The buzz among the Middlesbrough players ahead of the start of pre-season this month

There is a real buzz around Middlesbrough players for next season - with head coach Michael Carrick's ambitions shared by the players after a strong end to the season.

Plagued by injuries last term, the season didn't go exactly to plan. But in ending the season with just one defeat in 12 and now preparing to welcome some key players back while strengthening with a few quality additions in the transfer market, there is genuine optimism within the playing squad for what the year ahead could bring.

Isaiah Jones recently told how he felt Boro could be a 'real force' next season, while Rav van den Berg is ready to turn his back on top European clubs again due to his feeling that he can really achieve something at the Riverside next term. Jonny Howson has told of his excitement to get back to work too after securing his latest 12-month deal.

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Now, Ayling, who earned a two-year contract at Boro after a successful five-month loan spell from Leeds United, is the latest to express his excitement to get going again. Currently enjoying a well-earned break, players are due back at Rockliffe for the start of pre-season in the week commencing June 24.

Speaking after signing his permanent deal at Boro, Ayling said: "There was a lot of injuries last season and next year a lot of those boys will be coming back in - the likes of Tommy [Smith] and Darragh [Lenihan], I've not had a chance to train with or play with yet. I'm excited for that and can't wait to get back in for pre-season.

"We finished the season so well, only losing one game in the last 12, which is brilliant. I think all the boys will be excited to get back in. At the minute, of course we're enjoying our breaks around the world and spending time with family. But I know the boys and once we get back in, it will be straight down to work and building towards that first game of the season to get a good start."

As Boro ended last season strongly collectively, Ayling and Emmanuel Latte Lath formed an effective partnership on the pitch, and a friendship off it, to individually end the season in such good form. Ayling provided eight assists in the final 11 games, while Latte Lath managed 11 goals in 12 games to end the season with 18 goals in total. Ayling is naturally excited to reignite the partnership next season, but also sees potential with Latte Lath's main competition for his spot in the team currently, Josh Coburn.

"I love playing with him personally," the former Leeds man said of Latte Lath. "I always know if I put a cross in he is going to be somewhere in the box. He's so hungry to score goals. And then, just as a person, I got on with him really well.

"Next season, we'll have Josh [Coburn] coming back too. He's a young lad who spent a long time out injured but he's a good lad who will hopefully be able to get on the end of a few of my crosses as well."