Southgate to ease Lee into Premiership action

February 7, 2007

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate will not risk throwing new signing Dong Gook Lee into the heat of Premiership battle until he is ready.

The 27-year-old South Korea international arrived on Teesside last week amid huge interest from his home country, but did not even make the 16 for Boro's 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Saturday evening.

Southgate is confident the former Pohang Steelers star can make an impact in the English game, but as he prepares for Saturday's trip to champions Chelsea, he will not allow the Korean star to get ahead of himself.

He said: 'We have to think about what we want to do. He needs a period of training to get up to full fitness.

'Very often when players join a new club, it is a dangerous time for injury, and that is the last thing we want. We will build him up slowly and see how he goes in training.'

Lee missed last summer's World Cup finals with a cruciate ligament injury, and although he has now recovered from that problem, he is still regaining full match fitness.

In addition, first-choice strikers Mark Viduka and Ayegbeni Yakubu have been in excellent form, and with Malcolm Christie providing back-up following his latest recovery from injury, there is no immediate rush to add Lee to the mix.

Southgate said: 'The team is playing very well at the moment so I have got lots to think about. But it is great to have him.

'We need competition for places in all areas of the field and it is a great challenge for Dong Gook to come and try to play in the Premier League.

'I know that is something he is very keen to do.'

Lee's arrival has offset record signing Massimo Maccarone's departure for Siena, and Southgate will hope he gets a better return from his latest acquisition than he did from the outspoken Italian, who last week fired off a broadside at his former team-mate and the man he replaced at the helm, England boss Steve McClaren.