Aitor Karanka has proved in the year just gone, that he has what it takes to lift us out of the Championship and into the Premier League.
At the start of the season before a ball was kicked I was fortunate enough to be sat alongside Karanka at an event and I found him warm, straight laced, charismatic and funny.
But behind this exterior there is an ultra professional, ruthless, dictator like individual, who stands no nonsense and doesn’t take any prisoners.
I witnessed such credentials when I was managed under Bruce Rioch and looking back it quite clearly worked and the team was successful.
I see similarities not just between Karanka and Rioch, but the team itself, like back in 86 there is a togetherness off and on the pitch. There are no big time Charlie’s the players appreciate the supporters and they celebrate with them when a goal is scored.
The gulf between the club and the fans has closed and both are reaping the rewards.
Karanka recently was quoted as saying everyone at the club is important whether it’s the Chairman, Manager or Tea Lady and that nobody is bigger than the club.
I admired those quotes and I also admired his quotes after the recent Ipswich defeat when he said he was embarrassed, I found it refreshing, no spin, no bull, no propaganda, could you imagine Steve McClaren saying that when he was in charge.
On the field he has a squad who have a great attitude, mental toughness and have a inner belief without being arrogant and cocky.
All over the field there are partnerships blossoming on the left side Friend and Reach, central Gibson and Ayala, Leadbitter and Clayton, on the right Fredericks and Adomah and up front Tomlin and Kike, Vossen and Banford.
The one position I am still concerned about is between the sticks, if Dimi were to get injured, have we an able replacement?
Overall we have a beefed up squad which has proved it’s worth and I see no reason why it can’t continue into the New Year, of course you still need a bit of luck and rub of the green.
Karanka like the team, the club and the fans are in the spotlight and enjoying the attention and thoroughly deserve the plaudits.
Not so long ago I was asked via my Evening Gazette column what mark I would give Karanka between and A and a F, I gave the Spaniard a C.I received a bit of stick via the social network and from some of my ex team mates.
There is no doubting we are heading in the right direction, but my reasoning was that we have won nothing as yet and that dreadful barren run, of ten and a quarter hours or 615 minutes without a goal, the longest run in the clubs 139 year history, cannot just be swept under the carpet.
If Karanka and his team can gain promotion and I EXPECT them to automatically, they will all receive an A+.
Happy New Year to everyone.