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Page last updated at 06:53 GMT, Monday, 25 May 2009 07:53 UK

Southgate braced for player exits

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Relegation is a 'hard lesson' - Southgate

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate admits he expects to lead the club's Championship campaign without several of his top players.

"Inevitably, there will be big changes to the playing squad," he said.

"There will be personal agendas and as a club we will have to bring some money in to go forward. There are also situations I want to change."

However, Southgate said he would continue in his own role as manager, vowing to "stand firm and fight back".

"I have to accept there will be a large percentage of fans that would want a change of manager and this is a tough time for this football club but I am determined to see this fight through," he stated.

"As far as I'm concerned, you don't walk away in difficult times.

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"Nothing has been discussed with the chairman, we have to sit down this week and plan more definitely what is going to happen. It will be a tough challenge and we'll have to improve.

"We're ready to make those changes because it clearly hasn't worked this year."

The club's player of the season Tuncay Sanli and injured winger Stewart Downing are among those likely to attract bids over the summer.

But Southgate believes the club can cope, and even improve, after any high-profile exits.

"We might end up stronger for making sure we get our finances in order over the next few months. It might leave us in a healthier position to move forward," he added.

Boro needed to beat West Ham to have a hope of staying up but lost 2-1 to end their 11-year stint in the top flight.

"It's a low for our club, our players, our staff and our supporters," he said after the defeat.

"We grieve tonight but the future starts tomorrow. We are going into a very competitive division but we want to take that challenge on."

Boro were relying on a sequence of results involving Hull and Newcastle losing - which they did - but the first priority was victory at Upton Park.

Gareth Southgate consoles his players
Southgate (left) consoles his players after defeat at Upton Park

Gary O'Neil gave Boro a boost when he cancelled out Carlton Cole's first-half strike for the Hammers but 19-year-old Junior Stanislas poked the ball home on the hour to seal the visitors' fate.

With Hull finishing above Newcastle and Middlesbrough, despite a 1-0 loss to Manchester United, Southgate said it was "incredible" that 35 points had been enough to avoid the drop.

Since the turn of the year, Boro slowly slid down the table, finishing the season with only seven wins and after scoring 28 goals.

"You look back at October and November and we were going well but then certain things happened," commented Southgate.

"Our youngsters have shown great effort and endeavour throughout the season but during the last few games we just ran out of players."

Southgate was without England international Downing, skipper Emanuel Pogatetz and record signing Afonso Alves for the defeat at the Hammers - their 15th away defeat in the whole of the season.

However, the 38-year-old Boro boss, who took over the reins at the Riverside from Steve McClaren in 2006, remained resolute and optimistic.

"It's a harsh lesson for us all," conceded the former England defender. "We now stand strong as a football club and fight back.

"It's a painful blow but we have to take the pain and move forward."

Midfielder O'Neil admitted the players were very down and that their relegation had been sealed long before the season's final match.

Considering fine wins over Liverpool in February and at Aston Villa in November, he said: "We've had some good results but we just haven't been able to cross the line.

"The lads are very disappointed but looking to bounce back. We had too small a squad and we've picked up too many injuries."



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see also
West Ham 2-1 Middlesbrough
24 May 09 |  Premier League
Premier League as it happened
24 May 09 |  Football
Premier League photos
24 May 09 |  Premier League
What now for north-east football?
24 May 09 |  Football
What's gone wrong in the north east?
22 May 09 |  Football


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