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Boro's squad starts to shape up

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werdermouth
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With Boro's pre-season now well underway, Neil Warnock's task of shaping his squad is gathering pace as he prepares for the start of another Championship campaign in three weeks time. His aim of assembling a group of players that can compete for a promotion place has already seen a handful of new arrivals on Teesside but there is still plenty of work needed to ensure the squad has enough quality – especially at the sharp end.

The club has seen the departure of seven key players from the group that fell short of the ambition to make the play-offs last term, which prompted the Boro manager to claim he was looking for 8-9 new faces for the new season. The surprise exit of George Saville back to Millwall for personal reasons and the apparent long-term injury to Darnell Fisher could push that figure up to 10-11 replacements.

The post-Covid post-parachute payment financial landscape has meant Boro are now a club hunting for bargains – perhaps illustrated by the arrival of the big striker Uche Ikpeazu, who was captured for around £1m from Wycombe. He has been joined by free-agent Sammy Ameobi, who returns to Teesside nine years after his previous short loan spell at the Riverside. With two players Warnock has previously worked with in new keeper Joe Lumley and covering defender Lee Peltier also arriving as free-agents, it means the transfer kitty hasn't exactly been raided as yet. Boro also have another potential bargain in winger Dylan Bahamboula currently on trial as he hopes to impress enough to secure a contract in the way Duncan Watmore did.

Although, it seems the big money deal about to be completed by the club is for the Argentina young midfielder Martin Payero, who having passed his medical is poised to join Boro for a fee reported to be as high as £6m. It looks like he may be the keynote transfer that may define this window and some may regard him as something of a gamble given the club's history of dipping into the South American market – he'll no doubt start his career on Teesside with that burden of needing to prove those doubters wrong but you'd expect a player who is selected for the Argentinian Olympic team to be one of good technical ability. Let's hope he turns out to be that midfield playmaker that the club have been missing for a number of years and also doesn't get given the usual midfielder shooting-boots on his arrival!

The table below shows how the squad for 2021-22 is shaping up in comparison to last season. Those players shown in red are regarded as being certain to be in the squad with players shown in black in the left column are those who have departed and need replacing – new arrivals are shown in the 'fetching' new Corporation Bus dark turquoise (teal as we call it) away-kit colours. As you can see, Boro still need quite a few incoming players at the sharp end of the pitch if they are to mount a promotion challenge. Inexperienced youngsters that could step up are shown in green with players who were sent on loan in orange. Players shown in grey on the right column indicate that they have uncertain futures at Boro and will need to convince Warnock in pre-season that they should remain – plus long-term injured Fischer is shown in pink as he's not available.

2020-21 Squad Position 2021-22 Squad
Marcus Bettinelli Goalkeeper Joe Lumley
Dejan Stojanovic Goalkeeper Dejan Stojanovic
Sol Brynn Goalkeeper  
Dael Fry Centre-Back Dael Fry
Paddy McNair Centre-Back/Midfield Paddy McNair
Grant Hall Centre-Back Grant Hall
Nathan Wood Centre-Back  
Marc Bola Left-Back Marc Bola
Anfernee Dijksteel Right-Back/Centre-Back Anfernee Dijksteel
Djed Spence Right-Back/Right-Wing Djed Spence
Darnell Fisher Right-Back Darnell Fisher
  Right-Back Lee Peltier
George Saville Midfield Martin Payero
Lewis Wing Midfield Lewis Wing
Jonny Howson Midfield Jonny Howson
Sam Morsy Midfield Sam Morsy
Hayden Hackney Midfield  
Connor Malley Midfield  
  Attacking Midfield Matt Crooks
Marcus Tavernier Attacking Midfield Marcus Tavernier
Marvin Johnson Left-Winger Sammy Ameobi
Yannick Bolasie Left-Winger  
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing Right-Winger  
Sam Folarin Right-Winger  
Isaiah Jones Right-Winger  
Duncan Watmore Forward Duncan Watmore
Neeskens Kebano Forward  
Marcus Browne Forward Marcus Browne
Hayden Coulson Forward/Left-Back Hayden Coulson
Chuba Akpom Striker Chuba Akpom
Britt Assombalonga Striker  
Ashley Fletcher Striker Uche Ikpeazu
Josh Coburn Striker  
Stephen Walker Striker  

