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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Southgate relaxed despite continued speculation

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate is refusing to be fazed by ongoing discussions over his future.

It is understood the Premier League have asked for talks with Boro's Steve Gibson at the regular meeting of top-flight chairmen next week as they attempt to thrash out a solution to the 36-year-old's situation.

He was appointed during the summer despite not having the required UEFA Pro-Licence and the 12-week dispensation period allowed by the rules runs out in nine days' time.

Boro have been confident from the off that they would win permission, but Southgate is simply getting on with his job.

He said: 'What will be will be, as far as I am concerned. I am very relaxed about it.

'If somebody turns around and says I cannot do it, I cannot do it. I very much want to do it, I am honoured to have the position. I feel I have a point to prove here and I intend to take this club forward.

'The backing I need is the backing of the chairman, which I have got. Everyone else will hopefully find a solution which is acceptable to all parties.

'I am just getting on with my job. My position stays the same. There is nothing I can do to influence or affect anything, nor would I want to.

'I am committed to the education programme that is in place - at the moment it is difficult to find a solution as to how quickly those qualifications can be done.

'But the most important thing for me is to concentrate on the job the chairman has given me here.

'I continue to enjoy that challenge and I want to get us further up the table. That is the most important thing and the only thing on my mind.'

With his own position the topic for debate, Southgate is ready to hand defender Abel Xavier a second chance.

The 33-year-old former Portugal international has played two reserve games for the club since the end of his 12-month drugs ban, and discussions over a contract are now reaching a conclusion.

Southgate said: 'We are in discussions with him about signing a contract. I think we are pretty much agreed and it is good for us.

'He is an experienced player and he is very popular with the lads here.

'His belief is that there has been a great injustice. He has wanted to fight to clear his name through this period of time, and he is the only person who knows the real story.

'For us, it is a case of allowing him the opportunity to rebuild his career.

'I do not think it is for me to judge the rights and wrongs of the sentence or anything else, but he wants to come back and play and we have said all along we would give him the opportunity to come and train with us with a view to, if he was looking good, signing back with us.

'We feel he has shown us he is at a level to come into our squad.'

Xavier, who protested his innocence from the off, was initially banned for 18 months after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance after the UEFA Cup trip to Xanthi last September.

He told the club's official website: 'The only thing I can say is I am ready, I am ready because I know I can provide, I know I can do the job I did before.

'My feeling is that I never left this club. I looked at my situation as something that was out of my control.

'But I do not think Middlesbrough Football Club would have opened the door if they did not think I was capable of doing a job.'