Stewart Downing hints at unrest in Middlesbrough dressing room
Stewart Downing has admitted some of his Middlesbrough team-mates may not have wanted to be at the club as they scrapped in vain to secure their Premier League status.
The 32-year-old former England midfielder is the latest player to suggest there was a fracture in the dressing room at the Riverside Stadium at the time interim head coach Steve Agnew was attempting to drag Boro to safety.
Downing knows that cannot be repeated next season if they are to secure promotion from the Sky Bet Championship for the second time in three years, and has promised chairman Steve Gibson the full backing of the players as he decides who should lead the promotion fight.
He told the club's official website, www.mfc.co.uk: "Where we'll be competing next season is a difficult league - maybe it's getting harder each season - and you have to fight and scrap for everything.
"But we have a good core here and I'm sure that when we start next season, we'll have everyone in that changing room who wants to be here.
"The manager has done ever so well with the stuff he's had to deal with. The fans don't see that, but there's been a lot and issues that needed addressing.
"This wasn't his team and probably not the way he wanted to play. Did some of some of them [players] want to be here? Probably not - these are the kind of things he has had to deal with.
"Whatever the chairman decides, we'll be right behind him. This isn't about anything other than this football club and our determination to get it back where we think it belongs."
Uruguayan midfielder Gaston Ramirez angered then head coach Aitor Karanka in January when he attempted to force through a move to Leicester, while former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes missed the final seven games of the campaign, ostensibly with a rib injury.
However, Downing insists the dressing room must rediscover the unity which fuelled the last charge towards the Premier League if the club is to prosper once again.
He said: "I'm sure there will be changes next season - there has to be if we are to get promoted. We can't carry passengers.
"I'm confident we can pull this round. There is a core of players who are a good group and a lot who have seen this division before."