Neil Warnock's Hayden Coulson dilemma plus Middlesbrough's contract decision: Q&A
Middlesbrough have one game remaining this season as Neil Warnock looks to put plans in place for the 2021/22 campaign – and there are plenty of things to sort out.
The Boro boss admitted after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Luton that he wants to bring in ‘eight or nine’ new players this summer as he looks to beef up his squad.
We take a closer look at some of the big questions and talking points from the Riverside:
What does the future hold for Hayden Coulson?
It’s been an underwhelming season for the 22-year-old, who broke into the senior side and was voted the Supporters’ Young Player of the Year last term.
Fans enjoyed watching Coulson last season and his attitude was repeatedly praised by former boss Jonathan Woodgate, yet it was never clear what his best position was.
Coulson started the season as Boro’s left-back, yet there were always question marks over the defensive side of his game.
The player’s best performances under Woodgate then came as a winger or a left wing-back, yet Warnock has prefered Marvin Johnson in those roles, and signed three new wide players during the January transfer window.
Against Luton, Coulson played in a more central position and, despite being praised by Warnock afterwards, didn’t look entirely comfortable there.
It begs the question: Where can Coulson fit into Boro’s side?
We’re led to believe the player has continued to work hard in training but has just fallen down the pecking order.
If Warnock can land the players he wants this summer, a loan move for Coulson could be beneficial. Or maybe even a permanent one.
Will Marvin Johnson sign a new deal?
Like Coulson, Johnson has fallen down the pecking order following the arrivals of new players in January.
Unlike the former, though, Johnson has played a significant part this campaign, contributing with four goals and five assists (only Duncan Watmore and George Saville have goal contributions this term).
With uncertainty surrounding the futures of Yannick Bolasie, Neeskens Kebano and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Boro are likely to need some new wide players for next season.
Johnson has proved he’s a reliable asset who will fight for his place and can play in multiple positions on the flank.
You’d think Boro would offer the 30-year-old at least another year at the club – if he wants to stay that is.
Why hasn’t Warnock played more of the younger players?
With little to play for in the final few weeks of the season, some may wonder why Warnock hasn’t played more of the academy players in recent weeks.
We’ve seen impressive cameos from the likes of Josh Coburn and Connor Malley – and it would have been good to see more of the latter following his man of the match display at Rotherham.
Yet Warnock has also said he’d like to send the majority of Boro’s academy graduates out on loan next season, allowing them to play a significant part for a lower-league club, meaning they are more prepared for first-team football.
The Boro boss is still assessing the options he has ahead of next season – like playing Coulson in a central role and giving goalkeeper Jordan Archer another chance.
It’ll be interesting to see if Warnock uses more of the under-23s players against Wycombe.