'Southgate is a magnificent player'

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The Independent Football

Steve McClaren yesterday singled out the captain Gareth Southgate as his hero after his side had lifted the first major trophy in Middlesbrough's 128-year history.

An early goal from Joseph-Desiré Job and a penalty from Boudewijn Zenden secured a 2-1 win in the Carling Cup final for the Teesside club, though they had to hang on at times in a frantic match after Kevin Davies had scored through a goalkeeping error by Mark Schwarzer.

McClaren, however, praised the rock at the heart of his defence. "You need heroes in a Cup final and we had 11, 12 or 13 out there, but if there's one player I'd single out, it's Gareth Southgate," McClaren said. "He has been the talisman of this football club since I came. I made him my first signing and I'm delighted for him because he deserves it. You could see that in the reaction of the fans. He's a magnificent player."

McClaren admitted that he had missed the first goal after he had dashed to the dressing-room following the national anthem to change. "I've never thought suits were that lucky with me, so I went to get my track suit," he said. "We went 1-0 up and I couldn't believe it. I came down, had just sat in my seat when we went two up. It was a perfect start and that was the defining moment in the game."

McClaren also saluted the work of the chairman Steve Gibson. Gibson received a huge ovation from the travelling Boro fans. "We wanted to bring a trophy to Middlesbrough after 128 years," McClaren said. "That was my ambition when I sat down with the chairman. Personally it's fantastic but the fans were magnificent. The chairman deserves an awful amount of credit for what he's done for this football club."

There was probably no man more relieved than Schwarzer, who allowed Davies' shot to bobble past him in to the net. "Everybody makes mistakes and it's just highlighted when it's in a Cup final," McClaren said. "But Mark Schwarzer reacted very well after that and kept us in the game with two or three magnificent saves when Bolton piled the pressure on us."

And while the Bolton manager Sam Allardyce criticised the referee Mike Riley for some dubious decision-making, including the penalty he awarded when Emerson Thome was ruled to have brought down Job and the resulting spot-kick which Allardyce claimed had been a double hit, McClaren insisted: "Cup finals are won by very small margins such as referee's decisions and mistakes I thought ours was a certain penalty. But the way we set our stall out we deserved the luck and the breaks and today we got them."