AITOR KARANKA will attempt to sign Shay Given until the end of the season after revealing that Jason Steele is facing a lengthy injury lay-off.
And in more bad news for the Middlesbrough boss, first-choice striker Kei Kamara has been ruled out of the entire festive programme with a serious knee problem.
Having completed a three-match ban following his dismissal at Leeds, Steele should have been available for tomorrow’s home game with Brighton.
However, the 23-year-old is currently working with Middlesbrough’s medical staff in an attempt to get to the bottom of a troublesome ankle injury that has flared up in the last few weeks.
In his absence, Given will continue in goal, but with the experienced Irishman due to return to his parent club, Aston Villa, on December 27, the clock is ticking as Karanka looks to secure a longer-term solution to Boro’s goalkeeping concerns.
The Spaniard’s preferred option would be to sign Given for the remainder of the season, but it will need some tough negotiating to pull off a deal.
Given is keen to keep his options open ahead of January’s transfer window, and Swansea manager Michael Laudrup is lining up the 37-year-old as a potential replacement for the injured Michel Vorm.
“We will be having discussions with Aston Villa,” said Karanka. “It depends on what Shay wants, and on what Aston Villa want to do, but I would like to have him here for the whole of the season. That would be my choice, but it is not just up to me.”
With Jayson Leutwiler also currently unavailable, Given and former Hartlepool shot-stopper Dimi Konstantopoulos are Boro’s only goalkeeping options in the absence of Steele.
The former England under-21 international has barely trained since being dismissed at Leeds, and is under the care of the club’s doctors at the moment rather than the coaching staff.
“Jason is not training at this moment,” said Karanka. “He has an injury problem with his ankle, and the doctors are working with him. I think it is a long-term thing, but the doctors are working hard to try to make sure that Jason can be back with us as soon as possible.”
Steele’s injury is mirrored by Kamara’s problems at the other end of the field, with the striker currently on crutches after damaging his knee.
He is expected to miss all of Boro’s Christmas and New Year games, and while Lukas Jutkiewicz could get a chance to re-establish himself in the first team after making just one start since mid-September, there is no doubt that Kamara’s work rate and goal threat will be missed.
“Kei has a problem with his knee, and I think we will be without him for the next month,” confirmed Karanka. “I think he will miss most of the Christmas games. It is a very big loss for the team because he does a lot of work and has been a very good player for us. But I have another 25 players to play and I must concentrate on working with them.”
As well as preparing his team for the visit of a Brighton side led by one of his former team-mates from the Spanish Olympic side, Oscar Garcia, Karanka has also been discussing the January transfer window with chief executive Neil Bausor and chairman Steve Gibson.
The Boro hierarchy attempted to sign two or three outfield players ahead of last month’s loan deadline – most notably Manchester United youngster Michael Keane, who joined Derby instead – and are poised to renew their efforts when the full transfer window reopens at the start of next month.
“The club and me are working together to try to improve the squad in January,” said Karanka. “If some new players arrive then that will be good. If no one arrives then I am happy with my team, but it would definitely be nice to make some additions.
“We will have to see what has happened by January 31. Both myself and the club think it is important to bring players here, but those players have to be an improvement on the ones that are already here.”
As well as looking to bring players in, however, Karanka will also be attempting to reduce the overall size of a squad that became bloated in the latter stages of Tony Mowbray’s reign.
“We will be looking to try to bring players in, but that might also mean that some players have to leave,” said the Boro boss. “I have been speaking with the club about this, and we discussed it before I came.
“I am not someone who likes to train with a lot of players every day because I do not think that is any good. This weekend, I have to write 18 players’ name on a list, and if I have 30 players to choose from, that is not an ideal position.
“There will be a lot of players who have been training 100 per cent, and it is difficult for me to not even name them in my squad. If some players arrive in January, then that will be even more to accommodate and, ideally, I would like a squad of 22 or 23 players. I would like to bring some quality players in, but at the moment the squad is probably too big rather than too small.”