STEWART DOWNING has defended Steve Agnew for his part in Middlesbrough’s fall out of the Premier League by claiming the fans aren’t privy to everything that has gone on behind the scenes.

Boro chairman Steve Gibson is considering his managerial options, even though Agnew has the support of the dressing room to stay on.

The Middlesbrough head coach, who took over from Aitor Karanka in March, was only able to deliver one victory during his 11 matches and they became an easier team to score against.

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Gibson has a shortlist of contenders to take on the role, with Leeds’ Garry Monk, Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs, former Boro skipper Nigel Pearson and Huddersfield’s David Wagner among those under serious consideration.

Monk is thought to be well fancied, although it has been confirmed Andrea Radrizzani has completed his purchase of Massimo Celino’s remaining shares to take control at Elland Road.

Radrizzani would like Monk to stay and is ready to hand him a new contract which would bring an end to Boro's chances of landing him.

Agnew met with the players on Monday morning before they departed for the summer break and it remains to be seen what role, if any, he will have at the Riverside next season.

A new manager would likely want to bring in his own backroom team and Downing has hinted the challenge Agnew faced was made far greater by the situation he inherited.

He said: “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 of issues that needed addressing.

“This wasn't his team and probably not the way he wanted to play. Did 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.”

Downing didn’t go as far as to name names, but clearly he felt that not all of the players were pulling in the same direction.

Gaston Ramirez notably asked to leave in January and was never back to his best after that, while goalkeeper Victor Valdes didn’t play in the final seven matches because of a rib problem.

There is likely to be a number of changes during the summer because of the cost of relegation, but Downing still thinks there will be enough in the ranks to form the basis of strong Championship side.

He said: “I'm sure there will be changes - 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.”

He added: “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.

“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.”

One player who should have a big part to play is Patrick Bamford. The £6m buy from Chelsea in January has hardly figured in the Premier League until the last couple of matches.

He was an important player in Middlesbrough’s push for promotion two years ago during a loan spell. He said: “The positives are that we have the core of a good team. We can hopefully have a good summer. We have plenty of players who know the Championship and what it requires. It is a mental grind as well as a physical test, it’s really tough league but we have players used to it.

“We all have to come together, the staff, the players, and we will have a great chance and I know all the lads want to play for Aggers.”

Bamford scored his first Premier League goal against Southampton in the penultimate game. He said: “It’s one of the things that you will keep forever, but you have to move on as soon as you can.

“If you allow things like that to linger in the back of your mind then there will be negativity. We have to try to be positive and look to the future and think positive things, then positive things will happen.

“Next season will be a lot different because we will be setting up a lot differently to how we have been setting up in the Premier League. Teams in the Premier League will have the ball more than us, like Liverpool, we will be taking games to other teams in the Championship.”