Why former Sunderland midfielder Paddy McNair is facing a battle for first team football at Middlesbrough
He ended last season as one of the Championship's form players, but Paddy McNair is facing an uphill battle for first team football at Middlesbrough.
McNair suffered numerous injury problems in his last season on Wearside, but ended the season in spectacular fashion, scoring four goals in five games.
It wasn't enough to keep the Black Cats up but Chris Coleman went as far as to say that the Northern Irishman 'changes your life' as a manager.
Middlesbrough were impressed enough to shell out around Â£5 million for his services in the summer but he has endured a stop-start beginning to life under Tony Pulis.
He is yet to start a league game and has seen both George Saville and Mo Besic arrive to add further competition.
"I think that the players understand that there’s more competition now," Pulis said.
“When you get in the team you have to play well to stay in the team and Paddy will wait for his chance, he’ll get his chance.
“I spoke to Paddy last week and he’s trained much better now than he has since he came into the football club.
He looks fitter, he looks stronger, more focused and when you bring in players like Mo Besic and George Saville, you either go one way or the other.
“You either pick the baton up and join them or drop off and we want people who are going to pick the baton up and join the race to play in the team and Paddy has certainly done that, he’s been very, very good in training.”
In his pre-match programme notes on Saturday, executive director Charlie Methven admitted that the club had to sell McNair as part of an agressive cost-cutting plan.
"Whilst slashing the wage bill, we also mitigated the Â£20 million net transfer deficit by selling Paddy McNair, Joel Asoro and Wahbi Khazri.
"These changes weren't-aren't-even a matter of choice: to pass what is now a stringent EFL Fit and Proper Persons test, Stewart and I signed a document agreeing to reduce costs drastically or face transfer embargos and heavy fines."
McNair was a second half substitute as Middlesbrough drew 0-0 with Swansea City on Saturday.