Middlesbrough midfielder Gary O'Neil is backing manager Gareth Southgate to take the club straight back into the Barclays Premier League.

The 26-year-old was devastated to see Boro slip out of the top flight as a result of their 2-1 final day defeat at West Ham, but is confident that under Southgate Boro will soon be back in the top flight.

"I know we will be looking to bounce back, and he's definitely the right man to take us back up," he said.

Fans have since criticised chairman Steve Gibson for not dispensing with Southgate's services, but O'Neil is full of praise for the former England international.

He added: "He's a fantastic manager, I can't speak too highly of him. He's been fantastic with me.

"He works every hour he can to improve as a manager and do what's right for the football club.

O'Neil was linked with a January move back to former club Portsmouth after struggling to settle on Teesside, but after Gibson refused to allow he and winger Stewart Downing to leave, could not be faulted for his efforts to stave off relegation.

But failure has proved a bitter pill to swallow.

He said: "It's a horrible feeling. It was my worst day in football by far.

"I have never experienced anything like it and everybody's hurting."

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