Jonathan Woodgate's strong message to youngsters as Middlesbrough boss recalls Leeds United move
Jonathan Woodgate believes it’s important for Middlesbrough’s youngsters to go out and experience first-team football.
Four Boro academy players left the club on loan on transfer deadline day, as Stephen Walker (Crewe), Ben Liddle (Scunthorpe), Isaiah Jones (St Johnstone) and Connor Malley (Ayre United) left the Riverside temporarily.
When asked about Friday’s departures, Woodgate stressed the importance of pushing young players out of their comfort zones and recalled the time he left Teesside for Leeds United as a 16-year-old.
“Go and play a man’s game,” said the Boro boss. “Go and see what it’s like to play in a man’s league and you’ve got people fighting for their careers, fighting to pay mortgages, go and see what it’s like.
“With the facilities we’ve got, we’re really lucky and sometimes it’s good for our lads to realise what it’s like on the other side of the fence when you haven’t got all these facilities and all these people at training grounds who really look after you and who can sometimes mollycoddle.
“You go and live away from home, don’t rely on your parents, go and live your life and become a man and grow up into your own body.
“And they’ll have to do that. I did that as a 16-year-old kid and I thought it was really important for me to do that and with these kids going out on loan it’s fantastic for them.”
One young Boro player who is already part of the first-team set-up is right-back Djed Spence.
The 19-year-old only made his Championship debut in December but has impressed ever since, playing 12 times in all competitions over the last two months.
Spence signed a new two-and-a-half year deal at the Riverside on Monday but knows there is still room for improvement.
“I’m over the moon to have signed a new contract,” Spence told the Boro website.
“I want to stay at the club, do well for the club, learn my craft and keep getting better and better.
“The manager wants me to do well, he’s always on my back telling me to do well, he wants the best version of me.”