If Middlesbrough are to get anywhere near the play-offs next season then they need to get their summer recruitment right.
Neil Warnock’s current squad certainly isn’t a million miles away from being in top six contention, but there’s a number of imbalances that the recruitment team will need to address if they’re to last the pace next term.
That could include attacking options and adding a bit more experience into the squad, but it could also mean that some difficult decisions need to be made in the stronger areas of the squad.
Central midfield is widely regarded as one of Middlesbrough’s best-equipped areas with the likes of Jonny Howson, George Saville, Sam Morsy, Paddy McNair and Marcus Tavernier all being players used in those roles over the course of the campaign.
Unfortunately that competition for places meant a substantial road block was in place for Lewis Wing.
The former Shildon lad established himself as one of Middlesbrough’s best under Tony Pulis and Jonathan Woodgate but has really struggled to adapt to life under Neil Warnock since his appointment as manager 12 months ago.
Wing started just four games for Middlesbrough under Warnock during the first half of the campaign, with other options clearly regarded as the 72-year-old’s preferred options.
Unsurprisingly, that had a huge impact on Wing’s confidence and that was evident in his lack of influence during his brief cameo appearances off the bench.
The decision was made during the January transfer window to allow him to leave the club on loan in order to play more regular first team football and start to enjoy life on the pitch again – something that certainly happened with Rotherham United.
The 25-year-old played 20 times for the Millers during the second half of season, starting 18 of those matches in the process.
Rotherham supporters were raving about Wing’s influence on the team with two goals and two assists barely scratching the surface of how he positively impacted Paul Warne’s side as they battled to secure their Championship status.
Unfortunately for the Millers they fell short in their efforts to avoid relegation, but in their final match of the season Wing provided a timely reminder to all of his doubters of exactly what he could offer with a sublime 25-yard volley against Cardiff City.
I’m sure that Neil Warnock saw that goal and I’d hope that it gave him food for thought ahead of the new season.
While Middlesbrough’s midfield is well-stocked, there’s a distinct lack of versatility when it comes to profile of player taking the the field in that area.
The Teessiders have lacked a central midfielder who will play the game on the front foot this season, with Warnock instead opting for Howson, Saville and Morsy who are solid players, but options who are selected with tactical solidity in mind.
In Wing they have one player who offers something very different.
Quiz: Did these 18 players make more than 100 Middlesbrough appearances?
Wing is not a player who is renowned for his defensive contribution and so perhaps the idea of comparing him to the others in that position is a little unfair – after all, it’s like comparing apples with oranges.
But with Warnock looking at ways to broaden the options at his disposal next term it could be worth considering the 25-year-old as more of a no.8 or no.10 option.
Perhaps the time is right for Wing to move on and carry on his career in a side that is equipped to get the best from him, but I think that Middlesbrough could live to regret that decision if they don’t even consider the option of utilising him in a more offensive role.
Wing offers something truly unique to the rest of the Middlesbrough squad with his passing range, progressive nature and ability to strike a ball from long-range making him a potential match-winner if his attributes are used to their full potential.
That’s why Neil Warnock must fully weigh up his decision regarding Lewis Wing this summer as it would be a real shame to see such a talented player moved on with no like-minded replacement signed in his place.