Garry Monk has warned his Middlesbrough players not to become distracted by events at Sunderland when the two sides meet on Sunday.
The two rivals go head to head at the Riverside with the Black Cats in disarray after the sacking of manager Simon Grayson minutes after their 3-3 draw with Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday night.
It was a decision described as ‘mind-boggling’ by Monk – on Sunderland’s shortlist in the summer when they were looking to replace David Moyes .
Billy McKinlay and former Boro defender Robbie Stockdale have been placed in caretaker charge of Sunderland for the trip down the A19, as the Wearsiders search for their 10th permanent manager in nine years.
But Monk wants his in-form players to focus on their own situation as they look to make it three wins on the bounce after victories over Hull City and Reading in their last two outings.
He said: “With derby games, the form goes out the window and we just need to focus on ourselves and deliver what we need to deliver.
“We will just approach the game by focusing on ourselves.
“It’s now going to be difficult. Sunderland will come strong regardless of what situation they are in. It’s another difficult game for us.
“At home, we haven’t given our fans what we have wanted before and this is another motivation for us.
“We want to try and finish a good week and make it a great week.”
Six points our of six have seen Boro propel themselves up the Championship table to eight, just two points off the play-offs after a sticky period, and while Monk isn’t saying they have turned the corner, he’s hopeful Boro can start to show some consistency now.
““Every teams uffers difficult periods and there will be ups and downs throughout the season at some point for every team,” he added.
“The corrections we’ve asked the players to take onto the pitch has shown in the performances.
“It was important we showed how together we are which we did and picked up six points. But we have to make sure this weekend that we put in the same level of performancen and desire and take that into the derby game.
“We know there’s a long way to go.
“It’s a big game at the weekend, a derby. Form goes out the window a lot in these games.”