sport news Assombalonga was on £5 an hour at WH Smith not long ago

Britt Assombalonga is remembering a time before he was a £15million footballer, when he thought the last stop on the Northern Line was as far as he would go. 

There, after taking the Tube to Edgware in North London, he would indulge in a cheese and onion pasty for breakfast before starting his shift at WH Smith. He earned £5 per hour.

Today, the 24-year-old is Middlesbrough's club-record signing. The fee is the highest ever paid for a Championship player. 'Assomba-wonga!' screamed the headlines last month on the newspaper stands he used to stack.

Middlesbrough spent a club record transfer fee of £15million on Britt Assombalonga 

Middlesbrough spent a club record transfer fee of £15million on Britt Assombalonga 

Assombalonga has joined Boro with the intention of gain promotion to the Premier League

Assombalonga has joined Boro with the intention of gain promotion to the Premier League

There is, then, a sense of appreciation as he reflects on a journey which has taken him from the Congo to the 5-a-side cages of Camden, via a newsagents and to the cusp of Premier League and international football.

Talking to Sportsmail ahead of Saturday's Championship opener at title rivals Wolves, he is reminded that, even just five years ago, he was starting the new season at Southend in League Two. They were beaten 1-0 at home by Accrington Stanley.

'Wow, really? Accrington?' It just shows you,' he says. 'That's the of coming through the lower leagues. You appreciate it more now. You know how hard you've worked to get here.

£15m is the highest fee ever spent in the Championship and the striker wants to prove himself

£15m is the highest fee ever spent in the Championship and the striker wants to prove himself

'A few years before that I was working in WH Smith, stacking shelves when stocks ran low - newspapers, magazines, sweets, everything.

'I started at 9am and finished at 4pm. I went to Greggs every morning and then again when I finished, I loved those cheese and onion pasties.'

Assombalonga got a lucky break at 17 when Watford spotted him in a college game and he was offered a contract. After loan spells at Wealdstone, Braintree and Southend, he joined Peterborough for a club-record £1.5m. Twelve months and 33 goals later he was off to Nottingham Forest for another club-record of £5.5m. He was still just 21.

'I've always gone for record fees, I'm used it,' he says. 'If someone is wiling to pay that amount, then great. It comes with pressure, but that's what football is about. It's the goals, that's what makes the price.'

The 24-year-old was working in WH Smith earning £5 an hour not that long ago

The 24-year-old was working in WH Smith earning £5 an hour not that long ago

Does he, then, believe he is worth it?

'That is a good question, no-one has ever asked me that,' he says. 'I guess so, why not? You have to embrace it. I don't think that's me being cocky, you just have to believe in your own ability. Believing in yourself takes you a long way.'

It was the belief of Assombalonga's parents - Fedor and Beatrice - that took the family from Kinshasa to Camden in 1993.

His father was a striker for the national team but sacrificed his career for the future of his two sons and two daughters.

Assombalonga - who is yet to decide if his international allegiance lies with DR Congo or England - says: 'My mum and dad believed we had to move to give us a better life and a good education.

He believes his background has made him that bit more grounded as a person

He believes his background has made him that bit more grounded as a person

'There were things which used to happen in Congo, like the black magic. My mum and dad grew up there and didn't want us to experience that.

'That is why they saved the money to move to London. They wanted to give us the chance they never had.'

Assombalonga left school with GCSE 'A' grades in maths, IT and French.

'Maths, yeah, so I know exactly how much £15m is,' he says with a smile. 'My parents spoke French at home so that was easy, I played football instead of turning up to those lessons.'

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