HIS side might be heading into a six-game run that will make or break their promotion hopes, but Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick insists he will not be taking any risks with Hayden Hackney as he completes his recovery from injury.

Hackney has been sidelined since suffering a serious knee injury in February’s defeat at Preston, and has been forced to sit out Boro’s last nine matches as he has completed his rehabilitation.

He is due to return to full training this week though, and has a chance of returning to the squad for Saturday’s home game with Swansea City.

His return would provide the Teessiders with a timely boost as they look to overhaul the six-point gap currently separating them from the play-off positions, but while the 21-year-old midfielder has established himself as one of the club’s key performers in the last couple of seasons, Carrick will be treading carefully as he reintroduces him to the fold.

“There’s a balance to be struck with Hayden, but it’s a constant balance we’re looking to strike really,” said the Boro boss, whose side extended their unbeaten run to six games when they beat Sheffield Wednesday on Easter Monday. “It’s a results business, and we’re here to win games, but there’s the other element of having a duty of care and looking after the players, especially the younger ones.

“It’s about managing what they can do, and putting them into situations that they should be in, not ones where they shouldn’t be. We’ll make a good call on that with Hayden, and it’ll be for the right reasons.

“We know we’ve got good players to choose from, so it’s not as though we’re absolutely desperate to get him back. We’ve got good players who have shown that, so we’ll make the right decision on that one.”


If Hackney does return to the squad at the weekend, there is every chance he will be on the bench as Boro attempt to see off a Swansea side that have won just one of their last five games.

Rav van den Berg has also returned to full training this week, and the Dutchman is a much likelier starter on Saturday given that he has only missed the last three games with a much less serious knee problem.

Van den Berg’s return to the starting side would enable Carrick to restore Jonny Howson to midfield, although the skipper has barely put a foot wrong playing at centre-half in the last two games.

“We’ve got a couple more around the group,” confirmed Carrick. “Rav’s looking to get back in and around the group at some stage this week, and Hayden is looking to get back around the group at some point this week too.

“Alex Bangura is back training, which is good because he’s been out for such a long period of time. Finchy (Sonny Finch) is back in training too after missing a couple of days.

“We’re gradually getting some back, although whether it’s this week or next week for them to be back in the squad, we’ll have to see.”