AFTER having things largely their own way so far in 2014-15, the last seven days have represented a difficult week by Middlesbrough’s standards.
A controversial late stoppage-time leveller for last weekend’s opponents Blackburn Rovers was followed by a Football Association charge of misconduct for Aitor Karanka, with the departure of assistant manager Craig Hignett added to the mix.
Rumours of a heated exchange between Hignett and Karanka after the Rovers game promptly did the rounds, but the latter insists it was purely footballing reasons which lay behind the decision to part company with the popular former Boro midfielder.
A much more welcome development came with the news that influential captain Grant Leadbitter has signed a new deal, with Boro now hoping to seal the ‘fightback’ with a good result at Millwall today.
Karanka, who has dismissed reports that his former team-mate and Colorado Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni is in the frame to replace Hignett, said: “It could be one of the hardest weeks I’ve had since I came here, because everything has been concentrated on me, but I am strong and I have to work thinking about the game on Saturday.
“It’s my job. I am strong. I know I can go to my changing room every day because my players know they are a very good team.”
Strong teams need a strong leader and Karanka admits he is delighted to have Leadbitter for the long haul.
He added: “He is the kind of player I want in my team, because he has character. He leads the game in the way that I like.”