While Middlesbrough have broken the bank to bring in talent that should see them back to England’s top flight, could Ashley Fletcher emerge as a star for Garry Monk’s side this season?
Coming off the back of one of the most dismal seasons in recent memory, most Smoggies were under a cloud (no pun intended.)
Boro had been relegated with a whimper and most fans wondered what a return to the Championship meant for the club’s future.
I doubt there were many people sat on Teesside thinking “We’ll be fine, just have to spend £30 million on strikers, and we’ll be sound.”
Garry Monk, however, has been backed by Steve Gibson in the transfer market – even more so than Aitor Karanka was in the Premier League – and money has been spent on new imports Britt Assombalonga, Martin Braithwaite and Jonny Howson.
The most recent name to come through the doors at Rockliffe Park is Ashley Fletcher who signed for £6.5 million from West Ham.
WATCH FLETCHER BAG AN ASSIST ON RIVERSIDE DEBUT vs Augsburg
— The Good The Bad The Boro ⚽️🔴⚪️ (@GoodBadBoro) July 30, 2017
This transfer, while not being as harsh on Mr Gibson’s bank account as some deals this window, could prove to be a very good piece of business by the hierarchy at Hurworth as Fletcher has bags of potential and could be Boro’s trump card this season.
There was a very similar situation to this in 2014, when Karanka took charge of his first full season in the North East. He was given finances by Boro’s ownership and brought in players such as Adam Clayton and Kike, as well as #FreeingJelleVossen.
During this time, where the Reds were spending money unheard of during Tony Mowbray’s time at the helm, a loanee from Chelsea waited patiently for his opportunity and when it came about, he seized it by netting 19 times, winning Championship Player of the Season and winning the hearts of many a Boro fan.
For while the early attention was on the ‘big name’ and ‘big money’ signings, Patrick Bamford quietly went about his business during his season-long loan with us and returned to Stamford Bridge as one of the hottest English prospects.
New boy Fletcher has the potential to be even better than Bamford was for the Teessiders and the fact Monk and Gibson have secured his long-term future at the club is doubly exciting.
He has garnered comparisons to Harry Kane and, obviously, Marcus Rashford in the past and has already claimed that he wants to be starting for Monk, despite heavy competition in his position.
Great result yesterday. Thanks to the fans for a warm welcome 🔴 pic.twitter.com/fI9ubsIuhu
— Ashley Fletcher (@AshFletcher___) July 30, 2017
Whilst I am not willing to make such comparisons based off a 10-minute cameo in a friendly, I can safely say that he will play a big part in a season which ultimately must end in promotion back to the Premier League.