McClaren dismay at Schwarzer's transfer request

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The 33-year-old Australian asked for a move just six months after signing a lucrative three-year contract, with his agent claiming that he is looking for a fresh challenge. Schwarzer's request came after Middlesbrough's disappointing run of results over Christmas, capped by a 2-2 draw at Newcastle on Monday when his weak injury-time punch was volleyed home by Lee Clark for a last-gasp equaliser.

"I was very surprised, very shocked and very disappointed," McClaren said. "It was accepted reluctantly but you only want players who want to play for your club, and Mark has made it known he wants to move on, so we have reluctantly accepted that."

Rumours circulated that Schwarzer had made his move after being told that he would not be playing at Nuneaton, although McClaren, who will start with Brad Jones and leave Schwarzer on the bench, said: "I think it's something for another day and a statement has to be made by Mark himself. There hasn't really been time to reflect, so when we do after the weekend I'm sure everything will be brought out into the open."

The Australia international's representative, Barry Silkman, however, said. "[Schwarzer] just feels it's time to move on. He's been there eight years, he signed a new contract at the start of the season and he feels that we have gone half the season, it's time to move on. He would prefer to stay in England, but if the right move came up abroad - if a major club came in for him like Milan or one of those clubs - then obviously we'd sit and think about it.

"Ideally he would rather stay in the Premier League. But he's not really worried what country he lives in, he just wants a challenge."

McClaren, who expressed surprise at the need for a new challenge, will have to alter his January shopping plans dramatically if Schwarzer goes, although he admitted that that was not a foregone conclusion.

"Who knows?" he said. "This has just come up. It's disappointing, and who knows, on reflection, the situation might change."

Despite Schwarzer being linked to Arsenal, Gunners manager Arsène Wenger yesterday ruled out a move for the Australian. When asked if he was interested in signing the Boro goalkeeper, he said: "No, we already have three keepers - Jens Lehmann, Manuel Almunia and Mart Poom - and I'm very happy them. We're not looking for a keeper."

Yesterday's development overshadowed preparations for today's match, in which Boro face a tricky trip to Manor Park, where their hosts are unbeaten so far this season.

"We will treat them with the utmost respect," McClaren said. "We have prepared in exactly the same way as we would if we were playing Chelsea or Manchester United."