NEIL WARNOCK claims Tuesday’s performance at Reading proves why his Middlesbrough players should not be involved in a relegation fight – but the Boro boss has told each and every one of them they have to assume the responsibility for avoiding a repeat if they remain at the club next season.

Boro’s Championship safety is all-but-guaranteed after Tuesday’s 2-1 win at the Madejski Stadium opened up a five-point gap to the relegation zone with just two games remaining.

Warnock was delighted to see his players transform a losing position into a winning one for only the second time this season, and felt the quality of his side’s performance was not in keeping with their position in the lower reaches of the table.

However, he also concedes that Boro’s lowly league placing is not an anomaly, and has questioned why his players have been unable to reproduce Tuesday’s display on a regular basis. If he remains in charge next season, he will be demanding much greater levels of consistency.

“We had a chat on the pitch afterwards, and I just wanted to tell the lads how proud I was of them,” said Warnock. “There were some great performances, and I just told them they’ve set the standard of what I’ll always be looking for.

“Every one of them did that, but it’s what you’ve got to do week in, week out in this league. We shouldn’t be in the position we’re in, but they do need guidance and people helping take them on.”

Warnock is expected to deliver an update on his own future in the next week or so, with the 71-year-old understood to be leaning towards staying on in an attempt to push Boro up the table next season.

He will be keen to make changes if he remains in charge – Ryan Shotton became the latest player to leave on Tuesday when it was confirmed he had played his final game for the club – but will not be recommending a complete overhaul.

With Jonny Howson having signed up for another year, there is a good chance George Friend and Marvin Johnson will be offered new deals, with Warnock having been delighted with their commitment in the last few weeks.

“We’re running out of numbers and we’ve had things go against us, but I’m just so proud of the lads and the way they’ve stuck together,” he said. “I told them how important it was to get the win (at Reading), and when we went a goal down, it asked some big questions of them. But they really responded.

“I keep telling them, they should be privileged to be playing here. This is a fabulous football club to be playing for. I keep telling them, ‘Enjoy it. Work hard, work for your mate’. I thought everyone epitomized that team spirit the other night. I thought it was brilliant.”