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Prospects, squad players make their case

By ESPN Staff

Baggies revive Ugo's move as Boro agree to sell

Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren has avoided a potential showdown with defender Ugo Ehiogu after belatedly sanctioning his move back to West Brom.

The 33-year-old was furious yesterday when his return to the midlands was scuppered at the last minute by team-mate Gareth Southgate's suspected stress fracture of the ankle.

Ehiogu, who had agreed terms with the Baggies after being told he was surplus to requirements at the Riverside Stadium, was unhappy with the about-turn.

However, he got his wish today when it was revealed that Southgate, who saw a specialist yesterday, is not as badly injured as was first thought and McClaren decided to allow the move to go through after all.

'We were very concerned with the serious possibility that Gareth had a stress fracture to his ankle,' the manager said. 'Clearly, if Gareth had joined Franck Queudrue as long-term injured, it would not have been in the club's best interests to allow Ugo to move on.

'Thankfully, Gareth's injury doesn't appear to be as serious as first feared. Scans have been taken that do not suggest a fracture. That's clearly great news as I don't need to spell out how important Gareth is to the team.

'Gareth will rest for the next week, maybe two, and the ankle will be assessed on an ongoing basis. As long as the injury settles down, we will have him back fairly soon.

'The knock-on effect is that we have now decided to let Ugo's transfer to West Brom go through as originally planned.'

That will have come as welcome news to Ehiogu, who had grown disillusioned with his lack of opportunities at the Riverside, where he arrived as the club's then-record signing in an £8million move from Aston Villa in October 2000.

He has made 133 appearances for the club and was in the side which lifted the Carling Cup in February 2004.

However, he has played just 13 times this season, the last of them the 3-3 Premiership draw with Tottenham on December 18.

McClaren, who has Queudrue out for up to eight weeks, Chris Riggott battling to shake off a dead leg and Emanuel Pogatetz suspended for Saturday's trip to Arsenal, insisted he was right to be cautious with only inexperienced duo Matthew Bates and David Wheater waiting in the wings.

'It was right for us to be cautious and put the transfer on hold when there was concern that Gareth could be out for an extended period, as we had to do what was right for Middlesbrough,' he told the club's official website.

'Now we feel it's best for the club and for Ugo that he moves on to pastures new. He has been an outstanding servant to this club over the past four or five years and should be remembered fondly by fans for his part in winning the Carling Cup.

'But I have explained to him that I can't guarantee him the first-team football he naturally wants at this stage in his career. We have some excellent young players coming through and we want to ensure they fulfil their potential.'

Today's news will come as a relief to Southgate, who disappointed to have been the indirect cause of his former Villa team-mate's on-off transfer.

He will now set his sights on returning to action as soon as possible.

'We don't think there is a stress fracture there, so we are just waiting to see what happens,' he said. 'We will let it settle over the next week or so and take it from there.

'Normally injuries are black and white and you can put a timescale on them. It could be something that is a couple of weeks, it could be something that is considerably longer than that.

'The best scenario from my point of view is I am back in a couple of weeks, but that's not certain. You want to be around to help your team-mates but if you are not fit, there is nothing you can do about it.'

• West Brom utility player Steve Watson is expected to be fit for the Premiership clash with Wigan at the JJB Stadium on Sunday.

Watson suffered a badly bruised foot in the derby with Aston Villa 10 days ago and was sidelined for the FA Cup meeting with Reading.

But the former Everton player has now returned to full training and is confident of being available to face Paul Jewell's side.

Watson, who played in four different positions during the festive programme, said: 'I had bone bruising on my right foot from the Villa game. I kicked the bottom of someone's studs and got booked for it as well!

'I got an x-ray and thankfully it wasn't broken. It was severe bruising which is right on the part of my foot where I kick the ball.

'I trained on Monday and Tuesday and I'll train the rest of the week. Touch wood, it should be okay for the Wigan game.'