Coleman backs Southgate as new Boro boss

May 5, 2006

Fulham manager Chris Coleman is backing his old defensive partner Gareth Southgate if he decides he wants to succeed Steve McClaren as Middlesbrough manager.

McClaren will succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson as England boss after the World Cup and Coleman, the youngest manager in the Premiership when he took the helm at Fulham three years ago, believes former England defender Southgate could take the job in his stride, despite having no managerial experience.

The pair, who played together at the heart of the Crystal Palace defence a decade and a half ago, come face to face on Sunday when Southgate turns out for Middlesbrough against Coleman's Fulham at Craven Cottage in McClaren's final Premiership match in charge of Boro.

Ahead of the match, the Fulham boss had encouraging words for his old pal, who is being tipped as one of the likely candidates to succeed McClaren.

'I think people thought it was going to be a problem for me but here we are three years later so who's to say Gareth can't do the same thing?' he said.

'I know Gareth very well and I've been friends with him a long, long time. He's been a terrific player and he's very serious about his football.

'That doesn't guarantee you will be a successful boss but I think he'd be good at it. I know what his personality is like but I don't know whether Gareth would want to do it or not.

'But knowing his personality, he knows the game and I think he would have a good chance of being successful.'

The Fulham boss, whose playing career was ended by horrific leg injuries suffered in a car crash, was plunged into management at Fulham following the departure of the club's French boss Jean Tigana.

Coleman has kept Fulham in the Premiership on what, by top-flight standards, was a shoestring budget and now, with the promise of increased transfer funds this summer, is hoping to establish them as a top-10 club over the next two or three seasons.

The challenge at the Riverside, he insists, is not identical to that he faced.

'Middlesbrough is a different club. With their budget, they have a lot of good players and have spent a bit of money so success at Middlesbrough is not the same as success at Fulham.

'Maybe there would be more pressure on him up there with his first club if that's what happens, but I'm not sure.'

Coleman refuses to be distracted by the fact that Middlesbrough's players will be looking to give McClaren a winning Premiership send-off ahead of their UEFA Cup final appearance against Spanish side Sevilla.

He suspects the Boro boss might rest some of his stars on Sunday and that would provide the stand-ins with the opportunity not only to say farewell to their manager in style but also to stake a late claim for a place in the final squad.

'Some of the players who will be playing on Sunday, I imagine, won't be playing on Wednesday but he's the only one who can answer that question.

'You can look at it both ways and say, yes, maybe they will come down and they will be all geared up for Wednesday or the players he's picking will want to say thank you for them and put in a performance.

'That's up to them, if they want to give their gaffer a last-game send-off. I'm delighted for Steve that he's got the England job and I wish him good luck from everybody at Fulham but, for us, it's not about Middlesbrough on Sunday,' insisted Coleman.

He added: 'We mustn't concentrate on them. I don't care about Middlesbrough. I only care about us approaching this game in the right manner.

'It's about us doing the job, getting it done right and getting a win so that we can finish 12th in the league. That's all the incentive we need.'