MICHAEL CARRICK is delighted with the way in which Finn Azaz has settled into life with Middlesbrough – but expects the attacking-midfielder to be even better next season.

Azaz joined Boro in a January move from Aston Villa, having spent the first half of the campaign on loan at Plymouth Argyle.

Saturday’s draw at Ipswich Town was his 17th appearance in a Boro shirt, and while he initially lined up in a wide-attacking role, he has spent the last few matches playing in the ‘number ten’ position behind Emmanuel Latte Lath.

The 23-year-old has scored three Boro goals to go with the seven he claimed for Plymouth in the first half of the season, and while Carrick has been more than satisfied with his performances, he is confident Azaz will be an even more potent asset next term.

“I think playing games helps,” said the Boro boss, whose side are without a game this weekend as they do not host promotion hopefuls Leeds United until next Monday night. “Finn’s settled in and has been around the group for two to three months now, but there is more to come from him, for sure.

“That’s not putting extra expectations on him. He’s a lad that is desperate to do well and wants to improve all the time, and it’s great to have players like that. There is certainly more to come, he’s still young and I think he’s showed what he is capable of and I’m now looking forward to help bringing out the best in him.”


Azaz never got an opportunity to prove himself with Villa, but successive loan spells with Plymouth meant he had begun to feel at home at Home Park.

The switch to Teesside meant he had to reacclimatise, both on and off the pitch, a process that inevitably takes a bit of time.

Azaz has settled relatively quickly, but a full pre-season should enable him to establish even stronger foundations that he is able to build on next season.

“It’s like any environment you first go into, you’ve got to develop that sense of belonging and that sense of feeling at home,” continued Carrick. “You want to feel the trust of those around you and build personal relationships.

“It’s a lot more than just the performances on the pitch. Ultimately, it’s what we are all judged on, but in terms of getting that performance and getting the best out of individuals, it’s a lot more than just what you see on the coalface.”