Middlesbrough boss has this challenge for Britt Assombalonga ahead of Newport County FA Cup clash

Tony Pulis has thrown down the gauntlet to Britt Assombalonga and urged him to prove he can be more than an impact sub at Boro.

Monday, 4th February 2019, 11:24 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 4:20 pm
Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis. Getty Images.

The 26-year-old, who was heavily linked with a move away in January amid interest from Blackburn, Aston Villa and Bristol City, bagged a brace from the bench at West Brom on Saturday to help Boro to a 3-2 victory.

And Pulis, speaking ahead of Tuesday night's FA Cup fourth round replay at Newport County, has urged the striker to build on that performance and become a key player under him, with Boro chasing promotion back to the Championship.

Asked whether Assombalonga was ever likely to depart last month, Pulis said: "He’s still here isn’t he?

"Every player is uncertain, that’s the worst thing about these windows. The window is good for television and everything else, they’re used for three or four weeks and people talk about these windows.

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"It’s what everybody wants to discuss, so everybody gets tied. You get a phone call from an agent saying somebody wants you, but a lot of them are phoney phone calls just trying to get players on board to that agency.

"They promise them this, that and the other – you just don’t know what goes on."

On Assombalonga's matchwinning performance at the Hawthorns, Pulis added: "I think you start with Britt every week if he plays at that level, and that's what we want. I don't have favourites, as a manager you can't do that. It's about getting the best out pf players in respect of the team.

"Britt's two goals were fantastic and we were really pleased, and his goal when he came off the bench at Birmingham was a great goal.

"I don't think he wants to be looked at as an impact player, who'll come on when the games is stretched and people have run out of a little bit of steam. The boy wants to start and to do that he has to be up to speed right from the start."

Now that the transfer window is closed Pulis & Co can concentrate fully on their main objective, winning promotion back to the Premier League, with an extended run in the FA Cup also on Pulis' radar.

"We know it's going to be a good game of football. It's a proper old fashioned cup tie," said Pulis ahead of the Rodney Parade clash.

"Everyone will be at it, and it's one where we have to go there and understand that.

"I'm not sure it's David and Goliath because they have played two Premier League teams [Spurs and Leicester] there and not been beaten. That tells you everything you need to know about the spirit in their team and what they have at that ground.

"I think we have to give them a bit more respect than that.

"It's a run of games, and it's unfortunate that the FA Cup is placed in between so many important games, But that's the way the fixtures go now.

"In lots of respects the cup is third behind the Premier League and the Champions League when it comes to the fixtures. But for me it's still the greatest cup competition in the world.

"For now all our focus is on winning the game of football."

One injury concern is Lewis Wing, who has been playing with a tight groin, he will be assessed.