Less than a month after Middlesbrough showed Tony Mowbray the exit door in October 2013, they appointed Aitor Karanka as their new manager.
Prior to the Championship job, the Spaniard had managed Spain’s youth side and worked as an assistant to José Mourinho at Real Madrid.
His life at the Riverside started on a disappointing note as Boro managed only one win in his first five matches. The 45-year-old feared the English side would show him the exit door, but he managed to turn things around due to the support of club chairman Steve Gibson.
“I remember that in the first five games we won one, drew another and lost three. I was leaving the stadium and I hear Gibson. There I said: ‘To face the sack’. He asked me how I was and I told him that I was annoyed,” Karanka told Spanish newspaper AS.
“He grabbed me and told me to be calm, that nothing was wrong because they had brought me to climb up [Premier League] and he had no doubt that we would be promoted. Everything had to be changed because I was the first foreign coach.”
Middlesbrough came close to sealing promotion in the 2014/15 season as they lost to Norwich City in the play-off final. Karanka stressed he still had the confidence of Gibson, just minutes after losing to the Canaries.
“We lost it and I went to the box to greet my parents and the owner took me and told me that nothing was happening,” he explained.
“I grabbed him and said: ‘What do you mean, nothing’s happening? We just lost a final’. He told me to be calm again and the following year I would be promoted. That trust marks you and in fact, that friendship continues…”
Karanka took Middlesbrough to the Premier League for the 2016/17 season, but in March 2017, he was removed from his post at the club.