Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka admits he has made mistakes this season – and has pledged to learn from them as he attempts to construct a promotion challenge next season.
The Boro boss has seen his team’s season fritter away and a Tuesday night defeat at Reading added to a sense of deflation about his side’s end-of-season slump.
They have the opportunity to end the home campaign on a high by beating basement dwellers Barnsley but, whatever happens, Karanka has promised to learn from the errors he has made this term.
He admitted: “Over the season I have made mistakes. In January, for example, I spent a lot of time watching players for the January transfer window.
“I missed little things I should have concentrated on. That is because I have never been a manager before.
“I now see the benefits in spending time doing the things I should. I let others do other things.
“Saturday is a very important game for next season. I can see if we have learned from the last two games or whether we are just continuing in the same way. That is why it is important. If we can beat Barnsley in the way we have played many games at home I will be happy.
“If that happens then I will be happy because I will be sure my players have learned. I could then look to the summer more positively.
“There is still time for players to impress me. They have another chance. I’m thinking about making changes because I want to test their mentality. I need to see how comfortable they are with what I am asking of them.
“I have learned every second I have been here. In the six months here, I’ve continued that every day on my own.
“It’s a different job on your own. I have learned every day and I need to learn more things.”
Having confessed to mistakes, Karanka now wants to end the home campaign on a high as a way of paying tribute to fans who have backed the team through thick and thin this season.
Barnsley desperately need points themselves though, requiring at least a point to keep their slim hopes of surviving alive until the last day.
Karanka added: : “It‘s very important. It’s the last game of my first season at home. I want to thank our supporters for their support for the team and to me. I have enjoyed my first season. I hope we will have learned from the last two games because we can’t afford to make the same mistakes.
“Barnsley is a very similar game to Millwall. They are in the same position, so for this we need to give 100 per cent.
“The best way to respect the competition is to play 100 per cent to win the game. If you can’t win the game then it has to be because the team was better, not because they didn’t give 100 per cent. I don’t want to lose another game like the last two.”
Karanka may ring the changes and there are a number of young prospects waiting in the wings to make their bow. Boro have illustrated their continued commitment to their Academy by agreeing a deal with youngster Mark Kitching and Karanka may use him again before the end of the season.
He said: “Every moment counts on the pitch. I hope to give some minutes to the young players but I need to find the right moment. You have to think about the other players too.
“I need to be careful not to let players think I am leaving them out for others because it can send out the wrong message.”
One thing Karanka does want to see improved is Boro’s disciplinary record. They have accrued the second highest number of red cards in the league and the manager has warned his players it must improve next season.
He added: “We have had too many red cards and yellows. We have to concentrate on the game, win the game.”