Keeping duo who were linked with Celtic represents Middlesbrough’s best piece of transfer business this summer

After the deadlines had passed in Italy, Spain and France yesterday, the transfer window in Scotland was the last to close as the clock eventually hit midnight.

Tuesday, 3rd September 2019, 5:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 3rd September 2019, 5:45 pm
Middlesbrough striker Britt Assombalonga has scored three goals in six Championship appearances this season.

The earlier conclusion of the English market, for Premier League and Championship sides, back on August 8 always ran the risk of leaving some clubs exposed. If a bid came in for a prized asset who wanted to leave, there was no longer a chance to replace them.

But while some fans across the country waited with bated breath, departures at Middlesbrough never seemed likely once the Teessiders were no longer able to sign players. Besides, the squad is thin enough as it is.

There was reported interest in Britt Assombalonga and Paddy McNair earlier this summer, with Celtic among the clubs mentioned as possible destinations.

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Combined, the pair cost Boro a reported £20million, yet it was clear neither enjoyed their finest seasons last campaign.

In the end, no offers came in for either player – if they did Boro would have had a decision to make whether or not to cash in.

New head coach Jonathan Woodgate made his stance clear early on, though, he wanted Assombalonga and McNair to stay and the duo have certainly responded to that.

Before his side’s 2-2 draw at Bristol City, Woodgate said McNair had been Boro’s best player in this season’s first six games, that was before the Northern Ireland international produced another man of the match performance.

The 24-year-old has looked like a player transformed since moving back to his natural centre midfield role, where he can drive the team forward and create chances.

Assombalonga’s performance at Ashton Gate was also impressive, as the striker netted his 34th Boro goal on his 100th appearance for the club.

That’s not bad at all, considering the frontman hasn’t always been first choice at the Riverside.

More importantly, though, despite last season, neither player ever seemed like they wanted to leave the Riverside. Assombalonga, in particular, has played with a smile on his face since returning for pre-season.

Boro may have missed out on a couple more additions earlier this summer, yet keeping two of their former signings could prove to be even more important.