GEORGE FRIEND has admitted that all summer arrivals will be welcomed by the rest of the Middlesbrough squad as Aitor Karanka closes in on a number of much-needed recruits.
Friend, skipper for Saturday’s friendly win at Rochdale, has revealed how all the players are behind Karanka’s drive to strengthen the squad in a bid to guide Boro to promotion.
Kenneth Omeruo’s imminent return - which will now be at some stage this week rather than yesterday as expected - is likely to be followed by Chelsea team-mate Patrick Bamford’s arrival, while Doncaster’s left-back James Husband is on the verge of a £500,000 switch.
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There remains a long-standing interest in Belgian striker Jelle Vossen, who was left out of Genk’s game with Mechelen on Sunday due to injury, and Sunderland’s Danny Graham.
Karanka hopes Middlesbrough’s chief executive Neil Bausor can strike a deal for a new striker, midfielder and right-back before the Championship season starts on August 9.
Friend, who would welcome the extra competition for the left-back slot which has become his own, can’t wait to see further progress on the recruitment front .
“The boys want players in and we know we need a good squad to do well in this league,” said Friend. “The more quality we add the better chances we have of progressing and getting this club back up to the Premier League.
“Hopefully we get a few more additions so that we get that extra edge we need. Every year it gets harder in the Championship to get back up and this year will be the same.
“This is my fifth or sixth season at this level and you just need to look and see the teams coming down to realise how tough it will be. It all filters down from the Premier League and we are building a strong squad. We have a fantastic manager and coaching staff in place too.”
While fans have been getting frustrated at the length of time it has taken for new faces to come in, those at Spotland on Saturday saw summer signing Kike impress.
He scored the second, a penalty, in the 3-1 win over Rochdale but it was his overall performance which impressed.
“If they were all watching they will be pretty happy,” said Friend. “He held it up well, scored, worked hard, makes great runs and is a clever footballer. He is the complete package in many respects. I am excited to play with him this season.
“We know what he can do now, we need to get a bit more of a relationship with him before the season but he looks like he could be a really good signing for us – a great addition.”
Kike, 23, was prolific in the Spanish second division for Real Murcia, scoring 23 goals last season. He does not speak the English language, however, which could pose a problem to the settling in process.
But Friend thinks the fact Karanka and his backroom team can communicate with him will help Kike. The defender said: “Sometimes you don’t need to speak English when you see a talented player like him, you play off his movement.
“The real positive is he can finish. He has a keen eye for goal and isn’t too selfish, so will set up others around him. We have a lot of Spanish players and staff, he feels comfortable already. The manager knows how to get the best out of him I’m sure. Some of our Spanish speaking team-mates have taken him in too.”