THE ink will have barely dried on Isaiah Jones' new contract, but Middlesbrough will quickly move on to resolving the longer-term futures of other key players, with talks ongoing and more deals expected to soon follow.

Carrick told of his delight after Jones this week put pen to paper on a new three-year deal on Teesside - but attention then swiftly turned elsewhere.

With hopes of a top six finish this season now having all but disappeared, Boro are looking to step up their preparations for next term and beyond and will attempt to future-proof their squad as best as they possibly can.

There are pressing matters that need resolving, such as the future of Jonny Howson, who, speaking as a special guest on the official EFL Podcast in the last week, again reiterated his desire to stay at Boro. A new deal for the captain, who is as influential as ever, feels inevitable.

The future of Paddy McNair - another player who is approaching the end of his contract - is not as clear-cut, with the Northern Ireland international among Boro's highest earners.

There are also decisions to be made on loan players and when asked specifically about the future of Leeds United's Luke Ayling, the head coach said "we're working on a number of things." Lewis O'Brien's future is also up in the air. As things stand, he's due to return to Nottingham Forest at the end of the season.

Boro are keen to press on with contract matters, with Jones' deal the first to be finalised. His previous contract was due to expire at the end of next season, which is also the case with Riley McGree - another key player who Boro are keen to tie down.

“There are a number of players," said Carrick.

"Until anything is done contract-wise, talks remain ongoing with different players but, certainly for me, until there is anything to confirm then commenting further is not really the right thing to do.

"Certainly, we want to be stronger, there are some important players that we want to have here for a lot longer. And that’s for us to get that balance right.

“Ideally, of course, you’d want things to be done very quickly. It’s not always possible. There are things that need to fall into place. But for sure, it’s great to get Izzy’s sorted because stability is important. That’s the key moving forward really."


Jones' new deal was a reward for his fine form this season, with the winger re-establishing himself in the Boro side after enduring some struggles off the pitch and in his personal life last term.

The 24-year-old is a crucial figure in Carrick's side, but the head coach has challenged the wideman to keep improving and to fulfil his potential at the Riverside.

He said: "Izzy has had a good time over the season and is improving all the time. There is still work to do and a lot more to come from him. It was good to get that finalised and I’m really pleased.

"A career, and life in general, is full of ups and downs and you’ve got to ride the waves. We’re here to support the players when they need a bit of support and we’re here to prod them and poke them in the right direction to get the best performance out of them. In more challenging times and tougher moments, in the end if you come through them then you are stronger and better from it because you learn from the experience. It puts you in a better place. That goes for all the boys, and as a team as well. You use all experiences as positive ones to build on.

“I think there’s definite possibilities for him to get better. He’s got a lot of experience for his age and that’s something we can definitely build on. That’s the beauty with a lot of the players we have. We feel that there are big gains to be made as a team and individually. We’re delighted that it’s sorted out and Izzy is here for a lot longer. We’ll continue working hard with him to help him and bring out the best in him so he can hopefully fulfil his potential."

There's a possibility Jones will be used as a wing-back against Leeds United on Monday. Playing with a back three has worked well for Boro against the Championship's leading sides and Carrick will be without regular right-back Ayling, who is ineligible to play against his parent club.

It's the first game the 32-year-old will miss since joining Boro on loan in January.

Carrick said: “He’s definitely added a lot and done terrific. He hadn’t played an awful lot of football before he arrived and you could see him improving game by game as he found his rhythm.

"We knew what he was capable of doing and he’s done ever so well. He's a great personality and character around the squad as well, so he’s had a big impact on us."

Ayling will be a free agent in the summer when his Leeds contract expires. Not for the first time, Carrick was asked about the chances of the experienced defender earning a permanent deal at Boro.

He said: “I can’t sit here for now and give a definite answer. It’s impossible for me to do that right now.

"But for sure, we’re working on a number of things. It would be unfair on the individuals - not just Luke but other boys as well - it’s not as simple as just a yes or no from me now. We’re looking to do certain things to make this squad as strong as we possibly can."