6:25am Tuesday 27th May 2014
NEWLY-PROMOTED Rotherham want Middlesbrough’s Richie Smallwood to be part of their Championship campaign next season.
Smallwood has played a key role in the Millers’ promotion from League One and manager Steve Evans would love to have him back in his squad when the action restarts in August.
But Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka recently exercised a one-year option in the midfielder’s contract to avoid losing the player on the cheap during the summer.
Karanka has been informed by his scouting team about his progress and has been satisfied that the short-term switch to the New York Stadium has benefited him, after appearing 21 times.
The experience of Sunday’s Wembley penalty shoot-out win should also bode well for Smallwood moving forward, having slotted in Rotherham’s final spot-kick before Leyton Orient missed their last effort to hand the Millers promotion.
Boro are on the look-out for new recruits in a variety of positions and offloading Smallwood is not really in the club’s thinking.
Rotherham could try to tempt Karanka in to selling with a cash offer, although the most likely move will be for Evans to try to take him back on loan for the entire campaign.
Middlesbrough are more reluctant to loan to rival Championship clubs but it has never been out of the question. Last season Lukas Jutkiewicz was a success at Bolton, who could still try to land the striker permanently.
Smallwood, 23, has been part of Boro's academy system since his schoolboy days and was brought up in Dormanstown, so he would be keen for Karanka to give him a chance.
Middlesbrough’s chief executive Neil Bausor and chief scout Gary Gill are in regular contact with Karanka to indicate any progress made on the transfer front – although no deals are expected for a few weeks.
It was claimed last night that Boro have made an offer for Wolves defender Stephen Ward, although that has been denied by the club.
Ward has been considered ahead of entering the final year of his contract at Molineux where manager Kenny Jackett is open to offers. There is, however, competition for the player.
Brighton, where he spent last season on loan, are keen to take the 28-year-old back, while he has heard of Premier League interest and it was claimed that Sunderland and Burnley are keen.
Ward’s name is among a list of left-back contenders to be targeted by Middlesbrough to compete with George Friend. That position, a right-back, centre-midfielder and forwards are highest on Karanka’s wish-list.
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