MICHAEL CARRICK felt the “true character” of his Middlesbrough players was on display as they came from behind to beat Southampton and claim their first league win of the season.

Having failed to win in their opening seven league matches, it would have been easy for Boro’s players to have crumbled when Adam Armstrong opened the scoring at the Riverside.

Instead, they continued trying to play their football, and were rewarded when Riley McGree rifled home an equaliser on the stroke of half-time.


With Southampton fading, Middlesbrough were the better team for most of the second half, and they secured the win that lifted them off the foot of the table when Josh Coburn was pulled down by Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Jonny Howson slotted home from the spot.

Carrick said: “It’s hugely positive. I just said to them in the dressing room, I was standing on the touchline in the second half thinking, ‘Whatever happens here, I couldn’t ask any more of any of the players’.

“I speak a lot about how strong the group are, but words are words and some people might not believe what I’m saying. But it’s times where you’re tested where you see people’s true characters come out. That’s when you see what people are about, and you saw that today.

“We started well, but we went a goal behind and it wouldn’t have come easy for them to put in the performance and the effort that they did. You could see the togetherness and the spirit, and that’s what made me most proud. The win came, and that was brilliant. I was standing there on the touchline in the second half really proud of them anyway. That’s more powerful than a one-off result.”

Having started the season as one the favourites to win promotion, Boro have underperformed in the first six weeks of the campaign, but Carrick feels his players will emerge stronger because of their struggles.

He said: “It’s the hardest place to be as a professional footballer, when things aren’t going well. It’s hard to keep believing in yourself and trying to do the right thing.

“You might not be getting the successes, but that’s when self-belief, and my belief and the staff’s belief in them, pays off. We back them as much as we can, and to see them do that is a real satisfaction for me.

“When you’re trying to lead the boys, you want to see them do that in a tough situation and come through it. I thought they totally deserved it, and the way they went about it was fantastic.

“I think that will help us moving forward, and we’ll be stronger for the way we’ve all stuck together when it hasn’t quite been going so well. The supporters are included in that – to see the stadium like that at the end, with everyone enjoying it and celebrating, was great.

“It’s one game, but it’s not so much the one game and the result, it’s the overall feeling and collective support that we feel is the most important thing.”