HAVING arrived on Teesside from one of the best clubs in the world in Real Madrid, it is easy to assume that Aitor Karanka would bring with him an insistence to play the type of football his country have become renowned for.
But the Middlesbrough manager feels it is too soon to be expecting his players to produce tiki-taka football, and that results are more important at this stage of the season.
Karanka’s side face Derby County at Pride Park tonight, with Steve McClaren’s team undergoing a real revival since the former Middlesbrough boss took charge of the Rams, climbing up to fifth in the Championship.
Boro’s 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers moved Karanka’s team seven points away from the drop zone and, after seeing the effects of a victory in a game low on quality, the new manager feels that getting points on the board is the most important thing right now. Passing football can come later.
“It was very important to get off to a winning start because you can see the difference on the training pitch. A week ago, we lost to Leeds but now we have won, it is easier for us to do our job,” said Karanka.
“I would like to play very good football because I am Spanish, I like that way to play, but at this moment the people want to win the games, for the supporters it’s the most important thing, for me it is the most important thing, and for the players it is the same. When you are winning it is better for confidence and it is better for everything.
“I think the results are important always. You can play well and lose a game, but the most important thing is the result. I’ve said a lot of times that I’d like to play nice football, but at the beginning, it’s more important to get a result.”
McClaren tried to sign Karanka while an Athletic Bilbao player in 2005, and the current Boro manager is impressed with the former England manager’s coaching credentials - and that Boro can take a leaf from Derby’s book in climbing the table.
“He was very successful here,” said Karanka. “He won the Carling Cup, he took the team to a European final against Sevilla and he was very important for the club. I aim to work towards that success again for this club.
“I don’t know him as a person, he was the manager here when I was at Athletic and they wanted me. All I can say is that he is a success here, in Holland, he’s a very good coach.
“When he took charge of Derby, they were far down the table. They are in fifth now. Everybody wants to win two or three in a row and go up the table. The most important game is tonight, then we’ll think about moving up the table.”
Karanka made his first signing in his managerial career last week, bringing Shay Given from Aston Villa on a one-month loan to cover for the suspended Jason Steele. The Spaniard last night paid tribute to his new goalkeeper, hailing his importance over the next few weeks.
“He’s experienced, this was his 600th game, everything is there,” said Karanka.
“He’s got Premier League experience and he’s good to have around the locker room, he’s good for me and he’s good for the other players. They can learn from him, it’s very important for everybody.
“Everybody knows him. I explained that to the squad. Everyone understood why we signed him. He’s a very good person, a very good professional and the type of player we want.
I was a defender and when you have a goalkeeper like Shay, speaking all through the game, it’s important for the defenders and important for the squad.
“When you have a player and a person like Shay, everybody can learn from him.”
The new manager, Jose Mourinho’s former assistant at Madrid, hinted that he is happy with the assistance provided by Jamie Clapham since he took charge three weeks ago, and that the club may not be looking for anyone else to fill the role.
“I’m happy with Jamie,” Karanka said of the former Birmingham City full-back. “He’s helped me a lot and he’s a very good person. We’re always working with the club, doing the best thing for the club, the squad and the staff.
“I said at the beginning I wanted an assistant, like I was to Jose. I knew all about Real Madrid and helped him in that way. I asked the club for an assistant who knows the league, the club, the players, and the team.”
Karanka has been impressed by his squad since taking over from Tony Mowbray, although he admits that the differences between them and the squad at Real Madrid’s disposal were great.
“The team, since the first day, have been excellent. They’re training very, very well,” said Karanka, who confirmed that he was compiling a list of players to improve his squad ahead of the January transfer window.
“I’ve only been here three weeks and I’m learning about the squad every day. I would like to make changes in the future, but always thinking about the squad for the next game.
“I was on the staff with Jose Mourinho, at Real Madrid, playing in the Champions League and La Liga, so it’s a bit different here. I’m here now, I’m enjoying every day here, I’m learning about the league, the country, the town, everything.
“For me, my players are the one. They are my players, I trust them 100%, I’m happy with their performances and happy with their attitude.”