Garry Monk has again expressed sympathy for sacked Simon Grayson and believes the former Sunderland manager was treated harshly.
The two sides meet tomorrow at the Riverside (KO 12.15pm) but Sunderland will have joint caretakers Billy McKinlay and Robbie Stockdale in charge for the game after Grayson was sacked within minutes of the 3-3 draw with Bolton Wanderers.
Boro boss Monk described the decision as “mind-boggling” in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s draw and he was asked about Grayson’s departure again ahead of the Tees-Wear derby.
Monk said: “As someone I know well, personally, I understand how difficult this job is and the pressures that comes with it and how hard managers work.
“Simon is one of the best at that. When you see a fellow colleague lose his job when you feel he was the right man to do it, yes I felt it was harsh.
“They have a very good squad, experienced players. You do think they should be higher than they are but they are where they are.
“At the end of the day it was expressing sympathy for Simon. He is a very good manager at this level and would have done a good job. Every manager needs time. He didn’t get that.
“That isn’t my focus though, my focus is on us and this game.
“[Their league position] is nothing to do with me.
“In Simon’s case I wanted him to do well and feel given time he would have done well. I am just focused on Middlesbrough and what goes through our games.
“We want to give the fans a performance, a derby win is the ultimate and to continue a run of winning games. We want to show that fight and determination on our home turf.
“They will want to respond from what has been a difficult spell for them,” added Monk.
“They will come here and fight, we have to match that. We are at our ground, a full house, we want to continue the run from these two wins.
“There is a lot at stake for both teams but we want to make sure our fight is stronger than theirs.”