THE make-up of Middlesbrough’s dressing room for next season is still to play for, Aitor Karanka has warned.
Even at this late juncture in the season – there are just two games left with play-off hopes extinguished last Saturday – Karanka has informed his playing squad that if they wish to form part of his team come August they must impress in the final two outings.
Barnsley come to the Riverside tomorrow (kick off 3pm) where a Boro win would relegate the four-points-from-safety Tykes, before a visit to Yeovil next weekend.
Spanish head coach Karanka is not sympathetic of former Hartlepool Utd boss Danny Wilson’s side’s position, calling on his own men to deliver the goods to finish as high as possible and to ensure he doesn’t “go on holiday very disappointed.”
He told BBC Tees: “I think the games are very important for next season because I can feel if we have learned in the last two games or continued in the same way.
“It’s important for next season and if we beat Barnsley that means we can play like we know we can win and I will be happy because the team would have learned and we can work next season more positively.”
What has vexed the former Real Madrid assistant manager most this season is the absence of consistency.
His first pre-season this summer will, then, be accompanied by the phrase “winning mentality”.
He went on: “I have to test their mentality. I know them as players but I need to know their mentality.
“It’s important because we need to learn for the future that we need to have a winning mentality.
“This season if we had one for an extra five, six games we would be in a play-off position.
“But we are not and we need to improve on this for next season.
“The winning mentality needs to improve.”
Karanka spoke of his “incredible” first season in management and how “six months being here I have continued learning every day.”
And what is abundantly clear is his thirst for success. Barnsley are his next targets.
“They’re playing to keep their place in the league and we need to play with 100 per cent,” he said.
“The best way to respect the competition is to win the game.
“It’s very, very important because it’s our last home game and it’s important to see something good to thank the supporters.”