FROZEN-OUT striker Scott McDonald could be back in the fray for Middlesbrough’s trip to Vicarage Road to face an in-form Watford.
The Australian forward is Boro’s highest earner with the Teessiders having been keen to move him on since the summer but, so far, there have been no takers.
McDonald had a productive hour-long chat on his future with manager Tony Mowbray ahead of the Derby County game in midweek with the former Celtic man just missing out on the match-day squad after being in the provisional squad of 22.
With Mowbray’s attacking options stretched, with the likes of Marvin Emnes, Ishmail Miller and Curtis Main missing the midweek draw with the Rams, Mowbray may now hand a first-team route back to McDonald, who is eager to return.
Mowbray said: “Scott has got to be patient.
“We have got other players who have worked very, very hard every day and been part of our squad and travelled up and down the country with the team and sat patiently on the bench.
“Scott has got to integrate himself back in day by day and when the time is right, he will be utilised.”
Mowbray was without several regulars in midweek with Jonathan Woodgate among those missing, along with other key players such as Rhys Williams and last season’s top-scorer Emnes and several more.
While the Boro chief is loathe to use their absences as a wholesale excuse for the disappointing showings in the last two games against Leicester City and Derby, which have yielded just a solitary point, he admits it has diminished their potency, particularly in the attacking third.
Mowbray said: “I am conscious of the need not to make excuses. But both centre-halves who started the season are unavailable and you would have to say five other attack-minded players are not available at the moment and maybe that is evident for everyone to see.
“Looking at the balance of the midfield and strikers on the pitch, it would have been nice to use Miller’s speed, power and pace and Emnes’s ability to hold up the ball and drive and commit people. Carayol brings a totallly different dimension to the team, as does (Adam) Reach.”