Hackney comparison as Michael Carrick offers verdict on Law McCabe's first Middlesbrough start

Law McCabe playing for Middlesbrough
Law McCabe playing for Middlesbrough -Credit:NurPhoto via Getty Images

Michael Carrick felt like it was the right time for Law McCabe to make the natural next step for his development at Middlesbrough after handing the talented young midfielder his first start.

McCabe, just 17, has been in the Boro academy since the under-9s level and progressed right through to become a regular around the first-team squad this season. With injuries creating an opportunity, he made four first-team appearances in total, and was an unused sub on 19 other occasions.

It comes after the young midfielder caught the eye of Carrick early on in the season and remained a regular in first-team training throughout the season, even when he wasn't making the squad. And having looked comfortable in a 28-minute cameo a week earlier at Cardiff City he stepped up to make his full debut on the final day of the season and he impressed as Boro won 3-1.

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Carrick said: “It was fantastic for Law. He’s such a down-to-earth lad. He’s learning all the time and we’ve had him quite a lot with us this season for long spells. How he played is what we’ve seen in training every day.

"We’ve been trying to manage him right in terms of his training time and also game time. We felt today was the right time for him and he proved that right with how he coped with it. He had so much composure and his natural talent was on show. There will be so much more to come from him once he gets a few more games under his belt. I was delighted for him today. It was the natural next step for him."

McCabe is one of many young players from Boro's esteemed academy to be handed opportunities by Carrick. It's something the Boro boss is passionate about. Although Hayden Hackney had already made his Boro debut by the time Carrick arrived, the way in which he moulded the Redcar midfielder into such a key player is a testament to that.

Carrick has regularly talked up Hackney's attitude and desire to do well for the club - calling him the life and soul of the club after handing him the captaincy earlier in the year. Though not wanting to make unfair comparisons for McCabe this early as far as quality and style is concerned, there were certainly comparisons to be made in both his character and how he's settled in the first-team environment this year.

“He’s similar to Hayden in his attitude, without taking those comparisons any further, because that wouldn’t be fair," Carrick said. "But for sure, in the way he is desperate to learn and desperate to fit into the group. I think a lot for me that tells you where a young player is at is when the first-team group trust you.

"As a young player, that is a massive thing to conquer. He’s done that and you could see it in the game - how much the boys were looking out for him and helping him - not that he needed it much. That speaks volumes of, forget his football, just the type of person he is around the group."

McCabe wasn't the only young player to get an opportunity in that final-day victory over Watford. Just 24 hours after signing his first pro contract, 17-year-old defender James Wilson became the sixth academy graduate to make his first-team debut this season.

On the young centre-back, Carrick added: "We got James [Wilson] on the pitch towards the end, which was fantastic. He has a lot of potential, but we have to be patient and manage him a lot. He’s still growing and is still finding his body. But, for me personally, I take a lot of pleasure in giving those opportunities. They’ve got to be good enough and earn it. The boys certainly have and that will send them into the summer in good spirits."