Jutkiewicz hoping to make striker slot his own as Mowbray continues to eye attacking additions (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Jutkiewicz hoping to make striker slot his own as Mowbray continues to eye attacking additions
LUKAS JUTKIEWICZ is hoping to establish himself as Middlesbrough’s first-choice centre-forward next season after admitting a succession of niggling injuries prevented him from hitting top form last term.
Jutkiewicz will be part of the Boro squad that travels to Morecambe this evening for the club’s first domestic pre-season fixture.
Boro boss Tony Mowbray remains confident of adding to his attacking resources before the start of next season, and there is growing optimism that a deal can be agreed with Napoli that would see Chile international Eduardo Vargas move to the Riverside on a season-long loan.
Boro officials have held talks with Vargas’ representatives in the hope of striking a deal that would see the striker leave his current loan employers, Gremio, and spend next season in the Championship. Sunderland’s Danny Graham and former Arsenal striker Eduardo have also been discussed as possible additions.
Whatever happens though, Jutkiewicz will be a key figure next term, and after only making 18 Championship starts last season, the 24-year-old is determined to play a more pivotal role in the new campaign.
“It was a very strange season from an attacking point of view,” said Jutkiewicz. “None of the strikers were able to keep clear of injuries, and none of us were able to get a 20-game run in the team. At one time or another, every one of us centre-forwards had a patch where we were either injured or out of the team.
“It was difficult to get a good run of games, but from a personal point of view, hopefully it’s a bit different this time around.
“Personally, things really started to go wrong in the third day of the last pre-season. I got injured and missed the rest of pre-season, and I think that was the basis for picking up little injuries here and there from then on.
“I think I had four injuries all together, which was very unusual for me because before last season, I hadn’t really had an injury of note at all. That was really frustrating on a personal level, and hopefully I can get away from that.
“I’m hoping this year can be a lot different and I’m feeling very comfortable around the place. Hopefully, if I stay injury-free, the rest will fall into place.”
Tonight’s game at Morecambe’s Globe Arena provides the first opportunity for Mowbray to test his players’ pre-season fitness levels in a meaningful match environment The Teessiders’ only outing on their recent trip to Portugal was a behind-closed-doors encounter with Portuguese Second Division side SC Farense, but with the start of the Football League season now just two-and-a-half weeks away, tonight’s match should be a full-blooded affair.
George Friend will not be available as he awaits a scan on the hamstring injury he sustained in Portugal, while Boro’s medical staff are nervously awaiting an update on the groin problem that forced Justin Hoyte to miss Trinidad & Tobago’s Concacaf Gold Cup win over Honduras on Monday evening.
Jutkiewicz is fit and raring to go though, and is looking forward to testing himself in a match environment after more than a fortnight of intensive fitness work.
“I think we’re ready for some matches now,” he said. “It’s all about getting through pre-season and getting as fit as you can so you can gear up properly for the first game. These pre-season games are an important part of that.
“I think we’ve got a lot of quality in the squad, and if the manager can add to that in the areas where he thinks we need to strengthen, then we should be even stronger.
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