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Friend hopeful frustrated McDonald will be replaced at Boro
GEORGE FRIEND thinks Middlesbrough have the firepower to replace Scott McDonald's goals next season as Tony Mowbray waits for some much-needed good news on the transfer front.
McDonald, never afraid to say what he thinks, spoke for the first time yesterday about his time at the Riverside Stadium and how he is excited about playing for a manager who wants to field him up front at Millwall.
The Australian scored 13 goals last season despite spending the majority of the campaign playing in a less preferred wider role and Middlesbrough are yet to land a replacement.
There have been constant discussions with a number of clubs aimed to bring in some fresh attacking talent and West Ham's Ricardo Vaz Te is the latest to be under consideration to take on loan.
It seems unlikely that a new forward will be drafted in before Saturday's Championship opener with Leicester City, but Friend is satisfied Marvin Emnes and Lukas Jutkiewicz's pre-season form can give Boro a positive start.
“There is a bit more pressure on the guys further forward to get goals now because Aussie (Scott McDonald) was top scorer last year,” said left-back Friend. “Somebody will have to fill that void. I also think we will be able to get goals from everywhere to help.
“Grant Leadbitter will get a few more this year now he is playing further forward, with Dean Whitehead sitting a bit. Mustapha Carayol will also get a few and create – and hopefully I will pop up with one or two as well.
“But Marvin and Jutkiewicz have both been fantastic during pre-season. Marvin has been tricky, getting behind and scoring goals, while Juke has been controlled and influential in the final third. That's what we will need when we get going. It's been good to see the goals going in.”
Middlesbrough fans need no reminding of the frustrating end Mowbray's team endured to last season, when the promotion contenders became relegation candidates in the space of four months.
Rather than dwell on the disappointments, though, there is a more positive vibe around the squad this summer and hopes are high of a morale-boosting start.
“There was a feeling at the end of the season that if the new season could have started within a week then we would have taken that,” said Friend. “We wanted to make it right. But we needed that valuable rest and I think we have come back looking really sharp.
“If people have been to the pre-season games they can't be disappointed from what they have seen. We have looked strong, fit, which is a big thing, and we have scored goals without conceding too many. That's what we have to make sure continues.”
While Friend and his Middlesbrough team-mates focus on making up for the errors of last season, McDonald is keen to make up for lost time himself.
The 29-year-old was frustrated with life on Teesside, where he was left clear the club wanted him to move on for the most part of Mowbray's two-and-a-half year reign because of his reputed £35,000-a-week wage.
McDonald, signed by Millwall after reaching an agreement to have the remaining 12 months of his Boro deal ended, said: “I feel a lot more wanted and in a team that plays me up front for starters.”
He added: “The manager (Mowbray) has been open about money being an issue. They’ll still have that problem even though I’ve left.
“I was one the players that was already there that was from the old regime and it’s just one of those things. We got on with it. It is great to get out and play for a manager that wants me here.”
McDonald's comments paint the picture he is relieved to have had his three-year stay in the North-East come to a close – and thinks the atmosphere at The New Den will be better than the Riverside.
“If you’re talking about passionate fans, I’ve missed that for a while. Things didn’t work out at Middlesbrough,” said the former Celtic man.
“It’s a deprived town in work related circumstances so it was difficult for people to come to the games. We were playing in a half-empty stadium – the atmosphere wasn’t what it could be at times.
“Playing at The Den – they can generate an atmosphere and I hope to play a part in that.
“The Middlesbrough fans were fantastic. I’ve got nothing but respect for them. The club definitely deserves to be higher than the Championship. They have to work to get there but we are working to that as well.”
Boro are set to miss out on landing their former goalkeeper Ross Turnbull. Turnbull has been looking for a new club since leaving Chelsea at the end of last season. And Mowbray was interested in giving him a deal at the Riverside after impressing during his time training with the club. He played in last week's friendly at Rotherham. But Turnbull was keen to get something sorted rather than wait until a loan deal had been secured for Jayson Leutwiler. And after spending the last two days with Doncaster, he will sign for the Championship club later today.
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