Yakubu wants European return for Middlesbrough

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The Middlesbrough striker Aiyegbeni Yakubu is convinced he and fellow forward Mark Viduka can help the club back into European competition.

Yakubu heads into tonight's Premiership match with his former club Portsmouth at the Riverside full of confidence after opening his season's account at Reading and playing his part in another famous Boro victory over Chelsea.

Yakubu helped his side to reach the Uefa Cup final last season in just their second European campaign. However, that extended run came at the expense of their Premiership form and a 14th-place finish means there can be no repeat this time around.

Yakubu said: "I'm hoping we will perform better in the League this year. I think we can improve from last season and get back into European football. We have a different manager [Gareth Southgate] who brings a different mentality and different thinking. We, the players, have to back him both on and off the pitch. I really hope it goes well for him.

"All I want to do is score goals," he added. "Mark Viduka is a fantastic player. I love training with him and we are working very well together."

Middlesbrough have announced their interest in signing the Tottenham Hotspur winger Aaron Lennon and have dismissed the idea of selling Stewart Downing. Boro revealed their interest after the Spurs manager, Martin Jol, claimed that the north London club had made a "final offer" of £10m for Downing, a sum disputed by Middlesbrough who instead describe Spurs' offer as "derisory".

The Boro chief executive, Keith Lamb, said: "[Chairman] Steve Gibson and I are appalled at the way Tottenham conduct their business. They have not made a £10m offer for Stewart - and would be wasting their time if they did. We would be more interested in buying Aaron Lennon than selling Stewart because we remain extremely ambitious to take this club forward."

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