Marc Bola goes from zero to hero for Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock

NEIL WARNOCK has praised the rise of key Middlesbrough defender Marc Bola - who has earned a new contract just six months after he left the Boro boss feeling significantly under-whelmed.

Neil Warnock.

The former Blackpool left-back endured a fraught first season at the club in 2019-20 after joining in the summer of 2019.

When Warnock first arrived on Teesside in June, Bola - who spent the second half of last season on loan back at Bloomfield Road - did not impress the veteran manager, but his transformation since has been startling.

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The one-time Arsenal player has become a valued member of the Boro line-up in 2020-21 and has now signed a new deal committing him to the club until 2024, with Warnock admitting he would not swap him for any other left-back in the Championship.

Bola follows on from Jonny Howson, Anfernee Dijksteel, Paddy McNair, Isaiah Jones and Sam Folarin in penning fresh terms at the club this season.

Warnock, whose side are inactive on Boxing Day due to several Covid-19 positive tests at former club Rotherham United, said: “I sat down with Steve (Gibson) a few months ago that we have just got to think longer-term for the club.

“The young lads in particular and the players who can play at this level and possibly higher as well, you really have to tie (them) down now.

“And one by one, we have done that, really."

On Bola signing a new contract, he added: “I am delighted that I have managed to transform him, really. I must admit that the first week we were here, we were not that impressed, if I am honest.

“He has got all the attributes. It is difficult to put them into the people who have not got them, but he has got everything.

“It just needs bringing out in him. His defensive side was always questioned, but he is probably defending as well as he is ever defending now and it is just a matter of showing him what you want and how you want it and explaining it.

“By the sound of it, he has not had much coaching over the years and sometimes, you have got to go back to basics and teach people.”

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