Middlesbrough's injury-hit campaign highlighted by startling number of games missed

Middlesbrough players missed a total of 303 games thanks to injury over the course of the 2023-24 Championship campaign - with their rotten luck in that regard a huge factor behind their failure to make the play-offs.

Back in February, Teesside Live crunched the numbers to lay bare just how impactful injuries had been for Michael Carrick's squad over the course of the campaign. Sadly, in the remaining 14 games, their fortune didn't turn, with injuries still afflicting them right until the very end of the season.

With Carrick unable to pick a team from a full quota of players in any game this season, he was without an average of 6.5 players per game across the whole campaign. The injuries did, however, allow Carrick to make full use of his squad, with certain players picking up far more experience than initially intended. Despite the injuries, they also ended the season in strong form - losing only one of their final 12 games.

READ MORE: Middlesbrough review leaves Michael Carrick confident in his methods after injury-hit season

However, finishing the campaign just four points shy of a play-off place in the end, it was hard not to have a feeling of 'what if' with consideration to the injury record. It wasn't just the amount of injuries that was so hurtful, but the players they missed. Really Important senior players such as Tommy Smith, Darragh Lenihan, Riley McGree and Marcus Forss had such limited impact throughout the season as a result of injury.

Reflecting on the record, Carrick said recently: "One thing I would say is that the injuries, in terms of selection, have resulted in us not being able to pick a consistent team. That’s probably more the issue. I certainly don’t believe it’s the players in terms of individuals coming in and out. It’s more just the collective consistency more than anything."

In total, only seven Boro players were never unavailable due to injury. They included their three January signings - though both Luke Ayling and Luke Thomas were forced to miss games against their parent clubs. Morgan Rogers also stayed injury-free before leaving for Aston Villa in January, while fringe men Dan Barlaser, Sam Greenwood and Alex Gilbert were the other players not impacted by the club's injury fortune.

Boro's troubles came in a season that saw injuries become a trend across England's top two divisions. In total, injuries were up across the Premier League and Championship around 15-17% on the last four-year average, with factors including the increasingly demanding schedule and longer-term impact of shorter breaks in recent years due to Covid and the winter World Cup mentioned as factors. Despite that, across the Championship, no side boasted a record quite as dramatic as Boro's.

With Carrick setting out Boro's promotion aims for next season, improving that injury record will be key. The club have conducted a thorough review of the injury woes suffered this season, but it was concluded that there were no issues with anything the club was doing so far as training and match preparation was concerned.

The club will be upgrading facilities at Rockliffe during the summer break and have plans to expand their medical teams as well, in the hope that will help improve their injury record next season. However, Carrick believes there is a large element that is just luck in a contact sport like football.

He said recently: "I think there’s been such a wide range of injuries that we’ve suffered this season. We haven’t changed training one bit from what we had last season, in terms of style, strategy or the things we do and when we do them. We didn’t have hardly any injuries last season doing it that way.

"I think injuries in general in the game have gone up anyway, and we’ve had such a wide variety of injuries. Whether it’s been impact injuries, twists, muscle injuries - some of which have actually been on contact after a push or whatever, so not necessarily just a fatigue element. There are so many different ways in which we’ve had them.

"It’s certainly something that we have looked at over the course of the season, and it’s ongoing. We always look at how we can get better and how we can be more efficient in all aspects - prehab, rehab or whatever it might be. So I’m not brushing it under the carpet by any means, but there is only so much you can do.

"We are confident moving forward we’ll have the right ingredients to keep more on the pitch. But sometimes the game moves and has certain trends in general and it's not always easy or ideal. We’ve just got to try and be realistic."