STEPHEN WALKER may only be due to turn 19 next month but he has already made an impression on his more experienced Middlesbrough team-mate who he will be looking to learn from.

Britt Assombalonga has started the season well, scoring three times in his bid to finish as Boro’s leading goalscorer for the third successive season since arriving in a £15m deal from Nottingham Forest.

The 26-year-old is actually one of the more experienced members of a youthful squad now, particularly in the final third where he is the main centre-forward in the shape that Jonathan Woodgate has tended to play.

Walker is eight years Assombalonga’s junior and, because of a lack of options in the final third, could not be loaned out before the window closed because of he could be needed.

The 18-year-old has already featured in a Championship game, emerging as a substitute at Blackburn on August 17, and he also played in the EFL Cup game with Crewe. He spent part of last season on loan at MK Dons and is training regularly with Woodgate’s first team squad now.

Assombalonga said: “He’s a good player, I like him. He’s a real good player. He’s got a long way to go but he’s one for the future. I like the way he glides with the ball, little shimmies, he’s good technically and he’s a good lad as well.

“We just go with the flow in training. Everyone collectively, if he’s trying to do stuff I’ll try to speak to him. With the young kids, you try to keep their confidence up.”

That is something of a new role for Assombalonga, given he is only mid-20s himself, but he said: “Flipping heck, I’m 26 and I’m getting on! We’ve got a young squad, it’s nice to have that bit of experience and share it with others and push others in the right direction.”

Middlesbrough were unfortunate not to come away from Bristol City on Saturday with maximum points and they could have done with it with having only won once so far this season.

The outcome left Middlesbrough down in 18th but Woodgate has been encouraged by aspects of what his team has done so far this season, and his players agree too.

Goalkeeper Darren Randolph, on duty with Ireland ahead of Thursday’s game with Switzerland, said: “We’ve been playing some good football, we’ve just been unlucky. There are positive signs and Robbie Keane (assistant manager) is still upbeat and so is Jonathan Woodgate. Hopefully our luck will change and we’ll start getting the results.”

Randolph believes Middlesbrough have been unlucky but thinks it can take time to adapt to the style of play Woodgate is trying to introduce after working for 18 months under Tony Pulis.

The change of manager after the end of last season meant a complete sea-change in the way Middlesbrough have operated, with a change of philosophy across the club introduced and a desire to reduce expenditure on signing players.

But the Irish goalkeeper was asked what the differences between Woodgate and Pulis are, and he suggested there are more similarities than people might imagine.

“So far, so good,” said the 32-year-old, after an inconsistent first six games of the season. “We’ve been unlucky with a few of the results but there are lots of positives to take from the games we’ve already played. We’ve been getting used to a new style of play that he (Woodgate) wants to play.

“They’re both very hands on, they take the sessions, the only real difference is the style of football. I think under Tony we were a lot more compact and defensive minded, which enabled us to go and stay in games and nick some goals. Now, we’re more expansive and open and attacking, so the lads are all enjoying it.”