Marcus Browne has gone through a turbulent time amidst behind closed doors football. From the disappointment of a play-off final defeat to a campaign spent largely on the treatment table.
The 23-year-old attacker has two years left on his deal at Middlesbrough but struggling to stay fit and gain Neil Warnock’s trust sees him approaching a crossroads in his career.
Regular first team action is a must at his age yet it does not look forthcoming, Boro have bolstered their attacking units with the signings of Sammy Ameobi and Uche Ikpeazu while Browne recovers from a knee operation which has ruled him out of the start of pre season.
Playing catch up upon his return will be difficult and could lead to a fourth loan spell of his career.
Browne demonstrated in his last spell away from the Riverside that he has grown out of League One football and is ready to make his mark on the Championship, but a rough 2020/21 saw his development stall.
The West Ham United academy graduate scored five and assisted four in just 16 appearances in the second half of the 2019/20 with Oxford United, building on a solid season-long loan with Karl Robinson’s men in 2018/19, joining Yellows for the first time as a 20-year-old.
The fairytale ending was not to be as Oxford went down 2-1 to Wycombe Wanderers in the League One play-off final and Browne returned to Middlesbrough.
A frustrating 2020/21 season saw Browne manage just one Championship start, two goals and an assist in just five appearances in the second tier showed his class despite the small sample size, but injury has ruled him out from January and he faces an uphill battle to push back into Warnock’s plans.
The 72-year-old has not traditionally been a manager who uses a lot of younger players and will take risks in his team selection, demanding a high defensive work rate from his players.
What does the future hold?
Jonathan Woodgate brought Browne to the club as he looked to assemble a squad with a very different feel to the current one. It could be a case of the wrong club at the wrong time for Browne, with Warnock at the helm is does not seem a good fit.
With two years left on his current deal the versatile forward may have to dip back into League One once his knee has recovered to prove himself once again. Give this 23-year-old a platform to express himself and he is an asset to any side in the third tier and the vast majority of Championship clubs.
Able to play as a central striker, just behind in the number ten role or off of either flank there is no doubting the talent he possesses, he just needs to find the right club and manager who will harness it.
Browne has a very high ceiling in English football, hopefully he can put the injury woes behind him and kick on this upcoming season.