Middlesbrough FC news: Boro coach sends message to youngsters as academy graduate signs professional deal
Middlesbrough’s new under-23s lead coach Graeme Lee has urged the club’s youngsters to take their opportunities following the appointment of Jonathan Woodgate.
It was announced earlier this week that Lee, who has been part of the academy set-up for several years, would step up to the role, following the departure of Paul Stephenson last month.
And with Woodgate keen to maximise the club’s highly-rated academy, Lee believes there is a clear pathway to the senior side.
When asked about his new role, Lee told the Middlesbrough website: “I’ve always enjoyed the responsibility of trying to lead. You've got to understand the mentality of the players, they've climbed the mountain and are so close to the summit.
“I’m trying to set an example, hopefully guide and develop them so they can take that next step to first team level.
“It’s not just the talent, it’s the determination and dedication, to get them ready for the new gaffer to say ‘yeah, I want to have a look at them’.
"Coming into this job and seeing what the gaffer is saying, the young players must be looking at that and thinking 'wow',”
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"This is a better chance than any other year at the club to get that opportunity - Jonathan Woodgate knows the young players and what they are capable of. It's down to them to try and stake a claim for a place in the squad."
One player to look out for in the next few years is midfielder Hayden Hackney, who has signed his first professional deal with the Teessiders on his 17th birthday.
Hackney made 20 league appearances for Boro’s under-18 team last season, helping Mark Tinkler's side reach the Premier League Cup Final.
Hackney, who was born in Redcar, also played nine times for Middlesbrough Under-23s last term, and scored the winning goal in a Checkatrade Trophy match against Burton.
After putting pen to paper, Hackney took to social media, tweeting: “Buzzing to have signed my first professional contract @Boro , Hard work starts now”
Boro’s under-23 side will face local side Dunston in their first pre-season friendly on Thursday July 11.