 

Squad Member   Squad Member
Departed   New Signing
Sent on Loan   Uncertain Future
Academy Graduate   Long-term Injured

 

There are several players who will need to impress Neil Warnock if they are to make the cut in next season's squad. Lewis Wing was allowed to go out on loan last term as it was made clear he wasn't going to get much pitch time and you feel he's going to need a good pre-season if that decision is going to change. Hayden Coulson is another who doesn't seem favoured in any position by Warnock and his conversion to a forward hasn't yet seen him convince – perhaps the discovery that he had a long throw has attracted his manager's attention but it may not be enough. The Boro manager has also indicate that he may be open to swapping players and perhaps Wing's role for Boro may ultimately be that of landing Rotherham striker Michael Smith.

It's also been made clear that Chuba Akpom is available and some interest from Turkey as not yet firmed up – even if he's been viewed as an alternative to Diego Costa by some confused recruitment department in a land where Britt is also seemingly the answer to getting goals. Djed Spence has also been reported to be available for the right price after failing build on his early promise last season and with keeper Dejan Stojanovic not apparently favoured last term as Bettinelli arrived on loan is now looking to be behind Lumley, so he too probably appears vulnerable.

The unknown question is whether any of the youngsters, some of whom got a run out in the end-of-season dead rubbers, will force themselves into the reckoning during pre-season. I suspect most will be packed off on loan again but perhaps players like Nathan Wood and Sam Folarin are ready to step up. 18-year old winger Jeremy Sivi impressed many observers in the Bishop Auckland pre-season friendly – but that is still in the context of it being against a Northern League outfit not as yet match fit and he'll probably need to prove his ability against tougher opposition before being considered a full squad member. Still if Boro are looking for bargains, then where better to look than at their own youngsters before dipping once more into the market for another bargain.

Boro currently have a decent starting XI but not much beyond that so if I was a betting man then we'll probably see a couple larger ticket arrivals before the window closes. However, patience is probably still the name of the game as there's still plenty of time before those last-minute panic buys are pondered – besides with Yannick Bolasie still yet to see his move to Turkey materialise it's only a matter of time before his agent drops his wage demands – though he'll be facing a few weeks quarantine for returning from a red list country before he can be added to Boro's red list!

Update: Friday 16 July - 4:45pm

Dylan Bahamboula returns to Oldham after Boro opt not to further pursue their interest in signing him.

Update: Friday 23 July - 12:30pm

Matt Crooks signs for Boro from Rotherham in deal reported to be worth around £1.1m - although actually listed as a defensive midfielder he has a strike-rate of almost 1 in 5 and Neil Warnock has said that he hopes he can contribute around 10-15 goals a season. On that basis I've placed him under Attacking Midfield but he can play in several positions - plus he's six foot four and will add another aerial threat.

Update: Tuesday 27 July - 4:30pm

Lewis Wing joins Sheffield Wednesday on a season-long loan, which appears to end his time on Teesside as his contract is due to expire in the summer of 2022.

Update: Wednesday 28 July - 2:00pm

More news on the Lewis Wing loan move emerged as the club have added a 12 month extension to his contract, which could see him revive his career on Teesside. However, contrary to initial perceptions, Neil Warnock revealed it was Wing who had pleaded to go on loan at the Owls with the Boro manager saying he would have preferred to have kept the midfielder at the club.

Update: Sunday 1 August - 10:45am

Boro finally completed the deal for Argentinian youngster Martin Payero on Saturday evening after they sorted out the 'complicated' loose ends and received the remaining paperwork from his former club Banfield so they could officially register him as a Middlesbrough player with the FA. Under Covid travel rules, the new signing must now enter a minimum of 5 full days self isolation before he's eligible for the test-to-release scheme, which makes his participation in the opener at Fulham unlikely.

