Southgate believes experience will help

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Gareth Southgate is hoping his Middlesbrough side is better prepared for the fight against relegation because they have been in it for weeks.

The former England defender takes Boro to fellow strugglers Stoke on Saturday knowing defeat could prove disastrous, but confident that the siege mentality which has been in place for some time could give them the edge over teams who have only just been sucked into the mire.

Southgate said: "We have been through the experience. It's my eighth season here and I can only remember a couple where we were clear of everything with four or five games to go - and one of the years we were, we lost the last four games."

He added: "It's something we have been through. We know now that we are facing that battle through to the end of the season.

"There might be one or two teams just above us who are just having to start to face that fact.

"We have known for quite a while the task that faces us, so in a sense, we are well prepared for it. We have just got to make sure we do it."

Boro currently lie in 19th place in the table and have been installed by the bookmakers as one of the favourites to slip through the trapdoor into the Football League.

But as they prepare for a nine-game run-in which will determine where they play their football next season, the fact that many give them little chance of escaping has simply served to increase Southgate's refusal to accept that relegation is inevitable.

He said: "I don't know if I could be more stubborn. As a group of staff, we are what we are.

"We are used to dealing with difficult times, we are used to dealing with pressure - which we had as players - and we know our job is to help this group of players through the problems they face."

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Stoke City
Premier League
Gareth Southgate

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