Southgate sets sights on league improvement

New Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate will concentrate on the business of reviving the club’s Barclays Premiership fortunes as the row over his appointment rages on.

New Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate will concentrate on the business of reviving the club’s Barclays Premiership fortunes as the row over his appointment rages on.

Boro unveiled the 35-year-old as Steve McClaren’s successor yesterday afternoon and expect him to sign a five-year contract within days.

The Teessiders are continuing to talk to the FA Premier League, the Football Association and the League Managers’ Association over his lack of the UEFA pro licence and remain confident a deal can be struck.

In the meantime, Southgate will plan for the new season – the club has agreed an undisclosed fee with Chelsea for defender Robert Huth and Oguchi Onyewu and Roudolphe Douala are also close to signing – and the task of improving on the beaten UEFA Cup finalists’ disappointing 14th-place finish last season.

He said: “We need to improve. We were 14th in the league last season – we had great cup runs, but you are judged as a team by what you do in the league.

“We have got to improve that, and I think we can, and for the players that are already here, it’s always a boost to see new faces coming through the door when you are coming back to pre-season training.

“But I’m not going to rush those decisions. I want to be sure the people I bring to the club are right for the club in the long term. I’ve got a fantastic chairman here, but I’m not going to abuse that fact.”

Chairman Steve Gibson turned to his captain, whose playing career was effectively ended by his acceptance of the job, after speaking to Terry Venables and Martin O’Neill, although Southgate was unfazed by the process.

He said: “I realise how fortunate I am because of the age I am, but I’m determined to make it work. I don’t see it as any disgrace to be behind the likes of Terry Venables and Martin O’Neill in the pecking order. I take it as a great compliment I was the next person in line.

“I’ve got to prove myself now and prove I can do the job.”

Gibson’s decision may look a bold one, particularly as it does not comply with current Premier League rules, but he has no doubt it is the right one after fighting the temptation to appoint a qualified foreign manager.

He said: “Gareth will be my third manager. I appointed Bryan Robson when he was 37; I appointed Steve McClaren when he was 38; and I have appointed Gareth at 35.

“You speak to him and he’s vibrant, he’s got personality and energy and with the structure we have at this club, we can support him.

“I’m very happy with the appointment and very confident it will work. We want to take the club forward. Bryan Robson laid the base for us, Steve McClaren built on that and I think we are well-positioned to give Gareth the tools to build on that.”

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox