Strachan issues player fitness level warning
GORDON STRACHAN has warned his Middlesbrough players to keep the pounds off before heading off to La Manga for a training camp or face early pre-season pain. Boro are due to head out to Spain at the end of the week as Strachan attempts to keep his squad in shape before a further four-week break ahead of a return for full preseason training at Rockliffe Park late next month. But the Middlesbrough manager does not want his players' fitness levels take a dive since they lost their final match at Leicester City on May 2. As soon as it became clear the Teessiders would not make the play-offs Strachan had upped the work-rate on the training ground to highlight what shape he expects his men to be in. And defender Jonathan Grounds claims every member of the dressing room has been left in no doubt about what is expected of them during the summer. We had a really hard two weeks training before the Leicester game so we know what sort of training we will be doing, said Grounds. It's to be expected. I wouldn't say you look forward to pre-season legs, but you have to be ready for the hard work. If a few people come back with a few extra pounds on them then I can see them having to put more work in than the others, a couple of double sessions for definite. Grounds is satisfied he has been keeping himself in shape ahead of the trip to La Manga and he has the extra incentive to work for a new contract. The 22-year-old has attracted interest from Huddersfield and Norwich City because he will become a free agent at the end of next month, although Middlesbrough will be due compensation. Strachan has already outlined to the defender that he wants him to stay at the Riverside Stadium, but there is still a need for more discussions. I have been speaking with the club now for a couple of weeks and I'm still in negotiations, he said. I would love to be here next year. Hopefully I will be staying and that we can sort something out. It's been a disappointing season, stop start for me. It's been like that for the team; difficult and disappointing. Now it's over we are all ready for the hard work because it's going to be a big year for everyone connected with the club. Middlesbrough continue to scour the market for targets and Rochdale's young defender Craig Dawson has emerged another possibility. Fulham are also interested and Rochdale are looking for a fee starting at £750,000 rising to £2m.
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