LAST month, after Middlesbrough had conceded a last-gasp winner at Sheffield United, Gareth Southgate scoured his dressing room for players willing to battle in the face of adversity. Little wonder, then, that his next move was to reinstate Jason Euell into his starting XI.

As well as recovering from the disappointment of being frozen out at his previous club, Charlton, Euell has spent his entire career confounding those who had predicted that a disability would prevent him making the most of his footballing talent.

Born deaf in his left ear, the 29-year-old has refused to let his partial hearing stand in the way of a career in professional sport.

And while he is quick to make light of his problem, the way in which Euell has resiliently overcome his hearing difficulties highlights the never-say-die sprit he has brought to the Boro camp since joining the club two months ago.

"I'm deaf in one ear so if the manager's shouting at me, I can just turn my head so he's talking to the wrong ear," joked Euell, who has impressed in both of Boro's recent home wins over Everton and Newcastle.

"It's never been an issue for me in terms of my football although, socially, it can occasionally have a bit of an impact.

"I think I tend to be a bit more aware of what's going on around me on the football pitch because I am deaf in one ear. Maybe that's led to some of my other senses becoming heightened a bit.

"It hasn't stopped me from doing anything at all on the football pitch. It didn't stop me developing as a youngster and I'm sure it won't stop me continuing to develop in the future."

In fact, Euell has become so accustomed to his deafness that he claims it pales into insignificance compared with the discomfort caused by the disputes and disagreements that blighted his final 12 months at Charlton.

Signed by Alan Curbishley for a club record fee in July 2001, Euell was the Addicks' leading scorer in his first three seasons at the Valley.

Unfortunately, that was insufficient to safeguard his place in the side and, with Curbishley increasingly seeking to play him in midfield rather than attack, the Jamaica international was deemed surplus to requirements last season.

Rumours of a training-ground bust-up were rife and, while talk of a major disagreement remains unsubstantiated, a serious knee injury hardly enhanced Euell's chances of forcing his way back into the side.

As a result, he made just 11 first-team appearances last season and was regularly consigned to the bench without a word of explanation.

"If I knew what the problem was at Charlton I'd tell you," said Euell. "I suppose it was just one of those things. People say maybe there was a fall-out or maybe I didn't fit the system - it could be many things.

"All I know is that I was training all week and when I didn't get an answer come Saturday, I didn't really know what to do next.

"As a footballer, it's the hardest thing in the world when you're not playing games. It came to a point where I knew that no matter how well I was playing, I was only ever going to be on the bench.

"As much as you still do your bit in training every day, it's hard to stay motivated when you know you're not going to get a place.

"It was disheartening. You're still switched on when you're on the bench because you know if a chance comes you have to take it.

"But that's not the way you want to play your football. You want to know people believe in you, and that wasn't always the case."

At the end of last season, Curbishley's departure heralded the possibility of better times ahead for Euell. Instead, though, the arrival of Iain Dowie signalled more of the same.

The London-born attacker was a bystander as the season began, but his luck was to change when Gareth Southgate identified him as an ideal acquisition towards the end of the transfer window.

Less than 24 hours later, Middlesbrough had a new signing and Euell, who is expected to partner Aiyegbeni Yakubu in attack when the Teessiders travel to Manchester City on Monday, was working with a manager who believed in him.

"Just getting the phone call to say I was allowed to speak to Boro was enough," he explained. "That proved to me that I was still wanted by someone.

"I wouldn't say the manager took a risk on me, but he offered me a change when I really needed one.

"It gave me a lift straight away and I want to play that little bit harder for him because I know he wants me here."

Such respect is not only manifest on the pitch either. With the Premier League chairmen expected to vote on Southgate's managerial future within the next two weeks, Euell is at the vanguard of a Middlesbrough squad ready to throw their considerable weight behind their current boss.

"Sometimes you get rules that just don't make sense," he said. "The situation with Gareth's coaching and badges is a case in point.

"He's been involved in the top league for 12 years - how much experience do you need? How can a piece of paper decide whether you can be a manager or not if you've been playing football for so long?

"Whatever happens in the next few weeks, the players are absolutely determined that Gareth will still be seen as our manager.