What Middlesbrough fans can expect from Matt Crooks and where he can fit into Neil Warnock's side

Middlesbrough are closing in on the signing of Matt Crooks from Rotherham – but what can Boro fans expect from the attacking midfielder?

By Joe Nicholson
Friday, 23rd July 2021, 9:00 am

Crooks made 40 Championship appearances for the Millers last season, scoring six goals and providing three assists.

Several other clubs were credited with interest in the 27-year-old, including Ipswich and Sunderland, yet Rotherham were reluctant to sell to a League One rival.

The midfielder is now expected to complete his move to Boro this week, and has joined up with the squad in Cornwall.

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Matt Crooks playing for Rotherham.

On the face of it, the move looks a shrewd signing.

What’s Crooks’ background?

Born in Leeds, Crooks was part of Manchester United’s academy before coming through the ranks at Huddersfield.

Crooks started his career as a holding midfielder but made just one senior appearance for Huddersfield amid several loan spells, including a brief stint at Hartlepool.

A move to then League Two side Accrington Stanley in 2015 helped Crooks gain some regular first-team football, and 18 months later the player earned a move to SPL side Rangers.

After an early injury setback, the move didn’t work out, and Crooks regained his confidence following moves to Northampton in 2017 and then Rotherham two years later.

The midfielder was a key member of the Millers’ squad which won promotion from League One during the 2019/20 season, yet he wasn’t able to help the side stay up last term.

What type of player is he?

At 6 ft 4, Crooks is an imposing figure.

While the 27-year-old has predominantly played as a central midfielder throughout his career, and did so at the start of last season, he was deployed in a more attacking role towards the end of the campaign.

Given his height, Crooks is evidently a threat in the air and was allowed to join in with attacks when deployed in a 3-5-2 system as an advanced midfielder.

“I think he can come in and contribute 10-15 goals a season and that’s what we need,” said Boro boss Neil Warnock when asked about Crooks this week.

The player has also operated as a striker in a front two, as shown when Rotherham beat Boro 3-0 in January, when Crooks looked a real handful.

What’s been said about him?

Rotherham manager Paul Warne repeatedly praised Crooks and was clearly reluctant to let the player leave.

“We’ve had a good two and a half seasons out of him,” said the Millers boss earlier this week. “He’s improved no end physically and in his understanding of the game. That’s down to my coaches.

“He will be sorely missed in the dressing room, that is for sure. Your best players always move on.”

Where can he fit in at Boro?

Crooks’ versatility could be a big asset for Boro.

The Teessiders are a midfielder short compared to last season following George Saville’s move to Millwall – even if Martin Payero is expected to arrive after his involvement at the Tokyo Olympics.

Boro have needed a goalscoring midfielder for some time, and Crooks could help solve the side’s attacking woes.

Warnock said he wanted to sign three new strikers at the end of last season, and Crooks has also shown he can be a threat leading the line.

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