Season Preview: Middlesbrough
The 2013/14 season was Middlesbrough's fifth consecutive season back in the Championship following relegation from the Premierleague and they looked as far away as ever from regaining their top flight status. Manager Tony Mowbray came into the season under massive pressure having seen a disastrous second half of the season the previous year throw away their chances of a play-off place. They started the season poorly with only two wins in their first 12 matches and Mowbray paid the price as he was sacked in October. The man was Aitor Karanka. Former assistant manager to Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, it was the first time chairman Steve Gibson had not appointed an English manager. Results initially improved over the Christmas period but they ran into another difficult run of form in February and March going on a run of seven matches without scoring a goal. They recovered well though and ended the season with six wins out of their last eight in order to finish 12th with high hopes they can really push for a play-off place in the upcoming season.
Little was known about Aitor Karanka the coach when he arrived at the Riverside in November, except for the fact he had assisted Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid between 2010-2013. A vastly experienced player in Spain, Karanka enjoyed spells at both Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao before moving into coaching. He started in 2008 by managing the Spanish under-16 side before stepping up to assist Mourinho at Madrid in 2010. A much more mild man than his fiery former boss, Karanka was appointed principally for his excellent coaching expertise. Whether that will be enough to guide Middlesbrough back to the big time remains to be seen.
In: Tom Mejias (Real Madrid), Kike Garcia (Real Murcia), Emilio Nsue (Real Mallorca), James Husband (Doncaster Rovers)
Out: Jason Leutwiler (Shrewsbury Town), Stuart Parnaby (Hartlepool Utd), Frazer Richardson (Rotherham Utd), Marvin Emnes (Swansea City), Lukas Jutkiewicz (Burnley), Curtis Main (Doncaster Rovers), Cameron Park (Released)
The longer you are out of the Premiership they more difficult it is for any club to get back. Middlesbrough have found that out since their relegation in 2009. Over the course of this summer they have lost some of their better players and their replacements from Spain will need to hit the ground running. They play some excellent football and with Karanka's careful coaching they could well challenge for a play-off place this season. Automatic promotion though, will be a step too far.