Stewart Downing has described Aitor Karanka as “top drawer” as he continues his settling in period with Middlesbrough.
The 31-year-old has been back with his hometown club now for just over a week since Boro pulled off something of a coup with a £5million transfer from West Ham.
Downing joined up with his team-mates on Boro’s pre-season camp in Marbella and was back at Rockliffe, near Darlington, over the last couple of days.
Long-term Boro chairman Steve Gibson thrashed out the deal and Downing was happy to do business with his fellow Teessider and has bumped into several old faces at Rockliffe.
But working under Karanka is very much a new experience for the England international, who was one of the top English players in the Premier Leaue last season with West Ham.
“The manager is top drawer,” said the midfielder.
I think the biggest thing will be the competition for placesSTEWART DOWNING
“He has obviously worked with Jose Mourinho and people like that, and the training is top notch.
“It’s hard. I said to the lads earlier, ‘that session was hard’, and they said ‘It’s like that every day’.
“With two sessions a day it’ll be tough, but it’s enjoyable.
“It’s all football work, it’s not as if you’re just running.
“The manager brought a lot of the young kids on the trip to Marbella and some of them are really good.
“I’d heard about a few of them before I came, and they’ve impressed me.
“I think the biggest thing will be the competition for places.
“The manager said that last year, he basically had a similar sort of team most weeks.
“Now, he’s said that he’ll have a headache on a Friday because he’s got that many good players playing in one position.
“It’ll be hard for him to leave people out, but he’s said that’s something he wants.
“If someone isn’t playing well, he can put someone else in. You can see in training, that the competition will be there.”
Downing has already played in a couple of low-key pre-season games in Marbella but today the action will be stepping up a notch with a friendly at Doncaster Rovers.
Boro will be back in South Yorkshire again on Wednesday, at Barnsley (kick-off 7pm), before hosting Getafe at the Riverside next Saturday.
Downing has not played at the Riverside since leaving Boro. “It will be an amazing feeling,” he added.