LUKAS JUTKIEWICZ insists he wants to stay at Middlesbrough despite speculation linking him with a move away from the club, but the striker admits he does not know if he is in Aitor Karanka's long-term plans.
A number of Championship clubs are thought to be keeping an eye on Jutkiewicz’s situation on Teesside with Burnley and Brighton having both registered an interest in the 24-year-old.
He has started only four games since Karanka was appointed in November and with the Boro boss having expressed a desire to reduce the size of his squad, Jutkiewicz is thought to be one of the players that could leave the Riverside during the transfer window.
This month presents Karanka with his first opportunity to tinker with the squad he inherited from Tony Mowbray and signing a striker is a top priority before next Friday’s deadline.
Wolves’ Kevin Doyle and Norwich City’s Luciano Becchio are both being considered, as is Genk forward Jelle Vossen, and whether the Boro boss is successful in his attempts could decide whether Jutkiewicz stays or goes.
The former Coventry City man arrived in £1.5m deal from the Ricoh Arena two years ago, and although he has been in and out of the side under Karanka, the striker admits he is not ready to end his time on Teesside yet.
“The squad is perhaps too big and the manager has touched on that,” the Boro striker said. “The team is playing great and hopefully if that can continue we can maybe surprise a few people.
“I have to speak to the manager and see where I stand, I don’t know what his thoughts are in terms of what he wants from me, but I am certainly happier here than I was a few months ago and I want to work hard and earn my place in the team.
“It has been difficult in terms of getting a run of games. Since the first month of the season I don’t think I’ve played back-to-back games too many times so it can be quite frustrating, but you’ve got to try and put yourself in the manager’s mind as much as possible and when you get a chance to cement your place in the team you take it.
“It has been a test but thankfully the team is on a run and it’s certainly a better place to be around. It has been the case again with the team changing around quite a lot, but he (Karanka) hasn’t sat us (the strikers) down.
“I don’t know whether he wants to keep me or not but I’m sure it will become clear in the next ten days or so.”
Jutkiewicz is hoping to start Saturday’s trip to league leaders Leicester City and if he does, the 24-year-old insists he won’t let speculation surrounding his future affect his performances.
He said: “It doesn’t affect you during games or training because you’re focused on doing your best for the team and that’s all I want to do, but as players we could do without out (the transfer window). For me, it’s a little bit rushed this month.”
Boro will be looking to extend their unbeaten run to seven games at the King Power Stadium, a run that has lifted Karanka’s men to within five points of the play-off places.
Being in such a position seemed highly unlikely before Christmas, but Jutkiewicz insists the squad never doubted they could challenge the top six even when they sat three points above the relegation places.
“Even when it got to the point when we were three points above the bottom three and people starting to question us, we knew we were a good team.
“For whatever reason we weren’t getting the rub of the green or we weren’t concentrating at vital moments, but clean sheets make so much of a difference in this league and we have been doing that of late.”
BORO stars Lukas Jutkiewicz and Muzzy Carayol were visiting Tees Valley Wheelchair Sports Club at Outwood Academy in Acklam.
The club is celebrating after receiving a cash boost of £2,500 from Teesside Philanthropic Foundation after topping a public poll on Boro’s website.
The charity’s £10,000 Goalden Giveaway saw nine other community groups receive a share of the jackpot – but the Middlesbrough-based wheelies were runaway winners with 40 per cent of the votes.
Head coach Lee Fawcett said the donation will enable the club to buy three more specialist wheelchairs for forthcoming new satellite centres in Darlington and Hartlepool as they spread their wings from their Middlesbrough base at Acklam’s Outwood Academy.
Jutkiewicz and Carayol got involved in a game of wheelchair basketball while visiting the club and they were joined by the Philanthropic Foundation’s patrons, Paul Davison of Erimus Insurance Brokers and David Henderson of px Group.