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By ESPN Staff

Boro chairman Gibson: Southgate is the man

Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson is convinced Gareth Southgate is the man to drag the club back into the Premier League.

The former Boro skipper's third season in charge at the Riverside Stadium ended in the misery of relegation at the weekend, but the man who fought to appoint him back in 2006 remains fully behind his manager.

Answering fans questions on a BBC Tees phone-in, Gibson said: ''We will not have a scapegoat at this football club, it will not be Gareth Southgate.

''He is a good man, an intelligent man capable of being a top, top manager. Gareth has convinced me he knows what it takes to get us back up. He is a man I know and admire and we will work together in getting this football club back into the Premier League.

''What we need is the support of the fans and the town, and let's work together to get the club back in the Premier League. You may disagree with my decision and I respect that, but I have to make the decision and I am convinced that Gareth is the right man for the job.''

Gibson confirmed that there would be significant changes at the club in the wake of a traumatic season, but insists he and his manager are focussing only on a swift return to the big time.

He said: ''We are, of course, all very bitterly disappointed and it's been a hard time. But I was born five minutes from the Riverside Stadium, my childhood was in Pallister Park, I was brought up in Park End - we can take it.

''We can't change that that's happened. We need to plan for a new challenge, the coming campaign in the Championship. We are here and it is important that the club, the town, the supporters, we all stick together, prepare ourselves for this new challenge.

''We have a clear objective and the clear objective is that Middlesbrough Football Club returns to the Premier League as soon as it possibly can. There is nothing certain in football, but we have one objective and that is back to the Premier League.''

Meanwhile, Gibson confirmed he has a gentleman's agreement, reached when Tottenham's £15m bid was rejected in January, with England winger Stewart Downing that he can leave the club should a big name come in for him.

Downing is currently facing up to six months on the sidelines as he recovers from foot surgery, but his chairman is adamant he will not go back on his word.

Gibson said: ''Stewart has been fantastic. He has given us 100% commitment. He has suffered - he has suffered as a result of the performances, he has suffered because of the results and he is hurting.

''We had an unsaid agreement that if the right club came in - and I believe Stewart is a top four club player - we would not stand in his way. But Stewart was sad - he would be sad to leave our club.

''The injury he has got is going to take a substantial period of time - we think somewhere between four and six months. He is a great lad and I just want to see him back on the pitch enjoying his football, pressing for the England squad and if a big club comes in for him, I have given Stewart my word that I wouldn't stand in his way.''

Gibson, who revealed Boro have already sold 10,000 season tickets for the 2009-10 campaign, was also quick to dismiss rumours that they could go into administration and confirmed that its debt burden - at one point understood to be in excess of £90m - has been reduced by two-thirds.

He also bristled at claims that the club wanted to go down in a bid to cut costs.

He said: ''We hate the Championship, we don't want to be here. We are a Premier League club, we are a Premier League town with Premier League supporters.

''At the moment, I am a Championship chairman - I want to be a Premier League chairman. It's daft to suggest anything else. It's just daft. There is no evidence to support that theory whatsoever.''

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