MIDDLESBROUGH will have Kenneth Omeruo back on the training ground this morning and could have at least two more new signings by the end of the week.
Boro are close to confirming James Husband’s £500,000 switch from Doncaster which will provide strong competition for left-back George Friend and he will follow Omeruo to the club.
But Aitor Karanka, whose side face Hartlepool in a friendly on Wednesday, hopes to have more new signings involved in the final warm-up for the new Championship season against Villarreal at the Riverside this Saturday.
Chelsea defender Omeruo, due to begin a season-long loan today, is likely to be joined by Stamford Bridge team-mate Patrick Bamford, a forward, after Jose Mourinho gave both the go-ahead for the switch, while Husband could be next to arrive.
An agreement is understood to have been reached with Doncaster, but discussions that would see striker Curtis Main head in the opposite direction have not reached a breakthrough as yet. It is understood former Darlington man Main, 22, is undecided over whether he wants to move.
Husband can also play wing-back and has been monitored by a number of Championship and Premier League clubs since making his debut at the Riverside for Doncaster in 2012.
Karanka has been desperate to add more players to his squad and his frustrations have grown, even if he is satisfied with the quality he already has at his disposal.
“I prefer to speak about my players and my squad, not transfers that might happen,” said Karanka. “I was speaking a long time ago about needing new players and we still have the same players.
“We have to work with the squad we have and I will say the same: that my squad will always be the best one in my mind whoever we have.
“Everyone knows we need to improve the squad but the players haven’t arrived. I am the coach and I have to work with these players and for me they are the best here. I was concentrating on the match, so tomorrow I will think about signings more.”
Provided Husband, Bamford and Omeruo arrive, Karanka would just be shy of a new right-back and midfielder, while he may choose to still target a second out-and-out striker to compete with Kike for a starting spot.
Kike, a £2.7m buy from Real Murcia, gave Boro fans a first glimpse of what he has to offer during a 45-minute run-out at Rochdale.
The Spaniard, prolific in Spain’s second tier last season, did not disappoint, displaying intelligence in the way he led the line. Not only did he hold the ball up well and retain possession, he also made telling runs behind the defence for his team-mates to spot.
“Kike scored 23 goals in the Second Division in Spain and to do that you need to be a good player,” said Karanka. “Five or six years ago I knew him, but he has improved a lot since I knew him. I am happy to have him here.
“He is used to playing differently in Spain to what teams play here. I think he will give us a lot of different things. This is our third game and he was tired, he needs to train more.
“He has only trained with us for the last ten days. He keeps the ball very well and he leads the line well. I don’t want to put pressure on him to get 20 goals or 25. I just want the team to improve with his performances.”
After Adam Reach’s stunning left-foot volley from the edge of the area gave Boro an early lead, Kike added a second from the spot after quarter of an hour.
The 24-year-old, who represented Spain at Under-20 level, earned the penalty by bursting behind the defence to meet a Richie Smallwood pass. He converted it with composure, sending Josh Lillis the wrong way.
After Ian Henderson pulled one back for the hosts from League One four minutes before half-time, Lee Tomlin took over spot-kick duties when he was tripped by Ollie Lancashire. He drilled low and beneath Lillis to his right.
After the restart the game was played more like a friendly, but Boro goalkeeper Tomas Mejias, signed from Real Madrid on a permanent basis, had to be alert to hold a few long range efforts. The lively Reach went close a couple of times at the other end.
Rochdale: Lillis; Rafferty, Henderson, Lancashire, Donnelly; Hery (Vincenti 27), Lund, Done, Allen; Andrew, Tanser. Subs: Bennett, McGinty , Barry-Murphy, Musangu, Collis, Rose, Logan, Cannon, Camps, Bunney.
Middlesbrough: Mejias; Atkinson (Bennett 75), Ayala (Burgess 81), Gibson, Friend; Smallwood (Morris 75), Butterfield; Halliday (Adomah 75), Tomlin (Williams 81), Reach; Kike (Fewster 46). Sub (not used): Konstantopoulos (gk).
SUMMER SIGNING WATCH
Held everything that came his way, including a couple of long range strikes. He came to punch things when he needed to and his general decision making was good at the start of his battle with Dimi Konstantopoulos for the starting role.
A lot of pressure will be on the £2.7m buy from Real Murcia to deliver and justify his price-tag and he has started strongly. He emerged through 45 minutes of action confidently and with a goal. His runs behind the defence caused problems and he could have had more than one.