7:00am Saturday 4th January 2014
By Paul Fraser
GIVEN the frustrations Jacob Butterfield encountered during a challenging period at Norwich City, dipping in and out of the Middlesbrough starting line-up this season has not frustrated him too much.
There is an acceptance from Butterfield, and the majority of the Boro players, that head coach Aitor Karanka is keen to play the squad game in his attempts to lead the club back up the Championship table.
And Butterfield’s fortunes highlight that perfectly, having started three of the Spaniard’s games in charge and figuring at some stage in seven of them. He is clearly in Karanka’s thinking and keen to make more progress under him.
Karanka has revealed in the last week that he holds greater confidence in the squad he has, claiming he feels he could turn to 27 players to play rather than the 15 he originally knew about when he took over.
Butterfield was one of the originals. He said: “It's been evident that people who put in good performances can be out of the team. He has different reasons for picking different teams and he has confidence in different players.
“I think he is happy to play the majority of the squad we have here. If you stay sharp in training then I think you stand a chance of playing the next game. It's good he shows belief in the majority of players and not just 11 or 12 here.”
Butterfield was recalled for the New Year’s Day trip to Bolton, but was left disappointed along with the boss by Middlesbrough’s failure to preserve a two-goal advantage.
He was one of five changes for that game and more tinkering is expected at the Riverside today when Steve Bruce brings his Hull City side to Teesside. Butterfield would like to stay in the team ahead of Marvin Emnes, knowing the pair have been used to fill the hole behind a lone striker.
“I enjoy playing there,” said Butterfield. “It's different to centre-midfield. You probably rely more on your team-mates in the middle, but it's good to have that freedom. I am happy to play there and I like to get in space and being creative, higher up the pitch.
“Most managers will tend to stick with a team that has the winning formula. He obviously thinks a lot about each game. It has paid off in the last few weeks. We have been in good form and we want to bounce up the league. The bigger part I play the happier I will be. It’s been really enjoyable so far.”
After winning three Championship fixtures on the spin, earning a point at Bolton actually left Middlesbrough’s players and management frustrated because of the way they conceded in the last minute.
But the recent run of form has closed the gap to the play-off zone to six points at the start of 2014, so today’s FA Cup visit of Hull could actually be seen as an unwanted break.
Butterfield, a former Barnsley man who left Norwich in the summer, said: “It would possibly have been a hindrance had we won at Bolton because after four on the bounce we would have liked to be back in Championship action.
“But the FA Cup is always enjoyable. If we can go on a run it would be great for the group, the fans and the club. We are capable of doing that.
“I have said all along, when we were playing alright without getting results, that we were capable of getting a run going. You can be in a completely different position after a few quick-fire games in the Championship.
“We are not where we want to be yet but we are probably on the right tracks and we have to stay focused on what we want to achieve. We are capable and we all believe it so we just have to keep targeting back to back wins.”
Butterfield would like to start against Hull, although he knows Karanka is likely to mix things up again after playing four games in ten days over Christmas.
He is convinced that there will be no lingering fall-out from letting the two-goal slip on Wednesday. Butterfield said: “To be 2-1 up in the 90th minute we would have liked to hang on because we seemed to have put conceding last minute goals behind us.
“It was disappointing because it would have been great to keep the winning run going. But we got the draw and we are feeling a lot more positive around the place these days. The manager has had a positive impact and the whole place is positive. We will see where this run takes us.”
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