Gary O’Neil has vowed to rediscover his best form after committing himself to Middlesbrough.
The 25-year-old midfielder had more than just his knee injury on his mind as he went into the pre-season break amid speculation he could leave Teesside just one season after making a £5m switch from Portsmouth.
However, after a series of discussions with manager Gareth Southgate, O’Neil decided his immediate future lay at the Riverside Stadium and is now relishing the chance to return to his early form for the club.
He said: “I had a difficult spell towards the end of last season, but football-wise, it had been fantastic for me here and I was desperate to try to sort it out.
“Thankfully, we have and I am pleased I am going to be here this year and have a real go at it.
“Obviously, the start of the season was a better start for me – the second part, it was just one of things when I was trying to get through it.
“But now I am hopefully going to get back to full fitness after my knee injury.
“It has been a good pre-season for me so far, and now that I am happy and settled and I am not having to travel up and things like that, hopefully this is going to get me back to where I want to be.”
O’Neil was a big hit at the Riverside during the first half of the last campaign, providing a valuable outlet down the right.
However, his form deserted him as talk of his unhappiness surfaced, and he ended the season in miserable fashion with an operation to repair ligament damage.
O’Neil revealed that settling his family in the north at short notice – he clinched his move late in deadline day last August – had initially proved difficult.
He told the club’s official website www.mfc.co.uk: “We had a baby that was two, three months old when the move came about. I was told in a day that I was going from one end of the country to the other.
“But no excuses, we have got to do it. Thankfully, I have got it all sorted now and we are very settled, so this season is going to be a good season.”
O’Neill is yet to resume full training with his team-mates, but is close to doing so, and hopes to taste pre-season action during the club’s trip to Portugal next week.