Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock has denied he’s closed the door on Middlesbrough summer signing duo Martin Payero and James Lea-Siliki despite holding public reservations about the duo, as he clarified his previous comments to the Northern Echo.
23-year-old Payero, who joined from Argentinian side Banfield in August and is someone many Boro fans are excited about, made his first start on Saturday in the 1-0 loss against Reading but failed to make a real impact at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
After the game, Warnock admitted that he wasn’t sure what the midfielder’s best position was despite the club making him one of their higher-profile signings of the summer, and was subsequently dropped to the bench for last night’s tie against Sheffield United, failing to even make it on the pitch as a substitute.
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Payero came off at the weekend on the hour mark for Rennes loanee Lea-Siliki, though the Middlesbrough boss said after the match in Berkshire that the latter was nowhere near fit enough and urged the Cameroonian not to go on international duty, a request that was rejected by the 25-year-old.
With his lack of fitness, he joined Payero on the bench for the match against Sheffield United yesterday evening, and like the Argentinian, failed to get on the pitch as the duo saw their side record a much-needed win.
Despite the duo’s omission from the starting lineup, 72-year-old Warnock has stated that they will still be in contention to play regularly for the Teesside club, on the condition they are fit enough to play and have earned their place in the matchday squad.
He said to the Northern Echo: “It’s not rocket science really.
“We got undone on Saturday by lads not really being sharp enough. I’d had enough really. I thought I’d just go with what I’ve got and I was pleased with the performance (against Sheffield United). I thought there were some good performances on the night.
“These lads (Lea-Siliki and Payero), it’s so hard to come into the Championship, but I’ve spent too long on that, talking about fitness and things.
“I’ll let the fitness guys do that, and just pick my team. If they warrant being in the team, then they’ll be in the team.”
Seeing as Neil Warnock has the duo at his disposal, it would have been a shame if Warnock had already shut the door on them without giving them a chance, but their summer recruitment was a little puzzling to say the least.
Warnock still seems like an old-school manager that would much prefer to have control over transfers than a recruitment team or Director of Football – but it’s clear the duo weren’t his signings and maybe this divergence between the manager and the recruitment has been the thing holding them back.
If it has been, it could continue to hold them back whilst they settle into the first-team squad. He did make the right choice yesterday evening to play the players he was comfortable with though – and it shone through during their performance.
In fairness, it may even take a couple of months for the likes of Lea-Siliki and Payero to get into the swing of Neil Warnock football, even after adapting to life in the English second tier.
Now it’s down to the duo to impress their manager and force their way into contention after what has been an underwhelming start to their Middlesbrough careers – and Lea-Siliki will be especially keen to show what he can do this season after only joining on a temporary spell.