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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 24, 2006

Xavier has 'served his time', insists Southgate

Gareth Southgate has launched a charm offensive as he paved the way for Abel Xavier's return to Middlesbrough.

The former Portuguese international was at the Riverside Stadium last night to see the club, who terminated his contract after he failed a drugs test, defeat Chelsea 2-1.

Southgate revealed Xavier asked to train with Boro, and has been given permission, which could eventually lead to his return to football.

Southgate said: 'The situation is that Abel has approached us with regard to coming and training with us.

'Obviously, everybody is aware that he had a one-year ban. Middlesbrough as a club and myself as a person do not condone the taking of drugs in sport in any way, so it's a situation we have contemplated long and hard.

'But Abel has protested his innocence throughout this. He feels it's a situation which is more a case of negligence rather than trying to cheat.

'There is clearly something not quite right with the case because FIFA have shortened his ban to a year, so they clearly feel there has been a certain injustice.

'Whether he is innocent or guilty, he has had a year's ban, he has served his time and myself and the club feel that people deserve the opportunity to rebuild their lives or rebuild their careers in a situation like that.

'So we have offered him an opportunity to come and train with us to get fit again rather than doing that on his own at this stage, and that's the position we are in.'

Xavier, who denied the charges against him, was initially banned for 18 months after testing positive for a a prohibited substance after a UEFA Cup clash with Skoda Xanthi last September.

He failed with an appeal against the decision, but later had his punishment reduced.

Meanwhile, Southgate returned to the business of trying to strengthen his squad today as the euphoria of last night's victory over the champions began to subside.

It is understood the club held further talks with Manchester City defender Sylvain Distin, but he looks set to see out the remaining year on his contract at Eastlands.

Asked if he expects to have added further new faces to the squad by the time the transfer window closes next week, Southgate said: 'Yes, I do.

'Yes, I am confident that we will have added to the squad by this time next week.

'Then my phone bill will go down and I will be able to get on with my life.'

Southgate's management career is still in its infancy but striker Mark Viduka, who started last night's game on the bench but came off it to score a late winner, admitted he had got it right.

Viduka said: 'Gareth explained to me before the way we were playing and I agreed with him.

'I think Aiyegbeni Yakubu was the man to use in that formation - he plays very well by himself up front and I understood that.

'Nobody likes it, but I wasn't angry, I just wanted to get on.'

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho left the Riverside empty-handed again, but admitting Southgate deserved to have got one over on him.

He said: 'I just gave him my congratulations, and if he reads the Press, he will know I think they deserved to win.

'From me, there are no complaints - a good referee, opponent, fair play, no mistakes, no stupid penalties. Chelsea did not deserve to win.'