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McDonald set for surprise return
FORGOTTEN man Scott McDonald is set to make a surprise return to the Middlesbrough squad for tonight's game against Derby County.
McDonald hasn't featured for Boro at all this season, but after holding talks with Boro boss Tony Mowbray on Tuesday, the 29-year-old could make his first competitive appearance for the club since April.
The Australian international was heavily backed to leave the Riverside during the summer as the club looked to free up more funds to bring in new players.
However, with no one able to match the striker's wages at the Riverside, which are understood to be around £25,000 per week, McDonald remained on Teesside.
Although he featured during pre-season, scoring against Falkirk, Hartlepool, York City, the former Celtic man found himself down the pecking order with Marvin Emnes, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Curtis Main, Luke Williams and Ishmael Miller all ahead of him.
However, with injuries to Emnes, Main and Williams, Mowbray is short of attacking options and reveals he has spoken to McDonald, although he insists it was not to clear-the-air.
"I had a long heart-to-heart with Scott the other day and he's going to be available again in my mind, although he's always been available, as you have seen from selection he hasn't really been available.
"Scott has put himself back in the picture after a long manager and player chat.
"We do have attacking options such as Ledesma, Williams, Jutkiewicz and now McDonald. So when everyone is fit you have a real headache to pick the balance of the team.
"They all have to accept that when they are not playing it is because another good player is playing.
"The team have done all-right this season. It's not as if we have not scored goals. We have got enough so I don't see that being a major issue for us."
Mowbray admits it will McDonald time to get up to speed having played no competitive matches this season, but once he is the Boro boss insists he does not see any reason why he can't contribute this season.
"Can Scott contribute? I'm sure he can as the season unwinds. He hasn't played a game for a long time of course and we need to get him up to speed. He will have to compete with Williams and Ledesma for a start.
"If Carayol, Emnes and Miller are all fit then he has to compete with everyone else to get the near the team. We shall see.
"I pick teams from what I see with my eyes, basically, and gauge who is going their best in training and working as hard as they can.
"I see how they contribute to the environment and atmosphere of the dressing room. Those players will get selected."
Mowbray was quick to dismiss an attitude problem as the reason why the Australian international has been left out, but revealed certain things did need to change before he came back in to the side.
He said: "I would never say that (it was an attitude problem). It's best for me to say that a few things needed to change. I'm the manager of the club and it's my job to pick the players. Everyone has to accept that.
"I am not a dictatorial type of guy. I try to take people along with me and be part of what we are trying to achieve and do. You have to buy into that. When you do then you can contribute when the opportunity is there.
"All players need to have a level of respect and humility about the way they play."
After suffering their first home defeat of the season at the hands of Leicester City on Saturday, Boro are back at the Riverside tonight where they entertain Derby County.
Nigel Clough's side will be buoyed by their East Midlands derby win over Nottingham Forest on Sunday, but Mowbray insists his side are targeting three points.
"It is a game we have to target to win, as we did last Saturday against Leicester," Mowbray said.
"I have total respect for Derby who I don't believe have the same qualities as Leicester ,who are a dynamic football team.
"They have different qualities, but will make the game very difficult for us. They will be hard to play against, hard to break down and will be dangerous on the counter-attack.
"So we have to be mindful of that and not leave ourselves too open as we try to score goals."