Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Battle on the Front Line

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Battle on the Front Line

Article excerpt

Byline: By Eric Paylor Evening Gazette

The battle for places in the Boro attack next season is unfolding long before the new campaign kicks off.

Steve McClaren has indicated his intent to strengthen this area more than any other by forking out pounds 7.5m for Aiyegbeni Yakubu.

The Nigerian will be handed the opportunity to have his name printed first on the team sheet every week, provided he meets the high expectations.

In fact, Boro are looking for a healthy double figure haul from the new boy, who has already proved himself in the Premiership.

As things stand, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Mark Viduka are the main challengers to play alongside him. Hasselbaink has nothing to prove at Boro, having comfortably top scored last season, though he may benefit from the odd opportunity of a rest.

There are still question marks over Viduka, who missed the second half of last season with back and hamstring problems.

Viduka has been drafted into the Australia squad for the Confederations Cup, and travels with Boro's blessing.

It's an early pre-season for the Aussie, according to Steve McClaren, though the manager will no doubt be keeping his fingers crossed that Viduka does not suffer a setback.

Viduka reckons he will be fit for the start of next season and there are those fans who would have preferred to see him wrapped in cotton wool during the summer.

As a big man, he will be similar in style to Yakubu, so Viduka's return to action will give McClaren plenty of food for thought should he stay fit.

Not that McClaren will be complaining, after his side virtually picked itself in the second half of last season.

One thing the manager must do is to make decisions on the rest of his forwards.

No doubt Danny Graham will be given every chance to continue to progress, while Malcolm Christie will be welcomed back after his latest battle against injury.

Whether Szilard Nemeth and Joseph Job are involved remains to be seen. …

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