Ashley Fletcher opens up on his Middlesbrough exit and contract talks breakdownAshley Fletcher left Middlesbrough unceremoniously this summer after four years at the club
17:56, 9 JUN 2021
Ashley Fletcher has given his side on his Middlesbrough exit and the contract talks that ultimately broke down earlier in the season, and he says he wanted to stay at the club.
The striker leaves Boro this summer after four years at the club that saw him make 109 appearances and net 28 goals.
But after a frustrating campaign saw him miss the majority of it through injury, the 25-year-old left unceremoniously back in April when he and Britt Assombalonga were told they were no longer needed with four games still to play. It came just days after manager Neil Warnock complained about problems and cliques in the dressing room.
Teesside Live understands that while Fletcher was by no means one of the players creating a problem behind the scenes, Warnock ultimately opted to send him away as it became apparent that there would be no chance that he would stay at the club next season.
That followed contract talks earlier in the season while Fletcher was still recovering from hamstring surgery in which the player's agent is believed to have made unrealistic demands before the striker ultimately opted to wait until the end of the season to the annoyance of club officials. Neil Warnock described the offer made to Fletcher at that time as 'fabulous' and one he believed too good to turn down.
But, speaking to BBC Tees, Fletcher has given his side of the story on those contract talks.
“I was offered a new deal around Christmas time," he said.
“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.”
Fletcher's exit came rather out of the blue, with news emerging after he and Assombalonga were left out of the matchday squad at Rotherham as Warnock named five players from the under-23s on his bench instead.
Because of the timing, his exit was linked to talk of problems in the dressing room, but Fletcher is not believed to have been a problem. Warnock did hint at his heart being elsewhere, however, as he spoke about players naturally downing tools when out of contract that summer in order to not get an injury.
Warnock certainly did want to keep the Manchester United academy graduate, and despite the ultimate decision he took to ostracise him, Fletcher holds no ill-feeling towards the Boro boss.
He continued: “It was sudden and not how I wanted to leave.
“But I understood the reasoning and the manager’s way of thinking.
“Sometimes that’s the side of football people don’t see. It can be ruthless and one day you can be training and then told not to come in the next day.
“But the manager was straight and honest with me from the start and I have no bad words to say about him. He’s helped me a lot since he came in and played me when fit and gave me confidence.
“He’s a good man and I think he will do well for you next season.”
As for questions about his commitment to the club, he countered: “I don’t think anyone at the club could question my commitment.
“If you spoke to staff and people I dealt with on a daily basis, when I was injured I wanted to get back playing as soon as possible. I was always asking to do extra training. I always wanted to get back quicker.
“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.”