Middlesbrough only narrowly missed out on a return to the Premier League last season as they succumbed to a disheartening 2-0 Wembley defeat at the hands of Norwich City in the Play-Off Final.
This year, they’re struggling to come to terms with a seventh successive term in England’s second flight and things aren’t looking as rose as previously expected on Teesside.
This week, Albert Adomah, one of Boro’s star players, has submitted a transfer request following a reported falling out with the club’s hierarchy and specifically head coach Aitor Karanka. So, where has this come from?
The winger was left on the bench for Boro’s home fixture against his former club Bristol City and was only brought on with half an hour remaining and his current side chasing the game at 1-0 down.
He had impressed in the previous games of the campaign, starring in a 3-0 demolition of Bolton Wanderers – only overshadowed by the magnificent Diego Fabbrini’s polished, exciting performance and Kike’s two-goal haul.
It was evidence of Karanka’s reputation for chopping and changing his team. He has been known to drop in-form players for those who have struggled to even get a game at times.
He’s also been guilty of completing bizarre transfers that seem to push established first-team regulars further down the pecking order, to the detriment of team and morale (here’s looking at you Dwight Tiendalli).
Kike, having scored three goals in his previous two games, was also relegated to the bench in favour of new-boy David Nugent. A player in the best form of his Boro career was dropped for one that had yet to properly train with his team-mates for any real length of time.
Ben Gibson was another notable absentee against Bristol, forcing Emilio Nsue to play in a right-back position that he’s never really managed to claim as his own; nor has he shown any real ability to perform in that area of the pitch. This ultimately cost Boro and they weren’t helped by a laboured Stewart Downing show.
Adomah is getting abused by Middlesbrough fans now, due to the publicity of his current spat and his apparent desire to jump ship. However, none is being directed to Karanka, who has a history of rubbing players up the wrong way and causing splits in the camp.
Take one look at Craig Hignett’s sudden departure, Kei Kamara’s extremely public Twitter spat, Lee Tomlin’s huge turnaround, and Mustapha Carayol’s treatment and you will see there’s clearly an issue behind the scenes.
Transparency is what is needed within the club now. Instead of hanging players out to dry and painting them as being villains in all of this, we need to know their sides of the story and only then can we judge what the real situation is.
The boss is held in such high regards by the fans on Teesside that they risk creating an environment that allows the Spaniard to get away with anything he wants.
They say no player is bigger than the club, however, that seemingly doesn’t apply to the former Real Madrid coach who can act however he pleases and it becomes the best interests of the club, even if it is detrimental to the spirit in the dressing room and the performances on the pitch.
The team needs to be seen as a whole, so instead of vilifying players who are experiencing difficulties in their work environment, the fans should accept that individuals have differences and sometimes even their heroes (Karanka) can commit a social faux pas or just make a huge mistake.
The manager is not yet in the same league as Mourinho or Sir Alex but many on Teesside are behaving as if this is the case.
To solve the problem at Middlesbrough, the fans need to take Aitor off their pedestals and question whether all of his decisions have been as well informed as they’d like to believe.