By Rob Nichols
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Media reports indicate that Boro defender Stephen McManus could be set to move south west to Bristol City on a permanent deal for around £150 000. That would represent a fair drop from the £1.5m the former Celtic captain was signed for by Gordon Strachan but it would decrease the burden of our wage bill still further, something that has been a priority for Tony Mowbray from day one.
Bristol City were able to pay Stephen McManus wages in full last season when he went out on loan to Ashton Gate, something that few Championship level sides would be likely to meet. Now looking for a left sided defender Stephen is guaranteed to do a steady job and deliver the goods at City. A top guy off the pitch as well he would represent a sound investment in the dressing room.
If McManus were to leave it would mean that Boro had much reduced defensive options. Big Mick was recalled from loan at Bristol City for the stricken captain Matthew Bates and finished the season in storming form alongside Seb Hines as Boro clawed their way back into a last game shoot out for the play-offs.
With Bates out for the first couple of months at least and facing an uncertain future Tony Mowbray has a big decision to make in terms of deal or no deal for 'Mick' McManus. If we sell then the promising Ben Gibson could be given the nod to step up in support of Rhys Williams and Seb Hines in the first team squad. On the other hand we might look to buy a squad replacement, doubtless for significantly less wages. George Friend of relegated Doncaster is a name that has been mentioned of late.
Meanwhile the fate of Boro's out of contract players could go right down to the wire. Contracts officially finish at the end of June but then players have a month's grace with wages paid up in full. The way finances are in the Championship these days clubs are not exactly rushing to put players on the wage bill in a period where there is no income coming in whatsoever. So for players like Justin Hoyte and Tony McMahon their future's might not be settled and sorted for sometime yet.
Today all eyes turn to the European Championships and can Boro's former winger Stewart Downing silence the critics and play a leading role in a winning England side? I certainly hope so.
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