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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 25, 2006

Middlesbrough cut Spurs short over Downing bid

Middlesbrough have shown their intention to keep blossoming young players at the club after issuing another hands-off message to Tottenham over England winger Stewart Downing.

The Teessiders moved quickly to head off speculation that Spurs were ready to renew their pursuit of the 21-year-old after having a £6million bid rejected last summer.

Boro also want to keep their other talented youngsters, with 14 graduates of the club's Academy having represented the club at Fulham on the final day of the Barclays Premiership season.

'Stewart Downing is not for sale,' said chief executive Keith Lamb. 'We are building a team, not dismantling one. 'We have had no contact about him and we don't expect, or want, any.'

Spurs boss Martin Jol has worked hard to assemble a squad of young players, and the spine of his team is English. Last summer he managed to prise Jermaine Jenas away from Boro's derby rivals Newcastle with a £7million bid in August.

However, he had earlier failed in a bold attempt to capture Downing, whose emergence during the previous campaign had been little short of spectacular.

Boro's determination to hang on to him was as unequivocal then as it is now as they rebuffed Tottenham's advance.

'We have had an approach from Tottenham regarding Stewart Downing,' Lamb said in July last year. 'They did make an unsolicited offer.

'We rejected the offer immediately and told Tottenham that Stewart is not for sale, that we are not interested and that they should not pursue the matter any further.

'As a consequence, Tottenham have told us they have no further interest in Stewart.'

Downing suffered a frustrating, injury-blighted campaign after damaging his knee while on senior international duty in America 12 months ago.

However, he battled hard for fitness and form after returning to action in the New Year and turned in a superb display in the 4-2 UEFA Cup semi-final fightback against Steaua Bucharest to serve a timely reminder of his ability.

With Spurs having just missed out on Champions League qualification, they have already strengthened with the addition of £10.9million Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov.

But if Jol is determined to add Downing to his armoury, he faces a major battle to persuade Boro, even though the Teessiders cannot offer him European football next season.

Boro's new manager - an appointment is not expected until next week at the earliest with chairman Steve Gibson still awaiting an answer from Terry Venables - is unlikely to want to part with one of his most promising players, and involvement in the World Cup finals would simply reinforce that.

Meanwhile, Lamb has hinted 34-year-old striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink could yet have a future at the Riverside Stadium.

The Dutchman is out of contract and his agent Humphry Nijman has claimed he has already received approaches from several clubs.

But Lamb said: 'We will consider our options regarding Jimmy when we have appointed a new manager.

'In the meantime, his agent has promised to keep us fully in the picture.'

Hasselbaink is confident he still has two good years left in him and, having finished last season with 18 goals despite initially finding himself sidelined by £7.5million newcomer Aiyegbeni Yakubu, believes there are more to come.

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