‘Sad’ debriefing from Middlesbrough to Coventry ahead of Summer of Change
There were tears in it, like on the pitch. Chuba Akpom was heartbroken, Hayden Hackney looked dazed. The fact that promotion for long stretches of this season not only seemed possible, but even likely, was not least due to the excellence of these two.
Carrick didn’t try to pick up his players in the dressing room. It was too early and too raw. Instead, he thanked them and told them of his pride.
On the pitch, after a defiant chant from Boros, Carrick comforted stunned fans on the pitch for each and every player and led the way alongside Darragh Lenihan as the devastated side expressed their appreciation to the fans. That, with the Coventry fans cheering and Sweet Caroline’s loud cheering from the away cabin, just like on the last day of the regular season, wasn’t the end as it should have been.
For much of the second half of the season, promotion seemed – and that’s no exaggeration – inevitable for Boro. Blackburn and Sheffield United away, Norwich at home, Preston at home. So good.
Huddersfield’s defeat was a pivotal moment because it gave Sheffield United the initiative and was the weekend when Boros’ automatic promotion hopes realistically faded. They almost fell victim to their own past excellence in the weeks that followed, and the early guarantee of a top-six finish left Boro in something of a play-off purgatory. The momentum was lost.
The injury situation undoubtedly played its part. Jonny Howson was missed so much on Wednesday night, his football and leadership skills. On a personal level, it’s impossible not to feel a great deal of sympathy for Howson. He was so desperate to lead Boro to promotion, his dream since arriving six years ago, and was a helpless spectator in the stands during the team’s distress.
He sat alongside his also absent Aaron Ramsey, who kicked every ball. Boro sorely lacked the momentum, speed and ability to get behind.
Fair play for Coventry who did a good job at Boro. The extra man in midfield did a great job and Viktor Gyokeres was great. He is certainly on his way to the Premier League, regardless of how next weekend’s final turns out.
“You can’t pick her up now,” Carrick said after finally emerging from the Boro dressing room.
“It’s acceptance of the situation. I am very proud of them, I thank them for their commitment, for what they have given us since I have been here and for my staff. Her commitment, her attitude, her willingness to learn and her spirit. That’s it.” a special group of players and a special group of staff.
What made Wednesday night’s defeat all the more difficult to bear is the feeling of a truly missed opportunity and the fact that early signs point to a difficult championship next season. Southampton are eliminated and are likely to be supported by the likes of Leicester, Leeds and Everton. Ipswich comes with momentum and money. West Brom, Norwich and Watford are three teams you would expect to be stronger.
Then again, those three teams would have been the top six finishes of many this season. The championship is not won on paper. Just ask next weekend’s Wembley finalists.
And after moving from 21st to fourth in seven months while playing breathtakingly brilliant football, Carrick’s Boro will fear no one. Carrick is now having his first full summer as boss to build on what has already been achieved.
Boro can only focus on himself and recovering from this setback to come back stronger. Hardly a weekly press conference goes by without Carrick speaking about the fact that he is only looking forward, not backwards, and that will be the theme when the squad meet at Rockliffe on Thursday.
It is, as Carrick himself admitted, “one last time” that this group will be together as one. The team will look different when Boro reports back at the start of pre-season.
“In a way it’s quite sad because it’s the last time we’re all together because football is football and the group doesn’t get split but there are pros and cons, it’s guys on loan, what happens next with them, so.” “The group is changing, it will be a new group,” said Carrick.
“It’s the last time we’re together as a unit and I just hope they have a really good time and a special group to be a part of in the years to come.”
Will any of the loan players return? It’s obviously too early to know. Aston Villa will keep a close eye on Archer and Ramsey. It could be that another full season in the championship is in the cards for the latter. At 23, Ryan Giles will certainly either get his chance with Wolves or be sold permanently. Zack Steffen would like to leave Manchester City to play regularly every week but his current salary is significantly higher than what Boro could offer. Carlos Corberan wants a look at Alex Mowatt while Rodrigo Muniz is set to return to Fulham.
Wednesday night was the end for this roster, but Carrick will soon be focusing on the new Boro start next season. Fans will no doubt fear Premier League clubs flocking to Carrick, but the head coach hasn’t batted an eyelid. He has repeatedly spoken about how happy he is at Boro and his intentions after Wednesday night’s heartbreak were clear.
He said: “We who are here and fighting and wanting to improve and get better need to come back stronger and look to what lies ahead.”
As a player, Carrick had to take hammer blows again and again. He knows it’s how you react that separates the good from the great.
“We just lost a big, big game and a big chance,” he said.
“We have to try to learn from it. It’s up to us what happens next.”
https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/sport/23531180.sad-middlesbrough-debrief-coventry-ahead-summer-change/?ref=rss ‘Sad’ debriefing from Middlesbrough to Coventry ahead of Summer of Change