The appointment of Aitor Karanka was a huge gamble by Steve Gibson.
He came to Middlesbrough with no managerial experience and as a relative unknown to many outside of Spain.
On top of that he joined Middlesbrough at a time when the club was in relative crisis. They sat only five points above the Championship relegation zone and had the second-worst defence in the league - conceding 24 goals in just 15 games.
All of this just over seven years after appearing in the UEFA Cup Final against Sevilla and back-to-back European qualifications. A Leeds United-esque fall from grace, many would claim.
When Karanka was appointed, I am sure the brief was simple: 'Keep us in the league this season and build from there.'
As things stand, he has done much more than that. He has turned the team from relegation candidates to play-off chasing hopefuls. Middlesbrough currently sit second in the Championship form table, behind only table topping Leicester City.
The difference in form between this Karanka side and the one of predecessor Tony Mowbray is very telling:
Played - 11
Won - 6
Drawn - 2
Lost - 3
Goals for - 16
Goals against - 9
20 points from a possible 33
Played - 11
Won - 2
Drawn - 6
Lost - 3
Goals for - 18
Goals against - 19
12 points from a possible 33
Both managers lost three of their 11 games in charge this season and the Mowbray side scored more goals, but that is where the similarities ended.
Karanka has instilled a defensive discipline into the players which has turned draws into wins. The Spanish mentality isn't renowned for their defensive capabilities, but he immediately reviewed the areas which needed improvement.
Just two weeks into his reign, he made a move to sign Shay Given on loan from Aston Villa as cover for Jason Steele, which has proved to be a masterstroke, with the Irish goalkeeping legend keeping six clean sheets in his first 10 games for the club.
After spending the last three years as number two to Jose Mourinho, at Real Madrid, he has also put his connections to good use in January and has brought in Nigerian international defender Kenneth Omeruo and England U21 midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah, both on loan from Chelsea.
Squad depth is crucial in this league and the addition of two players with proven quality could provide the team with the boost they need to push forward. Next on the shopping list, a striker.
The current odds for Middlesbrough to get promoted back to the Premier League by any means stand at 10/1, and with the Karanka effect, I might just put my money where my mouth is!
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: https://gms.to/1a2u3KU
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: https://www.givemesport.com/writeforgms