July 6, 2003 14:14 by Admin
Middlesbrough's plans for the new season have been rocked by the news that key defender Ugo Ehiogu faces several months on the sidelines.
The England star has been diagnosed with a ruptured posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and is likely to miss the opening months of the new Premiership campaign.
Ehiogu's absence will open the door for young defender Chris Riggott to partner Gareth Southgate at the heart of Boro's backline.
But manager Steve McClaren admits it is a massive setback to lose the services of the former Aston Villa giant.
He said: "It's a big blow to lose Ugo in this way. He's a huge influence on the team and a big part of our defence.
"But we had a similar setback with Juninho's knee injury last year and we bounced back from that. As we did then, we just have to get on with it.
"Naturally, we wish Ugo all the best. What we want is to see him making a full recovery and that will take time.
"His absence creates an opportunity for others. Things like this can happen and that's exactly why we bought Chris Riggott from Derby in January. It's an opportunity for both Chris and young Andrew Davies to stake their claims,'' he added on the club's official website.
Ehiogu suffered in the injury in Boro's final home game of last season, against Tottenham, but the extent of the problem has only know been revealed by scans.