6:00am Thursday 24th April 2014
By Paul Fraser
AITOR KARANKA has been told not to blame himself for Middlesbrough's inability to rise to the occasion this week, with Dimi Konstantopoulos claiming the Spanish boss is ideal to lead the club to more exciting times next season.
Karanka was quick to point the finger in his own direction rather than criticise his players publicly following Tuesday night's 2-0 defeat at Reading.
He suggested he had “failed to motivate” his team for a game which Reading needed to win to climb back in to the play-off zone.
That fixture arrived just four days after a home defeat to relegation threatened Millwall, leaving Karanka questioning his own part in his a failure to perform when it mattered after four straight wins.
But Konstantopoulos, who has become the No 1 goalkeeper in recent weeks, does not think Karanka was right to take sole responsibility for the frustrating performances.
“We are professionals,” said the Greek goalkeeper. “We know we have played many games like we had on Tuesday, we know we have to deliver regardless of what the manager might say to us. It's not just down to the manager.
“We all win together and lose together. Nobody in particular can be blamed for every single defeat. It's certainly not just the manager. We are professionals and we have to react to situations like that.
“The gaffer has plenty of experience, he has worked at the highest level. He has worked at Champions League level, obviously as an assistant, but he has seen it.
“He knows all about the pressures inside the dressing room as a coach and as a player as well. He has done a good job so far and you can see the differences since he came in. As the games pass, the easier it will become for him to pass his methods on to the players.”
In both defeats to Reading and Millwall, Middlesbrough's players made poor starts and never really looked like getting anything from games which could well have seen them climb to within touch of the play-offs had they won them.
Not only did that lead to Karanka considering his motivational techniques, but it has also raised question marks over the players' ability to deliver when the pressure is on.
Konstantopoulos said: “I think in games like we have had in the last two games, we need to show we can be stronger characters.
“Sometimes when a game doesn't go for you, you should stick to the basics to wait until you get in to the game. You should always try to make sure you don't concede and build from there.
“We had been doing that until the last two games. The gaffer will do the right things, he will instil this mentality and I'm very optimistic about next season.”
Middlesbrough head in to Saturday's visit of Barnsley before heading for Yeovil Town a week later knowing there is nothing other than professional pride to play for.
Both opponents are battling to avoid relegation, so they have more to play for unless the bottom club Yeovil's fate is already sealed by then.
Middlesbrough would ideally like to end the campaign on a high, so that Karanka can head in to the summer boosted by the momentum built up from a strong finish.
“It's one of the strange things of football why teams do not have that mentality all of the time,” said Konstantopoulos. “That's why the best teams are the best teams.
“In the past we have shown stronger mentality but only got a draw. Sometimes the momentum can die down when you don't win game after game and I think that's maybe why you see poor runs of form after good runs.
“If you look at the teams up the top, they are also the ones that tend to get lucky breaks. Likewise, the teams at the other end sometimes don't get the rub of the green.
“It's a mentality that can stem from the manager and the coaching staff and I think we have that here and, with the right pre-season, this manager will be able to lead this team up.”
Dean Whitehead is one yellow card away from collecting his 15th caution of the campaign. That would trigger a three-match ban which would carry in to next season.
© Copyright 2001-2014 Newsquest Media Group