Middlesbrough and Everton are leading the chase for Darlington 1883 centre-half Josh Heaton, according to The Daily Mail.

The interest has arisen following Josh Heaton’s appearance in Jamie Vardy’s V9 academy trials. The week-long event held at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium gave non-league players the chance to perform in front of league scouts.

Heaton was once on the books at Preston North End, but was released in 2016, before being snapped up by Ramsbottom in the Northern Premier League. He was signed by Darlington in November 2017.

He was an impressive figure in defence at the V9 showcase, and he even attracted the attention of Everton and Middlesbrough scouts. Heaton is only 21 years of age, and would certainly be an investment for the future if either club did choose to take a punt on the non-league defender.

He stands 6ft 5in and would be welcome in any Championship defence given his imposing frame. Upon signing, Darlington manager Tommy Wright said: “He makes me feel like a 12-year-old. He’s a big lad and he towers above me.”

With Darlington not far from Middlesbrough, relocating would not be an issue for Heaton. However, if Heaton did receive an offer from Merseyside, this may be something that would come into the equation for the youngster.

Middlesbrough’s centre-back Ben Gibson is currently attracting a lot of attention from Premier League clubs, including Southampton and ironically, Everton. With Boro possibly looking to sell for big money, and with Dael Fry possibly stepping up to the first team, Middlesbrough may look to the future and look to potential as opposed to the finished article.

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Lifelong Boro fan - from the highs of watching Juninho and the Carling Cup victory, to the lows of Gordon Strachan and Lee Dong Gook

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