Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock has insisted that he has no issues with forward Britt Assombalonga after he was left out of the squad for the defeat at Swansea City.
The forward is coming towards the end of his current deal at the Riverside and there are few signs at the moment that he is going to put to pen to paper on any new deal. Warnock has previously indicated that he would be required to take a significant pay cut were he to be able to stay on with the club for next season. He has managed just five goals in 28 appearances this term (Sofascore).
The 28-year-old has in recent weeks been stripped of the captaincy by Warnock with Jonny Howson taking over for the remainder of the campaign. While there were also eyebrows raised when the decision was made to leave Assombalonga out of the squad for last weekend’s trip to Swansea. Although the Boro boss insisted that was due to him feeling under the weather.
Speaking to Teesside Live, Warnock insisted that there are no issues between himself and the forward and that he had a good week in training. While on his future he reiterated that discussions over a new deal or whether he goes will be done over the coming weeks with his immediate focus on matters on the field.
He said: “He’s done really well this week in training, and Duncan’s the same.
“Duncan looked really lethargic at Swansea, I thought, but they’ve all been outstanding in training this week.
“There’s been laughter and joking, but putting hard work in at the same time, which is what you want as a manager.
“I haven’t got a problem (with him). Obviously, I’m not daft and he’s not daft, and I think these next two or three games will decide what we’re going to do and we’ll act accordingly after that.”
On his future he added: “There are 11 games to go – there’ll only be eight in a week’s time – so I think you’ll probably have to talk to me after the international break.
“I think the discussion we’ve got to have is one for a couple of weeks really.
“I think for now our focus has to be on trying to get into the top six and that’s a discussion to have either when we no longer can do that, or when the season is finished.”
It is at least encouraging to hear that Warnock and Assombalonga have not had something of a falling out over the last few weeks. That would suggest that the forward remains an option for the rest of the campaign as much as anybody else in the squad and with games running out to bridge the gap to the top six they need all the options fit and firing.
Assombalonga’s situation has turned into something of a lengthy saga now, and ideally, Boro will be wanting to sort it out in the next few weeks to avoid the constant speculation. There is no indication that a new deal is likely at this stage, and at the moment you would say it might be looking like he is heading for the exit door.
The forward has not been able to be at his best for Boro this season which might be understandable if his head is on the future and his concentration levels a little lower than normal as a result. However, Middlesbrough could still threaten the top six this term, so now is no time to have a player in the side whose head may be elsewhere.