Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Hands Off!

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Hands Off!

Article excerpt

Byline: Eric Paylor

Gareth Southgate today stressed that top scorer Yakubu had a massive role to play in his plans this season.

It's a clear message to Yakubu's former club Portsmouth - and any other interested clubs - that the Nigerian hot shot is not available.

Pompey are continually linked in the media with plans to launch a big bid to try to take Yakubu back to Fratton Park, especially now that manager Harry Redknapp has a huge war chest to spend.

But Southgate sees Yakubu as playing an increasingly major role up front for Boro and told the Evening Gazette: "Yakubu has a big part to play in my plans.

"He was our top scorer last year and, in addition to scoring goals, I think he had more assists than anyone else.

"He's only 23, and I think he is going to get even better.

"In fact I am hoping we can make Yakubu better this year and that he can produce even more for us.

"So why would we want to sell him?"

Southgate could well lose Yakubu's fellow striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who becomes a free agent on Saturday and seems poised to move on to pastures new.

The Boro boss still intends to htold talks with Hasselbaink, though all the media reports suggest that the 34-year-old Dutchman is looking for a new challenge elsewhere.

The potential loss of 17-goal Hasselbaink would make it all the more important that Yakubu remained at the club.

Southgate said: "The great thing about this job is that I am not under any pressure to sell anyone. We are aiming to bring continuity to our squad, in addition to strengthening certain areas during the summer.

"It would be foolish to let anybody go because we are ambitious and we want to improve our league position this season."

Southgate has been talking to current members of the Boro squad, in addition to making transfer inquiries, since returning to Teesside from the World Cup Finals at the end of last week. …

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