Middlesbrough and Sunderland returned from the international break with positive results on Good Friday. Now, Newcastle United are looking to do the same as they host West Ham on Saturday afternoon.

Here's this week's North East Notebook:

Boro urged to sign Luke Ayling

Middlesbrough don't face an overhaul as major as last year this summer but still have some crucial contract and loan decisions to make in the coming months - with the future of Leeds United duo Luke Ayling and Sam Greenwood among their key considerations.

Ayling will be a free agent this summer when his contract at Leeds expires and he's quickly established himself as a trusted figure in the Boro dressing room since joining on loan in January. He's started every league game and is clearly ahead of Anfernee Dijksteel in the pecking order. Boro may well have a decision to make on Dijksteel this summer. He's been a fringe figure under Carrick and will be moving into the final 12 months of his deal. Even with so many defenders out at Southampton on Friday, Dijksteel had to settle for a place on the bench.

Tommy Smith will be back fit for the start of next season but right-back is still an area Boro will look to address in the summer - so has Ayling done enough to earn a deal?

The future of Greenwood is complicated by the fact he'd be in line to receive a wage increase should Leeds win promotion. And although the former Sunderland youngster enjoyed a bright start at Boro, he's disappointed in recent months.

Former Leeds defender Ian Harte has seen plenty of Ayling and Greenwood in action at Elland Road over the years.

Harte, now the agent of Boro goalkeeper Sol Brynn and Sunderland star Jack Clarke, told the Echo, via FreeBets: "Luke, he has the experience, he's consistent. I think he's a player Middlesbrough would probably look to sign.

"As for Sam, I think he's done well at Middlesbrough but If Leeds get promoted I think his money will go up quite a bit and will that make it too expensive for Middlesbrough? I'm sure the clubs will try and sort out a plan."

Harte added: "I like the players Middlesbrough signed in the January window. The main position Middlesbrough need to strengthen in the summer is an out and out striker, but their recruitment has been very very good."

Sunderland's 'significant' striker efforts

There's not one sole reason that Sunderland have struggled to build on last season's success - but the failure to sign a goalscoring centre-forward last summer and again in the January window has clearly been a major factor.

Nazariy Rusyn is still adjusting to life in England and the Championship, Hemir and Eliezer Mayenda are not yet ready and Mason Burstow has been a real loan disappointment.

Bolstering the forward line was the priority in January but Sunderland failed to sign a striker - but sporting director Kristjaan Speakman has now lifted the lid on the club's "significant efforts" in the winter window.

The minutes of the latest Supporters' Collective meeting, published this week, state: "KS (Speakman) stated that last summer the club identified players to play in the team, who to date have found it difficult to impact the central role with a regularity of goals.

"He added that any lack of output has not been through a lack of effort or work on the training field.  The club continually review all aspects of performance, including forward play,  and they are seeking ways to improve. This includes the central position and  other areas of the pitch where goal contributions have also not been as high as anticipated.

"The club also feel they need to prepare for the future, as they don’t believe  challenging market conditions will change. As a result, they have invested in  some younger profile players like Luis Hemir and Eliezer Mayenda and retained exciting talents in the academy, such as Timur Tutierov and Trey Ogunsuyi.

"KS added that in January the club made significant efforts to sign two forwards  where the associated fees were considerable. Unfortunately, they were not able  to complete these deals for reasons outside of the club’s control, including the  individual preferences of the players and their parent clubs. One of these players was over 30 years of age, which was an area highlighted earlier."

Can it be assumed that the 30-plus striker was Kieffer Moore? He's scored six goals since joining Ipswich.

In terms of the immediate future, Jobe Bellingham looks a good bet to remain up-top after his display at Cardiff yesterday.


Newcastle's vision 'comes to life'

Joe Willock and Tino Livramento swapped their footy boots for hard hats this week when they took a trip down to the St James' STACK site.

The fanzone is on course to open this summer, with the first of 56 containers arriving on the site this week.

Newcastle CEO Darren Eales said: "It's thrilling to see a vision come to life as the first of the renowned containers arrives on site, continuing to ramp up excitement ahead of STACK's return to the city centre this summer.

"We're pleased that this excitement is shared by local stakeholders who will benefit from the employment and economic benefits of having a bustling entertainment venue on their doorstep seven days per week. Collaboration between the Newcastle United Foundation and STACK will form a key foundation of a venue designed for everyone; from fans seeking entertainment to the next generation looking for the first step in their professional career."

The rise of Rodrigo Muniz

This time last year Rodrigo Muniz was a fringe figure on loan at Middlesbrough - who, it should be said, had Cameron Archer and Chuba Akpom both in dazzling form.

Muniz was signed before Michael Carrick's arrival and although he started in the current head coach's first game in charge, he soon slipped out of the picture.

It was no secret that Boro were keen to offload him last January but Fulham couldn't find another club for the Brazilian. Sunderland showed an interest but couldn't afford him.

Nobody at Boro or Fulham would have predicted how this season would end up turning out for Muniz.

The striker has starred for the west Londoners in recent weeks, scoring seven goals in his last seven appearances in the Premier League, including an impressive brace in the 3-0 win over Tottenham earlier this month.

And Fulham boss Marco Silva believes Muniz should relish the pressure and expectation that comes with his blistering run.

Silva said: “The pressure is a privilege for Rodrigo’s situation.

“He is in a much better position now than he was three months ago. Why should he feel so much pressure now? Three months ago he was on the bench and fighting to have a chance to score.

“He’s playing so well, he’s improving and working hard and scoring goals so why should he feel so much pressure now?

“The defenders are more aware of him and it’s fantastic for a striker when you feel the people around you trust that you can solve the problems for us and that you can be a decisive player.

“I see it as a privilege rather than something which is not good.”