"It would not have looked good for him to leave this club at this [relegation-threatened] time,'' added Southgate, who believes that a player born within a mile of the Riverside could play at the very top. "There is a certain level – if he is going to leave – that he should go to.
"Tottenham are a fantastic football club and I don't want to knock them but Stewart is not for sale at any price. At this time of the year, he is such a tremendous talent for us, there is no way of replacing him.''
Downing has informed the club he wants to leave, joining up with his great friend Jonathan Woodgate at White Hart Lane. "There is a frustration earlier in the week that motivated what he did and he asked to leave,'' continued Southgate, who has been impressed with Downing's application in training despite the uncertainty.
"Stewart has been brilliant. He wants it to work at this football club. Obviously another club has unsettled him but he gets out there, works and wants to do well. Stewart has a similar mentality to Gareth Barry [who wanted to leave Aston Villa for Liverpool but stayed and flourished]. Even with the difficulties of the situation, Stewart is strong enough to deal with it.''
Boro's midfielder, Gary O'Neil, wants a return to Portsmouth for personal reasons while the club have contacted Newcastle United over Alan Smith's availability, possibly with Mido going in the other direction. Southgate, who sees Smith as a centre-forward not a midfielder, needs reinforcements up front as Jeremie Aliadiere is out for six to eight weeks with ankle ligament damage.
Middlesbrough were, however, buoyed by official figures showing them as one of five clubs with increased crowds in the Premier League this season. After Bolton Wanderers (up 1,488 fans to 22,389 per game, a 7.1 per cent increase on 07-08), Boro revealed a 5.2 per cent rise, of 1,376, to 28,083, helped by some innovative pricing, notably under-18 season tickets for £95.
Manchester City reported a 3.7 per cent increase, of 1,548, to an average 43,674. Fulham's gates were up 2.4 per cent to 24,357 while attendances at Chelsea have risen 1.1 per cent to 41,852.