Boro boosted by Woodgate return
England could also benefit from defender's recovery
By Andrew Scurr. Last Updated: August 26, 2007 11:03am
Middlesbrough defender Jonathan Woodgate is close to returning to action following knee surgery this summer.
The 27-year-old is making good progress in his recovery and could feature for the first time this season in Wednesday's Carling Cup tie against Northampton.
Woodgate's return would be a boost to both Boro and England, with Euro 2008 qualifiers against Israel and Russia next month.
The former Newcastle man will not play against his former club in the Tyne-Tees derby on Sunday but hopes to get in a couple of games over the next fortnight.
"It has been a frustrating time missing all of the pre-season preparation and the start of the Premier League campaign," Woodgate said in the Sunday Mirror.
"But there is now light at the end of the tunnel and I am ready to start playing again.
"All I am thinking about right now is getting back into the Boro side and then we will take things from there.
"But if I can get a game or two under my belt then I should be available for England."
Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate admits Steve McClaren could be taking a risk if he chooses to play Woodgate in the two qualifiers.
Woodgate has not played any football since May but could be called upon by McClaren due to England's lack of cover at the back.
"It's whether Steve feels he wants to put Jonathan into a game like that having had as little football as he has, so that's a decision he'll have to take," Southgate told the Sunday Sun.
"He's not played a pre-season game so it's quite a big decision. We want him back in the fold, to be part of it and pushing for a place."