Stoke City v Middlesbrough - ‘It is ridiculous’ says Neil Warnock

IT was at the bet365 Stadium where the seeds of Middlesbrough’s Championship survival act under Neil Warnock were first sown in late June.

Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock.

Warnock’s first outing – just four days after taking charge of the ailing Teessiders – saw the visitors produce a solid away display and breathe new life into their safety quest with a 2-0 win.

It is a tribute to the astute work of Warnock that Boro head to the Potteries in a significantly better place this time around, with both sides concerning themselves with matters at the right end of the table just over five months on.

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Just as the battle against relegation was a frenzied one with a number of teams in the mix at the end of 2019-20, the fight at the top is looking similarly crowded at the moment with Stoke and Boro being two of the candidates.

Warnock said: “We did well there last year and it was one of my best results here last season.”

On the current table, he added: “I do not think I have ever seen it as close as this in my lifetime – it is ridiculous.

“But that is why we have got to hang in there. It is another busy week with two tough away games – Stoke and then Preston. It does not get much tougher.

“We have got to go there and try and come away with results to keep us in that pack.”

Boro are only partway through an intense December schedule, but Warnock has proved wise to the mantra of the late Brian Clough that preparation sometimes revolves around relaxation.

Instead of training on Thursday, several players fitted in a round of golf to mentally refresh.

Warnock added: “I think Paddy (McNair) and a few of the other lads had nine holes of golf. I was going to too, but I saw it was raining and thought no, not for me..

“The rest is just as important now as what the fitness you do in pre-season is.”

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