MIDDLESBROUGH will listen to offers for Lukas Jutkiewicz in the summer, even though the striker has discovered a new lease of life during a loan spell at Bolton Wanderers.
Jutkiewicz scored Bolton’s opening goal in a 2-2 draw at Yeovil at the weekend, taking his tally to five goals in 11 games since moving to the Reebok Stadium in January.
His fine goalscoring form stands in marked contrast to the record of the players he left behind at the Riverside, but his performances in a Bolton shirt do not appear to have enhanced his chances of remaining on Boro’s books beyond the end of the season.
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Despite still having more than a year of his current contract to run, Jutkiewicz has effectively been deemed surplus to requirements on Teesside, and Boro officials will attempt to recoup the majority of the £1.3m that was spent to sign him when they look to offload him in the summer.
Bolton boss Dougie Freedman has already confirmed his interest in signing Jutkiewicz permanently, and the 24-year-old has expressed a desire to remain with Wanderers on a permanent basis. However, other Championship clubs are also expected to throw their hat into the ring.
“When the season is finished, we will sit down with Lukas and talk about the future,” said Boro boss Aitor Karanka. “I don’t know what will happen with him – it is something for the future rather than now.
“I am very happy with the way he has been playing. When we sat down together to discuss what was going to happen earlier in the season, we came up with the solution of him going to Bolton on loan because we all wanted the same thing.
“It was very important for him to go somewhere and score goals so he could get more confidence. I am pleased that has happened, and I know more now than I knew at the beginning. I am happy, Lukas is happy and Bolton are happy. We will leave it until the summer.”
Karanka is expected to oversee some significant changes this summer, with a number of outgoings anticipated to help counterbalance the arrivals that are required to overhaul a squad that has fallen a long way short of the play-off pack this season.
Jason Steele is almost certain to leave given his failure to dislodge either Tomas Mejias or Dimi Konstantopoulos from the starting line-up, while Marvin Emnes’ loan move to Swansea City could also turn into a permanent deal.
Next season’s squad could have a markedly different look to the one Karanka is currently overseeing, although it remains to be seen whether any of the young players currently on the fringe of the first team make it into the senior group on a more permanent basis.
Luke Williams, Bryn Morris and David Atkinson are likely to be on the substitutes’ bench again when Boro travel to Huddersfield Town this evening, and all three are expected to feature in the first team before the end of the season.
Morris, a former England under-16 and under-17 skipper, and Atkinson, a Shildon-based defender who also boasts England youth honours, are regarded as the brightest prospects within the current crop of academy players, and have been training with the first-team squad for the last few weeks.
Karanka is keen to see how they handle the elevation to the senior starting XI, but wants to wait until Boro are in more secure position in the table before pitching them into the fray.
“I am planning to use them in the team before the end of the season, but it is maybe still a little bit too early at the moment,” he said. “I have thoughts in my head, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on them.
“I would prefer to wait a little bit longer and put them in the XI when the season is really over. At the moment, we still need to win some more games.
“So if I put young players into the team now it could be damaging to them because they will be under a lot of pressure. I would prefer that when they play, their main thought is to show me and the supporters what they can do.”
Tonight’s game follows hot on the heels of Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to QPR, a game that was effectively decided by a goalkeeping howler from Dimi Konstantopoulos.
Konstantopoulos completely missed his kick as he attempted to clear a stoppage-time back-pass from Kenneth Omeruo, enabling Bobby Zamora to tap the ball into an empty net.
Having watched a number of replays, Karanka is convinced the ball bobbled off a bottle top on the Riverside pitch, but while it was clearly a freak occurrence, it was not the first time the Spaniard had seen such a bizarre incident occur.
“At the stadium, I couldn’t believe what had happened, and to watch the images again is unbelievable,” he said. “The ball hit a bottle top, and I think it was the only one in the stadium.
“Dimi was unlucky, but I have seen it happen before. The first time I saw something like that was in a game in San Mames (the home of Athletic Bilbao), probably 25 years ago.
“It was the great Milan side under (Fabio) Capello, and the same thing happened. It was a ball in the last minute that went towards (Sebastiano) Rossi, the keeper, and he did the same. Athletic drew the game because of that. That is the only other one I have seen in 25 years though.”
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