Southgate issues 'hands-off' warning over Downing
Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate has issued yet another hands-off message to Tottenham amid fresh speculation that they are targeting England winger Stewart Downing.
Spurs boss Martin Jol is a long-time admirer of the 22-year-old, who starred in his country's 4-0 friendly demolition of Greece last week.
However Boro, who rejected a £6million bid from the Londoners last summer and have repeatedly told them to forget making another, are aware of reports suggesting a renewed approach is imminent.
But with just nine days of the summer transfer window remaining, Southgate, who will send his side out against Barclays Premiership champions Chelsea tomorrow night looking for a first league win as manager, is ready to fight for one of his most influential players.
Southgate said: 'I think Stewart knows how much I think of him and how much we as a club think of him.
'But it's difficult for me to comment on something that is fabrication, as far as I am aware, because I have had no contact from anybody about any of our players.
'It's speculation, as far as I am aware.'
It was Downing who gave Southgate a good start to his Premiership management career when he fired Boro into an early lead at Reading at the weekend.
The Teessiders eventually squandered a 2-0 advantage to lose 3-2 at the Madejski Stadium, but the manager saw enough evidence to assure him that the speculation is not troubling his talented midfielder.
Southgate said: 'When I look at the goal he scored on Saturday and how influential he was in that spell when we were doing very well, then no.
'He is very focussed on what he wants to do. I am sure if he had any concerns, he would come to see me. He knows how much I think of him.
'The only slightly disappointing thing is that, as far as I am aware, it's a story without any truth. I am almost loathe to give it credibility because I have not heard anything about it.'
Sadly for Boro, Southgate has also heard little on his bid to bring Manchester City defender Sylvain Distin to the Riverside Stadium, although despite a failure to agree personal terms with the Frenchman, he insists talks are ongoing.
He said: 'The situation has not changed. We are still in agreement with Manchester City - the fee has not changed, so that side of it is no different - and we are still in discussions with the player.'