Why Stephen O’Donnell would be a real coup for Middlesbrough
The 27-year-old was linked with a host of English clubs in the summer, including Stoke City and Derby County, while reigning Scottish champions Celtic were also keen on a move for the right-back. (h/t Hartlepool Mail)
Despite his unresolved contract situation at Rugby Park, nothing really came to fruition for O’Donnell in the summer but he might soon be on the move in the near future, with his current deal set to run out at the end of the ongoing campaign.
The 11-cap Scottish international has established himself as one of the best right-backs north of the border and his availability on a free transfer next summer has put Middlesbrough on red alert, although a cut-price move to Teesside in January is also very much a possibility.
Born in Bellshill, Stephen O’Donnell started his career in the youth ranks of Celtic and Aberdeen before turning professional with Partick Thistle.
A couple of productive seasons in the Scottish Premiership paved the way for a move to England with Luton Town in League Two, where he made 72 appearances for the Hatters before moving back up north to the Ayrshire side in 2017.
The 27-year-old’s stint at Kilmarnock has proven to be a fruitful one, with the right-back accumulating an impressive tally of 6 goals and 10 assists in 99 appearances for the Rugby Park-outfit across all competitions.
O’Donnell has caught the eye with his excellent all-round game in the Scottish top-tier and that might be enough to earn him a second crack of the whip in English football.
At 27, the right-back is very much in his prime as a professional footballer and the time might just be right for him to push on and challenge for better things.
To put things into perspective, Middlesbrough can certainly do with quality cover in the right-back department after enduring a poor start to their campaign in the Championship under new manager Jonathan Woodgate.
In fairness to Boro, they haven’t been outrightly poor this term but they have, indeed, left much to desire in all departments of the game and Woodgate should start keeping an eye on the shortlist of potential targets in January in a bid to turn the club’s fortunes around.
The right-back slot was identified as a problem area for Boro earlier in the summer and while they brought in talented youngster Anfernee Dijksteel from Charlton Athletic to plug the hole, the Dutchman just hasn’t been consistent enough.
Having already shipped 16 goals so far, Woodgate should be less than happy with how his defenders have gone about things early in the campaign and the acquisition of an experienced head like Stephen O’Donnell could go a long way towards shoring up a backline that has shown signs of cracking far too easily at times.
Jonny Howson and Paddy McNair have been rotated with Dijksteel in that role but it is worth mentioning that neither of them is a natural right-back by trade. O’Donnell might as well come through the door at the Riverside Stadium as an upgrade on the club’s existing options.
Also, with the 27-year-old’s contract at Kilmarnock set to run out next summer, he isn’t likely to cost Boro a fortune in January if they do go ahead with their interest in the Scottish international.
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However, waiting for a free transfer next summer wouldn’t be a bad idea after all, given that they should also look to add more firepower and creativity to their attacking ranks during the mid-season transfer window.
Either way, this looks like a move that could hand a significant boost to their ambitions under Woodgate and with that in mind, Boro should continue to keep tabs on the player’s situation.