Jonathan Woodgate was delighted to see Djed Spence live up to his expectations as the teenager enjoyed a dream debut in Middlesbrough’s 1-0 win over Charlton.
Spence made his first league appearance as Boro triumphed at the Riverside, with his energetic display at right wing-back proving a key factor in his side’s win.
The youngster started his career in Fulham’s academy, but moved to Teesside in the summer of 2018, with his elevation to the first team meaning Woodgate has now handed six academy players their senior debut this season.
“Djed came in and did an absolutely fantastic job,” said Woodgate. “Djed can do that. Okay, at times this season we’ve had to sit down and have a few meetings together, and tell him what his potential is.
“But I thought he was exceptional, and it’s his place to lose now because of that performance.
“I just said, ‘Get the ball Djed, and run’. It’s not rocket science. I’m not going to start bluffing it and saying we talked about this, this and this. I just said, ‘Get the ball and run, and take your man on – and when you have to defend, defend’.
“It’s quite simple messages you give these young kids, you don’t have to complicate the game for them. I’m not one of the type of fellas who is going to complicate my words. Just be normal with them.
“Djed is the quickest at the club. He’s difficult to get past one-against-one, and as you saw today, he can press, and he presses with a real pace.
“To be fair, the academy have done really well with Djed, Craig Liddle and Graeme Lee. I’m really pleased for him. We’ve had a lot of meetings this year, and hopefully the penny drops.”
George Saville’s first-minute winner settled things, securing Middlesbrough’s fourth win of the season, and Woodgate felt his side fully deserved their success.
“It’s really pleasing,” he said. “I thought we thoroughly deserved it. I thought it could have been three or four nil.
“I thought we dominated throughout creating chances, and in the second half I thought we looked very dangerous on transition. When they had a bit of play, we soaked it up. It was a very pleasing result.”
Charlton boss Lee Bowyer admitted his side were never at the races, and is struggling to come up with an explanation for their anaemic display.
The Addicks did not record an effort at goal until the 89th minute, and were second best from the moment they fell behind just 50 seconds in.
“It wasn’t good enough,” said Bowyer. “From the first whistle, they were better than us. There’s not many times I’ve watched a game and we’ve been that poor. It was a disappointing performance, and in the first half we were very poor.
“It’s not like our side. Our side is normally fighting and competing, but it’s not like it was just one or two, it was everybody. I don’t know why. They just looked nervous in possession, I’ve never seen them like that before.
“I’ll just have to put it down to one of those bad experiences I guess. We didn’t win a second ball all day, we didn’t stop crosses and we defended poorly for the goal.
“Conceding in the first minute? That can’t happen. But I’ve been in charge for 18 months and this is really the first time I’ve had the question them like I have.”