NEIL WARNOCK would like to sign a couple of players in order to flesh out his squad in the January transfer window – but the Middlesbrough manager admits it will be difficult to recruit people who are willing to act as “cover” for his current first-choice line-up.

Warnock was unable to name a full complement of nine substitutes for Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Derby, and the Boro boss freely admits he is short of numbers in some key areas, most notably in the defensive positions and at centre-forward.

The transfer window will reopen in just over a month, and while the financial picture remains extremely challenging with Teesside’s tier-three status meaning Boro are unable to admit fans into their home games at the Riverside, Warnock is confident Steve Gibson will provide funds to help him recruit.

However, it will still be difficult to convince players to join when Warnock admits he is extremely reluctant to make changes to his current first-choice line-up, especially in the back four.

“I think Steve wants to support me whenever he can, but you’ve got to bring in better than what you’ve got, and who could you realistically bring in to replace (Anfernee) Dijksteel or (Marc) Bola or (Paddy) McNair or (Jonny) Howson? It’s very difficult.” he said.

“We’ll have to try to bring people in to provide cover in certain areas, but you’ve got to get the right player in. You’ve got to get a good pro who’s willing to do that. You’re probably talking about an older player because they’re not going to be a regular in your team.

“You can only get a certain type of player who is willing to come in to be cover. It’s probably got to be somebody who knows me and wants to come and enjoy it, or somebody who has been bombed out of somewhere else.

“It’s like loaning a player from the Premier League – there’s a couple that I fancy to loan, but if I loan them, I’ve got to play them. Their clubs aren’t going to loan them to me unless I’m going to play them, but they couldn’t get in my team.”

With Boro having started the season strongly, Warnock accepts there is likely to be interest in some of his own players come the start of next month.

Djed Spence has been strongly linked with both Tottenham and Newcastle in recent weeks, while McNair’s performances at centre-half are also known to be attracting growing interest in teams from the top-flight.

Gibson has repeatedly warned of the black hole in the budget caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but with his side looking like increasingly viable promotion contenders, Warnock is confident players will not be sold without his blessing.

“I don’t think Steve would sell anybody that I didn’t want to sell,” said the Boro boss. “It would have to be ridiculous figures because, at the moment, we’re trying to cement the club and put it on a good footing by making sure we’ve got the squad on extended contracts as much as we can.

“We want to be going into the next few years with the confidence of a squad that’s been together. That’s what we’re trying to do. It wouldn’t surprise me (if clubs were interested in some of Boro’s players), but the money would have to be ridiculous, and even then I don’t think Steve would be interested.”

As well as rewarding his senior players, Warnock is also trying to create a pathway for Boro’s academy youngsters, but he does not want to promote academy players to the bench just for the sake of it. “If I’m not going to put them on, they’re better off playing in the Under-23s to get more game time,” he said.