Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Football: WHEATS CLOSE TO NEW DEAL; We're Almost There over Young Star, Says Southgate in Association With: MSV SPORT

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Football: WHEATS CLOSE TO NEW DEAL; We're Almost There over Young Star, Says Southgate in Association With: MSV SPORT

Article excerpt

Byline: By PHILIP TALLENTIRE

DAVID Wheater's long-term Boro future is close to being tied up, Gareth Southgate told the Evening Gazette today.

The Redcar-born centre-back, who is set to represent England Under-21s tonight, has earned widespread praise for his displays at the heart of Boro's defence this season - and his goalscoring feats.

It won't have escaped the notice of potential Premier League predators, however, that Wheater, 21 on Valentine's Day, is out of contract in the summer.

Riverside regulars can rest assured that Boro are busy behind the scenes trying to put the finishing touches to a new contract.

"We're a long way down the line with that," said Southgate. "We've actually got a couple of meetings with David and his dad lined up in the next few weeks.

"David wants to be here, he's made that clear, and it's just a case of finalising things. We're obviously very, very happy with what he's doing."

While Wheater is expected to play a key role for England in tonight's Under-21 European Championship group three qualifier against Ireland at a sold-out St Mary's Stadium, in Southampton, he came remarkably close to linking up with the senior squad.

Fabio Capello revealed late last week that the Boro stopper was one of four members of the Under-21 squad who he'd considered for his 30-man full England squad.

Responding to the Italian's quotes, Southgate said: "They're absolutely warranted by the way he's been playing. I think it's good for him to stay with the Under-21s for now, but the opportunity is there.

"With the new manager coming in, he's only going to judge people on what he or his backroom staff have seen over the past two months so there are opportunities for everybody."

Wheater's club-mate Adam Johnson is also in Stuart Pearce's squad for tonight's match but Lee Cattermole had to withdraw after picking up a knee injury in Sunday's derby draw at Newcastle.

Boro are still awaiting news of Afonso Alves' application for a work permit in order for the Brazilian record signing to fly in and link up with his new team-mates at Rockliffe Park. …

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