Middlesbrough are heading into a very important summer to build on the promise that they showed in the second half of the season under Chris Wilder.
At one stage it looked as if Boro were the most realistic challengers to Bournemouth for second place, but a disappointing last couple of months saw them slip out of the top six altogether.
Wilder’s men demonstrated just how good they can be in FA Cup triumphs over Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, but the strength of their second string and striker department definitely let them down in crucial moments.
2022/23 could be even more congested than the last two campaigns due to the World Cup and that will put further stress on Wilder’s ability to shuffle his pack.
A quality signing on a free transfer this summer, to bolster the depth of the squad, would be Ryan Fredericks who has reached the end of his contract at West Ham United.
The 29-year-old has struggled to nail down a starting berth under David Moyes but has been a valued contributor in the Premier League for the last few seasons, and is admired by Boro according to the Mail on Sunday (12th June, page 144).
Fredericks is a specialist right wing back, which suits Wilder’s 3-5-2 system, and could free up Isaiah Jones to play further forward, or at least keep the 22-year-old on his toes as first choice.
Boro finished seventh last term, while they allowed Djed Spence to thrive at Nottingham Forest, finish fourth and win promotion via the play-offs.
There is a strong argument that if Boro had not sent Spence out on loan, they would have ended up in the top six.
Fredericks could heavily strengthen a direct Championship rival if Boro do not ensure they get this one over the line.
The 29-year-old spent the 2014/15 season on loan at The Riverside from Tottenham Hotspur, and that experience in the surroundings should enable him to adjust quickly to the club’s promotion push.
With the newly relegated sides not expected to be as strong this time around, there is a huge opportunity for the likes of Middlesbrough to throw their names into automatic promotion contention from the off, and a signing of the calibre of Fredericks would only increase their chances of doing so.