Southgate urges players to get their fans back on side

Middlesbrough manager says team needs supporters' backing to avoid relegation
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The Independent Online

Gareth Southgate has ordered his Middlesbrough players to give the club's supporters something to shout about as they head into their must-win match against Hull City. The Teessiders entertain Phil Brown's side at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday knowing anything less than a victory could see them cast adrift at the foot of the Premier League table.

Southgate was furious at his side's capitulation in the 4-1 defeat against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium last weekend, and is well aware that they cannot afford a repeat against Hull.

"The players owe it to themselves and they owe it to the fans to perform much better against Hull on Saturday," he said. "We had a terrific backing from our fans at Bolton and they did not deserve to sit through what was served up. We are fighting to stay in this league. We have to be a lot better against Hull. We will have our home fans behind us and it's time to give them something to shout about. We need them behind us and we have to earn that right."

Boro have won just one of their last 19 League games and are in severe danger of slipping out of the top flight.

The last four League games, which have yielded only a single point, have seen Boro score just three goals and concede 10, and the manager knows a vast improvement is needed at both ends of the pitch. He told the Evening Gazette: "We have to attack as a team and we have to defend as a team, and we have to do it well."

Middlesbrough are hopeful that the Austrian defender Emanuel Pogatetz will not face a lengthy lay-off after a scan revealed the extent of his knee injury. The 26-year-old Austria international hurt his knee and the tendon behind it during the defeat at Bolton, and has been ruled out of this weekend's game. However, the Teessiders believe the injury is not serious and that he could be back in action sooner rather than later.

Pogatetz's absence will come as a blow as Boro attempt to drag themselves out of deep relegation trouble, although they had better news on the fitness front yesterday.

The midfielder Didier Digard has returned to the club from the French national football academy in Clairefontaine, where he had been undergoing rehabilitation, and is expected to resume full training within a fortnight.

The 22-year-old has been sidelined since suffering a partial rupture of the quadriceps muscle in his left leg and a partial tear of the medial ligament in his right knee during the 0-0 draw with Wigan Athletic on 21 February. In addition, the England Under-21 international Adam Johnson is back in light training after recovering from an ankle problem, and the defender Chris Riggott is close to being available after tearing his medial ligament at the beginning of February.

Elsewhere, the Swiss midfielder Johann Vogel has left Blackburn Rovers after an unsuccessful 12 months at the club. Vogel made just eight appearances during his year at Ewood Park and his contract has been terminated by mutual consent.

The 32-year-old signed in March last year after leaving Real Betis following a legal dispute with the Spanish La Liga club.

Vogel, who previously played for Milan and PSV Eindhoven, was originally signed by the then-manager Mark Hughes but was frozen out following his departure to league rivals Manchester City.

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