Ashley Fletcher opens up on Middlesbrough exit and is quizzed on Watford transfer reports
Former striker Ashley Fletcher has opened up on his Middlesbrough departure and says there are no regrets or bad blood following his exit.
The 25-year-old is set to become a free agent when his contract at the Riverside expires this summer – bringing to an end his four-year spell at the club.
Fletcher, whose 2020/21 season was blighted by injury, was offered a new deal at Boro in December but decided to assess his options, before the decision was taken out of his hands.
That news came out after Boro boss Neil Warnock had commented about cliques in the dressing room, though it’s understood Fletcher wasn’t someone who was creating problems.
During an interview with BBC Tees Sport, the forward explained his side of the story: “I was offered a new deal around Christmas time," said Fletcher.
“As a 25-year-old Championship striker that’s getting to a dangerous time for the football club because from January I’m free to speak to other clubs. So I felt a little bit let down by the club.
“We’d spoken earlier in the season but agreed to wait until a little bit later to see what was happening because I was injured as well.
“So in a way I had a little bit of power in terms of what I do going forward with my career. I’m 25, English, had a decent season the year before, so it’s obvious you’re going to attract interest.
“The ball was in my court. I was injured at the time and I just said to the club I wanted to come back and get myself fit and we’d speak at the end of the season. I had that power in deciding where to go because I was on a free transfer.
“I did want to stay at Middlesbrough but other things come along and you have to take a look at it as well.
“Ultimately, the decision was kind of taken out of my hands. But there are no regrets and no bad blood.”
After playing just two league games in the first half of the season due to his hamstring injury, Fletcher returned to action in January.
The striker scored twice in two games against Huddersfield and Reading but suffered another setback against Bristol City the following week.
Fletcher added: “Even when I did come back, I started the two games and scored and then we played Bristol City. That was my third game in a week and after coming back from five months out injured it was probably advisable not to play.
“But my commitment to Middlesbrough was there because we were aiming for the play-offs and I’d scored in the two games before so I thought I was putting the team first in wanting to play.
“I know the manager said he was a bit frustrated and said I wasn’t 100% fit, which I probably wasn’t.
“But I just wanted to help Middlesbrough.”
Reports have claimed Fletcher will move to Premier League newsboys Watford this summer.
When asked about those reports, he said: “I can’t say at the minute but things have been ongoing.
“The position I was put in with being a free transfer at 25 and playing at the high end of the Championship, it’s attractive to other teams.”