STRIKER Patrick Bamford understands Middlesbrough fans’ anger at what has been an underwhelming campaign.
The club’s relegation from the Premier League was confirmed at Chelsea a week ago, and Boro wanted to put on a show in their final top-flight match at the Riverside.
Instead, Steve Agnew’s side produced a stuttering display that was punished by much-changed Southampton, with under-fire manager Claude Puel leading his side to victory.
Supporter frustration was audible at the Riverside, where former manager Aitor Karanka’s name was chanted and fans called for their own goalkeeper Brad Guzan to be sent off after giving away a penalty.
Bamford’s consolation goal brought some much-needed cheer on an afternoon of discontent on Teesside.
“It’s hard, but you understand in a way as well because obviously Middlesbrough is such a massive club and it is obviously not nice for anyone that we’re getting relegated,” he said.
“The fans are entitled to voice their opinion. It is obviously hard.
“I’ve been a fan once upon a time when I was young at Nottingham Forest and you get frustrated when you’re watching and things aren’t going the way you want them to.
“I totally understand. Obviously it is hard as a player, but it’s one of those things you’ve got to get on with. We tried to put on a show for the fans and obviously it didn’t turn out that way, but we know they’ll always be with us.”
Attention soon turns to life in the Championship, with chairman Steve Gibson outlining his determination to “smash” the league next term.
Bamford could well play a key role in that having won the Championship player of the year award when on loan with Boro two years ago.
Since then, though, things have gone awry for the player.
Loans to Crystal Palace, Norwich and Burnley were followed by a permanent exit from Chelsea and a return to Boro in January, with his goal against Saints his first in 760 days.
Jay Rodriguez and Nathan Redmond scored the visitors’ goals, with the former meeting a fine cross with a sublime volleyed finish to light up a drab first half.
Middlesbrough: Guzan, Da Silva, Chambers, Gibson, Friend, de Roon, Clayton, Forshaw (Leadbitter 60), Bamford, Negredo, Downing (Fischer 60). Unused substitutes: Konstantopoulos, Bernardo, Barragan, Stuani, Traore.
Southampton: Forster, Pied, Caceres, Yoshida, Bertrand, Clasie, Romeu, Hojbjerg (Davis 74), Long (Austin 87), Rodriguez, Boufal (Redmond 46). Unused substitutes: Ward-Prowse, Stephens, Targett, Hassen.
Referee: A Taylor (Cheshire).