A NUMBER of Middlesbrough players are heading to the continent to ensure they are in ideal physical condition for the start of pre-season training in nine days’ time.

While Boro’s squad are not due to return to Rockliffe Park until June 26, the club has helped arranged summer training camps in Spain and Portugal for members of their squad who want to keep their fitness levels ticking over.

Some of those involved were nursing injuries at the end of last season, and have effectively been training throughout the summer to ensure their recuperation remains on track.

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Others, like Patrick Bamford, did not have much first-team involvement last term, and have opted to return to training early in an attempt to make an immediate impact once the pre-season programme begins.

New boss Garry Monk is fully supportive of their efforts, and while he is not expected to travel overseas to watch the players train, he will be monitoring their activities as they prepare for the return of full training.

Boro are still to announce their pre-season schedule, but an overseas training camp is expected to form part of the programme, with Aitor Karanka having regularly taken his players to Spain during the summer break.

Steve Agnew was involved in the summer planning process, and the former assistant’s future should become clearer at the start of next week.

Boro chief executive Neil Bausor described the club’s backroom reshuffle as “ongoing” when he appeared alongside Monk at a press conference at the start of the week, and the process should be complete by the time the squad return to Rockliffe a week on Monday.

Ben Gibson will not be among the first batch of players to head into pre-season, as the centre-half has been granted a longer break because of his post-season exertions with England.

Southampton are the latest club to have been linked with the centre-half, even though they are still to appoint a managerial successor to Claude Puel.

The Saints expect to lose Virgil van Dijk later this summer, even though Liverpool pulled out of a proposed deal for the Dutchman when they were forced to apologise for contacting him without permission.

Van Dijk, who has also been linked with Chelsea and Manchester City, is set to move for around £40m, and Southampton’s recruitment team have identified Gibson as a possible replacement.

A new boss would have to agree with their judgement before they were to make a formal move, with Liverpool, Leicester and West Brom also monitoring Gibson’s situation closely.

Meanwhile, Middlesbrough were not involved in yesterday’s Carabao Cup first-round draw as their finishing position in the Premier League means they were granted a bye to round two.