Middlesbrough have handed a trial to New Zealand international Tony Lochhead after being given permission by his A-League club, Wellington Phoenix.
The 26-year-old left-back has been invited to train with the Barclays Premier League club for 10 days after being recommended to Boro manager Gareth Southgate by Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert.
“Given Ricki’s recommendation we are very keen to take a look at him, judge him against the players we have here already and see if we can use him,” Southgate said.
“At the moment we have several great young players but we are probably lacking a bit of experience. That’s why it will be good to take a look at Tony.
“We were already aware of Tony’s background with the Phoenix and with the All Whites. We’ve had good discussions with Ricki and he recommended Tony as a player we should keep an eye on.
“Ricki has worked with the best players in New Zealand and he feels many have the potential to take a step up.”
If Lochhead goes on to win a permanent deal at the Riverside he will join compatriots Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn), Simon Elliott (Fulham), Danny Hay (Leeds) and Lee Norfolk (Ipswich) in playing in England’s top flight.
Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata said the club was behind Lochhead in his bid to join Middlesbrough, despite the ramifications of losing the New Zealand international so close to the start of his side’s A-League season, which starts on August 17.
“It’s an opportunity the club simply couldn’t deny Tony. It is every player’s ambition to play in the Premier League and it’s fantastic for Tony and the club that he has this chance.
“If Tony signs then he leaves the Phoenix with our blessing. If not, he’ll return to the squad in time for the start of the season.”
Lochhead, who played for UC Santa Barbara while at college and then for the New England Revolution in the MLS, had mixed emotions about leaving his Phoenix teammates so close to the start of the season but was thankful the club had given him the opportunity.
“It is pretty unique that I’m even allowed to go over. I think most clubs would probably say no, but it’s a huge favour from the club to let me go,” he said.
“Hopefully I can repay the club’s faith by going over there, doing well and helping to raise the profile of the Phoenix and the A-League.”