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Post-Season Review: Centre backs

This series is going to review each of Middlesbrough's remaining squad members based on their performances last season, finishing on a rating out of 10. Before looking to the future as a forecast for what Middlesbrough fans could expect from each player moving forward.

The squad members have been split into their different positions including Goalkeeper, Fullback, Centre back, Central Midfield, Wingers and Strikers. Each of which will be covered in a separate article.

This article covers centre backs.


Centre backs:

Middlesbrough are currently lacking natural and experienced centre backs as Shotton and Ayala have now left the club, leaving only Dael Fry as an option at centre back.

However, Howson played the majority of his games last season in the back line and so I am going to involve him here.


Dael Fry:


The academy graduate had his first stint in the first team during the 15/16 campaign and so it is sometimes hard to realise that he is just 22.

Middlesbrough fans are all too aware of his talents, which were best displayed in settled back lines of previous seasons. However his commanding abilities were welcome relief as he helped to ease out of position players into their temporary roles. Meanwhile his tackling and aerial ability helped to reduce the goals the team conceded despite seemingly going through a drop in confidence during the season.

Rating: 8/10

His future:

Dael Fry will most likely be a key player moving into next season as he will play alongside the incoming Grant Hall. In turn the former under 21 England International will be hoping that he will be a part of a more settled and secure defence that concedes less goals.

He may be slightly concerned that should the club sign another defender that he may become third choice. However he should relish such a challenge as he is a very capable defender who has garnered Premier League interest.


Jonny Howson:


Although Howson is a midfielder, he was frequently drafted in defensive roles during last season as his flexibility became increasingly important as the season wore on.

The 32 year old mostly took up roles at right back and centre back and he showed himself to be relatively competent in both; despite it being clear that it wasn't his preferred role.

One key ability that held him in good stead, particularly later in the season, was his passing ability as he was a frequent strong performer in pass success rate and long range passing. Which was noted by Neil Warnock as he referred how he could have been the "Lynchpin" in the side coming into the final game of the season.

Unfortunately and unsurprisingly he was sometimes liable to defensive mistakers that are due to him playing out of position.

Rating: 6/10

His future:

Neil Warnock has recently spoken about the importance of utility player in a long Championship season and, while Howson will be considered as more integral to the team, as reflected in Warnock's post-match comments about his unavailability for the last game of the season, he will definitely be able to help with any holes that may arise during the season.

Meanwhile the former Norwich player will be hoping that he has the opportunity to return to his favoured midfield role, where he has performed at his best. In turn opening up the defensive positions for players who are more suited to those roles.

Neil Warnock will also appreciate having an experienced model professional in his squad as he looks to bring more leadership and experience into the club.

The Leeds United youth graduate may once again be a key player for Middlesbrough next season.


Ultimate decision:

If Middlesbrough don't bring in anymore new faces at centre back then Dael Fry and Grant Hall will most likely become the nailed on centre back pairing which should help to improve the teams defensive record.

Meanwhile Howson and McNair could offer unorthodox options should either Fry or Hall get injured.

There is also a chance that Nathan Wood and Sam Stubbs may break into the first team this season as there is currently a real lack of depth at centre back and the talented youngsters would relish the opportunity to get some first team football.

Overall Middlesbrough will hope to get at least one more centre back in so there are 3 experienced options for two positions with Nathan Wood and Sam Stubbs competing for a fourth with whoever loses being moved on either permanently or on loan.

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