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Agnew: Keeping Boro up would be biggest achievement

Steve Agnew wanted a management job even before Aitor Karanka left Credit: AP

Steve Agnew has admitted keeping Middlesbrough in the Premier League would be the biggest achievement of his life.

Agnew was installed as the club's interim head coach on Thursday after Aitor Karanka's reign on Teesside drew to a close after almost three and a half years.

As he took up the reins, Boro lay in 19th place in the league, three points adrift of safety and without a win in 10 outings, but the former Leicester and Sunderland midfielder is confident he can pull off a rescue mission.

Agnew has also admitted he would have been ready to leave Boro and look for a management opportunity elsewhere, had Karanka not departed when he did.

It would be the biggest single achievement of my life. I sit here and I keep using the word 'confident', and I do believe we will stay in the Premier League.

I think I'm capable of delivering it, the players are capable of delivering it and I know we have got the support of everyone else in the club, and the supporters will play a massive part in that.

[A management job] was very, very close for me. It's not ideal, the circumstances, the way it's happened, but yes, it was around the corner.

I have waited patiently and I am very, very confident that I will be successful.

[Chairman Steve Gibson] was as brief as, 'Get on with it, enjoy it and organise the team for the weekend', and that's as much as I wanted to hear. I didn't go into anything more than that and that's where I am with it all - and quite relaxed with that.

I have to be honest, it was a really difficult day yesterday, a very emotional day, but then today the players have trained well and we look forward to the weekend.

– Steve Agnew


Sunderland fans will expect to beat Burnley - Dyche

Sean Dyche has yet to win an away game in the league this season Credit: PA

Burnley boss Sean Dyche believes his side's dismal away form will pile all the pressure on rock-bottom Sunderland heading into Saturday's Premier League clash at the Stadium of Light.

The Clarets head to the north-east having picked up just two of their 31 points on their travels this season despite a much-improved display in the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield last week.

Dismissing the notion of mind games, Dyche insisted it is inevitable that fans of other teams in the top flight will harbour strong expectations of claiming three points whenever his own side are the visitors.

There will be a bigger expectation at their place because their fans will see it as 'you've got to beat them' - it's not mind games, I'm just trying to see how fans think.

A couple of Liverpool fans told me it was very rare to see a Liverpool side trying to kill the game last week so I think that's a back-handed mark of respect for us, considering we haven't won away.

The energy was good and some of the quality, so although we haven't won away there are strong signs of what we can do - but we have to add to that because factually we still haven't won a game.

I think there is more experience for myself and the team - I think there's an openness to the challenge and there's certainly no over-thinking it

There's a clarity to it - we know that nothing's a given, and we've got to continue to earn the right to stay in the Premier League on an ongoing basis.

– Sean Dyche

Swansea won't be safe before season's end - Clement

Paul Clement has led the Swansea revival but still has work to do to beat the drop Credit: PA

Top scorer Fernando Llorente has boosted Swansea as boss Paul Clement insists there is no need to panic following their Premier League setback at Hull.

Swansea's six-point buffer at the bottom was cut in half by their 2-1 defeat to relegation rivals Hull last weekend, a game in which 11-goal Llorente was forced off before half-time with a dead leg.

But Spain striker Llorente has been declared fit to take on another relegation rival Bournemouth this Saturday.

Swansea's defeat at Hull was the first real setback of Clement's reign, with his only previous defeats coming against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Bottom half teams Burnley, Crystal Palace and Leicester have all been beaten since Clement was appointed at the start of January, as well as Liverpool and Southampton.

And the boss feels the fight against relegation will run all the way to the end of the season, with plenty of movement around the bottom of the table before then.

We were nowhere near safe before the game and we're nowhere near safe after the game. It's more than likely that we will not be safe before the end of the season.

We have done very well against teams through January and in to February.

Clearly we're very disappointed after Hull, not necessarily we lost the game but that we allowed a team below us to get closer to us.

It was a big result for them on an occasion when there was a lot of pressure on the game, particularly for them being six points behind us.

