NEIL WARNOCK admits there were times last season when he “cringed” at the standard of Middlesbrough’s defending – but the Boro boss is hoping the addition of Grant Hall will help rectify some of his side’s failings.

Hall became the first signing of Warnock’s Teesside tenure when he penned a three-year deal at the end of last week, having previously rejected the offer of a new deal at his former club, QPR.

Warnock managed the centre-half during his time at Loftus Road, and is confident his leadership and consistency will be major assets next season.

“He leads from the front,” said the Boro boss. “He’s a leader in that respect and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He wants to be the best.

“I always look at the spine of the team, and you really need eight out of tens down that spine, every week. I’ve not very often seen Grant turn in a performance that would be a six.

“He’s played with me and against me, and he’s always been around the eight out of ten mark. You don’t worry about that as a manager – if you know you’ve got a player like that, that’s one position you don’t have to worry about. That’s how I look at him, and hopefully I can get eight or nine like that this season.”

Hall will be charged with the task of helping to improve the standard of Boro’s defending, with Warnock admitting to being embarrassed by some of his side’s mistakes in his eight matches in charge at the end of last season.

“You don’t win anything without team spirit and desire,” he said. “Some of the games towards the end of last season, there were tackles missed where I cringed.

“If you’re going to win a league, get promotion or be high in the table, you can’t afford to be weak in certain areas.

“Players have got to strengthen up and take a little bit more responsibility. That’s a thing with all the squad, really.”