O'Neil calls for Boro boost
Gary O'Neil has challenged Middlesbrough to find that extra something that will secure survival.
Last Updated: 03/04/09 5:15pm
Gary O'Neil has challenged Middlesbrough to find that extra something that will secure Premier League survival.
Boro travel to Bolton on Saturday with many having already written the Teessiders off as they lie four points adrift of safety with eight games remaining.
But O'Neil played his part in Portsmouth's escape act in 2006 and the Boro midfielder saw the benefits that a boost in belief can bring.
"We know that it doesn't look good when we look at the league table," he said. "People outside the club are already writing us off.
"But I've been in worse than this before and stayed up so I know that our situation is far from lost.
"When I was at Portsmouth we were eight points adrift with 10 games to go.
"Even though people were saying that we were as good as down, we still had that belief in ourselves, just like we do here at Middlesbrough.
"I can remember the ProZone stats guy at Portsmouth saying that our work-rate was lower than that of the other teams that we played.
"That really stirred the lads into action. There was an immediate reaction in the dressing room. We showed the drive and the passion to raise everything and suddenly we were outworking other teams.
"In the end we put a great run together and stayed up quite comfortably.
"I don't think our work-rate is low here at Boro, but you can always find that bit extra, even if you believe you are giving your all. That's what we have to do here. Nothing is lost. It's still all there to fight for."
Although Boro have won just one of their last 18 league games, O'Neil has seen for himself that it only needs one result to turn things around.
O'Neil was playing alongside Pedro Mendes as he scored both Portsmouth goals in the 2-1 win over Manchester City which propelled Pompey on their late-season rally in 2006.
"Pedro Mendes hit two volleys from 25 yards against Manchester City and suddenly everything was different. Portsmouth never looked back after that," said O'Neil.
"That win gave us the spark and we went out believing that we could win any game.
"That's what we need here at Boro. If we win at Bolton then it can spark a run of results for us. That's what we need most of all and I am quite confident we can do it."
O'Neil is likely to keep his place in the centre of midfield and he believes Boro must be stronger than they have been previously this season.
"Bolton are a big physical side and it is a hard place to go, but we will be okay if we get stuck into the game," he added.
"To be honest, I think we might have been a little bit soft at times this season.
"Maybe sometimes we have been easy to play against and haven't hurt other sides as much as we should have done.
"That's something we have been working on, on the training ground, and maybe it will make a difference.
"The time for playing a lot of passing football has gone. We have to be mentally strong, toughen up a little and give a little bit more in games to make sure that we get results."