MICHAEL CARRICK has highlighted Jonny Howson’s ongoing importance to Middlesbrough, with the club set to hold contract talks with the veteran midfielder in the next couple of months.

Howson turns 36 in May, and while his current contract is due to expire at the end of the season, he confirmed in the week that he is hoping to secure a new deal at the Riverside.

The skipper remains as important as ever, with his start in last weekend’s Tees-Wear derby draw with Middlesbrough meaning he has already featured in 30 matches this season.

Boro’s policy has generally been to discuss contractual situations in the latter stages of the campaign, and while Carrick expects that to be the case again, he is well aware of Howson’s continued influence within his squad.

“It (contract talks) just evolves, and then the timing comes into it as the process moves on,” said the Boro boss, ahead of this afternoon’s home game with Bristol City. “Jonny’s done fantastic for us, and he’s the perfect example of how to prolong your career, how to look after yourself and what it takes to play at this level for so long.

“He’s a real example to everyone with that, and he’s a real pleasure to have here. The way he trains is exemplary, and it’s probably why he’s available for so many games.


“He never likes missing anything, so he’s great to have around. Yes, we’ll have the discussions in the weeks to be come, but I think we’re both pretty calm about things, and relaxed and grown-up enough that we’ll sort things out.”

While Carrick has plenty of options in the central area, with Dan Barlaser now fully settled on Teesside and Lewis O’Brien available again after recovering from injury, Howson remains the Boro boss’ number one pick for the defensive-midfield role in the majority of his side’s key games.

Off the pitch, the 35-year-old continues to exert a major influence, skippering the side and setting the standards within the dressing room.

He has also proved an important sounding-board for Carrick, offering a link between the Boro boss’ coaching team and the players within the first-team squad.

“It’s important, as a head coach, to have those kind of leaders within the group,” said Carrick. “There are certain players that you lean on a little bit. You ask for their opinion, and often they see things a bit differently than you do and that makes you think.

“They’re a real influence around the changing room, and Jonny’s certainly that. He’s the captain. He goes about it in his way – he’s not really one for screaming, shouting and getting in your face – but he’s very thoughtful and understands what it takes to be successful.

“Of course, we speak an awful lot. I pick his brains, and we’re in it together. We’re all working together to try to get the right balance of how to be successful, and certainly the players have a good opinion on that, and Jonny is their leader.”