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Post-Season Review: Fullbacks

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, Centreback, Central Midfield, Wingers and Strikers. Each of which will be covered in a separate article.

This article will cover fullbacks.


Hayden Coulson:


Middlesbrough's focus on younger players last season provided the opportunity for Hayden Coulson's breakthrough season. An opportunity he seized with both hands.

The 22 year old was one of the few positives last season as he performed consistently well down the left flank.

He seemed to have struck the right balance between attacking and defending as a fullback as he both offered decent defensive security and an offensive threat.

However he has struggled to turn good attacking positions into opportunities and goals, which is something he will want to fix in the near future, particularly since Warnock deployed him as a winger in the latter stages of the season.

Rating: 7.5/10

His future:

The youth graduate was one of the best performers under Woodgate; however it seemed to have been turned on its head under Warnock who only started him once during the final 8 games.

Whether Warnock was relying on experience, in playing Johnson at left back, and sees Coulson as a player capable of playing a large role next season is yet to be seen.

However Coulson would back himself to show the manager just what he is worth as he makes another bit to become one of the starting players next season.

One of his major concerns moving forward, however, is his injury record as he was unavailable on a number of occasions last season due to injury. Should this pattern of injuries continue then it may stint his development.


Djed Spence:


Boro signed Spence when he was released from Fulham's youth academy as a mercurial talent who blew hot and cold. It seemed that Middlesbrough may have picked up another player who had the talent but perhaps not the effort or commitment or physicality to make it in the EFL.

However last season he prove that perspective to be wildly wrong in all but a short stint when he was pulled from the first team as Woodgate questioned his effort and his consistency.

The 20 year old became a spark going forward with his pacy technical dribbles through the thirds and at the opposition defence, with fluctuating consistency.

Defensively he was sometimes caught out of position as is expected with a marauding wingback. However if he back covering then he was capable enough defensively.

In order to improve, Spence could develop defensively and perhaps become more consistent going forward. However there is a real player there as shown by the growing interest from numerous Premier League clubs. One of the few major highlights last season.

Rating: 8/10

His future:

Warnock used Spence extensively during the final games of the season, mostly from wingback or fullback. However he also played further up the pitch on a few occasions which indicates that Warnock recognises how talented the London bro youngster is and is looking forward to developing him further next season.

The amount of game time that the 6ft fullback gets will depend on whether Boro bring in any other players in his position. Either way it is highly possible that he will be playing an important role next season.


Marc Bola:


Middlesbrough signed Marc Bola last summer from Blackpool as the club changes it's recruitment direction.

The 22 year old left back found it hard to make the jump from League 1 to the Championship and in turn was consistently found out of position and, despite pushing high up the pitch when in possession, he had little to no offensive impact.

With the first half of the season not going Bola's way, he was sent back to Blackpool on loan where he saw out the end of the season.

Rating: 4.5/10

His future:

After his performances last season, Boro will be questioning whether the Arsenal academy graduate is capable of the step up from League 1. However his injury last season is unusually a cause to be optimistic as he only played 7 games in the Championship, which is not extensive enough for a player to settle into a new league or writing off the possibility of him making the jump next season.

He may also look to Warnock as a further reason to be optimistic as Warnock has mentioned how he thrives off improving individual players, and if Warnock sees something in the player then he may keep him in and around the team as he helps him improve on the training ground to the point where he can make the jump.

Woodgate also continued to see potential in Bola despite his lacking performances and the opinion of a former Liverpool scout should be respected in this area.

Still with the manager he signed under gone and, with Warnock wanting to reshape his squad for next season, Bola could end up packing his bags to move elsewhere either permanently or temporarily.


Anfernee Dijksteel:


Another recruit from last summer, Dijksteel was signed from Charlton for £2m and appeared to be a more promising hire than Bola as he had just helped his previous club get promoted to the Championship. Meanwhile there were some concerned voices from the Charlton support that they were going to lose a player that had been one of their better performers during the previous season; which indicated that he had the potential to be a good player for his new club.

The Dutch right back ended up playing 16 games for the club. Many of which were average as he offered some influence going forward as well as coping with some Championship grade wingers defensively.

He was still liable to a number of mistakes last season however with one high profile one coming when Warnock faced former club Cardiff.

Equally he did well covering behind Spence as a right centre back, that earned him praise from Warnock and perhaps unveiled a role for him in in the future.

Rating: 5.5/10

His future:

The former Nike academy player showed himself two he more capable to adapting to the Championship than fellow summer signing Bola. However he still isn't a Championship quality player yet.

There is hope for the former single cap Netherlands Under-20 International to earn some first team minutes next season as long as he irons out his defensive mistakes, becomes more effective going forward and open to the possibility of changing positions permanently.


Ultimate Decision:

Before Warnock took over at the club the answer to this question would be simple: Spence and Coulson will be the key players at fullback as Bola, Dijksteel and whoever came in would play second fiddle. But it is far more of an unknown now as there are now far more moving components as Warnock played Coulson and Spence as wingers with varying regularity, Johnson played most of the last games at left back and Middlesbrough have been linked with fullbacks in the transfer window.

Due to which it is hard to know what the future hold for each of Boro's current fullbacks. However it would be reasonable for Boro fans to expect Spence too frequently appear in the line up as with Coulson although he may be relegated to bench duties depending on incoming signings. Dijksteel may well ply his trade at centre back next season should the club not bring any more player in that position and failing that Warnock will most likely be content with him being a secondary option to Spence as his focus will most likely be in improving other areas of the pitch. This may change, however, should Middlesbrough bring in a right back. Bola on the other hand could be moved on this summer as Warnock will be happy that he has two left back options in Johnson and Coulson.

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