CHRIS WILDER has told Nathan Wood he has to start ‘living up to his reputation’ as he looks to get his career back on track after an unsuccessful loan spell at Hibernian.

Wood is back in the Middlesbrough fold after his loan deal at Easter Road was prematurely curtailed at the end of last month. The 19-year-old made just one senior appearance for Jack Ross’ side, with most of his time north of the border spent kicking his heels on the substitutes’ bench.

The teenager had a more successful loan spell at Crewe last season, making 12 league appearances for the League One side, but while he burst onto the first-team scene at Middlesbrough with a considerable fanfare when he made his debut at the age of just 16 in 2018, he has struggled to make a sustained impact on the senior stage.

Wilder is aware of the youngster’s back story, but having taken the decision to recall him from Scotland, he has challenged him to prove himself on the training ground in order to kick-start his career.

“I’m not going to go over the top with Nathan,” said the Boro boss. “A lot has been talked about him, but he’s still a young boy. There is still a lot of learning to go into Nathan. He’s got obvious qualities, but I don’t want to talk about Nathan too much, if I’m honest.

“He’s had an unsuccessful loan, and now he’s got to get himself going. As much as the work we put into him, he’s got to get himself going and show he is the player everybody thinks he is.

“That will only come with consistency on the training ground. And if an opportunity comes in January to take his chance, then it’s over to him. I always think there is two parts to it, and ultimately he is the one that really dictates where his career goes and what he does with his future.”

Since taking over from Neil Warnock last month, the majority of Wilder’s focus has understandably been trained on the first team.

He has held discussions with the key figures in the academy though, and is keen to strengthen the relationship between the first team and youth set-up.

He wants to create the clearest possible pathway from the academy to the senior side, and will encourage academy boss Craig Liddle to adopt the same tactics and formation that he is using with the first team.

“We want competitive players that match the DNA of the football club,” he said. “I’ve spoken previously about the Middlesbrough teams that I played against right throughout my career.

"They’re aggressive, they’re competitive but they can play. They’re technical players.

“That’s always been the case. We talk about the mid-80s and players like (Gary) Pallister and (Tony) Mowbray, and others who have come through like your (Stuart) Ripleys. We want to continue producing those kinds of players because it’s no good spending £2-3m on a CAT-1 academy if you’re not producing players.

“So, of course, my focus has been on the first team, but I take a great interest in young players and the academy. We have some outstanding coaches in there.

"I know of them and what their qualities are and I’m sure they’ll be quite happy that they’ve got some structure now as well.

“Sometimes, it can be difficult for academy coaches and Lids (Liddle) and whoever, when a style goes from one to the other.

"Now, hopefully we can keep winning a few games, be consistent with results and they’ll have a structure that represents the football club and everything I’ve talked about.”