Middlesbrough captain Emanuel Pogatetz has pleaded with Boro fans not to boo want-away winger Stewart Downing on Saturday.
Downing handed in a transfer request at the beginning of the week with Tottenham keen to take him to White Hart Lane.
Harry Redknapp has already had two bids rejected for the England international and with the Boro board standing firm it seems likely that Downing will play at the Riverside against Sunderland at the weekend.
Pogatetz believes that the crowd should focus their attention on backing the team for a crucial clash between two sides at the bottom of the Premier League instead of targeting Downing.
The skipper is confident that the 24-year-old will be one of the most committed players on the pitch despite his future being up in the air.
"Stewart is a local lad. He has been a good servant for the club for many years," he told the Evening Gazette.
"He's never let anybody down. I wouldn't expect anybody to boo him because he is a local lad who always performs for the club.
"It wouldn't do him any good at all, and it wouldn't help the team. We need a good atmosphere against Sunderland because it is a very important game.
"All that matters to the club at the moment is that we get the three points against Sunderland.
"I hope the fans will come along and cheer all of us and help us to get those points. It shouldn't be about Stewart Downing and his transfer request.
"We will be focusing together and we need the fans to be behind us as a team."
Despite defending his team-mate, the Austria international admitted he was disappointed when he found out that Downing had handed in a transfer request.
"I was surprised to hear that Stewart had put in a transfer request," he added.
"It's always disappointing when one of our star players wants to leave the club. Personally I hope he stays because we need his performances on the field.
"Like I said, he is one of out best players and I hope he will look at the situation again and continue to play for us as long as possible.
"It is an important decision for him but it is important for the club too. I know that whatever happens he will continue to do his best for the team because his attitude is always spot on."