NEIL WARNOCK has admitted his summer rebuild at Middlesbrough will be a bigger project than he was envisaging just a couple of months ago.

With Boro’s season limping to a tame conclusion with hopes of making the play-offs having all-but-disappeared, thoughts are inevitably turning to the changes that will take place in the summer.

Britt Assombalonga, Ashley Fletcher and Marvin Johnson are set to leave as free agents, with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s short-term contract also due to come to an end. Marcus Bettinelli, Yannick Bolasie and Neeskens Kebano will reach the end of their loan deals when the current campaign concludes, and at this stage, it is unlikely that any will be retained for next season.

At the start of the year, Warnock was claiming he would only have to make “minor adjustments” in the summer, however the events of the last few weeks, when Boro have failed to win five of their last seven matches, has forced him into a rethink. Suddenly, he finds himself anticipating a much more radical overhaul than previously looked likely.

“I’ve been quoted as saying that I’ve only got minor adjustments to make, but I think that’s changed quite a lot,” said the Boro boss. “I think we require quite a few in the summer.

“That’ll probably change some of the columns that I’ve read about the minor adjustments – I agree that I’ve got to look seriously now at a number of areas where I think we’ve got to improve. I’d have to say it’s a bigger job that I initially thought. It’s probably more than I thought eight or nine weeks ago.”

Numerically, Warnock’s transfer demands have changed, but given the ongoing financial uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the 72-year-old accepts chairman Steve Gibson will not be handing him a blank cheque.

The pair have already held a number of discussions regarding the transfer situation, and Warnock is confident they are singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to the type of deal they will be targeting once the transfer window reopens.

“It is a bigger job than we initially thought, but it is a job I think is quite achievable in the current climate,” he said. “I think most clubs will be quite shrewd with their money because of what’s going off at the moment.

“I don’t think I’ll be spending a lot of money, to be honest. I think Steve will be quite pleased with my thoughts and what I want to do. He’s totally behind everything I’ve said. I talk to him regularly and he knows what I’m looking for and how disappointed I am that this season has fizzled to an end.

“The thing with Steve is that if I go with a particular player, and tell him what particular job he will do, he’ll sign him – or he’ll try to get him to sign.

“It’s not a matter of having X amount, or having this or that. I know Steve will support me wherever I want to go, but he also knows that I won’t throw money away stupidly. Since I’ve been at the club, I think it’s true to say that the wage bill is quite a bit lower than it was when you look at the big hitters from last year, and then this season we’re going to lose one or two more too.

“In the circumstances, I think we’ve cut our cloth as best we can, but I still want to get success and I want to prove that it’s not the biggest wage bill that gets you success.”

Money remains at a premium, but Warnock continues to insist it will be vital that Boro move quickly once the transfer window reopens at the start of the summer.

Having already suffered a couple of deadline-day disappointments during his time on Teesside when proposed deals fell through at the last minute, there is a strong determination to avoid another desperate scramble for players at the end of August.

“We’ve got to get on and sign some of these players that we’re after now,” he said. “And if we can, sooner rather than later.

“I’d like more than a couple in for the start of pre-season, if I’m honest. I think this is a season where, if we’re going to do well, we need the majority of our players put in place for July 1 so we’re ready to go.”