THERE was plenty of hype surrounding Rav van den Berg when he joined Middlesbrough last summer - and the talented teenage defender has had no problems whatsoever in living up to it.

A hugely impressive first campaign on Teesside for van den Berg led to the centre-half last night being named the Young Player and Player of the Year at the club's end of season awards at the Town Hall.

"I'm very proud," said the Dutchman.

"It's a proud moment for me, it's my first individual trophy. I'm really happy.

"I think it shows I've done a good job. I'm really happy here. The fans and the team have made me feel at home and that's very important because if you feel happy you play good."

What a fine signing he's turned out to be.

Van den Berg was a youngster in demand last summer when it became apparent he was going to leave PEC Zwolle, with Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan and Ajax just some of the European giants keen on securing the services of the sought-after defender.

But he opted for Boro, where he felt he would benefit from regular football and loved what he heard from Michael Carrick and Jonathan Woodgate last summer.

It appeared to be quite the coup when the signing was wrapped up - and that's proved to be the case. Van den Berg has quickly established himself as a star for Boro, starting 32 Championship games and even wearing the captain's armband. A reminder here that he doesn't turn 20 until July.


No wonder, then, Carrick believes Boro are "lucky to have him".

“You can’t help but be impressed by Rav," said the head coach.

"From where he’s come from and the age that he was at, the type of football he was used to to the type of football he’s ended up playing here. He’s played right-back and left-back for us in some of his early games - looked at me a little bit funny at times when I asked him to do it, but just got on with it and done the job.

"He then got his chance at centre-back. He’s just got a real calming presence, Rav. He wants to learn, has a great attitude and we’re really lucky to have him as part of the group."

Boro were understandably excited about van den Berg's potential when he signed last summer but it would have been hugely optimistic to expect the defender to settle and star as quickly and impressively as he has done inside 12 months.

“We like to think when we bring players in, we’ve spotted something and we have an eye for it," said Carrick.

"You look and you see things that you like and things that you think make a player ideal to fitting the group and fitting the team.

"You look at things or ways you can help them develop with also. There are different stages to it, but with younger players like Rav, that’s what you’re looking at. He’s been everything that we’d hoped for."

Jonny Howson won the Players' Player of the Year prize last night, Sam Greenwood was handed the Goal of the Season award for his Leicester free-kick and Law McCabe was named Academy Scholar of the Year.

Teessider Jess Mett was the star for Boro Women, winning Player of the Year, Players' Player of the Year and Goal of the season. Abby Towers was named Young Player of the Year and Sarah Burn and Dael Fry won community awards.