Middlesbrough may have bowed out of the FA Cup after a third-round replay loss to Tottenham, but the fact that they lost out by the odd goal in five following 180 minutes of football against one of the leading sides in Europe should only enhance their sense of well-being.
Clayton is the sort of experienced professional who is not prone to glib comments with his assessment that Boro’s young guns showed fight, character and aptitude for most of two Cup matches with Spurs holding a fair bit of weight.
He said: “We have played a team who were in the Champions League final last year on two occasions. We took them all the way at home and have come away after a tough first half and dug in.
“We don’t like losing. But as the gaffer said: ‘if you are going to lose, that is the way to do it’. There was a lot of fighting and we gave everything.
“Other teams could have been done by three, four or five and they have done that to teams in the Premier League but we regrouped at half-time and gave it a good go in the second and could have possibly nicked one.”
After handing Djed Spence and Hayden Coulsen full league debuts in testing games against Charlton and Luton, head coach Jonathan Woodgate showed no hesitation in handing a senior bow to another emerging face in Ben Liddle at Spurs and Clayton believes it will serve him well.
He added: “He has been very good in training and has been with us for a good year-and-a-half now. I am sure if he keeps on, he will be a cracking little player.
“It was a baptism of fire being thrown in at Tottenham away for his first one. But I think he handled it well and was good before the game. He did not look overly nervous before the game.”