'We're lucky to have him' - Michael Carrick on Middlesbrough Player of the Year Rav van den Berg

Michael Carrick, head coach of Middlesbrough and Rav van den Berg
Michael Carrick, head coach of Middlesbrough and Rav van den Berg -Credit:James Heaton/News Images

Rav van den Berg has revealed his delight at being voted Middlesbrough's Player and Young Player of the Year in his first season at the club.

A summer signing from PEC Zwolle, Boro beat top clubs such as Juventus, AC Milan and Dortmund to sign the centre-back 12 months ago. Despite that, while moving to England from the Netherlands at just 19 years old, the centre-back was expected to need a bedding-in period before realising his true potential on Teesside.

Instead, helped initially by injuries that have ravaged the Boro squad this season, the teenager has stepped up and shown his class, quickly earning Michael Carrick's trust - and that of the supporters. They obviously liked what they saw this season and voted for the Dutch under-21 international to win the two awards.

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After collecting it at the awards evening at the Town Hall on Thursday evening, Van den Berg said: "I'm very proud. It's a proud moment for me, it's my first individual trophy. I'm really happy.

"I think it shows I've done a good job. I'm really happy here. The fans and the team have made me feel at home and that's very important because if you feel happy you play good."

Carrick has regularly praised the young defender over the course of the season and expressed his delight over him winning the award. He said: “You can’t help but be impressed by Rav, in terms of what he’s put together over the course of a full season. From where he’s come from and the age that he was at, the type of football he was used to to the type of football he’s ended up playing here.

"He’s played right-back and left-back for us in some of his early games - looked at me a little bit funny at times when I asked him to do it... But he just got on with it and did the job. He then got his chance at centre-back. He’s just got a real calming presence, Rav. He wants to learn, has a great attitude and we’re really lucky to have him as part of the group."

The story of Boro signing the highly-touted prospect is one now well-known. A player already known to head of football Kieran Scott because of his older brother Sepp - who plays for Liverpool - Boro scouted Rav last season and liked what they saw. Realising, despite the interest from top clubs, they put him forward to Carrick and defensive coach Jonathan Woodgate to see if he would be someone they'd like to pursue.

On that eye for a talent when watching videos, Carrick said: “We like to think when we bring players in, we’ve spotted something and we have an eye for it. You look and you see things that you like and things that you think make a player ideal to fitting the group and fitting the team.

"You look at things or ways you can help them develop with also. There are different stages to it, but with younger players like Rav, that’s what you’re looking at. He’s been everything that we’d hoped for."

Though Van den Berg could have joined far bigger clubs than Boro last summer, he was won over after a chat with Carrick and Woodgate - with the promise of game time at the Riverside a driving factor for the youngster. Incredibly, in a sign of his class and maturity, he personally contacted every club - around ten in total - to explain his decision to turn them down and move to Teesside.

Encouraged by his first season, he's already expressed his plan to look away from potential offers this summer too, in favour of staying at Boro. With promises that there are plans in place to strengthen the squad and push for promotion next summer, Van den Berg is hoping he can build on an incredible award-winning first season by helping the club make it back to the Premier League.

Elsewhere, Jonny Howson won the Players' Player of the Year, Law McCabe won Scholar of the Year and Sam Greenwood's free-kick against Leicester City was voted Goal of the Season. In the women's categories, Jess Mett took home a hat-trick of awards winning Player, Players' Player and Goal of the Season. Abby Towers won Young Player of the Year.