Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate quizzed where Jonny Howson and George Friend could play against Brentford

Middlesbrough head coach Jonathan Woodgate says new signing Anfernee Dijksteel will have to fight for his place at the Riverside following Jonny Howson’s recent performances at right-back.

Friday, 9th August 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Friday, 9th August 2019, 6:00 pm
Jonny Howson has played at right-back for Middlesbrough during pre-season.

Howson, who has predominantly played in midfield during his career, has filled in on the right side of Boro’s defence during pre-season and played there against Luton in last week’s Championship opener.

Yet the arrival of Dijksteel, 22, from Charlton has raised some doubts about where Howson will operate this season, especially as Boro appear well stocked in central midfield.

Woodgate has repeatedly praised Howson for being one of the role models in Boro’s dressing room and, despite the competition for places, insists the 31-year-old will be a key player this term.

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“Firstly, Anfernee has to battle for his place because I thought Jonny Howson was excellent the other night,” said Woodgate when asked what Dijksteel’s arrival will mean for Howson.

“He’s a very, very reliable player for me. I think the world of Jonny, he can play a number of different positions for me. So, Anfernee has to battle for his place.”

Another player who can play in multiple positions is Boro captain George Friend, who is expected to be available for Saturday’s meeting with Brentford at the Riverside.

Friend, 31, missed most of pre-season with an injury his sustained last season and, in his absence, academy graduate Hayden Coulson has taken his chance to impress while Marc Bola has joined the club from Blackpool.

That could mean Friend is moved across into the centre of defence, a position he has played in the past.

When asked where his skipper will operate this season, Woodgate said: “George will play either left-back or centre-back, it depends on the teams.”

With the exception of Dael Fry, who is still recovering from a hamstring injury, Boro should have a fully-fit squad to face the Bees on Saturday.

Last season’s top scorer Britt Assombalonga missed training on Tuesday with a sore calf but is expected to fit for the game.