NEIL WARNOCK will be recommending a major overhaul of Middlesbrough’s recruitment operation this summer, after admitting Chuba Akpom was signed without the club’s scouting team having been able to watch him in the flesh.

Warnock is due to meet Boro chairman Steve Gibson next week, and is expected to agree to extend his current short-term contract to the end of next season.

As well as discussing his own future, Warnock will also outline his plans for some operational changes within Boro’s backroom set-up, with issues over recruitment set to be at the top of his list.

The 72-year-old was guided by his recruitment team when the Teessiders shelled out £2.5m to sign Akpom from Greek side PAOK Salonika in September, but the striker has scored just four goals in his 26 Championship appearances this term.

Strict coronavirus restrictions meant Boro’s scouting team were unable to travel to Greece to watch Akpom in action before he signed, something Warnock clearly feels was a mistake. With domestic and overseas travel likely to become easier this summer, it is not an approach he will be repeating in the future.

“With the recruitment team, he (Akpom) was top of their list,” said Warnock, ahead of this afternoon’s game with his former side Cardiff City. “But we couldn't watch games in that period, we only looked at Chuba on the internet.

“He looked the best of the bunch from what we were looking at, so that's why we signed him. I think on the stats, the recruitment were convinced he was the best one.

“I saw flashes of what he could do when he first came, but he’s been a shadow of himself these last few weeks, that’s why we have to be careful on the recruitment side.

“I can make anybody look good on a video. We really have to go into everything a bit more when we’re looking to sign players. I don’t think we’ll be signing another player on the recruitment say just watching a video, we need to watch players live.”

Warnock is particularly keen to get his long-term assistants Kevin Blackwell and Ronnie Jepson more involved in the recruitment process, with the trio tending to sing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to assessing a player’s strengths and weaknesses.

While he is yet to formally confirm his willingness to remain in position for another season, Warnock has already drawn up a list of potential targets, which he hopes to start whittling down before the end of the current campaign.

“Kevin and Ronnie are both good judges,” he said. “Kevin is good at the defending and goalkeeping side and Ronnie is very good at the attacking side. We’ll be going to look at games now and trying to get targets.

“We’ve got a list of free transfers who are out of contract, but we'll be looking at other targets as well that there's an opportunity to sign. But there aren't many who are Championship level, like the likes of Kieffer Moore, there aren't many around.

“I think Steve knows how I feel. We’ve had long meetings with the recruitment to tell them what type we're looking at, but we need to see them live. Hopefully, with these vaccinations going well, we might get that chance. Even on the continent, we might get the opportunity to go and see them. You have to if you're spending £2m and £3m at a time.”

Warnock’s main priority will a new centre-forward, with Britt Assombalonga expected to leave when his contract expires in June and Ashley Fletcher having so far refused to sign Boro’s offer of a new deal on reduced terms.

“First and foremost, the club needs a focal point up front,” he acknowledged. “Everything else stems from that, and I don’t think we’ve really got someone like a Kieffer Moore have we? Until we get one of those in the summer, I don’t really think you can plan any sort of system or what you want to do.”