TONY Mowbray admits that striker Kris Boyd is an unnecessary luxury as Middlesbrough continue their battle against relegation.
Boyd has not started a league game for Boro since November 20 because Mowbray feels that the former Rangers man does not offer enough industry outside the penalty box.
And with a tough-looking trip to fellow strugglers Bristol City this afternoon, the Boro boss is unlikely to recall a player that Gordon Strachan broke the bank to bring to Teesside over the summer.
It is an awkward predicament for Mowbray, who acknowledges that Boyd has both the technique and pedigree to score goals in the Championship. But ability only counts for so much in a team struggling to deliver him the kind of chances that he was afforded during his time at Ibrox.
“The conundrum for me is to put the team before the individual. Kris Boyd has scored nearly as many goals as Henrik Larsson in Scottish football, but you have to put that in context,” he said.
“In the SPL, the Old Firm generally camp around the opposition 18-yard box for 80 minutes of the game. Kris waits around there for balls to come into the box, and to be fair to him, whenever I watch him in training he finishes with either foot.
“He has great technique at finishing, and really smashes the ball in. But the predicament the club finds itself in at the moment is that we all have to work together to ensure we make ourselves a competitive team.
“Ultimately, that means the team has to move up and down the pitch together and defends and attacks together as a unit. Kris has found himself on the outside of the starting XI most weeks, generally because I need the strikers who play in this team to contribute when we don't have the ball.
“I've had these conversations with him and he understands the predicament we have. If we were sitting in the top six, full of confidence with an understanding of how we move the ball around the pitch, then I think we would be able to utilise Kris’ qualities and talents.
“But at this precise moment in time, he understands my predicament.”
Boyd’s situation throws sharp focus on the folly of Boro’s summer recruitment policy, which sees them shelling out more than £30,000 a week for a player unsuited to the demands of a struggling Championship side.
They would listen to offers for the striker but no firm bid has been received. Reports in Scotland are linking him with a move to Turkey – with summer suitors Antalyaspor and Bursaspor supposedly keen – but Boro may be forced to subsidise his wages to push through a transfer.
Meanwhile Boro will include defender David Wheater in their travelling party after a proposed move to Bolton fell through this week.
Mowbray is confident that the Redcar-born stopper will perform at his maximum for the trip to Ashton Gate.
“It can’t have been easy for David with all the speculation, but he’s an honest player,” he said. “He’s got on with everything that’s been expected of him in training this week. He’s been getting stuck in and putting the tackles in. He’s not pulled out of anything. I think his performance will be 100 per cent.”
Mowbray will recall Barry Robson, Marvin Emnes and goalkeeper Jason Steele to the squad after all three sat out the humiliating defeat at Burton, while there may be a place for returning Andrew Taylor. But Kevin Thomson will miss out and Nicky Bailey is struggling with a virus.