The young right back, who was handed his Boro debut last season in the Carabao Cup, was drafted in for his league bow at the Riverside yesterday as the Teessiders beat Charlton Athletic. 

Spence's impressive display caught the eye of the Boro boss, while fellow young full back Hayden Coulson was also singled out for praise. 

“We had to make changes – Djed Spence came in and did a fantastic job. Djed’s got that and Djed can do that," Woodgate said. 

“Okay, at times this season we’ve had to sit down and have a few meetings together and tell him what his potential really is. But I thought he was exceptional and it’s his place to lose now because of that performance.

“I thought he was very good. Hayden Coulson on the other side as well gave us real pace. I’ve got them three centre backs who have got experience: Ayala, Fry and Howson."

Woodgate was also quick to hail seasoned pro Jonny Howson, who's been exemplary with his versatility of playing in a number of roles this season. 

“What about Howson’s performance? I thought he was outstanding," the Boro head coach added. 

"To go from an attacking midfielder to play right wing-back, to play right side centre back is a talent. That's a talent.

"The more players who have that at the football club, who lead by example and show young players what it takes to be professional, the better.”