MIDDLESBROUGH have won the battle to sign Cameron Archer on loan for the second half of the season, with the Aston Villa striker due to finalise the terms of his switch to the North-East in the next 24 hours.

The Teessiders have made the signing of a striker a key priority this month, and have opted to move for Archer rather than attempt to engineer a deal for Sunderland striker Ross Stewart, who has also been touted as a potential target.

Archer has always been regarded as an attractive option, and Boro’s recruitment team are understood to have initially raised the possibility of signing the England Under-21 international on a permanent basis.

Aston Villa were not interested in selling Archer, but have agreed to a loan deal until the end of the season. The loan agreement is not expected to include a clause for a permanent move in the summer, although Boro will hope a full-time deal could be possible if Archer was to prove a success over the course of the next four months.

Boro first-team coach Aaron Danks knows Archer well from the pair’s time together at Aston Villa, and the Teessiders’ recruitment team regard the youngster as an attractive long-term addition to their attacking ranks if they can engineer a permanent deal.

They are mindful of not signing an identikit forward to Josh Coburn, as there is a clear desire to restore the 20-year-old to Boro’s attacking ranks next season given how successfully his current loan spell with Bristol Rovers is going.

Archer, who is due to undergo a medical later today, has been keen to leave Villa Park this month after finding game time extremely hard to come by in the first half of the season.

Having progressed through Villa’s academy and made his first-team debut at the age of just 17 in the summer of 2019, Archer spent the second half of last season playing on loan in the Championship with Preston.

He scored seven goals in 18 starts and two substitute appearances at Deepdale, and was the subject of interest from a number of Championship clubs, including Middlesbrough, in the summer.

Former Villa boss Steven Gerrard opted to keep him at Villa Park at that stage, but he has made just six substitute appearances in the Premier League and one substitute outing in the Carabao Cup so far this term.

His only appearance under new Villa boss Unai Emery came in mid-November, when he was an 83rd-minute replacement in a 2-1 win at Brighton.

He was an unused substitute in Villa’s New Year’s Day win at Tottenham, and Emery has clearly concluded he is unlikely to figure prominently in the remainder of the campaign.

As a result, he has been made available for a loan, and while Preston pushed hard to try to re-sign him, Boro have won the battle to secure his services.