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Mixed emotions as Armstrong returns home

By Jeff Bowron 

The decision by Championship promotion chasers Middlesbrough to recall striker Luke Armstrong is a double-edged sword according to dad Alun Armstrong.

The 22-year-old striker joined Gateshead on a season-long loan in the summer and has flourished at National League level.

The former Birmingham City trainee has rattled in nine goals in 17 appearances for the Heed. But unfortunately for play-off hopefuls Gateshead, north east neighbours Middlesbrough have invoked a clause to call him back in January.

Boro are the lowest scorers in the top half of the Championship with just 25 goals from 24 games, but it’s more likely Armstrong will continue his development elsewhere with an EFL?loan move expected.

Blyth Spartans manager Armstrong, who had an injury ravaged two-year stay at Middlesbrough between 1998-2000, would like nothing better than to see son Luke don the Boro shirt in the future and believes he will continue to catch the eye.

“Luke has done really well at Gateshead,” said Armstrong. “He’s really enjoyed it there and would have been happy to stay for the rest of the season.

“It has been a move that has been good for both parties, but he is a Middlesbrough player and they wanted to recall him.

“They are not scoring a lot of goals, but they see Luke as someone that needs to get some experience in the League.”

Armstrong senior, a former Boro academy coach, has held productive talks with Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis regarding Luke’s future.

The upshot is set to be a new improved contract at the Riverside and the chance to gain valuable experience out on loan in the League.

“It’s a double-edged sword in many ways as he was settled at Gateshead, playing well and scoring goals,” Armstrong said. “There’s not much difference between League Two and the National League, so it may be he joins a League One side on loan.

“Wherever he goes he needs to be playing regularly like he has been at Gateshead, it’s no good him being an impact player off the bench.

“In that respect it’s a risk sending him to another club, but wherever he goes he’ll put a shift in and contribute.

“He was wiry as a youngster but has filled out and is a strong player, who will run all day and always score goals.”

The visit of FC Halifax Town on December 29 will likely be Armstrong’s last game for Gateshead – unless Boro recall him on January 2 after the New Year’s Day clash with Hartlepool United.

“Myself, Luke and Gateshead would like his last game to be the big derby at Hartlepool, and we’ll try and make that happen,” Armstrong said.

For his part Luke is hoping his career remains on an upward trajectory as he aims to build on his Heed spell.

“I’ve really enjoyed it at Gateshead, but I’m thrilled to be offered a new contract at Middlesbrough and the chance to play in the League,” said the youngster.

“If I can follow in my Dad’s footsteps and play for Boro that would be brilliant, and I’ll just continue to work hard and, hopefully, score goals.”

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