JONATHAN WOODGATE has confirmed Middlesbrough’s interest in Jack Clarke, but conceded it will be extremely difficult to sign the Tottenham winger this month.

Boro made a successful start to the transfer window last week when they signed Manchester City duo Patrick Roberts and Lukas Nmecha on season-long loans, but Woodgate remains hopeful of conducting further business in the next three weeks.

Darren Randolph’s £4m move to West Ham United should finally go through later today, with Woodgate hoping a proportion of the goalkeeper’s fee will be earmarked to assist with additional incomings.

The Boro boss is one of a number of Championship managers to have spoken to Tottenham officials about Clarke, with the Teessiders’ FA Cup third-round opponents looking to loan out the York-born 19-year-old for the second half of the season.

Clarke joined Spurs in an £11m move from Leeds United in the summer, only for his new employers to immediately loan him back to Elland Road. However, he has played just 19 minutes of Championship football this season, forcing Spurs to cut short his loan move in order to reassess their options.

Woodgate would love to add Clarke to his squad for the remainder of the campaign, but with Fulham, Brentford, QPR and Millwall also known to be chasing his services, the Boro head coach accepts it will be extremely difficult to complete a deal.

“I really like Jack Clarke,” said Woodgate. “He’s a really, really top player, but he’s a Spurs player at the minute. I do like Jack Clarke, but are we going to get him? I don’t think so. But he’s a good, good player.”

As well as targeting an additional attacking player, Woodgate is also keen to sign a central defender this month.

An initial scan on Daniel Ayala’s injured ankle has proved reasonably positive, but Boro’s medical staff will seek a second assessment at the start of the next week before drawing up a definitive rehabilitation programme.

Whatever happens, Paddy McNair and Jonny Howson will remain at centre-half for Saturday’s home game with Derby County and Tuesday’s FA Cup replay with Spurs, and while the pair have performed creditably in their new position, Woodgate would like the option of being able to restore them to a midfield role at some stage.

With Nathan Wood not yet ready for sustained exposure to the Championship, that would mean adding another centre-half to the squad, something Woodgate and the rest of Boro’s recruitment team are currently working on.

“Are we looking at defenders in January? Maybe,” said the Boro boss. “If something comes available, we’ll look at what option it is. At the minute, they’re (Howson and McNair) doing well for me, but I’d like to play Paddy in midfield really.

“It’s a big position to play, centre-half, especially in the Championship. It’s a big position and we’ve got lots of options we’ve been looking at. Would it have to be an experienced player? Not necessarily, it depends how good they are. I’ve got targets in lots of different positions. If they’re good enough, they can come.”

As well as looking to recruiting players, Woodgate is also keen to tie up the future of some of the senior players that are due to become free agents in the summer.

Howson falls into that category, and given how readily he has expressed his admiration for the stand-in centre-half in the last few weeks, it is no surprise that Woodgate is desperate to hold on to the 31-year-old, who is theoretically free to speak to any interested parties based overseas.

“I’m sure we’ll get Jonny sorted,” he said. “I hope we do because he’s been fantastic. Those type of players, you need them. He can play right-back, right wing-back, centre-back, number ten, the list is pretty much endless.

“He can play in all of those positions and he’s a leader in the dressing room who leads by example, so he’s vital. I’m confident we’ll get things sorted with him, but then I’m always confident. I want to keep him, he’s really important for me.”

Randolph spent yesterday in London finalising the terms of his return to West Ham, with the Premier League club having agreed an initial fee of £4m to re-sign the goalkeeper two-and-a-half years after he left East London for Teesside. It is understood the deal includes a series of clauses that could see the fee owed to Boro increase.

West Ham have subjected the Republic of Ireland international to a rigorous medical as he is currently struggling with a hip problem, but the deal should go through in the next 24 hours.

“Darren is in negotiations with a Premier League team at the minute,” confirmed Woodgate, who insisted there has been no formal approach from Aston Villa for Britt Assombalonga. “He’s in negotiations so let’s see what happens.”

One outgoing deal did go through yesterday with defender Sam Stubbs joining Dutch side ADO Den Haag on a season-long loan. Boro cut short the youngsters’ previous loan at Scottish side Hamilton Academicals in order to send him to a Den Haag side managed by former Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew.

Meanwhile, Boro’s home game with Birmingham City has been brought forward to Tuesday, January 21 (ko 7.45pm). The game was originally scheduled for FA Cup fourth-round weekend.