Why Middlesbrough need promotion more than ever

Aitor Karanka can deliver salvation to the Teesside town.

Now, more than ever, Teesside needs a beacon of light, of hope, and once again the town's football club is just that, and that hope is being generated by Spanish blood.

With Middlesbrough firm favourites for promotion to the Premier League, the town - stripped of a steelmaking heritage dating back nearly 200 years in recent weeks - needs a boost more than any in England.

The Infant Hercules, as William Gladstone christened it in the 1860's, may be on its knees economically, but on the banks of the Tees - the Steel River - The Riverside offers a chink of light in the dark.

Not many will know, but Teesside's steel industry began thanks to Spanish ore, now once again Spanish imports are at the heart of hope in the town, led by their Basque boss Aitor Karanka, who has just celebrated 100 games with the club.

Karanka clocked up his century at the weekend, but it ended in disappointment as they lost 0-2 to Reading. Whilst it is far from a disgrace to lose to the in-form Royals, it was clearly evident the setback came down to tinkering, with Albert Adomah and David Nugent - who had a slight injury concern - rotated to the bench.

Something similar happened earlier in the season when, after a successful opening to the season, changes were made ahead of Bristol City's shock away win at The Riverside - now although defeated again after seven straight wins, Boro are second in the league, two points off the top and are still many peoples favourites for promotion, but they can't afford to keep dropping silly points.

Karanka, and this is a common failing with many modern bosses, loves to over-think a situation, tries to read too much into something. The old adage of "just play your best team" rather than worrying about the opponents certainly rings true with Boro, when they probably have the best squad in the division.

However, the hat still has to be doffed to the Spanish tactician, who has transformed his side from underachieving relegation candidates into strong promotion contenders in his 23 months in charge.

You only need look at his record, with a current win ratio above 50 per cent - something no Middlesbrough boss has ever achieved - even the best, the legendary Ayresome Angels generation under Jack Charlton had a 45% ratio - although that also included his time in the top-flight.

Karanka's first full season saw him well over 50%, although both Charlton and Bruce Rioch - who rebuilt the team after bankruptcy and saw two back-to-back promotion campaigns from 1986/88 - had slightly better. It's notable that Karanka, Boro's first ever foreign coach, is being mentioned alongside these greats already.

Unlike Charlton, Rioch, Bryan Robson and Steve McClaren, he is yet to achieve anything - if he wants to truly belong in such company, he will need to deliver something tangible, and that can only mean one thing, promotion.

The club, that he has re-modelled from bottom to top in his time, is now full of vibrancy and energy - the stadium is bouncing like it hasn't done since Juninho first arrived 20 years ago this very week, and that is down to Karanka and the style of play he is producing.

Middlesbrough are close to regaining their place at England's top table, the Premier League, after seven years away - a boost to the local area that no money could buy.

As the town's Latin moto "Erimus" tells us, 'We Shall Be' - this North East outpost does not want or expect charity, which is why seeing their team in the Premier League would offer such a prize for the area.

With 100 games under his belt, the signs are more than promising for Boro and Karanka. The town needs their beloved team to lead the way again and, as the steel industry began, with a little help from the Spanish - so the future promises much for Middlesbrough.

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