Joe Bennett commits long-term to Middlesbrough

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MIDDLESBROUGH have tied down young defender Joe Bennett to a long-term deal, after seeing former skipper Gary O’Neil move to West Ham.

Boss Tony Mowbray was thrilled that left-back Bennett penned a four-and-a-half-year contract.

Bennett did not get a look-in under previous boss Gordon Strachan but has now become the first choice left-back, playing in 14 successive games under Mowbray.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Joe,” Mowbray said.

Bennett, an England U19 international, follows fellow youth products Jason Steele, Cameron Park and Connor Ripley in signing long-term contracts to stay at Boro.

Meanwhile, O’Neil has gone for a fee understood to be £1.5million, after agreeing personal terms with the Premier League’s basement club.

It is good business for both O’Neil and Boro – the 27-year-old gets a move back to the top flight, albeit a relegation fight, while Riverside boss Tony Mowbray raises some cash and, just as importantly, takes a high-earner off the wage bill.

Meanwhile, Boro striker Kris Boyd looks set to turn down the chance to join Chechen club Terek Grozny, now managed by ex-Newcastle boss Ruud Gullit.