'Downing to Spurs - Day 4,629': The already frosty relations between Boro and Tottenham Hotspur will not be getting better in a hurry after Gareth Southgate's latest press statement. The Boro manager stated his belief that if Stewart Downing does leave the club, it should be for a better side than Spurs. That may seem a fair point given Spurs are only above Boro on goal difference but its unlikely to foster a friendly atmosphere in the boardroom when the teams meet at White Hart Lane on March 4th. Although it was a bit of a cheap shot, its a measure of how much Spurs' conduct has irritated Gibson, Southgate and Lamb.
It now seems likely that Downing will be involved against Sunderland - both manager and captain have pleaded with the Riverside crowd to lay off Downing. Despite their best efforts, anything but a convincing home win is likely to see at least sections of the crowd turn on the no. 19.
After much speculation, Portsmouth yesterday confirmed they had made an unsuccessful bid for Gary O'Neil. The bid was described as "equating to £4.5m" with a fair chunk of that fee covering installments almost due under the deal that brought the midfielder to Teesside in 2007. That move had been initially agreed to cost £5m until O'Neil failed a medical, leading to the deal being restructured with £2.5m dependent on appearances. It is believed O'Neil is only a few games away from triggering the appearance-related payment. Even so, Boro seem intent on sticking to their pledge not to sell any senior players this month.
Barely a week ago, many Boro fans would have been content to give Mido a piggy back to his preferred destination after 18 months riddled with injuries, weight problems and precious few appearances. However, the temperamental Egyptian seems more appealing by the hour given the replacement strikers being mooted in the press. Mido is apparently furious that Gareth Southgate has discussed a swap deal with Newcastle involving perma-knacked goal-shy midfielder/striker/substitute Alan Smith. He won't be the only one - even the Marlon Harewood rumour seems comforting compared to Southgate's inexplicable fascination with Smith.