Premier League

O'Neil eyes Boro survival

Former Pompey star eyes vital victory in relegation battle

O'Neil: Up against former club

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Gary O'Neil is hoping he can get one over on his former club Portsmouth at the weekend.

The Middlesbrough midfielder comes up against Pompey at the Riverside on Saturday, with both sides currently lying in the bottom three.

O'Neil has been through a relegation battle before at Portsmouth and he is hoping Boro can achieve a similar feat.

"I've been in this position before when I was with Portsmouth when we were cut miles adrift and we managed to stay up by the skin of our teeth," he said.

"I think we were about eight points adrift of Birmingham, who ended up going down third-bottom.

"It was probably about the same time as we are now, we managed to pick up 20 points from the last 10 games.

"Everyone had written us off and said we were relegated and we managed to stay up with a game to spare.

"I think the team spirit is what kept us up at Portsmouth that year. We believed we were good enough to stay up and we worked hard.

"It's amazing when you are down the bottom that it isn't the good football and it isn't the flair that gets you out of it.

"It's the grit and the hard work and putting your body on the line that gets you through.

"We definitely have the spirit and the fight here at Middlesbrough to stay up.

"There is loads of fight still left in the lads and we are all still together. The lads are absolutely desperate to stay up and we have got all of our big players back fit now.

"We had two good results against West Ham and Liverpool and, although we've had a couple of setbacks at Tottenham and Everton in the FA Cup since, we will bounce back - and the message is, we move on.

"We've got two massive league games coming up. If we can get six points from them we will look back at the Everton result and it won't be as hard to take.

"Hopefully we will turn Portsmouth over and the fans can get right behind us.

"They have been fantastic all season considering the position we have been in and we are going to need them to be fantastic again until the end of the season."


Manager Gareth Southgate acknowledges his side deserve to be where they are but he remains confident they will stay up.

"Over the course of 28 games we are where we deserve to be - but thankfully it is a 38-game season," he said.

"You have to judge yourself as a club at the end of those 38 games.

"There are many reasons for the position we are in. What is important is how we fight to try to stay in this division.

"The past is irrelevant. It is what we do over the next 10 games that is important and, more specifically, tomorrow.

"There is no point playing anything down. Everybody can see the table, they know what is at stake.

"We have got to make sure we are as well prepared as we can be and are ready to play good football.

"We have got just over one quarter of the season to go and in the last few weeks our form hasn't been bad. In the last couple of games we have made wrong decisions at important times.

"But the win against Liverpool was a huge result for us and we want to build on that this weekend."