Southgate backs Boateng
Middlesbrough captain George Boateng is still a vital component of the Teessiders' team, says boss Gareth Southgate.
By Stephen Pass
Last Updated: 02/10/07 4:26pm
Middlesbrough captain George Boateng is still a vital component of the Teessiders' team.
Boro boss Gareth Southgate has publicly made this pledge after the 32-year-old Dutchman was named only among the substitutes for the Sunderland game on 22nd September, as Southgate opted for £5million signing Gary O'Neil on the right-hand side for the first time.
In recent times, Boateng's favoured central role has been filled by Julio Arca and Brazilian Fabio Rochemback, so he had been playing out wide in what had been a problem position before O'Neil's arrival on Teesside.
Despite being left on the bench, Southgate has insisted that Boateng remains a vital figure in his future plans for the club.
He said: "George is very important to me. The qualities he has are different to the qualities other players have. But it does not mean he is any less important to the side or to the club.
"Because we have not had a squad that has been strong enough here in the past to rest players for certain games or to change the style for certain games, there have been lots of players who have been automatic choices.
"But over the course of the season, I found out last year that you have to keep players fresher, and when they are fresh, they should go back into the side and have a bigger impact on the team.
"It's also important we have the right balance. You need both sides of the game and the job that the likes of George Boateng and Lee Cattermole do is equally important for the team.
"You have players with different attributes and the team depends on all of those attributes coming together."
Boateng was introduced within 27 minutes of the Sunderland game after Arca was stretchered off with medial ligament damage, which is expected to sideline him for at least two months.
The captain then started the subsequent games at Tottenham in the Carling Cup and Everton in the Barclays Premier League, where he had an early opportunity in Sunday's 2-0 defeat.
Arca's loss is a huge blow to the team, but Southgate is hoping for better news of other injuries ahead of Sunday's trip to in-form Manchester City.
Mido continues to struggle with a hamstring problem, while Tuncay Sanli's shin injury remains a cause for concern and both are doubts.