JONATHAN WOODGATE would love to keep goalkeeper Darren Randolph at Middlesbrough despite knowing he is good enough for the Premier League.

Randolph has attracted interest from newly-promoted Aston Villa this summer and Stoke City are known to have identified him as one of the contenders to replace Jack Butland, who is expected to leave in the next couple of weeks.

There has also previously been a return to West Ham United mooted, but Boro know how good he is and will be determined to keep him unless there was an offer that proves too tempting for the 32-year-old.

Middlesbrough’s assistant manager Robbie Keane is also working with Randolph on the international stage with the Republic of Ireland, so that relationship clearly helps moving forward.

Keane knows what sort of professional Randolph is to have in the squad, and he proved his worth last season by keeping 19 clean sheets and being named in the Championship’s team of the year.

“Darren is a top keeper, a great professional and I have played with him for the Ireland team,” said Keane. “He is unbelievable. It’s great to come in to this club and be with him full-time because it reiterates to me that he is one of the best in the league, if not in the Premier League as well.

“I have known Darren from before and he has always impressed me.”

Middlesbrough are looking to bring in new players and the clock is ticking, with the opening trip to Luton on the horizon a week on Friday.

Middlesbrough need to be creative in the transfer market to adhere with Financial Fair Play following the end of the parachute payments they were receiving from the Premier League, but Randolph would ideally stay put.

“Darren was our best player last season and I want to keep the best ones,” Woodgate told BBC Tees. “I would love to keep them all but I want to get players in as well.”

Tomas Mejias, who has had a previous spell, is Middlesbrough’s only recruit so far for the first team and he has started the last two friendlies because of an injury to Randolph picked up at Gateshead.

Mejias will start again at Salford tonight because Randolph and defender Dael Fry are still missing with knocks. Last season’s top scorer Britt Assombalonga will get his first outing of pre-season at the Peninsula Stadium, having been given some time off after his appearance in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Woodgate said: “Britt will be playing against Salford. Randolph will be back hopefully soon, we’ve got Dael Fry to come back and George Friend got minutes at Bishop Auckland.

“Fry, I’ll have to check with the doctor but he won’t be long, hopefully (he’ll) be back for the start of the season.”

Middlesbrough only have two friendlies remaining before the trip to Luton, with French side St Etienne set for the Riverside Stadium on Sunday.

Woodgate is looking for improvements in the performance after the weekend 5-1 defeat in Germany to Heideheim, when Middlesbrough conceded four goals in the final 25 minutes against the Bundesliga 2 outfit.

Martin Braithwaite missed the trip to Germany through illness but will be assessed to determine if he can face Salford, with Woodgate dismissing theories it was because he could be leaving afterwards.