Middlesbrough face a battle to keep Calum Chambers next season - with Newcastle United weighing up a move to bring the defender to Tyneside ahead of their Premier League return.
Relegation battlers Boro, six points from safety heading into the final three games, would be keen to extend the Arsenal loanee’s spell on Teesside.
That is likely to rest on their ability to stay in the top flight and they are understood to face fierce competition from their North East rivals. Chambers has starred for Boro and scored in the 2-2 draw with Manchester City.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has been keeping a close eye on Chambers’ progress but it remains unclear whether he has a long-term future at the Emirates.
Boro boss Steve Agnew is a big fan of the defender, adding: “Yes Calum is a top, top player. He’s versatile - he can play full-back or centre-back. We’ve had injuries in certainly the full-back positions so he’s been a big miss for us.
“He is a big part of the dressing room, he’s been great for us all season and deserved his goal.”
Middlesbrough are not in action again until they face Chelsea on Monday at Stamford Bridge (KO 8pm) and they could be nine points adrift by the time they kick off.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Connor Ripley believes he is now ready to fight for a place in Boro’s starting XI next season after an “eventful” loan spell with Oldham Athletic.
The 24-year-old stopper made 54 appearances, establishing himself as a firm fans favourite.
Ripley said: “I was the fifth signing at the beginning of the season so it was difficult and we struggled for the first half of the season but then got a new manager and changed it about a bit.
“We survived the drop and that’s what we aimed for. Personally I think it was the best season I’ve had.
“We broke the record for the most clean sheets in a season and I won Young Player of the Year and another two awards so it was pretty good. I thoroughly enjoyed myself there. The fans were amazing to me and I can’t thank them enough.
“I’ve taken a lot of experience. I’ve played nearly 100 games and for Oldham I played over 50.
“I’ve matured as a person and a player on the pitch. Next season is a big one for me. I want to stay here and fight for my position.
“I think I’ve done the hard work going out on loan to Sweden, Scotland and now Manchester.
“Now it’s time for me to be a Boro player and fight for my position,” added the Boro academy graduate, who has a year left on his deal.