Mowbray wants new Boro blood but thinks Burgess and Co can shine

TONY MOWBRAY will spend the summer searching for the much-needed experience he thinks can lead to promotion, but accepts Middlesbrough's homegrown talents will shape the club's long-term future.

When the final whistle was blown on a frustrating season at Sheffield Wednesday last Saturday it brought a sense of relief that such a depressing run of form had ended.

Now Mowbray is working on ways of improving his squad during the close-season, accepting that his squad was short of the experience required to see Middlesbrough over the line after a promising start to the campaign which had them in touch with top spot for so long.

But Mowbray, aware of the tighter financial constraints hanging around the club ahead of a fifth season in the Championship while chairman Steve Gibson will still try to make the club competitive, also knows about the importance of his younger players shining through.

"They are the core of the future, whether they will be the core of winning the league next season you have to question that," said Mowbray. "We can stick our Boro badge on and give our best every week, but sometimes young players lose matches through lack of mental strength, experience.

"If we try to recruit players with experience who can keep us up there, undoubtedly the likes of Christian Burgess, Bryn Morris and Ben Gibson have the talent and will be this club's future.

"That's why I have dropped them in, just as I was dropped in against Newcastle at St James' Park against (Kevin) Keegan in 1982. You have to help them acclimatise."

While Gibson and Morris had already made their senior debuts, Burgess' appearance at the heart of the Middlesbrough defence against the Owls was his first team debut after his move from Birmingham University last summer.

The 21-year-old was studying history when Mowbray persuaded him to come up the North-East last summer and, despite his big chance, he has continued his studies further north.

"I'm delighted to have been given my debut at Hillsborough and on the bench a couple of times before that this season," said Burgess. "Starting a game was fantastic for me. It's a nice reward at the end of the season.

"I will take my shirt home, treasure it, and hopefully it will be a sign of things to come. I had never played semi-professionally before, so that was my first professional game. I had just played for Birmingham Uni before the Under-21s here, I wasn't playing part-time.

"I am at Teesside University now, still studying. I have one more year studying, part-time, when I will then finish my degree. It's evening sessions, once a week. A few essays, exams after training."

The progress he has been making in the classroom has also been replicated on the football pitch. Burgess was a regular presence at the heart of the Under-21s defence under development boss Jamie Clapham.

Despite his impressive performances at Under-21 level, the centre-back found playing in the Championship last week an understandable step up. After initially struggling to cope with experienced striker Steve Howard and lively winger Jeremy Helan, Burgess composed himself and was left satisfied.

"It was a bit different to what I was doing last year at University!" said Burgess. "At the end of the season, Wednesday needed a point to stay up with 30,000-plus fans backing them, so it was a big atmosphere for me. I thrived on it, enjoyed it a lot. There were a couple of mistakes and you pay for them at this level, but I will always remember it.

"It will be a big opportunity next season. If I come back from my off-season, fit and sharp, and I hit the ground running in pre-season, then who is to say I will not be up there with a more regular place on the bench or starting line-up. My aim is to put that question in the gaffer's head. I will do my best to try to get in there."

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