Steve Bruce risks making a huge blunder in the January transfer window by signing rumoured Newcastle United target Djed Spence from Middlesbrough.
According to Chronicle Live, despite the fact there is interest the Magpies are unlikely to make a move for Spence in the winter market as the north-east club looks to prioritise loan options.
Prior reports by TEAMtalk had claimed United are among a clutch of Premier League sides eyeing the up-and-coming defender this month, with Toon scouts and their counterparts at Everton, Wolves and Crystal Palace all regularly monitoring Spence’s development.
Newcastle looking elsewhere in the January sales would appear a wise decision, with the Chronicle adding that figures at the Riverside Stadium have doubts over Spence’s defensive capabilities and believe that his shortfalls often let the 20-year-old down.
Spence is said to be well-liked by Boro boss Neil Warnock but added that he does not rate the London-born full-back highly, with the defender only considered to be at a good enough level to serve as a back-up option for his Championship side rather than as a key man.
The £2m-rated youngster, who joined Middlesbrough from Fulham in 2018, has only opened 12 of his 22 Championship appearances so far this season, after his cameo appearance in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Birmingham City made it six games since last starting a second-tier fixture.
Newcastle walking away from signing Spence in the January market would certainly appear a wise decision right now, as the 20-year-old has hardly hit the ground running in what is only his sophomore year as a first-team player at Middlesbrough.
Spence was given his Boro debut by Tony Pulis at the start of the 2018/19 season but failed to break through into the senior fold until the arrival of Johnathan Woodgate last term, who called on the £4,500-per-week full-back to start 11 of his 15 Championship games at the helm.
Warnock has kept Spence in and around the first-team, even if he is yet to consider the 20-year-old as his preferred option and suggesting the defender’s potential is so uncertain that he could either progress to play for a top Premier League side or fall out of the football league entirely in the next five years.
“Up to a point, but I think there’s so much more he could do,” Warnock said, via quotes by Teesside Live last November, when asked if he was pleased with what Spence had offered. “There are not many players where you can say it’s all up to them, personally, how far they go – it’s what’s between the ears.
“He could be playing at a top club in England or in non-league in five years, I don’t know. Application, dedication, all these things come into it. He’s got the tools, there’s no doubt about that.”
Spence has done little to ease the concerns over his potential since Warnock offered his alarming remark, as the former Fulham trainee’s performances in the Championship so far this season have only been good enough to return 0.8 successful tackles, 0.5 interceptions, 0.5 clearances, 0.3 crosses blocked and be dribbled past 0.3 times a game, per WhoScored.
The best right-back in the Championship, among those who have played over 10 matches, in terms of successful tackles is Watford’s 20-year-old Jeremy Ngakia who offers 3.2 successful attempts a game, while Spence’s Boro teammate Anfernee Dijksteel tops the charts for interceptions (1.9) and QPR’s Todd Kane is first for clearances (3.1), per WhoScored.
Bruce would no doubt want Spence to take his performances to a much higher level if given a move to a Premier League side, as his current output would only see the Boro back-up rank last for successful tackles, interceptions, clearances, times dribbled past and third for crosses blocked among his positional rivals already on Tyneside.