Strachan confident St Ledger is fine
GORDON Strachan is confident Sean St Ledger will shrug off his World Cup heartbreak in order to help Middlesbrough get back to winning ways tomorrow. St Ledger was a member of the Republic of Ireland team that failed to qualify for next summer's finals in South Africa in controversial fashion on Wednesday night when a Thierry Henry handball helped France achieve an extra-time play-off win in Paris. The entire Irish squad were understandably crestfallen as they left the Stade de France, and Strachan is likely to seek St Ledger out for a private heart-to-heart at Middlesbrough's Rockliffe Park training ground this morning. But with his own international career having featured its fair share of highs and lows, the Boro boss does not anticipate a problem when St Ledger returns to domestic duty in tomorrow's home game with Nottingham Forest. Sean will be fine, said Strachan, who has no interest in returning to the international fold himself, despite speculation north of the border linking him with the vacant Scotland job. Sometimes, you have to pick up players when they come back from international duty, but you usually know who those players are going to be. I remember Gary McAllister coming back from Scotland a few times being really down, and you always knew that might be a problem. But I honestly don't think it will be an issue with Sean. I thought he played fantastically well on Wednesday, and his team put in a fantastic performance. So I think everything's a positive, bar the obvious negative of not getting to the World Cup. That's huge, but I think when you play in a game as big as that and give it your best shot, you'll still come away feeling good about yourself once the dust settles. I think he'll be feeling good about himself by the time the game comes around this weekend. With Chris Riggott still not ready for a first-team return despite Tuesday's appearance for the reserves, St Ledger will line up alongside David Wheater as Boro look to improve on a run that has seen them lose four of their last five home matches. Emanuel Pogatetz is expected to line up at left-back Boro have asked the Football League for official permission for the Austrian to wear a mask in order to protect his fractured cheekbone while striker Dave Kitson will make his Middlesbrough debut after joining on loan from Stoke City at the start of the week. Kitson has hit the ground running since travelling to Teesside on Tuesday, and after first impressing Strachan as a 21-year-old rookie with Cambridge United, the flame-haired forward has finally been united with one of his biggest admirers. I've always thought Dave was a very handy player, said Strachan. And certainly too good not to be playing. I saw Dave years ago when he played for Cambridge against Millwall in a cup tie on a wet Tuesday night at The Den. I thought to myself, You're a good player', but at that stage Southampton were eighth in the Premier League, they were in the bottom league, and I thought, You need to get another move to somewhere in between before you move on'. He's done that, and eventually we've got together now after I don't know how many years. I'm glad he's here. How long he stays for remains to be seen, with Kitson insistent that his initial sixweek loan spell will not be extended. Strachan has not discussed an extension with either the striker or his manager, Tony Pulis, but the Scotsman is hoping there could be room for manoeuvre. We're under the impression that when the six weeks is up, Dave would go back, he said. But if something was to happen in those six weeks that says to Stoke or Dave that a permanent deal is possible and we want to do that, that would be great. It works two ways. We can look at the player. We already have a good understanding of his ability, but in six weeks we can also look at the man, which is a huge thing in football. It's good to find out if they're men as well as players. It's also good for him to have a look at us. There's been many occasions where a player's signed for a club and thought, I don't fancy this or I don't fancy that'. But Dave can have a look at us and find this is a terrific club to be at. Middlesbrough will entertain Everton in the FA Youth Cup third round at Billingham Synthonia on Tuesday, December 8 (7pm).
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