Former Boro skipper Nigel Pearson will be watching from the Riverside stands tonight as Middlesbrough host Bristol City (KO 7pm).
Pearson – who led Boro to two promotions and three Wembley appearances in the late 1990s golden era – has taken over City until the end of the season following the sacking of Dean Holden after six straight defeats.
The ambitious Robins hope former Derby, Leicester and Watford boss Pearson can kick-start a flagging season and he has the track record to suggest he can get a response.
But Neil Warnock is not worried about the prospect of ailing City having a new boss bounce.
And his wife has warned him he can’t allow the Pearson appointment to be used as an excuse if Boro slip up.
The Boro boss said: “We won’t know the effect of Pearson’s appointment on the game until 9pm really.
“He has proved at various clubs he can motivate a team. And ideally it would have been better without the new manager because of the obvious potential for the new-manager bounce.
“But they can still only play 11 players, so we can’t use that as an excuse.We focus on ourselves and putting our own house in order and not worrying about anybody else.
“My wife Sharon said to me this morning, ‘don’t you be using Nigel Pearson as an excuse!’ And she’s right.
“There’s nothing we can do about that situation. He’s a new manager, but what’s to say they don’t all hate him and might not try a leg! You never know.
“We can’t control what our opponents do and that’s why we just focus on ourselves.”
Boro will be red hot favourites. While Bristol have been in free-fall, Boro have chalked-up back-to-back wins over Huddersfield and form team Reading to move back within three points of the play-off places.
Bristol have also conceded 12 goals in their last five games and failed to score.
But Warnock knows that the stats and form guide count for little in the Championship if his team don’t do their job.
And recent Riverside outing have seen Boro lose to relegation strugglers Birmingham and Rotherham so he will be wary.
“I don’t think we should worry about playing any team,” he continued. “Every game is difficult in its own way.
“We saw when we played Birmingham and Rotherham and Derby and we lost to all of those despite where they are in the table.
“We have to look after ourselves. Make sure we give it a go and if we can’t come away with all three points then we make sure we get at least a point and move on to Saturday and Cardiff.”
Warnock was today assessing the fitness levels of Ashley Fletcher, who has scored in the last two games after a long lay-off, and Duncan Watmore who suffered cracked teeth in the win at Reading.
And he is hopeful he may be able to give new boy Nathaniel Mendez-Laing an outing but the game may be too soon for Yannick Bolasie and Marcus Tavernier, although the pair have returned to training.
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