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By ESPN Staff

Boro defender Riggott signs new four-year deal

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate has challenged defender Chris Riggott to force his way into the England squad after handing him a new four-year contract.

The 25-year-old, who established himself as Southgate's first-choice central defensive partner last season, has committed himself to the club until the summer of 2010.

Southgate said: 'Chris has progressed particularly well over the last three years and was a big part of our European success last season.

'Now we are looking at him to force his way into the international set-up.'

Former Under-21 international Riggott joined Boro along with striker Malcolm Christie in a joint £3million move from Derby in January 2003.

He has had to remain patient after a series of injuries, but finally got the chance to establish himself ahead of the more experienced Ugo Ehiogu last season.

Riggott was a key figure in the club's progression to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup final, although he tasted mixed emotions along the way.

He had a glorious chance to level minutes from time against West Ham to take the FA Cup semi-final into extra-time, but dragged his shot wide.

However, he found the back of the net in the remarkable 4-2 UEFA Cup victory over Steaua Bucharest four days later as Boro booked their trip to the final in Eindhoven.

Riggott was snapped up by former boss Steve McClaren after showing his talent as a youngster at Pride Park, has since matured and was one of the club's most consistent performers during the last campaign.

His decision to sign a new deal will come as a huge relief to Southgate, who has so far drawn a blank in his attempt to replace himself as a player.

Robert Huth's proposed £5million move from Chelsea fell through after his medical, although that could yet be resurrected, while the Teessiders are awaiting the outcome of their bid to sign Manchester City's Sylvain Distin.