JONATHAN WOODGATE has refused to get drawn into the reasons why Ben Gibson has returned to Middlesbrough's Rockliffe Park HQ to train away from Burnley.

Clarets boss Sean Dyche opened up on the stand-off with the centre-back yesterday when he described a “unique situation”.

Dyche explained how he was happy with the way Burnley had handled the affair having allowed Gibson to return to Teesside to train with Woodgate’s squad – and it is likely to be for the rest of the season.

But Woodgate was advised only to make light reference to the situation and was keen not to get into the reasons for the move.

The Middlesbrough boss said: “Ben is training at Rockliffe, he is a Burnley player. I want to talk about Middlesbrough he is not our player.”

Gibson, who moved to Turf Moor for £15m in 2018, will train with the Middlesbrough first team to help raise standards.

But Woodgate wanted to focus more on tomorrow’s visit of Luton Town to the Riverside.

He said: “Every game is an opportunity. The Championship is always difficult, when you think you will win games we will try to win a game.

“Luton are a good team, they had a good result against Sheffield Wednesday in midweek. They play some good football. They are a good team, with the budget they have it was always going to be difficult for then.”

Middlesbrough welcome back George Friend and Ryan Shotton into the squad to face the Hatters after the pair came through a training ground friendly with Celtic at Rockliffe on Tuesday.

Friend has only appeared in three games this season and his last appearance was against QPR on November 9 because of a thigh problem. Shotton, meanwhile, has not played since October 23 because of an ankle issue.

“We have progressed in certain departments, throughout the season I have not had a full strength squad to pick from,” said Woodgate. “Now we are getting there, we have a full bench together, more options.

“I expected us to be higher up the table. That’s how it is. In the style of play we are playing better now. We have not had the victories of late. A lot have been better.

“We are more or less fine. George, Shotton back, Fry is OK. Daniela Ayala is still three or four weeks, Dijksteel back next week hopefully organise a few games for home. We want to finish as high as we can. That’s my aim.

“It is a good headache rather than not have players to pick from. If you look at subs this year we have made the least amount that is down to having options and people to put in. It’s good now, I have options and hopefully they are all ready.”