NEIL WARNOCK will attempt to recruit a player capable of filling the ‘number ten’ role in the final two weeks of the Football League transfer window, but accepts the Government’s decision to continue banning fans means he will have to target Premier League loans rather than permanent additions.

Warnock will be back in the dug-out when Middlesbrough host Barnsley tomorrow having completed his recovery from Covid, and as well as preparing his side for the visit of the Tykes, the 71-year-old has also spent the last few days redrawing his transfer plans.

With an absence of supporters for up to six months having a major impact on Boro’s budgetary planning, Warnock feels it would be wrong to ask Steve Gibson for significant transfer funds, even though he has previously spoken of the need to make up to five more signings before the window closes on October 16.

However, with Premier League clubs able to loan players to teams in the Football League for an 11-day period after the top-flight transfer window closes next Monday, the Boro boss remains confident of securing one or two new faces to supplement his squad.

His priority is to enhance his side’s attacking threat, but having successfully recruited Chuba Akpom from PAOK Salonika last month, he would like to sign an forward capable of linking midfield with attack rather than an out-and-out number nine.

“At the moment, I want to try to see if we can get some creativity to help us score goals,” said Warnock. “That’s the biggest thing. I think we can defend alright and I don’t think we’re bad in midfield, it’s just I’d like to think we could bring somebody in who could turn a game or give us something different to what we’ve already got. That’s the type I’m looking for.

“I’d like something that’s in between a striker and an attacking midfielder. Somebody who can drop into that hole. They don’t have to be a midfielder, certain strikers have done that for me in the past, but it’s about getting somebody who can perform that role. I think we’ve got enough target-men and out-and-out strikers with the three of them – we just need a bit more magic to create.”

Warnock has switched his attention to the loan market, although he remains in talks with one overseas target about a possible permanent move, even if he no longer expects the deal to happen.

“We were interested in a lad who’s abroad, which would have to be done by the fifth, but the figures keep changing,” he said. “You’ve got different agents coming into it, and it’s a minefield at the moment.

“It took us about four weeks to get Chuba, and with some of the things that were going off in that four weeks, I don’t know how we managed to do it in the end. If it wasn’t for the lad wanting to come, I don’t think we’d have managed to do that.”

The market is likely to change after Monday, when top-flight clubs will have to submit their final 25-man squad lists to the Premier League.

Most clubs will have at least two or three experienced players unable to make it into their final 25, enabling clubs like Boro to consider deals that would have been considered extremely unlikely earlier in the window.

“At the moment, I think clubs are waiting to see what’s going to happen with loans, and we’re no different in that to anyone else,” said Warnock. “After the fifth, when the international window closes, I’m sure we’ll be approached by agents and clubs about the players that aren’t in their 25-man squad. Then, we’ll look at what there is, and hopefully we can bring one or two in.

“I’ve inquired about three or four lads on loan, although I’m not saying we’re necessarily going to get two or three or four. But if we could get one or two of those lads, it would help us out because we’ve got some hellish runs of games coming up now.

“The number of games in October through to December is incredible, so we’re going to have to use a full squad. There’s going to be injuries, and people are going to have to come in and do their best.”

With that in mind, Warnock is reluctant to allow his own fringe players to leave, even if he accepts a loan move might aid their development.

Both Nathan Wood and Sam Folarin might benefit from playing regular football in the lower leagues, but the shallowness of Boro’s squad means Warnock is minded to keep them in case they are required in the next couple of months.

“I’ve been really pleased with certain lads that have come into the squad,” he said. “If I could loan a young player out – someone like Sam – then that’s what I would do. But I’ve got to make sure I look after myself as well.

“There’s so many games between now and January, and if the squad is going to be quite tight, we have to be careful. I know Sam could come on for half-an-hour here and there and contribute, and that might be something we need.

“With some of the younger lads, I might just have to deny them an opportunity to go on loan until after January. We have to make sure the squad is big enough, and at the moment, we’ve probably got one of the smallest squads in the league.”