NEW boy Ray Parlour could be central to Middlesbrough's chances in more ways than one, as the former Arsenal star expects his midfield partnership with George Boateng to play a "vital" role in the forthcoming campaign.

Parlour made his Riverside debut alongside the Dutchman on Wednesday night as Middlesbrough cruised to a morale-boosting 3-1 win over Spanish side Real Mallorca.

The pair are expected to combine in the centre of midfield again when Boro kick off the new Premiership season at home to Newcastle in eight days' time, and Parlour is relishing his new role.

The 31-year-old spent the latter half of his Arsenal career on the right flank as Emmanuel Petit and, more latterly Patrick Vieria, made the central positions their own.

But Boro boss Steve McClaren has switched him inside and, after strolling through the full 90 minutes on Wednesday night, the former England international is happy with his new surroundings.

"My understanding with George is going to be vital this season and I think we've started well," said Parlour, who will make an emotional return to Highbury when Boro travel there for their second game of the season on August 22.

"I've enjoyed playing with George. Our job in there is probably to win the ball back and give it to players like Gaizka Mendieta and Bolo Zenden and let them get on with it. We can get better and, with games, that will happen.

"I've played in the centre throughout my career and I can play on the right or in the middle.

"I enjoy it in the centre - you're always involved in the game and you've got to win the ball back, which is one of my strengths. I like to be there, but I can also play on the right and that gives the team another option.

"You don't know what's going to happen in the season, you could get injuries or suspensions and I can fill another role. It's always a plus point when you've got players that can play in a number of positions."

Wednesday's win over Mallorca whetted the appetite for some of the more high-profile European games that are just around the corner as Boro prepare to embark on their maiden continental campaign.

The Teessiders might be relative novices against foreign opposition, but the manner in which they nullified Mallorca's early threat before breaking out themselves hinted at a knowledge of how to approach the European game.

Parlour has more than 50 European appearances under his belt after a 13-year Arsenal career that included success in the Cup Winners' Cup. And, after helping his new team-mates sign off their pre-season preparations on a winning note, the midfielder is confident Boro can make their mark in the UEFA Cup.

"I've been lucky enough to play in quite a few European games," said Parlour. "And you've got to keep a solid base.

"European teams will play the ball around you quite a bit. They'll wait for that one opportunity where they can slip it through, get a chance, and score.

"It's important that, while they can play around as much as they like, you can't let them get through your base of a solid four in midfield and a solid back four.

"We seemed to do that against Mallorca. We also kept the tempo high and you'll find that some European teams can't cope with that."

Parlour's impressive start to his Middlesbrough career has further closed the door on Juninho, and Scottish champions Celtic are understood to be lining up a fresh approach for the Brazilian.

Bhoys boss Martin O'Neill has been monitoring Juninho's situation all summer and, while the World Cup winner has publicly committed himself to Teesside, he is known to be frustrated at his likely lack of first-team opportunities.

O'Neill is desperate to bring in new faces before the transfer window shuts on August 31 and is set to test the water with a seven-figure bid.

* Michael Reiziger is confident of facing Newcastle on August 14 after a scan revealed no serious damage to the shoulder he injured against Hansa Rostock last weekend.

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