If you were to ask Middlesbrough fans for their Player of the Season votes, during this period of no football, one would imagine that votes would be split.
Players such as Ashley Fletcher and Daniel Ayala would each get nominations, with Paddy McNair possibly gaining a number of votes for his early season displays.
The top two players, however, would undoubtedly be Hayden Coulson. The Newcastle-born flanker gave a new lease of life to the side when he was first given his starting berth against Luton Town in the 2019/20 season debut, but he may take home the Young Player of the Season award – behind Jonny Howson.
Howson would be the choice of most for Middlesbrough’s Player of the Season award, regularly putting in a top shift, whether it is in midfield, out wide or in defence.
The season as a whole, however, has been a disapointment, with inconsistency and an inability to see games out plaguing the whole season for Jonathan Woodgate’s inaugural year incharge of his home-town club.
Some players did play well this year, though, despite the public perception by the fans or media. WhoScored.com detail the performances of players all across Europe, and here are three Middlesbrough players who they think are underrated, and whose grades outweigh where Boro fans may see them.
3. Marvin Johnson
The arrival of Marvin Johnson in the Summer of 2017 seemed to epitomise the Garry Monk regieme, as the former Leeds United boss splashed £2 million on the Oxford United winger.
Johnson flattered to deceive under the manager who brought him to the club, and was subsequently loaned out the following season.
He has, however, carved a role out for himself under Woodgate’s reign and could be set to be given a contract extension in the summer.
According to WhoScored.com, Johnson averaged a 6.76 (out of ten) rating across his 29 appearances this season, which is the 11th best out of the whole squad.
Johnson excelled most, this season, in the two game stretch against Birmingham and Blackburn at home, where he grabbed one of his two assists this season in the first match, and won the Man of the Match award. Across the season, he averaged 1.3 key passes and 1.5 tackles per game.
2. Marcus Tavernier
Marcus Tavernier has always been one of the biggest hopes from Boro’s academy over recent years, ever since bursting onto the scene in 2017 with the winning goal against rivals Sunderland.
One of the main gripes that fans had with Tony Pulis, last season, was his resistance towards playing Tavernier more regularly, when it was clear that the Leeds-born midfielder was a better attacking option than the players that the Welsh coach had spent millions of pounds on.
Tavernier was given the number 7 shirt by Woodgate before the start of this season, signifying the importance that the young manager has in his player.
Perhaps Tavernier has not quite lived up to the expectation in many fans eyes, as he came in for criticism from fans on social media, on BBC Tees and in the terraces.
WhoScored.com awarded Tavernier the 5th highest rating of all Middlesbrough players this season, with his 6.89 grade only behind Ravel Morrison’s 6.90, in fourth place, coming across two matches.
Tavernier recorded two goals and four assists in 29 games this season, whilst also averaging two shots per game and completing 76.7% of his passes.
He was also recorded as playing in eight different positions in the 2019/20 season, with his stand out performances in the left winger role, away to Swansea, and Right Attacking Midfield role, coming over four matches.
Fans who have seen Tavernier play know that he prefers to play a central role, even if this means leaving his wide position vacant. Perhaps this time may be used best, for both Woodgate and Tavernier, to decide where he would be best or most effective.
1. Ryan Shotton
Surprisingly, to myself at least, Ryan Shotton is the joint highest graded player for Middlesbrough this season – sharing his 6.92 rating with Daniel Ayala, 0.01 ahead of Jonny Howson in third and 0.03 ahead of the fifth placed Tavernier.
Shotton was the last of Monk’s additions in the summer window, and subsequently his last before the now Sheffield Wednesday boss was fired following a win at Hillsborough in December 2017.
The former Stoke and Birmingham defender’s signing didn’t blow fans away like those of Britt Assombalonga and Martin Braithwaite had just weeks prior. Like the aformentioned Johnson, Shotton often has his critics in the stands at the Riverside Stadium.
This season, however, he has won an average of three aerial duels per match, won over two tackles and recorded nearly four clearances per 90 minutes across his 19 appearances.
Shotton, who also notched up 1.5 interceptions and 1.1 blocks a game – along with being admonished four times, is out of contract at the end of June.
This could affect Boro this season, depending on what happens post-lockdown, but Woodgate will be currently debating if the Pulis favourite deserves to have his contract renewed.
According to sillyseason.com, Shotton is currently the tenth highest earner at the club, on £15,000. His teammate and the other player to earn a 6.92 rating for Boro, Ayala also has his contract up in June. Sillyseason.com state that the Spaniard takes home £25,000 per week.
If it came down to pinching the pennies next season, it may make more sense for Steve Gibson to choose to renew Shotton over Ayala if the stats say they have performed similarly this season.
Who would be your pick for Boro’s player of the season! Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!