This topic was modified 4 days ago 2 times by werdermouth

Andy R
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Good post Werder and sums up the state of play nicely.

I do think it's a shame that less experienced talent like Wing, Coulson and Spence seemingly aren't fancied to play any part. I'm in no real position to question Neil Warnock's judgement and it could well be that these lads simply aren't good enough for this division but I have a niggling doubt that it's more about their fit and skillsets than quality or potential.

I've no problems whatsoever with managers shaping the squad to suit the way they want to play of course, that's sensible, but equally when Warnock inevitably leaves I'd rather not be stuck in a route-one rut whilst our former technical players are tearing it up elsewhere.

There's no getting away from the fact that Spence had a poor season last time out, though he spent much of the season as a defensive winger if such a position exists. Wing and Coulson, however, can claim they didn't get enough opportunities. Wing in particular is a curious case as he seems to have a touch of match-winning x-factor about him and doesn't shirk a challenge. I would have thought Warnock would quite like him, even more so when considering his non-league roots.

Of the few clips I've seen of Payero, he's looks to be a younger, more athletic version of Wing. Fair enough but given the risks of him settling in and the fee that seems to be involved, it feels like the cautious, prudent option might be to simply give Wing more of a shot. Have we really got the cash to be going after such a player? Or are the reported fees inflated?

Still, to make the best 23 of Argentinian U23s, he must be doing a lot right. Odd that he's not being taken on by a bigger club really.


Original Fat Bob
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Thanks Werder

i can’t see Johnny Howson playing 2 games a week next season and I expect a bigger rotation of players to suit the opposition.

I would hope that we do have a lot more irons in the fire to sign and would be sorry to see wing leave as I’ve always thought that if he was worked on by a good coach there was a premiership quality about him.

OFB


Original Fat Bob
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Dylan Bahamboula has returned to Oldham and won’t be signing for Middlesbrough following a trial with the Teessiders.

OFB


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werdermouth
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@original-fat-bob

Yes just saw this quote from the Oldham website from Keith Curle...

Dylan was invited to go up to Middlesbrough and they looked after him superbly well and made him feel welcome which is a sign of an excellent football club. Dylan gave a very good account of himself but they just felt where they’re at now and how they want to get promoted, he wouldn't get the right amount of game time for his development and career.

I guess I'd better remove his provisional Teal shirt from him on the list - No Deal No Teal!


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werdermouth
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@andy-r

It seems Neil Warnock is probably looking to have players who are up to speed and ready play the way he wants as given he's possibly thinking no further than this season and wants to as a minimum make the top six. A loan deal to Sunderland for Coulson has been muted but I think Lewis Wing's contract finishes at the end of this season so he'll either make the cut or what sounds likely is swapped. As you say, a missed opportunity as given the right coaching as he's got great potential to be a match winner.


Andy R
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@werdermouth

I think that's right, Werder. I just think we have to be a little bit cautious as a club and whilst we should support Warnock we should also recognise that this is a short term plan at best and not completely shape the squad into a single way of playing that we could be abandoning in less than twelve months.


K P in Spain
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@original-fat-bob.  Neil Maddison breathes a sigh of relief! 😂😎


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deleriad
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It's definitely looking a bit shallow. Payero is a wildcard; looks like he plays in Tav's best position.

Our first choice for each position is pretty strong but I can see it's difficult finding players to play back up. 

E.g. if playing 4 at the back it could be

Lumley

Dijksteel Fry Hall Bola

McNair Morsy 

Ameobi Tav Watmore

Ikpeazu

If playing 5 at the back, McNair drops into a back 3 and One of the attacking midfielders is replaced by Howson.

That's not a top 6 team on paper but it is a team that could challenge. What it lacks is strength in depth. Assuming Akpom, Spence, Stojanovic, Wing and Coulson are on the way out (on loan or permanently) it leaves us with:

Wood, Peltier, Howson, Payero, (Browne in 2022) and whatever U23s make the step up. That almost looks like the kind of bench you would see in a bottom 6 side.

