NOTTINGHAM FOREST appear to have admitted defeat in their pursuit of Djed Spence, leaving the path open for Tottenham to land the Middlesbrough defender.

Spence is set to leave the Riverside on a permanent basis this summer, with Boro hoping to receive at least £20m for the 21-year-old wing-back.

Last season, Spence was an integral part of the Nottingham Forest side that won promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs, with his season-long loan spell at the City Ground proving a huge success.

Forest boss Steve Cooper has made no attempt to hide his desire to re-sign the defender on a permanent basis this summer, but has always accepted there would be intense competition from within the Premier League.

Tottenham’s interest was already well-established before the transfer window opened, and while the London club are yet to make a formal offer to Boro officials, Antonio Conte has identified Spence as his number one option at right-back.

While Spence has not made a public statement on his future, sources close to the transfer discussions suggest he has privately decided that he wants to join Spurs.

A move to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium would enable him to return to his London roots, and would also provide him with an opportunity to play Champions League football next season.

There is a growing expectation that a move to Spurs will go through at some stage, with Forest seemingly have accepted that they are unlikely to be able to pull off a deal of their own.

As a result, Cooper is already assessing alternative options, with a move for Arsenal full-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles understood to be in the pipeline.

Maitland -Niles spent the second half of last season on loan at Serie A side Roma, but has returned to the Arsenal squad ahead of the new campaign. He does not feature in Mikel Arteta’s plans at the Emirates, with Forest keen to sign him on a loan deal with a view to a permanent transfer next summer.

If a transfer goes through, it will signal the end of Forest’s interest in Spence, leaving the path wide open for Spurs to seal a deal.

However, while Boro accept a transfer is extremely likely at some stage, they are adamant they will not be allowing Spence to leave for a knockdown fee.

The Teessiders are in a position where they can conduct incoming transfer business whether the full-back leaves or not, and fear Spurs will attempt to use delaying tactics in an attempt to secure a bargain.

Meanwhile, newly-appointed Blackburn director of football Gregg Broughton has confirmed Darragh Lenihan is leaving Ewood Park this summer, with the centre-half having agreed a deal with Boro.

Lenihan, who becomes a free agent at the end of this month, has turned down the offer of a new deal with Rovers, and is set to be confirmed as Boro’s first signing of the summer soon.

“I haven’t had a chance to speak to Darragh myself,” said Broughton. “But the information I got when I came was very clear that he’d already made that decision and communicated that with the club.

“Darragh has been a great servant. He’d come through the academy, been here many, many years, and sometimes a player says that’s his time to go and have a look elsewhere. Sometimes, in life, you have to experience something different.

“We wish Darragh the very best, and if he’s still playing in the Championship next year, I’m sure the fans will give him a warm welcome.”