Tony Pulis must use the visit of Crystal Palace in the English Football League Cup as a scouting opportunity on Eagles’ midfielder Jason Puncheon.
Puncheon is struggling to get into Roy Hodgson’s Premier League squad on the back of missing 239 days with a cruciate ligament rupture that he picked up last December.
The long-term injury ruled the 32-year-old out of 22 games before he could return to action in a different season to the one he was sidelined during, but he has so far been unable to elbow his way ahead of Cheikhou Kouyate, Luka Milivojevic or James McArthur in the centre of the former England manager’s side.
A two-minute substitute call-up against Arsenal last weekend was the only Premier League minutes the 5ft 8in man has played, though he did start Palace’s previous two Carabao Cup fixtures where he featured for the full 90 both times.
Only last week, Tony Pulis accepted he needed to add new attacking options after Boro missed several opportunities against Derby and felt more individual creativity would benefit the squad.
“Everybody knows we need a bit more individual ability in the final third,” he told Sky, as per Teesside Live.
“We’ve got Stewart, who has been fantastic and he was very good today. But we need to bring that in, we need to add that.
“When it’s difficult and tight at home we need someone who’ll open the door.”
Puncheon may have struggled for form before, and admittedly after, his injury but should Pulis bring the journeyman to what would be his 12th club, the Welsh manager would be adding the player he described his side as needing, and it would unlikely cost the north east club that much with Transfermarkt valuing the creative attacker at £4.5m.
Pulis has also worked with the Englishman before at Crystal Palace, during arguably the best spell of Puncheon’s career, when he provided vital goals that ensured the south London club beat the drop.
Given his lack of involvement at present, Hodgson also revealed Palace would not block Puncheon’s departure if he wants to be playing regularly, and it is worth noting his contract is set to expire in the summer as well.