Digard set for starting role as Boro take dogfight to relegation rivals Newcastle
11 May 2009 11:48
Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate welcomes back France midfielder Didier Digard for tonight's derby clash at Newcastle.
The France Under 21 international, a £4million capture from Paris St Germain, was expected to be ruled out for the rest of the season when he was pole-axed by Wigan's former Boro player Lee Cattermole two months ago.
But Digard has been eased back in to first-team duties by Southgate and is now ready for a start in the St James' Park cauldron.
And the midfielder is determined to do his bit.
Middlesbrough, who are looking to avoid a club record 11th consecutive defeat away from Teesside, have won just two of their last 23 Premier League games and are still three points adrift of safety after the weekend matches.
Digard said: 'I am very surprised because at the start of the season, we felt we had a good staff and some good players, so it is hard but when you lose two, three, four games on the trot, in your head it is hard.
'After that, confidence is not there and it is tough. But I am not afraid in this situation because I know we have good enough players to stay in the Premier League. We are a Premier League club. Everything leads me to believe.
'There are some small problems, but when it is small problem after small problem after small problem - sometimes you are unlucky, sometimes the other team is just better.
'It is a different problem every time, but I don't know exactly the big problem.'
With Digard fit again, Southgate's major issue is in central midfield where Matthew Bates has been performing admirably, but is still new to his unexpected role.
Julio Arca has not featured for weeks, but has a good record against Newcastle, while Gary O'Neil has played in the role but was used on the right against Manchester United last week.
Tuncay Sanli has featured behind the front two in the last three matches, but Southgate may decide to use the Turkey captain in his preferred striker's role against Newcastle.