NEIL WARNOCK is ready to ring the changes for Middlesbrough’s home game with Sheffield United this evening after appearing to lose faith in some of the players that arrived from overseas during the summer transfer window.

Boro have won just two of their opening nine league matches, with Warnock struggling to mould an effective starting side from the core group that remained from last season and the influx of new arrivals who moved to Teesside in the summer.

Saturday’s limp 1-0 defeat at Reading appears to have been the final straw, with Warnock claiming he selected his side for this evening’s game in the early hours of Sunday morning after concluding he had spent too long “worrying about trying to get people fit”.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference yesterday, he admitted James Lea-Siliki is “nowhere near fit enough” and revealed he still “does not know what Martin Payero’s best position is”, comments that suggest the two overseas signings are unlikely to feature in tonight’s starting side against the Blades.

“I think I’ve just got to pick what I think is my best team now, and not worry about anything else,” said Warnock, who can select Matt Crooks for this evening's game after his red card from the Reading match was overturned. “I think I’ve probably worried too much about getting people fit, but I don’t think I should do that anymore now. I think I should just pick my team and if people get fit, great, if they don’t, they won’t get in the team.

“I made up my mind what my team was going to be about five o’clock on Sunday morning. I made up my mind which way I was going to go. I told my two assistants that was the way I was going to go and they wouldn’t change my mind, and they haven’t done.”

Lea-Siliki was on the bench at Reading at the weekend, having started the previous two games against Nottingham Forest and Blackpool, and Warnock clearly does not feel the midfielder is up to speed with the demands of the Championship following his loan move from Rennes.

He has urged the 25-year-old to remain on Teesside rather than join up with the Cameroon squad on international duty at the start of next month, but at this stage, it looks as though his pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

“I said to James yesterday, ‘If I’m honest, I don’t think you should go away in the international break really because you’re nowhere near fit enough. Yet you’re going to go away for two weeks and probably play five minutes in one game, ten minutes in another, and you’ll be walking around for two weeks hardly doing any training, and you’ll be back to square one’,” said Warnock.

“He says he can’t do that and that he’s got to go with the international team. Unfortunately, in that situation, there’s very little you can do as a manager.”

Warnock’s response to questions over Payero’s limited impact since signing from South America were less damning, although the fact he is willing to concede he does not know how to fit the Argentinian into his team hardly suggests he is especially enamoured with the 23-year-old performances in a Boro shirt.

“I don’t really know where his (Payero) best position is yet, if I’m honest,” he admitted. “He had to do a job on Saturday. He struggled a little bit in letting his man go, but did well at times in other areas.

“I don’t really know (where he is best), although I don’t really think it’s a time where we can experiment to find out either. He’s done well in training and has caught up in the fitness, but I’m not sure whereabouts the best position is. I’ve tried him in different areas in training, and we’ve just got to persevere.”

Middlesbrough (probable, 4-2-3-1): Lumley; Peltier, Hall, Fry, Bola; Howson, McNair; Watmore, Crooks, Tavernier; Ikpeazu.