I don't know. Maybe rather than trying to buy more gnarled old Championship pros, you need to put some U23s on the bench and trust them to make a difference. I can't see Warnock doing that because he's definitely of the mind that "you don't win anything with kids."


werdermouth
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@deleriad

Yes as things stand this is a thin squad and it's likely players like Spence, Wing, Coulson and Akpom may start the season in a Boro shirt but end up being replaced before the window closes.

I would hope that Payero is not backup for Tav given the size of his fee, so hopefully there's room for both and it's not another Roberts situation. I also suspect McNair could be part of a back three if Warnock is considering playing out from the back in homage to England - that would mean probably two defensive midfielders like Morsi and Howson with perhaps Payero being the midfield playmaker.

However, finding the formation to get the best players on the pitch could be tricky for Warnock if he opted for a back three so a back four would seem more likely - though would it be Fry and McNair?

All we probably know for sure is that Ikpeazu will no doubt be the target man and wouldn't be surprised to see Watmore and Tav play off him on either side.

As for Brown, last time I heard (about 4 weeks ago) he was aiming to be back in October - whether that's the beginning or end is another story so maybe I should mark him as a long-term injured given it's looking a minimum of three months.


exmil
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werdermouth, are you convinced Boro are paying £5m+ for Payero even after Warnock has said the fee is no where near the £5m being quoted in the media, in fact one report I read said there was confusion over the fee as whether it was 8m US dollars (£5.8m) or 80m Argentine Peso (£604,000). I suppose it’s up to the individual what they want to believe, I personally will wait until it finally comes out.

Come on Boro.


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werdermouth
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@exmil

I've no idea what the agreed fee for Payero is, I've only mentioned that it has been reported to be as high as £6m. Of course it's in wily Neil Warnock's interest to downplay any fee speculated as it stops the price of any other of his potential targets being hiked if clubs think Boro are prepared to pay these kind of sums. Although, highly unlikely to be as little as £600,000 as I'm sure Boro would have been boasting about that bargain price.

As usual, we'll likely never know as it will no doubt be officially listed as an 'undisclosed fee'. Historically, Boro have usually had to pay over the odds to secure deals ahead of other clubs so there will perhaps have paid higher than market rate to seal the deal.

Anyway, I expect any fee will have various clauses, add-ons, agents fees etc so the figure will probably be something of a range depending on performance. Still, £6m is less than we paid for Saville - or is it...


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exmil
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werdermouth: As with many transfer deals the true amount will never be known, George Saville for example bought for “undisclosed fee”, depending on which report you read it has been estimated as anything between £6-8m spread over the length of his contract (4 years). It has been reported that we have sold him back for £1.8m (estimated market value £3.6m) so with 1 year left on his contract it could be assumed that Millwall have paid £1.8m plus forgoing the final instalment of the original fee, which would make more business sense than MFC selling him to Millwall for half his market value after paying the same club nearly double his market value in the first place.

 I know people “rubbish” our transfer dealings by Bauser etc but I think their views are not based on known true facts, only which ever media report they choose to believe, Saville for example reported fee as “undisclosed” so how do the media know the fee and which one do you believe £6m, £7m or £8m. This is only my personal view.

Come on BORO.


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Andy R
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@exmil

My assumptions on Saville were that we paid around £7m over 4 years and that by him going back to Millwall we wouldn’t pay the final instalment of around £1.75m.

Speculating that his wages would have been around £20k/week, I’d guess it puts around £2.8m back into the kitty overall.

As you say though Exmil, all guesswork based on snippets in the media.

Speculating further, I imagine that Assombalonga and Fletcher would have been on combined wages of around £55k/week. If that’s about right that’s a further £2.8m to play with, though a portion  has already gone on Ikpeazu.

I can’t imagine that Ameobi’s wages come anywhere close to whatever we paying for Bolasie and Kebano.

All in all it feels like there should be a little bit of cash available for Warnock.


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Original Fat Bob
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According to reports, Luton Town have joined Ipswich Town and Sunderland in the race for Middlesbrough full-back Hayden Coulson, who is considered surplus to requirements at Boro.

