Jonathan Woodgate was delighted to see Djed Spence live up to his expectations as the teenager enjoyed a dream debut in Middlesbrough’s 1-0 win over Charlton.
Spence made his first league appearance as Boro triumphed at the Riverside, with his energetic display at right wing-back proving a key factor in his side’s win.
The youngster started his career in Fulham’s academy, but moved to Teesside in the summer of 2018, with his elevation to the first team meaning Woodgate has now handed six academy players their senior debut this season.
“Djed came in and did an absolutely fantastic job,” said Woodgate. “Djed can do that. Okay, at times this season we’ve had to sit down and have a few meetings together, and tell him what his potential is.
“But I thought he was exceptional, and it’s his place to lose now because of that performance.
“I just said, ‘Get the ball Djed, and run’. It’s not rocket science. I’m not going to start bluffing it and saying we talked about this, this and this. I just said, ‘Get the ball and run, and take your man on – and when you have to defend, defend’.
“It’s quite simple messages you give these young kids, you don’t have to complicate the game for them. I’m not one of the type of fellas who is going to complicate my words. Just be normal with them.”
George Saville’s first-minute winner settled things, securing Middlesbrough’s fourth win of the season and lifting the pressure on his manager.
Middlesbrough: Pears, Howson, Ayala, Fry, Spence, Saville, Clayton, Tavernier, Coulson, Assombalonga (Walker 64), Fletcher. Unused substitutes: Mejias, Wood-Gordon, Bola, Malley, O’Neill, Liddle.
Charlton Athletic: Phillips, Matthews, Oshilaja, Pearce, Purrington (Morgan 46), Gallagher, Pratley, Ledley (Taylor 46), Leko, Bonne, Doughty. Unused substitutes: Solly, Sarr, Maynard-Brewer, Davison, Vennings.
Referee: S Martin (Staffordshire).