MICHAEL CARRICK understands why Alex Bangura will be frustrated at his first season as a Middlesbrough player, but expects the full-back to be a key performer next term.

Bangura joined Boro from Dutch side Cambuur on deadline-day at the start of September for a fee of around €500,000, but suffered an injury-hit first campaign on Teesside.

The Sierra Leone international made just six Championship starts as Carrick chopped and changed at left-back on a regular basis, with Lukas Engel and Luke Thomas both enjoying runs in the starting line-up at various stages of the season.

Thomas started at left-back in Boro’s final-day victory over Watford, but Carrick and the rest of the Teessiders’ recruitment team have opted not to turn the defender’s loan move from Leicester City into a permanent transfer.

As a result, Bangura will head into pre-season battling with Engel for a starting spot, with Carrick confident the 24-year-old will have learned plenty from his first season in the Championship despite the challenges he encountered along the way.

“He (Bangura) will no doubt be a little frustrated with how his first season has gone thanks to injuries,” said the Boro boss. “When you think about the inconsistency of our team throughout the season because of injuries, Alex will have been frustrated at times.


“In some ways, it’s taken out of your hands, but I’m sure he will be better for the experience. He understands us now, he has lived here for coming up to a year now as well. He understands his team-mates now, understands us and knows how we play.

“He knows what the league is all about now, so he’ll definitely be better for the experience. As challenging and as tough as it has been for him, I’m sure he will be better for it next season.”

Bangura was at least able to sign off in style on the final day of the season as he scored Boro’s second goal in their 3-1 win over Watford after coming off the bench to replace Thomas midway through the second half.

“Alex has missed a lot of football and been desperate to play, and that was a positive way for him to finish off,” said Carrick. “You could see from the boys how much that meant to the rest of the group and I think that shows a lot.”

Last year, Bangura spent pre-season in the Netherlands; this summer, Carrick is confident he will benefit from being part of Boro’s first-team group.

“A pre-season with us can definitely benefit him,” he said. “Every league is different, and certainly is different in different countries. Even just seeing this league now and understanding the intensity when he has played, that will help him next season.”