It is no secret that the goalkeeping position will be a key area for Middlesbrough boss Chris Wilder to address in the transfer market this summer. Former North Macedonia youth international Dejan Stojanovic has moved on having made just nine appearances for the Riverside outfit during his two-year stay and, while Joe Lumley and Luke Daniels remain under contract, it is not expected that either will be Wilder’s first choice between the sticks after unconvincing campaigns in 2021/22.
Boro have struggled for stability between the sticks ever since Darren Randolph completed back-to-back, ever-present Championship seasons in 2017/18 and 2018/19. In 2019/20, four different shot-stoppers – Aynsley Pears, Randolph, Stojanovic and Tomas Mejias – all wore gloves for Jonathan Woodgate.
Marcus Bettinelli did provide some consistency in the role under Neil Warnock in 2020/21 but his stay in Teesside was only ever going to be a temporary one from parent club Fulham, leaving Boro back to square one this time last year, as he moved on to Chelsea. And, for such a vital position, the twin recruitment of Lumley and Daniels to contest the number one shirt always seemed strategically risky by Warnock.
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Lumley arrived having only been a regular first choice at Championship level with QPR for one season in 2018/19 and having just failed to adequately convince during two brief loan spells at League One duo Gillingham and Doncaster. Several error-strewn performances for Boro subsequently saw him – belatedly in the eyes of many – lose his place to Daniels for the final month of the season, as well as the trust of Wilder and the club’s fans.
That situation looks irrevocable but, equally, Daniels did not impress sufficiently to suggest he is the right man to bring assurance to the problem position. His 12 Championship outings last term equalized the most he has managed at second-tier level in a single campaign with previous club Brentford and, at 34, the majority of his 274 career appearances have come at League One and Two levels.
Wilder will now be deciding whether to look for a short-term fix – he made a loan swoop for Manchester United keeper Dean Henderson to good effect for two seasons at Sheffield United – or to pursue a permanent deal that might bring longer-tern security to the role. Here we look at some of the keepers who have already been linked with moves to Boro this summer and a couple more who have not yet been touted but could be strong options:
Karl Darlow (Newcastle) – at 31, the Magpies reserve is a great age for a goalkeeper, having acquired the experience that comes with 227 senior appearances – primarily in the country top-two divisions – but also with a hunger that should be burning inside him with potentially another six or seven years of his career still to play out. It is anticipated that the PIF-backed revolution at St. James’ Park will shunt him further down the pecking order and, while any move to the Riverside would require a wage cut, he would be guaranteed first-team football probably for the first time since he left Nottingham Forest in 2015, with the added bonus of not having to uproot his family.
Toby Savin (Accrington Stanley) – reports have previously suggested that Wilder is a fan of the 21-year-old, who is contracted at Accrington until 2023. The lower leagues proved great testing grounds for England’s top-two current net-minders Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope, so Savin’s impressive performances for Stanley at such a tender age should be worthy of attention.
It might be a little premature for him to be thrust straight into a side with ambitions of pushing for the Premier League next term, but he would be a great option and a potentially valuable asset to have waiting in the wings. Whether Boro could afford that luxury, while Lumley and Daniels remain on the books, is doubtful though.
Daniel Iverson (Leicester City) – the 24-year-old Dane looks an excellent proposition having just come off the back of an ever-present loan season at Preston, where he also won the Lancashire club’s Player of the Year award. He is another net-minder that Boro have already been rumored to be monitoring.
The Deepdale club would, no doubt, like him back too, but Iverson might fancy the challenge of fresh pastures at a club with arguably more chance of success at second-tier level. Under a long-term contract at the Walkers Stadium, any permanent move would require a significant transfer fee, though, so a loan deal might be the preferred option.
Zander Clark (St Johnstone) – one of the more left-field keepers to be linked with a Boro move, the out-of-contract St Johnstone keeper has never played outside of his native country and a switch to Dundee United or Aberdeen looks more likely. Received his first call-up to the Scotland squad last year, but still waiting to make his international debut at the age of 29.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Burnley) – has not been mentioned as a possible Riverside target yet but will be looking to further his career with regular football in the Championship during 2022/23, having missed out on promotion via the League One play-offs at Sheffield Wednesday last term. The Owls would no doubt welcome him back, but a second season in the third tier is unlikely to appeal to the first-choice Northern Ireland net-minder and Wilder, of course, would not bat an eyelid at upsetting the Hillsborough hierarchy.
Relegation might open a door for Peacock-Farrell at his parent club with the impressive Pope expected to move on for a sizeable fee this summer, but Wales number one Wayne Hennessey looks the more likely beneficiary in that scenario, leaving the ex-Leeds man probably looking for another loan switch. A former Boro youth keeper, who was born in Darlington and released by the club in 2013, Peacock-Farrell might just welcome the opportunity to prove a few people wrong.
John Ruddy (Wolves) – another free agent having coming to the end of his contract at Wolves, where he has only managed five Premier League outings during the last four seasons after missing just one match of the Molineux club’s Championship title-winning season of 2017/18. He also made the division’s PFA Team of the Year that season.
At 35, the one-capped England international, who made Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad, still has two or three years left in him and it is difficult to imagine that he will not land himself a place between the sticks at a Championship club for 2022 / 23. Wearside neighbors Sunderland have already been mentioned as possible suitors and it would be a surprise if he is not on Wilder’s radar too, given his status as a three-time promotion winner from the Championship.
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