Middlesbrough defender David Wheater may celebrate signing his new contract in his local bingo hall after committing his immediate future to the club.

Wheater yesterday followed the example recently set by Stewart Downing and Andrew Taylor when he signed a new three-and-a-half-year deal, which will keep him at the club until 2011.

It is understood eight clubs were interested in securing the Boro defender's signature, including Newcastle, Liverpool and Celtic, but his decision to sign puts an end to speculation linking him with a move away from the Riverside.

The defender says he was relieved to finally have his future mapped out and revealed there were several determining factors why he has pledged his future to the club - none more than seeing his good friend and teammate, Downing do the same.

"It has dragged on a bit but I'm pleased it is now all sorted," said Wheater, who has made 28 appearances and scored four goals this season.

"When Stewy (Downing) signed he said (Afonso) Alves was why he signed, but for me a big point was Stewy signing.

"I think he is one of the best players in his position in the country. He is a really big influence on the club and I really wanted him to sign (his contract) before I signed.

"There was speculation in the papers saying there were other clubs interested but I didn't want to go anywhere else.

"I just wanted a chance to prove myself and hopefully I've done enough to stay in the team all this season and next season.

"I would have been playing in the Champions League every season had I gone there (to Celtic) but I am playing for Middlesbrough and that's all I want to do."

Redcar-born Wheater's commitment to Boro was no more evident than on Wednesday evening.

The England Under-21 international may have been suspended for Boro's FA Cup fifth-round replay against Sheffield United, but he still played his part in the 1-0 victory by cheering on his teammates from the terraces with the rest of the Riverside faithful.

"I was in the West Stand with my dad and grandad," said the 21-year-old Teessider. "It was nerve-racking for me watching, and when the goal went in I was jumping around with the fans, it was quality.

"I could have sat in the director's box but it was too posh for me up there. I wanted to go in with the fans because I hadn't been in there all season.

"I had a season ticket the first few seasons at the Riverside so it brings back some good memories. And it helps keeps my feet on the ground."

Wheater also has fond memories of being a Middlesbrough supporter on their recent sorties to the FA Cup and Carling Cup finals. The Boro defender revealed he dreamt of playing at Wembley for Boro back then and now believes the dream can become a reality this season.

"I went to the (Carling Cup final) game with my mam and dad and we stayed down there (Cardiff) after the game," said Wheater. "It was a quality day.

"But I am desperate to play at Wembley. The England Under-21s are playing there soon but I'm suspended for the game, so I'm hoping I can get there with Boro to say I've played there this season. It's what I've always dreamt of."

And should he realise that dream Wheater and his girlfriend Stacey would probably celebrate at Redcar amusements - playing bingo.

The defender revealed last month how he was partial to the game that is usually more popular with the pensioners of East Cleveland than future full England internationals.

Wheater, who was only omitted from Fabio Capello's first senior squad because of the importance of the Under-21s qualifier, admitted: "Every now and then we'll go down to the amusements for an ice cream, but the bingo isn't back open again until Easter. We went down last week and they told me it wasn't open until March. "My missus used to work there, that's where I met her, so I used to get a lemon top (ice cream) for free. But she's rubbish at bingo.

"With my new deal I might even open my own bingo hall!"