Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock has suggested that Britt Assombalonga was fit enough to be included in the squad for the trip to Millwall on Saturday, but that the decision was made to give Josh Coburn experience of travelling with the team.
Assombalonga is facing a difficult situation at the moment at the Riverside with the forward heading into the final few months of his current deal with the club. He was stripped of the captaincy recently and has also missed out on a couple of matchday squads recently, although Warnock had suggested that he missed out against Swansea City through illness and then against Preston through injury.
The 28-year-old was again left out of the squad against Millwall on Saturday, with Warnock critical of Boro’s forwards after the game following the 1-0 defeat. Chuba Akpom started upfront but was replaced at halftime by Ashley Fletcher. While Coburn was left on the bench as Middlesbrough chased a route back into the game in the second period.
Speaking to Teesside Live, Warnock revealed that Assombalonga had recovered from the issue that kept him out of the 2-0 win against Preston in midweek. However, he also suggested that he was left out of the squad because Fletcher is ahead of him in the pecking order and he wanted to hand Coburn the chance to gain some first-team squad experience.
He said: “He’s fit enough but I thought it was time to give Josh (Coburn) a bit of experience away from home and I’d always bring Fletch on before him at the moment, so he was fit to be selected.”
This is a pretty damning assessment of Assombalonga’s current Middlesbrough situation and it could be a long way back for the forward to make any sort of impact for the club in the remaining matches of the campaign. Warnock will be starting to assess his options ahead of next term and likely feels that the 28-year-old is now not going to be amongst those.
The Middlesbrough boss has been wanting more from his attacking players, so the fact that even in those circumstances he is choosing to leave out Assombalonga from his squad shows that his future is looking bleak at the Riverside. It is a situation that will need to be resolved as soon as possible so that all parties can move in the last few matches of the campaign.
Assombalonga could still offer something in the remaining games. That though will depend on whether Warnock feels he is fully committed to the cause and also on whether he wants to hand chances to the likes of Coburn between now and the end of the season. This latest comment suggests that is the case and the forward could be left out now on a regular basis.