Shay Given is poised to complete a North East hat-trick as he prepares to make his Middlesbrough debut against Bolton Wanderers this afternoon.
New Boro manager Aitor Karanka signed the experienced former Republic of Ireland international on a month’s loan from Premier League side Aston Villa on Thursday as cover for Jason Steele who begins a three-match suspension following his red card in the defeat at Leeds United last weekend.
When Given dons a Boro jersey, he will complete a full set of the North East’s big three, having spent time on loan at Sunderland in the mid-1990s and then gone on to spend the bulk of his career at Newcastle United.
Karanka will be praying his Riverside debut as Boro manager is more successful than his first game in the dugout, which ended in a 2-1 defeat at Elland Road.
He will also be hoping the arrival of 37-year-old Given will help his side stem the tide of goals they have conceded, with only three clubs in the Championship having leaked more goals going into the weekend.
Both Leeds’ goals came from corners and Karanka says his side must cut out their set-piece mistakes. He said: “They were disappointing goals to concede, yes.
“These are mistakes we need to cut out, not just say the the defenders and midfielders must improve their defending. Our attitude was good against Leeds, but we must improve our concentration to make less mistakes, not put extra focus on the defence.”
Boro are expecting their biggest crowd of the season at the Riverside, where Karanka will be greeted as he emerges from the tunnel by the sight of thousands of fans waving red ‘Karanka-chiefs’ – a traditional welcome for new coaches in his native Spain.
The new manager is looking forward to his first home game in charge. He added: “I’m excited because it’s the day I’ve been waiting for since I signed my first contract.
“It’s a very important game and the players have been working really hard. I hope we can give the fans something to celebrate.”
Visitors Bolton, who go into today’s game four places and three points above Boro in the Championship table, are determined to spoil Karanka’s party.
Trotters’ manager Dougie Freedman said: “For me, the bigger the crowd the better, because it makes for a better atmosphere.
“I’ve been to Middlesbrough a few times when they haven’t had a lot of people there and it can be difficult. We won’t be intimidated at all.
“We have a very experienced team who are playing well away from home.”
Bolton have recovered from a bad start in which they failed to win any of their first 10 league games, and have now won four of their last six - and they arrive on Teesside on the back of three straight victories.
Freedman said: “We will prepare right as always and hopefully the players will do what they have been doing again. They have been terrific and you have to give them credit for what they have done.
“We had a real kick in the teeth for a fair few weeks and it has not been easy.
“However, they have worked hard and picked themselves up. I feel now they go away from home and look like they can get a result, where maybe at the beginning of the season we travelled hoping for one.
“We are quietly confident when we go to Middlesbrough if we do things right we can win the game.”
Boro defender Seb Hines faces a late check on the hamstring injury that kept him out of last weekend’s trip to Leeds. Bolton could hand on-loan Cardiff forward Joe Mason his debut.
Freedman, though, will be without goalkeeper Adam Bogdan, defender Joe Riley and midfielders Mark Davies and Stuart Holden due to knee injuries, while defender Marc Tierney will miss out with a foot problem.