Aitor Karanka says he won’t backtrack on calling the Middlesbrough support “awful” after last Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat to West Ham United.
The Spanish tactician took offence at the Riverside’s terrace calls for Boro to “attack, attack, attack,” with others heading for the exits early as the club stuttered to a fifth defeat in its last eight Premier League matches.
“I have been just three years a coach, but I won’t ever regret something I have said to defend the players,” Karanka told the Guardian’s Louise Taylor. “We have to play always in the same style. We have a style and that style has been successful for us.”
The former Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid defender read the shouts from the crowd as pleas for Boro to adopt long-ball tactics to try and breach the Irons’ central defensive pairing of Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna. After the match, it transpired the latter was playing through a knee injury that has since ruled him for the rest of the season, but the home side mustered just a solitary strike through Cristhian Stuani to keep Boro on a league-low 18 goals.
New signings Rudy Gestede and Patrick Bamford were introduced from the bench in the meeting, and Middlesbrough is also trying to add the artistry of Robert Snodgrass’ left foot to the forward-thinking contingent.
But even with fresh acquisitions on board, Karanka won’t be resorting to hoof-ball tactics in the near future.
“I’ve been here for three years and when I arrived there were 12,000 people at the stadium; now there are another 18,000,” said Karanka.
“When we were fighting to get to the Premier League we played in one style and the crowd understood but the people who are coming now are demanding we play another style and the players don’t know how to do that. We got promotion and got the the playoff final playing this style. The people who weren’t going to the stadium then have to know we had a plan to get promotion and we have a plan to survive. It has been successful for us.”
Attracting those kind of attendance figures may prove difficult this Saturday, with fourth-tier minnow Accrington Stanley visiting in the FA Cup fourth round, but all Karanka asks is that the fans remain in the ground until referee Anthony Taylor sounds the final whistle, rather than try to beat the Teesside traffic.
“As a former player I know that to play the last five or 10 minutes in a stadium that is almost empty is not good for players who are trying their best.”