Gareth Southgate admits that if Middlesbrough are relegated from the Barclays Premier League then they will have deserved the drop.
The former England defender will send his side into battle with Newcastle on Monday evening knowing defeat could all but send his side into the Coca-Cola Championship. But such has been the nature of Boro's season - they started well and rallied in November before slipping into the bottom three - that Southgate would greet an escape with conflicting emotions.
He said: "You end up over 38 games where you deserve to, not just based on the quality of your football or anything else, but everything the Premier League holds - whether your squad has been strong enough; whether your quality of football has been good enough; whether your defending has been good enough; whether your attacking has been good enough."
He added: "In the end, you will end up where you deserve to, but not just based on one aspect. There is a multitude of things which determines why football clubs end up in the positions do."
In some ways, Boro have nothing to lose having been written off by most people for some time, although the fact they can still rescue themselves provides added motivation as they prepare for perhaps the biggest ever Tyne-Tees derby.
Southgate said: "In a strange way, the situation we find ourselves in now compared to eight weeks ago, we are probably closer to survival than we were then because the tally needed to stay up seems to reduce every week.
"Obviously, the weekend's games could play a part in that, but we have been out of it for 10 or 12 weeks.
"We are still out of it as it stands and yet, as we sit here, one win can take you out of the bottom three, which is remarkable given the run we have had.
"We are lucky that we still have a chance of getting out of it, and we have got to take advantage of that."
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