10:28am Tuesday 14th January 2014
By Richard Mason
GEORGE FRIEND has heaped praise on manager Aitor Karanka in the wake of comments made by Millwall boss Ian Holloway.
Holloway had suggested that he had to work harder to get a job than someone who knew Jose Mourinho - understood to refer to Karanka, who worked with Mourinho at Real Madrid before the Portuguese left the Bernabeu to rejoin Chelsea in the summer.
Karanka was heavily linked with the Crystal Palace job after Holloway stood down, but the Eagles turned to former Stoke City boss Tony Pulis after the Spaniard chose to come to Middlesbrough instead.
Holloway , who was at one point the bookies ’ favourite for the Boro job after leaving Palace a day after Tony Mowbray was sacked in October, was unveiled at the New Den last week, and set about his plans for a return to the top flight.
“If I had a fair crack at being a Premier League manager, with a good budget, I believe I could do it,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“But I’m going to have to get there. I’m not one of these foreign fellers who gets a job because he’s known Jose Mourinho for ten minutes. Or met him on a train.”
But Friend, who has improved considerably since Karanka took over at Middlesbrough, feels that Karanka was given the job on merit and not because of his footballing connections.
“No chance,” said Friend, when asked if Karanka was given the job on his links with Mourinho. “The impact he has made shows that, and the results speak for themselves.
“When you’re a manager it is ultimately a results business and we’re getting those results at the minute.
“I don’t want to react to what Ian Holloway has said, it’s up to him what he says, but I think that’s a little unfair and I don’t think he’s thought through what he has said.”
Boro beat Blackpool 2-0 on Saturday which has propelled Karanka’s side to 13th in the Championship table, six points off the play-off places. Four wins in five games has brought a complete turnaround in Boro’s form and Friend wants that to progress.
“We’re seeing excellent rewards from [Karanka] so far and I hope it can continue,” said the former Doncaster Rovers captain. “Maybe our season has reversed from last year where our form can come in at the second half of the season rather than the start.”
MAKING HIS MARK: Aitor Karanka
Friend arrived at Boro at the start of the 2012-13 season and quickly established himself as an attacking left-back, but with a tweak in formation, the Devon-born 26-year-old has had his wings clipped and has a much more defensive outlook, which is something he enjoys.
“When I was at Doncaster I used to play centre-back, so I have to use my head a lot more,” said Friend. “I was kind of pigeon-holed as an attacking full-back but I am a defender.
“It’s something I’ve worked on this season and hopefully I’m reaping the rewards for it,as everyone has been.
“The manager has us well drilled here and we’re playing to his ethos, and what he wants us to do, so it’s encouraging.”
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