Middlesbrough striker Britt Assombalonga discusses his return to training, Jonathan Woodgate and Robbie Keane
Britt Assombalonga was full of smiles after returning to Middlesbrough earlier this week.
The 26-year-old frontman was given an extended pre-season break following his involvement at the Africa Cup of Nations this summer, but was happy to be back on the Rockliffe training pitches.
Assombalonga was pictured laughing with his Boro teammates on Thursday and the atmosphere appears positive under new head coach Jonathan Woodgate.
"It's good to be back with the boys,” Assombalonga told the club’s website. “Training has been enjoyable, everyone is smiling and that's the best bit about it. I had a week and a bit off and then did a bit of training just to build me up and we'll go step by step.
“Training is always a good laugh when you’re around these kind of boys. It makes everything that much better. The way training has been it just adds that little bit extra.”
Assombalonga has previously praised Woodgate, or ‘Woody’ as the striker calls him, who worked as Boro’s first-team coach under previous manager Tony Pulis.
Woodgate did contact Assombalonga while he was away on international duty this summer and the frontman appreciated the gesture.
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“The gaffer rang me while I was away just to catch up with me and see how I was, stuff like that is really nice,” added the striker. “I think he’ll do well and I’m happy for him to be in the seat.”
Assombalonga is also looking forward to working with the rest of Boro’s new coaching team, which includes former Tottenham and Liverpool forward Robbie Keane.
However, Assombalonga did admit he preferred watching another former Spurs striker.
“It’s good just to get that little bit from him to make your game better. You want that to better yourself,” said Assombalonga when quizzed on Keane. “He was a great striker as well. Like I said just to get that little bit from him is going to be unbelievable.”
When asked if he modelled his game on the former Republic of Ireland striker, Assombalonga added: “I’ve seen him play but I’m not going to say anything because I’d be lying.
“I watched more Defoe,” he joked.