If there is anyone that's earned themselves a break over the summer, it's Boro's utility man Paddy McNair. 

The 26-year-old Northern Irishman has featured in every single Boro game this season. Since September, he has played 59 games in all competitions which also includes games for his home nation.

He almost didn't play every game after his red card against Huddersfield back in Febraury which was eventually overturned but that's another debate entirely!

Playing in every game this season for Boro speaks volumes of the impact he's had on the team. It's not just his ability to plug gaps in various positions across the field, it's the ability to flourish in those positions. McNair isn't a jack of all trades.

Few would've predicted McNair would be a mainstay of a back three this season but injuries to Grant Hall, Dael Fry and Anfernee Dijksteel at different points of the camapign have asked more of McNair. And he's delivered. 

Neil Warnock was keen to tie down the likes of McNair to a new deal earlier in the season and it was music to the ears of the Boro fanbase when he extended his contract at the club until the end of the 2023/24 season back in December.

When McNair put pen-to-paper, Warnock said “We want to almost build a team around Paddy. He has excelled this season, and he’s loving every minute of it. It took him two seconds to agree to a new contract which I thought was fantastic."

The Northern Irishman may well be a wanted man over the summer so it seems like shrewd business for Warnock to extend his stay at the Riverside. No doubt he'd want a huge fee as well. No word yet on any firm interest in McNair but don't be surprised to see clubs form a disorderly queue.

Admittedly, Boro's defence was much leakier in the second half of their Chamionship campaign which saw them end up in 10th place. But on the whole, the entire team's standards fell down by their own admission. Or rather by the manager's admission. Even though McNair's performances didn't match the first half of the season, he still stood out as a pivotal player.

If Boro have a fit and sturdy defensive line at their disposal, there could be argument to push McNair further up the pitch. And why not. Let's delve into McNair's statistics for the season that could support that assessment. 

Seven assists and a wicked dead ball delivery earned him the nickname of 'Paddy De Bruyne' on social media and even during the BBC Radio Tees commentary and I think it's fair to say that the Belgian midfielder would've been proud of some of the balls McNair has whipped into the box this season.

Had Warnock got the target man type of striker he was after during the summer period, McNair would probably have added to his already impressive tally of assists.

He might have only put the ball in the back of the net on two occasions, but that number doesn't call into question his eye for goal. It's purely down to the fact he has been playing in the heart of the defence. The season before, he notched six goals from various positions across the pitch which represents a more than respectable tally.

However, with a summer of change expected at the Riverside and new signings on the horizon, fans may well be tempted by the idea of keeping McNair where he is in the heart of defence. If it's not broken, don't try and fix it. 

The bread and butter for a defender is the number of clean sheets they earn during the season. For McNair, he and the defence thwarted the oppositions attack on 13 occasions this season. That represents a clean sheet in 28% of their games this season in the Championship.

Pundits, journalists and fans can analyse the stats as much as they like but his attitude during games has covered him in glory and rarely you'll see him receive a low match ratings when fans pick up a paper on a Monday morning. 

His endeavour and energy nearly always earns the plaudits of the Boro fans. The fans appreciate someone who puts their all in for the team.

It's also worth noting that even at the age of 26, there's been plenty of ups and downs during McNair's caeer. 

Coming through the ranks of Manchester United always brings with it profile and expectation and McNair will have been no stranger to that. Standards will have been very high in every aspect. 

Relegation with Sunderland will have been a bitter pill to swallow but valuable footballing lessons will have been learnt as Boro offered him the chance to continue playing at Championship level. 

It could be argued that his versatility has been his downfall as he's never really been able to settle into a position of his own. That's changed this season.

As Warnock alluded too back when McNair signed a new deal, he wants to build the team around him. Warnock will ultimately decide where he sees McNair slotting in the Boro side. Wherever it is, McNair will still play a crucial role in a potentially new look side next season.