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By ESPN Staff
Jan 23, 2007

Southgate hopeful that Woodgate will stay

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate has vowed to do all he can to persuade England defender Jonathan Woodgate his future lies at the Riverside Stadium.

The 26-year-old Real Madrid star has been in superb form for his home town club since join on loan for the season last summer.

He insisted on his arrival his aim was to return to Spain having proved both his fitness and his ability, although Boro have negotiated an agreement to sign him permanently if all parties agree.

However, Southgate knows he will have to work hard to keep Woodgate beyond the end of the current campaign with other suitors certain to step into the race to sign him if Real boss Fabio Capello decides he is surplus to requirements.

Southgate, a former international team-mate of Woodgate, said: 'We would love to keep him, no question.

'I think he is enjoying being here. We need to show him over the next four months how ambitious we are.

'He seems to be very content with us and he is enjoying his football. We have to convince him we are moving in the right direction.

'He is an ambitious boy but it is important to him that he enjoys the environment in which he trains and plays.

'Hopefully he can see where I want to take the club and the drive that both I and the chairman have for it.

'The bonus for us is that this is his home town and that means a lot to him.'

Such has been Woodgate's form for Boro that he has been repeatedly spoken of as a candidate for Steve McClaren's England squad.

The former Leeds and Newcastle defender admitted on his return to the Barclays Premiership that resurrecting his international career was a major aim.

That is yet to happen but a continuation of his excellent displays for Boro can do his chances of addressing that issue little harm.

Southgate said: 'He is good enough and he has got a level of performance which means he would do himself justice.

'What is important for him is that he wants to get a complete season under his belt.

'It would be a bonus for him if he got a call-up, but right now he is only really concentrating on playing as many games as possible for us.'

Injuries blighted Woodgate during his time at Newcastle and Real Madrid, and the fact he has missed only four of the 24 matches Boro have played since his arrival is testament to his health.

Much of the credit for that has to go to sports therapist Nick Allamby, who works closely with the player in an effort to cut down on the problems which have robbed him of so much football.

Southgate told the club's website: 'Nick works with him almost on a one-to-one basis. He is playing a big part for us.

'They have a very good working relationship and a good rapport. Jonathan has a lot of faith in what Nick is doing for him.

'I am very fortunate that we have a great medical team here.'