Michael Carrick says Middlesbrough defender Matt Clarke is ‘at the same stage’ with his back injury, which has kept him sidelined for nearly a year.
Clarke, 26, joined Middlesbrough from Brighton & Hove Albion in August last year. But since, the centre-back has featured just six times in the Championship and is yet to make his debut under Carrick, owing to a persistent back injury.
The Northern Echo say that Clarke has been training on his own this summer in a bid to get closer to match fitness, but Carrick says that Clarke’s injury continues to plague him as we approach the start of the 2023/24 campaign.
Speaking to The Northern Echo, Carrick had this to say on Clarke:
“He’s at the same stage really. He’s working hard trying to get himself back, Clarkey. It’s been a tough road for him so far but he’s dealt with it really well.
“We’re trying to support him as best we can to try and get him back in the mix as soon as we can. It’s been a tricky one with his back, one we’ve had to try different things to work him through, and hopefully we can get him back soon.”
As things stand, Carrick’s centre-back options are Dael Fry, Paddy McNair, Darragh Lenihan, summer signing Rav van den Berg, and Clarke.
What now for Clarke?
The first and foremost thing for Clarke is getting back to a point where he’s involved in first-team training and playing without pain.
But a back issue that has kept him out for so long already is going to plague him for a while longer and so it looks like Clarke faces a long road to recovery.
Once back, he’ll then face a battle to get back up the pecking order at Boro this summer, with van den Berg another name adding competition to the centre-back ranks at the Riverside.
It’s a difficult situation, but Clarke is still a relatively young player and so he has time on his side.