The resounding feeling among many that watched Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 FA Cup victory over Arsenal on Sunday evening was that Middlesbrough were mad to loan Djed Spence out to their Championship rivals and madder still to let them keep him until the end of the season.
And yet, while there can be no denying that Spence has been phenomenal since joining the City Ground outfit, the decision to let him leave has inadvertently fueled one of the success stories of Boro’s season.
The 21-year-old has played arguably the best football of his career this term but in his absence, the Teessiders have uncovered a gem in Isaiah Jones and given him the time to flourish.
Despite being a year Spence’s senior, Jones had made just one appearance for the North East club ahead of the 2021/22 campaign but has now cemented himself as a key part of their promotion hopes under Chris Wilder.
A goal and six assists in 23 Championship games illustrates just how impressive the 2019 arrival has been this term and should he continue on his current trajectory, Spence may never play another game in a Boro shirt.
Football League World understands that Middlesbrough are set to receive Premier League enquiries concerning the 21-year-old after he has caught the eye while on loan at Forest.
The Teessiders are believed to be looking for a fee of around £10 million for the former Fulham academy player and if Jones finishes the 2021/22 campaign the way he has started it, then it would surely make sense for them to cash in.
Can you name which club Middlesbrough signed these 28 midfielders from?
Spence will be entering the final year of his contract, after all, and keeping hold of both players may well cause friction in the squad.
If Wilder is unable to secure Premier League football at the first time of asking, then an extra £10 million in the transfer fund ahead of next season would be massive for Boro’s hopes of returning to the promised land.
Seeing a talented young player leave is rarely viewed as a good thing but when you have a gem like Jones in your squad already, it might just be the most sensible course of action.