Preston v Middlesbrough: Karanka deal gives big-spending Boro a boost

WAY back in the late spring of 1974, Middlesbrough ended arguably the greatest season in their history with a win at Deepdale.

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka

They are now aiming to start the new one – which they hope will also be memorable – in identical fashion in this corner of Lancashire, where they triumphed 4-2 at the end of a stellar 1973-74 campaign in a game which famously saw Jack Charlton and brother Bobby line up against each other as managers in opposing dug-outs.

That season saw Boro win the old second division by an astonishing 15 points under the two- points-for-a-win system and you sense that the whole of Teesside would just settle for a routine promotion this time around as they embark on their seventh – and hopefully last – campaign back in the second tier.

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Boro are ranked right at the forefront of the betting for the title and their considerable claims will be bolstered even further if they land one – or maybe even two – of their big striking targets of Jordan Rhodes and Dwight Gayle.

The Teessiders have already completed arguably the headline move of the Championship close-season by bringing Stewart Downing back to his hometown club in a fee which will cost them £7m if they are promoted.

But even accounting for the arrival of Downing – and possibly even Rhodes and/or Gayle –Boro completed their best piece of summer business yesterday, in the words of chairman Steve Gibson.

Namely getting head coach Aitor Karanka to sign a new four-year deal with the Basque seeking to seal the Championship deal in 2015-16 after taking Boro to the play-off final last May. On Karanka, linked with Newcastle earlier this year, Gibson said: “This is massive statement of the commitment Aitor has to this club.

“For me, this is probably the most important signing we will make all summer. We know that there has been interest in Aitor over the past year or so from clubs both here and abroad and rightly so because he is a very, very good manager.”