Middlesbrough are set to announce the signing of Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given on a free transfer today. Given is expected to join the Championship club on a 2 year contract after his contract with Aston Villa expired at the end of June. Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka will add the experienced Republic of Ireland international to a side who only just missed out on promotion to Norwich in the Play Off Final last season.

Shay Given spent 3 months on loan at Middlesbrough during the 2013/2014 season and quickly became a fan favourite, keeping 10 clean sheets in 16 games. He returned to Aston Villa as back up for Brad Guzan, but forced his way back into the first team near the end of last season - playing in both the semi final and final of the FA Cup.

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The news comes through after Middlesbrough confirmed the signing of Bolton Wanderers defender Alex Baptiste, also on a free transfer. Middlesbrough's latest addition to the side has surprised fans, with some questioning whether a new goalkeeper is really necessary. Middlesbrough already have 3 players competing for the number 1 position:

- Dimitrios Konstantopoulos, who signed an extension to his contract near the end of a very impressive season.

- Tomás Mejías, who joined the club from Real Madrid and is highly rated by the coaching staff. Despite poor performances in the Championship, his talent shone through in the FA Cup against Manchester City and Arsenal.

- Connor Ripley, who is a product of the Middlesbrough Academy, which has a good track record of producing quality goalkeepers.

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Brad Jones, Ross Turnbull and Jason Steele all came through the ranks to take the role of first team goalkeeper in the last 10 years. Brad Jones (Liverpool) and Ross Turnbull (Chelsea) both moved on to top Premiership teams, while Jason Steele is now number 1 at Blackburn.

It's expected that Shay Given will take the number 1 spot next season, with Konstantopoulos as back up on the bench. Question marks lie over both Thomas Maijas and Connor Ripley, who may head out on loan or leave the club.

Middlesbrough are hoping to tie up deals for attacking players, which is an area where they are looking very short of options at present. Last season's first choice striker Patrick Bamford has returned to Chelsea and Jelle Vossen, on loan at the club last season, has completed a move to Burnley. It was rumoured at the end of last season that Blackburn striker Jordan Rhodes was set to move to the club, but this seems to have fizzled out after Blackburn slapped a price tag of £12 million on head of the highly rated striker.

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Middlesbrough appear to have turned their attention towards Ipswich striker Daryl Murphy, who emerged as Championship top scorer with 27 goals last season. It's been reported by ITV that Ipswich are currently considering a £4 million offer from Middlesbrough for the 32 year old striker.

Middlesbrough's number one target is Stewart Downing, who is coming off the back of an impressive season at West Ham. It appears as though new manager Slaven Bilic is willing to let the versatile midfielder leave the club in order to give younger players an opportunity in the side. The Telegraph reported that West Ham have rejected a £5.5 million bid, it's expected that Middlesbrough would need to raise their bid to around £7 million if they want to get their man. There are strong local rumours that Downing is eager to return to his hometown club, which gives Middlesbrough hope that a deal can be reached. #Football #Premier League