David Wheater could leave Middlesbrough - Tony Mowbray
Wheater made his debut in the Uefa Cup in March 2005
Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray has hinted that prize defender David Wheater could be allowed to leave the club in the January transfer window.
"If we were in a healthy position as a club, I'm sure we would all be looking at a contract that keeps him here," Mowbray told BBC Tees.
"But the circumstances are that we're not. We're at the bottom end of the Championship.
"And David's in a position that his contract is coming to an end."
Wheater, 23, out of contract in June, has been the subject of reported interest from Premier League clubs throughout the season.
"We all need to look now at his options and see what January brings," added Mowbray. "Whatever happens in January I wish him well."
Wheater, who progressed through the Middlesbrough academy to make his debut against Sporting Lisbon in March 2005, has since made 154 appearances for the Teessiders, scoring 10 goals.
January's window represents the former Celtic boss' first opportunity to make changes to his squad, having inherited a core of players in October which was added to extensively during the summer by his predecessor Gordon Strachan.
Meanwhile, players such as Gary O'Neil, Julio Arca and Wheater continue to command salaries from the club's time in the Premier League, adding further pressure to the wage bill at the Riverside.
"A year of change is what is going to be needed to happen at the football club," Mowbray continued.
"Change in results on the pitch, change in personnel as well as we move on, and that is the harsh reality of where we are.
"But hopefully it's a seamless change, and the team can function on the pitch and win some matches.
"There's not going to be a cull as such, but if opportunities to change things present themselves we'll have to look very carefully at them.
"When you're in a situation like this, sometimes popular players have to leave for reasons regardless of football."
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