GRANT HALL is ready to answer Neil Warnock’s call for ‘leaders’ after agreeing to become the first signed-up member of the 71-year-old’s Riverside revolution.

Hall joined Boro as a free agent last week, having previously turned down the offer of a new contract at QPR, and is settling into his new life in the North-East as he prepares for the start of pre-season training in a couple of weeks’ time.

The 28-year-old has already experienced plenty of ups and downs in his career, shaking off the effects of a potentially career-threatening knee injury to take on the captain’s armband at Loftus Road.

And with Warnock openly admitting a lack of leadership was a key failing last season, the centre-half is hoping his experience and character will help fill the void.

“I think I bring leadership,” said Hall, who had spells at Brighton and Tottenham before joining QPR. “Obviously, I was captain of QPR last season, and that responsibility helped me. I think I can be a leader on and off the pitch.

“When the manager spoke to me, he said he felt the team was lacking a bit of leadership last season. Every time I’ve played Middlesbrough through the seasons, they’ve always been in and around the play-offs, going for promotion, so for Middlesbrough to be in the position they were in last season was a bit of a shock to me, especially with the players that are at the club.

“There’s some very good players here, but for whatever reason, things didn’t go right last year. Hopefully, I can play a part in turning that around this year and we can be looking up instead of down.”

Warnock certainly intends to be operating at the opposite end of the table next season, and the Boro boss’ proven track record in the Championship was a key factor behind Hall’s decision to uproot to the North-East.

“Eight promotions speaks for itself,” he said, reflecting on Warnock’s previous achievements in the second tier. “He said to me on the phone, ‘Look, I’ve not come here to finish mid-table’.

“We all know it’s not as simple as that – the Championship is a brutal league, it’s demanding, it’s ruthless – but for him to say that, I know he firmly believes it. Everyone knows what he’s achieved so far, and what he’s capable of doing.

“I’ve worked with him before at QPR, only for a brief spell, but I saw what he was about then, and obviously his record speaks for itself. My ambition is to play in the Premier League. I feel like he’s someone who can take this club back to where it needs to be.”

While most players are enjoying a hard-earned break at the moment, Hall’s contractual issues at QPR mean he has been kicking his heels since March. He has been keeping himself fit since the end of lockdown, but cannot wait to link up with his new team-mates on the training pitch later this month.

“To be honest, it’s been a long wait because of the contract situation at QPR,” he said. “With lockdown happening, my last game was March. That’s a long time without football. I came back and trained for a brief spell at QPR, but then contract talks broke down there and I felt it was the right time for me to move on anyway.

“It’s been a while since I’ve trained, so I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m just desperate to get started now.”