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Middlesbrough's Wheater ready for big Yakubu clash

Middlesbrough defender David Wheater is ready for the challenge of facing former teammate Yakubu Aiyegbeni at Everton today.

He said: "It's just another game, really, but it's coming up against Yakubu, so that will be interesting. I tell you, it won't be as hard as playing against Viduka. It will be a good test, but it is nothing we cannot handle."

Yakubu scored 35 goals in his two seasons at the Riverside but stalled after the turn of the year in both campaigns, and there were mumblings of discontent as his contribution dropped alarmingly.

He was dropped for last weekend's 2-0 victory at Aston Villa after a less than explosive start to his career on Merseyside, but returned for the Carling Cup clash with Sheffield Wednesday and scored in a 3-0 win.

Wheater said: "He's the same as Viduka - they are unplayable on their day.

"He is such a big man, he can just hold you off, and he has got good pace and a good finish when he wants to - but hopefully it is not his day.

"He is a good player. He scored a lot of goals for us and he was a good player when he wanted to be.

"In training you could see he was an excellent player."

Wheater and Woodgate are likely to resume their partnership after the latter shook off a hamstring problem, and manager Gareth Southgate will hope for a first clean sheet in four attempts.

Southgate took something of a gamble when he threw Wheater in at the deep end at the start of the campaign, but he has been richly rewarded by a man who has played every minute of the season to date.

He said: "He has been a real plus for us. There was no way of knowing how he would respond to being thrown in.

"There is a composure about him and he enjoys defending. He enjoys making blocks, he enjoys making tackles and he enjoys winning headers."

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Tribal Football Staff

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