Seven Middlesbrough players who need a big pre-season amid Michael Carrick team selection desire

Middlesbrough players are put through their paces during a pre-season training session
-Credit: (Image: Middlesbrough FC)

Middlesbrough players have been back at Rockliffe this week for the start of pre-season training, as Boro begin preparations for what they hope will be a promotion-winning season.

Michael Carrick has made his aims clear and, as far as achieving that goal is concerned, a more stable team next season will be a big part of that after so many enforced changes throughout last term due to never-ending injuries. Hoping to have solved them heading into next season, Boro are now hoping for consistency as far as team selection is concerned.

That means these summer months are a crucial period for many players who have work to do, for various reasons, to convince Carrick of the worthiness of game time. While important for any player to impress over the summer we highlight seven players for whom it feels particularly important.

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Young goalkeepers

Sol Brynn and Zach Hemming have both returned from successful loan spells last season and, as things stand, one looks set to be the deputy to number one Seny Dieng in the upcoming season as Tom Glover seeks more regular game-time. It's a big moment for both highly-rated academy keepers who can use this summer to push themselves up the pecking order at Boro.

Tommy Smith

Out since last October having undergone Achilles surgery, Smith has encouragingly been taking part in certain aspects of pre-season training with his team-mates. However, not understood to be quite ready yet for full training, his immediate goal is just getting back to that position. He'll hope to keep making positive steps in that regard because he now faces tough competition for his place from Luke Ayling.

Darragh Lenihan

Similar to Smith, Lenihan missed almost all of last season. Unlike Smith, the Ireland centre-back is back in full training and he'll be using the summer friendlies to try and get himself back up to speed. Lenihan was such a key player for Carrick before his injury but, in his absence, Rav van den Berg has emerged as a star while Matt Clarke ended the season in remarkable form. Add Dael Fry to the mix and Boro's centre-back competition is arguably stronger than any other position.

Alex Bangura

Arriving late in the summer transfer window with the season already under way, Bangura didn't have a summer programme catered to the physical challenges he'd face in the Championship. Injured an hour into his debut, his season didn't ever really recover, with frustrating injuries occurring throughout.

When he did play, however, he showed real signs of quality and ended the campaign with a goal against Watford. With the chance to have a full pre-season at Boro this summer, he could really benefit and use it as a springboard to a much-improved second season at the Riverside.

Alex Gilbert

After joining from Brentford last summer, Gilbert spent much of last season on the fringes and was frustrated with a lack of opportunities. But having worked hard to prove himself and improve, his chance would come and he ended the season with two impressive starts against Cardiff and Watford. A loan move could benefit him this season, but he could also use pre-season to push his case to stay at the Riverside.

Josh Coburn

Having proved himself to prompt the cancellation of a proposed loan move to Plymouth Argyle last summer, Coburn was struck down by a groin problem which hampered his progress just after breaking into the team. With hopes that the problem is now solved, Coburn is back in full training at the start of pre-season and has a lot to prove once again.

Emmanuel Latte Lath finished last term with 18 goals and will therefore be in possession of the starting spot for the start of the season. With Boro keen to sign another striker this summer too, competition will be fierce, so Coburn has to stake his claim for a second successive summer.