Middlesbrough FC v Swansea City: Jonny Howson fall-back option is a comfort Michael Carrick expects to have next season

MICHAEL CARRICK says Middlesbrough always know Jonny Howson is there when they need a centre-back who is composed on the ball – and he expects that to extend into next season as well.

The Morley-born 35-year-old stepped up over Easter, partnering Boro's only fit centre-half, Matt Clarke, in the middle of defence, a job he has done for the team before.

With Alex Bangura, Hayden Hackney and, most pertinently in this case, Rav van den Berg expected back at some point in the next week, it remains to be seen if Howson will return to his natural position at home to Swansea City on Saturday.

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But having made the move from midfielder to fill-in centre-back at times in his playing days, Carrick knows he can count on Howson there.

EMERGENCY CENTRE-BACK: Middlesbrough's Jonny Howson filled in seamlessly against Sheffield WednesdayEMERGENCY CENTRE-BACK: Middlesbrough's Jonny Howson filled in seamlessly against Sheffield Wednesday
EMERGENCY CENTRE-BACK: Middlesbrough's Jonny Howson filled in seamlessly against Sheffield Wednesday

It is why he seems certain to be offered a new contract, despite his current one ticking towards its summer expiry date.

"It’ll get itself sorted out in due course, I’m sure," said manager Carrick. “I understand why it gets talked about, but I really don’t see any of that as a big issue."

Asked if Howson's positional switch could become permanent, Carrick said: “It depends on what team you’re playing and what their style is, but I think you’re seeing a bit of a shift where centre-halves have to be more comfortable in possession and able to deal with the ball under pressure.

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"Especially with the way we like to play, our centre-halves have to be able to handle the ball and be comfortable enough to do that side of things. That probably plays to Jonny’s strengths, but I also think in the last couple of games he’s also shown the importance of experience and what that brings.”

Howson began his career as a Leeds United midfielder with an eye for goal, but many a player drops deeper as their career moves on, and the cultured Carrick used to enjoy it himself.

"I’ve gone through it myself at times – you get dropped back to centre-half as a midfielder, and you can actually find it quite enjoyable with that new challenge,” the former England, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur player commented. “You see the game slightly differently. In some ways, it’s maybe a little bit easier, but in others, it can certainly be a little bit more challenging.

"Jonny’s adapted fantastically well in the last couple of games. He did the same thing against Luton last year, and did exactly the same. If and when we need to use him in that position, we know Jonny’s there and we know exactly what he’s capable of."

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