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By ESPN Staff

Southgate not bothered by Maccarone jibes

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate has brushed off a stinging attack by former team-mate Massimo Maccarone following his return to Italy.

The 27-year-old, who joined Siena on a free transfer earlier this week, delivered a parting shot at Southgate's predecessor Steve McClaren, now England manager, after ending his four and a half years on Teesside.

Maccarone slammed McClaren for his treatment at the Riverside Stadium and called into question his suitability for the national job.

Southgate was caught in the crossfire, accused of 'disguising' himself as a friend and reneging on a promise to give the £8.15million record signing a run in the team.

However, the former England international was taking Maccarone's comments in his stride as he prepared for tomorrow's Barclays Premiership visit of Arsenal.

Southgate said: 'Believe it or not, I haven't read them. I am obviously aware that Massimo has released a statement.

'When you are involved in football, there are always going to be opinions, but it is the past for us. Massimo has moved on now.

'I am not bothered about personal criticism. I will always defend all of my staff to the hilt because I have fantastic staff here, medical and fitness staff.

'But, everything else, that is part and parcel of football and we get on with it.

'There are so many positive things about what we are doing at the moment, the form we are in, the way the team is playing. I would prefer to speak about the players that are here, our players, and focus on what we are doing.

'We have got a big game against Arsenal tomorrow and everything else would be a side-show I would not want to allow to detract from what we are doing.'

Maccarone, in a repeat of compatriot Fabrizio Ravanelli's scathing assessment of the club's facilities following his arrival in 1996, also criticised Boro's infrastructure and training methods.

However, Southgate was quick to dismiss his claims.

He said: 'We have got lots of young, talented players coming through and we have got excellent facilities, so we have to make sure we continue to progress as a club and continue to raise our aims and push the club forward.'

That is something Southgate and his players have done in recent weeks to stave off the spectre of relegation and edge the club towards the top half of the Premiership table.

They have won their last three home games in the league and would dearly love to extend that run by adding three more points to the one they collected in unlikely circumstances at the Emirates Stadium back in September.

Southgate said: 'We defended fantastically well down at Arsenal. Our defensive record over the last 20 games is fifth best in the league, just outside the top four, so they are in good form.

'Yes, this is a big test for them, but it's the sort of challenge they will be looking forward to.'

Boro will welcome back striker Mark Viduka, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, but are again likely to be without first-choice goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who is battling the back problem which kept him out of the 0-0 draw at Portsmouth in midweek.

And there will be no place in the 16 for latest signing Dong Gook Lee as he continues his comeback from a bad knee injury.

Southgate said: 'He has been in training with us this week, but he is not in consideration for the game tomorrow.

'He needs a bit more training. His general fitness is good but, of course, he is short of match fitness and it is important we spend some time with him in training to make sure we do not leave him open to picking up an injury.'