Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Karanka Makes the Right Call; Manager Was Being Realistic When He Said Play-Offs Were the Target

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Karanka Makes the Right Call; Manager Was Being Realistic When He Said Play-Offs Were the Target

Article excerpt

Byline: THE GAZETTE FRIDAY, MAY 1, 2015 51 SPORT Follow us on Twitter @EveningGazette The Insider with Philip Tallentire

SO the play-offs it is.

Now that we know for certain* that Boro have missed out on a top two finish, it's safe to assess whether it was fair to expect the club to achieve automatic promotion.

In recent weeks, Aitor Karanka has consistently maintained his position that the play-offs were the target at the start of the season.

However, many of us who have seen all, or almost all, of Boro's games this season, believed automatic promotion was an achievable aim.

Were we right to do so? At a glance, Boro's squad looked fit for purpose once the transfer window closed in September and Karanka was certainly satisfied with his summer overhaul.

But were we expecting too much from those players collectively? Analysed objectively, it could be argued Boro's squad was nowhere near as strong - on paper at least - as we believed.

And, if that was the case, then a likely third-place finish is a fine achievement.

For starters, keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos was a free agent and considering resigning with League Two Hartlepool when Tony Mowbray offered him a shortterm contract in 2013.

It's hard to believe now, but he was primarily signed to lighten Jason Steele's training ground workload.

Boro's right-back for a significant portion of the season has been Ryan Fredericks, a loan signing from Tottenham with precious little Championship experience when he arrived on Teesside.

On the opposite flank, George Friend was another bargain Mowbray signing, costing the club just PS100,000 when he made the move north from Doncaster almost three years ago.

Boro's centre-backs hardly cost the earth. Ben Gibson came through the Academy while Dani Ayala was a PS325,000 buy from Norwich City.

Others who have filled in at the heart of the defence include the ageing Jonathan Woodgate (free agent, no fee), the inexperienced Tomas Kalas (loan, from Chelsea) and Kenneth Omeruo (loan, from Chelsea).

The two regular defensive midfielders have been Grant Leadbitter (free agent, no fee) and Adam Clayton (PS1.5m, from Huddersfield). …

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