Sol Brynn vs Zach Hemming - loan experiences and the battle for Middlesbrough deputy status

Middlesbrough have a really tough choice on their hands this summer as they assess which of their five goalkeepers will make up their three for the season.

It seems likely that Seny Dieng will continue his role as first-choice as Boro recognise the importance of his experience and comfort in their way of playing as they approach the new season with hunger to challenge for promotion. Jamie Jones, meanwhile, appears likely to stay on as third choice, with the 35-year-old returning to Boro training despite being out of contract this summer and appearing fit after ending the season injured.

That leaves last season's deputy Tom Glover competing with returning academy graduates Zach Hemming, 24, and Sol Brynn, 23, for the deputy spot in Michael Carrick's squad. All three are currently working hard at Rockliffe with the rest of the squad as they await developments.

READ MORE: Middlesbrough goalkeepers facing new battle this summer with competition high

Glover feels a likely candidate to move on given how much it would suit all parties. The Aussie has international aspirations and will want to play more regularly than he did last term, which he is unlikely to be offered at the Riverside. From Boro's perspective, they can sell a player signed for free last summer while creating a spot in their squad for one of their talented academy youngsters.

But which of Hemming and Brynn gets the choice after impressive in loan spells at St Mirren and Leyton Orient remains to be seen. In both cases, the decision is further complicated by the fact that they are now at stages of their careers where they are keen to establish themselves after numerous loan moves which makes convincing them of another temporary exit not easy.

As Boro coaches continue to assess their goalkeeping options, we spoke to Ewan Colquhoun of the Black and White Army St Mirren Supporters' Club and Tom Davies of the Leyton Orient Fans' Trust to get a flavour of how their loan moves went last term and what they showed that might be of interest to Boro.

While expectations of each club is of course different, it's fair to say it was Hemming, who helped the Buddies to a fifth-placed finish, thus securing European Football for the first time in 37 years, who left the bigger impression.

Ewan told Teesside Live: “He was brilliant for us; a fantastic signing. He had big shoes to fill when he first joined because these past seasons we’ve been incredibly fortunate to have some great goalkeepers. He arrived off the back of a pretty disappointing spell at Kilmarnock too, so there were doubts. But he became a real fan-favourite.

"Zach had this mentality that strived for more. First game of the season always stands out. We went to Easter Road and went 2-0 up before being pegged back to 2-2. At that point you’re thinking, ‘let’s just take the point and run’. I remember, the ball came into the box, Zach claimed it and he was just so quick to get it out. He set us up for a counter and we took a last-minute lead to win the game. That kind of summed him up..”

By contrast, Tom said of Brynn's loan in League One: “He was generally okay. We did have a very good goalkeeper the season before when we got promoted in Lawrence Vigouroux and I wouldn’t say Sol quite lived up to those levels. He did make a couple of errors towards the end of the season which were a bit erratic.

"But generally, he was a decent shot-stopper, did the basics right and I guess if I was handing out marks I’d say 7/10. He was okay for a season where our goal was to establish ourselves in League One. There were good moments over the loan.

"A standout in January saw us win 3-0 against Portsmouth and he saved a penalty at 2-0 so it was quite a pivotal time in the game. Standing up to what you might call a pressure moment you might say is a good sign.”

Of course, Boro would be keen to point out that loans are always about the experiences gained, whether good or bad. Take Hayden Hackney as the perfect example. Just six months prior to his incredible breakthrough into the Boro first-team he was being relegated from the Football League at Scunthorpe.

In that regard, Brynn's Orient loan appears to have been slightly more beneficial, with the London-based club playing a style similar to that of Boro's. Indeed, in returning a week prior to the end of Boro's season last term as the O's season concluded, Brynn is said to have caught the eye in training.

Of his ability with his feet, Tom said: “We play a passing game at Leyton Orient so he was certainly encouraged to distribute short and use his feet a lot. That was part of his game and you could see he’d had plenty of practice at that and will have obviously grown from the season with us doing it regularly.

"I wouldn’t say he was as good at it as our previous keeper [Vigouroux], but he did it relatively well and bought into the fact that it was how we wanted to play and therefore what he needed to do. The way Middlesbrough and Orient play, it maybe wasn’t a bad fit for Sol in terms of gaining that experience.”

By contrast to Carrick's preferred calm and patient style, Hemming was credited for his distribution at the SMiSA Stadium, though it was maybe a little more mixed and different to what is likely to be expected of him at Boro were he to be the man chosen as Dieng's deputy.

“We naturally play out from the back and so a lot of the time Zach was involved in the play," Ewan said. "Sometimes he would go direct, but he wasn’t afraid to come out and play with the ball as well. He just had a complete confidence. There’s absolutely no doubt he can play with his feet.

"He’s quick with it too. You could always guarantee when he collected that ball, he was instantly thinking about who he was getting that ball too next. He wasn’t keen to slow the game down, he wanted to release that ball quick and keep things going. Don’t get me wrong, maybe the odd kick or two went a bit shy, but that will happen with any keeper."

Both are still young goalkeepers ironing out the imperfections in their game as they continue to develop. Both Tom and Ewan would see no problem in either being comfortable enough to slot back in at Boro as a second-choice keeper, potentially playing cup games and pushing Dieng. Both sound like they'd welcome them back too, should that be a possibility.

Of Brynn, Tom concludes: “He could probably do with being a little bit more commanding of his box and a little less error-prone. But he’s certainly got the basics in his locker and is obviously still learning. The errors were more towards the end of the season, so maybe that was just a bit of tiredness creeping in. He seemed to react well to the errors though, there wasn’t any sign of massive wobbles.

"It is an incredibly difficult job being a goalie because you’re mistakes are remembered and usually costly. At the moment, going back to Boro, you’d be looking at him as a number two keeper rather than a Championship first choice, particularly if you’re looking to finish in at least the play-offs.”

Ewan, meanwhile, opined: “The judgement and expectations are maybe slightly different from St Mirren to Boro, but he was so good for us that we’re maybe more accepting to not be overly concerned with the odd flaw. If I was being ultra critical and incredibly picky, there was maybe the odd ball into the box that he would opt to punch rather than catch.

"But in reality, from a St Mirren perspective, there was never any doubt that he was excellent for our standards. He made some fantastic saves over the season and kept us in some games. He worked with a really good coach here at St Mirren but I would imagine he’ll have an even better coach at Boro, who will obviously coach him to the specifics of what’s required there as well. I really think if he can get an opportunity, he’s going to be a fantastic goalkeeper.”