MIDDLESBROUGH are confident that other players will follow the lead set by Djed Spence and Marcus Tavernier in the last week by becoming the next to commit to new contracts at the Riverside Stadium.

Just days after Tavernier had penned fresh terms with the Championship club, Spence signed a new two-and-a-half year deal on Monday after an impressive first few months as a first team player.

There has also been successful negotiations with Hayden Coulson and Dael Fry already this season, but there remains a number of senior pros whose contracts are due to expire at the end of the campaign.

Jonathan Woodgate, the head coach, believes Spence will not be the last to pledge his future to Middlesbrough, suggesting Jonny Howson and George Friend are two of those whose futures he wants to get sorted sooner rather than later.

Woodgate wasn’t asked about all of the men whose deals will expire in the summer, but he hinted clearly how he thinks Howson will be staying, while goalkeeper Aynsley Pears is still in negotiations about a new deal too.

“The building blocks are there,” said Woodgate. “It adds to the numbers and the strength of the first team squad (to get the new deals done). And you haven’t had to pay fortunes for these players.”

He continued: “I’m not sure on (where contracts talks with) Aynsley are, I hope it gets done, soon I’d say.

“Jonny will be here at the end of the season, he’ll be here next season, that’s all I will say. George, I want George to stay.”

Daniel Ayala, Ryan Shotton, Rudy Gestede, Marvin Johnson and Adam Clayton are the others whose deals will be up come the summer, and Woodgate has already got one eye on next season.

Addressing the futures of Coulson, Spence and Tavernier were seen as vital given the impact they have had under Woodgate, and he knows the trio have got plenty of time on their side too – as well as already being at the club.

The three have had big interest in them from the top two divisions and abroad, and in Spence’s case he had Tottenham among those keeping tabs on him after his blistering start to the Championship stage as an attack-minded wing-back.

The Londoner does not turn 20 until August and having only moved north from Fulham when he was 17 it would have been easy for him to head south again to take the next step in his career.

Instead, though, Spence felt working under Woodgate will give him his best chance of developing.

“He could easily have returned south but he decided to stay and he decided to sign a new contract which took about a week to negotiate,” said Woodgate. “Fair play to these lads, they are not taking ages over their contracts. They want to be here and that’s great for us, great to hear and see.

“Djed could have gone down south, maybe - but where else would he get a platform like this to play in the team every week? He’s enjoying it here, he‘s really enjoying it or he wouldn’t have signed the new deal.”

While the likes of Howson increases the average age of the team, Middlesbrough have a youthful feel about them these days and that is exactly what Woodgate wanted to develop when he took over from Tony Pulis last summer.

Clearly, with Middlesbrough sitting 14 points shy of the top six and only seven above the relegation zone, there is still plenty of work to be done for him to achieve his goals as Middlesbrough boss, but the stepping stones are there and progress has been made already.

“I wanted it to happen and it is happening now,” said Woodgate. “Some of it was because of circumstances, because of injuries, but these players have come in and they have stayed in the team.

“You can give youngsters all the chances you want but they have to stay in the team. Coulson, Pears, Spence, Tav. They have all more or less got in and stayed in.

“We are definitely starting to show the fans what we want, especially with the aggressiveness of them three, Tav, Djed and Coulson, the closing down they do, the pressure they put on teams, the way they play. Fans can start to relate to that.”

Middlesbrough will still be without Shotton, who made his comeback for the Under-23s on Sunday against Fulham, and Friend, despite the fact both are nearing a return to action. A training ground friendly with Celtic has been arranged for Tuesday when both will be given some minutes.

“Ryan played against Fulham, he got 60 minutes and he will play again Friday for 90 against Blackburn,” said Woodgate. “Hopefully George will play 45 on Friday against Blackburn then in the behind-closed-doors game against Celtic on Tuesday.  “Hopefully they will both play. If they come through those then it will mean more problems to pick a team when they come back. It is going to be good to pick a team and have options. Everyone will be challenging, they will have to battle to get their place back in the team. They wouldn’t expect to walk straight back in the team.”

Middlesbrough will have Harold Moukoudi and Ravel Morrison in the squad to face Brentford on Saturday and Woodgate is excited to have them involved.

He said: “I’m really pleased with how the window went, getting two in early, it was paramount to do that, then the three lads later on we needed. We had to do a lot of work.

“Harold is a strong individual, he is massive, a big boy like Rudy Gestede. He is quick, good in the air. We noticed him that game for Ste Etienne against us in a friendly, and in previous years we have had him watched and had positive reports.  “He was a free transfer last season from Le Havre, his father didn’t want him to leave France. But when he was available it was important we got him.

“Let’s see what Rave does. Rav is a really good player, a shy lad. He was humble, shy and wanted to come to play for us. We have seen his ability, how much technical ability he has got, let’s see if we can get more out of him. He is a normal lad. I need to give him a chance. Footballers have made mistakes before, me being one, I know what it is like, let’s get behind him.”

Woodgate's attentions have already turned to possible new signings in the summer, with his scouting team back to work following the closure of the window last Friday. He has, though, ruled out dipping into the free agent market in the coming weeks by stating "not at the minute." He is weighing up whether to hand starts to his new-boys against the fifth-placed Bees.