Southgate hoping for League reprieve

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The Independent Football

Gareth Southgate will head for work today hopeful of gaining the reprieve which will allow him to continue as Middlesbrough manager.

The 36-year-old's three-month dispensation to continue work without the Uefa Pro Licence that he needs under Premier League rules ended on Sunday, and the Premier League Board will be discussing Boro's application to extend it until the end of the season.

Talks between the club, League officials and the Football Association have been ongoing ever since the former England defender was appointed as the successor to Steve McClaren in June. Southgate is studying for his B Licence and hopes to begin his A Licence in January before enrolling on the Pro Licence course next summer.

The Premier League amended its rules earlier this month to allow a manager who is in the process of gaining the Pro Licence to be in charge of a top-flight club, a change which brings it into line with the top European leagues.

Boro have remained confident that there is a solution to the problem, and believe they have put persuasive arguments to those who will make the decision.

However, Southgate has simply got on with his job, all the time knowing the matter is out of his hands. He said: "That is how I have been since I got the job, really. I am just concentrating on that and everybody else is taking care of the other side of things."

Saturday's goalless draw against Liverpool at the Riverside Stadium left Boro 14th in the Premiership table going into Saturday's trip to Southgate's former club Aston Villa.

The new manager of Villa, Martin O'Neill, was on the shortlist drawn up by the chairman, Steve Gibson, as he looked for McClaren's replacement before coming to the realisation that Southgate was his man.

The rookie manager has endured a mixed start to his career but he maintains that he is learning all the time. However, four points from the last two games against West Ham United and Liverpool, despite less than impressive performances, have demonstrated the spirit and resilience he has fostered, and his £6m signing Robert Huth is convinced there is more to come.

"I think our position does not show our quality. But in this League you can win two games and make a big improvement in your position in the table," he said. "We are not worried. We genuinely believe we can beat any team. We have shown that already when we have played against the teams above us."

Villa are unbeaten at home this season, while the Teessiders have taken two points from 18, and Huth is aware they will provide a tough test.

"Everybody is raving about Aston Villa," said the Germany centre-back. "It will be an interesting game. Everybody is aware of our away record. It's very difficult to go away and get something.

"Once we get an away win, we will get more confidence. Every game in the Premiership you can win and you can also lose."

* David Elleray, the former Fifa referee, has led calls for Premiership managers to show more appreciation of match officials. The League Managers' Association chief executive, John Barnwell, has also warned managers they must not "get personal" or allege malice in their criticism of any referee's performance. Elleray, who was a high-profile referee in the Premiership until retiring in 2003, believes recent criticism of officials has gone too far. He said: "A great sadness in football at the moment is that officials are being pilloried for decisions they do or do not give. We need a cultural change. People need to recognise that the game will die without referees and we need to show them more respect."

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