Middlesbrough defender Djed Spence has been named the EFL Young Player of the Month for December after an impressive breakthrough month in the Sky Bet Championship.
In what was a fantastic month for the North East side, Spence shone in defence as Boro picked up four wins and the youngster follows Jonathan Woodgate who earlier in the week was awarded the Sky Bet Manager of the Month.
Despite being at Middlesbrough since 2018 after being released from Fulham, 19-year-old Spence had to wait until December 2019 to make his league debut, but when given the chance against Charlton Athletic just over a month ago, the teenager impressed.
His first league start led to another, and his performances helped Middlesbrough impress as they turned their recent form around with four wins and a draw in the month of December, as well as three clean sheets.
Speaking upon receiving his award, Spence said: "I’m humbled. It’s a good feeling and I’m happy to win the award. December was a good month for me and the team and it was a really good way to end the year.
“I was a bit surprised to get told I might be making my debut to be honest because I wasn’t training with the first team at the time. The gaffer just told me that I had a chance of playing and to make sure I was ready for it. Then when the game came I played, we got the result we wanted and it’s been a good journey from there.
“The manager didn't put too much pressure on me, he just said to go and do what I was good at, which is what I try to do when I’m on the pitch. I go into it with a clear head and just play my natural game."
December saw Middlesbrough beat top of the table West Brom as well as record wins over Charlton Athletic, Stoke City and Huddersfield Town, only losing out to Swansea City in the build up to Christmas, and despite having little dressing room experience, Spence says it's a good place to be at the moment.
“It’s a good feeling,” he continued. "There is a good team spirit around the place after our recent results. We’ve picked up some good wins and it’s nice to be a part of that. Everyone works for each other here and the results at the moment are coming."
December got even better for the teenager when he scored the only goal of the game to secure victory over Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day, a moment he’s unlikely to forget.
“That was a great moment,” Spence reflected. “To score my first goal for the club, it was a bit surreal really - scoring and celebrating with the fans, it’s a great feeling and something I’ll remember."
The importance of giving youth a chance and having players come through is something that cannot be underestimated and it's something manager Jonathan Woodgate firmly believes in with the young squad he has assembled at the Riverside.
“We’ve got a young group here,” Spence went on to say. “It’s good when you see young players playing. As one of the younger ones myself, it gives me confidence that there are other young players in the dressing room with me. I feel like I’m meant to be there.
“It’s a good feeling when you look at some of the players you come up against in the Championship - some of these guys play internationally which is amazing for young players like me to play against."
Middlesbrough face Derby County this afternoon in the Sky Bet Championship as they look to continue their rise up the league table. Currently in 16th position, they are still only seven points outside the Play-Off positions.