Fitness boosts, new faces, new training gear and more spotted as Middlesbrough pre-season starts

Middlesbrough returned to Rockliffe on Monday for the start of pre-season, with Michael Carrick's squad beginning their preparations for the upcoming campaign.

While much of day one was spent in the gym doing the customary testing, there was time in the afternoon for a first session on the grass, with that work continuing on Tuesday. And the club have been giving supporters a glimpse behind the curtain throughout that time.

Via pictures and video released across social media and the club website, we've been able to keep an eye on the early work being done that Carrick hopes will be the start of a promotion-winning campaign. Here are five things we spotted in those early training shots across the first two days back at Rockliffe.

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Fitness boosts

Boro suffered terrible injuries last season that ultimately disrupted their promotion hopes. After a thorough review, there are hopes that things can be much better moving forward. A new season brings a fresh start and it was great to see so many of the players who missed the end of last season back in training right from the off.

Goalkeepers Tom Glover and Jamie Jones were involved having ended the campaign with finger and shoulder injuries. Centre-backs Darragh Lenihan and Dael Fry were there too, with Kieran Scott revealing recently that Lenihan - who missed much of last season - had been ready to return at the end of last season though the club decided against risking him then.

Hayden Hackney was involved too after a knee injury ended his season prematurely, as too was Riley McGree as his season was cut short just as he started to hit form. Josh Coburn was back amongst the group after enduring a frustrating second half to the season due to what was described as a problem around his groin. There is confidence at Boro that the issue is now behind the striker and he will be hungry to make a positive impression over the summer.

The other injured player back among the group was Tommy Smith. In a conversation with Boro Breakdown earlier in the year, he said he still wasn't sure exactly when he might be back in action, though he was through the worst of his recovery having been out since last October. He was pictured on Monday doing work in the gym and was even able to join his team-mates out on the grass on Tuesday for the running drills.

A clue that he is still a little behind others, however, was in the fact he was wearing running trainers rather than football boots. He is being carefully managed on his comeback from such a serious, long-term problem and when he'll be ready to fully return is still uncertain.

New faces

Luke Ayling isn't really a new face having spent the second half of last season on loan, but now a permanent Boro signing, he was back at Rockliffe after signing a two-year deal at the club this summer. So too was Boro's second summer signing, versatile forward Delano Burgzorg. They will soon be joined by midfielder Aidan Morris too, with the USA international due to link up with his new club later in the week.

They weren't the only new faces, however. On the coaching team, Graeme Carrick - Michael's younger brother - was pictured with his fellow Boro coaches on Tuesday having completed his move from Newcastle United. The Magpies' former Under-18s boss has replaced Aaron Danks on Carrick's team after the former assistant left to join Bayern Munich this summer.

Finally, in what will hopefully prove a boost to Boro's fitness and injury hopes for the upcoming season, strength and conditioning specialist John Thrower was pictured back at the club for the start of pre-season too. 'JT' returns to the club from Tottenham, two-and-a-half years after leaving Boro to join the Premier League side.


There were many youngsters spotted among the first-team training group too, though, with Carrick always keen to hand opportunities to academy talent whenever possible, not many were new faces to the group.

Included among the academy players spotted in training were Law McCabe, who could have a bigger role next season if Dan Barlaser were to leave amid interest from Turkish side Tranbzonspor, as well as Fin Cartwright, Sonny Finch (another back from injury after frustrations on that front last term), Luke Woolston, James Wilson, Charlie Lennon, Ajay Matthews and more.

Carrick has shown his willingness to give youngsters opportunities since he first arrived, and it's a particular area of expertise for his brother Graeme too. While the training group might reduce slightly as the summer goes on, many of the academy players are likely to get ample opportunity to gain experience and potentially force their way into the head coach's plans for next term.

Notable absentees

There were four notable absentees from the training pictures from the first two days of pre-season, four of which were explained. Anfernee Dijksteel, Emmanuel Latte Lath, Finn Azaz and Seny Dieng were on international duty earlier this summer and have therefore been given an extra week off. Latte Lath in particular has been posting on his social media of training he's doing away from the club, however, encouragingly suggesting how hungry he is for next term after ending last season in such good form.

The other notable absentee was Marcus Forss, however. The Finn was one whose season was ended prematurely through injury and there was unfortunately no sign of him among the training group so far this week. It likely suggests that he is still recovering from his injury and is therefore either training alone or has also been granted extra time off.

New training wear

A new season brings new kits. And while we await a look at the new match-worn kits, we got our first glimpse of the club's new training range this week, with Errea producing three variations of some very smart gear.

The players were sporting the new red training top, which comes with a black band with 1876 and Boro repeated across it, and also a trim coming from the leave and onto the chest which featured the lion from the badge. Goalkeepers were sporting a navy replica of the top with yellow trim and band, while coaches had the same top in black with red trim. The club said the training wear would be available soon at the club store.