Southgate urges caution on Woodgate

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The Independent Football

Gareth Southgate, the Middlesbrough manager, has urged caution over Jonathan Woodgate's chances of returning to the England squad.

National coach Steve McClaren was at Eastlands on Monday night as Woodgate and his team-mates went down 1-0 to Manchester City. The 26-year-old has been in fine form for his hometown club since returning to the Premiership on loan from Real Madrid in August.

However, Woodgate's injury history has seen him adopt a rigorous fitness regime which, apart from a thigh injury which sidelined him earlier this month, has seen him play a key part for Southgate who admits the player is still working his way towards full capacity.

Asked if he expected McClaren to name the former Leeds and Newcastle defender in his squad for the friendly against the Netherlands, Southgate replied: "It is not for me to comment on that right now.

"Jonathan Woodgate is obviously an outstanding player and I am sure he will be in Steve's mind. He has not had that much football with us so far. He missed a couple of weeks three weeks ago and he has only had two games back. I think Jonathan just wants to play and get his fitness with us and get a run of games."

Such has been the quality of Woodgate's performances that he will cert-ainly have come into McClaren's mind.

He won the first of his five caps as a teenager alongside Southgate against Bulgaria in June 1999, but has not represented his country since a 1-0 defeat in Sweden in March 2004.

John Terry and Rio Ferdinand have established themselves as McClaren's first-choice pairing - with Sol Campbell having been passed over despite his form for new club Portsmouth, while Jamie Carragher and Ledley King are other genuine competitors.

However, at his best, Woodgate has the ability to challenge not only for a place in the squad, but in the starting line-up, and he has made no secret of his hopes of winning a recall.

In the meantime, he will reflect on a dismal performance by his club side on Monday. Richard Dunne's goal proved enough to ease the pressure on the Manchester City manager, Stuart Pearce, but Southgate was desperately disappointed with Boro's display, especially before the break.

Defender Emanuel Pogatetz said: "We lost the game in the first half. We did not play football at all and we lost every challenge all over the field, so the first half was very disappointing. In the second half, it was a bit better. We dug in a little bit more, but football-wise, it was not very good.

"Maybe we had some chances at the end of the game, but if you look at the first half, we did not deserve even one point."