This is the challenge Neil Warnock has given Cameroon midfielder James Lea Siliki after slow start at Middlesbrough by the on-loan Rennes star

Neil Warnock has delivered a strong message to on-loan Rennes midfielder James Lea Siliki declaring he must put the work in if he is to be involved in his plans going forward at the Riverside this season.

Monday, 4th October 2021, 11:25 am

Siliki was a second half substitute for Boro in what was another disappointing afternoon for the Teessiders as they went down 2-0 to Hull City on Saturday.

A Joe Lumley own goal was added to in stoppage time by Mallik Wilks to compound Boro to their fifth league defeat of the campaign as concerns continue to rumble on surrounding the start to the season from Warnock’s side.

While Warnock admitted he does not allow the background noise from disgruntled supporters to unsettle him in the dugout, the pressure will continue to mount on the 72-year-old for as long as Boro’s inconsistent start remains.

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Middlesbrough's on-loan midfielder James Lea Siliki features in the Champions League for Rennes against Chelsea last season (Photo by DAMIEN MEYER / AFP) (Photo by DAMIEN MEYER/AFP via Getty Images)

And one issue the Boro boss has suffered with is trying to incorporate his new signings into a cohesive starting XI.

While injuries have depleted Warnock’s defensive ranks this season leading to a number of square pegs in round holes, the concern for him is the underwhelming start from some of his summer acquisitions to their life at the Riverside.

And 25-year-old Siliki no doubt falls into that bracket having made just two starts since his arrival on-loan from Ligue 1.

The Cameroon midfielder arrived with much pedigree having featured for Rennes in last season’s Champions League – including in both the French sides’ defeats to eventual champions Chelsea.

But having made his Boro debut from the bench in the defeat at Coventry City, Siliki has made just two starts under Warnock with the Boro boss citing the players fitness as an overriding issue.

“James needs to put the work in it’s as simple as that,” said Warnock.

“There’s nothing untoward, but the minimum requirement is that you’ve got to be fit.

“I think the problem he’s got is Cameroon are hosting the African Cup of Nations – his own country - in January and I don’t think he’ll want to upset anybody.”

Siliki has been included in Cameroon’s squad for this week’s World Cup qualifying double-header with Mozambique having made his debut for his country in June.

“I do believe we’ve been in touch with Cameroon because we were concerned about the minutes he’s getting and the lack of fitness,” said the Boro boss.

“I think we’ve been told he’s going to start two games. So we’ll have to see but that’s more promising [for us].

“I know what he can do. He’s going to be a good player, but every player has got to be at a level for their ability to come through and that’s what we’re going to try and get with James.”

Warnock will be hoping a successful international break for Siliki will be able to transcend back to the Riverside when Boro return in a fortnight for a crucial home double-header against Peterborough United and Barnsley – both of whom are currently in the Championship relegation zone.

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