Middlesbrough Q&A: Will Neil Warnock sign Sunderland's Charlie Wyke and who will be offered new deals?
Middlesbrough have two games remaining this season – while manager Neil Warnock is assessing his options for the 2021/22 campaign.
We take a closer look at some of the big questions and talking points from the Riverside:
Could Boro re-sign Charlie Wyke?
This is a transfer story that has resurfaced this week and will probably pick up more traction.
We know that Warnock’s top priority this summer is to bolster his forward options – he’ll want to sign at least two more strikers following the departures of Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher.
The Boro boss obviously wants a goalscorer, but also wants a player who can hold the ball up and challenge opposing centre-backs in the air.
Wyke, who has scored 25 League One goals for Sunderland this season, certainty appears to fit the criteria Warnock is looking for, and is set to become a free agent this summer.
I would be amazed if Wyke’s name hasn’t been mentioned in Boro’s recruitment meetings – given the player’s form, strengths and situation. Whether they feel he can make the step up to the Championship remains to be seen.
The striker’s future may also depend on whether Sunderland can win promotion from League One, yet, given his Boro roots, a return to the Riverside would surely be appealing.
Will Marvin Johnson and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing be offered new deals?
I asked Warnock last week about the players who will be out of contract this summer.
The Boro boss said discussions will be held at the end of the season with Johnson and Mendez-Laing, while goalkeeper Jordan Archer will also be out of contract.
Johnson’s situation is a strange one. Warnock said in January the club would be looking at a new deal for the wideman but nothing has materialised.
The 30-year-old will be frustrated he hasn’t received more game time this season, yet we’re led to believe his attitude in training has been commendable.
Given Boro could be left with a shortage of wingers, if Yannick Bolasie and Neeskens Kebano return to their parent clubs following loan spells, I think it would be sensible to offer Johnson and Mendez-Laing at least another year each.
Mendez-Laing has taken some time to find his feet since January, but that was always a likely scenario given he hadn’t played a competitive match for six months.
If Warnock can help the 29-year-old rediscover the form he showed at Cardiff, Boro will have a real player on their hands.
Should Warnock give more youngsters an opportunity against Luton and Wycombe?
With little riding on the final two games, there will be calls for Warnock to give youth a chance.
I’d certainly like to see more of Connor Malley and Josh Coburn given their impressive performances against Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday respectively, yet Warnock will also want to finish on a high.
Warnock has said that players in Boro’s under-23 squad need to go out on loan and prove themselves next season, before challenging for a regular first-team place.
There are also players in the side who will want to prove themselves in the final two games. Take Chuba Akpom for example, or George Saville who has recently returned to the starting XI, or Johnson looking to earn a new contract.
There are multiple factors to consider.