Schwarzer's Boro deal tempered by Ehiogu knee injury

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The Independent Football

Mark Schwarzer signed a three-year contract extension at Middlesbrough yesterday, but it was not all smiles on Teesside as the defender Ugo Ehiogu learned that he could be out of action for months after having his injured knee put in a brace for six weeks.

Schwarzer said: "There has been a lot of speculation recently about whether I would stay on Teesside with the possibility that I could transfer or sign a pre-contract with another club. I can confirm that I will be staying in the North-east beyond this summer."

The deal will last until the close season of 2008. "It's great news because it means we know we have a first-class goalkeeper in place for the next few seasons," Steve McClaren, the Middlesbrough manager, said. "You can't underestimate how important it is to have a top-quality goalkeeper in your side who you know you can rely on. Schwarzer is one of the best in the Premier League."

Schwarzer, a 32-year-old Australian international, is Boro's longest-serving player, having been signed by the previous manager Bryan Robson from Bradford City for £1.25m in February 1997.

"I've had eight great seasons at the club, including a League Cup winner's medal last February and now a good run in the Uefa Cup," said Schwarzer, who has also played for the Marconi Stallions and the German sides Dynamo Dresden and Kaiserslautern.

Middlesbrough also confirmed that the 32-year-old Ehiogu has suffered medial ligament damage and has had his knee stabilised before a full assessment is made.

"Ugo has damaged medial ligaments and will be in a brace for six weeks," a club spokesman said. "We will review the situation after that."

Even if the injury settles down the England international would face several weeks of rehabilitation, but if further action is needed he could be out for months.

That would be a huge blow to McClaren, who is already facing major selection problems at the back.

The captain Gareth Southgate has been a stalwart throughout the season while Colin Cooper, who will be 38 next month, has performed heroically in the absence of hamstring victim Chris Riggott, who faces a further fortnight in the treatment room.

Andrew Davies has been allowed to join Queen's Park Rangers on loan and was hurt making his debut at the weekend, while McLaren's summer signing Michael Reiziger is a doubt for Saturday's Premiership trip to Norwich and Stuart Parnaby is fighting for fitness after injury.

McClaren is already looking for cover for the left-back Franck Queudrue but he may now decide that a change of focus is necessary, although the promising youngsters Matthew Bates and David Wheater may find themselves providing the back-up.