The Middlesbrough defender Emanuel Pogatetz insists his rookie manager, Gareth Southgate, is not to blame for his side's poor start to the season.
The 23-year-old Austrian international admitted his disappointment at the opening weeks of the campaign, which have seen Boro take just five of the 18 Premiership points they have contested and bow out of the Carling Cup at home to League Two Notts County.
However, Pogatetz insists it is the players and not his 35-year-old former team-mate who must shoulder the responsibility for the disappointing results.
He said: "We want to perform well for the gaffer. He helped me a lot last year when I first arrived at the club. I think he is doing a real good job as manager. There are a few reasons why we have not been playing as well as we wanted, but it is not the manager's fault. That is why we want to turn it around for him."
Following last weekend's defeat at home to Blackburn, Boro head for Sheffield United tomorrow knowing a victory would kick-start their campaign.
Pogatetz said: "It was normal that the manager should be upset after the Blackburn defeat because it was a poor performance by the team. Everybody at the football club was upset.
"We know we are better than we have played in the last games, but we have to prove it. All the players have to look at themselves. We have to try harder.
"We want to start strongly at Sheffield and play the game that we can play. We have trained harder this week than we have trained for some time.
"We spoke a lot this week about what is going wrong. We have spoken about things we can improve on. We have been working on these things this week and we know what we have to do if we want to win games."
For Pogatetz, the difficult start has brought back memories of last season's late struggle in the league when, with the FA and Uefa Cups the main priority, Boro won only one of their last seven Premiership games to slip into 14th place.
He said: "I expected a better start for the team. It is really disappointing that we have not done better. It is a little bit like the end of last season for us. Last week reminded me of last season."
Pogatetz has found himself employed as a left-sided central defender to date with Chris Riggott injured and Boro's £6m signing from Chelsea, Robert Huth, still working his way towards full match fitness.
However, he is prepared for the challenge once everyone is available. He said: "There is a lot of competition in the centre but you expect that. Middlesbrough is a big club and you are going to have competition for every place. I just have to work hard and try to play as well as I can in every game."Reuse content