Middlesbrough came to an agreement with Aitor Karanka to part ways yesterday. The Spaniard leaves Boro in 19th place, 3 points away from safety with 11 games to play, starting with a visit from Karanka’s “brother” Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. Karanka leaves behind him an impressive winning ratio of 82 wins in 166 games, the best record of any Boro manager in history. But only 4 of those wins were in the Premier League this season. But despite having the 6th best defence in the league, Boro easily top the league in fewest goals scored and chances created. Negative football is only applauded when the team is winning, and patience with the Spaniard grew thin.
Fans will remember exactly where we were in November 2013, when the Spaniard moved to Teesside. He was an inspired appointment at the time, coming with a glowing reference from Jose Mourinho. The scene’s after Middlesbrough secured promotion after a draw with Brighton on the last day of last season was the best moment on Teesside for over a decade.
Another of Karanka’s good friends is Mauricio Pochettino. The two got their coaching qualifications through the same courses and like the Spurs manager, Karanka put an incredible amount of preparation into every game. No-one can question Karanka’s commitment and passion for Middlesbrough Football Club, and I think he genuinely cared deeply for the club and the fans, and wanted to achieve success here. He didn’t view his stint at the Riverside as a mere stepping-stone in his career, a charge many threw at Steve McClaren after leaving Boro for the England job in 2006.
It was Karanka’s man-management style that let him down. Middlesbrough’s lacklustre performances at away at Crystal Palace and Stoke showed a team who had simply given up playing for their manager. His tenure at Middlesbrough is full of cringe-inducing moments where Karanka openly criticized some of his players at press conferences (his recent public spat with Stewart Downing seems to have played a part in the decision yesterday), and he was wasn’t shy from chastising the fans at times.
There was a sense that if Middlesbrough were to have a fighting chance of staying up Karanka had to go, and if they do cling onto life in the Premiership they are an attractive proposition for managers out there. They have the best chairman in football in Steve Gibson, world class facilities, and an amazing fan-base. There are rumours that Guus Hiddink has been approached, which would be a dream. Karanka’s assistant Steve Agnew takes over for the game this weekend, but he cannot be given the job long-term. We have the international break to find a replacement, then huge games away relegation rivals Hull and Swanea before Burney at home. A nice 9 points for the new man in charge.
Thank you Mr. Karanka for 3-and-half memorable years and getting us back to where we belong.