KEI KAMARA is set to return to Middlesbrough’s first team on Saturday after proving his fitness in yesterday’s development game with Arsenal.
Kamara scored twice as Graeme Lee’s side ran out 3-1 winners over a youthful Arsenal line up, with forgotten man Faris Haroun claiming the other goal.
The Sierra Leone international has been sidelined since damaging his knee ligaments in the 2-2 draw at Birmingham at the start of December.
Yesterday’s run out was effectively a glorified fitness test ahead of Saturday’s Championship game with Charlton Athletic, and provided Kamara reports no adverse reaction this morning, he will be restored to Aitor Karanka’s starting line-up in two days time.
His return represents a considerable boost as neither Lukas Jutkiewicz nor Curtis Main has provided a compelling case for their inclusion during his absence.
Jutkiewicz has started four of the six league games Kamara has missed, with Main lining up for the other two, and the latter’s strike against Bolton is the only goal either forward has mustered.
Boro’s strong recent form has masked the absence of a reliable centre-forward, but Karanka’s desire to recruit a new attacker this month underlines the dearth of fire power at his disposal.
Kamara was firmly established as the club’s number one striker prior to his injury, and will revert to that role despite only scoring four goals in 14 appearances since moving from MLS side Sporting Kansas in the summer.
Karanka remains keen to add another striker, with Kevin Doyle and Luciano Becchio currently topping his wanted list. The pair are both available this month, but their wages represent a considerable obstacle over the course of a long-term deal and an initial loan agreement may prove the only way to achieve a breakthrough.
There are also likely to be players leaving before the end of the month, with Championship promotion hopefuls Burnley having been in touch to discuss an interest in Rhys Williams.
Clarets boss Sean Dyche is keen to sign the Australian, who spent five months on loan at Turf Moor under Owen Coyle in 2009.
Karanka has already outlined a desire to reduce the size of his squad, and the Boro boss is willing to listen to potential offers for a large number of his players.
Williams falls into that category, with the arrival of Chelsea youngster Kenneth Omeruo having bolstered Boro’s defensive resources.
Having started just one of the previous four games, Williams was recalled to play at centre-half in last weekend’s 2-0 win at Blackpool, but it is telling that midfielder Jozsef Varga was preferred to the 25-year-old at right-back in a number of matches over the Christmas period.
Boro would want more than £1m before they would consider selling Williams though, and the £750,000 capture of Ashley Barnes means Burnley have limited funds available for the rest of the month.
They could not afford a seven-figure sum now, but have raised the possibility of a loan deal with a view to a permanent transfer in the summer that would be dependent upon their promotion.