MIDDLESBROUGH are confident Mark Robins’ dramatic departure from Huddersfield Town will not affect their pursuit of Adam Clayton, but competing interest from Brighton is threatening to scupper their hopes of signing the midfielder.
Robins left his role as Huddersfield manager yesterday morning, less than 24 hours after the Terriers lost their opening game of the season 4-0, but with a replacement unlikely to be appointed for at least another week, the West Yorkshire club will continue to carry out their transfer business without a boss in place.
That is good news for Boro, who have been trying to complete a £1.5m deal for Clayton for more than a week now, but the weekend brought further complications to a move that has developed into something of a convoluted saga over the last few days.
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Having initially thought a deal had been completed at the start of last week, Boro officials were unable to confirm Clayton’s capture after Jacob Butterfield, who was not involved in the Teessiders’ 2-0 win over Birmingham City on Saturday, expressed reservations about moving in the opposite direction to the John Smith’s Stadium.
Huddersfield asked for more time to secure an experienced replacement for Clayton, but the delay has enabled other clubs to throw their hat into the ring, with Brighton keen on taking the 25-year-old to the south coast.
Huddersfield’s board have been at pains to insist that there is no agreement with Brighton over a fee, and as things stand, the Seagulls have not been granted permission to speak to Clayton or his representatives. However, the midfielder is aware of their interest, and is understood to prefer a move to Brighton rather than completing the switch to Middlesbrough that was all-but-agreed last week.
Aitor Karanka was typically non-committal when asked about the situation in the wake of Saturday’s win, but further talks are planned for today to ascertain what the next move is for both Clayton and Butterfield, who could still end up moving to Huddersfield even if Clayton does not arrive on Teesside.
Middlesbrough have been pursuing other midfield options anyway, and Lewis Baker could become the latest player to move to Teesside from Chelsea later this week.
Karanka and Jose Mourinho have discussed potential loan moves for a number of players this summer, but Baker has emerged as the likeliest to follow Kenneth Omeruo to the Riverside.
The 19-year-old attacking midfielder made his senior Chelsea debut in January’s FA Cup win over Derby County, and has been a key figure in the London side’s development squad for the last couple of seasons, earning an FA Youth Cup winners’ medal in the process.
Boro should announce the arrival of right-back Damia Abella this week, with the Spaniard having passed a medical and agreed personal terms at the end of last week, and are also still in discussions with Hadjuk Split over Bosnian full-back Avdija Vrsajevic.
Seb Hines had to play at right-back on Saturday, and Karanka would ideally like to sign two players for that position following the exit of Jozsef Varga and Stuart Parnaby over the summer.
“I hope there will be more players,” said Karanka. “The club is working very well and very hard on new players. But we don’t want mistakes and that is why it is important we already have a good squad from last season. We will try to bring players to add to the squad, but they have to be better players than we have.”
Boro’s biggest piece of transfer business so far was the £2.8m capture of Kike from Real Murcia, and the striker could hardly have wished for a better debut as he scored the second goal of Saturday’s opening-day win.
His slick movement and incisive interplay was a key feature of Boro’s attacking play all afternoon, and he already seems to have struck up a successful relationship with Lee Tomlin, who had a major hand in the Spaniard’s goal.
Karanka was delighted with Kike’s efforts, but was keen to stress the all-round quality of Boro’s display rather than single out any individuals.
“We were a team, and that was important for us,” he said. “It makes me proud when we play as a team. We work hard every day on the training ground, and when you see the players do the things that we have been saying on the training pitch, it is satisfying.”
The only downside to the victory was the first-minute hamstring injury that will sideline Ben Gibson for a month.
“I think Gibson will be out for about four weeks,” said Karanka, who expects to receive a more definitive timescale after a scan later today. “But I am not too concerned because I have other players. It was the worst thing that could have happened to him. We were happy with him in pre-season, but he had to run in the first ten seconds and it went.”