Jonathan Woodgate explains why first-team Middlesbrough trio started Newcastle draw
Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate wants to keep his fringe players match fit – even if it means dropping down to the under-23 side.
Woodgate watched Boro’s youngsters draw 2-2 at Newcastle on Monday night, as new first-team signings Marcus Browne, Marc Bola and Anfernee Dijksteel featured.
All three players were competing in League One last season and have dropped out of the Teessiders’ starting XI in recent weeks.
Even so, Woodgate knows he’ll probably have to call upon the trio again this season.
“They’re not playing for the first team, they’re still young players and I think that it’s important that when their chance comes again they’re not rusty,” said Woodgate when asked about Browne, Bola and Dijksteel.
“They’re not going to play every single game for the under-23s but they are all under 23.”
“I think it was important to have a strong team which went there (to Newcastle), we had a really strong team, Connor Malley played, Ben Liddle, Stephen Walker, Browne, Bola, Dijksteel, Hayden Hackney, a 17-year-old kid, Nathan Wood.
“If there are games which I think they can play in, like I explained to them, if your’re not playing at times you will play just to keep your fitness up.
“You can do all the training sessions in the world but when you get your chance you need to be match fit.”
The under-23 side also changed formation at Newcastle to play in the same shape as the first team – with a back three and wing-backs.
Under-23s assistant lead coach Danny Schofield told the Mail: “We tried to mirror what the first team do to coach some of those concepts which is a good thing because it give our players an understanding of the way the first team are going to play.”
When asked the change of formation Woodgate added: “That’s how I’ll be looking to go forward, it’s important because if Bola plays he will be playing left wing-back, if Dijksteel plays he will be playing right wing-back.
“Like with Browne, he’ll be playing as a No 10.”