ISAIAH Jones believes Middlesbrough can be a "real force" in the Championship next season and is targeting an automatic promotion push.

Jones believes the return from injury of a number of key players plus some additions in the transfer window will thrust Michael Carrick's side into leading contenders next term.

Boro came up just short of the top six this season, finishing four point shy of the play-off places after a rollercoaster campaign disrupted by a string of injury setbacks.

The likes of Hayden Hackney, Dael Fry, Josh Coburn, Riley McGree, Marcus Forss and Darragh Lenihan will all be fit again for the start of next season, while Boro will also add to their ranks in the summer window.

Jones said: “Once we have a fully-fit team again, and maybe a couple of new signings, then I think we’ll be a real force next season.

"We wanted to be this season, but certain things have just taken their toll. The amount of injuries we’ve had to deal with is not normal. Hopefully next season, when everyone’s fully fit and we’ve recharged in the summer, then we can push for automatic promotion and you never know what can happen."


For Jones individually, a fine season ended with a new contract at Boro.

The 2022/23 season was extremely challenging for the winger, who endured difficulties off the pitch after family tragedy.

He managed to put those testing times behind him and re-established himself as a key member of the Boro side this season, starting 31 of the 46 Championship games. He was sorely missed in February when he had a spell out of the side through injury.

The 24-year-old has enjoyed a remarkable rise at Boro since joining from non-league Tooting and Mitcham in 2019. After loan spells at St Johnstone and Queen of the South, Jones broke into the Boro first team under Neil Warnock and is now approaching 130 appearances on Teesside.

As is often the case, he looks back on an early loan as a crucial learning experience.

He told Boro's website: “With the Queen of the South loan move, it was just in my mind that I wanted to give everything to the club, and then hopefully I could come back and get a chance, and thankfully that happened when the old gaffer, Neil Warnock, was in charge.

“It (QOTS loan move) was vital for me, just being in a first-team environment properly, and being engaged with everyone. Even though it was around the Covid time, it was good and it made me a better player and a person, both on and off the pitch. Then, when I came back in pre-season, the only way was up.

“I’m really thankful for Neil Warnock for giving me the chance, and I took it. He left and then Chris Wilder came in, and I got the chance to express myself on the pitch. Thankfully, that’s what I did, and I won a couple of awards during my first full season."