Stewart Downing believes Middlesbrough can rally to win promotion next season, following the disappointment of this term’s instant relegation from the Premier League.
Boro head back down to the Championship after a dire campaign, with just 27 goals and 28 points to show for their efforts, with boss Aitor Karanka sacked and interim manager Steve Agnew unable to stave off the drop.
And Downing hinted at issues behind the scenes not helping their chances.
“I’m sure there will be changes (in the dressing room) next season,” Downing told mfc.co.uk.
“There has to be if we are to get promoted. We can’t carry passengers.
“I’m confident we can pull this round – there is a core of players who are a good group and a lot who have seen this division before.”
Experienced midfielder Downing acknowledges the difficulties ahead in the second tier, but he is confident for the future on Teesside.
“Where we’ll be competing next season is a difficult league, maybe it’s getting harder each season and you have to fight and scrap for everything,” added the former England international.
“But we have a good core here and I’m sure that when we start next season we’ll have everyone in that changing room who wants to be here.
“The manager has done ever so well with the stuff he’s had to deal with.
“The fans don’t see that, but there’s been a lot and issues that needed addressing.
“This wasn’t his team and probably not the way he wanted to play.
“Did some of some of them [players] want to be here?
“Probably not, these are the kind of things he has had to deal with.
“Whatever the chairman decides, we’ll be right behind him.
This isn’t about anything other than this football club and our determination to get it back where we think it belongs.”
Looking back on the Premier League campaign, the 32-year-old added: “Obviously there were going to be tough times, but the step up in quality has proved too much.
“I never thought we would be in this position, even over the last few weeks.”