HE might have caught the eye of Tottenham Hotspur and other Premier League scouts, but Djed Spence was clear in his mind what he wanted to do when he committed to a new contract at Middlesbrough.

The 19-year-old has enjoyed a startling rise on to the first team stage this season, having taken his chance when head coach Jonathan Woodgate was forced to look in his direction when his squad was rocked by injuries.

And Spence has rewarded Woodgate’s faith by turning in a string of displays since making his debut against Charlton in December, including following that appearance up with a maiden senior goal against Huddersfield and being named the Championship’s young player of the month.

His performances have also led to him signing new terms at the Riverside, with a contract tying him to the club for the next two and a half years signed and an ambition to continue his rapid rise by improving and taking his game to new heights.

“I want to do well for the club, learn my craft and just keep getting better and better,” said Spence. “The manager is the same, he is always on my back because he wants the best for me and the best version of me.

“There’s a lot of good players here to look up to and gel around. I’m over the moon to sign the new contract, it’s a good feeling and i want to keep it going.”

Spence moved to Middlesbrough in the summer of 2018 as a free agent, having decided the time was right to leave Fulham where he had graduated through the academy ranks. He even made his first team debut for the Cottagers in the EFL Trophy against Charlton, but promotion to the Premier League knocked his chances of progressing and fuelled his decision to depart.

Now, just a couple of months and 12 appearances in, Woodgate knows how much potential Spence has and how important he could be for Middlesbrough.

“We’re delighted to get Djed tied down for a longer period,” said Woodgate. “He has done exceptionally well since he came into the team. He earned the right, and he knows he has to keep working hard.”

He has followed Marcus Tavernier and Hayden Coulson in signing new deals at Middlesbrough and talks are ongoing with goalkeeper Aynsley Pears. Woodgate has allowed Ben Liddle, Stephen Walker, Isaiah Jones and Connor Malley to leave on loan.

He said: “I’m really pleased with it. A lot of the young lads have gone out and I thought that was important. OK, this year a lot of them have had a lot of chances like Hayden, Djed, Aynsley, Tav. They’ve had runs in the team.

“But you can’t put them all in, so then it’s important to get someone like Ben Liddle out on loan. He needs games, I don’t want him to be sat doing nothing. He needs to play proper games, likewise with Stephen Walker.

“Paddy Reading has left full-time now. Isaiah Jones and Connor Malley have gone up to Scotland. It’s important these young players get game time, and if they can’t get game time here, it’s important they continue their development and get games somewhere else. It’s only going to stand Middlesbrough in good stead. We’ve got about 11 out on loan now, and that’s great for us looking forward.

“Go and play a man’s game, go and see what it’s like to play in a man’s league and you’ve got people fighting for their careers, fighting to pay mortgages, go and see what it’s like because with the facilities we’ve got, we’re really lucky and sometimes it’s good for our lads to realise what it’s like on the other side of the fence.

“When you haven’t got all these facilities and all these people at training grounds who really look after you and who can sometimes mollycoddle you - go and live way from home, don’t rely on your parents, go and live your life and become a man.”

Ryan Shotton made his return from injury in Sunday’s Under-23s game with Tottenham but George Friend’s scheduled return was put back a week.