JONATHAN WOODGATE has opened the door to an emotional Riverside return for Ben Gibson, but insisted Middlesbrough will only consider selling Dael Fry to Burnley if they come up with a £30m offer for the defender.

Boro’s need for a new centre-half intensified last night as Fry became the latest defender to pick up an injury during his side’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham City. The centre-half joins Daniel Ayala, George Friend and Ryan Shotton on the list of absentees, reinforcing the need for defensive reinforcements before the transfer window closes next Friday.

Gibson has been linked with a possible return to his hometown club, having failed to make a single Premier League appearance for Burnley this season.

The former Boro skipper is understood to be considering the possibility of a loan move back to Middlesbrough for the remainder of the campaign, and while he was careful not to push things too far, Woodgate is clearly receptive to the possibility of a homecoming.

“It (Fry’s injury) doesn’t half increase the need (for a new centre-half),” said the Boro head coach. “I’m sure we will do that, I’m very confident on that.

“Could it be Ben Gibson? Who knows? It could be anyone. Have I spoken to Ben about signing? Not at the minute. Ben Gibson’s a good player, but there’s an awful lot of good players in the league. Would he be open to coming back? I’m not sure on that one. But he’s a Boro lad isn’t he?”

Fry’s hamstring problem is not expected to be too serious, and Woodgate remains adamant the England Under-21 international will not be going anywhere this month unless Boro receive an offer of £30m.

Burnley have made a number of approaches in the last 12 months, but are believed to value Fry at somewhere around £10m.

“Dael is not for sale,” said Woodgate. “He’s not for sale unless someone pays £30m. There haven’t been bids that I know of for anyone, but I’m sure there will be because there are some really good players in there.

“If bids come in, let’s see. We’ve got some really good players, and if I was other managers, I’d be looking at a few of them because a few of them have stepped up this year and been absolutely fantastic. There are a lot of good players.

“I expect one or two players in. Whether they’ll both be defenders, I’m not sure about that. But I’d expect one or two with the injuries, although hopefully they’re not too serious.”

Last night’s game saw Ashley Fletcher’s back-heeled finish cancel out Lukas Jutkiewicz’s opener with nine minutes left, but the drama did not end there as a huge touchline fracas blighted the final moments of the match.

Coaches and players from both technical areas were involved in a flare up that resulted in Boro first-team coach Leo Percovich and Birmingham coach Sean Rush, who was part of Garry Monk’s backroom staff at the Riverside, both receiving red cards from referee Andy Woolmer.

The brawl was sparked when Woolmer stopped play to allow Marcus Tavernier to receive treatment for what appeared to be a head injury moments before Jutkiewicz put the ball in the net for what he thought was a winning goal.

Woodgate supported Woolmer’s decision to bring play to a halt, but felt his subsequent reaction to the altercation on the touchline was overblown.

“The referee has blown it out of proportion,” he said. “It’s a fracas, it happens. It’s passion from both sides. It got the crowd going. Listen, if you see Leo is involved, I’m going to help him. I know Sean. Leo and Sean will meet after this, have a beer and kiss and make up and whatever they do.

“I was charging down the line shouting, ‘Head injury, he’s got to stop the game’. But don’t forget, he was offside when he scored anyway, so it wouldn’t have stood.”

Birmingham boss Pep Clotet saw the closing stages somewhat differently, insisting Woolmer should have allowed play to continue despite Tavernier being prone on the floor inside his own half.

“I think it was a clear goal,” said Clotet. “The only thing I saw was a goal. That is my opinion, it is a goal. Whatever comes from the FA we will have to read it, and I am sure they will look into it.”