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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 31, 2006

Woodgate eyes England place with Boro return

LONDON, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Defender Jonathan Woodgate said on Thursday he hoped his loan to hometown club Middlesbrough from Real Madrid would open the door to an England place.

The central defender has returned to the Premier League on a one-year loan, with an option to make it a long-term deal, after being plagued by injuries in his two-year stay in Spain.

'I started going to Middlesbrough games with my father when I was a young boy,' he told Sky Sports News. 'It was always my dream to play for the club...it's brilliant for me.

'This year is an important time in my career.

'I'm 26 years old now and I've got to play football week in, week out and try bring success to Middlesbrough and try to get in the England side.'

Woodgate has only five England caps, due mainly to injury but also to a court case which led to a conviction for affray following an attack on an Asian student in Leeds in 2000.

As for his physical condition, Woodgate added: 'My fitness is good, I've played in eight of (Real's) pre-season games.'

New manager Gareth Southgate, himself a Boro central defender until the end of last season when he retired, said he had signed a world-class defender.

'I've played with him and somehow he kept me out of the side a couple of times with England.

'We're signing somebody who's hungry and who has a real point to prove, who will add stability to our side. Confidence will spread throughout the team.'

Woodgate joined Real from Boro's north east rivals Newcastle United after establishing his credentials at Leeds United.

Boro were also looking to complete Robert Huth's move from Chelsea before the final transfer deadline expires at midnight on Thursday, further bolstering a defence that conceded four goals in Monday's defeat by Portsmouth.