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Saturday 21 April 2018

Stewart Downing wants Steve Agnew to be given Middlesbrough job permanently

Stewart Downing wants Steve Agnew to remain as Middlesbrough manager
Stewart Downing wants Steve Agnew to remain as Middlesbrough manager

Stewart Downing has called for Middlesbrough to appoint Steve Agnew as manager on a permanent basis despite conceding their performance at Bournemouth was "embarrassing".

The winger was part of the team that was convincingly outplayed in the 4-0 defeat that left them 19th in the Premier League and nine points from safety with only five fixtures to play.

They also defended uncharacteristically poorly, ensuring the pursuit of their first victory under Agnew goes on, but despite the interim head coach overseeing four defeats and two draws from his six games in charge, Downing is convinced he will succeed.

Middlesbrough are yet to win a league game in 2017, contributing to the departure in mid-March of Agnew's predecessor Aitor Karanka.

Their poor form has continued, but Downing - who reportedly had an uneasy relationship with Karanka - said: "I'd give him the job. That's my personal opinion: he's really, really good.

"The way he sets his teams up, and the way he wants to play, is really positive.

"He's great as a person too, his man-management is first class. We all want to play for him. It's disappointing that performance didn't replicate what he's been putting in.

"You've got to give him a chance and let him pick his own players and his own squad. With a couple of transfer windows to work in, he'd be a really good manager.

"But that's just my opinion, it's up to the powers that be above. For me, he'd be a really good manager in the future. He's been given a difficult task, but his attitude has been first class."

Making things worse for the circumstances in which Agnew is working, Gaston Ramirez was sent off at Bournemouth and Marten de Roon suffered an ankle injury, and the 32-year-old Downing said: "It's embarrassment really.

"There's a way of getting beat, but we just weren't anywhere near good enough to be honest, all over the park.

"We were second best to balls throughout. It's difficult when you go down to 10 men, but we didn't make it easy for ourselves either.

"It's us as players: we have to take the blame for it. You can point the finger at anyone, but it's down to the players that are playing. You can talk about tactics and things like that, but the tactics would have been bang on.

"It was just mistakes: we didn't carry things out properly."

Victory means Bournemouth remain in contention for a top-10 finish, and while their manager Eddie Howe continues to insist they cannot take survival for granted, he has urged them to finish the season strongly and avoid the slump that affected them last season.

"It's really dangerous when other people think you're safe, because invariably it's rammed down the players' throats," he said. "That happened to a degree last year, and it's difficult to change the players' mindsets.

"We'd achieved the points total that everyone believed was enough and then the players find it difficult to keep themselves battling like they were.

"The fixture list didn't help last year that's for sure; it was a really tough run. We played all the top teams and that's why it's vital we got the points early. This year it's a totally different scenario; I'd like to think we could finish the season on a high note."

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