Middlesbrough's Emanuel Pogatetz has predicted a move up the Premiership after his side eased away from the relegation zone with a 3-0 win at Sunderland on Tuesday night.
The 23-year-old Austrian international's powerful 18th-minute header set Boro on the way to a first League win in 10 matches.
The result moved the Teessiders to 16th place in the table and created a gap of six points to Birmingham in 18th. That is still far short of the club's ambitions for the season, which has dissolved into one of transition amid injuries and uncertainty over the future of the manager Steve McClaren.
Pogatetz is convinced there are better times ahead, as he and his team-mates prepare for Saturday's Premiership home match against Aston Villa with confidence restored after a successful rebonding process in the dressing room.
"Everyone sticks together, no-one blames each other for anything," he said. "We knew we could only get out of there if we stuck together. That's what we did and that's what we will do in the future. That's why I'm sure by the end of the season, we will be a lot higher in the table.
"I hope we can keep going now and get a result at home against Aston Villa, and that we can get a few more wins, because the fans deserve it.
"It's a really big game. We are playing at home and we have a bit more confidence. We know we can still do it, and if we put in the same performance, I think we can beat Aston Villa.
"If we do that, I'm confident we can get a lot of wins this year."
Pogatetz, who has played most of his football for the club at left-back or in left midfield since his £1.8m summer move from Bayer Leverkusen, was an emergency central defender at the Stadium of Light.
McClaren later confirmed that he was recruited as a centre-half, and the Austrian - who has been nicknamed "Mad Dog" by his team-mates because of his somewhat robust approach to the game - admitted he is comfortable in that role.
"I like to play in defence," he said. "It's was not easy for me in the past because I had to play sometimes in midfield because of our injuries. I tried to do my best there, but I'm a natural defender and that's why I enjoy it if I can play in the defence.
"I feel comfortable if I can play there, and it's easier to play there with a player like Gareth Southgate at my side. He made it very easy for me.
"At first, I was proud to be a part of the team in whatever position I played, but of course, I feel more confident if I can play in the defence, and everyone could see that last night."Reuse content