Sunderland and Ipswich Town are the two other clubs vying for his signature in the summer transfer window, but it seems they will now have to face competition from the Hatters.

Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock has previously stated his desire to allow Coulson to leave the club, but only if Boro can get a swap deal for him.

OFB


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Andy R
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Given that Boro are short of left backs and wide players it makes no sense at all to allow Coulson to leave in my opinion.

Surely he can undergo some intensive defensive training this pre-season and be an option as back-up to Bola?

I think Bola is injured too.


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werdermouth
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@andy-r

Apparently Lee Peltier can play both right-back and left-back and since Warnock doesn't rate Coulson as a defender it looks like he'll be on his way once a couple of new forwards are signed.


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werdermouth
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Report today that Boro are closing in on Rotherham's defensive midfielder Matt Crooks - OK, I say defensive midfielder but with 18 goals in 89 appearances for the Millers, he's got a better strike-rate than our new centre-forward Uche Ikpeazu!


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lenmasterman
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@werdermouth

Crooks played as a no 10/ twin striker for much of the season, and scored a decent goal against the Boro as I recall, but I wasn't really impressed by him.  He's 27, didn't look to have much class on the ball and it will be close to criminal if he keeps young Josh Coburn off the bench. A million wasted in my view.


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Original Fat Bob
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Middlesbrough are close to winning the race for 27-year-old Matt Crooks this summer with the Rotherham United player set for a medical with the Teesside club later today ahead of a move,

 

Crooks enjoyed a fine season last year for the Millers in the Sky Bet Championship as he helped them take their fight for survival right down to the wire.

A drop into League One was their fate, however, and it soon became apparent that Crooks was a wanted man on the back of that.

 

The likes of Ipswich Town have been interested in signing him in this window, too, with them seeing bids rejected in recent weeks, and it now looks as though the Tractor Boys are going to miss out on one of their summer targets with Boro at the head of the queue.

Crooks is due for a medical today for Middlesbrough and, should that all go well, a deal to join the Teessiders from the Millers should be announced in the near future.

OFB


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Redcar Red
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Posted by: @lenmasterman

@werdermouth

Crooks played as a no 10/ twin striker for much of the season, and scored a decent goal against the Boro as I recall, but I wasn't really impressed by him.  He's 27, didn't look to have much class on the ball and it will be close to criminal if he keeps young Josh Coburn off the bench. A million wasted in my view.

I think he is seen as the replacement for Saville in that he scored a few goals last season which isn't too shabby in a relegated side despite him supposedly being a defensive midfielder. Payero and Tav I expect will be the more attacking ones should both or either of them be here come September. 

At 6ft 4" Crooks is also a tall lad which will come in handy at set pieces and also defending them. I'm a bit more concerned about the links to the ex Bristol lad Patterson who is training with us down in Cornwall and expected to play in tonight's friendly. I don't get the point or indeed any logic in moving Marvin out and bringing this guy in if it happens.


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werdermouth
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@lenmasterman

That explains his goal record then - it does sound as RR suggests more of a Saville replacement - if indeed you think Saville needed replacing.

I didn't see Josh Coburn play at the end of last season as I'd already opted out of watching meaningless Boro games after the performances in the meaningful ones was desperate stuff! Though it sounded like he impressed but will youth be against him as Warnock opts for more experienced heads?

Though liked the line that Crooks would be a criminal waste of money...


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werdermouth
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@redcarred

Jamie Paterson is billed as an attacking midfielder who can play left, right or centre but hasn't played that much football in the last two seasons - less than 20 starts and 11 appearances from the bench. Though he seems to make an impact when on the pitch as he scored 10 and made 6 assists with 3 MotM awards. As free agent, he could be seen as bench option or cover for someone like Tav but he'll turn 30 before Christmas so as you say not really an upgrade on Johnson and perhaps better to blood one of the youngsters like Jeremy Sivi.


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Original Fat Bob
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@redcarred

i can only speculate that Marvin was on a good wage and the overheads needed cutting drastically 

OFB


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Selwynoz
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@original fat bob

I think that is absolutely what is happening.

