AITOR KARANKA is confident Middlesbrough can cope without Shay Given, even though he is still to determine the identity of the club’s new number one.
Given will play the final game of his loan spell from Aston Villa when Leeds United visit the Riverside tomorrow, with financial restrictions having prevented Boro from extending the 37-year-old’s stay.
His departure will rob the Teessiders of their most consistent performer in the last two months, but Karanka has begun to plan for life without the Irishman by signing Tomas Meijas Osorio on loan from Real Madrid.
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Osorio joins Jason Steele, who made his return from an ankle injury with an outing for Boro’s development side this week, in a goalkeeping contingent that also features Dimi Konstantopoulos, Jayson Leutwiler and Connor Ripley, and while Karanka insists the post-Given pecking order is still to be decided, the Spaniard is happy with his lot.
“I am confident that we will be okay without Shay,” said the Boro boss. “I have my other goalkeepers and it is up to them now.
“We have Tomas from Real Madrid, and Jason who is fit again after his injury. He needs to recover his confidence because to go three months without playing a game is difficult, especially for a goalkeeper. He needs to get his confidence back because goalkeeping is a special position.
“We also have Dimi, Jayson and Connor, so I am happy with the options I have. I don’t need to speak to any of them (about the future) because everybody knows the way I work.
“They know that my number one will be the goalkeeper that trains very well. The one who does the best will be the keeper that will play. It could be Tomas or Jason, or it could be neither of them. If Dimi is doing better than them both, then he will be the keeper that plays in the games.”
Given his kept nine clean sheets in his 15 matches since moving to Middlesbrough, with his composure and authority rubbing off on the defenders playing in front of him.
The former Newcastle and Sunderland goalkeeper has produced some exceptional saves in the last two months, most notably in the final seconds of the 1-0 win over Charlton, but it is his dominance of the penalty area and organisation of the rest of the back four that has impressed most.
Karanka has also enthused about Given’s impact in the dressing room, but with the veteran’s Villa Park contract not due to expire until 2016, there is little chance of him returning to the Riverside in the future.
“It is not something we will look at again,” said Karanka. “It is not possible. Aston Villa have said they want their goalkeeper at the moment, and in the future, I don’t think there are any more chances of having him here.
“We were working until the end to try to keep him because he is happy here and enjoying his football a lot. We tried to keep him, but it was not possible. He brought us a lot of things – his experience, his personality and his professional outlook. For these reasons, he was very important for us.”
While Given is bidding farewell this weekend, Lee Tomlin is hoping to kick-start his Middlesbrough career. The striker, who initially joined on loan from Peterborough on deadline-day in January, completed a permanent transfer this week, but is still to make his Boro debut because of a suspension picked up in his final game for the Posh.
He will be named in the squad for tomorrow’s lunch-time kick off, and while he is expected to start on the bench because of a lack of match sharpness, Karanka expects him to make a significant impact in the final two-and-a-half months of the season.
“I think he will bring us different qualities,” he said. “I brought him here because he can give us different things to what we already have. Hopefully, he will show that on the pitch this weekend.
“He is training well and needs to be involved in the games now. I am pleased with his work and he is happy being here. Now, I need to think about how to use him against Leeds.
“I don’t think he is ready to play for the full 90 minutes yet, so I need to think about what to do. If he goes into the first XI, then he needs to demonstrate from the first second that he is ready, but if he goes on to the bench, he needs to make sure that he is ready to come on and make an impact.”