Middlesbrough's youth policy and the key factor for Michael Carrick to give an opportunity

Michael Carrick gives instructions to Middlesbrough youngsters Finn Cartwright and Dan Nkrumah as they prepare to come on as subs at Bradford
-Credit: (Image: James Heaton/News Images)

Michael Carrick has offered interesting insight on his youth policy at Middlesbrough, insisting that opportunities have to be earned and warranted, having handed out many chances for young players since becoming head coach at the Riverside.

Since his arrival at Boro a little over 18 months ago, Carrick has already handed out eight debuts to academy graduates, while he's also helped develop Hayden Hackney into one of the best midfielders in the Championship. On top of that, there have been many more opportunities handed to academy players in the form of training with the first team and travelling to away games - all forming valuable experience and opportunities for growth.

The Boro head coach has often spoken about his passion for giving such opportunities, still appreciative of the fact he was once handed one at West Ham when first coming through the ranks at Upton Park. It very much matches with the club's philosophy, with Steve Gibson investing upwards of £5 million a year to keep Boro's academy at the top Category 1 level in England, as part of the proud history of producing top talent for the future on Teesside.

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But explaining that the culture needs to be on in which opportunities are there as long as they are earned, Carrick offered insight on his youth policy, explaining: “I’ve said it from day one, I really enjoy giving young players a chance and trying to help develop them. Of course, from the other side, they need to be good enough, or show potential to be good enough. Not every player can make it because there is so much competition in every position.

"There is a point of being good enough and also picking the right time. Not everyone can get that big chance, if you like, but certainly we’ll give them every opportunity we can in terms of training with us, having eyes on them and taking care of them to see how we can help develop them in the hope of getting them around the group by taking each step.

"For me, to see boys taking each little step is great to see. A few did that recently and hopefully, if they keep doing the right things, there will be more for them, and hopefully there will be more for the next crop coming through next season as well. Hopefully the rest of the lads in the academy see the opportunity is there and it gives them encouragement and incentive to see that there is something at the end of it if they do the right things."

The summer always brings fresh opportunities for youth players as the first-team squad is often padded out for early summer friendlies with academy players. Fresh from his full debut, Law McCabe will be hoping to make a positive impression in pre-season, as will his new England under-19 team-mate Ajay Matthews, who also recently made his Boro debut.

There could be opportunities for goalkeepers Sol Brynn and Zach Hemming too, with both of the Boro academy prospects returning from successful loan spells determined to try and force their way into Carrick's plans next season.