In the first instance, it's striking to watch how transfer fees have all but vanished in the championship. It's a very clear indication of just how bad the financial situation is for almost all clubs. People are moving round for fees under Pds1 million when a few years back it would be three or four times that amount or even more. In this environment, it's possible to pick up a range of players without a significant up front outlay. It will then come down to salary levels and what is not yet clear is what has happened to those levels but if they are also dropping then we might see some financial sanity return to the division, particularly if crowds continue to be permitted.

It will be interesting to see how panicky some players (and agents) will get as we move further into the transfer window. It's like a grown up game of musical chairs and every transfer deal that's done is another chair taken away. There might be some special bargains for clubs that keep a bit of money in reserve.

Given this general environment, it is hard to believe that we would splash out a large amount of money on an unproven Argentinian lad. He may be the next Messi but I'm inclined to guess that any deal that we have done is hedged around with performance and appearance clauses.

Anyway, a couple more players plus Payero and a few youngsters and we will be well on our way. We will also have Browne coming back in a few months and his return plus Jones and Sivi and other wide players probably explains why we didn't bother with the Oldham lad. We have some very promising younger players and so NW seems to be going down the road of adding experience and leadership to help them come through.

The big question is Lewis Wing. Personally, I'm a big fan but there has been a lot of talk coming through of him being used as a swap for someone else. Could it be part of the Crooks deal or maybe Michael Smith. 

UTB


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jarkko
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@original-fat-bob

Or Marvin wanted more game time and Warnock couldn't promise that this season. Most probably many reasons I guess.

I think he is still without a club, mind.

Up the Boro! 


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Redcar Red
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Posted by: @jarkko

@original-fat-bob

Or Marvin wanted more game time and Warnock couldn't promise that this season. Most probably many reasons I guess.

I think he is still without a club, mind.

Up the Boro! 

I think that is perhaps a more likely reason.

There may also have been a few words after he was dropped for the loanee's that came in January when our points dropped along with them.

He was signed from Oxford at a relatively low fee but as Monk was in charge at the time it is possible that his wages were more than would be the norm.


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Redcar Red
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Teamtalk are suggesting that we may end up with three of Warnock's former Players in Bamba, Harris and Hoilett. I guess if Sol wants to stick around and pass on his experience and act as emergency cover that could work. Kadeem Harris however underwhelms me and never particularly saw what the attraction was. Hoilett used to be decent at this level but I think he has lost his mojo a bit but maybe NW can reinvigorate what little charge is left in his batteries. 

I am a bit concerned that we seem to be filling the squad (or at least linked) with Players from clubs that were relegated, Wednesday, Wycombe and Rotherham. 


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K P in Spain
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@redcarred. "I am a bit concerned that we seem to be filling the squad (or at least linked) with Players from clubs that were relegated, Wednesday, Wycombe and Rotherham."

And by a manager who may be with us for only one more season at best. 😎


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Original Fat Bob
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Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock is in talks to sign three free agents who all played for him at Cardiff City.

Sol Bamba, Kadeem Harris and Junior Hoilett all played big roles for Warnock during his time in South Wales. They are now all being eyed by their former boss for a reunion at the Riverside Stadium.

 

Canadian forward Hoilett, who left The Bluebirds in the summer, was actually Warnock’s first signing when he arrived at Cardiff.

Now the 31-year-old has a number of options, mainly from the Championship and Major League Soccer, and one of those is Middlesbrough too; Warnock would love to bring him in.

Likewise, Harris is a player Warnock would like to bolster his attacking options. The 28-year-old is a free agent after leaving Sheffield Wednesday and has also spoken to the North East club.

 

A third player from Warnock’s Cardiff contingent could be Bamba, who is already training with the club. Warnock stated that 36-year-old Bamba was with the club to build up his fitness, but we understand that there have been talks about a possible long-term deal.

There could still be a big Cardiff reunion as Nathaniel Mendez-Laing – who spent time with Boro at the end of last season and played with Bamba, Hoillet and Harris – could yet return to the club.

OFB


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