MARK VIDUKA believes Middlesbrough are already reaping the rewards of the hard work of manager Steve McClaren this season.

But the Australian striker, hoping to be fit in time to face Blackburn next Saturday, has warned the club's hopes of a top six finish maybe dashed if the same attitude from the players is not shown.

After an impressive start to the campaign, when Middlesbrough climbed to fourth, the Teessiders have slipped down the table after losing two of their last three Premiership matches.

But McClaren's men have been buoyed after securing a place in the group stage of the UEFA Cup, with victory over Czech champions Banik Ostrava, and then a creditable draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford.

And Viduka, who only arrived at the Riverside from Leeds in the summer for £4.5m, has been quick to put Middlesbrough's success down to the thorough managerial style of his boss.

"It's great to have a manager like Steve McClaren who knows so much about the game," said Viduka. "He has done well so far. He is very professional.

"We do a lot of work on team play and watching videos and doing things like that. It's very professional and it's great here. The manager is well respected and it's been no surprise to me since I arrived that he works hard on pushing Middlesbrough towards success."

Viduka, who has not played since picking up a hamstring injury in the defeat to Chelsea on September 25, pulled out of the Australia squad to face the Solomon Islands in a Confederations Cup qualifier this week.

The 28-year-old has been using the time in a bid to recover from his injury and hopes to make his return at Ewood Park next weekend.

Since his move from Elland Road, Viduka has already won over the Riverside crowd after grabbing five goals in his first three games for the club - including a double in Middlesbrough's historic UEFA Cup bow against Banik.

But, despite making good progress on the European stage, Viduka has called for McClaren's side to keep concentrating on reaching a consistent level of performance domestically.

"Hopefully we can get consistency here. If we do that I don't see any reason why we can't finish high up the league. I would like to think we can get back to where we were after the first five or so games - fourth," said Viduka.

"Sometimes you can play a gem and get a lot of chances but it's great to be at a club where the players are top quality. There's so many good players here and it has not taken much time for us to get to know each other. It's a great experience to play in Europe and we did well. It's a great enjoyment for us all."

* Banik Ostrava have been hit with an £18,000 fine for the trouble that flared in the Bazaly Stadium ahead of Middlesbrough's trip there in the UEFA Cup. Middlesbrough were fined £4,500 for their part in the pre-match scuffle.

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