According to The Hartlepool Mail, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa are set to battle it out for the loan signing of Crystal Palace full-back Joel Ward.

Middlesbrough look the favourites to acquire Joel Ward on a season-long loan given manager Tony Pulis’ time at Selhurst Park as Crystal Palace manager in 2013/14. The full-back may actively be looking for a move away from the club after his starting position at right-back was taken by the up and coming youngster Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Ryan Shotton is Boro’s current right-back but he was originally signed from Birmingham City as a centre-back, however, he has been one of the Teessider’s top performers so far this season.

Ward would provide healthy competition for Shotton going forwards, and would give them more options in defence with the Palace man also able to play as a left-back. George Friend is Boro’s only left-back and with Ward able to cover on both sides of the pitch, he would certainly be a great addition to this Boro side.

Aston Villa are also reportedly interested in Ward, according to the same report; as are West Bromwich Albion, who have since turned their attention to the 28-year old after missing out on Rangers’ James Tavernier.

Ward signed for Crystal Palace in 2012 from Portsmouth and he has a lot of experience in the Football League as a result. The defender was promoted with The Eagles in 2013 via the Play Offs and has been a key part of their squad in the Premier League ever since.

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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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