Aitor Karanka ready to meet McClaren - at last

Aitor Karanka almost signed for Steve McClaren's Middlesbrough eight years ago, but tonight they go head-to-head as Boro visit Derby County

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka
Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka

Aitor Karanka will go head-to-head with Steve McClaren tonight - eight years after the pair came within a whisker of working together on Teesside.

McClaren was Middlesbrough boss at the time and had agreed a deal with Athletic Bilbao for defender Karanka, only for the move to break down at the last moment.

But tonight the two men will finally meet, albeit they will be in different dugouts.

Buoyed by Saturday’s victory against Bolton at the Riverside, new Boro manager Karanka takes his side to Pride Park to face McClaren’s Derby County.

And while the two men will be on opposite sides, Karanka has a healthy respect for McClaren and his achievements both at Boro and beyond.

“He was very successful here,” said the Spaniard.

“He won the Carling Cup, he took the team to a European final against Sevilla and he was very important for the club.

“I aim to work towards that success again for this club.

“I don’t know him as a person, although he was the manager here when I was at Athletic and they wanted me.

“All I can say is that he is a success here, and in Holland, and he’s a very good coach.

“When he took charge of Derby, they were far down the table. They are in fifth place now.”

Karanka lost his first game in charge, going down 2-1 at Leeds, but the home win against an in-form Bolton side has proved the perfect antidote.

Karanka said: “It was very important to get off to a winning start because you can see the difference on the training pitch.

“A week ago, we lost to Leeds but now we have won, it is easier for us to do our job.

“I’m enjoying it. I enjoy it more when you win 1-0, that’s the most important thing.

“The people will have a better week at work when you win a game.

“For me, it’s a new situation, but I’m very happy.

“I have confidence in the team. Bolton had won five games in a row and we beat them, so I have confidence in the team.”

On-loan Aston Villa goalkeeper made his Boro debut against Bolton, having joined the club from Aston Villa on loan to fill in for the suspended Jason Steele.

Given kept a clean sheet in what was his 600th career appearance, and Karanka says the former Newcastle United man has brought some valuable experience to the side.

“He’s experienced, this was his 600th game, everything is there,” said Karanka.

“He’s got Premier League experience and he’s good to have around the locker room, he’s good for me and he’s good for the other players.

“They can learn from him, it’s very important for everybody.

“Everybody knows him. I explained that to the squad.

“Everyone understood why we signed him.

“He’s a very good person, a very good professional and the type of player we want.

“I was a defender and when you have a goalkeeper like Shay, speaking all through the game, it’s important for the defenders and important for the squad.”

With Steele serving the second game of his three-match ban tonight, Given will retain his place in the side for the trip to the Midlands.

Midfielder Grant Leadbitter, who scored the decisive penalty against Bolton, will also miss out through suspension as he picked up his fifth booking of the season at the weekend.

Derby have won five of their eight games under McClaren, including the last three in a row, and lost only one.

Tonight’s game will be the last at Pride Park, with Derby’s ground set to be renamed the iPro Stadium under a sponsorship agreement which takes effect on Saturday.

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