Middlesbrough are enjoying an excellent season under Neil Warnock.
The key to their success has been the gaffer who has been able to get the absolute best from every single member of the first team squad.
What makes it even more impressive is that they’ve been without one of their key players for much of the campaign.
Ashley Fletcher has endured a mixed time since arriving at Middlesbrough in 2017 but supporters were just starting to see the best of the former Manchester United youngster.
Last season was Fletcher’s best for the club by some distance after he scored 11 goals and created seven more for his teammates in all competitions.
With the penny seemingly having dropped the hope was that he would really kick on this season under Warnock and be the man to really lead the line for the Teessiders.
Two goals in his first four appearances indicated that he was ready to pick up where he left off last term, however he picked up a serious hamstring injury that has kept him out since September.
Fletcher is thought to be closing in on a return – something that is excellent news for Middlesbrough, however it’d be naïve to think that he’ll simply hit the ground running upon his return.
However that may not be the worst thing in the world.
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The 25-year-old faces a pivotal six months in the game with his contract at the Riverside Stadium due to expire in the summer.
Given his fitness issues it seems highly unlikely that someone would make a move for him in the January transfer window, but it does seem likely that he’ll attract some significant interest come the summer.
Had Fletcher had a full season at the top of his game then it’s likely that there would have been a queue around the block to sign the striker at the end of the season, but his fitness issues may have put the situation into Middlesbrough’s hands.
While Warnock will clearly be hoping to get his striker firing at the earliest opportunity, there’s no doubt that a small part of him will be hoping that if Fletcher can go quietly about his business then it may deter some other clubs from making a move for the player.
After all, Middlesbrough will be hoping to do all that they can to convince the striker to stick around as he enters his prime years.