George Saville unfazed by record transfer fee

George Saville has taken becoming Northern Ireland’s most expensive player in his stride.

The midfielder made a deadline day switch to Middlesbrough from Millwall for a fee reported to be £8million, after an initial loan period.

George Saville pictured during a Players' Press Conference in the Culloden Hotel , ahead of Northern Ireland's UEFA Nations League game against Bosnia & Herzegovina at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park on Saturday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

George Saville pictured during a Players' Press Conference in the Culloden Hotel , ahead of Northern Ireland's UEFA Nations League game against Bosnia & Herzegovina at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park on Saturday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The deal is the most ever paid for a Northern Ireland international, but the 25-year-old is taking it all in his stride.

“To me it is just a figure,” he said. “In this day and age football is growing and transfers are becoming more expensive. For me it is just a positive move and an opportunity to go and progress in my career.

“There was a bit of interest before deadline day. The closer we got to deadline day it looked more unlikely but the club still showed an interest.

“There were a few conversations and they decided they could sort out a loan to perm and they pushed for a couple of weeks and eventually we got it over the line on the last day of the loan window.”

Saville hopes the move to Middlesbrough will help him achieve his dream of playing in the Premier League.

“That’s one of the factors why I joined Middlesbrough,” he said. “They are a massive club with huge ambition and one of the favourites to go up this season and the ideal goal is to to play at the highest level which is the Premier League and with Middlesbrough I feel I can achieve that.

“Millwall was fantastic for me and gave me the stepping stone to get to the next level.

“For me Middlesbrough is a club that is a Premier League club so I didn’t need that much convincing of that move. It is the right move for me at this time and I feel under a manager like Tony Pulis I can thrive off that and get myself and the football club into the Premier League.

“There will be a different pressure on me but one I think I’m ready for. It’s like when you go somewhere new.

“When I started with Northern Irelamd there was a pressure on me to perform on the international stage and I felt I have handled that well so far. When you have that new challenge you have to take it with both hands.”

Saville says playing alongside the likes of Steve David, Gareth McAuley and Chris Brunt has helped mould him into the player he is today.

The 25-year-old feels playing for Northern Ireland has alongside the Premier League stars, has boosted his career.

“Being with the boys who have been in the Premier League for years like Davo, Gareth McAuley, Brunty when he was here,” he said.

“Even Ollie Norwood we have top quality players here and you learn from them.

“Being in a different environment you are not in your comfort zone like in club football and I feel I have progressed as a player and off the field too. This has helped me gain experience I need.

“Being on the international stage can only help you, It won’t do you any harm and obviulsy the nation has been on a fantastic run in the last couple of years.

“We talk about the players coming in and the strong squad we have at the moment. For me it is brilliant to be part of that and helped me individually as well.”

Saville has made huge progress over the last 12 months since moving to Millwall before his multi-million pound switch to Teeside and establishing himself in Michael O’Neill’s international set-up.

“In football things happen really quickly,” he said.

“You could go 18 months to two years ago not playing to now being at Middlesbrough and an international footballer.

“You see the likes of Harry Maguire in the summer. There are loads of examples.

“Football changes quickly. For me it is about progressing and so far so good.”

The only blot on Saville’s copybook was missing out on the World Cup in the summer.

He admitted it was hard to watch Switzerland in action in Russia after they pipped Northern Ireland to qualification.

“It was a blow watching them play at the World Cup in the summer,” he said.

“I was quite bitter watching them play if I’m being honest, knowing ifs buts and maybes but that’s gone now.

“I know we didn’t get there, but that will give us the experience and things we we need to learn ahead of the next campaign which is the European Championships.”

Saville knows there will be a lot of expectation on the squad to make it through to the Euros again.

But he says it show how highly thought of this current crop of players are by people.

“It shows as a squad we are doing something right,” said Saville.

“The boys, eh management, everyone; we’re going in the right direction to have expectations on ourselves we must be winning games and going in the right direction.

“That can only be a positive.

“You can take negatives or positives from anything but we take that with positivity and we’ll take that into the campaign and go into it with no fear.”