes and what he does with his future.”
Prior to his unsuccessful loan deal in Scotland, Wood went out on loan to Crewe Alexandra in the 2020/21 campaign. He played 12 times for the League One side in the latter half of the season having joined in January.
Wilder’s comments suggest that he will be given a chance to stake his claim to be included in the first-team squad, although a loan away from the Riverside could prove to be more beneficial for all parties.