Ashley Fletcher - What can Boro expect?

Garry Monk continues his assault on the ‘side that Karanka built’, with the club today confirming the signing of Ashley Fletcher.

Ashley Fletcher - What can Boro expect?

It was reported yesterday that Boro had agreed terms for Fletcher, with him leaving the West Ham training camp in Germany for talks. The fee is £6.5m – although (in this day and age) it is likely that some of that will be add-ons dependent upon appearances, goals and promotion back to the Premier League.

With some scepticism around the signing, oneBoro looks at Fletcher’s career thus far, ahead of his probable debut against Augsburg at the Riverside tomorrow.

A brief look

Fletcher began his career at Bolton Wanderers at the age of 9 years old before moving to the Manchester United youth set-up at 13, where he signed his first professional contract in May 2014 (aged 19). Fletcher scored 6 times and assisted 4 in 23 games for United in the Premier League 2 but found first-term action hard to come by. He moved to Barnsley on loan in 2016 scoring on his debut against Fleetwood and going on to net 9 times in 27 appearances – including in the playoff final as Barnsley were promoted, beating Millwall 3-1.

In July of 2016, Fletcher turned down the opportunity to stay at Manchester United under Jose Mourinho and moved to West Ham United on a free transfer. Fletcher found it difficult to get going in an unsettled West Ham side scoring only one goal in the League Cup against his former club at Old Trafford.

Fletcher has made several international appearances at U20 level, scoring against France U20 in November 2015.

A look at the numbers

To most Boro fans, there’s only really two numbers that matter: the price tag and the number of goals he contributes to. However, with some questions being raised over his goal output and ability to play in different positions, a more detailed look may satisfy some of those doubters (because it wouldn’t be Boro without those!)

First and foremost, what position(s) does he play?

Predominantly, Fletcher is a central forward, making 43 of his career appearances in that position. He has scored 11 and made 7 assists – a record of just better than 1 goal in 4 and contributing 1 in 2.5 (including assists).

He has made 6 appearances from the left, scoring 3 and assisting 1. This shows he can be effective there given the chance – although I would say it is unlikely he has been signed for this purpose.

His record of 16 games without a goal in the Premier League for West Ham looks poor, but in fact he only played 353 minutes that season, an average of 22 minutes per appearance. I would also argue his record has suffered for a lacklustre and unsettled season from West Ham overall with Bilic seemingly not sure on who/how to play.

He has shown a solid, if not spectacular, goal return at youth level and with Barnsley. Granted, he may not have scored ANY goals in the Championship, but neither has Martin Braithwaite? In fact, he hasn’t scored in England at all.

The reason this signing is a positive is simple: Fletcher is young, has potential and is English.

Those players come at a premium nowadays (don’t worry about the fee or the offer, have faith that Steve Gibson has control of the finances). He has shown enough talent and potential to be selected at England youth level, for Jose Mourinho to offer him a contract to stay at Manchester United and for Slaven Bilic to reluctantly let him talk to Boro, saying, “ideally I wanted a different scenario but the offer was too good.” Again, don’t worry about the offer, have faith in the club.

We have seemingly been through a rough spell, placing all trust in Aitor Karanka, Victor Orta and the continental way of doing things. Neil Bausor, Steve Gibson & Garry Monk are ruthlessly bringing this to an end, just look at the number of academy signings we have made this summer as indication of this. It’s change, it’s building a foundation, it’s hope for the future.

Believe.

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