Middlesbrough keen to re-sign Wheater

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author Exclusive by

MIDDLESBROUGH are investigating the possibility of re-signing centre-half David Wheater from Bolton Wanderers.

The Teessiders have inquired about Wheater’s potential availability as they look to strengthen a defensive unit that has been shorn of Andre Bikey and Stephen McManus since the end of last season, and have received positive enough feedback to continue their interest.

Having initially joined Bolton in a £2.3m move in January 2011, the Redcar-born 26-year-old has recently entered the final year of his contract at the Reebok Stadium.

He missed the majority of last season with a cruciate ligament injury, and while he returned to make four appearances towards the end of the campaign, he is understood to be concerned at his inability to hold down a first-team place under Dougie Freedman.

Freedman is hoping to sign Craig Dawson this summer after the West Brom defender spent the second half of last season on loan at the Reebok, and his arrival could have major repercussions in terms of Wheater’s first-team chances next season.

It is believed Wheater would be open to the possibility of a return to the Riverside, having made more than 150 senior appearances during his seven-year spell with Boro.

Sources in the North-West claim Bolton are not in a rush to sell, but if they do not move Wheater on this summer, or offer him in a new deal, they risk losing him for nothing at the end of next season.

Boro boss Tony Mowbray investigated the possibility of signing Wheater on loan in the second half of last season, but an agreement was not forthcoming.

Nevertheless, he remains a long-standing admirer of the Rockliffe Park academy product, and regards him as the type of reliable performer he is hoping to attract this summer.

Bikey’s departure, allied to continued doubts over the fitness of Jonathan Woodgate, means Boro are in the market for a commanding centre-half, and Wheater would be a popular acquisition among the supporters given the quality of his previous performances in a Boro shirt.

Finance is the major stumbling block in any move as Boro would be unable to match Wheater’s current earnings at Bolton.

The defender is understood to have secured a pay increase to around £20,000-a-week when he left the North-East, and Boro are no longer in a position where they can offer such sums.

Similarly, it remains to be seen what kind of a fee Bolton would demand for a player who was once deemed good enough to make a senior England international squad, but who is now less than 12 months away from becoming a free agent.

Further talks are anticipated, although they may not take place until Mowbray and his players return from a week-long training camp in Portugal.

The Boro squad will fly to the Algarve on Monday, with Seb Hines, who is still rehabilitating following knee surgery, and Justin Hoyte, who is on international duty with Trinidad & Tobago, the only senior players not expected to travel.

Meanwhile, Boro have been credited with an interest in Chelsea youngster Thorgan Hazard, the younger brother of established Belgium international, Eden.

+ Tickets for Boro’s pre-season friendly against French Cup winners Bordeaux on Saturday, July 27 will go on sale to season card holders from next Wednesday (July 10). A general sale will then begin on Monday, July 15.

Seats will be available in the West and South Stands, with prices set at £10 for adults, £7 for over-65s and £5 for under-17s.

Those prices are the same for the Capital One Cup first-round meeting with Accrington Stanley on Tuesday, August 6. Season card holders have until Friday, August 2 to guarantee their seats for that game.

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