With the Football League kick-off this weekend, this series of articles takes a closer look at the 24 teams vying for the £100 million Premier League bonanza.
After his arrival last November was accompanied by much fanfare, Aitor Karanka - Jose Mourinho’s second in charge at Real Madrid - made steady progress at the Riverside despite a fairly slow start.
With the best part of a season’s experience gained in English football and a full pre-season behind him, Karanka can now be judged fully on his own merits. As is the case with most foreign managers there has been arrivals from his home country - with Real Murcia forward Kike the most promising.
The project at the Riverside may well be a long-term one and Karanka will certainly have the support of the one of the most patient and loyal chairmen in English football in Steve Gibson. That may be important and such patience will be needed from 'Boro fans also as another mid-table finish is most likely.
Last Season: 12th
Manager: Aitor Karanka
Transfers In*: Kike (Real Murcia, undisclosed), James Husband (Doncaster, undisclosed + swap), Tomas Mejias (Real Madrid, free), Emilio Nsue (Real Mallorca, undisclosed), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea, loan)
Transfers Out*: Lukasz Jutkiewicz (Burnley, £1.5 million), Matthew Dolan (Bradford, free), Stuart Parnaby (Hartlepool, free), Frazer Richardson (Rotherham, free), Marvin Emnes (Swansea, undisclosed), Curtis Main (Doncaster, swap)
One To Watch: Kike (striker)
Of manager Karanka’s foreign legion, Spanish striker Kike represents the most exciting prospect. A powerful and talented forward not without technical finesse, Kike rose to prominence last season after scoring 23 goals for Real Murcia in Spain’s Segunda Division.
Middlesbrough have struggled for goals in recent seasons and the arrival of Kike, as well as the departure of flop Lukasz Jutkiewicz to Burnley, should bring excitement to the Riverside and with it the hope of a prolific goalscorer the like of which has not been seen since the days of Fabrizio Ravanelli.
Selected Odds: Champions 20-1; Promotion 7-1; Relegation 18-1
Opening Fixtures: Birmingham (H), Leeds (A), Bolton (A)
*correct at the time of writing
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