Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock has ruled key players Dael Fry and Marcus Tavernier out for the rest of the season due to their injuries.
With the Teessiders 14 points off the play-off places with five games to go, it’s pretty much impossible for Boro to get into the top six unless everything falls their way, which is unlikely to happen.
So Warnock is planning ahead for next season, and that’s caused him to make a decision on two of his young stars.
Tavernier has appeared in just four Championship matches out of Boro’s last 16, with a knee injury ruling him out initially but he then picked up a calf issue last month against Millwall and hasn’t been seen since.
Similarly centre-back Fry has also not played a game since the loss against Millwall – he too is struggling with his calf and Boro have suffered at the back without him, losing twice and conceding six goals in the last three games.
Rather than rush the two youngsters back though, Warnock has revealed he is ending their seasons and preparing them to come back in the summer fully refreshed.
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“I spoke to the physios and doctors yesterday, and they think it’s highly unlikely that Tav will be back before the last game of the season,” Warnock said, per the Northern Echo.
“I don’t think Dael will be back until possibly Luton (on May 1). So I said to them, ‘Forget Luton, forget Wycombe, let’s just make sure they’re both right for pre-season on July 1’.
“Unless something happens where they’re in full training, I can’t see me using either player now.
“Why, if there is nothing at stake, put someone in a position where they might do some damage when they could have another couple of months building themselves up, which is what Tav and Dael have got to do?”
It seems like sensible management from Warnock to put Tavernier and Fry away for the rest of the season – but does that mean Boro fans may have seen them play their last games for the club?
There’s bound to be interest in the pair from Premier League clubs in the summer due to their talent, but Warnock will be hoping to keep hold of them for a promotion push next season.
The injuries are no doubt frustrating, however in the grand scheme of things it gives Warnock a chance to see some other players between now and the end of the season in order to make a decision on whether they fit into his plans for the 2021/22 campaign.