NEIL WARNOCK admits Middlesbrough are involved in a battle to land their early transfer targets, but remains confident the club can outmuscle the majority of their rivals in the second tier.

The Boro boss is set to leave the North-East to begin a family break at his home in Cornwall before the weekend, but is hoping there will still be some significant developments in the next couple of weeks.

He is putting the finishing touches to Boro’s retained list, having held a series of face-to-face meetings since Saturday’s season-ending defeat to Wycombe Wanderers, with the club expected to issue confirmation of who is leaving in the next few days.

There has also been some progress relating to possible incomings, with Warnock still keen to tie up two or three deals before the end of the month to avoid a scramble for players in the latter stages of the transfer window.

Unsurprisingly, a number of the players currently being targeted are interesting other clubs in the Championship – free agent Junior Hoilett is known to have been approached by a host of different sides – but Warnock remains confident Boro can more than punch their weight.

“It’s a competitive market,” said the Middlesbrough manager. “Obviously, the teams that come down will have the parachute payments, and we know that money won’t really be an object for them. If they want a player, they’ll get them.

“We’ve just got to make sure that we’re in the market with the vast majority of the other clubs in the Championship, and hope we can do what we want to do. It’s a wonderful club, Middlesbrough, with great facilities, and having the fans back is an exciting prospect. We’ve got a very good nucleus of a squad, we just need to add the right ones to that. I don’t think it’s really a difficult job to persuade people to come to Middlesbrough.”

Warnock has been working with Boro’s chief executive, Neil Bausor, since the weekend in an attempt to line up deals before he leaves Rockliffe Park for the South-West.

Steve Gibson is also heavily involved in the recruitment process, which will remain ongoing while Warnock spends some time with his family.

“We’re optimistic that we’re going down the right lines to bring the right lads in,” he added. “We’re going for players that we feel will help us next season.

“It’s been busy. We’ve looked at quite a lot of lads now, and I’ve obviously spoken to one or two agents who have been talking about their own clients. That’s what we’ll carry on doing.

“Neil Bausor and myself will carry on working on that, and we speak to Steve quite a lot to keep him informed of what’s going on. I’m optimistic that we can get two or three agreed reasonably quickly, then the rest will take care of themselves after that.”

With Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher having left before the end of last season, and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing also have reached the end of his short-term deal, signings attackers will clearly be a key priority.

There are also a couple of gaps to fill at the other end of the pitch, with Marcus Bettinelli’s loan deal from Fulham having expired and Jordan Archer also due to leave as a free agent next month.

With Warnock absolutely adamant that Boro will not be selling Dael Fry or Marcus Tavernier to raise funds, money will remain tight, and while he remains confident his aims will be achievable, the 72-year-old has already encountered a number of agents and players who do not appear to appreciate the financial changes brought about the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think in football as a whole, players and agents are going to have to lower their expectations,” he said. “The pandemic has really been a blow financially, and I just don’t think the levels we’ve been talking about in the past are there any longer. Over the next few weeks, I think some people might be in for one or two shocks.”