There's going to be a lot of movement with 10 weeks to go. But we've reflected on the defeat at Hull, and it was very clear where we hadn't done as well as we had in recent games.

We have done really well over the last eight to nine weeks, and we don't need to panic if we can get back to our level of performance.

– Paul Clement


Hull boss Silva admits away form must improve fast

Hull boss Marco Silva knows his side cannot rely only on home form Credit: PA

Hull will bid for their first Premier League win on the road since August on Saturday at Everton without injured playmaker Evandro and last week's two-goal match-winner Oumar Niasse.

Head coach Marco Silva had been hoping Evandro could shake off a calf injury in time to boost his side's survival hopes, while Niasse is ineligible to face his parent club after firing Hull to last week's crucial win against Swansea.

Silva agreed his side must quickly address their wretched away record this season if they are to survive another campaign in the top flight.

But the statistics do not read favourably. The Tigers have taken only five points from 14 away league fixtures since securing promotion in May - their only victory came at Swansea on August 20 - and they have not won at Goodison Park since 1952.

Even so, Silva remains optimistic and believes some recent performances have not always been matched by points earned.

Of course we do need to improve our performance away. In some (away) games we have improved, we've shown progress, but the results achieved are not the best.

Only against Man United (0-0) we had a very good result, but the others no, and our last performance away against Leicester was not the best, that's clear.

We need to improve this situation and we've worked this week in a bid to take points.

Our form at home has been very good because we've achieved results and this gives confidence to our players.

We've had good performances away, but not achieved the results and we need to change this situation as soon as possible because the 10 games we have left in the Premier League, not only are there five at home, but five of them are away and we need to take points.

– Marco Silva

No regrets for Mane over not joining Klopp sooner

Sadio Mane is pleased to have ended up playing for Jurgen Klopp Credit: PA

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane has no regrets about his missed opportunity to work with manager Jurgen Klopp two years earlier than it eventually happened.

The Senegal international met the German when he was Borussia Dortmund boss and Klopp admits not signing the then Red Bull Salzburg player was a mistake for which he would have "punched himself".

Mane moved on to Southampton but when the chance arose to sign him Klopp did not make a similar error, having tracked the pacy attacker since the 2012 Olympics.

And Mane told Liverpool's official club website he feels the timing was right for he and his manager to work together this time around.

I remember everything about it, because it was a meeting to talk about football and how he wanted to play and how he wanted me to be part of his team.

I think it's part of football, that these things can happen. After that I never stopped working like I did before.

I gave my best all the time and finally, we work together.

We didn't speak (when he signed for Liverpool) about what happened before because we know it's part of football and it can happen.

It wasn't his fault, or my fault, or the clubs' fault. When he called me to come here, it was the right time, the right coach and the right time to come to Liverpool.

The next thing now is to play in the Champions League with Liverpool and win trophies with Senegal, and why not win many, many trophies with my club, as well?

– Sadio Mane

Montero fit and ready to aid Swansea in relegation fight

Jefferson Montero is fit again and ready to help Swansea battle against the drop Credit: PA

Jefferson Montero has declared himself ready to rejoin Swansea's battle for Premier League survival.

The Ecuador winger has been plagued by injuries this season and has not featured since the 4-1 Boxing Day defeat to West Ham, making only two league starts this season and not featuring under new boss Paul Clement as yet.

But Montero made his comeback as Swansea's Under-23 side sealed the Premier League 2 title against Wolves on Monday night.

And the 27-year-old has set his sights on Saturday's huge trip to relegation rivals Bournemouth, with Swansea currently three points above the drop zone, telling the official club website that he's ready to play his part.

I was very happy to be back on the pitch. It's been a very difficult season for me.

I was out for four weeks with a broken hand and then another 10 weeks with the hamstring injury. It's been very frustrating.

There is obviously a big difference between training and playing. The team has done really well since the new head coach has come in. Training has been tough and intense, but he's given everyone confidence and the rewards have come on the pitch.

Now with 27 points we have a chance (to stay up).

Mentally I am strong. I'm determined to fight my way back into the first-team frame and play my part in helping the club secure its Premier League status.

– Jefferson Montero
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