DIDIER Digard has claimed Gordon Strachan is to blame for Middlesbrough’s position close to the foot of the Championship table, and criticised the club’s dismissal of Gareth Southgate 12 months ago.

Digard is currently on a season- long loan at French side Nice, having been frozen out of the first-team picture following Strachan’s arrival on Teesside last autumn.

The French midfielder’s most recent Boro start came in the 2-2 draw at Preston that preceded confirmation of Strachan’s appointment, and Digard feels the club has been on a downward trajectory ever since the Scotsman passed through the entrance door at the Riverside.

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“He blamed the foreigners for poor results, what about now,” asked Digard, who was told he would not be receiving a squad number when he returned to the North-East for pre-season training at the start of the summer.

“We were second place in the league just one point behind leaders Newcastle when Gareth Southgate, who brought me to the club, was replaced.

“I saw no reason to sack Southgate. Boro have never been as well-placed since and he really knew his football.”

Southgate has kept his counsel since his dismissal last October, but the former Boro skipper broke his silence over the weekend to lift the lid on some of the behind-thescenes controversies that hastened his departure.

He confirmed the longstanding belief that he was against the club-record £12m signing of Afonso Alves in January 2008, claiming he would have preferred to sign Australia international Brett Emerton for £750,000.

“Alves? At most clubs now there is a group of people who make buying decisions. But no, I didn’t buy him,” said Southgate.

“But you make a decision.

You can walk out – as Alan Curbishley did at West Ham – but if I had done that I might not have got another opportunity.

There were players I did want and didn’t get. I wanted Brett Emerton and we could have had him for £750,000.

That was one where I was told we had no money, but then years later we bought a £12m striker.”

■ Boro duo Bruno Pilatos and Luke Williams both played the full 90 minutes yesterday as England Under-19s strolled to a 4-0 win in Cyprus.

■ Liverpool chief executive Christian Purslow believes the cloud hanging over Anfield will be lifted if the proposed £300million sale of the club can be pushed through.

Purslow is confident current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett will fail in their High Court bid to halt the takeover and refuses to contemplate the prospect of administration.