Huth on the brink of Middlesbrough deal

July 10, 2006

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate was preparing to unveil his first signing on Monday as Robert Huth underwent a medical.

The 21-year-old German international defender arrived on Teesside on Monday afternoon as the fledgling boss put his players through their first day of pre-season training.

Boro agreed a fee with Chelsea - understood to be around £5million - and personal terms with the player before the World Cup finals, but his involvement with the German squad meant his move could not be finalised until now.

The host nation eventually finished third after beating Portugal 3-1 on Saturday evening, and the Berlin-born player - who managed just one appearance in the tournament after losing his place through injury - wasted little time in heading for the north-east afterwards.

Southgate has earmarked Huth as his own replacement on the pitch after announcing his retirement as a player, apart from in emergencies, on his own appointment last month.

The 6ft 2ins stopper, who made just 32 senior starts in five years at Stamford Bridge, is unlikely to be the last new arrival this summer with Steve McClaren's successor having identified his major targets.

Fulham midfielder Steed Malbranque is in his sights, and it is understood Blackburn's Australian international Brett Emerton has come into consideration, although speculation French striker Sidney Govou could be on his way to the Riverside Stadium is wide of the mark.

Asked if he has identified his targets, Southgate said: 'Yes, I have.

'I'd love to be more helpful, but I don't think it's right to speak about players that are at other clubs.

'Also, with some of these things, it's a long road towards where you want to be. That's one of the things I'm learning very quickly.

'It's not easy bringing players in. There are lots of obstacles to overcome.

'I can't be specific, but I've had a chance to assess the squad we have got in more detail and that obviously highlights a few areas we need to look at.

'But basically, like any club, if we can get players in who I feel improve the team we have got, then I'm going to try to do that.

'The players want to see that in terms of the dressing room being more competitive and needing a lift before the start of the season, and the supporters want to see that as well.

'They want us to push on from where we are. Everybody knows we have good youngsters coming through, but we have to add to that as well with some experienced players that are ready to perform here and now.'

Should Huth sign on the dotted line, he is likely to be given further time to recover from his World Cup exploits along with England winger Stewart Downing and Australian duo Mark Schwarzer and Mark Viduka, who were all missing today.

Also conspicuous by his absence was last season's leading scorer Aiyegbeni Yakubu, who has had visa problems.

However, the 23-year-old Nigerian is expected to return tomorrow.

Southgate said: 'He had a problem with his visa in terms of renewing it, but he should be here tomorrow.'

Meanwhile, Southgate revealed he is taking the transition from player to manager in his stride after making what seems likely to be his final appearance in last season's UEFA Cup final.

He said: 'In terms of my own playing, I'd probably reached the other side of a plateau and was on the way down.

'I quite like the idea that it's just finished and there's no big goodbye or no waning of the powers.

'You have gone - and it was a great game to go out in, a great occasion to finish on.

'I've said if we have injury problems this year, then I might step in, but it's not really my intention to do that unless it's really necessary.'