MIDDLESBROUGH were the first North-East club to return to pre-season training – and it was a day when Poolies featured heavily.
Boro beat Hartlepool United back on to the training ground by just under a day – Aitor Karanaka and Craig Hignett sending their players onto Rockliffe at 5pm.
A total of 24 players took part, including two young Hartlepool-born midfield prospects – Bryn Morris and Ryan Brobbel.
England U17 star Morris was involved in the Sky Bet Championship squad last season and is expected to be a contender for the new season, which starts for Boro at home to Birmingham City on Saturday, August 9.
Northern Ireland U21 regular Brobbel, like Morris a former High Tunstall College of Science pupil, did not feature last season for Boro.
But the 21-year-old did make significant strides forward in his career after going on loan to York City, helping the Minstermen be the surprise packet in the League Two promotion race, reaching the play-off semi-finals.
That was not where the Hartlepool connections finished at Rockliffe yesterday.
Adopted Poolie Dimi Konstantopoulos was one of three keepers on the training ground.
Surprisingly overlooked by Greece for their World Cup squad after finishing the season as Boro’s number one, he’ll be looking to fight off competition from Tomas Mejias and Jason Steele for the gloves come August.
And two players who impressed greatly on loan at Pools last season were also among the two dozen-strong session.
Christian Burgess will be looking to challenge for a central defensive berth after impressing in a season-long loan at the Vic, while attacking midfielder Luke Williams will be looking for a regular first-team spot after being used by Karanka in the Championship after his stint in League Two with Pools.
There was one significant absentee from the return to work – Marvin Emnes was missing with gifted Dutchman expected to join Premier League outfit Swansea City.
But, on the flipside of the coin, Lukas Jutkiewicz, who was not expected to be back at the Riverside, did attend.
The striker, strongly linked with a move during the current window following a successful loan spell at Bolton, trained with Boro and looked happy. So too did Kei Kamara, who had been critical of Boro recently on Twitter.
Mustapha Carayol and Rhys Williams were missing through injury, while Albert Adomah has been excused from training after being at the World Cup with Ghana.